No.19 Kentucky 6-44 No.3 Tennessee
Hendon Hooker registered his 50th career touchdown as Tennessee rolled over Kentucky, 44-6, in Knoxville. Appropriately, his landmark pass went to Jalin Hyatt, who has 14 receiving touchdowns this season after just eight games. Heisman favourite Hooker completed 19 of 25 passes for 245 yards for three touchdowns and added another on the ground.
His opposite number, Will Levis, darling of mock drafts, was sacked four times by the Tennessee defense who also intercepted him three times as the Kentucky quarterback managed just 98 yards passing.
Tennessee’s explosive pass game now has some balance with an improving run game. The Volunteers move to 8-0 for the first time since 1998. Tennessee, averaging 49 points per game, heads to Athens to face a Georgia team conceding just 10. Something has to give, and this will be a fascinating encounter.
No.2 Ohio State 44-31 No.13 Penn State
Penn State on the road in late October was the first real test for No.2 Ohio State. After an early Buckeyes lead thanks to a Miyan Williams score, the Nittany Lions battled back to lead 14-13 at the half. Ohio State’s run game failed to get going until the fourth quarter with a TreVeyon Henderson run and score. The Buckeyes had run for just 37 yards until his touchdown with 8:51 left. C.J. Stroud marshalled the Ohio State air attack, passing for 354 yards, completing 26 of 33 passes and throwing for a touchdown. Marvin Harrison caught 10 receptions for 185 yards.
The emergence of J.T. Tuimoloau effectively turned the game. The sophomore defensive end “had a day”, registering two sacks, one forced fumble, one fumble recovery and an interception for a touchdown, as Ohio State moved to 8-0.
“He’s an unbelievable talent. This was his coming out party today.” – Ohio State head coach Ryan Day on J.T. Tuimoloau.
Florida 20-42 No.1 Georgia
“The World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party”, the annual showdown between Florida and Georgia in Jacksonville, saw Georgia ease to 14-0 lead early on. Their lead was never really threatened. A physical Bulldogs offense overpowered Florida, running for 239 yards, while tight end Brock Bowers looks like a man amongst boys. Bowers had 154 receiving yards including a 73-yard touchdown, making college football’s highlight reel. A tipped, juggling, twisting catch along the sidelines was reeled in by Bowers who then motored in to score.
Florida showed promise, their highlight being a 78-yard touchdown run by Xzavier Henderson.
Elsewhere in the SEC...
No.11 Mississippi bounced back from a surprise loss at LSU to hold off Texas A&M, 31-28. Ole Miss coach Lane Kiffin is one of the names linked with the top job at Auburn. The War Eagles need someone of his calibre. Auburn went down 41-27 at Arkansas. A huge rebuild is on the cards in Auburn.
Michigan State 7-29 No.4 Michigan
A steady performance from a Michigan team saw the Wolverines lift the Paul Bunyan Trophy against Michigan State in Ann Arbor. Michigan’s offense lacked some of the firepower shown earlier in the season as they kicked four field goals. They will hope their offense kick starts before they face Ohio State. Blake Corum remains the bright spark. The Wolverines running back ran for 177 yards and two touchdowns.
The real fireworks, sadly, took place in the tunnel. A group of Michigan State players attacked two Michigan players, Gemon Green and Ja'Den McBurrows in two separate incidents. McBurrows, not wearing a helmet, appeared to be surrounded by close to ten Michigan State players and suffered a broken nose. Police investigations are under way and The Sporting News reported this week that eight Michigan State players have been suspended indefinitely with no timeline provided.
No.10 Wake Forest 21-48 Louisville
Just when you think Wake Forest look like they are building threatening momentum, along comes a horror show of a performance to drop them down the rankings again. Step forward Louisville. The Cardinals’ defense ran riot against the Demon Deacons, registering six turnovers in a third quarter where they outscored Wake Forest 35-0. Sam Hartman threw an uncharacteristic three interceptions while Louisville’s offense ran for over 200 yards.
No.9 Oklahoma State 0-48 No.22 Kansas State
Wow. Oklahoma State’s defense, normally so resolute, couldn’t contain Kansas State’s offense. Will Howard started at quarterback for Adrian Martinez, throwing for 296 yards and four touchdowns, while Wildcats’ running back Deuce Vaughn ran for 158 yards. Oklahoma State mustered just 217 yards’ offense in a highly surprising shutout.
This was Kansas State’s second win over an AP Top 10-ranked team this season. They had beaten then No.6 Oklahoma in Week 4.
No.7 TCU 41-31 West Virginia
TCU avoided a potential banana skin against West Virginia in Morganstown. The Horned Frogs just seem to find a way to win and, with two teams from the SEC and two from the Big 10 above them, look a good dark horse bet to reach the College Football Playoff if they can maintain their impressive form. TCU has now beaten four teams ranked in the Top 25.
Having allowed over 21 points in the first half of this, and their previous two games against Oklahoma State and Kansas State, there is no questioning the fight in the Horned Frogs, who move to 8-0 for the first time since 2015.
“We’re not playing for how pretty it looks. We’re playing to get that win, whether it’s by one or by forty.” – TCU quarterback Max Duggan.
No.10 USC 45-37 Arizona
Former Wildcat Rob Gronkowski was watching on the sidelines as Arizona fell short in a shootout loss to USC, who racked up 543 yards’ total offense. Trojans’ quarterback Caleb Williams put on a mature performance, throwing five touchdown passes as he completed 31 of 45 passes for 411 yards.
USC’s offensive firepower is not in question, but their defense concedes a lot of points and will be put under tougher scrutiny by rival Pac-12 contenders as the business end of the season moves closer.
Notre Dame 41-24 No.16 Syracuse
The tone of this game was set just seven seconds in. Notre Dame’s Brandon Joseph intercepted Syracuse on the opening drive for a touchdown to give the Fighting Irish a lead from which they never looked back. Syracuse kept the game competitive, trailing 24-17 at the half, but Notre Dame’s powerful running game created numerous passing opportunities for quarterback Drew Pine to take advantage of. Running back Audric Estimé ran for two touchdowns and 124 yards rushing as the Fighting Irish move to 5-3.
Pitt 24-42 No.21 North Carolina
Like USC, North Carolina have a high-powered offense and leaky defense that makes them fun to watch. Tar Heels’ quarterback Drake Maye is rising up draft boards and he will likely be joined as an early selection in the Draft by talented wide receiver Josh Downs. North Carolina scored 21 points in the fourth quarter, battling past Pitt who had taken a 24-14 lead. Panthers’ running back Israel Abanikanda ran for 127 yards and three touchdowns.
No.17 Illinois moved to 7-1 with a convincing 26-9 win over Nebraska. Another 100-yard rushing game from Fighting Illini back Chase Brown sees him lead the nation with 1,208 rushing yards.
Missouri move to 4-4 after a surprise 23-10 win over an underwhelming No.25 South Carolina who managed just 200 yards’ offense and fall out of the Top 25 just two weeks after breaking into it.
Behind TCU, the remainder of the Big 12 pack are closing together. Baylor moved to 5-3 after a 45-17 blowout of Texas Tech, who inducted former quarterback Patrick Mahomes into their Ring of Honor at half-time.
In Tallahassee, Jordan Travis threw for 396 yards and three touchdowns as Florida State overpowered Georgia Tech 41-16. Also in the ACC, Miami outlasted Virginia 14-12 after four periods of overtime, ending a dreadful gane in which no touchdowns were scored.
UCF picked up a big win over No.20 Cincinnati, a last-minute sack and forced fumble giving the Knights a 25-21 victory.
In the Northeast, special mention to UConn, who beat Boston College 13-3 to record their first win over a Power Five opponent since 2016. Rhode Island, having won a seven-overtime (check) thriller last week, came up short on the last play of the game, gambling on a failed two-point conversion by quarterback Kasim Hill as they lost to William & Mary, 31-30 on the very last play of the game.
The first College Football Rankings were released this week, and unlike the AP Top 25, shows a new No.1. Tennessee, unbeaten at 8-0, sits at the top of college football, followed by Ohio State and Georgia at No.2 and No.3 respectively. Clemson is a surprise at No.4, while Michigan and TCU, at No. 5 and No.7, can feel a little hard done by.
LSU is at No.10, above recent conquest Ole Miss at No.11, while Texas makes it into the CFP rankings at No.24. There is no place for Liberty, who are in the AP Poll at No.23.
UK & Ireland Top 25
I am fortunate to be part of a UK and Ireland media group who cast their vote on a Top 25 from this side of the pond, put together by Owain Jones. Here are our rankings from Week 9: