The home stretch of the season is rapidly approaching.
Jockeying for position in the various conferences races has taken on a new urgency.
As the initial playoff rankings are set to be released, here’s a look back at some of the winners and losers from week nine.
Wildcats’ head coach Rich Rodriguez seemed to be flirting with a hot seat in Tucson, but the addition of quarterback Khalil Tate into the starting lineup has invigorated the offense. Tate posted his fourth consecutive sensational game as Arizona shredded Washington State 58-37. In the last four games, Tate has passed for 743 yards, ran for 840 yards, and accounted for 20 touchdowns. The Wildcats have now emerged as a serious threat to win the PAC-12 South, and the league overall.
The Cowboys notched an impressive 50-39 road win over the 22nd ranked West Virginia Mountaineers. Oklahoma State is known for their explosive offensive, but they’ve shown the capability to get opportune defensive stops this year, something they haven’t been able to do in the past. They will need it as the hated rival Oklahoma Sooners come to Stillwater for the “Bedlam” series. The winner of the in-state showdown will have a great chance to play in the revived Big XII Championship game.
The Buckeyes were able to avenge last year’s loss to 2nd ranked Penn State with a thrilling 39-38 comeback victory. Ohio State got off to an inauspicious start when Heisman frontrunner Saquon Barkley returned the opening kickoff for a TD. Trailing by as many as 18 points, the Buckeyes rallied for the home win, and jumped to #3 in the polls. Ohio State is now the highest-ranked one-loss team and has the inside track to winning the Big Ten East.
The game-winner. https://t.co/wzS2QGrID1
The Bulls appeared to be on a collision course with fellow undefeated AAC in-state opponent Central Florida, but South Florida didn’t hold up their end of the bargain, losing a shocker at home to struggling Houston 28-24. Prior to the game, the Cougars had given up 87 points in two blowout losses, but contained South Florida’s potent offense. With this loss, South Florida spoils the top-15 showdown with UCF, but they still have an outside shot at claiming a coveted New Year’s 6 bowl game if they can run the table and defeat UCF on the road. However, that looks far less likely, and UCF is now in the driver’s seat for the marquee bowl slot.
The Horned Frogs squandered an opportunity to bolster their résumé in the playoff chase. The committee kept them out of the playoffs in 2014 despite having a higher ranking in the polls than Ohio State (the eventual champions), so TCU needed to keep its destiny in their own hands. However, a 14-7 loss to the improving Iowa State Cyclones ruined that. Now TCU must regroup and finish strong against Texas, Oklahoma, and Texas Tech. The three-game gauntlet won’t be easy, as each opponent presents a separate challenge. The Longhorns have the best defense in the conference, the Sooners have the best player in the conference (Heisman finalist Baker Mayfield), and Texas Tech can score with anybody. If TCU wants to finally get over the hump, they have to finish strong and capitalize on their opportunity.
After a 42-7 beatdown at the hands of Georgia in the “World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party” rivalry, Florida became the first marquee Power 5 program to fire its coach this year. Jim McElwain exits Gainesville after only two and a half seasons. Despite posting 10-4 and 9-4 records his first two years, McElwain’s tenure was marred by woefully bad offensive performances, which is particularly troubling because offense is his area of expertise. The situation fell apart quickly and oddly after McElwain alleged he and his family were the victims of death threats, but he couldn’t substantiate the claims. In the past, Florida Athletic Director Jeremy Foley aptly said, “What should be done eventually, must be done immediately.” That ethos explains why McElwain wasn’t given the opportunity to right the ship. The program was clearly trending down, and Foley took action. The disgraced loss to a bitter rival made the decision that much easier.
Check out No. 3 Georgia taking down Florida 42-7 in Jacksonville.