Week 7 college football winners and losers: Tennessee topples Alabama; Michigan rolls; Utah beats USC – USA TODAY

Nearly 900 yards of offense and seven touchdowns between the two quarterbacks.
Long scoring plays, extended scoring drives, multiple lead changes, a game undecided until the final seconds.
The established SEC and Bowl Subdivision juggernaut was wobbled and then recovered, held the lead and then gave it away, had chances but was done in by penalties, mistakes and missed field goals.
The long-suffering rival had it, gave it away and then took it back again, possibly signaling a changing of the guard in the conference power rankings.
No. 1 Alabama and No. 8 Tennessee played an instant classic that at the very least stands as a watershed moment in the SEC and broader Bowl Subdivision. The Volunteers’ 52-49 win is the program’s first since Nick Saban took over the Crimson Tide in 2007 and a result that will echo across the rest of the regular season.
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Last year’s Heisman Trophy winner, Bryce Young, returned from a one-game absence and showed no signs of a lingering shoulder injury, throwing for 455 yards and two scores as the Tide crawled out of a 28-10 hole in the first half to lead 49-42 late in the fourth quarter.
This year’s Heisman co-leader, Hendon Hooker, had 385 yards and five touchdowns, all going to wide receiver Jalin Hyatt. After a controversial pass-interference penalty reversed an Alabama interception that might’ve ended the game, Hooker tossed the game-tying score with 3:26 left and then marched the Volunteers 45 yards in just 15 seconds to set up the game-winning 40-yard field goal as time expired.
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Take a deep breath. Exhale. Inhale again.
Tennessee is a legitimate contender for the national championship just halfway through coach Josh Heupel’s second season. Alabama can’t stop committing costly penalties and can’t stop missing field goals — and given how fortunate they were to get past Texas and Texas A&M, the Tide should be worse than 6-1.
Now the Volunteers are the co-favorites in the SEC and a College Football Playoff frontrunner. Even losing the division to Georgia might not eliminate Tennessee, especially if the Tide win the SEC West. 
On a banner day in program history, Tennessee leads the way for Saturday’s biggest winners and losers:
The No. 4 Wolverines had outmuscled a run of overmatched opponents to start the year, including some of the nation’s worst teams in non-conference play. That raised the question: Just how good is Michigan, really? The answer should be clear after a 41-17 win against No. 10 Penn State. Defensively, the Wolverines held PSU to a season-low 268 yards, with 62 yards coming on one play, and just one offensive touchdown. While quarterback J.J. McCarthy tossed his first interception, Michigan ran for 418 yards and four scores on 7.6 yards per carry in the Nittany Lions’ worst showing against the run in nearly a decade. The win helps answer the question: Michigan is really good.
The fourth quarter of the No. 19 Utes’ 43-42 win against No. 6 Southern California was epic: Utah went 79 yards in 10 plays for a 35-35 tie, USC went 90 yards in 11 plays to make it 42-35 and Utah then marched 75 yards in 15 plays, capped by a gutsy two-point conversion, to take the lead with 48 seconds left. Quarterback Cam Rising had 475 yards of offense and five touchdowns, including the game-winner; he also ran in the two-point try. With the win, Utah moves to 5-2 overall and 3-1 in the Pac-12 to stay alive in the New Year’s Six race.
LSU won’t take home anything big in Brian Kelly’s first season — especially with Alabama and No. 9 Ole Miss coming up next — but the Tigers could get to nine wins after topping Florida 45-35 in Gainesville. That makes five wins in six tries since a tough loss to Florida State to get started, with major credit for this run going to a defense that has put a cap on every opponent this side of Tennessee. That includes pretty solid work against Florida quarterback Anthony Richardson, who had an incredible 81-yard touchdown run but was largely held in check.
After tough losses against Ole Miss and South Carolina spoiled a strong start, No. 22 Kentucky leaned on quarterback Will Levis and running back Chris Rodriguez to pull out a crucial 27-17 win against No. 17 Mississippi State. Getting those two together in the same backfield has been difficult: Levis missed the loss to the Gamecocks and Rodriguez was suspended for the year’s first four games. With both in the lineup, the Wildcats got 230 yards from Levis and 196 rushing yards and two scores from Rodriguez as the offense gained 478 yards for a season high against FBS competition.
The Sooners rebounded from three consecutive losses to open Big 12 play by outscoring No. 20 Kansas 52-42. On the positive end, the win included a big step forward on offense behind a healthy quarterback Dillon Gabriel, who threw for 403 yards, and puts Oklahoma on firmer postseason footing under first-year coach Brent Venables. There are still big issues on defense, however, as the Sooners gave up 6.9 yards per play and more than 40 points for the fourth game in a row. But for now, the crisis in Norman is averted.
With wins against Iowa, Wisconsin and now Minnesota, Illinois has taken control of the Big Ten West in coach Bret Bielema’s second season. The 26-14 defeat of the Golden Gophers included another outstanding performance from the nation’s most overlooked defense, which forced three turnovers and allowed just 38 yards passing and 4.3 yards per play. After injuring his ankle early in last week’s win against the Hawkeyes, quarterback Tommy DeVito threw for 252 yards and a score. The program’s progress under Bielema has him near the front of the line for national coach of the year as we pass the midway point of the regular season.
The No. 15 Horned Frogs are destined for the top 10 of the USA TODAY Sports AFCA Coaches Poll after overcoming a series of double-digit deficits to stun No. 7 Oklahoma State 43-40 in double overtime. Unbeaten midway through the program’s first year under Sonny Dykes, TCU has benefited enormously from quarterback Max Duggan’s return to the starting lineup after opening the year in a backup role. Duggan had three touchdowns against the Cowboys, one coming on the ground, and has 20 combined scores in his five starts.
Arkansas followed the pace set by quarterback K.J. Jefferson and earned a solid 52-35 win at Brigham Young to snap a three-game losing streak. This three-week stretch had been a major struggle for Jefferson, who committed a costly turnover in the loss to Texas A&M, was outplayed by Alabama’s two quarterbacks in the loss to the Tide and missed last week’s loss to No. 17 Mississippi State entirely. But he threw for 367 yards, a new career high against FBS competition, and had a career-best five touchdowns as Arkansas moved to 4-3 heading into a very friendly second-half schedule.
No. 6 USC rebounded on offense after an uneven stretch with a season-high 556 yards and 28 first downs but cratered defensively in a loss that knocks the Trojans from the dwindling list of unbeaten FBS teams. Caleb Williams had his best game since joining the program with five touchdowns, reversing a swoon that began with the start of conference play. There are bigger questions on defense after giving up 562 yards and failing to get a number of key stops on third and fourth down. The first loss of the Lincoln Riley era resembled his defeats at Oklahoma. 
You might’ve thought Notre Dame had turned a corner. At the very least, you were under the impression that no game the rest of this season would be as bad as September’s 26-21 loss at home to Marshall, which has since dropped three in a row against FBS foes. Then came this: Stanford 16, Fighting Irish 14. Just 1-4 and among the very worst of the Power Five entering the game, the Cardinal took a 13-0 lead in the second quarter and did just enough to bottle up Notre Dame’s offense for an ugly but must-have win. What are the Irish, anyway? They played Ohio State tight, lost to Marshall, beat three pretty good opponents in a row — California, No. 25 North Carolina and Brigham Young — and then fell to the Cardinal. Sounds like a team struggling to find consistency under first-year coach Marcus Freeman, which may not be surprising. 
The Nittany Lions’ brief lead early in the third quarter and was buried by the Wolverines’ second-half barrage. Two immediate takeaways from the 24-point loss: one, PSU is not equipped to handle No. 3 Ohio State, with that matchup coming up just before Halloween; and two, this offense remains ridiculously predictable, especially in the passing game. There’s also the question of how this defense rebounds after being mauled by the Wolverines’ running game for 418 yards — the Nittany Lions had given up 399 yards on the ground for the entire season heading into the weekend.
The Cowboys led 14-0, 24-7, 27-13 and 30-16. Where does this loss rank among the most disappointing of Mike Gundy’s tenure? If not quite to the benchmark set by a loss to Iowa State in 2011 that cost them a BCS title game shot, this feels like a missed opportunity given what was at stake, beginning with the huge edge a win against TCU would’ve given Oklahoma State in the Big 12 race. While not a crippling loss when it comes to the playoff — they could run the table from here and be in really good shape come early December — losses like these can often linger well beyond a specific Saturday and define an entire season. 
Losing 49-21 to Old Dominion puts a huge dent in Coastal Carolina’s odds of reaching the New Year’s Six as the top team from the Group of Five. Unbeaten entering the weekend but seemingly living on borrowed time — five of the six wins came by 12 or fewer points, with no wins overall against teams currently holding a winning record — the Chanticleers were demolished at the line of scrimmage, allowing the Monarchs to rack up 324 rushing yards on a whopping 10.5 yards per carry while running for just 88 yards on 42 carries.
This won’t end up being the best season in program history. Doomed by the absence of quarterback Devin Leary, who will miss the rest of the season with a torn pectoral muscle, the 13th-ranked Wolfpack lost 24-9 to No. 18 Syracuse and is now 5-2 with games to come against No. 14 Wake Forest and UNC. Leary’s replacement, Jack Chambers, averaged just 5.3 yards per attempt as the Orange clamped down on a suddenly one-dimensional offense.  


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