Kansas State, Tennessee Make a statement

Week 9 of college football is upon us and the stakes are getting higher with each passing week. Which CFB teams are taking advantage of their remaining opportunities as time runs out to boost their stock?

Stock: Kansas State Wildcats

Hands down, one of the most open results on Saturday afternoon was Kansas State versus Oklahoma State. The Cowboys entered this matchup as the higher ranked team, but the Wildcats walked away victorious in dominant fashion. It was 35-0 at halftime. After the final whistle it was 48-0. Oklahoma State didn’t score a point. Meanwhile, Kansas State couldn’t stop scoring.

The Wildcats will be kicking themselves for losses to Tulane and TCU, but in hindsight, neither of those losses are too bad. Tulane is now ranked and TCU is currently the best team in the Big 12 under Sonny Dykes. Kansas State is right up there with the class of the conference, and they have the talent on both ends to live up to that reputation.

Stock Down: Michigan State Spartans

The Michigan State-Michigan rivalry is a storied clash fueled and fueled by the conflict in the vicinity. Over the years, this game has gone back and forth, with legendary moments on both sides. But right now, the Paul Bunyan Trophy is locked up in Ann Arbor, and it doesn’t look like the Wolverines will be relinquishing it anytime soon.

This game usually manages to be close just because of the emotions that run high on both sides. But Michigan dominated this year’s iteration, outscoring Michigan State 29-7 over four quarters. It wasn’t a perfect game on the Wolverines side either, but compared to the Spartans, Michigan has more talent and cohesion.

Now Mel Tucker — who is one of the five highest-paid coaches in the country after receiving a 10-year, $95 million deal at the end of last season — is 3-5 with games against Penn State, Illinois, Indiana and Rutgers remaining. The Spartans did not compete against their biggest rival and may not even be eligible for a bowl game until the end of the year.

Stock: Tennessee Volunteers

We can be quick with this one. The Tennessee Volunteers are fittingly becoming titans on the college football scene. They just took a hyped Top 25 matchup and turned it into a rout, destroying the Kentucky Wildcats 44-6.

MORE: Week 10 College Football Power Rankings

Hendon Hooker is a top college QB whose efficiency is second to none. Jalin Hyatt is a breakout artist in the deep third with breakneck speed. The defense is a hyper-aggressive unit led by Byron Young on the edge. And Josh Heupel has this team playing at their true best.

Tennessee isn’t just a legitimate challenge for Georgia next week. In the end, they can be favorites. If they win this game, a place in the playoffs is almost certain.

Warehouse Downstairs: Will Levis and the Wildcats

Listen – it’s important not to give in to the hyperbolic urge that can be so dehumanizing for a player after a loss like this. Will Levis continues to be an intriguing prospect for the 2023 NFL Draft thanks to his three-hit performance. He is the man and the pressure undoubtedly built up before this game.

But this was a game that spectators and evaluators alike were looking forward to from him to see how he would respond to such increased pressure. He didn’t react well.

A lopsided loss like that will undoubtedly drag Kentucky back into the fold as a 5-3 team. And Levis now has the prospect of answering more questions. In this game, he kept staring targets, forcing throws and not processing well enough. And as the deficit deepened, it only sank further into that hole.

Kentucky has one more big test coming up this year — No. 1 ranked Georgia in a few weeks. That’s an even bigger game now for Levis, who still has to prove he can lift his team with his natural talent.

Stock: North Carolina Tar Heels

We were all worried about how the North Carolina Tar Heels would look without Sam Howell at quarterback. As it turns out, that concern was misplaced—because the guy who replaced him is even better.

Drake Maye is a star and future first-round QB in waiting. His talent as a thrower is something the Tar Heels have masterfully built on offense. He used his talent to pile up 388 yards and five touchdowns against a talented Pitt secondary in a 42-24 Week 9 win.

Maye clicks with his receivers at every level, and Josh Downs and Antoine Green are both incredibly dynamic talents. UNC’s defense still stumbles at times, but this offense is proving to be one of the most explosive units in the league.

The Tar Heels — now 7-1 and 4-0 in conference play — may finally get a chance to make that offensive performance count in the conference championship game.

Stock Down: Wake Forest Demon Deacons

Wake Forest sneaked into the top 10 before their Week 9 showdown against the Louisville Cardinals — but their stay would end up being short-lived. The Demon Deacons were destroyed by a Cardinals defense with destructive intent. Sam Hartman threw three interceptions and Wake Forest could never find a rhythm as Louisville rumbled to a 48-21 victory.

That’s an equally “stock” moment for Louisville — whose defense wreaked havoc on Wake Forest with eight total sacks and four total hits. Outstanding performances from prospects like YaYa Diaby, Kei’Trel Clark, Quincy Riley and Yasir Abdullah are to be commended. But the deacons also got here too often in their own way.

In Stock Neutral: Ohio State Buckeyes

Ending Week 9 with the “stock neutral” label is a win for the Ohio State Buckeyes. As long as they remain undefeated heading into their season finale with Michigan, that’s all that matters.

But the Buckeyes didn’t get away without first getting a scare against Penn State. The Nittany Lions led 21-16 almost midway through the fourth quarter. OSU rallied early with 28 more points but rocketed to a 44-31 final score.

MORE: College football’s Week 9 team of the week

This game was both a vote for and against Ohio State in the grand scheme of things. Yes, CJ Stroud bounced back from some early crashes to help his team pull away. Yes, with talents like Marvin Harrison Jr. and JT Tuimoloau is almost impossible to match. But we also saw that if defenses can pressure Stroud and play fast in the second round, the Buckeyes can be talked into making mistakes.

It’s an opportunity to wait for Michigan’s pass rush unit, which includes Mike Morris, Eyabi Okie, Mazi Smith, Jaylen Harrell and a host of dangerous blitz threats. The Wolverines know firsthand how pressure from last year’s game can help. OSU is safe for now.

Stock below: Miami and Virginia

Miami and Virginia got into the spooky season spirit last weekend, but they probably should have matched their costumes before they played. Both teams came dressed as Iowa and stayed true to their characters — mostly for the worse.

The game started at 10 – yes 10 — consecutive total punts before the Hurricanes finally kicked a field goal before halftime. The match went into extra time at 6:6. And even after that four overtime, the final score was only 14-12.

Miami won, but it didn’t really feel like a win — unless they were trying to stay in character for Halloween. If so, they succeeded on multiple fronts.

Stock: Bo Nix and the Oregon Ducks

Bo Nix and the Oregon Ducks also earned a “stock” mention last week when they defeated the vaunted UCLA Bruins. But he deserves the same recognition this week. Even though the opponent — California — wasn’t as daunting, everyone wanted to see if Nix could put together good weeks in the thick of Pac-12 play. He responded to those miracles with another five-touchdown performance, filled with impressive throws and plays off the platform.

Nix is ​​a different QB than he was a year or two ago, but the Ducks have legitimate talent elsewhere. The defense in particular is a composite unit. DJ Johnson and Brandon Dorlus make physical threats in the trenches. Noah Sewell remains a phenomenal safety blanket at the second level, and Justin Flowe’s instincts improve every week. In the second row, Christian Gonzalez is blossoming at No. 1 CB.

With just one loss against No. 1 Georgia and four more conference games to go, there is room for Oregon to still make a push in the top 10.

Stock: Toledo Rockets

No Dequan Finn? No problem for the Toledo Rockets. Shortly before Toledo’s game against Eastern Michigan, it was revealed that the Rockets would be without their star QB. But stingy defensive performance and excellent relief from backup Tucker Gleason helped Toledo win despite Finn’s absence. They won 27-24 and stole the lead with a 10-point fourth quarter.

This win was big for Toledo. Not only does it give the Rockets another straight win against a division rival, but it also puts them atop the MAC West division. In addition, the win moves Toledo to a 6-3 overall record, making it bowl eligible. In the MACtion season, Toledo is off to perhaps the best start.

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