College football’s November slate is off and running. This weekend gave us a much clearer postseason picture than we’ve had to date, with contenders crystalizing in some places and falling off in others. A few things are already set in stone, and we’re set up for chaos elsewhere. It should be a blast, as November in this sport typically is.
As always, this gigantic sport has many dozens of literal winners and losers this week. This list is a collection of particularly notable winners and losers, not just teams themselves. There are a lot of them this week, because there were lots of big games.
LSU was ranked No. 3 and playing at home. The Tide were 14.5-point favorites anyway, which is the sort of spread that’s never existed before against a top-4 team. They doubled up that spread with more than five minutes left, and that was despite missing two extra points. But the game was really over when the score was 9-0, because the idea of LSU scoring twice felt like fanfic. Reasonable people might not have thought Bama could be any more dominant than it had been, but here we are. This was one of a scant few serious matchups that could have been a little dicey for the Tide, and they mopped the floor with their hapless opponents.
The Bulldogs were always likely to beat Kentucky, but they still get credit for walking into a rocking Lexington and putting down that SEC East rebellion without much fuss. The Dawgs slowed down a little bit at the end, but D’Andre Swift and Elijah Holyfield both ran brilliantly. Jake Fromm only had to throw 20 passes, which is what Georgia wants. The defense made Kentucky’s physical running game look helpless.
Barring two really weird losses among its remaining games against Auburn, UMass, and Georgia Tech (not gonna happen), Georgia will have a play-in game for the Playoff in one month against Alabama. The Dawgs will lose that game, because Bama’s not charitable this year, but it should be fun.
The Wolverines threw Penn State into the wastebasket like almost no one can. In doing so, they got rid of the only possible impediment to a Big Ten East-deciding game against an Ohio State team that has looked way worse than Michigan all season. Michigan should be considered the East favorite and a strong Playoff bet. No one this side of Bama has looked distinctly better.
Yes, the Cardinals lost 77-16 to Clemson, somehow looking even more putrid than a 2-6 team visiting a championship contender is supposed to look. Yes, it was one of the most embarrassing defensive performances in recent ACC history.
Let’s look at the big picture, though. Petrino’s second Louisville tenure has clearly gone stale. Louisville has become one of the sorriest programs in the Power 5, from defensive ineptitude, to the offense being totally lost without Lamar Jackson, to the team’s 2019 recruiting class looking bad. Despite his inexplicable $14 million buyout, it’s time for Petrino to go.
If getting embarrassed is what it takes, then good for the Cards.
Dabo’s son is a walk-on receiver for Clemson. He had five catches for 20 yards on the season entering the game. With nine minutes left and Clemson up 54, Will became the 10th Tiger of the afternoon to score a touchdown. This team really does get everyone involved.
This man’s about to get $14 million not to work, following years and years of abandoning teams at the drop of a hat. Who says capitalism isn’t great.
The Rebels lost 48-44 to South Carolina and blew a 10-point, fourth-quarter lead to do it. Not great! But this accounting of winners and losers encompasses all of Week 10, and this week included Ole Miss getting some excellent news. The NCAA lifted what the school called the “most onerous” of its sanctions from a sprawling mess of an investigation into the program: a limitation on the number of unofficial visits recruits could take to Oxford. So once again, here’s a program whose future got a lot brighter despite a bad loss.
The Mountaineers won dramatically at Texas and retained their status as probably the quietest serious Playoff contender out there. They should have no trouble with TCU next weekend in Morgantown. Then they’ve got two really tough games: at Oklahoma State and at home against Oklahoma. In total, the Mountaineers have to win three hard games to guarantee themselves a Playoff spot, counting the Big 12 title game.
Still, West Virginia is right there in the picture and could conceivably win the conference even with one more loss.
Malzahn is absolutely on the hot seat, despite a $32 million buyout. Auburn trailed Texas A&M by 10 entering the fourth quarter and looked poised to fall to 5-4. The Tigers came back and won late, however, and now Malzahn looks marginally more likely to stay in his job.
Although pursuant to the Petrino Rule noted above, if you want to call Malzahn a loser for not getting fired and thus getting paid many millions not to work, I won’t argue with you.
The Black Knights beat Air Force, using a late fourth-down stop in their own territory to seal the game. They’re guaranteed to retain the Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy, a huge deal at the service academies, no matter their result next month against Navy. They’re also 7-2 and a whisker away from being 8-1 with a win over Oklahoma. Is it time to talk about the Black Knights as one of the best mid-major programs in the country, period? We’re getting close.
By virtue of a road win against Virginia on Friday, the Panthers — who, if you were unaware, have four losses — are in great position to win the ACC Coastal. Someone has to win that division by law, and Pitt’s doing way less to mess up than anyone else. A game against Virginia Tech at Heinz Field next weekend figures to decide the race.
Also on Friday, the Sun Devils followed up a win at USC by thrashing what had looked like a rising Utah, 38-20. Herm Edwards’ squad controls its own fate in the Pac-12 South. Given the derision his hire received when the school made it, this year already feels like a success in Tempe.
This punter from Division III Heidelberg
FOLKS WE'VE GOT FOOTAGE OF A DIVISION III 95-YARD PUNT pic.twitter.com/p6rtDGXMpw— Yahoo Sports College Football (@YahooSportsCFB) November 3, 2018
That’s a new Division III record. The punt was a few yards short of the NCAA-record 99-yarder a Nevada punter set in 1950. Nonetheless, a ball went more than 100 yards off a man’s foot. The punter, Austin Baker, told me he’d only eaten yogurt and a peanut butter-and-jelly sandwich before the game. Thankfully, he was on his way to eat some boneless chicken wings afterward.
Big brother beat the Tigers’ asses again. LSU hasn’t scored in Baton Rouge against Alabama since 2014. The gap between the two programs is a chasm. Losing the SEC West is one thing, but realizing you’ve made negative progress against your blood rival is worse.
By losing to WVU, the Longhorns pretty much knocked themselves out of the Big 12 race. They absolutely knocked themselves out of the Playoff race, though their chances there were already small. They also have to live with the fact that Tom Herman’s failed kicker-icing attempt before halftime changed the whole game, and that WVU threw the Horns Down hand gesture not once, but twice, deciding penalties were worth the flex both times.
The Canes were already playing a lost season before being defeated by Duke in what was basically a monsoon. They’re now 5-7 in their last 12 games, which is sub-Al Golden, sub-Randy Shannon territory. To whatever extent Mark Richt was enjoying a honeymoon in Coral Gables, it’s over now. He needs to make significant changes, likely starting with his offensive staff.
Kentucky, just by technicality
A Cinderella bid to win the SEC East failed. But, you know what? Kentucky has had a special season and was never supposed to win this game, anyway. They’re losers here because they lost one of the day’s biggest games, but I mean that with all respect.
Last month, there were fair arguments whether UNC should either fire its head coach, though the pros of making a move seemed to me to outweigh the cons. The Heels have lost a couple more uninspiring games since then, to Virginia and now Georgia Tech, and now it looks impractical not to fire Fedora. He’ll be due about $12 million not to work if UNC does what feels inevitable — so again, if you feel like considering him a winner, fair enough.
Freedom and justice for all
This brilliant Horns Down hand motion made by West Virginia receiver David Sills V against Texas was called unsportsmanlike conduct, as was another by QB Will Grier later on:
David Sills did horns ... down? pic.twitter.com/Ciebzgbjql— ESPN CollegeFootball (@ESPNCFB) November 3, 2018
The rulebook does not clarify why Horns Down must be called a penalty. Therefore, calling it a penalty is a violation of due process. I thought we still lived in America, but I guess not.
The Bulls lost to previously 3-5 Tulane at home, 41-15. That’s a real score! The Bulls have now lost twice in the league to give up control of their own destiny, even if they can upset UCF. It’s safe to consider Charlie Strong’s team out of the New Year’s bowl race.
Order in the AAC West
Houston took a surprising road loss to SMU. If sub-.500 Tulane — which, again, just dropped a bucket of points on USF’s heads — can beat UH next week, and SMU can beat UConn (shouldn’t be a problem), the West will have three teams tied atop it at 4-2 in-conference. Houston would be on the wrong side of tiebreakers with both SMU and Tulane.
An SMU-Tulane race for the AAC West. It’s on the table!
After a loss to Iowa State (and many other losses over four seasons), the Kansas head coach is probably getting fired soon. But how soon? It’s complicated:
Multiple sources indicate to SB Nation that Beaty could remain on the sidelines for the full season, especially following the win over TCU. However, per one source, KU could intentionally make a move before next week’s K-State game, in order to ensure he can’t save his job with a rivalry win.
Winning at Kansas is almost impossible in most eras.
Arguably the biggest college football loser of the week, and not at all because of a loss to Michigan State. The university embarrassed itself when it briefly decided to reinstate coach DJ Durkin earlier in the week, only to fire him on Halloween after national backlash.
The school finally did the right thing, but only under pressure. Unsurprisingly, top leadership figures are being ousted in droves.
One good idea would be to leave interim coach Matt Canada in charge going forward, foremost because of how he has treated his players.
This LSU fan, specifically
I hope her night got better after this. The score sure didn’t.