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Sports

Oklahoma Loses CFP Hopes, Clemson’s Fiery Leader Reemerges


Quarterbacks took center stage in Week 10 as the sport’s best and brightest battled with conference championship dreams on the line. Much-maligned Alabama quarterback Jalen Milroe, was the brightest of the group, while USC’s Caleb Williams fell short. Washington’s Michael Penix Jr. needed some help, while LSU’s Jayden Daniels couldn’t get any.

Now, the race for the College Football Playoff is starting to pick up steam. Only 10 Power Five teams remain with one loss or less after No. 9 Oklahoma fell in a devastating rivalry game. Five others struggled, finding themselves in tight fourth-quarter battles as six teams from the initial College Football Playoff rankings fell in total. The second round of College Football Playoff rankings this Tuesday should look a lot different.

Plus, the conference championship races are taking hold. Texas and Oklahoma State both have a clear chance to advance to the Big 12 championship game. Alabama and Georgia lead in their respective divisions. Iowa took control of the Big Ten West, while Washington eliminated USC from serious competition for the Pac-12.

Now let’s take a look at the biggest winners and losers from Week 10 in college football, including the rivalry games that are being played out and the Group of Five race that may be coming to an end.

Winner: Oklahoma State

Mike Gundy is the most unstoppable force in college football. This time it was truly the end after Gundy’s Cowboys lost a shock 33-7 to South Alabama. Instead, Gundy committed to quarterback Alan Bowman, handed the ball to running back Ollie Gordon and quietly transformed his scheme overnight.

Saturday afternoon in Stillwater, Oklahoma, might have been the finest moment of Gundy’s tenure. After losing 21-17 in the Bedlam final to hated rival Oklahoma, Oklahoma State went on a 10-0 run to take a lead it would never relinquish in a 27-24 victory. Gordon exploded for 137 yards and two rushing touchdowns as the Cowboys sent OU to the SEC with a rivalry game loss. After the game, Taylor Swift’s “We Are Never Getting Back Together” played over the speakers at Boone Pickens Stadium.

But more than just earning eternal bragging rights, Oklahoma State is now tied with Texas for first place in the Big 12. The Cowboys are three wins against the Big 12 newcomers away from reaching the game for the title for the second time in three years. Times have rarely been better in Stillwater.

Oh, and by the way, start writing Gordon’s name on your Heisman Trophy ballots. After rushing for 137 yards and two touchdowns, the Texas native is the undisputed best running back in college football.

Loser: Oklahoma

Considering the magnitude of Oklahoma State’s victory, the loss is just as crushing for Oklahoma. The Sooners scored just one touchdown on seven second-half drives, including two turnovers and two turnovers on downs. Oklahoma fell two short of seven points with a chance to win the game, but ultimately failed under pressure.

Oklahoma’s College Football Playoff hopes are dead. Their Big 12 title hopes are on life support. The Sooners will still have a chance to potentially make an Alamo Bowl, but that wasn’t the way Oklahoma — the undisputed class of the Big 12 since its inception — wanted to exit the league. But most worryingly, the last three performances raise major questions about the state of the program.

The offense collapsed under pressure in losses to Kansas and Oklahoma State, and even in wins over UCF and Cincinnati. The defense has given up 31.3 points per game over the last three games after giving up 10.8 points per game before the Texas game. When Brent Venables took over the program, Oklahoma had a streak dating back to 1999 without ever losing consecutive regular season games, outside of the pandemic season. Now, the Sooners have lost three straight regular season games under Venables.

Winner: Alabama QB Jalen Milroe

Milroe received the lion’s share of criticism during a rocky start to the season. After his performance in a 42-28 win over No. 14 LSU, Milroe earned the right to flex. The sophomore was incredible in the SEC West matchup, finishing with 219 passing yards, 155 rushing yards and four rushing touchdowns. He scored three touchdowns in the first half to beat LSU counterpart Jayden Daniels and put Alabama ahead of the SEC West race.

Milroe is an inexperienced player who showed serious growing pains early on. However, offensive coordinator Tommy Rees is beginning to learn how to take advantage of Milroe’s prodigious dual-threat talents. The 20 carries against LSU were the most of the season, and it only helped build a more complete passing game. Milroe has gone from being a liability to a legitimate asset as Alabama attempts to make its case for the SEC title.

Loser: Air Force

The Falcons cruised through the first eight games of their schedule, beating Wyoming and overtaking Army to make their case for the best Group of Five team in the country. All Air Force had to do was survive a battle against Army, which entered the game on a five-game losing streak. Instead, he turned the ball over twice and was held to 3.9 yards per carry in a shocking 23-3 loss to the Black Knights.

This defeat disrupts the race for the Commander-in-Chief Trophy; it is now impossible for Air Force to achieve victory, despite being a vastly superior team all year round to Army and Navy. The Falcons now need Navy to beat Army to earn a share of the crown. But, just as costly, Air Force took a giant step behind Tulane in the race for six Group of Five spots in the New Year. Even if the Green Wave loses, it will be difficult for Air Force to come back in the conversation against a two-loss SMU or even a two-loss Troy team from the Sun Belt. What could have been a historically successful season is now a matter of chance.

Winner: Clemson

Is Spartanburg’s Tyler on the losing or winning side after watching his Tigers dominate No. 15 Notre Dame? Clemson played like a team possessed in a 31-23 upset victory, taking a 24-6 lead early in the second quarter and cruising to the victory. Clemson running back Phil Mafah dominated in relief of the injured Will Shipley, totaling 186 yards and two touchdowns on 36 carries.

After the game, Clemson coach Dabo Swinney took the mic again on the broadcast and defended his program: “I know we’re down and everyone’s throwing trash at us, but if Clemson is a stock, you better buy it all. You can really buy now.” The Tigers still need to win at least one more game to reach bowl eligibility, but the fiery Dabo is back. Clemson needed him.

Loser: TCU

A year ago, the Horned Frogs were on top of the college football world, playing in the unlikeliest of national championships. Now, TCU has completely regressed and is facing one of the worst seasons in recent memory after losing 35-28 to rival Texas Tech. TCU was down 20-7 at halftime and never fully recovered as it fell to 4-5 on the season.

After the loss, TCU now faces missing a bowl game for the second time in three seasons and third in four outside of the pandemic year. The Horned Frogs still have top-10 opponents Texas and Oklahoma on the schedule, as well as a rivalry game against Baylor. TCU needs to go 2-1 down the stretch just to reach the playoffs. All three matches are loseable.

Winner: Washington

On a day where quarterback Michael Penix Jr. played slightly below his high level, No. 5 Washington found different ways to win. Specifically, the Huskies offensive line had a day against a USC defense full of safe bets. Running back Dillon Johnson set career highs with 256 rushing yards and four touchdowns on just 26 carries in the victory. Impressively, 199 of Johnson’s yards came before contact — a testament to how aggressively the Huskies pushed USC to the sideline. Penix remains the Heisman Trophy favorite, but it was a team effort to get Washington out to a 9-0 start. With games remaining against No. 16 Oregon State and No. 18 Utah, the Huskies are on track to crush the College Football Playoff.

Loser: Florida

The Gators started the year 5-2, but things have gone downhill as of late. After losing 43-20 to Georgia a week ago, Florida lost 39-36 to Arkansas in overtime as the Razorbacks ended a seven-game regular season losing streak against Power opponents Five. The Gators were outgained by more than 100 yards against a struggling Arkansas team.

The biggest problem for Florida isn’t just the loss to Arkansas, it’s what happens next. The remaining three games (at No. 14 LSU, at No. 12 Missouri, No. 4 Florida State) are against ranked opponents. After this loss, Florida is in serious danger of ending the year with five straight losses and with its first missed bowl game since 2017.

Florida coach Billy Napier has assembled an elite recruiting class, sitting third in the Top247 rankings for the 2024 cycle. But even if the second-year coach isn’t judged solely on his record 11-11 in Florida, it’s fair to wonder when Napier’s process will yield results.

Winner: Texas State

Nine years ago, Texas State went 7-5 in its first year of FBS eligibility, but was kicked out of a bowl game after too many teams qualified. On Saturday, the damage was finally righted. Texas State crushed Georgia Southern 45-24 after a 38-0 run midway through two quarters to reach bowl eligibility in coach GJ Kinne’s first season. The turnaround went unnoticed, but Texas State improved from 4-8 to 6-3 in nine games after the Bobcats added the most transfers of any FBS team this season. To make things even better, Texas State President Kelly Damphousse and coach GJ Kinne celebrated the victory by jumping into the San Marcos River.

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