College News & Analysis

College Football Week 9 Takeaways: Notable grades, advanced stats and more

University Park, Pennsylvania, USA; Ohio State Buckeyes wide receiver Marvin Harrison Jr. (18) signals a first down after running with the ball during the fourth quarter against the Penn State Nittany Lions at Beaver Stadium. Ohio State defeated Penn State 44-31. Mandatory Credit: Matthew OHaren-USA TODAY Sports

Drake Maye is a legitimate Heisman contender: The North Carolina signal-caller is now the highest-graded quarterback in the country, and the Tar Heels are a sleeper to crash the College Football Playoff. 

Oklahoma State‘s and Wake Forest’s playoff dreams are over: The two top-10 teams were boat-raced in Week 9, resulting in the dreaded second loss that all but ends their College Football Playoff candidacy. 

Next week features the game of the year: TennesseeGeorgia could be between the top two teams in the country, which has happened only twice over the past 15 years in the regular season. 

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The College Football Playoff race is whittling down.

Two contenders were effectively eliminated in then-No. 9 Oklahoma State and then-No. 10 Wake Forest, while others such as Tennessee continued to pad their already impressive resumes. 

Here are the biggest takeaways from Week 9 of the 2022 college football season.


Super sophomores save Ohio State

Then-No. 2 Ohio State needed superhuman performances from a pair of sophomores to escape an upset attempt by then-No. 13 Penn State

Marvin Harrison Jr. looked like his Hall of Fame father against the Nittany Lions. He caught nine of his 11 targets for 171 yards and nine first downs, averaging an absurd 4.50 yards per route run. Harrison looks like the favorite for the Biletnikoff Award, with an 88.4 grade that leads all FBS receivers. 

On defense, edge defender J.T. Tuimoloau had a performance for the ages. The former top-five recruit tallied two interceptions, one of which he returned for a touchdown. He also recorded two sacks, a forced fumble, a fumble recovery and a tackle for loss en route to a 94.6 grade in the game, 14 points higher than any other game of his young career.

Both Harrison and Tuimoloau look like top-10 prospects in the 2024 NFL Draft.


Two playoff dreams end in curb-stompings

Heading into Week 9, both then-No. 9 Oklahoma State and then-No. 10 Wake Forest had a chance at cracking the College Football Playoff. Each had lost only one game coming in, and both came against top-10 opponents in double-overtime. Let’s just say their second losses weren’t as close.

The Cowboys were shut out by then-No. 22 Kansas State, 48-0. Making matters worse is the fact that the Wildcats’ star quarterback, Adrian Martinez, missed the game with a leg injury. Starting in his place was junior Will Howard, who tossed four touchdowns in the win. Oklahoma State’s offense couldn’t do anything, amassing just 217 yards in its first shutout loss since 2009. 

Meanwhile, Wake Forest held a 14-13 lead over Louisville at halftime. By the start of the fourth quarter, the Demon Deacons trailed 48-14.

That 35-point swing happened in part due to six(!) turnovers in the third quarter alone by Wake Forest. Overall, the Demon Deacons turned the ball over eight times, all of which came in the second half. The usually elite Sam Hartman accounted for six of those turnovers — three interceptions and three fumbles. 


TCU is the Big 12’s only hope

In the College Football Playoff’s eight-year history, a two-loss team has never made the final four. With Oklahoma State’s defeat, nine of the Big 12's 10 teams now have hit that benchmark.

The only playoff contender remaining is the undefeated TCU after a 41-31 win over West Virginia. The Horned Frogs' offense has been electric this season, averaging the fifth-most expected points added per play in the country. 


The duality of USC

Then-No. 10 USC endured a nailbiter over Arizona, winning 45-37 in what should’ve been a blowout. Heading into this week, the Wildcats were the sixth-worst Power Five team in PFF’s power rankings

Much like his time at Oklahoma, head coach Lincoln Riley has the offense to compete for a national championship. In fact, one can argue that the Trojans' offense is the best in the country right now. However, the defense is holding that unit back.

Comparing USC’s offense to USC’s defense
Unit EPA/play Rank in FBS
USC offense 0.320 1st/131
USC defense 0.039 97th/131

USC’s playoff dreams are still alive because of its offense, but the defense will need to step up if those dreams are to come to fruition. 


Texas A&M (finally) found its quarterback, but it’s too little, too late

Texas A&M entered the season as the No. 6 team in the country because of a talented roster, but there was a glaring question mark at quarterback. That issue under center has been the biggest reason for the Aggies’ abysmal 3-5 start. Both Haynes King and Max Johnson are among the 15 lowest-graded quarterbacks in the Power Five.

With King nursing an arm injury, head coach Jimbo Fisher handed the keys to true freshman Conner Weigman against No. 15 Ole Miss. The former five-star recruit threw four touchdowns and finished with an 87.5 grade in the 31-28 loss.

While this season is all but lost for Texas A&M, the future at least looks bright with Weigman at the helm and all the young talent surrounding him.


Don’t forget about Drake Maye and North Carolina

One school that hasn’t had an issue at quarterback is No. 21 North Carolina, despite losing Sam Howell, arguably the best quarterback in Tar Heels history.

Drake Maye took over and has been one of the best signal-callers in college football. He threw five touchdowns and made three big-time throws in the 42-24 win over Pittsburgh. His 26 big-time throws on the season are five more than any other quarterback in the country, and his 92.1 grade leads all FBS quarterbacks, as well.

With a 7-1 record, the Tar Heels are a College Football Playoff sleeper. North Carolina could meet Clemson in the ACC Championship game with a playoff bid on the line. If the Tar Heels secure that spot, Maye should certainly be in New York as one of the finalists for the Heisman Trophy.


The game of the year is next week

Next week will provide the biggest game of the season in TennesseeGeorgia

The then-No. 3 Volunteers picked up yet another ranked win in a 44-6 trouncing of No. 19 Kentucky. That’s their fifth win over a ranked opponent this season, more than any team in the country. Quarterback Hendon Hooker is now the betting favorite to win the Heisman Trophy, at +100 according to BetMGM.

Meanwhile, top-ranked Georgia looked dominant with a 42-20 win over rival Florida in the world’s largest outdoor cocktail party. The Bulldogs field one of the most complete teams in the country. Both their offense and defense are among the Power Five’s 10 best in terms of EPA per play, one of only two schools to accomplish that feat.

Considering Ohio State's struggles against Penn State and Tennessee’s convincing win, it’s certainly feasible that next Saturday will be between the top two teams in the country in the rankings. This has only happened twice in the regular season over the past 15 years. 

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