Winners and Losers from Week 10 in College Football

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    Michael Thomas/Associated Press

    What. A. Day!

    College football blessed us once again with tons of reasons to watch on Saturday, and though Week 10’s slugfests weren’t always what we hoped they’d be (looking at you, Michigan-Penn State and Georgia-Kentucky), others made up for it.

    West Virginia’s sterling last-minute, one-point win over Texas was a thing of beauty, and Ohio State found its running attack in a survival match against a more-than-game Nebraska. Florida also had its hands full in a home loss to Missouri that left many questions.

    All of that, and it was even before Notre Dame-Northwestern and the biggest of them all: Alabama-LSU at Tiger Stadium.

    The Fighting Irish-Wildcats contest didn’t disappoint, as Notre Dame staved off a fourth-quarter rally to beat coach Pat Fitzgerald’s team, 31-21. And Alabama kept doing Alabama things in a lopsided win in Death Valley to keep its spotless slate.

    Oklahoma-Texas Tech was a barn-burning load of fun, and Washington State played late to try to keep its streak going. It was statement-game Saturday, and there was a ton of fun action. Let’s take a look at Week 10’s winners and losers, with updates coming as games finish.

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    Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

    If you want to know how dominant Alabama has been in the recent “rivalry” with LSU, take this tweet from ESPN’s Ivan Maisel into consideration: “Slight problem regarding @LSUfootball comeback attempt. The Tigers last scored a TD vs @AlabamaFTBL in Tiger Stadium with 2:07 left in the 1st quarter—in 2014. That’s 158 minutes, not to mention one head coach, ago.”

    There were a few moral victories for LSU in Tiger Stadium during Saturday’s 29-0 loss, but a real one was nowhere close. This was the first time all season that elite Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa played in the fourth quarter. The Tigers defense was stingy near the goal line for much of the night.

    But their offense was atrocious yet again. It’s been years since anybody developed a quarterback on the bayou, and Joe Burrow doesn’t look like he’ll start the trend. 

    Alabama has been dominant because of its offense (it had 576 yards on that side of the ball), but with LSU’s defense somewhat rising to the challenge, the Crimson Tide’s defense returned to its old, stingy ways.

    Though Alabama head coach Nick Saban doesn’t smile much, you had to think maybe he at least smirked…on the inside.

    When Burrow struggled to throw, LSU had nowhere to go. The Tigers were even worse when trying to run the ball, mustering 12 yards on the ground.

    The atmosphere in Baton Rouge was electrifying, and Tigers coach Ed Orgeron was so excited before the game that you couldn’t understand what he was saying to the CBS crew until he barked, “Go Tigers!” Unfortunately for LSU, its offensive struggles keep it out of in the same class as Alabama.

    This game was touted for much of the past two weeks, but Alabama’s business trip ensured it’ll be the Tide against Georgia again in the SEC Championship Game.

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    John Weast/Getty Images

    Listen: We knew this was coming.

    It was just a matter of how ridiculous it would get. The offense in Lubbock, Texas, in the matchup between Oklahoma and Texas Tech was so wacky that it deserves a new word. Let’s just say things got “Bigtwelvy” in the Sooners’ 51-46 win over the Red Raiders.

    There was no semblance of defense. It was like they hung “keep out” signs for defensive coordinators.

    You get the idea.

    The Red Raiders and Sooners combined for 97 points, 1,156 yards and just 23 combined third-down attempts. When Texas Tech starting quarterback Alan Bowman didn’t return in the second half for an undisclosed reason, Jett Duffey came in and threw a pair of touchdowns to keep the Red Raiders it.

    Thanks to two early-game interceptions tossed by Heisman Trophy candidate Kyler Murray, TTU built an early lead by converting those turnovers into 14 points. But the Sooners surged back quickly, and they never let up, doing anything they wanted on offense.

    Murray rebounded, of course, finishing the game with 460 total yards and four touchdowns. The Sooners also dominated on the ground, led by sophomore Trey Sermon, who had a career game with 206 yards and three TDs. It was a back-and-forth battle and just a matter of who got the ball last.

    In the fourth quarter, TTU scored to make it 42-40 and went for two points to tie. Coach Kliff Kingsbury called a double-reverse pass (his second of the game). Robert Barnes grabbed the interception and returned it 100 yards for two Sooners points to make it 44-40.

    After that, OU scored another touchdown and held off Texas Tech to keep its playoff hopes alive.

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    Jim Young/Associated Press

    The trajectory of Notre Dame’s season changed when the Fighting Irish decided Ian Book would be the quarterback Sept. 22.

    The College Football Playoff is seemingly beckoning, and though the Irish aren’t dominating, they’re winning.

    They did it again Saturday night in Evanston, Illinois, when an upset-minded Northwestern scored a pair of fourth-quarter touchdowns within a four-minute, 11-second stretch to make it 24-21 Notre Dame. That’s when Book slammed the cover.

    On what looked like a designed keeper, Book raced around the left end and scampered down the sideline for a touchdown to give the Irish a 31-21 win. The junior finished 22-of-34 for 343 yards and two scores through the air and added the big one on the ground.

    Coach Brian Kelly‘s team remains undefeated at 9-0, and the Irish continue to shed doubters like would-be tacklers.

    Next week’s game against Florida State doesn’t seem like it should be much of a battle, but the Irish still must get past Syracuse and USC to close the season. Either of those contests could end in losses.

    Even if the Irish drop one of those, a trip to the playoffs is possible, but you’d think they’d need to run the table to take care of business.

    With Book under center, that’s all they’ve done.

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    John Raoux/Associated Press

    But the Central Florida Knights won again, right?

    Yes, they did beat the Temple Owls 52-40 in a back-and-forth, whoever-has-the-ball-last-wins matchup, but this was not the showing UCF needed.

    Coach Josh Heupel’s team won its 21st straight game, which is the main thing. But if it wants the opportunity to win a national championships that isn’t mythical, style points matter.

    UCF Heisman Trophy hopeful quarterback McKenzie Milton engineered another masterful performance.

    But that defense is a problem, and wins like this one (and a 31-30 victory over a mediocre Memphis team) won’t give the College Football Playoff committee any warm-and-fuzzies.

    Temple gained a school-record 670 yards, and that’s why it was a 34-28 Temple lead at halftime before UCF shut out the Owls in the third quarter. It was yet another “meh” win to further polarize the sides of the UCF conundrum, as SI.com’s Andy Staples wrote.

    Last year, the undefeated Knights claimed they were national champions, even though nobody else acknowledged it.

    “This is America. Anyone can claim anything,” Staples wrote. “I can claim I’m the sexiest man in America even though I’m certain my friends at People—who are the equivalent of the CFP selection committee on that particular matter—would certainly disagree.”

    Late in the game, the ESPN cameras panned to the Orlando, Florida, crowd, where a fan held up a sign that read, “We want Bama!” 

    Performances like Thursday’s are a reason the Knights probably won’t get the chance.

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    Michael Thomas/Associated Press

    In what had been a back-and-forth heavyweight battle between two of the Big 12’s best teams, everything came down to one two-point conversion.

    Make that two.

    After the West Virginia Mountaineers scored to cut Texas’ lead to 41-40 with 16 seconds left, head coach Dana Holgorsen elected to go for two points and the win. He dialed up a beautiful quick slant that Will Grier hit David Sills V on for what looked like the go-ahead conversion.

    But the officials awarded Texas head coach Tom Herman with a timeout (apparently) before the snap, meaning Holgorsen showed his hand and had to make another decision.

    He went for two again.

    And the Mountaineers converted again for a 42-41 win.

    “That was an easy decision when you have No. 7 at quarterback and 13 [Sills] out there at wideout,” Holgorsen told the Fox sideline crew after the game. “When they scored, I was like, ‘Good, they scored quick.’ Went to the offense and said, ‘Let’s go score and do what we do on the two-point play.’ We’ve been saving that one. We’ve got a lot of confidence in it, so the decision was already made before we took the field.”

    This time, Grier tucked, and on a designed quarterback run, he crossed the goal line to stun the Longhorns. Grier got an unsportsmanlike conduct call on the play for taunting Texas, which set up the Horns with a chance to tie or go ahead.

    But instead of trying to get the 20 or so yards needed to get into field-goal range, quarterback Sam Ehlinger scrambled around too long and tried throw go deep. It was a puzzling conclusion, but one thing that isn’t in question is the faith Holgorsen had in his players’ ability to make him look brilliant.

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    Rick Scuteri/Associated Press

    “Mike Leach, you are our only hope.”

    Signed, the Pac-12 conference.

    That’s right, ladies and gentlemen, at this mature stage of the season, the Washington State Cougars are the conference’s only (outside) hope at the College Football Playoff. Every other team has not only dropped out of the playoff picture—they’ve dropped off the map.

    Utah became the latest casualty, as it lost quarterback Tyler Huntley for what looks like the season to a collarbone injury and then losing the game to Arizona State in putrid fashion, 38-20.

    Believe it or not, Arizona was at one point Saturday tied atop the Pac-12 South Division until USC’s win over Oregon State. The division is nowhere near lost, either, especially considering the Trojans are young and unimpressive.

    Who knows what’ll happen on that side of the conference?

    As for the North Division, it’s the Cougs and everybody else. Washington’s topsy-turvy season continued as it beat Stanford, 27-23, sending the injury-riddled Cardinal reeling again. Oregon has experienced the same kind of puzzling ups and downs as the Huskies, even though it handled UCLA.

    The conference is a mess, and no powers will emerge anytime soon. Thank goodness for Wazzu, which wasn’t supposed to be that good this year. But even it loses graduate transfer Gardner Minshew II for 2019.

    The Pac-12 needs to finish strong and get back to its winning ways. This has been a wacky season, and not in a good way.

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    William Mancebo/Getty Images

    For much of the night, California and its Justin Wilcox-inspired defense had Minshew’s number.

    The Washington State quarterback transferred to Pullman before the season and has had the kind of campaign that should result in Pac-12 Player of the Year hardware and national accolades.

    But in a battle against the Bears, he had been shut out of the end zone until late in the fourth quarter despite entering with 26 touchdown passes. With the score tied at 13-13 and 1:55 left in the game, the East Carolina transfer delivered.

    The Cougars had the ball on their 39-yard line, and Minshew set up a short crossing pattern to James Williams for a first down. After an incompletion, he delivered a bullet to Jamire Calvin for 23 yards into Cal territory.

    Minshew then underthrew Easop Winston Jr., who stopped, adjusted to the ball and pulled in the pass at the 10-yard line. Then, he found a streaking Winston for a go-ahead touchdown and a 19-13 win. The Cougs are 8-1 for the first time in 16 years.

    “I thought we were spotty, to be perfectly honest, but part of it, I think Cal is a really good team,” WSU coach Mike Leach told ESPN after the game. “Cal is a team, I think, is emerging as the season has gone on, and I think they’re playing as good as anybody. We thought it would be a war, and of course, it was.”

    Cal had several opportunities, but Wilcox tinkered too much with his quarterbacks to keep the Bears from any offensive continuity, and the defensive breakdown at the end led to Wazzu’s big win on an imperfect night to keep control of the division.

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    Joe Robbins/Getty Images

    Despite all the attention on Kentucky star running back Benny Snell Jr. and future first-round pass-rusher Josh Allen, the Wildcats had to play a huge game against Georgia on Saturday.

    So much for storybook endings.

    The Bulldogs proved they still rule the SEC East with a 34-17 statement win over Kentucky in Lexington in a winner-take-all contest for an SEC Championship Game appearance. Make no mistake: It’s been a phenomenal year for the Wildcats, but they were outclassed.

    Georgia did it by returning to the blueprint that had it in the national championship game a year ago: a dynamic rushing attack and a smothering defense.

    Running back D’Andre Swift has been banged-up much of the season, but he punctuated his 156-yard, two-touchdown performance with an 83-yard scoring scamper to help put Georgia ahead 28-3. Kentucky didn’t have the offensive firepower to catch up after that.

    This showing came against a 10th-ranked UK defense.

    On the other side, UGA’s defensive youth movement is coming together. The Bulldogs looked explosive on that side of the ball and made Kentucky seem almost slow. It was a thorough pounding, and it was the next big step for the Dawgs in getting back to the CFP.

    This is two huge SEC East wins in a row for Kirby Smart’s team, which seems to be getting better each week.

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    Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

    Louisville showed once again on Saturday it should just cut its losses and end the Bobby Petrino era.

    The Cardinals had no answers for No. 2-ranked Clemson, to the surprise of no one, getting embarrassed by a team that rarely even had to throw the football in a 77-16 win.

    The Tigers had three 100-yard rushers, backup quarterback Chase Brice had three touchdown passes and Louisville couldn’t muster anything offensively against the Tigers vaunted defense.

    But this isn’t anything new. It doesn’t take a powerhouse to pummel the Cardinals. Last week, Petrino’s team was decimated 56-35 by Wake Forest. With Saturday’s loss, UofL falls to 2-7 and looks like it could very well go 2-10 with Syracuse, North Carolina State and Kentucky remaining.

    It’s not been a proud few seasons for Louisville’s athletic department, and now Petrino’s failures on the field necessitates a change in direction. With favorite son and former quarterback Jeff Brohm turning around Purdue’s program, he sees the logical choice.

    Would he be interested? It’s hard to envision him turning down the Cardinals, and the Louisville Courier Journal‘s Tim Sullivan wrote you have to secure Brohm before letting Petrino go.

    “… My gut feeling is he’s going to have a lot of opportunities and I don’t know if two years (at Purdue) is enough for him to be swayed to stay,” Aaron Kincade, vice president of Purdue’s Greater Louisville alumni chapter, told Sullivan. “Money is a very alluring asset to everyone and when it comes calling, it’s hard to pass up.”

    Does Louisville need Brohm to rid itself of Petrino, though? At this point, it looks like the Cardinals should make a move regardless.

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    Leon Halip/Getty Images

    Remember that season-opening loss to Notre Dame?

    Nobody else does, either.

    The Michigan Wolverines turned the page on that frustrating loss quickly and look like one of the country’s best teams. They continued proving that Saturday in a dominant 42-7 win over hapless Penn State.

    The Nittany Lions had no answers, and a great quarterback in senior Trace McSorley looked average against the swarming Wolverines defense that is the class of the country. The PSU signal-caller finished just 5-of-13 for 83 yards passing and an interception.

    It was every bit as bad as Wisconsin’s Alex Hornibrook’s performance against the Wolverines—and just as futile. 

    With Rutgers and Indiana up next, it’s stat-padding time for the Wolverines as they prepare for a gargantuan end-of-year battle against Ohio State on Nov. 24. The sights are set on OSU QB Dwayne Haskins—no matter what anybody will tell you about the next game.

    Michigan is focused, and it’s led by its veteran defense, which got a statement play on Brandon Watson’s pick-six to go ahead 28-0 and never looked back.

    When you talk about Michigan, of course you’ll discuss defense, but you can’t leave out running back Karan Higdon, who had 132 yards rushing. Quarterback Shea Patterson wasn’t fantastic, but he threw two scores and added another rushing touchdown and 42 yards.

    Jim Harbaugh’s team is dominating, and nobody wants a piece of this strong, confident squad.

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    Timothy J. Gonzalez/Associated Press

    Yes, this is a creative way to talk about USC running back Aca’Cedric Ware’s career night for the Trojans.

    But his 17-carry, 205-yard outing that culminated with three touchdowns (including two long ones of the highlight-reel variety) has become the norm against the Beavers.

    Sure, Oregon State is getting much better. It upset Colorado a week ago for its first conference win, and though the Beavers couldn’t seize the lead against USC, they were right there in the game deep into the second half.

    It was that awful rushing defense that kept them from giving Corvallis a reason to party. It seems everybody has a career night on the ground when they play OSU, and it happened again.

    This Beavers D is far and away the worst in the conference, entering Saturday night’s game allowing 267.4 yards on the ground per contest. The second-worst is UCLA’s run D, which allows 58.1 fewer yards per game.

    Ware is an uber-talented running back who had a breakout game earlier this year in a 24-20 win against Arizona in which he carried it 21 times for 173 yards and a pair of scores.

    He showed up big again Saturday, and even though it wasn’t considered a “big win,” it was still an important one for the Trojans, who have plenty left to play for in the wide-open Pac-12 South. They needed every one of those yards against the scrappy Beavers.

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    Jamie Sabau/Getty Images

    The Ohio State Buckeyes had to get Heisman Trophy-hopeful quarterback Dwayne Haskins help in a big way.

    That came from running back J.K. Dobbins on Saturday against Nebraska to help Ohio State stave off a dangerous upset attempt from coach Scott Frost’s Cornhuskers in a 36-31 win. Dobbins finished with 163 yards on 23 carries and scored three touchdowns.

    The Buckeyes wound up running for 229 yards and scored three TDs in four red-zone trips. After the bye week that followed the shocking loss at Purdue, this was a huge response for an offense that needed a bright spot.

    OSU hadn’t run for more than 100 yards since a Week 6 victory over Indiana, and if the Buckeyes are to have a chance to win down the stretch, they must rectify that in a hurry. There are still issues regarding the defense, penalties and taking care of the ball, but the run game was healthy for a day.

    Last year, Dobbins had 90 or more yards in five of the season’s first eight contests. Prior to Saturday’s showing, he had reached that mark just once in the first eight games. Mike Weber has been ineffective, too.

    Dobbins changed the narrative with his performance against the Huskers. He looked like the home run threat OSU has needed and the one he was last season.

    There are plenty of things to work on if OSU is to reach the College Football Playoff, but the ground game against Nebraska was a major improvement.

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    Todd Kirkland/Associated Press

    The Texas A&M Aggies’ second half (and especially fourth quarter) in a 28-24 collapse against Auburn on Saturday mirrored its second half of the last several seasons. 

    Unfortunately for head coach Jimbo Fisher and all the good vibes the Aggies built during the first portion of the season, it looks like 2018 is heading in that direction as well.

    With under six minutes left, A&M had a 24-14 road lead at Jordan-Hare Stadium against an Auburn offense that couldn’t muster much through the majority of the game.

    But after an interception from A&M’s Kellen Mond, Auburn quarterback Jarrett Stidham brought his team back on a quality drive to close the gap to three points with just over five minutes left. When the Tigers got the ball back, Stidham found Ryan Davis for a 47-yard strike.

    Freshman Seth Williams made an outstretched touchdown grab to put the Tigers ahead on the next play, and A&M couldn’t score a touchdown in the waning seconds.

    That botched field goal was the door opening for Auburn, and the Tigers burst through it. 

    The fourth quarter saw a collapse from Fisher’s team, which looks like it’s destined to follow the pattern of the Kevin Sumlin years (2012-2017), where the Aggies started the season strong but then wilted.

    Last weekend, A&M lost to Mississippi State in quarterback Nick Fitzgerald’s rebound game. This was a comeback start by Stidham, who was coming off a bye week. Auburn desperately needed something good to happen, and it got it at home against the Aggies.

    Fisher must find a way to rally this team with Ole Miss, UAB and LSU remaining.

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    Steve Helber/Associated Press

    James Conner is still making plays in Pittsburgh, only now it’s for the NFL’s Steelers. But Conner’s alma mater has another playmaker at running back, and he had a career game in one of the biggest showings of the season Friday night.

    Darrin Hall rumbled for 229 yards on just 19 carries in Pitt’s 23-13 win over No. 23 Virginia in nasty weather in Charlottesville to help coach Pat Narduzzi’s team move to 4-1 in the ACC and control its destiny in the Coastal Division. 

    The 5’11”, 225-pound senior had broken 100 yards just once this season—in a 44-37 overtime win over Syracuse—but he was the key cog in a second-half rushing effort that was vintage for a Narduzzi team and a flashback to old-school football.

    Entering the game, UVA was 21st nationally in total defense, but you’d never know it by the way the Panthers shredded the Cavaliers after the break. First, in a masterful 15-play, 84-yard third-quarter drive that chewed 8:40 off the clock, Hall scored his second TD to help push Pitt ahead 14-10.

    On the next drive, the Panthers showed quick-strike capability with Hall’s 75-yard scamper to move ahead by a touchdown.

    The defense and kicker Alex Kessman’s 53-yard field goal did the rest, but this was Hall’s game. With Virginia Tech, Wake Forest and Miami remaining, it’s conceivable the Panthers could wind up in the ACC Championship Game. This was a huge win, and it had Hall’s cleat marks all over it.

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    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    It’s too late for Khalil Tate to win the Heisman Trophy.

    It’s too late for the Arizona Wildcats to cruise into the Pac-12 Championship Game—though there is still a bizarre scenario where they could go if they win out, Utah loses twice and UCLA and USC both lose once.

    It’s not too late for Tate to wow us, though. 

    We may have buried old Khalil Tate, the player who ran around the field with reckless abandon and a throw-second mentality, but Friday night may have shown that we can put to rest early-2018 Khalil Tate, too.

    The new-and-improved Tate, who helped his team even its record at 5-5 with an electrifying 42-34 win over reeling Colorado, may be college football’s most exciting player in the season’s final third.

    At one point against the Buffaloes, he completed 12 consecutive passes on his way to a 17-of-22 performance for 350 yards and a career-high five touchdown passes, besting CU’s Steven Montez in a desert duel.

    Perhaps even more importantly, he raced for a season-high 25-yard scramble, shrugging off the season-long ankle injury that had him hobbling again Friday night. After the early futility in adjusting to the new Kevin Sumlin-Noel Mazzone era, Tate thrived once again.

    “We had to play four quarters,” Tate told the FS1 crew in the postgame interview. “That’s something that Coach Sumlin has preached for a long time. We’re finally starting to do that in this back half of the season, and it’s working out pretty well.”

    It was a much different type of mastery than last year’s dominance of Colorado in which Tate rushed for an FBS-quarterback-record 327 yards.

    If he can get that ankle healthy and throw like this consistently, the rest of his junior season and next year could wind up being just fine. 

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    Ed Zurga/Getty Images

    Iowa State Cyclones receiver Hakeem Butler came into Saturday’s game against Kansas second nationally in yards per catch behind Alabama’s deep-strike threat, Jerry Jeudy.

    He did nothing to damage those numbers Saturday, finishing with five catches for 164 yards (32.8 average) and a pair of scores in a 27-3 win over the improving Jayhawks. It doesn’t matter who’s throwing to Butler (or guarding him); he’s dominant.

    Since freshman quarterback Brock Purdy took over on Oct. 6, Butler has thrived. But he isn’t just a deep threat. At 6’6″, 225 pounds, he has the type of size, strength and speed that’ll make NFL scouts drool. As a junior, he could return to Ames for his senior season.

    But with more games like Saturday’s, you’d have to ask, “Why?”

    On his second touchdown of the day—a 51-yard strike—Butler leapt over Kansas defensive back Hasan Defense (yes, that’s actually his name), came away with the ball, slung the defender around and scored.

    It was a grown-man touchdown.

    Arizona State Sun Devils receiver N’Keal Harry is already expected to be a first-rounder, and he showed why Saturday in a huge 38-20 win over Utah. Coach Herm Edwards’ best weapon finished with nine catches for 161 yards and three touchdowns in one of the biggest Pac-12 upsets of the season.

    That conference continues to be enigmatic, but one thing that isn’t puzzling is how talented Harry is. He’s QB Manny Wilkins’ top target, and he is one of the country’s best all-around pass-catching talents. The Utes didn’t have an answer.

    This was a big resume day for excellent targets.

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    Sam Greenwood/Getty Images

    The talk around Gainesville, Florida, this week will rightfully surround quarterback Kyle Trask, who provided a glimmer of an offensive spark after coach Dan Mullen yanked an ineffective Feleipe Franks in a surprising 38-17 loss to Missouri.

    But the biggest news for the Gators, who are just eight days removed from being a Top 10 team, was the way their vaunted defense let them down against the Tigers.

    On one hand, it was a crowning moment for Mizzou quarterback Drew Lock, whose 24-of-32 passing performance for 250 yards and three touchdowns was by far his best career game against a quality defense as he passed Peyton Manning for third in the SEC in all-time touchdown passes.

    But this was equally about Florida’s failures. The defense couldn’t get off the field enough. 

    Missouri was 11-of-18 on third-down conversions, and it wasn’t just the passing game that torched the Gators. Damarea Crockett (21 carries, 114 yards and a touchdown) and Larry Rountree III (14 rushes, 72 yards and a score) chewed up yardage throughout the game, loosening the defense for Lock.

    The pro prospect finally made an impact in a win that will resonate across college football by dissecting Florida’s secondary. It was a sterling performance for Mizzou, which could have hung its head after last week’s questionable pass-interference call in the end zone cost them a win over Kentucky.

    Instead, they responded by muddying the SEC East a little more behind the Dawgs with a win that hurts the Gators’ good vibes in Mullen’s first season.

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    STEVEN CANNON/Associated Press

    If you aren’t watching early-week MACtion, well, you’re missing some fun football.

    In Northern Illinois’ 36-26 win over Akron on Thursday, the game was in question late as the Huskies tried to move to 5-0 in the MAC. That’s when a little-known redshirt freshman made sure the Zips wouldn’t have a comeback in them.

    With his team ahead by just three, walk-on cornerback Jalen McKie jumped the route on a Kato Nelson pass, plucked it out of the air for his first career interception and raced 23 yards for the clinching score.

    If that weren’t enough, the 5’7″, 169-pound defensive back added another pick two possessions later to seal the game. He also returned a blocked PAT in the third quarter for two points.

    “They trusted me to put me out on the field even though I’m a walk-on,” McKie told the Daily Chronicle‘s Kaleb Carter after the game. “They trusted me to make plays, and that’s what I did tonight.”

    Though McKie doesn’t have a scholarship (yet), he’s no stranger to quality football. His father, Jason, is a nine-year NFL veteran who played fullback for the Chicago Bears, Dallas Cowboys and Baltimore Ravens.

    Though McKie needs to add weight, he has been firmly in the rotation for coach Rod Carey’s Huskies, and he made some massive plays Thursday to keep NIU’s MAC record spotless.

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    Michael Hickey/Getty Images

    Just a couple of weeks ago, the Iowa Hawkeyes defense was playing as well as anybody’s, and it looked like they were one of the nation’s most surprising teams and on the fringe of the College Football Playoff conversation.

    Two straight defeats brought them back to earth.

    After losing to Penn State last week, they played Purdue in a game that was expected to be close. It was just that throughout, but the Boilermakers kicked a last-minute field goal to pull ahead by the final margin, 38-36.

    Iowa was out of its comfort zone, which is the ability to control the game with its defense and running attack. Quarterback Nate Stanley had a big day, but the Boilermakers kept their giant-killer status.

    Though they lost to Michigan State a week ago, coach Jeff Brohm’s team has beaten three ranked opponents and has won five of its last six games to move to 5-4 on the season and 4-2 in the conference. 

    The Hawkeyes moved back in the Big Ten West pack, which Northwestern controls. Purdue and Wisconsin are also ahead of them in the standings.

    Coach Kirk Ferentz’s team can still wind up having a solid season, but falling to 3-3 in the league is tough to stomach, considering how strong they were looking just a couple of weeks ago.

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    Michael Wyke/Associated Press

    There are no longer any winless teams in college football’s Football Championship Subdivision.

    The UTEP Miners went on the road to face Rice on Saturday and pulled off the win, beating the 1-9 Owls 34-26, despite Wiley Green’s 313 yards passing. This was the first time in 20 games (707 days) that the Miners went home with a W.

    So, yeah. It’s a big deal.

    UTEP quarterback Kai Locksley (former Texas player and son of Alabama offensive coordinator Mike Locksley) wasn’t great, but he was good enough to help his team win. The Miners built a 34-3 lead, and it took every bit of that lead to hold on.

    Rice’s offense kept trying to pull the Owls back into it, but they didn’t quite have enough.

    UTEP head coach Dana Dimel tweeted afterward: “Proud of the fight in this team! #1-0”

    Though the Miners have to play Middle Tennessee next in a probable loss, they’ve still got Western Kentucky and Southern Mississippi on the schedule, so more wins may come.

    But this was a relief to get that first victory of the season. One-win Rice now has to regroup.

                          

    Unless otherwise noted, stats courtesy of Sports Reference and CFBStats.com.

    Brad Shepard covers college football for Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter, @Brad_Shepard.

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