Originally found on CBS Sports:
This should be a lesson that avid college football fans are well aware of yet it always bears repeating: Never discount this sport’s capacity for chaos. On paper, Week 9 looked like the weakest slate of the year with just two games featuring ranked opponents. After the dust settled, though, one team saw its College Football Playoff hopes fade while a few other national favorites escaped narrow upsets.
Of course, no result had a bigger impact than No. 6 Oklahoma’s 38-33 loss to Kansas. The Sooners had the ball at Kansas’ 38-yard line and a 33-32 lead with 2:29 remaining but went three-and-out. They then allowed the Jayhawks to convert on fourth-and-6 on the ensuing drive and couldn’t answer when Kansas scored a late — and decisive — touchdown.
But that shouldn’t distract from the fact that both No. 3 Ohio State and No. 5 Washington needed late, Herculean efforts to dispatch unranked foes. The Buckeyes were able ride a strong defense to secure a 24-10 win against Wisconsin, while Washington had to lean on some Stanford mistakes to grind out a 42-33 victory.
It was a fun weekend overall even though no one expected much entering Saturday. Week 9 also (thankfully) provided plenty to overreactions, which we’ll get to below.
Oklahoma produced this year’s biggest letdown
Brent Venables has engineered one of the greatest turnarounds in college football. To go from 6-7 to a fringe College Football Playoff contender in one year is admirable. But that doesn’t change the level of disappointment following Saturday’s loss to Kansas.
Among the teams realistically left in the playoff race, Oklahoma had the easiest path. It almost felt like a layup. All Oklahoma had to do after clearing a massive hurdle against Texas was win out against a schedule that didn’t feature any ranked opponents and had four teams outside the top six in the Big 12 standings.
The Sooners were fortunate to escape a winless (in conference play) UCF team, but their luck ran out against Kansas. Now they have no margin for error to make the playoff, and even the Big 12 Championship game isn’t a guarantee as Oklahoma is now one of five Big 12 teams with one league loss.
Washington is going to get burned
Throughout seven weeks, Washington looked like arguably the best team in college football. Quarterback Michael Penix Jr. was cooking as he soared to the top of the Heisman Trophy odds after leading the Huskies to a huge win against Oregon with 302 yards passing and four touchdowns. Things have taken a severe downturn for coach Kalen DeBoer and Co. since.
No, Washington hasn’t lost yet, but it did have to skate along a razor-thin edge to beat two of the worst teams in the Pac-12. In Week 8, it took 12 points in the fourth quarter to come from behind and beat one-win Arizona State. Saturday, the Huskies were a dropped fourth-down conversion away from possibly losing to 2-6 Stanford. Penix had five total turnovers and four passing touchdowns in those two games.
Simply put, the Huskies are surviving against what should be the easiest part of their conference schedule. With a playoff appearance on the line, they now have to play three AP Top 25 teams over the next three weeks. If they survive that, they could see a scorching-hot Oregon team in the Pac-12 Championship Game. If Washington continues this level of play moving forward, the CFP is a pipe dream.
It might be time for Mack Brown to pack it up
Mack Brown has had an illustrious career as a college football coach. At the very least, he will receive hall of fame consideration sometime down the line. Still, it has never been more clear that the 72-year old isn’t going to take this North Carolina program where it needs to go.
The Tar Heels fell 46-42 to a Georgia Tech team that entered Saturday with a 3-4 record and two wins in ACC play. It was North Carolina’s second-straight ACC loss against a team with a losing record. In two weeks, North Carolina went from College Football Playoff dark horse to “It’s going to take a miracle to even make it to the ACC Championship Game.”
This is the second straight year that North Carolina has fallen flat on its face after the season’s midway point. The Tar Heels rose as high as No. 13 last season, hovering around the playoff conversation, before losing four games to end the year and walking away without anything meaningful in the postseason. It didn’t take that long for this season to collapse, and the Tar Heels won’t even have star QB Drake Maye as a lifeline after 2023. North Carolina can make a move for the future after the season ends, but it should do so respectfully.
Tennessee has the nation’s best running back room
This isn’t as impactful as other entries in this column, but it really deserves mentioning. There are other teams that have better individual running backs but no team boasts a better stable than Tennessee.
The Vols flaunted their backfield riches in Saturday’s road win against Kentucky, blitzing the SEC’s second-best rush defense for 253 yards on the ground. For context, Kentucky hadn’t allowed more than 200 yards rushing all season even against the likes of Georgia and Missouri.
For Tennessee, that was its sixth game with at least 200 yards rushing. The Vols have reached that mark in three out of four SEC games. They haven’t had less than 100 yards all year. Tennessee has a talented trio — Jaylen Wright, Jabari Small and Dylan Sampson — that would probably each start for a lot of teams around the country.