The leaves on the trees turn to orange, yellow and red before falling to the ground around this time of year. The changing season also marks the time of year that college football’s best rise to the top while the pretenders fall by the wayside. One such pretender fell hard in college football Week 10.
No. 4 Texas A&M’s stunning loss to Mississippi State will have a lasting impact on the postseason landscape. On the other end of the spectrum, Louisville’s blowout win over Boston College lends credence to the idea that the Cardinals should have been ranked higher than No. 7.
We were also witness to a meat-grinder of an SEC contest between Alabama and LSU in which neither team was able to move the ball much throughout most of the defensive battle. Ultimately, the No. 1 team in the nation remained perfect after its toughest test to date.
We’ll take a deeper look at these games and more as we dig into the top takeaways from college football Week 10.
1. TAMU goes DOWN, justifying complaints of SEC bias in CFB Playoff rankings
Less than a week since the first College Football Playoff rankings had been released, No. 4 Texas A&M tanked on the road against a Mississippi State team that had won just three games all year.
We knew things could get interesting in this one when the Bulldogs jumped out to an early 14-0 lead. Our interest was even more piqued when they led by two touchdowns at halftime. In the end, a fourth-quarter comeback bid for Texas A&M fell short, thanks to a long touchdown-scoring drive by Nick Fitzgerald and Co. and a late interception by Mark McLaurin to seal the win.
Making things worse for the Aggies, quarterback Trevor Knight, who’s been spectacular all year, had to leave the game with a shoulder injury.
The 35-28 win for the Bulldogs was a stunning outcome. But it’s one that justifies the notion that the College Football Playoff Committee overvalued the Aggies — that the SEC bias was just a bit too prevalent when doling out rankings.
Now we should see Texas A&M slide significantly after losing its second game of the season. This rules out any room for bias with teams like Washington, Ohio State and Louisville deserving a bit more respect for what they’ve accomplished.
2. Lamar Jackson pushing hard for that Heisman Trophy
What Lamar Jackson is doing this season leading Louisville’s offense is otherworldly.
… I'll say that after seeing it today, Lamar Jackson is every bit as video game-like in person as he is on TV.
— Albert Breer (@AlbertBreer) November 5, 2016
Saturday on the road against Boston College, Jackson had tallied five touchdowns before halftime. We should have known he was going to have a monster game when he ripped off a 69-yard touchdown early in the first quarter (watch here).
It appeared he was done for the day when backup Kyle Bolin cleaned up the final few series before the half. But Jackson came back in to play in the third quarter after sustaining a cramp in his arm earlier in the game, which was the reason he was pulled.
By the end of this one — an easy 52-7 win for Louisville — Jackson had put up 416 total yards and seven touchdowns through three quarters of play.
It was the third time this season in which Jackson has scored at least seven touchdowns. No other FBS player has more than one such game in 2016.
With potentially four games left on the schedule before the Heisman Trophy is awarded (three if the Cardinals don’t play in the ACC Championship Game), Jackson has already racked up almost 4,000 total yards and 45 touchdowns.
— Sportsnaut (@Sportsnaut) November 5, 2016
As the sophomore quarterback continues to pile up ridiculous stats, Louisville continues to win. With just one loss — a six-point heart breaker against Clemson in Death Valley — the Cardinals deserve to be ranked higher than No. 7.
Given the fact that Texas A&M lost, we can at least assume they will be bumped up to No. 6 when the new rankings come out next week.
3. Alabama finds a way to win against inspired LSU
This one was never pretty. For a full 60 minutes, No. 1 Alabama and No. 15 LSU slugged it out in epic heavyweight fashion in what was a pure defensive struggle.
In fact, LSU’s defense played so well for most of the game that Dwayne Thomas’ ill-conceived boast during the week leading up to the big game almost seemed like it might come true.
By halftime, neither team had managed to find the end zone, let alone a field goal.
Unfortunately for the Tigers and their roaring fans in Baton Rouge, their defense couldn’t quite do enough to win. Alabama freshman quarterback Jalen Hurts did what he’s been doing all year long and found a way to get the job done late in the game.
Hurts finished with 221 total yards (107 through the air, 114 on the ground) and the game’s only touchdown — a beautiful 21-yard dash through LSU’s tired defense.
— Jaison Davis (@JaiHawkFly) November 6, 2016
Alabama added a late field goal to finish with the hard-earned 10-0 win.
It’s remarkable how the Crimson Tide have now managed to shut down Leonard Fournette two years in a row. The past two games against ‘Bama combined, the LSU star running back has managed just 66 total yards and a touchdown on 36 carries.
The Crimson Tide defense also dominated against quarterback Danny Etling on passing plays, holding him to 92 yards and an interception on 24 attempts.
As well as the Tigers played on defense, they couldn’t do a darn thing offensively to capitalize.
Now having escaped Tiger Stadium with another win, Alabama should cruise to an 11-0 record before its final game of the regular season against Auburn, which also won Saturday.
4. Nebraska was no match for Ohio State, with or without Tommy Armstrong
After starting the season with a perfect 7-0 record, the Cornhuskers (No. 10 heading into Week 10) ran into a couple of the Big Ten’s true powerhouses and got served a healthy dose of reality.
Thanks to some rather atrocious play by Wisconsin’s quarterbacks in Week 9, Nebraska hung tough with the Badgers until losing in overtime. That most definitely did not happen Saturday night in Columbus against No. 6 Ohio State.
The Buckeyes absolutely owned this game, and it started from the get-go when Damon Webb took a Tommy Armstrong pass back 36 yards on a pick-six.
Speaking of Armstrong, the senior quarterback gave us all quite the scare in the second quarter when he was knocked out cold for a bit after landing headfirst into the turf. He was carted off the field and put directly into an ambulance to be examined at a local hospital. Thankfully, he was cleared after just a short examination and made his way back to the stadium in the third quarter.
But with or without him, Nebraska wasn’t going to win this game. The Buckeyes already had a 24-3 lead when Armstrong left the game, and they were just getting warmed up.
Without Armstrong in the game, the Cornhuskers’ offense was helpless to move the ball consistently on offense. Meanwhile, J.T. Barrett and Co. got rolling against Nebraska’s overmatched defense.
The end result was a 62-3 blowout win for the Buckeyes. They might not have won by such a large margin if Armstrong had played the entire game, but it wouldn’t have been close either way.
5. Michigan and Clemson continue to roll
Previewing Week 10, we figured No. 2 Clemson and No. 3 Michigan would have no trouble taking down Syracuse and Maryland in front of their home fans.
Though not exactly a bold prediction, that assumption proved to be correct. The Wolverines stomped the Terps into submission with a 59-3 win while the Tigers did the same against Syracuse to the tune of 54-0.
Both powerhouse programs appear destined to cruise to finish with top-four rankings.
Clemson doesn’t really have any opponent left on the schedule that would lead us to question an undefeated finish heading into the ACC Championship Game. That’s a good thing in light of Deshaun Watson’s shoulder injury, suffered late in the first half.
Michigan still has to deal with Ohio State at the end of the regular season. But based on the trajectory of these two Big Ten giants, we’re expecting Jim Harbaugh’s bunch to finish with a perfect record leading up to the Big Ten Championship Game. Especially because we know Harbaugh is not going to let up for one moment, even in a blowout win at home.
6. Baylor falls apart at the seams against TCU
One week after getting stunned by Charlie Strong’s Longhorns, the misery continued in Week 10 for No. 17 Baylor. TCU went into McLane Stadium and owned it, taking down the stumbling Bears by the stunning score of 62-22.
Remarkably, this lopsided score occurred without a glut of turnovers by Baylor. Seth Russell’s one interception was the only turnover of the game for either side, though it’s worth noting it did go for six the other way.
The Horned Frogs absolutely dominated the trenches in this one. Led by junior running back Kyle Hicks, who went for 192 yards and five touchdowns, TCU employed a relentless rushing attack that wore down Baylor’s already suspect defense.
It was as one-sided a Big 12 battle as we’ve seen this year in the game’s final 50 minutes.
Needless to say, Baylor has no business even being mentioned as a potential playoff contender at this point. After losing one game, there was only a hint of a whisper of promise remaining for the Bears. Now that dream has been flushed down the toilet, presumably along with the game tape of this embarrassing loss.
7. Arkansas spoils Florida’s Playoff dream
The No. 11-ranked Gators weren’t exactly in the driver’s seat as a College Football Playoff contender heading into Week 10. But after losing to Arkansas by the score of 31-0, it’s safe to say they have no chance of wiggling into one of the four spots with two losses.
A team that relies on stout defense and a balanced offensive attack that just isn’t all that explosive, Florida got into trouble early when the Razorbacks went up 14-0 in the first quarter. Luke Del Rio just doesn’t have the gunslinger’s ability to make huge plays throughout a game against high-level competition.
Coming back most certainly isn’t the strong suit of the Gators’ offense, and that was evident in this one. Aside from a Duke Dawson pick-six in the first quarter, Florida managed just three points the rest of the way.
Compounding the issue, the Gators’ typically dominant defense couldn’t hang with an inspired Razorbacks’ offensive attack. In the end, Arkansas out gained Florida 466-241 in total yardage and absolutely dominated the time-of-possession battle.
Needless to say, it’s going to be a long trip back to The Swamp for these Gators.
8. Wisconsin in driver’s seat to win Big Ten West
Saturday was a good day for No. 8 Wisconsin. In addition to a hard-fought 21-7 road win against Northwestern, the Badgers vaulted into a tie for first place in the Big Ten West with a conference record of 4-2.
As we’ve seen all year, Wisconsin leaned on its defense and running game to stifle the Wildcats Saturday.
Running back Corey Clement carried the load on offense, rushing 32 times for 106 yards and a touchdown. Receiver Jazz Peavy provided the splash play with a spectacular 46-yard dash to the end zone and Wisconsin’s defense held Clayton Thorson and Co. to just 39 yards on the ground.
It was just one more grind-it-out win for the Badgers.
This program is most certainly among the top teams in the nation, despite its two losses. Hanging tough against both Ohio State and Michigan earlier this year, the Badgers have gotten through their most difficult stretch of games already and are in control over their own destiny in conference play.
Nebraska, having lost its last two games to Wisconsin and Ohio State, still faces Minnesota at home and hits the road to play Iowa. It’s conceivable the Cornhuskers could lose one or both of those games given what we’ve seen from the offense of late in the turnover department.
Minnesota, which is tied atop the Big Ten West, faces Northwestern and Wisconsin after taking on Nebraska.
Based on how things have played out, Wisconsin will win the Big Ten West by winning out this season en route to the Big Ten Championship Game. We already know that game will be contested against either Ohio State or Michigan. And we already know this team is capable of hanging with either powerhouse program.
9. Penn State quietly playing some of the best football in the nation
Based on the CFP committee's last rankings, it sure seems as if Penn State is poised to crack the top 10 … pic.twitter.com/rG5jhojVly
— Josh Moyer (@ByJoshMoyer) November 6, 2016
The past two weeks have proved beyond a shadow of doubt that Penn State’s huge win over Ohio State was no fluke.
One week removed from their 62-24 blowout on the road against Purdue, the No. 12-ranked Nittany Lions won their fifth game in a row at home in convincing fashion with a 41-14 victory over Iowa.
Leading the charge, sophomore running back Saquon Barkley continued his recent show of dominance behind a constantly improving offensive line. He finished with 167 yards and a touchdown on the ground, adding another touchdown on a 44-yard reception. The past four games, Barkley has averaged 197 total yards per game while scoring five touchdowns.
Quarterback Trace McSorley wasn’t asked to do much but executed when it mattered, throwing two touchdowns and taking care of the ball with no turnovers.
Penn State’s defensive front seven had its way against the normally effective Iowa running game, holding the Hawkeyes to just 30 yards on 26 carries.
It was complete domination, and the win has Penn State looking like a lock as a top-10 team when the next College Football Playoff rankings are released.
10. How does Brian Kelly keep his job after yet another bad loss?
Notre Dame is now 3-6 on the season. It’s worth repeating. Notre Dame — a team that had top-10 expectations when the season began — is now 3-6.
Navy handed the Fighting Irish their sixth loss of the season on Saturday. And as we’ve seen too often this year, head coach Brian Kelly made a questionable decision near the end of the game that ended up biting him in the behind.
Down by four points late in the fourth quarter, with a fourth-and-four at Navy’s 14-yard line, Kelly called for the field goal unit. He was banking on his defense to hold Navy from running out the clock.
It was not such a great move, especially considering Notre Dame hasn’t stopped anyone this year and hadn’t stopped Navy from imposing its will on offense the entire second half. Not surprisingly, the Midshipmen ran out the clock on a methodical 14-play drive to win the game by one point, 28-27.
After the game, Kelly defended his decision.
“Certainly (I) thought about going for it,” Kelly said, per CSN Chicago. ‘Now in hindsight, it’s something that we didn’t get the ball back. But 28‑27 made sense to me at the time. Even if they score a touchdown, we still have the opportunity to score and get the two‑point conversion. It made sense to me at 28‑27 was the right call at fourth and four. I think if it’s fourth‑and‑one or two, maybe (we go for it).
“But those are the decisions you got to make. Again, I don’t question the decision to go for the field goal other than the fact that we couldn’t get the ball back.”
Yes. Perfectly good decision, other than the fact they didn’t get the ball back. And hadn’t, pretty much all game long.
Now, it’s worth pointing out that Notre Dame did get robbed by the officials on 12-men-on-the-field penalty late in the third quarter. That was a killer, as Navy went on to score a touchdown on the drive that should have ended in a punt.
But this is a game Notre Dame should have won. In fact, Navy has only beaten Notre Dame four times the past 40 years. And it’s just one more indictment against Kelly as the right man to lead the program going forward.
Maybe it’s because he’s still set to make so much more money on his current deal, but the university has backed Kelly already. Athletic director Jack Swarbrick has definitively stated that Kelly “will lead this team out of the tunnel opening day next year.”
But how can Notre Dame justify keeping him at this point?
Aside from the complete meltdown from a standings point of view, Kelly’s brusque nature and callous attitude towards his players appears to have finally backfired. His team has not played loose and free at any point this season following its Week 1 loss to Texas.
Now with three more games left on the schedule, the Fighting Irish must win out to even qualify for a bowl game this season.