One Foot Inbounds
The college football weekend in review

OFI: Top-Ten Upsets Continue

Skylar Thompson
Photo: USA Today Sports Images

by Chad Peltier

The Sooners became the third top-ten team in three weeks to fall to an unranked team after Kansas State survived an 18-point fourth quarter and an onside kick attempt.

"Survived" is definitely the key word here. Kansas State went on a 34-6 run during the second and third quarters, eventually mounting a 48-23 lead with 15 minutes remaining. But the Sooners came storming back thanks in large part to CeeDee Lamb and Jalen Hurts (who threw for 400 sack-adjusted yards with a 51.7% success rate and 13.8 sack-adjusted yards per pass).

The Sooners attempted an onside kick in the final minutes of the game after scoring to make it 48-41. The kick managed to get through Kansas State's first line and the Sooners made the recovery, but a long replay determined that the ball had barely touched a Sooners special teams player at 9.5 yards, meaning that the recovery was no good. The Sooners wouldn't get another chance with the ball, having burned their remaining timeouts on the previous drive. It was an exciting end to a kind of bizarre game, in that Oklahoma ended with a +7.1% success rate margin, had approximately a +3% explosiveness rate margin, and stuffed 38.5% of Kansas State's rushing attempts, but the Wildcats were just successful enough on a drive basis to hold on against the Sooners.

This was definitely a setback for the Sooners' playoff chances, as ESPN's Seth Walder noted that the Allstate Playoff Predictor dropped Oklahoma to just a 10% chance of making the final four. The Sooners only have one definite game left against a ranked opponent (against Baylor on November 16), with their strength of schedule declining as the Big 12 eats itself alive. It was also a setback for coordinator Alex Grinch's defense, which allowed Kansas State to have a 47.6% success rate, their third-highest of the year. The problem wasn't really allowing explosive plays -- their longest play allowed was just 26 yards -- but an inability to get off the field and get stops in the red zone. The Wildcats are now 5-2 under first year coach Chris Klieman, which is insane given their starting talent levels.

But the Sooners weren't the only top Big 12 team to go down on Saturday, as the combination of the TCU defense and freshman quarterback Max Duggan overwhelmed Texas 37-27. Turnovers ultimately doomed the Longhorns here as Sam Ehlinger threw a career-high four interceptions, including three in the second half. Those interceptions overshadowed career days from Longhorns receivers Devin Duvernay (eight catches, 173 yards) and Collin Johnson (seven catches, 101 yards), who were basically the entire Texas offense. Duggan averaged 9.4 sack-adjusted yards per pass and led the Horned Frogs in rushing, repeatedly finding holes in a depleted Texas secondary. This upset, along with Oklahoma State's upset of Iowa State, further muddies the waters in the Big 12, where five teams sit at either 3-2 or 2-3 in conference play. Baylor and Oklahoma, who meet in three weeks, look to be the most likely contenders for Big 12 Championship.

Outside of the cannibalistic Big 12, the only major upset was Michigan's dominant win over Notre Dame. The fact that the Wolverines won is surprising by itself, but it's just shocking that Michigan's win was never in doubt. The Wolverines had not had a dominant win this year, period (I mean, besides Rutgers…), let alone one against a top-ten (or even ranked) team. The Michigan defense completely shut down the Fighting Irish offense, as they averaged a 25% success rate with 34.5% of runs getting stuffed at or behind the line of scrimmage. The most bizarre thing was that the Fighting Irish never seemed to adjust for either the weather or what Michigan was doing on either side of the ball. Notre Dame still had a 48% run rate in the downpour (the Wolverines were at 78.6%!) despite Ian Book completing just eight of 25 pass attempts for 73 yards. Committing to balance, even in the rain, is laudable (in contrast, Georgia fans were livid about the passing performance in similar weather against Kentucky last week), but failing to adjust your game plan is not. The biggest news here is that, while this was Michigan's first really impressive win, they might have turned a corner, at least with the run game. Hassan Haskins received the majority of carries and turned 20 attempts into 149 yards, including a 49-yarder.

Michigan's biggest rival also found themselves completely dominating an opponent who failed to adjust when part of their game plan wasn't working: Ohio State ran away from Wisconsin in the second half 38-7. Like much of the Midwest, this game was also played basically underwater, but when the Badgers did attempt to pass, quarterback Jack Coan was usually swallowed whole by defensive end Chase Young. The junior defensive end had four sacks, five total tackles for loss, and two forced fumbles. He was a one-man drive killer and helped fuel the Buckeyes' +9.2% success rate margin. Wisconsin only managed three scoring opportunities (drives reaching the Ohio State 40-yard line), only one of which they were able to turn into points (on a drive that started in Ohio State territory following a blocked punt!).

With the Badgers offense unable to sustain drives, it shouldn't have been any surprise that eventually the Buckeyes would crack through. In the second half, Ohio State scored touchdowns on all but the first and last drives (the last of which was a five-plus-minute clock-killing possession). And they did so largely with the ground game, with J.K. Dobbins totaling 20 carries for 163 rushing yards (he added 58 through the air), and Master Teague adding 76 more of his own. Maybe the best thing that the Buckeyes did was maximize their scoring opportunities. Ohio State turned seven scoring opportunities into five touchdowns and had an 86% success rate in the red zone. The Buckeyes, along with LSU, seem to be playing at a higher level than everyone else this season, jumping into the tier formerly occupied by only Clemson and Alabama.

Speaking of whom, the LSU Tigers managed to hold on against Auburn 23-20. This is an immense credit to both defenses -- that Auburn held the LSU Tigers to a season-low point total, while LSU only allowed a 5.7% explosiveness rate (less than half of their season average). Auburn was able to keep it close mostly by limiting the LSU offense once they got in the red zone. Despite eight scoring opportunities, the Tigers scored just three touchdowns, and their explosive plays weren't quite explosive enough to get into the end zone from outside the red zone. Joe Burrow still got his yards -- 316 sack-adjusted with a 51% passing success rate -- but Auburn still managed to limit their overall drive efficiency. This result only solidifies the Tigers as the most accomplished team in the country, with a monumental matchup with Alabama on deck in two weeks.

TOEDRAGS

  • There are a few more upsets worth a mention. Oklahoma State got by Iowa State 34-27, mixing up the middle of the Big 12 standings even further. The game was ultimately decided by three Brock Purdy interceptions, including one pick-six to close the game.
  • Another upset worth mentioning was the Bruins' picking up their third win of the year over Arizona State. UCLA is one of the most inconsistent teams in the country, but with wins over Washington State, Stanford, and now Arizona State, it's also undeniable that there are some signs of life in Westwood. Notably, UCLA ran Joshua Kelley absurdly often, with 34 carries for 164 yards. It's a little hard to tell what the Bruins' broader strategy is, but for now basically any sign of progress is welcome.

HONOR ROLL

  • J.K. Dobbins, RB, Ohio State. This is the easiest the Honor Roll and Lowsman Watch have been. Dobbins totaled 223 yards from scrimmage and clearly outperformed Jonathan Taylor, who many had as the top running back in the Big Ten and maybe the country.
  • C.J. Verdell, RB. Oregon. Not to be outdone, C.J. Verdell had 23 carries for 257 rushing yards against Washington State in the Ducks' nail-biter win over the Cougars. Oregon gained 12 or more yards on 13.6% of Oregon's carries, including Verdell's 89-yard touchdown run.
  • Lynn Bowden Jr., QB, Kentucky. One of the more interesting shifts has been Kentucky's apparent transition to an all-running team? Despite Sawyer Smith apparently being healthy, Kentucky stuck with converted wide receiver Lynn Bowden Jr. at quarterback, and he had 21 carries for 204 rushing yards in the Wildcats' upset win over Missouri. Over the past three weeks, Kentucky has totaled 36 pass attempts for just 168 yards -- but Bowden has been electric on the ground!

LOWSMAN WATCH

  • Chase Young, DE, Ohio State. We've covered this already, but Chase Young's performance, which included four sacks and two forced fumbles, was probably enough for the Buckeyes to win on its own, never mind the efforts from J.K. Dobbins, Justin Fields, and Chris Olave.

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