The Oklahoman

College football winners, losers

- Paul Myerberg

Each week is worse than the last for Clemson, which has dropped two games in September and suddenly is sent packing from the College Football Playoff race.

The Tigers’ 27-21 loss in double overtime to North Carolina State is the latest setback for a team that can’t do anything on offense and is facing major questions for the first time in a decade.

These two losses open a window for another team to win the ACC and for a surprise team to crack into the playoff. Clemson has reached the national semifinals in six consecutiv­e seasons and claimed the last six conference championsh­ips.

But it’s been that kind of year: Clemson is just one of the top preseason contenders to struggle out of the gate, albeit the only one of this group – including Alabama, Georgia, Ohio State and Oklahoma – to already be eliminated from contention.

Here are the rest of Saturday’s winners and losers:

Winners

Arkansas: The Razorbacks are the mythical state champions of Texas after beating the Longhorns and now Texas A&M, the latter behind an opportunis­tic passing game – with one 85-yard touchdown and one from 48 yards – to go with 197 yards on the ground. Along with the Aggies’ continued issues at quarterbac­k with starter Haynes King sidelined, this offensive balance carried Arkansas to the program’s first 4-0 start since 2003 and evened coach Sam Pittman’s record at 7-7 in his second season.

Notre Dame: Down 13-10 one minute into the fourth quarter against Wisconsin, Notre Dame scored 31 unanswered points on offense, on special teams and on defense to remain unbeaten heading into a key date with Cincinnati to open October. While driven by non-offensive scores, the surge in the fourth quarter included very strong play by backup quarterbac­k Drew Pyne, who replaced an injured Jack Coan and threw for 68 yards and a touchdown.

SMU: The Mustangs beat rival TCU 42-34 for the program’s second win in a row in the Iron Skillet series. SMU was able to overcome three intercepti­ons by quarterbac­k Tanner Mordecai by gaining 350 yards and two scores on 6.7 yards per carry.

Boston College: Now 4-0 after topping Missouri in overtime, the Eagles have stayed the course under coach Jeff Hafley despite losing potential all-conference quarterbac­k Phil Jurkovec to a hand injury earlier this month.

Texas: It’s too soon to say with full confidence that Texas has found the definitive answer at quarterbac­k in Casey Thompson, given that his torrid twogame stretch has come against Rice and Texas Tech. Still, the offense has hit a higher gear behind Thompson, who went for 303 yards through the air and six combined touchdowns in the Longhorns’ 70-35 rout of the Red Raiders.

UCLA: The Bruins bounced back from last Saturday’s shootout loss to Fresno State to beat Stanford 35-24 and regain momentum heading into the heart of the Pac-12 schedule. After collapsing against the Bulldogs, the Bruins’ defense held the Cardinal to 202 yards of offense, with only 17 coming on the ground.

Oklahoma State: Three wins to open the year did little to create any sort of enthusiasm around Oklahoma State, even if the third came on the road against Boise State. That should change after a 31-20 win against Kansas State highlighte­d by a strong game from quarterbac­k Spencer Sanders, who threw for 344 yards with three touchdowns, one coming on the ground.

Georgia Tech: It’s already been a strange season for the Yellow Jackets, who lost to Northern Illinois in the opener, nearly knocked off Clemson last week and then beat up on North Carolina with 263 rushing yards and four scores in a 45-22 win. Is this a program about to turn the corner under coach Geoff Collins?

Losers

Minnesota: Losing 14-10 at home to Bowling Green ranks among the biggest regular-season letdowns in recent Big Ten history given the hype around Minnesota as a Big Ten West contender and coach P.J. Fleck’s place among the top presumed contenders for the opening at USC.

Vanderbilt: There’s a difference between being a pushover, which is normal ground for Vanderbilt, and being in a position where the only source of drama against Georgia stems from whether the Commodores would gain more yards than the Bulldogs would score points.

Iowa State: What had the makings of a magical season – everything from the coach through the quarterbac­k and defense seemed lined into place for Iowa State – has gone off the rails before the end of September, after a 31-29 loss to Baylor that ends the Cyclones’ chances of factoring into the playoff debate.

Texas A&M: Losing to Arkansas doesn’t drop the Aggies out of the mix for the national semifinals but it makes the road obscenely difficult given what’s ahead, beginning with Alabama in two weeks. There are some major issues on offense: A&M has scored a combined 20 points in eight quarters against Colorado and the Razorbacks.

Florida State: FSU is now 0-4 and on pace for the program’s worst finish since 1974 after falling behind 31-7 to Louisville in an eventual 31-23 loss. McKenzie Milton threw for 248 yards and a touchdown but was outplayed by Louisville’s Malik Cunningham, who had 264 yards through the air, another 56 on the ground and four combined touchdowns.

The ACC: There are two unbeaten teams heading into October: Wake Forest, which beat Virginia on Friday night, and Boston College. Both teams deserve heavy Top 25 considerat­ion. But where does the ACC stand in the playoff debate when Clemson already is removed from considerat­ion, North Carolina lost Saturday to Georgia Tech and Miami (Fla.) is again a major disappoint­ment?

West Virginia: This may be the most frustratin­g team in college football. The Mountainee­rs have a very good defense, a surprising­ly ineffective offense and a penchant for miscues at inopportun­e times, such as the false start on the lip of the Oklahoma end zone that negated a likely touchdown and meant the difference in a 16-13 loss.

 ?? TONY GUTIERREZ/AP ?? Arkansas quarterbac­k Malik Hornsby carries against Texas A&M defensive back Leon O’Neal Jr. on Saturday in Arlington, Texas.
TONY GUTIERREZ/AP Arkansas quarterbac­k Malik Hornsby carries against Texas A&M defensive back Leon O’Neal Jr. on Saturday in Arlington, Texas.

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