The day belongs to Houston, which lived up to its lofty preseason expectations by defeating Oklahoma 33-23.
Topping the Sooners puts Houston in line to challenge not just for another access-bowl invitation to a New Year’s Six bowl but also the four-team College Football Playoff field. At worst, the wins justifies the hype and praise heaped on the team and its coach, Tom Herman.
It might be time to take Houston even more seriously. This wasn’t simply an off day for Oklahoma; it was another great Saturday for Herman and the Cougars, who have somehow achieved what just yesterday seemed impossible — made their bandwagon even fuller.
Wrote USA TODAY Sports’ George Schroeder of the Cougars’ Playoff push:
“After notching a signature victory on a huge stage — and the Cougars’ second in a row, if we count that Peach Bowl victory against Florida State (the Playoff selection committee isn’t supposed to think about last year, but they’re humans, too) — they’ve forced their way into the initial conversation.”
Here are the rest of Saturday’s winners and losers:
West Virginia. The Mountaineers helped to salvage some of the Big 12 Conference’s reputation by notching a 26-11 victory against Missouri. Sometimes these games matter for more than just the teams involved: West Virginia’s win provides a boost for the Big 12 and a sour note for the Southeastern Conference. Dana Holgorsen could have the Mountaineers in line for Big 12 contention.
Western Michigan. Western Michigan is a sneaky contender for the Amway Coaches Poll during this season. The Broncos’ résumé was bolstered by a 22-21 road win against Northwestern. That should raise some eyebrows, but a high-profile win was coming for Western Michigan and its coach, P.J. Fleck, who has recruited at a level far beyond the rest of the Mid-American Conference.
Ohio State and Michigan. These rivals looked every bit the title contenders in taking care of business against Bowling Green and Hawaii, respectively.
Kansas and Central Florida. Two teams that went 0-12 a year ago won't repeat those embarrassments. The Jayhawks defeated Rhode Island 55-6, ending a 15-game losing streak and delivering second-year coach David Beaty's first W. It's the Jayhawks' first win since they topped Iowa State on Nov. 8, 2014 — a span of 665 days. The Knights, under first-year coach Scott Frost, knocked off South Carolina State 38-0. No, the opponents were not FBS, but the record next to each team's name says 1-0. And that's a victory.
Mississippi State. Life after Dak Prescott is not going to be easy for the Bulldogs, who somehow managed to lose at home 21-20 to South Alabama of the Sun Belt Conference. (It was a good week altogether for the Sun Belt, counting Appalachian State’s near win against Tennessee on Thursday.) Mississippi State will almost certainly improve as the year goes on, but if it can’t top the Jaguars at home, is there any hope of a bowl bid?
Virginia. The Cavaliers lost to Richmond 37-20 to mark an inauspicious debut for Bronco Mendenhall. But all is not lost: Mendenhall’s vision for improving upon Virginia’s middling recent history extends long beyond one game. It was still a sour start to his tenure.
LSU. New year, same story: LSU remains a team incapable of winning a national championship because of its subpar offense. Saturday’s loss to Wisconsin raises the question: The Tigers brought Les Miles back for this?
UCLA: Every summer, UCLA is able to convince a significant number of fans and pundits that it is capable of competing for the national championship. It’s a pretty neat magic trick, actually. Saturday’s 31-24 overtime loss to Texas A&M — the Bruins did rally to tie after falling behind two scores in the fourth quarter — should remind us all: UCLA is the biggest pretender in all of college football. Worse yet, losing to the Aggies deals another crippling blow to the Pac-12 Conference’s tattered national reputation.
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