Week 9 wrap

State of the SEC East? Kentucky can still win the division

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If you want to know about the current state of the (much) lesser SEC division, there’s your sign in the headline.

Entering Week 9, Florida held a relatively firm hold of the SEC East at 3-1.  Tennessee, which beat the Gators earlier in the year, was still holding out hope at 2-2.

Exiting Week 9, Florida held serve with a 24-10 win over Georgia in the World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party.  UT, on the other hand, inexplicably lost to a South Carolina team that was 3-4 entering the game.

So, still very much in the East fray? Kentucky.

Thanks to its 35-21 win over Missouri, UK sits at 4-2 in conference play. So, if UK beats Georgia and Tennessee, and Florida loses two of three games against Arkansas, South Carolina and LSU, it’d be the Wildcats that would represent the East in the SEC championship game.

Despite the Wildcats’ 45-7 loss to the Gators in Week 2.

And, yep, that’s all you need to know about the current state of SEC East.

No. 3 Clemson survives close call against Florida State to remain undefeated

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Florida State and Clemson have combined for the ACC’s biggest game of the year the past several seasons and while that was not the case in 2016, the pair still put on a classic in Tallahassee on Saturday night that resulted in a 37-34 victory by the No. 3 team in the country.

Deshaun Watson looked as though he was going to make some noise in the Heisman Trophy race early on but the quarterback came down to earth as the game progressed, finishing with 378 yards and two touchdowns to balance out his two interceptions. While he was still good enough for the win thanks to some late game heroics (and added 52 yards rushing), it wasn’t quite the same signal-caller we saw dominate the ACC last year until the Tigers were finally put in a tough spot.

We did however see a version of FSU running back Dalvin Cook that could make it to New York, dazzling everybody watching in the loss with three of his four touchdowns coming in the second half — two of which were over 40 yards. He finished with 169 yards on the ground and added another 15 on a pair of catches but it just wasn’t enough in the end.

Cook essentially was the Seminoles offense against the stingy defense of Brent Venables as quarterback Deondre Francois was pressured on just about every dropback and needed some help to finish with 286 yards through the air. His offensive line had a particularly rough night, costing the team with penalties on their final drive and then allowing killer back-to-back sacks to seal the result.

The victory moves Clemson to 8-0 on the year and all but seals the ACC Atlantic title to go along with a spot in the conference title game. The Tigers are ranked in the top four of both polls but have not exactly had a smooth path to their undefeated record this year so it will be interesting to see exactly where they wind up in the very first College Football Playoff rankings that will be released on Tuesday.

No. 15 Auburn runs through Ole Miss for 5th straight win

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Neither team stopped the other in the first half, but Auburn’s defense eventually grabbed ahold of Ole Miss’s offense in the second half. Auburn’s offense never stopped churning.

As a result, the 15th-ranked Tigers topped the Rebels 40-29 in Oxford, securing Auburn’s fifth straight win and continuing their status as one of this season’s most improved teams.

This game was won where the others were for Auburn — on the ground. Kamryn Pettway led the charge, carrying 30 times for 236 hard-fought yards and a touchdown. Kerryon Johnson added 11 carries for 42 yards and two scores, and as a team the Tigers rushed 52 times for 307 yards. Combined with quarterback Sean White‘s 15-of-22 passing for 247 yards and a touchdown, Auburn ripped off 554 total yards on 7.49 yards per play.

After trailing 22-20 at the break, Auburn (6-2, 4-1 SEC) took the lead on a 75-yard drive that was mostly all White. He rushed for a 16-yard gain on 3rd-and-13, found Marcus Davis the next snap for a 33-yard connection, then hit Jalen Harris for a 15-yard score.

Ole Miss answered with a 75-yard drive of its own, ended by a 10-yard pass from Chad Kelly to Damore'ea Stringfellow to stake the Rebels back to a 29-27 lead, but that would be their only score of the half. Daniel Carlson knocked in two fourth quarter field goals — he was four for four on the night — to give Auburn the lead and a cushion, and Johnson put the game away with a 3-yard plunge with 5:58 remaining.

The Rebels’ (3-5, 1-4 SEC) porous defense wasted an all-timer of an effort from its mercurial quarterback. Kelly connected on 36-of-59 passes for a school-record 465 yards with three touchdowns and one interception while rushing 11 times for a team-high 40 yards. The rest of the Rebels’ offense accounted for only 65 yards on 20 carries.

No. 11 Wisconsin drops No. 7 Nebraska from the ranks of the undefeated in overtime thriller

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A wild Saturday of college football action saw yet another unbeaten team fall from the ranks as No. 7 Nebraska was upended in an overtime thriller by No. 11 Wisconsin 23-17.

The Badgers’ uncharacteristically stingy defense allowed the Cornhuskers to score 10 points in the fourth quarter to rally late after what was a very mediocre offensive performance for both teams most of the night in Madison. The home team still came up with enough timely plays in overtime to hold on for the win but it certainly wasn’t an easy victory for Paul Chryst’s team in this Big Ten West showdown.

Nebraska quarterback Tommy Armstrong completed just 12 passes over four quarters and overtime for a paltry 153 yards, including two ill-advised interceptions in one of the worst performances of his career. It’s not like the Badgers’ tandem of quarterbacks was much better though, with Alex Hornibrook and Bart Houston throwing for 114 yards combined as well as a pair of two interceptions thrown right to safety Nate Gerry.

One of the few bright spots on the day was Dare Ogunbowale, who led the Badgers with 120 yards on the ground and scored the game-winner in overtime from 11 yards out. Corey Clement also chipped in with 82 yards rushing too.

Even with the loss, Nebraska remains atop the Big Ten West standings but will need to win at Ohio State next week if they want to stay there. That’s a tall task even with how mediocre the Buckeyes are playing right now and one reason why the outcome on Saturday night could have been enough to give Wisconsin the division and a berth in the conference title game down the road.

There’s still plenty to play out and over a month of college football left however and as we saw this week, an upset is right around the corner for just about everybody in this crazy sport.

Texas rallies for crucial win over No. 8 Baylor

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If beating Baylor is a requisite for keeping his job, Charlie Strong may have done just that. Barely.

The Longhorns rallied from eight points down in the fourth quarter, capped by a 39-yard screwball of a Trent Domingue field goal with 46 seconds remaining, to hand No. 8 Baylor its first loss and improve to 4-4 on the season with a 35-34 win. Arriving into Saturday’s game losing four of his last five games, Strong needed to beat Baylor to avoid continuing a streak that has seen every Texas coach since 1951 lose to Baylor in his final season.

Baylor opened up a 7-0 lead but Texas scored 23 of the game’s next 30 points thanks to the Foreman brothers — wide receiver Armanti and running back D’Onta — and some timely defense. The brothers accounted for all 88 yards on the Longhorns’ first touchdown drive to tie the game and, after P.J. Locke snared a tipped interception on the first play of Baylor’s next possession, D'Onta Foreman raced 37 yards to give Texas a 14-7 lead just 3:55 into the game.

After Baylor tied the game on the ensuing possession, Armanti Foreman inadvertently set up Texas’s next score when he fumbled a long completion from Shane Buechele (291 passing yards, two touchdowns) at the 2-yard line. Texas forced a safety by way of a holding call on the next snap, re-claiming the lead at 16-14 at the 8:43 mark of the second quarter, and D’Onta Foreman pushed the advantage to 23-14 with a 9-yard run with 6:35 to play.

The Bears responded by registering four of the game’s next five scores, including a 15-yard strike to K.D. Cannon with just nine seconds left before the break. Baylor took the lead at 28-26 with a 2-yard Terence Williams run at the 8:21 mark of the third quarter, and two Chris Callahan field goals — from 24 and 27 yards, it’s worth noting — nudged the advantage to 34-26 midway through the fourth quarter. Despite rushing for 398 yards on the day, Baylor could not convert a pair of 1st-and-goal situations, and that inability ultimately cost them the game.

Texas marched 79 yards, capped by a 7-yard strike to tight end Andrew Beck, to pull within 34-32 with 7:03 to play, but the Longhorns put the ball in Swoopes’s hands and not Foreman — who entered Saturday as the nation’s second-leading rusher and carried for a career-high 250 yards today. Swoopes was stuffed.

Baylor moved the ball on the ensuing possession from its own 22 to a 1st-and-10 at the UT 29 with 3:47 to play, but lost eight yards on a sack of Seth Russell, a 2-yard loss by running back JaMychal Hasty and an incomplete pass, forcing a punt. Texas traveled 58 yards to set up Domingue’s game-winning field goal and, rather than heave the ball down the field, Baylor attempted to move in position for a game-stealing field goal through a series of Russell designed keepers — despite having only 46 seconds to work with and no timeouts. They didn’t come close.