We’re now well past the halfway point in the season, and the race to make the College Football Playoff (CFP) is starting to take shape. Here are the winners and losers from week nine of the college football season:
Winner: Ohio State
It’s only been two weeks since the Big Ten began its football season, but the Big Ten title already seems like it’s been locked up. Road games at Penn State are never easy, but No. 3 Ohio State (2-0, 2-0 Big Ten) made it look relatively comfortable. Junior quarterback Justin Fields looks extremely comfortable once more in head coach Ryan Day’s system. Against the Nittany Lions (0-2, 0-2 Big Ten), Fields threw for 318 yards and four touchdowns and threw an incompletion only six times. With Penn State and Michigan looking shaky in the Big Ten East, Ohio State should cruise to another Big Ten Championship Game. It is still unknown how strong of a team No. 10 Wisconsin is because it has had two of its games canceled due to the spread of COVID-19, but if the Buckeyes continue to play like this, they should earn a spot in the CFP once more.
Ohio State’s historic rivals, however, did not fare so well last week. The Wolverines (1-1, 1-1 Big Ten) were flying high after a blowout win at Minnesota. The special teams were making plays, the offense looked dynamic and junior quarterback Joe Milton looked like a smart, effective solution under center. None of that held true last week against Michigan State. The Spartans (1-1, 1-1 Big Ten) looked like a diminished team after losing to Rutgers last week, but they shocked the college football world by beating Michigan on Saturday. The game wasn’t even as close as the final score indicated. The Wolverines could not get their running game going, forcing Milton to throw the ball more, and he wasn’t nearly as accurate as he was against the Golden Gophers (0-2, 0-2 Big Ten). Also, Michigan’s defense had no answer for freshman wide receiver Ricky White, who had 196 receiving yards. Jim Harbaugh is now 1-6 at home against Ohio State and Michigan State as UM’s head coach. That certainly won’t please the alumni.
Last week I wrote about how No. 6 Cincinnati has surged into the top 10 in the AP Poll. This week, it’s No. 9 BYU that has made the leap under the radar. The Cougars (7-0) are an independent program and thus gets to construct its schedule entirely on its own. It is true that their schedule isn’t incredibly tough, but the opponents that they did face, they clobbered. Of the seven games they won this year, their margin of victory was at least 17 points in six of them and at least 31 points in five of them. We’ll see what BYU is really made of on Friday when they face No. 21 Boise State on the blue turf. Should they win, the Cougars are in the conversation for a New Year’s Six bowl.
Winner: Trevor Lawrence
Whenever a quarterback does extremely well in college football, there’s always an underlying worry that it’s not the quarterback’s natural talent at work, but rather the particular system that the quarterback is operating under. That is the reason why quarterbacks like J.T. Barrett and Dwayne Haskins did so well at Ohio State but so poorly in the NFL. But in junior quarterback Lawrence’s case, whatever small doubts there were about this issue is gone. In No. 1 Clemson’s recent game against Boston College, the Tigers (7-0, 6-0 ACC) struggled for much of the game and won by the skin of their teeth. This was a game that, with Lawrence under center, Clemson would have dominated. Obviously, Lawrence would have wanted Clemson to win more comfortably, but the fact that the Tigers’ performance dropped so much without him is a testament to his incredible talent. NFL teams will be happy.