Winners and losers from Week 7 in college football are led by Georgia, Oklahoma
SportsPulse: USA TODAY Sports’ Paul Myerberg provides his opinion of the top three programs in the history of college football. USA TODAY
In one of the dumbest overreactions of the season’s first month, Clemson was pushed to the margins of the College Football Playoff race — and out of the top spot in the Amway Coaches Poll — after narrowly escaping North Carolina on the road to end September. So, then, what will be said of Georgia after Saturday’s loss to South Carolina?
Clemson beat UNC on the road. The Bulldogs lost to South Carolina at home. The Tar Heels beat the Gamecocks to open the season. Georgia was a 24-point favorite facing off against an opponent’s third-string quarterback. If Clemson was drummed for getting past UNC, the Bulldogs should be the laughingstock of college football.
Oh, but they are. There’s a word for what happened to Georgia on Saturday, and it’s this: embarrassing. This was an embarrassing, humiliating loss if only for the simple fact that South Carolina entered the weekend having lost three of four against Bowl Subdivision competition while Georgia had been pegged as one part of the SEC’s mighty threesome, joining Alabama and LSU.
Georgia belongs in that group based on pure talent. Yet few coaches in the country seem better equipped to win on signing days in December and February before flopping when the games matter than Kirby Smart. He’s become the inheritor of the derisive label once placed on Mack Brown by his detractors: “Coach February,” for Brown’s ability to reel in top-ranked signing classes during his early seasons at Texas without winning a conference championship.
Smart’s program can out-talent and out-athlete most teams on its schedule but has a flaw: Smart himself. Whether it’s against Alabama — twice, once in the national championship game — or South Carolina, Georgia has become the big-name, big-goals college program most likely to lose games due to its own in-game mismanagement and a dismal imagination.
That’s an issue, obviously, as it pertains to Georgia’s hopes of winning its first championship in nearly 40 years. Elite, nearly unmatched recruiting has gotten Georgia to the doorstep of ending that drought, and for that Smart deserves recognition. He also shoulders the blame for why Georgia leaves the weekend with its championship hopes circling the drain after falling to an inferior opponent.
Here are the rest of Saturday’s winners and losers:
Yeah, Oklahoma probably should’ve led at halftime by more than a touchdown. (Two turnovers stymied offensive productivity.) And yeah, maybe the final score, 34-27, doesn’t adequately reflect the gap between Oklahoma and rival Texas. Even if not a terrific overall performance from the Sooners, what spoke volumes from Saturday’s win was the play of the defense under first-year coordinator Alex Grinch. This revamped unit held Texas quarterback Sam Ehlinger to minus-9 yards rushing just 5.5 yards per passing attempt, limited Texas to only 100 rushing yards and had nine sacks. Previously the team’s biggest weakness, the Oklahoma defense now looks the part.
Tennessee won a game against an SEC opponent, 20-10 against Mississippi State, and for that deserves to be taken out of its normal space in the “losers” section of this weekly post. Congratulations, Volunteers for improving to 2-4. But you’ve got Alabama next week.
South Carolina’s win takes some heat off the Gamecocks’ fourth-year coach, who was in no real danger of being replaced but needed this marquee win to salvage any hopes of reaching postseason play. Even now it might be a stretch: South Carolina is an even 3-3 at the midseason point with games to come against Florida, Tennessee, Vanderbilt, Appalachian State, Texas A&M and Clemson. Nonetheless, Saturday’s win boosts confidence, will impact recruiting and has the Gamecocks trending upward heading into the second half of the regular season.
Temple added its name to a crowded race for a New Year’s Six bowl with a 30-28 win against No. 20 Memphis, previously the lone unbeaten team in the American. Led by first-year coach Rod Carey, the Owls have two wins against the Power Five and the chance to add a second win in a row against a ranked opponent in next weekend’s matchup against No. 22 SMU. While Boise State leads the chase among the Group of Five, Temple has put itself in position to capitalize should the Broncos stumble.
Maryland once scored 63 points against Syracuse and earned a spot in the Top 25, though the past month has told us two things: that Syracuse is terrible and Maryland is, too. Since topping the Orange, the Terrapins have lost to Temple, been destroyed by Penn State, whipped up on more-dysfunctional Rutgers and, on Saturday, lost 40-14 to a Purdue team dinged by injuries on offense.
Picking on Rutgers is low-hanging fruit. Still, let’s recognize the Scarlet Knights for allowing a defensive touchdown 10 seconds into a 35-0 loss to Indiana and for accounting for one passing yard (yes, one) on 13 pass attempts. Five of those passes were completed and gained one yard. Amazingly, this is the third time since the 2016 season that Rutgers has accounted for single-digit passing yards in a game.
You can imagine the wide gap between Florida State and Clemson but then still be taken aback when you witness the space separating the Tigers from their former rival for ACC dominance. Clemson has now won five in a row in the series, the past two by a combined 80 points. Saturday’s matchup was 42-0 at halftime before Dabo Swinney went through most of his roster of backups and walk-ons. The final score, 45-14, doesn’t do the justice to how far FSU trails Clemson in every area.
Not because of the 47-28 loss to Alabama, which was entirely expected. But because the midway point is a good time to highlight what’s behind A&M and what is still to come in the second half. The Aggies are 3-3 with losses to Clemson, Auburn and the Crimson Tide. From here, A&M has road games against Georgia and LSU, along with another three SEC matchups with Ole Miss, Mississippi State and South Carolina. A schedule projected in August to be the toughest in the country looks as difficult as advertised. And the Aggies are only halfway done.
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Just look at this score: UNLV 34, Vanderbilt 10. That’s a shocking result for the Commodores. This is the third win for the Mountain West against the SEC this season, joining San Jose State over Arkansas and Wyoming against Missouri. And it’s the most surprising of the three despite the fact that Vanderbilt isn’t good, since UNLV is in the running with New Mexico and Colorado State as the worst team in the Mountain West.
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