Sports

Georgia, Florida State flex big in wins, but other top teams faltered in Week 9

There have been a few stunners already this season, games that went against script and upended playoff hopes for teams that, if we’re being honest, probably didn’t have much hope to begin with. (Sorry, North Carolina, but it’s true.) But Saturday delivered something more — an upset that truly rocked the blueprint for the 2023 season.

Oklahoma‘s road to the postseason was as wide open as I-40 west of Elk City after its Red River win against Texas. The lone true stumbling block remaining looked like a potential rematch with the Longhorns in the Big 12 championship game. Surely, Week 9 wouldn’t be the moment the Sooners collapsed. Not against Kansas, a team that hadn’t beaten Oklahoma in so long John Steinbeck wrote bleakly abut it in The Grapes of Wrath. (Probably. We never actually read that. The Pearl was only 118 pages, so that made for a much easier high school book report.)

And yet, here we are: Kansas 38, Oklahoma 33.

After Dillon Gabriel had shredded so many defenses this season, Kansas gave him next to nothing. He completed 14-of-19 passes, but the big plays were rare, he never found the end zone, and his pick six in the first quarter set the tone for what was to come.

Jason Bean, in his sixth year of being the second-best QB on a roster, delivered a career-defining performance, even if it wasn’t always pretty. He completed less than half his throws, managed just 218 yards and threw two picks. And yet his 37-yard completion to Lawrence Arnold on fourth-and-6 with less than a minute to play proved the game winner.

Oklahoma led 21-14, 27-26 and 33-32 — each small lead feeling like an inevitable nail in Kansas’ coffin. After all, this was the Jayhawks. They pull upsets against Texas that Oklahoma fans then use as ammunition for jokes for years to come. They don’t beat the Sooners.

And yet, here we are: Oklahoma is 7-1, and just three days before the first playoff rankings are released, its hopes for a national tile appear to be on life support.

Gabriel ran for three touchdowns. Tawee Walker ran for 146 yards. Kendel Dolby‘s tipped ball led to a late INT that was supposed to seal the game. And none of it was enough.

So Kansas is bowl eligible for the second straight year. That’s its own story. What Lance Leipold has done in a place utterly devoid of hope is borderline astonishing. Fans celebrated accordingly by removing the goal post — not because of the win, but because no structures taller than 12 feet are allowed within the state lines.

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Kansas fans tear down goalposts after upset over Oklahoma

Kansas fans rush the field after the final play and bring down the goalposts after their upset over Oklahoma.

But more important to the big picture of this season, the threat of true playoff chaos in the last year of the four-team format took a major blow. The Big 12 is now without an undefeated team. Oklahoma will be playing to an inside straight the rest of the way. And as October comes to a close, it feels like the season has really just gotten started.

It took a while, but 2023 finally got a real dose of chaos.


Allar leads Lions

James Franklin can gloat, at long last, that his QB actually can complete a deep ball.

For Penn State, one dismal disappointment against Ohio State last week threatened to bleed into Week 9, as Indiana jumped out to an early lead, then erased a late deficit, tying the game at 24 with less than 3 minutes to play. All the same misery from last week’s loss was on display for the Nittany Lions: Too many big plays allowed, too few created. The ground game didn’t account for a single run longer than 12 yards, and Drew Allar entered the Lions’ final drive having thrown (we’re estimating) 30 straight check downs.

Allar’s last pass, however, was a dime, finding KeAndre Lambert-Smith down the sideline for a 57-yard touchdown. On Indiana’s next play, the Hoosiers remembered that they were actually the Hoosiers and took a 25-yard sack for a safety, securing Penn State’s 33-24 win.

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Penn State takes late lead with Drew Allar’s clutch 57-yard TD pass

KeAndre Lambert-Smith hauls in a 57-yard touchdown pass from Drew Allar to give Penn State a late lead.

Entering Saturday, Allar had attempted just 12 passes of 20 air yards or more — fewer than 142 other quarterbacks nationally. He’d completed just three of them. In last week’s loss to Ohio State, he was 0-for-4 on the deep ball. And before the heave to Lambert-Smith, Allar was averaging just 5.1 yards per pass.

But when it mattered, Allar showed he had it in him, delivering a dagger that keeps Penn State’s hopes for a Big Ten title — and perhaps a playoff berth — still flickering.

Next up for the Lions: A trip to Maryland where Franklin will have the team bus stop at every third rest stop to make the 220-mile trip in just under 11 hours.


Smith keys Aggies’ win

There hasn’t been much to cheer about for Texas A&M this season, but Week 9 was something of a high water mark for the Aggies, by which we mean no one fell asleep while Bobby Petrino was signaling in his third adjustment at the line of scrimmage.

Texas A&M toppled South Carolina 30-17, holding the Gamecocks to just 209 yards of offense, while Ainias Smith paced the Aggies with 118 yards on six catches, including a nifty 42-yard TD reception.

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Max Johnson throws 42-yard touchdown pass to Ainias Smith

Max Johnson throws 42-yard touchdown pass to Ainias Smith

Texas A&M is now just one win away from bowl eligibility, and given the injury to starting QB Conner Weigman earlier in the year, there’s a case for keeping Jimbo Fisher beyond the hefty buyout A&M would have to pay to fire him. On the other hand, since finishing No. 5 in the country during the COVID-impacted 2020 season, the Aggies are just 9-12 in SEC play and just four wins have come against other winning teams in the Power 5.

Of course, things could be worse. At South Carolina, the Gamecocks lost their fourth straight and head coach Shane Beamer responded to the defeat by karate chopping some stacks of lumber, driving his car into the side of a Hardees and tweaking his knee after trying to win a kickboxing match against a shark.


SMU wins big

The over/under for Saturday’s game between Tulsa and SMU was 55 at kickoff.

At halftime, SMU led 52-3.

It would’ve been hilarious to see a second-half shutout by both sides, of course, but there was no slowing the Mustangs’ offense. SMU finished off the 69-10 win with 638 total yards, including 446 through the air, and starting QB Preston Stone averaged a ridiculous 18.6 yards per throw. To put that in perspective, Penn State QB Drew Allar is legally required to report any throw of more than 15 yards on his taxes.

In the past three seasons, according ESPN Sports and Information, only one team has scored at least 52 in a half. SMU has done it twice (including against Houston last year).

This embarrassment for Tulsa comes just a week after the school’s attempt to set the world record for largest beer tasting fell short by 163 people. On the upside, after what happened against SMU, most of the city of Tulsa will now be eagerly consuming the leftover beer.


Coaching insight of the week

Charlotte‘s Biff Poggi, sporting the newest from Pat McAfee’s athleisure line, summed up his team’s problems nicely ahead of the fourth quarter of the 49ers’ 38-16 loss to FAU.

So to sum up: When playing football, do block and tackle. Do not make sausage. Do wear pads. Do not wear sleeves. “Do your damn job.” Do not talk to anyone or even send funny gifs on the text chain you’re on with your buddies from high school.

Afterward, Poggi returned to his full-time job serving as a lifeguard at the YMCA at the local seniors center and, honestly, if Mable doesn’t stay off the diving board, he’s just going to absolutely lose it.


Under-the-radar game of the week

There’s just one FBS team still in search of its first win on the season, and Sam Houston State has endured some misery along the way, capped Wednesday by a UTEP field goal with just 3 seconds left on the clock, giving the Miners a 37-34 win and sending the Bearkats to their seventh loss in seven tries since moving up from FCS.

A quick rundown of Sam Houston’s defeats:

On Wednesday, it led 27-20 entering the fourth quarter, blew that lead, scored with 6:02 to go to tie it at 34, shanked a punt, immediately coughed up a 37-yard completion, then lost on a kick by a man named Buzz Flabiano, which is definitely not the pseudonym Tom Cruise uses when checking into hotels.

A week earlier, FIU booted a field goal with 5 seconds left to send the game to overtime, where Sam Houston lost in 2OT.

Two weeks before that, Sam Houston had undefeated Liberty on the ropes. The Bearkats trailed 21-16 with 3:36 to play, engineered a 15-play, 96-yard drive that stalled at the Flames’ 3-yard line with an incomplete pass on fourth-and-goal.

A week before that, Sam Houston took an eight-point lead with just 1:11 to go, but allowed a 28-yard TD pass and two-point conversion with 13 seconds left to play against fellow first-year FBS program Jacksonville State, sending the game to overtime, where again, the Bearkats lost.

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