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Florida State Seminoles

Most important takeaway each Top 25 college football team Week 9

Clemson has left a strong final impression on the College Football Playoff committee before the first rankings on Tuesday. Meanwhile, Georgia gets a big-time win over Florida, Penn State outlasts Iowa and Washington State keeps on winning.

The Tigers beat down rival Florida State so badly, Trevor Lawrence passed for a career-high 314 yards and did not even finish the third quarter. Clemson proved itself to be better in every single way, not only as the more talented team playing for a spot in the College Football Playoff, but the better coached and more disciplined team as well. But what truly was remarkable was seeing just how far apart these two programs have grown over the past two seasons. It was only three seasons ago that the Atlantic Division hung in the balance between these two teams. Now, Clemson has won four straight in the series, but not as decisively as it did on Saturday — the 49-point defeat tying for the worst loss in Florida State history. So where is the most difficult test left on the schedule? Certainly not next week, when the Tigers host Louisville, a team that also is in shambles without Lamar Jackson. Perhaps at Boston College on Nov. 10. But as of right now, it is hard to imagine a scenario that does not feature Clemson in the playoff. — Andrea Adelson


No. 7 Georgia 36, No. 9 Florida 17

Against Florida, D’Andre Swift finally showed flashes of the nifty runner that he was in his breakout freshman season. Limited by a groin injury much of the year, Swift rushed for a season-high 104 yards and a touchdown to finally give the Bulldogs some explosiveness they’d been lacking in the running game. With him and Elijah Holyfield, a 215-pound grinder, the Bulldogs have a lesser facsimile of the Nick Chubb-Sony Michel rushing duo that rampaged through the SEC for three years. They’ll be needed to give Jake Fromm the sort of help he had clearly been missing in the first half of the season. — Joel Anderson

If nothing else, thanks to one incredible goal line stand, the Gators found out they’ve got every bit the toughness and resilience to stand up to one of the biggest bullies in the conference. Holding Georgia to zero yards on six plays from the 1-yard line in the third quarter was the highlight of the evening for the Gators, something for them to build upon in the wake of a three-score loss to their hated rival. All around that series, however, was evidence that Florida has a lot of work to do: costly turnovers by quarterback Feleipe Franks and a general lack of explosiveness eventually wore down its defense in the second half. Don’t be surprised to see more of true freshman quarterback Emory Jones, who came in for a few plays throughout the game. — Anderson


No. 8 Oklahoma 51, Kansas State 14

As Oklahoma quarterback Kyler Murray orchestrated another dazzling offensive show, the Sooners’ often-criticized defense put together arguably its most complete performance of the season, keeping OU relevant in the playoff race heading into the first CFP ranking of the season. Murray completed 17-of-22 passes for 289 yards and two touchdowns and ran for another score — all in the first half. It was his seventh straight game with at least three total touchdowns. The Sooners have averaged 26.7 points in the first half under Lincoln Riley, most in FBS over the past two seasons. When the committee deliberates over OU’s place in the ranking this week, its weak strength of schedule so far could be equally as damaging as its loss to Texas. — Heather Dinich


No. 12 Kentucky 15, Missouri 14

With one final opportunity thanks to a pass interference penalty on Missouri, Kentucky quarterback Terry Wilson zipped a 2-yard touchdown pass to tight end C.J. Conrad with no time left on the clock for a comeback win that sets up a showdown next week against Georgia for the SEC East title. The winner will almost definitely play in the SEC championship game, and ESPN’s FPI currently gives the Bulldogs a 79 percent chance to win. If Kentucky is going to have a shot at the upset, it’s going to have to generate more offense to stand a chance. Kentucky struggled to sustain drives, converting on just 3 of 14 third-downs, and was held without a touchdown through the first three quarters. Despite being held under 100 yards rushing for the third time in his last four games, Benny Snell Jr. moved into second place on the Kentucky all-time rushing list. — Heather Dinich


No. 13 West Virginia 58, Baylor 14

Welcome back, Will Grier. And welcome back to the West Virginia offense. Less than two weeks after Grier threw for just 100 yards during a 30-14 loss to Iowa State, he and the Mountaineers torched the Baylor defense to the tune of a 58-14 final score. It took just three plays and 50 seconds before Grier found Greg Jennings Jr. for a 53-yard touchdown. Four times West Virginia would score on drives that lasted less than one minute. Meanwhile, Baylor’s offense was turned inside out as quarterback Charlie Brewer couldn’t handle the blitz and threw three interceptions. As long as West Virginia keeps playing like this and Grier & Co. put points on the board, the Mountaineers will have something to say about the Big 12 race with a month of November that will feature games against both Texas and Oklahoma. — Alex Scarborough


No. 14 Washington State 41, No. 24 Stanford 38

There’s only one team in the Pac-12 with fewer than two conference losses, and it’s Washington State. The Cougars jumped on the back of one of college football’s emerging stars, quarterback Gardner Minshew, to win a wild 41-38 affair on the road at Stanford. The schedule sets up nicely for Mike Leach’s club to win out, and the Cougars appear to be the Pac-12’s only real threat at this point to make the College Football Playoff. — Chris Low

It’s been a very un-Stanford-like stretch over the last month, but the Cardinal have now dropped three of their last four games after losing a heartbreaker at home. The problem hasn’t been scoring points, but rather keeping teams from scoring. The Cardinal have allowed more than 30 points in four of their last five games, and that’s hardly Stanford football. — Low


Cal 12, No. 15 Washington 10

Washington’s offense looked completely lost in its loss to Cal. Starting quarterback Jake Browning was benched late in the third quarter, replaced by backup Jake Haener, after completing 8 of 15 passes for 109 yards. Haener came in and threw an incompletion, called a timeout to avoid a delay of game, then threw a pick-six. Browning was brought back in the game shortly after, but the offense never got back on track. The Huskies’ offense finished the game with 250 total yards. Now with two conference losses, the upcoming games against Stanford and Washington State become that much more urgent if Washington wants a shot at the Pac-12 conference championship game. — Tom VanHaaren


Mississippi State 28, No. 16 Texas A&M 13

Texas A&M looked like it had a little momentum after winning three in a row, but the Aggies were forced to become one-dimensional against a Mississippi State defensive front that completely shut down Texas A&M’s running game. The loss was especially tough to swallow for the Aggies because they now have to go right back on the road next week at Auburn. — Chris Low


No. 17 Penn State 30, No. 18 Iowa 24

The Nittany Lions came away with the win against Iowa, but it was not pretty. The defense had a better performance than it did in the past three games against Indiana, Michigan State and Ohio State, but Iowa quarterback Nate Stanley made it a little easier on the defense with the poor day he had throwing. The Penn State offense was up and down itself, ending the game with two safeties and two turnovers late in the game, including a pick-six to allow Iowa to pull within three points in the fourth quarter. Those mistakes will need to be minimized in the next game against Michigan’s stout defense it Penn State is going to have a shot at winning that matchup. — Tom VanHaaren

Coming into the game against Penn State, Iowa only had one conference loss and the offense was hitting its stride. Now, the Hawkeyes have two conference losses and a lot of questions about their offense, with Purdue and Northwestern next on their schedule. Quarterback Nate Stanley struggled against Penn State, completing 18 of his 49 attempts and was off target with many of his throws Saturday. The Hawkeyes had 24 points in the game and none of them came from its offense. That type of performance against Purdue next weekend will likely give Iowa the same result in the win-loss column. — VanHaaren


Northwestern 31, No. 20 Wisconsin 17

A Badgers season that began with legitimate CFP aspirations and, at worst, another Big Ten West division title is now circling the drain. Wisconsin clearly missed 30-game starting quarterback Alex Hornibrook against Northwestern, as sophomore Jack Coan lost a fumble near Wisconsin’s end zone and contributed to another on an exchange with Jonathan Taylor. Hornibrook, underappreciated in Madison like predecessor Joel Stave, could have helped Saturday, but Wisconsin’s problems go beyond him. Taylor lost two fumbles and had his streak of eight straight 100-yard rushing performances end (stretching back to last season). A perennial top-five defense has taken a few steps back after some key personnel losses, as Wisconsin allowed 182 rushing yards to a Northwestern team that came in with the 127th-ranked run offense (last in the Big Ten). The Badgers also showed a surprising lack of discipline, committing five penalties, including a pass interference foul that led to Northwestern’s second touchdown and a roughing-the-punter foul that led to Northwestern’s third touchdown. — Adam Rittenberg


Houston 57, No. 21 South Florida 36

The Bulls’ New Year’s Six hopes took a big hit thanks in part to a season-worst defensive performance (the Cougars compiled 684 offensive yards). It’s not the first time they’ve given up 600 yards (the Bulls yielded 602 to Georgia Tech), but it’s the first time it cost them a win. Things don’t get much easier in November. The Bulls still have road games at Cincinnati, at Temple, and have the War on I-4 left against No. 10 UCF. They’ll likely have to win all of them to steal a bid into AAC championship game and keep their NY6 hopes alive. It is only the third loss for the Bulls in 20 games of the Charlie Strong era. — Sam Khan Jr.


No. 23 Utah 41, UCLA 10

Before this season, Utah had only scored 40 points in eight Pac-12 games since joining the conference in 2011. After its 41-10 win against UCLA on Friday night, the Utes have now scored at least 40 in four straight conference games. The book on the Utes for the past few seasons is that if they can ever find a consistent offense, they’ll be able compete for a conference title because the defense has been good enough for years. At this point, the Utes are the clear favorite in the Pac-12 South and are playing their best football in roughly a decade. — Kyle Bonagura


Georgia Southern 34, No. 25 Appalachian State 14

Having attained its first AP national ranking in school history earlier in the week, Appalachian State now faces the prospect of not even winning its own division in the Sun Belt Conference after a 34-14 loss Thursday at Georgia Southern. One of the biggest questions for the Mountaineers going forward will be the health of quarterback Zac Thomas, who was knocked out of the game on the opening series. His two backups combined to throw four interceptions, and Appalachian State was already without star running back Jalin Moore, who’s out for the season after breaking his ankle earlier this month. — Chris Low

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