College football week 9 winners, losers: Florida, Michigan, Texas

Game

Only a late touchdown with the game well out of reach allowed Florida to avoid being blanked for the first time since 1988.

Small wins must suffice instead of actual victories, which have proven to be harder to achieve in coach Dan Mullen’s fourth season. The 34-7 loss to Georgia illustrated the abyss that separates the Gators from the top-ranked Bulldogs, raising another round of questions about whether Mullen has what it takes to close the hole.

It’s been that kind of year for the Gators. After winning the SEC East and intimidating Alabama during the pandemic year, Florida ranks among the biggest flops in the Football Bowl Subdivision.

While the schedule gets significantly easier from here – South Carolina, Samford, Missouri and Florida State – don’t let a regular season of eight wins distract from what’s really at stake: Florida is a team and a program heading in the wrong direction.

The Gators are among Saturday’s biggest winners and losers:

WINNERS

Michigan State

Down by 16 points in the third quarter and with a magical season on the verge, Michigan State scored Michigan 23-3 in the final 19 minutes to become the only undefeated team in the Big Ten. The star drove back Kenneth Walker III, who ran in 197 yards and five goals – the most Michigan had ever allowed for a single player. Walker should be at or near the top of every Heisman Trophy watch list.

Ohio State

Heavy favorites against the falling Penn State, the Buckeyes suffered uncharacteristic games in the red zone, scoring only one touchdown in six innings, and did not put the Nittany Lions away until less than three minutes left in a 33-24 victory. In defense, the Buckeyes closed out Penn State’s running game, but failed to stop on the third attempt, allowing conversions on 11 out of 15 attempts. The good news? Even three touchdowns within the PSU 20-yard line – and OSU had scored six points on almost 80% of those rounds – and a grind-it-out win becomes a blowout.

Look forward to: The Big Ten title runs through Michigan State and Ohio State – for now

Miami (Fla.)

The Hurricanes outscored Pittsburgh 38-34 and have won back-to-back battles against ranked teams to direct the ship on its way into a wide range of games in November. One factor that reflects well on tough coach Manny Diaz is the Hurricanes’ effort, which did not falter in the middle of a very poor first half of the season. This series of strong wins has been highlighted by a star turnaround from young quarterback Tyler Van Dyke, who threw 426 yards and three goals to overtake Kenny Pickett.

Kansas State

Like Miami, the Wildcats have turned an issue with ugly losses with two wins in a row in Big 12 games. The most recent, 31-12 against TCU, was the key to yet another performance at the entire conference from running back Deuce Vaughn, who ran in 109 yards and two goals with a further 49 receiving yards. Kansas State is now 5-3 and a virtual lock to reach bowl eligibility for the second time under coach Chris Klieman.

Minnesota

Thrown aside after last month’s loss to Bowling Green – and yes, it was a terrible loss – Minnesota is now in first place in the Big Ten West after a 41-14 victory over Northwestern. It yields four wins in a row for the Golden Gophers with two huge games in November: Iowa on November 13 and Wisconsin on November 27.

Auburn

The Tigers have started moving under first-year coach Bryan Harsin after a sluggish start to the regular season. Auburn are 6-2 and ready to shoot up in the United States TODAY Sports AFCA Coaches Poll after a 31-20 victory over Ole Miss, which was beaten by quarterback Bo Nix, who threw 276 yards with three touchdowns, two of which came on earth. The win leaves Auburn 3-1 in SEC play and increases the chances that the Iron Bowl against Alabama will be for the division. And there’s never anything crazy going on in that rivalry, right?

TABERE

Michigan

There is still no signing moment for Jim Harbaugh, who has managed to build a program that beats no one but who cannot find meaningful victories in the biggest games on Michigan’s program. The loss to MSU drops Harbaugh to 3-9 in rival matches against Spartans and Ohio State and 2-13 in matches against top-10 competition. In matches against everyone else, Harbaugh’s record is 54-10.

Iowa State

Losing 38-31 to West Virginia is awful for a laundry list of reasons, beginning with the fact that falling on the road to a team near the bottom of the Big 12 position essentially eliminates the Cyclones from fighting for the conference championship. In a broader sense, this is just the latest setback for a team that was once selected to fight for the playoffs. Instead, Iowa State is the biggest downturn in the Big 12.

Iowa

Iowa flirted with disaster during its 6-0 start as consistent errors in attack were carried over by the game from an elite defense. But just as bad as the Hawkeyes lost to Purdue on Oct. 16, that performance had nothing on the egg in Saturday’s 27-7 loss to Wisconsin. The Badgers held Iowa to 156 yards of offense, including 24 yards on 30 carries; forced three game-changing fumblers to build a 20-0 lead at the break; and gave up only two third-down conversions in 13 attempts.

Texas

What do losses to Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Baylor have in common? In addition to the fact that each loss was to a ranked opponent, and each sent Texas to topple over the power rankings in the Big 12, the losses are related to this: In each match, Texas had a double-digit lead in the second half, but it succeeded still giving it away. Up 21 points against the Sooners and 11 points against the Cowboys, Longhorns Baylor led 21-10 in the third quarter.

High school

Here’s a way to lose a game and ruin your unbeaten record: SMU kicked a 45-yard field goal to equalize Houston 37-37 with 30 seconds left, only for the Cougars to return the subsequent kickoff 100 yards to end a 44- 37 winds. The recurring one, Marcus Jones, is one of the very best in the country; he now has two touchdowns on point-returns and two more on kickoffs. The loss puts Houston in position to face Cincinnati in the U.S. title fight.

Nebraska

It will be very difficult for the new athletics director Trev Alberts to convincingly sell the idea that Scott Frost should get another year if the Cornhuskers finish 3-9 with one win in Big Ten games, which seems likely after a 28-23 loss at home to Purdue. Next? Only Ohio State, Wisconsin and Iowa, three teams, Nebraska have barely sniffed since attending the conference a decade ago. At this point, the program has much more in common with Vanderbilt and Kansas than with the top tier of Power Five.

Kentucky

Kentucky’s chances of reaching a New Year’s Six bowl got a huge hit with a 31-17 loss to Mississippi State, lowering the Wildcats to 6-2 on their way into a fairly even plate of games to end the regular season (Tennessee , Vanderbilt, New Mexico State and Louisville). Fighting to score points is nothing new for the UK, which on Saturday came in at 71st place nationally in scoring. But a typically reliable defense allowed Mississippi State quarterback Will Rodgers to complete 36 of 39 attempts in 344 yards and a touchdown.

Follow college reporter Paul Myerberg on Twitter @PaulMyerberg

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