College football winners and losers led by Notre Dame, Georgia | News Coverage from USA

College football winners and losers led by Notre Dame, Georgia

Paul Myerberg

USA TODAY

Published 8:20 PM EDT Sep 14, 2019

The stage is set for one of the most anticipated games of the 2019 season.

No. 3 Georgia led Arkansas State 34-0 at halftime and breezed through a 55-0 win. Behind five touchdowns from quarterback Ian Book, Notre Dame scored the game’s first 35 points in a 66-14 dismantling of New Mexico. After relatively middling starts to the year, given the preseason expectations heaped upon both teams, the Bulldogs and Fighting Irish are rounding into form.

And just in time: Georgia will host Notre Dame next Saturday in a matchup set to echo across the Bowl Subdivision in the race for the College Football Playoff.

The previous meeting between the two blue bloods was a classic. Georgia’s 20-19 win in South Bend was a major impetus behind the Bulldogs’ eventual push to the national championship game, which eventually fell flat in an overtime loss to Alabama. From Notre Dame’s perspective, a loss that was brutally disappointing in the moment helped breathe life back into a program coming off a rare losing season.

The Irish rolled off seven wins in a row off that defeat and ended the 2017 season with a 21-17 win against LSU in the Citrus Bowl. Last year’s team posted an unbeaten regular season before running into Clemson in the national semifinals.

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Beating Georgia would vault Notre Dame into the top five of the Amway Coaches Poll. Meanwhile, a Georgia win would validate the Bulldogs’ place among the elite teams in college football, and set up a date with either the Crimson Tide or LSU in early December to decide the SEC championship and playoff berth. Based on Saturday, both teams seem up to the challenge.

Here are the rest of the winners and losers from Saturday’s action:

Winners

Central Florida

No. 16 UCF responded to the first two consecutive tests against Power Five opponents by unloading on suddenly rudderless Stanford, dropping 38 points by halftime — the most the Cardinal had allowed in a half since 2005 — and cruising to a 45-27 win. True freshman quarterback Dillon Gabriel threw for 347 yards and four scores in his second career start. While Stanford is struggling, the convincing nature of the win itself should give a substantial boost to the Knights’ ranking in the Amway Coaches Poll, not to mention their national credibility.

Ohio State’s offense

After answering an offseason full of questions about his ability to fit into the No. 6 Buckeyes’ scheme, former Georgia transfer Justin Fields has responded by playing three games in a row at an All-American level. In Saturday’s 51-10 win against Indiana, Fields completed 14 of his 24 attempts for 199 yards and three touchdowns; he’s accounted for 14 scores across three starts, five on the ground. So, to answer any lingering questions: Ohio State’s offense is in good hands.

Kansas State

Former North Dakota State coach Chris Klieman is now 3-0 with the Wildcats after a hugely impressive — if a little bit sloppy — road win at Mississippi State. The 31-24 victory against an opponent pegged to match last year’s eight-win finish in the rough SEC West send a major statement about Klieman’s early tenure: Kansas State’s style of play and methodical approach could end up being the antidote to the high-powered top third of the Big 12. If surprised by Klieman’s deft touch, remember that he won four Football Championship Subdivision national titles and lost just six games across five seasons with the Bison.

Eastern Michigan

EMU had won more than four games in a season just once since 1996 when it hired Chris Creighton away from Drake following the 2010 season. After topping Illinois 34-31 on a last-second field goal, the Eagles have now defeated a Big Ten opponent in each of the past three seasons. Already with two bowl bids under his belt and a third seemingly in the offing this fall, Creighton has done superb work far off the national radar.

Tua Tagovailoa

The Alabama junior had the first 400-yard passing game of his college career and one of the most prolific performances by a quarterback in program history in the Crimson Tide’s 47-23 win against South Carolina. Tagovailoa’s 444 yards were the most in a single game since Scott Hunter threw for 484 yards in 1969. His five touchdowns tied Alabama’s single-game record. And after hitting on 28 of his 37 attempts, Tagovailoa is now completing 76.9 percent of his throws through three games.

Losers

The ACC

You can’t mention how the ACC fared on Saturday without taking a quick trip back to Friday night, when Boston College gave Kansas the Jayhawks’ first road win against a Power Five opponent since 2008. The Eagles’ typically stout defense allowed 567 yards of total offense, 329 coming on the ground at 7.3 yards per carry. It was the first hit to the league’s reputation, but not the last. Pittsburgh lost 17-10 to rival Penn State. North Carolina lost 44-27 to a West Virginia team that scored just a touchdown in last weekend’s loss to Missouri. Virginia Tech trailed Furman 14-3 at halftime before eking out a 24-17 win. And one week after topping South Florida, Georgia Tech lost 27-24 in overtime to The Citadel. Good thing the ACC has Clemson to carry the flag.

Maryland

The No. 25 Terrapins’ will have a short-lived stint in the Coaches Poll. After its offense exploded in wins against Howard and Syracuse — the offense entered Saturday ranked first nationally in scoring — Maryland completed just 41 percent of its attempts and averaged 3.5 yards per carry in a 20-17 loss at Temple. (This still might be seen as progress, given the Owls’ 35-14 win in this series last season.) While a rude awakening after such a commendable start, Maryland will have a chance to offset this loss when it hosts Penn State on Sept. 27.

Southern California

The Trojans left last weekend with the wind at their backs after a 45-20 win against Stanford. Much has changed in the past seven days. For one, that win over the Cardinal is now meaningless. Earlier this week, athletics director Lynn Swann announced his resignation, increasing the already likely odds that this season will be coach Clay Helton’s last. Then came Saturday’s 30-27 overtime loss at Brigham Young. In all, it’s been a week that stands as a microcosm of USC’s embattled existence — combining off-field drama with on-field failure.

Michigan State

Give Arizona State credit for beating Michigan State at the Spartans’ game. In an ugly slog of a game, the Sun Devils scored a late touchdown to take a 10-7 lead and then were the beneficiaries of a boneheaded penalty that cost the Spartans a shot at sending the game into overtime — Michigan State made a 42-yard field goal to tie the game in the final seconds at 10-10 but was penalized for having too many men on the field, turning the attempt into a 47-yard try that kicker Matt Coghlin missed. (That was one of three misses on the day for Coghlin, including a 31-yard try.) Mark Dantonio’s offseason shuffling of offensive duties among staffers hasn’t yielded positive results against quality competition.


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