Week 9 might have been the most surprising week of the season. A couple of traditionally woeful programs are surprisingly good and managed to pull off momentous wins this past week while another surprising team suffered a heartbreaking loss in dramatically spectacular fashion.
Including the aforementioned agonizing loss, two more teams were knocked from the ranks of the unbeatens last week. The rest of the top ten escaped unscathed, and the handful of elite national title contenders all pummeled their opponents.
Week 10 offers a few interesting games along with another ACC clash with conference and national title implications.
The Agony of Defeat
Poor, poor Missouri. There’s heartbreak and then there’s heartbreak. Losing a game in double overtime, on a missed goal, or after blowing a three-score lead in the final quarter is bad enough, but doing all of those and losing a game in gut-wrenching. Throw in the fact that the Tigers were undefeated and #5 in the country, and it’s downright brutal.
Mizzou lead a banged-up South Carolina squad 17-0 in the fourth quarter, but Connor Shaw rallied the Gamecocks and brought them all the way back. In the first overtime, South Carolina converted a 4th-and-15 into a touchdown to send the game to a second overtime. The Tigers held South Carolina to a field goal but were forced to kick themselves. Missouri’s Andrew Baggett missed from 24 yards when his kick bounced off one of the uprights.
Mizzou fans can take heart, however, in that their loss wasn’t even close to being the most humiliating of the weekend. Just ask Nebraska or Virginia Tech fans.
Nebraska was upset by Minnesota 34-23. After beating the Huskers for the first time since 1960, the Golden Gophers are a surprising 6-2. Nebraska quarterback Taylor Martinez returned to action after missing three games, but he was ineffective. Minnesota limited Martinez to just 16 yards rushing on 8 carries as well as a measly 139 yards through the air on 16-of-30 passing with one touchdown and an interception.
Losing to an opponent you haven’t been defeated by in over 50 years is bad, but it’s not as bad as losing a game in which you held your opponent to zero third down conversions, held them to 198 yards of offense, and forced 4 turnovers. Yes, Virginia Tech managed to pull off that dubious feet when it lost to Duke 13-10, at home no less. The Blue Devils were outgained 387-198 in offensive yards and held the ball almost half the time as the Hokies, yet managed to pull out the win thanks to four Virginia Tech turnovers. It was the first Duke win over a ranked team since 1994 and the first road win over a ranked foe since 1971. The Blue Devils improved to 6-2 and will head to consecutive bowl games for the first time in school history.
The rest of the top 25 didn’t experience nearly the same amount of drama. Stanford strangled Oregon State 20-12, Fresno State was pushed to overtime by San Diego State before prevailing 35-28, and Oregon rolled UCLA 42-14 thanks to a second half surge. Oklahoma and Texas Tech traded blows all game, but the Sooners were the last ones standing in a 38-30 victory that handed Tech its first loss of the season. Miami struggled against Wake Forest, needing 14 points in the final quarter to pull out a 24-21 victory.
Looking Ahead to Week 10
This week’s slate of games favors quality over quantity as there aren’t many quality matchups on the schedule. The ones that exist, however, are quite promising.
It may not be for a national championship, but the intensity will certainly be near-championship level when #21 Michigan and #22 Michigan State face off. Both teams have only one loss and are looking to get the inside track on a berth in the Big 10 championship game. On paper, the Spartans appear to have the edge. Michigan State boasts one of the nation’s stingiest–and perhaps its nastiest–defenses and will be facing a Michigan team has offensive line issues and will be without tight end A.J. Williams, who was suspended for violating team rules. However, one never knows when it comes to rivalry games.
The Big 12 has a similar matchup, although defense will be notably absent for this one. Number 18 travels down to Lubbock to take on #15 Texas Tech in what figures to be an offensive shootout. Texas Tech has the third-best passing offense in the country despite starting two freshmen at quarterback this season while Oklahoma State posted 342 yards rushing in last week’s 58-27 win over Iowa State. Texas Tech will not only be looking to rebound after suffering its first loss of the season last week, the Red Raiders will also be trying to end Oklahoma State’s four-game winning streak in the series.
The most intriguing game of the week is another ACC showdown between two top-ten teams when #7 Miami squares off against in-state rival #3 Florida State. Both teams are undefeated, but one has been much more impressive than the other. Miami has narrow wins in its past three games, having to rally from double-digit deficits, while Florida State has simply blown away the competition and caused many to proclaim the Seminoles as the best team in the land. Florida State walloped Maryland, destroyed previously-unbeaten and #3 Clemson, and then followed that up with a demolition of NC State. The Seminoles are 21-point favorites, but in a rivalry as heated and storied as this one, anything can happen.