Week 7 college football superlatives: Washington seizes stage, Iowa’s D dominates and more

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Welcome back to Saturday Superlatives. It’s good to be back in action after a fall wedding idle week. Here are the best plays, players, moments and more from Week 7 in college football. For many Top 25 teams, it was one of those T.C.B. (Taking Care of Business) Saturdays, devoid of much drama. But just as we’d hoped, the biggest matchups of the day sure did deliver.

Game of the Week: No. 7 Washington 36, No. 8 Oregon 33. Two legitimately great teams battling all the way down to the very last second. What’s more thrilling than that?

There were seven lead changes along the way and so many important high-pressure moments. All the offensive superstars were indeed super. I absolutely expected this game to go to overtime and keep going and going. It’s understandable that Oregon coach Dan Lanning’s risky fourth-down decisions commanded a lot of attention, given how tight this game ended up being. But let’s not dwell on those so much that we sell the Huskies short. They went out and took this win. They forced those tough situations, got key stops and fired away when they got their opportunities.

It’s another amazing accomplishment for Kalen DeBoer and his coaches and players in Year 2 of their rapid rise. They’re now 17-2 together since this staff arrived in Seattle and look poised to win a lot more.

Offensive Player of the Week: Washington QB Michael Penix Jr. Your new Heisman Trophy frontrunner (unless you already had him first) was ready for the big stage and bright lights on Saturday, throwing for 302 yards with four touchdowns and one interception and adding a Heisman moment to his highlight reel with his 52-yard game-winning drive. The Ducks have a talented defense and were able to apply more pressure than any foe Penix had faced this year. They really challenged him in the second half. This wasn’t close to his most statistically spectacular performance as the leader of the Huskies, but it was still one of his most impressive.


What is Rome Odunze’s NFL Draft stock? Washington WR comes up big in win over Oregon

Defensive Player of the Week: Notre Dame DB Xavier Watts. I’m not sure it’s possible for a safety to have a more impactful game than Watts did on Saturday night in Notre Dame’s 48-20 blowout win over No. 10 USC. Watts picked off Caleb Williams on the game’s opening drive and grabbed another interception in the second quarter. Both set up Irish touchdowns. In the fourth quarter, Watts scooped up a fumble and took it back for a 15-yard touchdown. Two plays later, he forced another fumble for a turnover to finish off the win. Oh yeah, and let’s not forget he had seven tackles. That’s a truly ridiculous night.

Best upset: Pitt 38, No. 14 Louisville 21. Strange things happen all the time in college football. That’s why we love it so much. Louisville was on top of the world as a 6-0 team that had just stunned a Notre Dame that we’re now pretty sure is really good. Pitt was 1-4 with four consecutive losses and an offense averaging 18 points per game against FBS opponents. So, of course, this happened. The Cardinals finished with three turnovers, four failed fourth down conversions and a missed field goal, and Pitt took advantage for a much-needed home win.

Drive to 325 update: Iowa 15, Wisconsin 6. They’re really going to do it, aren’t they? Iowa is 6-1 and probably going to win the Big Ten West while doing as little as possible on offense, and there’s nothing you can do about it.

The Hawkeyes got an 82-yard rushing touchdown from Leshon Williams in the second quarter and averaged 2.5 yards per play over the rest of the game. It didn’t matter that they had eight three-and-out drives and got 37 passing yards from Deacon Hill. Williams was great (174 rushing yards), and the Badgers couldn’t score on Iowa’s defense.

Iowa would now need to average 29.9 points per game over its final six games to keep offensive coordinator Brian Ferentz, according to the terms of his contract. If they play in the Big Ten title game, it’s 29.2 points per game the rest of the way.

Best QB2: We saw a bunch of teams have to turn to their backup quarterbacks on Saturday, and a few of them really shined. Let’s start with Arizona’s Noah Fifita. He filled in for an injured Jayden de Laura again and led the Wildcats to a 44-6 upset win at No. 19 Washington State. Fifita threw for 342 yards on 34-of-43 passing and has really impressed in his three starts, all of them against Top 25 opponents. Should he remain the guy when de Laura returns?

Kansas State true freshman quarterback Avery Johnson replaced Will Howard and powered a 38-21 road win over Texas Tech with five rushing touchdowns. We’ll see how Chris Klieman handles that situation after Howard led the Wildcats to a Big 12 title last season, but the future is bright in Manhattan.

TCU is probably feeling the same way after watching Josh Hoover’s first career start. The redshirt freshman, in for an injured Chandler Morris, led all FBS quarterbacks with 439 passing yards on Saturday and put up four touchdowns and two interceptions in a 44-11 blowout win over BYU to move the Horned Frogs to 4-3.

Best catch: We’ve got a bunch to get through from Saturday. There were just so many great grabs. If you ask me, the gold medal goes to Texas Tech’s Jerand Bradley.

Let’s get a closer look at that one…

Then we’ve got FAU receiver Devin Price contorting his body for this one-handed catch over his shoulder in a 56-14 win over USF.

Now let’s go to the Division II ranks for this Odell Beckham-style touchdown grab by Grand Valley State’s Kyle Nott.

Finally, Florida State receiver Keon Coleman produced a career-high 247 all-purpose yards in a 41-3 rout of Syracuse that started strong with this leaping one-hander during the Seminoles’ opening drive.

Best quote: Syracuse head coach Dino Babers after facing Coleman.

Best receiving performance: Stanford WR Elic Ayomanor. I mean, really, who else could we pick? If you went to bed early on Friday and missed the madness, the Cardinal redshirt freshman wideout played the game of his life with 13 catches for 294 yards and three touchdowns in the wild double-OT comeback win at Colorado. That’s the most receiving yards by any FBS player since Ohio State receiver Jaxon Smith-Njigba’s 347-yard game against Utah in the Rose Bowl. Even crazier: Ayomanor had zero catches at halftime! Ayomanor finished off that epic game with this catch, one of the best you’ll see all season.

Most anticipated breakout game: North Carolina wide receiver Devontez Walker. Mack Brown and UNC’s administration fought hard for months to get Walker, their transfer receiver from Kent State, eligible this season after the NCAA denied his waiver multiple times. NCAA president Charlie Baker was clearly bothered by how furiously UNC fought for this with contemptuous public statements, a relentless p.r. campaign and threat of legal action. Eventually, the NCAA relented. In his second game with the Tar Heels, Walker shined with six catches for 132 yards and three TDs in a 41-31 win over No. 25 Miami. He was worth the wait.

Best rushing performance: Oklahoma State running back Ollie Gordon II produced a whopping 284 yards from scrimmage (168 rushing, 116 receiving) and scored two touchdowns to help the home underdog Cowboys pull off a 39-32 win over No. 23 Kansas. After losses to South Alabama and Iowa State, the Pokes have bounced back in a big way with back-to-back wins over Kansas State and Kansas.

Best escape: Arkansas quarterback KJ Jefferson is a tough dude to bring down at 6-foot-3 and 247 pounds. Watch him take on this corner blitz from Alabama’s Terrion Arnold, fight through it and turn a sack into a 25-yard pickup during the Razorbacks’ tight 24-21 loss.

Best hurdle: South Carolina running back Mario Anderson went vertical for this 20-yard catch and run for a touchdown against Florida. Anderson finished with 121 yards on the day, but the Gamecocks blew a 10-point lead in the final five minutes and lost 41-39.

Best pass rusher: Arkansas defensive lineman Landon Jackson had one heck of a day off the edge, with 11 tackles and 3.5 sacks in the Razorbacks’ 24-21 loss to No. 11 Alabama. The massive 6-foot-7, 281-pound lineman got after Jalen Milroe all day long.

Honorable mention goes to Virginia Tech’s Antwaun Powell-Ryland for racking up four sacks in a 30-13 win over Wake Forest, the most sacks by any Hokies player since 1987.

Best kickoff return: Kent State tried to open its game at Eastern Michigan with a surprise onside kick. This was not the anticipated outcome.

Best fake punt: If your punter is capable of tossing an accurate 40-yard pass, you might as well let him try one at some point, right? Missouri’s Luke Bauer threw up this jump ball to Marquis Johnson and connected for a beautiful touchdown in a 38-21 upset win at No. 24 Kentucky.

Best fake field goal: The best part of this 6-yard run and first down by Iowa State kicker Chase Contreraz is he still went through the kicking motion before taking the toss from his holder. Perfectly designed fake by the Cyclones in a 30-10 win at Cincinnati.

Best punting battle: Navy’s Riley Riethman booted 11 punts for 509 yards on Saturday. Charlotte’s Grant Gonya had nine punts for 396 yards. That’s 905 yards of punting. Their offenses combined for just 530 yards. Navy won 14-0.

Rank ‘em: James Madison moved to 6-0 on Saturday with 41-13 win over Georgia Southern. The Dukes controlled this one by scoring on seven of their first eight drives to remain the lone undefeated team in the Sun Belt. They’re now 14-3 since making the move up from the FCS last year. James Madison is not eligible for its conference title game or a bowl game because this is its final year of transitioning to the FBS, but it’s time to at least get the Dukes in the Top 25.

Best audition: Purdue endured missed field goals from 27, 39 and 48 yards during its 41-7 home loss to Ohio State. Could the solution to its kicking woes be sitting in the bleachers? This Purdue student converted three kicks and won himself a new car during the game.

Best dog: That’s a good dog. 10/10.

(Photo: Steph Chambers / Getty Images)

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