Last week was an interesting week of college football, and the return of the Big Ten added more meaningful games to last week’s slate. Here are the winners and losers from week eight of the college football season:
Winner: Oklahoma State
I’ve been skeptical of No. 6 Oklahoma State for the past few weeks, but now I’m ready to declare that the Cowboys (4-0, 3-0 Big 12) are legitimately in the conversation for the College Football Playoff. The Cowboys faced their first real test of the season when they faced then-No. 17 Iowa State, and they performed admirably. Oklahoma State’s defense held strong in the game, limiting the Cyclones (3-2, 3-1 Big 12) to just 162 passing yards and 21 points. In a conference that historically features high-flying offenses, having a defense that can make plays and slow teams down can be a huge asset. The Cowboys are the only remaining undefeated team in the Big 12. That will be put to the test in the coming weeks, with tough games against Texas and Oklahoma in Oklahoma State’s near future. Should they overcome those opponents and win the Big 12 Championship Game, they would have a very strong case to be included in the CFP.
Loser: James Franklin
One could make the argument that coaching in college football is even more important than coaching in the NFL. College players are less experienced with the game of football and therefore need more direction from their coaches in order to make smart plays. In Penn State’s opening game against Indiana on Saturday, Nittany Lions head coach James Franklin failed to provide that direction, allowing one of his players to make a mistake that cost Penn State (0-1, 0-1 Big Ten) the game. Up by one with under two minutes remaining, Penn State had the ball on Indiana’s 14-yard line. With only one timeout remaining, Indiana’s only chance was to allow Penn State to score a touchdown so they could get the ball back, and Penn State played right into the Hoosiers’ hands, with sophomore running back Devyn Ford going straight into the end zone. Indiana would tie the game up and win in overtime. I don’t blame Ford in this situation. He’s a sophomore in college, and his natural instinct is to go as far as possible on every play. In that situation, it is up to the coach to huddle up his players and press them not to score. The fact that they did score is evidence that Franklin did not do a good job of this. He is the main reason Penn State lost that football game.
Often in college football there will be a team that flies completely under the radar until all of sudden they break into the top 10 and everybody asks, “Where the heck did they come from?” This year, that team is No. 7 Cincinnati. About a decade ago, Cincinnati was a good program, having won four Big East titles in five seasons from 2008 to 2012. With the collapse of the Big East, Cincinnati remained in its successor conference, the AAC, but struggled in its first few seasons in the lower-profile conference. Now, it seems that Cincinnati has returned to national prominence. The Bearcats (4-0, 2-0 AAC) are undefeated, with two of their victories coming against 6-1 Army and then-No. 16 SMU. The game against the Mustangs (5-1, 2-1 AAC) was particularly impressive, as the Bearcats were on the road and still managed to crush SMU by 29 points. The race to be the highest-ranked conference champion of the Group of Five conferences is always an interesting one to watch, with a New Year’s Six bowl berth on the line. Right now, Cincinnati is the clear front-runner.
Winner: Greg Schiano
It has been a brutal few seasons in Piscataway, New Jersey. Ever since Rutgers moved from the Big East to the Big Ten, it has looked completely out of place. The conference’s biggest teams consistently whaled on them year after year, with the Scarlet Knights even losing to Michigan once by a score of 78-0 at home. Heading into this season, Rutgers was on a 21-game losing streak in Big Ten football. At the birthplace of college football, the football looked dead. But the program sprung back to life a little bit last week upon the return of Greg Schiano, who coached Rutgers from 2001 to 2011 before leaving for the NFL. In his first game back, Rutgers earned a surprise 11-point victory at Michigan State to clinch their first conference victory since Nov. 4, 2017. Granted, the Spartans (0-1, 0-1 Big Ten) are much diminished following the retirement of 12-year head coach Mark Dantonio, but the victory is impressive nonetheless, especially given how Rutgers has looked the last few seasons. Rutgers (1-0, 1-0 Big Ten) likely will not perform as well once they face tougher opposition like Ohio State and Michigan, but the win was one that they really needed, and one that Rutgers fans surely are grateful for.