Week 6 college football winners and losers: Oklahoma sinks to new low, UCLA riding high – USA TODAY

  • October 10, 2022

There’s bad, there’s really bad, and then there’s Oklahoma. The Sooners aren’t just one of the biggest flops of the season in the Bowl Subdivision — they’re a disaster on both sides of the ball heading toward the program’s worst finish this century.
Saturday was rock bottom. Texas demolished Oklahoma 49-0 to hand the Sooners a third loss in a row for the first time since 1998, the year before Bob Stoops arrived and returned the program to national prominence.
Redshirt freshman quarterback Quinn Ewers threw for 289 yards and four touchdowns in his first game back under center after an early-season injury, star running back Bijan Robinson added 130 rushing yards and the Longhorns’ defense allowed just 195 yards, holding a Big 12 opponent under 200 yards for the first time since 2014.
With quarterback Dillon Gabriel out with an injury, five Oklahoma players combined to make 17 pass attempts for just 39 yards with two interceptions.
The 49-point margin of defeat is by far the Sooners’ most in the Red River Rivalry, dwarfing 33-point losses in 1941 and 2005, and stands as the program’s most lopsided loss altogether since losing by 62 points to Nebraska in 1997. The shutout was Oklahoma’s first since 1998, snapping a FBS-best stretch of 167 games with at least one offensive touchdown.
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What stands out is the lack of competitiveness. No. 18 TCU embarrassed OU in last week’s 55-27 rout. The loss to the Longhorns is one of the lowest moments in modern program history. Dating to last month’s loss to No. 20 Kansas State, the defense has been among the very worst in the Power Five with no obvious answers in sight.  
After winning three straight to open the year and rising as high as No. 5 in the USA TODAY Sports AFCA Coaches Poll, the Sooners have dropped two in a row by 30 or more points for the first time in program history. 
This rapid fall from grace has already engulfed coach Brent Venables’ first season and threatens to define his broader tenure. Inheriting a team fresh off a successful run under Lincoln Riley but decimated by transfers and attrition, Venables may be fortunate to pull off bowl eligibility given what remains in Big 12 play.
The Sooners will likely be underdogs in next Saturday’s must-win game against No. 17 Kansas — an absolutely insane thought and sentence that would’ve been impossible to believe just weeks ago. 
In addition to the Jayhawks, OU still takes on Iowa State, No. 22 Baylor and No. 7 Oklahoma State. Given how the past three weeks have gone, games against West Virginia and Texas Tech are toss-up instead of clear wins; add this all together to find the Sooners in a spot where anything from four to seven wins seems possible.
That’s where we are just midway through Venables’ first season: OU may be lucky to get to the postseason. That puts the Sooners at the front of the line for Saturday’s biggest winners and losers.
All of the holdouts need to get on board: No. 19 UCLA is for real in Chip Kelly’s fifth season. The latest piece of evidence, joining last week’s impressive win against No. 24 Washington, is a 42-32 victory against No. 11 Utah that vaults the Bruins into prime position to reach the Pac-12 championship game and even factor into the College Football Playoff. Unbeaten at the midway point for the first time since 2005, the Bruins are led by a strong running game — they’ve gone over 200 yards on the ground four times, including against the Utes — and another overlooked year from quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson, who had four touchdowns Saturday and set the program’s new career record.
An underwhelming start has been turned around with convincing wins against West Virginia and OU. Now 4-2 and surging in the Big 12 standings, the Longhorns have moved beyond the two painful losses — to Alabama and Texas Tech by a combined four points — and become a legitimate contender for the conference championship and New Year’s Six bowl bid. With Ewers healthy after being injured against the Crimson Tide, Texas could make a big move in Steve Sarkisian’s second year.
The Irish have turned their season around after a sour start with a third win in a row against a quality opponent. This one was even more impressive than topping California and North Carolina. Notre Dame got another nice game from quarterback Drew Pyne, who finished with 262 passing yards and three touchdowns, and beat No. 16 Brigham Young 28-20 in a neutral-site matchup in Las Vegas. This run has helped the program move on from an ugly loss last month to Marshall and put some energy back into Marcus Freeman’s first full season in charge. 
Some wins should be bronzed, framed and hung on a wall. Others should be put in your back pocket and never spoke of again. As one example of the latter, Kansas State’s 10-9 win at Iowa State won’t win any beauty contests but will keep the Wildcats in position to make a strong run at the Big 12 championship in the second half. Adrian Martinez had another strong line, with 249 yards on 12.1 yards per attempt through the air and a team-leading 77 yards on the ground.
The No. 23 Bulldogs are building a case for being seen as the second-best team in the SEC West after handling No. 25 Arkansas a 40-17 loss, the Razorbacks’ third in a row. While he’s overlooked as the latest in a long line of Mike Leach quarterback to put up big numbers, Will Rogers continued his assault on the SEC single-season and career record book with another 395 yards and three scores, giving him over 2,000 yards and 22 touchdowns at the midway point of the regular season.
That TCU has quickly found a groove in Sonny Dykes’ scheme has the program back in contention for the Big 12 crown after a disappointing end to former coach Gary Patterson’s tenure. After topping OU last week, TCU’s offense rallied in the second half for a 38-31 win against Kansas that leaves the Horned Frogs as one of the small group of unbeaten teams still standing in the Power Five. Formerly of rival SMU, Dykes’ impact is seen most clearly in the play of quarterback Max Duggan, who began the year in a backup role but has thrown at least three touchdowns in each of his three starts.
He can’t be stopped. Hooker had 239 passing yards, 56 yards on the ground, two touchdowns and no interceptions as No. 8 Tennessee put on a clinic with a 40-13 romp over LSU. The co-leader for the Heisman Trophy at this point with C.J. Stroud, Hooker hasn’t throw an interception since last year’s loss to Georgia. His growth into one of the nation’s very best players mirrors the Volunteers’ development into College Football Playoff contenders in coach Josh Heupel’s second year.
Wisconsin interim coach Jim Leonhard took the first step toward making that title permanent after the Badgers buried Northwestern on both sides of the ball in a 42-7 win. After being shut down by Illinois last week, leading to Paul Chryst’s surprising dismissal, the running game bounced back with 193 yards on 5.1 yards per carry. The increased energy and improved offensive production bodes very well for Leonhard’s already significant odds of landing the full-time position. And he wasn’t the only interim coach in the win column: Georgia Tech’s Brent Key moved to 2-0 after a 23-20 overtime against Duke and Arizona State’s Shaun Aguano got his first win after the Sun Devils upset Washington 45-38. On Friday, Nebraska interim coach Mickey Joseph improved his mark to 2-1 after the Cornhuskers beat Rutgers 14-13.
No. 1 Alabama, playing without Heisman Trophy winner Bryce Young, turned the ball over four times, missed two field goals and still beat the Aggies 24-20 with a late goal-line stand. Is five years into Jimbo Fisher’s tenure too late for moral victories? Maybe you’ve heard this before: A&M’s offense is underachieving. That continued against the Crimson Tide, who were able to overcome all of this sloppiness by limiting Haynes King to 5.5 yards per throw and bottling up running back Devon Achane to the tune of 62 on 3.9 yards per carry. Once a top contender for the playoff, the Aggies are 3-3 at the midway point and going nowhere.
In range of the game-winning field goal with under a minute left, Florida State threw an interception in the end zone and lost 19-17 to No. 14 North Carolina State. That may not be the worst part. For one, FSU led 17-3 at halftime. Also, N.C. State was forced to turn to backup Jack Chambers after losing quarterback Devin Leary to an injury in the third quarter. Ahead 17-10 at the time, the Seminoles would cough up the lead despite Chambers attempting just one pass.
The defense isn’t just good; it’s borderline spectacular. Iowa entered Saturday giving up just 3.7 yards per play and then held Illinois to just three field goals while forcing three turnovers. Now, the offense isn’t just bad; it’s nearly historically awful. Last nationally in yards per game heading into the weekend, the Hawkeyes put up just 226 yards and managed a pair of field goals to lose 9-6. 
The Spartans are not good. Not just worse than expected. The Spartans are simply not good: not good on offense, not good on defense, not good across the board. No. 3 Ohio State scored 35 points, gained 429 yards of offense and racked up 18 first downs in the first half alone and cruised to a 49-20 win that should send MSU to one of the bottom spots in the Big Ten power rankings. After a fabulous 2021, the first half of the 2022 season has revealed a team that does very little well to go with major concerns about personnel and scheme.
Under far less scrutiny, Arkansas’ season has followed the Oklahoma model: strong start, national attention, higher and higher rankings in the Coaches Poll, three losses in a row. The first loss, 23-21 to Texas A&M, was easily avoidable had the Razorbacks put their foot down when up 14-0 in the first half. Last week’s defeat, 49-26 to Alabama, was a 28-23 game before the Crimson Tide pulled away. Saturday’s was different: Mississippi State dominated from kickoff, likely ending Arkansas’ odds of a major bowl.
Losing a close one to TCU doesn’t raise any major red flags, though there are some concerns about the status of quarterback Jalon Daniels, who left the game with an apparent upper-body injury. (His replacement, Jason Bean, was terrific as Daniels’ absence.) But the loss highlighted the wobbly state of the Jayhawks’ defense, which allowed five touchdown drives lasting six or fewer plays. Needing just one more win to land a postseason berth, KU will have a great shot at getting there against Oklahoma.

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