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USA Today Sports Media Group
USA Today Sports Media Group
Tyler Nettuno

College Football Week 10 Winners and Losers: Folks, Alabama may be doing it again

With three weeks remaining in the regular season, we have a clear picture in practically every conference race.

We saw Florida State punch its ticket to the ACC Championship Game for the first time since 2014 with a win over Pittsburgh, and several other teams essentially clinched spots in conference title games.

In the SEC, Alabama and Georgia took control of their respective divisions with wins over LSU and Missouri, while we seem to be heading toward a Texas-Oklahoma State Big 12 title game as the Longhorns survived in overtime against Kansas State while the Cowboys sprung the upset over Oklahoma in the final regularly scheduled Bedlam matchup.

However, there are some crucial matchups yet to come in the Pac-12 and Big Ten, so there may be more chaos to come in the November College Football Playoff race.

For now, here are the winners and losers from Week 10.

Winner: Oklahoma State's shocking turnaround

Photo by Brian Bahr/Getty Images

If the Cowboys weren’t really on your radar before cracking the initial CFP rankings and subsequently stunning Oklahoma in the final Bedlam game on Saturday, you would be forgiven.

This looked like a team — and program — that was dead in the water just a couple of months ago. It began the year 2-2, notching wins over FCS Central Arkansas and Power Five bottomfeeder Arizona State before suffering an embarrassing 33-7 home loss to South Alabama followed by a conference loss to Iowa State that looked worse at the time than it does now.

Since then, this has been one of the hottest teams in the country. The Cowboys have reeled off five wins in a row, including a pair of impressive wins over Kansas and Kansas State and, of course, the massive victory over Oklahoma.

Much of that is thanks to a breakout campaign from Ollie Gordon, who leads the FBS with 1,225 yards to go with 12 rushing touchdowns. He went off again in the win over Oklahoma, totaling 137 yards and two touchdowns.

Things were not looking good for Mike Gundy, who ties for the second longest-tenured FBS coach in the country, just a short time ago. After winning 12 games and reaching the conference title game in 2021, the Pokes regressed to 7-6 last season.

It looked like a repeat could be on the way, but this team has completely turned things around in a very short period of time. Now, the Cowboys control their destiny in the Big 12, and the pitchforks have been shelved in Stillwater.

Loser: Miami's perplexing struggles

Photo by Lance King/Getty Images

Sticking with the theme of teams that are perceived quite a bit differently now than they were earlier in the season, Miami suffered another frustrating loss on Saturday night, this time to N.C. State in 20-6 fashion.

Obviously, the offensive output left a lot to be desired, and quarterback Tyler Van Dyke — who looked like he could be the best ACC passer this side of Drake Maye earlier this season — tossed three interceptions while his team found the end zone zero times.

Van Dyke has struggled significantly during the last month, in which the Hurricanes are just 2-3. He’s played in four of those games (missing a win over Clemson) and thrown just five touchdowns to 10 interceptions in that span after starting the year with an 11-to-1 ratio in the first four games.

The loss to Georgia Tech, as maddening a fashion as it came in, didn’t feel like a sign of larger problems beyond sub-Madden level game management, nor did a shootout loss on the road against a North Carolina team that was unbeaten at the time.

Since outlasting Clemson the next week, however, Miami just hasn’t looked right. It narrowly survived becoming the latest victim of a bad Virginia team with an overtime win before the loss to the Wolfpack.

Miami won’t miss a bowl in Mario Cristobal’s second season as it did in Year 1, but considering the schedule still features the top-two teams in the league in Florida State and Louisville, the Hurricanes may not be done taking their lumps this season.

Winner: Reports of Alabama's demise were greatly exaggerated

Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

After taking an early season loss to Texas and playing so poorly the following week against South Florida that it basically felt like it took another defeat, many were quick to write off this Alabama team.

The author of this column is included in that group.

But while it remains clear the Crimson Tide still have some limitations that are holding it back from being as dominant as we’ve come to expect from Nick Saban-coached teams, it’s no less capable of knocking off anyone in the country.

Considering the struggles Alabama had in the loss to Texas and the fact that it couldn’t exactly put away lesser opponents in Texas A&M, Arkansas and Tennessee, Saturday’s matchup against arguably the nation’s best offense in LSU looked to be a potential recipe for trouble.

Indeed, the Tigers found success early in the game. It was tied at 21 at halftime, and a touchdown to begin the third quarter gave LSU the lead. But those were the final points it would score in a 42-28 loss.

It wasn’t a textbook performance from Alabama’s elite defense, but it got the needed stops — including a Jayden Daniels interception while LSU was trailing by seven that ultimately swung the game — to win.

Alabama can punch a ticket to Atlanta with a win at Kentucky on Saturday, thanks to a victory over Ole Miss earlier in the year. Suddenly, this seems like a team that’s squarely in the College Football Playoff race.

You could argue this team has been Saban’s most impressive coaching job yet.

Loser: No defense for LSU's issues in 2023

Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Yes, the pun was intended.

USC defensive coordinator Alex Grinch (more on him later) has rightly received a lot of criticism for his porous defense holding back an otherwise potentially elite team with a stellar offense. Perhaps it’s time to start throwing LSU’s Matt House in with those conversations.

The Tigers’ offense has a strong case for being the most impressive in the entire country. Daniels has taken a tremendous leap as a passer this fall in large part thanks to the play of what may be the best receiver duo in the country, Malik Nabers and Brian Thomas Jr.

Daniels is putting up numbers that rival those of Washington quarterback Michael Penix Jr., and he may still end up winning the Heisman over Penix at the end of the year despite his team having three losses in early November.

In those three losses, LSU has scored 24, 49 and 28 points. Unfortunately, it allowed 45, 55 and 42 in those games.

Simply put, this may be a national title team if it had just a middle-of-the-road defense. Instead, it’s pushing toward the bottom third of the FBS, and that’s just not good enough.

The story of the 2023 LSU Tigers will be one of wasted potential, and though Brian Kelly could close out the year in a way that looks successful on paper, this team has essentially voided any shot at raising the ceiling after last year’s 10-4 finish.

Quick Hitters - Winners

Ken Ruinard-USA TODAY Sports

Boston College: Jeff Hafley began the season on what looked like one of the hottest seats in the Power Five, but his Eagles have uglied their way to bowl eligibility at 6-3 after a big win over Syracuse, and that should be more than enough to earn a Year 5 in Chestnut Hill.

Texas: It got a bit dicey at the end, but the Longhorns passed their biggest test without Quinn Ewers against Kansas State. Now, with Oklahoma’s loss, Texas may not even need to avenge its Red River letdown to get into the CFP.

Clemson: After a very strange week for Dabo Swinney that featured a flame war with a man named Tyler from Spartanburg, the Tigers looked fired up as they pulled off a massive upset win over Notre Dame that also marked win No. 166 for Swinney as he surpassed Frank Howard as the winningest coach in program history.

Arkansas: The Razorbacks desperately needed to end a six-game skid, and they did just that with their first-ever win against Florida at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. That will certainly buy some goodwill for embattled coach Sam Pittman.

Michigan State interim coach Harlon Barnett: The Spartans were, frankly, already going to be pretty bad before firing their now-disgraced former head coach Mel Tucker. Barnett didn’t really stand a chance of salvaging this thing, but he did manage to get his first win as interim coach against Nebraska in a game that could ultimately rob the Cornhuskers of bowl eligibility in Matt Rhule’s first season.

Sam Houston: The Bearkats are still looking for their first win against an FBS opponent since moving up to the highest level this season, but they’re winless no more after knocking off Kennesaw State, which will join Sam Houston in Conference USA in 2024.

Georgia: The Bulldogs all but wrapped up the SEC East as they beat Missouri to win their 26th in a row. This team seems to be rounding into form now, even sans Brock Bowers.

Florida State: FSU’s patience in letting Mike Norvell build has paid off as it is heading back to Charlotte for the first time since 2014. Rivalry games against Miami and Florida, as well as a likely matchup against Louisville in the ACC title game, are all that stands between Florida State and its first trip to the CFP since its inaugural season nearly a decade ago.

Louisville: The Cardinals seem to be the most likely opponent for Florida State in the ACC Championship after they dominated a Virginia Tech team that had been hot in recent weeks 34-3 at home, where Louisville has played phenomenally this season.

Houston: I have no idea what the future holds for Dana Holgersen, but I do know the Cougars’ overtime win on the road against Baylor was one he absolutely had to have. With remaining games against Cincinnati, Oklahoma State and UCF for 4-5 Houston, a bowl berth seems to be in reach, and that would probably save Holgersen’s job.

Southern Miss: Let’s check in on another coach who got a much-needed win on Saturday. The regression this season under Will Hall has been surprising, but getting an FBS win, albeit against a bad Louisiana-Monroe team, may take some pressure off.

Appalachian State: No one at App is happy with 5-4, but the Mountaineers won comfortably against a solid Marshall team on Saturday. That win may have rescued Shawn Clark from the hot seat for now, but that could change as Appalachian State ends the season against three of the best teams in the Sun Belt.

Arizona: Arguably the most surprising team in the entire country struck again, knocking off UCLA as the Wildcats have now notched three ranked wins in a row. They’ll be favored in at least two of their three remaining games, and at 4-2 in conference play, they still have at least an outside shot at the Pac-12 Championship Game. That’s simply unbelievable.

Quick Hitters - Losers

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Syracuse: The loser of the Boston College-Syracuse game was going to be wallowing in some bad vibes, and that turned out to be the Orange. Dino Babers may be in trouble as this team has squandered yet another nice start, dropping five in a row.

Notre Dame: It’s easy to like what Marcus Freeman is doing at Notre Dame, but after taking a third loss on the season, the Fighting Irish are set for yet another campaign that feels like it didn’t reach its full its potential.

Florida: Billy Napier’s current recruiting trajectory has the Gators set to be as talented as they’ve been in quite a while in the coming years, but the results on the field still matter. Napier is 11-11 (7-11 against Power Five teams) and with a brutal remaining schedule, it’s going to be an uphill battle to reach a bowl game in Year 2. This team wasn’t supposed to be great, but there’s no easy way to spin that.

Air Force: The Falcons’ New Year’s Six hopes went up in flames with a brutal loss at home against Army. Air Force may still be the favorite to win the Mountain West, but it probably needed to go 13-0 to have a shot at the NY6.

Oklahoma: This team has still taken a nice leap in Year 2 under Brent Venables, but it has quickly gone from playoff hopeful to possibly out of the Big 12 race in a matter of two weeks.

Maryland: The matchup against Penn State looked like one of the biggest conference games of the year earlier in the season, but Maryland’s losing streak was extended to four as it lost at home to the Nittany Lions in blowout, 51-15 fashion.

Cincinnati: The Bearcats have had what feels like the most disappointing season of any Big 12 newcomer. They’re 2-7, and they lost Saturday to another new addition in UCF that was previously 0-5 in conference games.

Washington State: Man, the wheels have really come off in Pullman. Since knocking off Oregon State, the Cougars have lost five games in a row. The last two have come against two of the worst teams in the Power Five in Arizona State and Stanford. Wazzu has gone from conference dark horse to a bowl game not even being a given.

USC defensive coordinator Alex Grinch: Lincoln Riley officially pulled the plug on Grinch Sunday morning after another abysmal defensive performance against Washington and running back Dillon Johnson, who had a career day. It’s a move that probably should have been made after last season, and Riley can only reflect on how poor defensive play has wasted what could have been a special window with the Trojans.

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