The biggest development of Week 9 came off the field, shaking up ESPN’s power rankings.
Clemson star quarterback Trevor Lawrence tested positive for COVID-19, and coach Dabo Swinney said following the Tigers’ 32-28 comeback win over Boston College on Saturday that Lawrence will not be back in time for the trip to Notre Dame this weekend.
Freshman quarterback D.J. Uiagalelei passed for 342 yards and played well in filling in for Lawrence, but the Tigers simply aren’t the same team without their Heisman Trophy front-runner. Clemson drops two spots this week, and Notre Dame moves up a spot.
Ultimately, the two teams will decide things on the field Saturday in South Bend.
Somewhere down the road, Alabama is sure to miss a dynamic receiving threat the caliber of Jaylen Waddle, who was lost for the season a week ago when he fractured his ankle, but the Crimson Tide looked as explosive as ever Saturday in racing past Mississippi State for a 41-0 win. Mac Jones threw four more touchdown passes, all to DeVonta Smith, who finished with 11 catches for 203 yards. It was Alabama’s 95th straight win over an unranked opponent, the longest such streak in FBS history. The Tide now have a week off before they travel to face a reeling LSU team.
Up next: at LSU (6 p.m. ET Nov. 14, CBS)
Granted, it’s a two-game body of work, but Ohio State looks every bit the part of one of college football’s elite teams this season. Quarterback Justin Fields is off to a blazing start. He threw four more touchdown passes Saturday in a 38-25 road win over Penn State, but this Ohio State offense is hardly just Fields. Master Teague III rushed for 110 yards, and Chris Olave and Garrett Wilson each finished with more than 100 receiving yards.
Up next: vs. Rutgers (7:30 p.m. ET Saturday, Big Ten Network)
Justin Fields continues his Heisman campaign as he throws for four touchdowns to help Ohio State take down Penn State in Happy Valley.
All of a sudden, the road to an ACC championship looks a little less daunting for Notre Dame, which cruised past Georgia Tech for a 31-13 victory Saturday on the road. Clemson will be without starting quarterback Trevor Lawrence on Saturday, when the Irish and Tigers meet in South Bend, and Notre Dame goes into that contest playing lights-out on defense. The Irish have given up just two touchdowns in their past three games.
Up next: vs. Clemson (7:30 p.m. ET Saturday, NBC)
What a week for Clemson’s football team, which learned Wednesday that star quarterback Trevor Lawrence had tested positive for COVID-19 and would be out for at least 10 days. Then the Tigers found themselves down by 18 points late in the second quarter at home on Saturday. The good news for the Tigers is that they managed to come back and beat Boston College 34-28 for their 28th straight win over an ACC opponent. But they will need to play better defensively and a much cleaner game all around this coming weekend if they want to make it 29 in a row when they go to Notre Dame, especially with coach Dabo Swinney announcing after the game that Lawrence will not be back to play against the Irish.
Up next: at Notre Dame (7:30 p.m. ET Saturday, NBC)
Defense was never expected to be a problem this season for the Dawgs, and it hasn’t been. Few, if any, defenses in college football are better than this Georgia defense, which again set the tone in a 14-3 road win Saturday at Kentucky. But with a key showdown looming with Florida, which has scored points in bunches this season, it remains to be seen if Georgia can continue to win while leaning so heavily on its defense. Quarterback Stetson Bennett attempted just 13 passes Saturday, and two of those were intercepted.
Up next: vs. Florida (3:30 p.m. ET Saturday, CBS)
A Group of 5 team in the College Football Playoff? It’s still the longest of shots, but Cincinnati is doing its part to at least make an argument. The Bearcats have been one of the most complete teams in the country, and they took it to another level Saturday, with a 49-10 dismantling of Memphis. Cincinnati has allowed a total of 40 points in its past four games, and quarterback Desmond Ridder is playing his way into the Heisman Trophy conversation. Ridder passed for three touchdowns and ran for two more in the Bearcats’ fifth straight win by at least two touchdowns.
Up next: vs. Houston (3:30 p.m. ET Saturday, ESPN/ESPN2)
Another one-sided win for BYU sends the Cougars into their most important game of the season — Friday night at Boise State — with a chance to solidify their case to land in a New Year’s Six bowl. Quarterback Zach Wilson was solid, if unspectacular, against Western Kentucky and a standout performance against the Broncos on the blue turf could boost his case at getting named a Heisman Trophy finalist.
Up next: at Boise State (9:45 p.m. ET Friday, FS1)
It’s not like Indiana’s football team swims in these waters very often, so nobody’s complaining about how sloppy the Hoosiers’ 37-21 win over Rutgers was on Saturday. Indiana has played two games, and for the first time since 1991, the Hoosiers are 2-0 in the Big Ten. They won Saturday despite committing 11 penalties for 118 yards and going 2-for-12 on third down, but quarterback Michael Penix Jr. was again the star, much like in the Penn State game a week ago. Penix passed for three touchdowns and ran for another score, and the Hoosiers get a chance to go to 3-0 next week when Michigan comes to town.
Up next: vs. Michigan (noon ET Saturday, FS1)
Things are looking up for the Aggies, who have rebounded from a lackluster season-opening win over Vanderbilt and a 52-24 loss to Alabama the second week of the season to be a team that has a legitimate shot to go 9-1. Texas A&M won 42-31 on Saturday against a much-improved Arkansas team, and the schedule is very manageable the rest of the way. The Aggies have shown balance on offense and are playing with a lot of confidence right now.
Up next: at South Carolina (Saturday, TBA)
No. 8 Texas A&M secures a solid home 43-21 victory over Arkansas due to Kellen Mond’s remarkable accuracy going 21-26 with three TDs
A three-week hiatus didn’t seem to faze the Gators, who’ve had all sorts of COVID-19 issues. In fact, they played their best defense of the season Saturday in smothering Missouri for a 41-17 victory at home. It was the first time the Gators had played since a 41-38 loss to Texas A&M on Oct. 10. Now they have to wait and see what the fallout is from the SEC office after a brawl erupted between the teams at the end of the first half. Suspensions could be forthcoming, which would be especially costly with the showdown with Georgia looming this weekend in Jacksonville.
Up next: vs. Georgia (3:30 p.m. ET Saturday, CBS)
At this point, it’s hard to say when the Badgers might play football again. Their game this week with Nebraska was postponed after Wisconsin paused all team-related activities on Wednesday for at least seven days because of an increased number of COVID-19 cases. A decision on Saturday’s game against Purdue will be made Tuesday. Barry Alvarez, Wisconsin’s athletic director, said Saturday that the number of COVID-19 cases within the program had risen to 22. Both head coach Paul Chryst and quarterback Graham Mertz recently tested positive.
Up next: vs. Purdue (3:30 p.m. ET Saturday, ABC)
The Ducks’ fall camp is behind them, and coach Mario Cristobal still isn’t ready to say who his starting quarterback will be for the opener against Stanford. “We’re working our way through that,” Cristobal said. Redshirt sophomore Tyler Shough and senior Anthony Brown, a transfer from Boston College, are vying for the job, and there’s a chance that both could play this season. The Ducks returned to practice Tuesday after a break because of COVID-19 protocols.
Up next: vs. Stanford (7:30 p.m. ET Saturday, ABC)
The Hurricanes were off this week. Their only loss so far was to Clemson, and they have a critical stretch upcoming if they’re going to stay alive in the ACC race, with back-to-back road games against North Carolina State and Virginia Tech. Miami is a much more balanced team than it was a year ago, especially on offense, where transfer quarterback D’Eriq King has provided a boost. But the Hurricanes have what it takes to win on defense, too, and they have held four of their six opponents to 19 or fewer points.
Up next: at N.C. State (7:30 p.m. ET Friday, ESPN)
The Chanticleers have one of the best mascots in college football. They’ve been one of the best stories in college football this season, and every week, they’re proving a little more that they belong among the best teams in college football. Coastal Carolina won its sixth straight game Saturday, with five of those by double digits, in a 51-0 rout of Georgia State. Freshman quarterback Grayson McCall was sensational, with four touchdown passes and another touchdown rushing, and the Chants’ defense held Georgia State to 106 total yards.
Up next: vs. South Alabama (8 p.m. ET Saturday, ESPNU)
Grayson McCall throws four touchdown passes and runs in another score as Coastal Carolina routs Georgia State 51-0.
Regardless of what happens the rest of the way this season, Oklahoma State is going to look back on Saturday’s 41-34 overtime loss to Texas and wonder over and over again how it managed to lose this game. The Cowboys racked up 530 total yards but turned the ball over four times (to the Longhorns’ zero turnovers) and couldn’t hold on to an 11-point lead in the third quarter. Texas has won two straight in the series after Oklahoma State won four in a row, and now the Cowboys are bunched up with everybody else in the Big 12 race after having a great chance at home to remain the Big 12’s only unbeaten team.
Up next: at Kansas State (Saturday, TBA)
After back-to-back losses to Kansas State and Iowa State earlier this season, Oklahoma appeared to be teetering. The Sooners were having trouble stopping anybody on defense and gave up 45 points in a four-overtime win over Texas. Three games later, it seems like Oklahoma could be clawing its way back into the Big 12 race after a 62-28 battering of Texas Tech on Saturday, the Sooners’ third straight win. They get Oklahoma State at home the third week of November and could be playing their best football entering that game.
Up next: vs. Kansas (3:30 p.m. ET Saturday, ESPN/ESPN2)
As USC gets ready for “Breakfast at the Coliseum” in its 9 a.m. (PST) opener against Arizona State on Saturday, a lot of eyes will be on the Trojans’ defense. New coordinator Todd Orlando plans to use junior safety Talanoa Hufanga in a number of ways, which should complement a talented USC defensive line. Hufanga is as healthy as he has been in a while and returns as one of the top strong safeties in college football, but he also has the man coverage skills to be an impact player no matter where he lines up.
Up next: vs. Arizona State (noon ET Saturday, Fox)
Obviously, Louisiana is quite comfortable when it comes to playing from behind. The Ragin’ Cajuns posted their fifth comeback victory of the season on Saturday, this time rallying from a 21-14 second-quarter deficit to pull away from Texas State for a 44-34 win. Quarterback Levi Lewis passed for 332 yards and two touchdowns and completed passes to nine players.
Up next: vs. Arkansas State (noon ET Saturday, ESPNU)
Sophomore quarterback Bo Nix put it all together for Auburn, which extended the misery of defending national champion LSU on Saturday. Nix passed for 300 yards and rushed for 81 more as Auburn jumped to a 42-3 lead and rolled to a 48-11 win on the Plains. LSU had won four of the past five games in the series, but this one was never close. Auburn now has a week off, and despite some narrow escapes and fortuitous calls this season, it remains in the SEC race.
Up next: at Mississippi State (Nov. 14, TBA)
Bo Nix throws three touchdowns and runs for one helping Auburn dominate LSU in a key SEC West matchup.
Getting a read on West Virginia this season has been a chore. Just when you’re ready to write off the Mountaineers, they put together their most complete game of the season. Their convincing 37-10 victory over Kansas State on Saturday is a reminder that this could be a team to reckon with in the second part of the Big 12 season. Redshirt junior quarterback Jarret Doege has passed for more than 300 yards in each of his past three outings.
Up next: at Texas (Saturday, TBA)
In one of those games Tom Herman and the Longhorns had to have, they found a way to get it done Saturday in a 41-34 overtime win on the road against Oklahoma State. Texas’ defense has been maligned all season, but the Longhorns forced four turnovers, and Joseph Ossai had a walk-off sack of Oklahoma State quarterback Spencer Sanders in overtime to give Texas renewed life in the Big 12 race.
Up next: vs. West Virginia (Saturday, TBA)
Backup quarterbacks might be more valuable than ever this season, and Boise State got a clutch performance from its backup on Saturday in a 49-30 win over Air Force. Jack Sears, a transfer from USC, stepped in for Hank Bachmeier, passed for three touchdowns and also ran for a score. Sears was 17-of-20 passing for 280 yards and didn’t turn the ball over. Bachmeier didn’t travel with the team for unspecified reasons, so Sears could be more than just a fill-in for the Broncos, who face a key test this coming Friday against BYU.
Up next: vs. BYU (9:45 p.m. ET Friday, FS1)
Hugh Freeze’s teams have always been known for their high-scoring offenses, and the Flames — who were off this week — are averaging 38 points per game, ranking 18th nationally. Quarterback Malik Willis, a transfer from Auburn, has blossomed in Freeze’s system. He accounted for seven touchdowns a week ago in the win over Southern Miss and has led Liberty in passing and rushing in three of the Flames’ six wins this season. Their biggest game of the season — and one of the biggest in school history — awaits this weekend when they visit Virginia Tech.
Up next: at Virginia Tech (noon ET Saturday, ACC Network)
The Thundering Herd’s game on Friday at Florida International was postponed after FIU said it wouldn’t have enough players to play because of COVID-19 positive tests, quarantine protocols and injuries. No makeup date has been set. It’s the third Marshall game this season that has been postponed. The Herd remain Conference USA’s only unbeaten team and rank fifth nationally in scoring defense. They’ve held all five of their opponents to 17 or fewer points.
Up next: vs. UMass (2:30 p.m. ET Saturday, ESPN+)
SMU, beaten soundly by Cincinnati in its only loss of the season at home the week before, came back swinging Saturday with a 51-37 win over Navy. Sonny Dykes’ Mustangs have scored 30 or more points in all six of their wins. Shane Buechele passed for three touchdowns in the win over Navy and now has 16 on the season. He got some help in the running game, too, with Ulysses Bentley IV rushing for 149 yards and two touchdowns.
Up next: at Temple (noon ET Saturday, ESPN+)