Winners and Losers from Week 9 of College Football

David KenyonFeatured ColumnistOctober 31, 2021

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    Al Goldis/Associated Press

    Keep an eye on your couches, East Lansing, because Michigan State’s comeback win over Michigan might lead to a sizzling night.

    And speaking of heat, the temperature is only rising for Jim Harbaugh after a fourth loss to the rival Spartans. That storyline, as you’d imagine, leads B/R’s list of winners and losers from Week 9 of the 2021 college football season.

    Miami and Wisconsin both defeated a Top 25 opponent for the second week in a row, and Georgia obliterated yet another team. Iowa State, on the other hand, could not maintain its hot streak.

    The list is subjective but includes the most impactful results and valuable takeaways from the weekend.

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    Keith Srakocic/Associated Press

    Two weeks ago, Manny Diaz sat on a scorching hot seat. Miami continued to find ways to lose, falling to both Virginia and North Carolina on last-second plays. The losses dropped the Hurricanes to 2-4, and they were in danger of watching a recruiting class implode.

    The jury is still out in Diaz’s future, but after defeating No. 18 North Carolina State 31-30 last Saturday, the ‘Canes went on the road today and clipped No. 17 Pitt 38-34.
    Most importantly, the freshmen stepped up.

    Tyler Van Dyke threw for 426 yards and three touchdowns, and Jaylan Knighton scampered for 80 yards and two scores. Wide receivers Xavier Restrepo and Key’Shawn Smith combined for 10 catches, 171 yards and a touchdown, and safety James Williams made a clutch interception in the fourth quarter.

    Miami, oddly enough, now has a straightforward path to a Coastal Division title. Before we even consider that, though, the ‘Canes have regularly failed to sustain these positive results.

    Next up for Miami is Georgia Tech. Start there, then see what happens.

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    Carlos Osorio/Associated Press

    Call it patience, goodwill or tolerance, but whatever the 7-0 start afforded Jim Harbaugh has disappeared.

    Yes, the Spartans landed a heavier share of the debatable calls. Most notably, an overturned fumble took a defensive touchdown off the board in the second quarter for Michigan. While several rulings were the proper decision—that fumble was the most suspect, by far—it doesn’t really alleviate the pain for Wolverines fans.

    The final score is the only thing that matters, and it read Michigan State 37, Michigan 33.

    Michigan squandered a 16-point lead, collapsing with a fumble, turnover on downs and interception on its last three drives. Michigan State running back Kenneth Walker III shredded the Wolverines for 197 yards and all five of the Spartans’ touchdowns.

    Harbaugh’s record against the “Little Brother” rival is 3-4. His record opposite Ohio State is 0-5. During his tenure, Michigan is now 2-9 against Top 25 opponents in true road games.

    Harbaugh signed an extension last offseason, but the updated pact actually reduced his buyout to just $4 million. That figure will not inhibit a coaching change.

    And if the Wolverines don’t upset Ohio State, it’s easy to believe Harbaugh’s time at his alma mater is approaching the end.

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    Andy Manis/Associated Press

    Entering the season, Wisconsin had Big Ten championship dreams. But quick losses to Penn State, Michigan and Notre Dame sent the Badgers from a No. 12 ranking to a dreadful 1-3 record, and a broken offense limited any optimism for a strong year.

    However, thanks to a 27-7 victory over Iowa on Saturday, the Badgers wrapped up October with a 4-0 record.
    Although the offense is still a work in progress, the defense has overwhelmed a lower level of competition. The last four opponents—Illinois, Army, Purdue and Iowa—have combined for just 721 yards at 3.1 per snap and scored only 34 points on Wisconsin.

    Minnesota stands atop the West Division at 4-1, and the battle for Paul Bunyan’s Axe looms in late November. But since Wisconsin has tiebreaker wins over Iowa and Purdue, the Badgers control their path to the Big Ten Championship Game.

    The potential route to a Big Ten title appearance isn’t what most expected, but U-W is exactly in the position we anticipated.

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    Sam Hodde/Associated Press

    Let’s be perfectly clear: This is not a criticism of Bijan Robinson. He mustered a season-low 47 yards from scrimmage in Texas’ loss to Baylor, but poor performances happen. That’s no big deal.

    The problem, relative to the Heisman Trophy discussion, is Texas lost another game. Recent history shows that non-quarterbacks on teams outside of national championship contention simply don’t garner many votes in the Heisman race.

    Baylor held Robinson to 43 yards on 17 carries, and he managed one reception for four yards. Entering the weekend, he boasted per-game averages of 132.0 and 29.6 yards, respectively.

    Despite the rough outing, Robinson’s production is elite. He’s been every bit the breakout player Texas hoped to see.

    However, he won’t be bringing home the Heisman in 2021.

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    Phelan M. Ebenhack/Associated Press

    If you stepped away from the screen late in the second quarter of Georgia’s clash with Florida, you missed a lot.

    Florida hung around for 27 minutes, not scoring but only surrendering a field goal. Yet in that final stretch before halftime, Georgia forced a fumble, grabbed two interceptions and scored 21 points off those three takeaways to take a 24-0 lead.

    And suddenly, it was game over.

    Georgia ended the World’s Largest Cocktail Party with a 34-7 victory, improving to 8-0. Their remaining schedule is favorable, too, as the next four weekends include Missouri, Tennessee, lower-division Charleston Southern and rival Georgia Tech. None of these teams have a winning record.

    Anything but a 12-0 record for the Dawgs, quite honestly, would be shocking. That might be enough to secure a College Football Playoff berth no matter what happens in the SEC Championship Game, considering the chaos around the rest of the country.

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    Charlie Neibergall/Associated Press

    Iowa State has a reputation for slow starts in September before excelling in October and November. Following a 2-2 opening month, the Cyclones ripped off three straight wins to stay in the Big 12 picture and seemingly continue the trend.

    But they narrowly missed a 4-0 October, losing to West Virginia and likely falling out of the conference title race.

    West Virginia scored two fourth-quarter touchdowns to snag a 38-31 win, sending the Cyclones to 5-3 for the season. Iowa State is now 3-2 in conference play, doesn’t have a tiebreaker with Baylor and still has Texas and Oklahoma on the schedule.

    Ranked seventh in the preseason, Iowa State will require a minor miracle to rejoin the Big 12 race.

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    Rogelio V. Solis/Associated Press

    Bowl eligibility isn’t the peak of success, but Mississippi State has appeared in a postseason game for 11 straight years.

    Despite entering Week 9 a 4-3 record, the streak was in jeopardy. Four of the Bulldogs’ final five contests included Kentucky, Arkansas, Auburn and Ole Miss. There was a realistic chance Mississippi State would fall one victory shy of 6-6 and a bowl trip.

    Those concerns should be gone, however.

    Mississippi State toppled Kentucky 31-17 to earn victory No. 5 and has a game against lower-division Tennessee State waiting in November. Will Rogers completed 36-of-39 passes for 344 yards, and the Bulldogs intercepted UK quarterback Will Levis three times.

    In an otherwise quiet year, staying in the postseason picture is a positive for Mike Leach and Mississippi State.

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    Butch Dill/Associated Press

    Because of the September loss to Alabama, Ole Miss basically dipped out of the SEC race. Nevertheless, the Rebels had a realistic shot at a New Year’s Six bowl for the first time since 2015.

    Well, until Saturday, at least.

    They fell behind Auburn 14-3 and couldn’t quite catch up. Ole Miss cut the deficit to 21-17 at one point, but three turnovers on downs and an interception in the second half stung Lane Kiffin‘s squad. Auburn held on for a 31-20 victory.

    By no means is 6-2 a disappointing record—especially since Matt Corral played on a hurt ankle—but the Rebels can only compete for an NY6 slot if they win out.

    Possible? If Corral is healthy, yes. Still, their chances took a huge hit tonight, and it’ll be a nerve-wracking November for Ole Miss.

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    Justin Rex/Associated Press

    Welcome to the spoiler role, Houston.

    SMU arrived with a 7-0 record and as a very slight favorite, but Houston sent the Mustangs home disappointed. And for the former, it was an absolutely brutal way to lose.

    After overcoming a 17-point first-quarter deficit, SMU held second-half leads of 27-23 and 34-30. Houston jumped ahead 37-34 in the fourth quarter, but the Mustangs kicked a tying field goal in the last minute of regulation to seemingly force overtime.

    Houston had different plans, though.

    Marcus Jones returned the ensuing kickoff for a touchdown, giving the Cougars a 44-37 victory and ending SMU’s unblemished year. Best of all for Houston, it’s a perfect 5-0 in the AAC and now the favorite to meet No. 2 Cincinnati in the conference title game.

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    Jay LaPrete/Associated Press

    Unfortunately for lovers of drama, Penn State’s loss to Illinois diminished the importance of the prime-time clash with Ohio State. No longer could the Nittany Lions position themselves to reach the Big Ten Championship Game.

    And after a 33-24 loss, they’re on the verge of a spiral.

    Saturday marked the third straight loss for Penn State, which is guaranteed to exit the Top 25 in Sunday’s update. If you exclude the pandemic-altered 2020 season, it’s the first time the Nittany Lions won’t be in the AP poll since Week 8 of the 2016 campaign.

    Maybe they’ll get back on track at Maryland next week, but November also brings Michigan and Michigan State. There’s a definite path to 7-5 for Penn State.

    Following that promising 5-0 start, this is becoming a disappointing year in Happy Valley.

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