College football Week 9 overreactions: Big 12 mess, Harbaugh’s hot seat and a fresh Playoff contender

Week 9 of the college football season looked like it might deliver some upheaval on Halloween.

Instead, we’re left with some of the same-old themes heading into the November portion of a season impacted by COVID-19. No. 1 Clemson, No. 2 Alabama and No. 3 Ohio State remain the teams to beat, but there are some other pieces left in the College Football Playoff puzzle — not to mention the coaching carousel.

Here is a look at some of the over-reactions heading into the next month of the regular season:

The Big 12 is out of the Playoff!

Correct. No. 6 Oklahoma State was the lone remaining unbeaten team, and the Cowboys lost 41-34 in overtime to Texas. The Cowboys would have to run the table, starting with road games at Kansas State and Oklahoma the last two weeks.

No two-loss team has made the Playoff, and the Big 12 has five two-loss teams lined up behind Oklahoma State at this point. Oklahoma has recalibrated its season and could be in line for a sixth straight conference championship run, but those losses to Kansas State and Iowa State won’t be forgiven by the committee.

Trevor Lawrence won’t win the Heisman!

Correct. It’s not his fault. Lawrence, who is widely considered the best player in college football, might be considered the greatest quarterback in college football history if he leads the Tigers to another national championship this season.

He also might be the greatest player not to win the Heisman Trophy. Lawrence will miss a second game because of COVID-19, and that’s going to be hard to overcome, given the competition he faces. Ohio State’s Justin Fields and Alabama’s Mac Jones are piling on stats for potential undefeated teams, too.

Fields might end up with the same number of games, and Jones likely will have better stats at this point. Lawrence, meanwhile, might fall short because of that two-game absence.

Jim Harbaugh era is over!

Incorrect — but it’s getting extremely uncomfortable in Ann Arbor.

All the good will built up by an impressive debut against Minnesota was rerouted after a 27-24 loss to Michigan State, which opened the Mel Tucker era with a loss to Rutgers. The Wolverines were upended by the Spartans at home in puzzling fashion, and the lack of a running game on offense and inability to create pressure on defense led to what has to be considered the worst loss of the Harbaugh era.

Both offensive coordinator Josh Gattis and defensive coordinator Don Brown are being questioned as a result, and the lack of execution on both sides was striking.

Harbaugh is making $8 million this season and is under contract through 2021, but each loss to a rival at The Big House is mounting the case against the prodigal son.

LSU was a one-year wonder!

Incorrect, but this is not how the defending national champions expected the season to go: The Tigers are 2-3 through five games after getting routed 48-11 by Auburn. The last defending champ with that record was Georgia Tech, in 1991.

LSU lost so much from last year’s national championship team: Joe Burrow was part of an SEC record-setting class of 13 players who were selected in the 2020 NFL Draft. Assistant coaches Joe Brady and Dave Aranda left for the Carolina Panthers and Baylor, respectively. But that doesn’t excuse losing three games in the fashion the Tigers have lost this season. Mississippi State, Missouri and Auburn have averaged 45.7 points per game against LSU this season, and Alabama is on deck.

A sub-.500 season could mean the hiring of defensive coordinator Bo Pelini will be a one-year engagement. LSU considers itself a program that should be on equal footing with Alabama, Clemson and Ohio State, but Ed Orgeron is going to find out that the honeymoon only lasts so long.

Ask Les Miles.

Cincinnati deserves Playoff consideration!

Correct. The seventh-ranked Bearcats deserve enough respect to start to warrant some consideration after back-to-back routs against SMU and Memphis. The committee says it doesn’t consider teams from previous seasons, but the fact Luke Fickell’s Bearcats have won 11 games each of the last two seasons shows this team isn’t just a flash in the pan.

Cincinnati has allowed just 12 points per game in 2020, and it has a nice vantage point. We mentioned the Big 12 implosion, and the Pac-12 is playing a short season.

The best-case scenario would be for Alabama and Clemson to sweep Georgia and Notre Dame in the regular season and conference championships, and that might just open a door for the first Group of 5 Playoff team.

Hey, stranger things have happened in 2020.

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