Taking a look at the highs and lows of the day in college football from around the country:
Lincoln Riley’s bold midseason move looks good after one game.
The Oklahoma coach fired longtime defensive coordinator Mike Stoops after a 48-45 loss to Texas on Oct. 6, the culmination of a string of critical defensive meltdowns by the Sooners over the years. Oklahoma then went into an open date and re-emerged Saturday to face a disappointing TCU team.
That the Horned Frogs have struggled is reason enough to be skeptical that interim coordinator Ruffin McNeill, a former head coach at East Carolina and a tested defensive mind, has completely revamped Oklahoma overnight. Still, the Sooners’ 52-27 triumph was encouraging enough for a team that still has hope of reaching the playoff.
On the surface, allowing 27 points doesn’t look so great. But TCU returned a kickoff for a touchdown and had a one-play, 33-yard touchdown drive in the second quarter.
The Horned Frogs finished with 275 total yards, didn’t score in their final five possessions and managed only three points in the second half. When it mattered, Oklahoma (6-1, 3-1 Big 12) got stops.
And since they’re the Sooners, they scored in bunches. Kyler Murray threw for 213 yards and four touchdowns, and tailbacks Kennedy Brooks and Trey Sermon both surpassed the 100-yard plateau.
The Sooners don’t need an elite defense, but they could use a steady, reliable unit. That wasn’t a problem as the Sooners returned to the win column and began what they hope is a seven-week run of perfection to a playoff berth.
Purdue. The Boilermakers had a play-to-win ethos from the start of their 49-20 beatdown of Ohio State, from their constant harassment of Buckeyes quarterback Dwayne Haskins to a willingness to attempt a short field goal just before halftime (and scoring a touchdown) to having an answer on offense to everything in the fourth quarter.
Credit will rightfully go to freshman wideout Rondale Moore, whose arrival has galvanized a program that made substantial strides last year. Quarterback David Blough (378 yards, three touchdowns) did his part. Coach Jeff Brohm has overseen a rapid turnaround.
This, however, was a program win for Purdue (4-3, 3-1 Big Ten) -- a statement not of what it can be a couple years down the road, but what it is now. The Boilermakers haven’t finished with a winning record in the Big Ten since 2006, and their chances of doing so improved greatly Saturday.
A team that opened with three close losses in a row has regrouped on the fly. Now comes the tough part: Sustaining it while continuing an arduous stretch against Michigan State, Iowa and Wisconsin over the next four weeks.
UAB. The Blazers’ progress as a program bears examining from time to time. After a two-year hiatus, UAB returned last season and promptly went 8-5. The Blazers are on pace to do even better this year, improving to 6-1 (4-0 Conference USA) with a 29-21 defeat of 6-2 North Texas.
Up next are meetings with 0-7 Texas-El Paso and 3-5 Texas-San Antonio. UAB could easily find itself playing for a spot in its league title game when it plays host to Southern Mississippi on Nov. 10.
Washington State. Credit to the Cougars (6-1, 3-1 Pac-12), who handled an Oregon bunch that was reloading the musket a week after defeating Washington. Mike Leach’s team controlled the first half of a 34-20 triumph, scoring the first 27 points to seemingly bury the Ducks.
Well, besides the fact Oregon closed within 27-20. But Gardner Minshew methodically led a 75-yard scoring drive, connecting with Dezmon Patmon on a 22-yard touchdown pass after the Ducks got within a possession to help secure bowl eligibility for the Cougars.
Jim Harbaugh. One of the most oft-quoted stats of the offseason was Harbaugh’s 1-5 mark against Michigan State and Ohio State since arriving back in Ann Arbor, a reminder of how the Wolverines hadn’t accomplished much against its biggest rivals under the fourth-year coach — or over the last decade for that matter.
Make it 2-5 after about as lopsided a 21-7 victory as anyone could imagine over Michigan State. Shea Patterson threw two touchdowns and Karan Higdon rushed for 144 yards on 33 carries as the Wolverines (7-1, 5-0 Big Ten) did what they needed to on offense in snapping a streak of 17 consecutive losses to ranked teams on the road.
And really, they didn’t need to do much. Michigan State (4-3, 2-2) mustered only 94 total yards and was never a threat to pull their signature move of hanging around until the final seconds before pulling out a victory. The only thing that was stopping Michigan on Saturday was a weather delay that interrupted the game in the first half.
Nebraska. The Cornhuskers (1-6) are finally in the win column under Scott Frost thanks to a 53-28 pounding of Minnesota. They took out nearly two months worth of frustration against the Golden Gophers, piling up 659 total yards and producing three 100-yard rushers (Devine Ozigbo, Adrian Martinez and Maurice Washington) and a 100-yard receiver (Stanley Morgan).
A bowl appearance is probably going to require a six-game winning streak, and that’s not particularly likely considering there’s an early November trip to Ohio State. But the second-half schedule also includes Bethune-Cookman and Illinois, so this should be the first of at least a few victories in Lincoln this season.
Alabama. It’s a shame for the Crimson Tide that the third Saturday in October comes only once a year. Alabama scored the first 28 points in a 58-21 demolition of Tennessee to improve to 8-0 with its 12th victory in a row against the Volunteers. Tua Tagovailoa had four more touchdown passes to give him 25 without an interception for the season.
Now it’s time for an open date for Nick Saban’s team, then a trip to LSU that looks like the biggest test for the Crimson Tide between now and the SEC title game. No one has slowed down Alabama yet, and Tennessee certainly didn’t come close to doing so Saturday.
Snow. And not just regular snow. Bonus, mid-October snow in (where else?) Big Ten country.
There wasn’t much that was going to inject interest into what figured to be a lopsided Wisconsin victory over Illinois. And sure enough, the Badgers (5-2, 3-1 Big Ten) cruised to a 49-20 triumph. But one of the few exceptions -- winter precipitation -- did its part to add to the entertainment value of an otherwise predictable rout.
Pac-12. Oregon now has two losses. So does Colorado. And Southern California -- which had a chance to create some separation in the South Division -- was smoked at Utah for its third loss of the season.
Ohio State. Where to start with the Buckeyes’ 49-20 loss at Purdue. It couldn’t have been much fun giving up touchdowns on all three of Purdue’s offensive possessions in the fourth quarter, or getting torched for 170 yards and two touchdowns by Boilermaker wideout Rondale Moore.
It was also an echo of last year’s miserable trip to Iowa, another Big Ten West school that delivered lopsided loss to the Buckeyes (in that case, a 55-24 drubbing).
But ultimately, this was about the least impressive way to pile up 546 total yards. Ohio State didn’t reach the end zone in the first three quarters, quarterback Dwayne Haskins needed 73 passes to accrue his 470 yards and the rushing attack managed only 76 yards on 25 carries.
The latter issue is a big one for the Buckeyes (7-1, 4-1 Big Ten), who are going to have to negotiate Michigan’s staunch defense if they are to win the Big Ten East and remain a factor in the playoff race heading into December
N.C. State. The Wolfpack’s trip to Clemson looked like it would be the marquee game in the ACC, if only because Miami and Virginia Tech have taken a couple losses apiece and Florida State isn’t a vintage Florida State team.
Instead, the Wolfpack couldn’t get any traction offensively in a 41-7 loss to the Tigers. N.C. State (5-1, 2-1) committed three turnovers and didn’t get in the end zone until the fourth quarter. After severely testing Clemson the last two years, this was a definite step back for Dave Doeren’s team.
Cincinnati. And then there were two undefeated teams in the American Athletic Conference. The Bearcats (6-1, 2-1) took a 24-17 overtime loss at Temple. That leaves Central Florida and South Florida as the lone unbeatens in the AAC --- and outside the Power Five, for that matter.
* Maryland. Not for getting shut out 23-0 at Iowa. Not for mustering only 115 total yards.
Just for doing this:
Bowling Green. Less than a week after firing coach Mike Jinks, the Falcons became only the second team to reach seven losses (and thus ensure a losing season). Ohio delivered a 49-14 drubbing in Carl Pelini’s first game as interim coach.
The first to seven defeats was Rutgers, which beat Bowling Green there by a couple hours when it fell to 1-7 with an 18-15 loss to Northwestern.