A game that was supposed to test Alabama’s defense and 17-game winning streak ended up as another smooth win for the top-ranked Crimson Tide.
A matchup of the nation’s top quarterbacks ended up going in favor of Alabama sophomore Bryce Young, who had two touchdown passes in the 42-21 win against Ole Miss. The Crimson Tide even answered questions about a sputtering ground game with 210 yards and a season-high four rushing touchdowns.
Across the SEC in the East division, No. 2 Georgia pushed around once-unbeaten Arkansas behind another magnificent performance from the nation’s best defense.
It was another banner Saturday for the Tide and Bulldogs, who took care of business against ranked but overmatched competition and moved one step closer to a winner-take-all matchup in early December to decide the conference championship.
The two powerhouse programs top the list of college football’s winner and losers:
The 42-21 win against No. 12 Ole Miss was even more dominant than the final score suggests: Alabama led 35-0 almost midway through the third quarter and was in control from the opening kick, supporting the Tide’s case for No. 1 in the USA TODAY Sports AFCA Coaches Poll. (And the Rebels’ 21 points in the second half gives Nick Saban something to harp on this week, so it’s a true win-win.) It’s becoming more and more clear that the power rankings for the Football Bowl Subdivision have Alabama and Georgia on top, followed by a mile of space, followed by everyone else.
Alabama’s sophomore quarterback becomes the clear front-runner for the Heisman Trophy after throwing for 241 yards and two scores to lead the Tide past Matt Corral and the Rebels. Corral remains a factor after completing 21 of his 29 attempts for 213 yards and two touchdowns of his own, one coming on the ground. But Young has the numbers for the nation’s top-ranked team to go with the head-to-head win against his biggest Heisman threat.
The No. 8 Bearcats are firmly on the College Football Playoff radar after a 24-13 win against No. 7 Notre Dame concluded an undefeated non-conference schedule highlighted by two victories against Power Five competition. It wasn’t a beautiful performance: Cincinnati missed a pair of field goals, had several chances to build an insurmountable lead and led just 17-13 before a late touchdown from quarterback Desmond Ridder sealed the win. But any early talk of the national semifinals has to include Luke Fickell and the Bearcats.
The Bulldogs handed No. 11 Arkansas a lopsided loss that underscores Georgia’s place as perhaps the most dominant team in the Football Bowl Subdivision. The 37-0 victory even came without star quarterback JT Daniels, who was ruled out during pregame workouts, leaving the offense under the direction of backup Stetson Bennett. It didn’t matter: Georgia’s defense was again outstanding — the Bulldogs have allowed only a field goal across eight quarters against ranked teams — and the offense leaned on the running game, churning out 273 yards on 4.9 yards per carry.
Pittsburgh’s senior quarterback continued his assault on the program’s record book, even shattering a longstanding mark set by Dan Marino, by throwing for 389 yards and four touchdowns in the Panthers’ 52-21 win against Georgia Tech. Pickett’s 16-yard scoring pass to give the Panthers a commanding 42-14 lead late in the first half was his 14th in the last three games, breaking the program record for touchdowns in a three-game span set by Marino in 1981. Pickett has been the best quarterback in the ACC — edging ahead of another two talents, Virginia’s Brennan Armstrong and North Carolina’s Sam Howell — and is a legitimate candidate for the Heisman.
The Volunteers had six touchdown drives of 75 or more yards, gained 35 first downs and 683 yards of offense, racked up 458 yards on the ground and stormed out of the gate with 28 first-quarter points in a jaw-dropping 62-24 win against Missouri. Overall, the offense approached school records for total yardage (718) and rushing yardage (513), placing the performance in the ballpark for the best in program history.
UT moved to 4-1 and took back momentum in a series that has recently favored TCU by leaning on star running back Bijan Robinson, who ran for a career-high 216 yards on 35 carries to lead a 32-27 win against the Horned Frogs. Winners of six of the previous seven in the rivalry, TCU was undone by three turnovers and a second straight miserable performance against the run, joining last weekend’s letdown against SMU. The Longhorns are now 3-0 with Casey Thompson at quarterback.
While not the sort of performance that suggests Clemson has what it takes to rally back into playoff contention, the 19-13 win against Boston College does represent the Tigers’ best victory of the season and keeps them from falling way behind in the ACC Coastal race. After two early losses, Clemson’s best result from this season is to win the division, win the conference and reach a New Year’s Six bowl. Beating the previously unbeaten Eagles is a step in that direction.
It’s safe to start buying in on Oklahoma State, which is now 5-0 after its defense put together another superb 60 minutes to shut down Baylor and preserve a 24-14 win. Amid inconsistency on offense, the Cowboys have yet to allow more than 23 points in a game and have held two straight Big 12 opponents (Kansas State and the Bears) to under 300 yards. This defense has helped buy time for the offense, which remains a work in progress — for example, quarterback Spencer Sanders tossed three picks after a great game against the Wildcats — but has gotten a huge boost from Utah State transfer Jaylen Warren, who went for 125 yards and two scores against Baylor.
For every new flavor of the month among SEC coaches there is a genuine lack of publicity for the job done by Kentucky coach Mark Stoops, who has built the Wildcats into the sort of team that can beat Florida without making national headlines. Kentucky’s 20-13 win against Florida is the program’s first in Lexington since 1986 and the program’s second in four tries after going 30 years without a win in the series. Boosted by Power Five transfers Will Levis (Penn State) and Wan’Dale Robinson (Nebraska), the Wildcats are 5-0 and set to rocket up this week’s Top 25.
The Cornhuskers took out five weeks of frustration on Northwestern, putting up nearly 400 yards of total offense in the first half alone and winning 56-7 in the most complete performance of the Scott Frost era. There was a feeling this sort of game was coming for a team that played Oklahoma tight and should’ve won last Saturday against Michigan State before a late failure on special teams helped gift the Spartans the win. Quarterback Adrian Martinez accounted for 252 yards of total offense and four touchdowns before being replaced with the game out of hand midway through the third quarter. Nebraska’s 56 points are the program’s most in a game against Big Ten competition since joining the conference.
The Ducks failed to get a late goal-line stand and lost 31-24 in overtime to Stanford, dealing a potentially crippling blow to the Pac-12’s hopes of finally get back into the playoff. The loss is especially painful for Oregon, which had soared to No. 3 in the Coaches Poll on the back of a non-conference win at Ohio State but now faces the possibility of not even winning the North division, let alone finishing in the top four. And with games to come at UCLA, Washington and Utah, this doesn’t look like the last loss of the Ducks’ season.
While not subtracting too much from the program’s huge gains under second-year coach Sam Pittman, since more teams than not would get swallowed whole by Georgia, the shutout loss does speak to the gap still separating the Razorbacks from the top third of the SEC. And it gets only slightly easier from here, with games coming up against Ole Miss and Auburn followed by LSU and Alabama in November.
The No. 15 team in the preseason USA TODAY Sports AFCA Coaches Poll, the Badgers have dropped three games against Power Five competition and are in danger of posting the program’s worst season since 2001, the last time Wisconsin finished with a losing record. As in last Saturday’s loss to Notre Dame, the Badgers were competitive against Michigan well into the second half before the bottom dropped out in the fourth quarter. Down 20-10, Wisconsin allowed 18 straight points before notching a meaningless score in garbage time in the 38-17 loss.
The Mountaineers are a team running out of excuses after losing 23-20 at home to Texas Tech, coach Neal Brown’s third loss in as many tries in the series. West Virginia was seen as a Big 12 dark horse, one of the small group of teams capable of putting a scare into Oklahoma and cracking the Top 25. Instead, this has been a team that’s impossible to predict: WVU lost to Maryland, beat Virginia Tech and then played Oklahoma very close in last weekend’s loss before meeting up with, and losing to, Tech.
Holding two losses by the first Sunday of October — with the losses coming to Arkansas and Mississippi State — was not what was expected of A&M, which came into 2021 with enormous momentum after just missing last year’s playoff field and was handed what looked like a very friendly schedule before next week’s matchup with Alabama. A&M put up just 297 yards of offense in Saturday’s 26-22 loss to the Bulldogs and can now be ignored as a legitimate contender for the SEC West and conference championship. Injuries have certainly played a role, especially the injury to Haynes King suffered against Colorado in early September that may cost the starting quarterback the entire season. But to be 3-2 with games still to come against the Tide, Auburn, Ole Miss and LSU makes the Aggies one of the biggest disappointments of the season.
The loss to Kentucky erases any of the good vibes coming out of last month’s close loss to Alabama and makes it borderline impossible to imagine Florida getting back to the SEC championship game. It also places Dan Mullen in ignominious company: Mullen is the first UF coach since Doug Dickey (1970-78) to lose more than once to the Wildcats.