Quarterbacks took center stage in Week 10 as the best and brightest in the sport battled with conference championship dreams on the line. Maligned Alabama quarterback Jalen Milroe stood as the brightest of the bunch, while USC’s Caleb Williams fell short. Washington’s Michael Penix Jr. needed a little help, while LSU’s Jayden Daniels couldn’t get any of his own.
Now, the College Football Playoff race is starting to come into focus. Only 10 Power Five teams remain with one or fewer loss after No. 9 Oklahoma fell in a devastating rivalry game. Five others struggled, ending up in tight fourth-quarter battles with six teams in the initial College Football Playoff Rankings dropping overall. The second set of College Football Playoff Rankings this Tuesday should look a lot different.
Additionally, conference championship races are settling down. Texas and Oklahoma State both have a clear shot to the Big 12 Championship Game. Alabama and Georgia are frontrunners in their respective divisions. Iowa wrested control of the Big Ten West, while Washington knocked USC out of serious contention for the Pac-12.
Let’s have a look now at the biggest winners and losers of Week 10 in college football, including rivalry games coming down to the wire and the Group of Five race perhaps coming to an end.
Winner: Oklahoma State
Mike Gundy is the most unkillable force remaining in college football. This time really felt like the end after Gundy’s Cowboys lost a 33-7 shocker against South Alabama. Instead, Gundy committed to quarterback Alan Bowman, handed the ball to running back Ollie Gordon and quietly transformed his program overnight.
Saturday afternoon in Stillwater, Oklahoma, might have been the finest moment of Gundy’s tenure. After going down 21-17 in the final Bedlam against hated rival Oklahoma, Oklahoma State went on a 10-0 run to take a lead it would never surrender in a 27-24 victory. Gordon exploded for 137 yards and two touchdowns on the ground as the Cowboys sent OU to the SEC with a loss in the rivalry game. After the game, Taylor Swift’s “We Are Never Getting Back Together” blasted over the Boone Pickens Stadium speakers.
But more than just earning eternal bragging rights, Oklahoma State is now in a tie with Texas for first place in the Big 12. The Cowboys are three wins against Big 12 newcomers away from reaching the title game for the second time in three years. Times have rarely been better in Stillwater.
Oh, and by the way, start writing Gordon’s name on your Heisman Trophy ballots. After rushing for 137 yards and two touchdowns, the Texas native in the undisputed best running back in college football.
For how big the win was for Oklahoma State, the loss is equally as crushing for Oklahoma. The Sooners scored just one touchdown in seven second-half drives that included a pair of turnovers and two turnovers on downs. Oklahoma had two drives down fewer than seven points with a chance to win the game but ultimately fell short under pressure.
Oklahoma’s College Football Playoff hopes are dead. Their Big 12 title game hopes are on life support. The Sooners will still have a chance to potentially make an Alamo Bowl, but this was not the way Oklahoma – the undisputed class of the Big 12 since its inception – wanted to leave the league. But most disturbingly, the last three performances bring up major questions about the state of the program.
The offense has crumbled under pressure in losses to Kansas and Oklahoma State, and even down the stretch in wins over UCF and Cincinnati. The defense has given up 31.3 points per game over the last three games after surrendering 10.8 points per game prior to the Texas game. When Brent Venables took over the program, Oklahoma had a streak dating back to 1999 of never losing consecutive regular season games, outside of the pandemic season. Now, the Sooners have lost consecutive regular season games three separate times under Venables.
Winner: Alabama QB Jalen Milroe
Milroe received the lion’s share of criticism during an up-and-down start to the season. After his performance in a 42-28 win over No. 14 LSU, Milroe has earned the right to flex. The sophomore was unbelievable in the SEC West showdown, finishing with 219 yards passing, 155 yards rushing and four rushing touchdowns. He scored three first-half touchdowns to outduel LSU counterpart Jayden Daniels and carry Alabama to the front of the SEC West race.
Milroe is an inexperienced player who showed major growing pains early. However, offensive coordinator Tommy Rees is starting to learn how to leverage Milroe’s prodigious dual-threat talents. The 20 carries against LSU were the most of the season, and it only helped set up a more complete passing game. Milroe has gone from being a liability to a legitimate asset as Alabama tries to make its case for the SEC title.
Loser: Air Force
The Falcons cruised through the first eight games of their schedule, beating Wyoming and zooming past Army to make their case for the best Group of Five team in the nation. All Air Force had to do was survive a battle against Army, which came into the matchup on a five-game losing streak. Instead, it turned the ball over twice and was held to 3.9 yards per carry in a shocking 23-3 upset loss against the Black Knights.
The loss shakes up the Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy race; it’s now impossible for Air Force to win it outright despite being a vastly superior team all year to Army and Navy. The Falcons now need Navy to beat Army to earn a share of the crown. But, just as costly, Air Force has taken a massive step behind Tulane in the race for the Group of Five’s New Year’s Six slot. Even if the Green Wave lose, it will be difficult for Air Force to get back into the conversation against a two-loss SMU or even a two-loss Troy team from the Sun Belt. What could have been a historically successful season now comes down to chance.
Does Tyler from Spartanburg belong in the loser or winner camp after seeing his Tigers dominate No. 15 Notre Dame? Clemson played like a team possessed in a 31-23 upset victory, jumping out to a 24-6 lead early in the second quarter and riding it to the win. Clemson running back Phil Mafah was dominant in relief of the injured Will Shipley, rushing for 186 yards and two touchdowns on 36 carries.
After the game, Clemson coach Dabo Swinney took to the microphone once more on the broadcast and stood up for his program: “I know we’re down and everyone is throwing dirt on us, but if Clemson is a stock, you better buy all you freaking can buy right now.” The Tigers still need to win at least one more game to reach bowl eligibility, but feisty Dabo is back. Clemson needed him.
One year ago, the Horned Frogs were on top of the college football world and playing for the unlikeliest of national championships. Now, TCU has fully regressed and is facing one of the worst seasons in recent memory after losing 35-28 against rival Texas Tech. TCU went down 20-7 at halftime and never fully recovered as it fell to 4-5 on the season.
After the loss, TCU is now at risk of missing out on a bowl game for the second time in three seasons and third in four outside of the pandemic year. The Horned Frogs have top-10 opponents Texas and Oklahoma remaining on the schedule along with a rivalry game against Baylor. TCU has to go 2-1 against the final stretch just to reach the postseason. All three games are losable.
On a day where quarterback Michael Penix Jr. played slightly below his lofty standard, No. 5 Washington found different ways to win. Specifically, the Huskies offensive line had themselves a day against a USC defense stacked with blue-chips. Running back Dillon Johnson set career highs with 256 yards rushing and four touchdowns on just 26 carries in the win. Impressively, 199 of Johnson’s yards came before contact – a testament to just how aggressively the Huskies pushed USC to the side. Penix remains the odds-on Heisman Trophy favorite, but it has been a team effort to get Washington to a 9-0 start. With games remaining against No. 16 Oregon State and No. 18 Utah, the Huskies are right on track to crash the College Football Playoff.
The Gators started the year 5-2, but things have unraveled as of late. After losing 43-20 to Georgia one week ago, Florida lost a 39-36 clunker against Arkansas in overtime as the Razorbacks snapped a streak of seven straight regular season losses against Power Five opponents. The Gators were outgained by more than 100 yards against a struggling Arkansas team.
The biggest issue for Florida isn’t the loss to Arkansas alone, it’s what comes next. All three remaining games (at No. 14 LSU, at No. 12 Missouri, No. 4 Florida State) are against ranked opponents. After the loss, Florida is at serious risk of ending the year with five straight losses and with its first missed bowl game since 2017.
Florida coach Billy Napier has put together an elite recruiting class, sitting at No. 3 in the Top247 rankings for the 2024 cycle. But while the second-year coach isn’t solely being judged on his 11-11 record at Florida, it’s fair to ask when Napier’s process will yield results.
Winner: Texas State
Nine years ago, Texas State reached 7-5 in its first year of FBS eligibility but was left out of a bowl game after too many teams qualified. On Saturday, the wrong was finally righted. Texas State crushed Georgia Southern 45-24 after a 38-0 run in the middle two quarters to reach bowl eligibility in coach G.J. Kinne’s first season. The turnaround flew under the radar, but Texas State flipped from 4-8 to 6-3 through nine games after the Bobcats added the most transfers of any FBS team this season. To make things ever better, Texas State president Kelly Damphousse and coach G.J. Kinne celebrated the victory by jumping into the San Marcos River.