Walker-led No. 8 Michigan St tops No. 6 Michigan 37-33

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EAST LANSING, Mich. – Kenneth Walker earned the right to stump for Heisman Trophy votes and humbly refused, shaking off questions about the coveted award as if they were linebackers trying to tackle him.

Walker ran for 197 yards and five touchdowns, helping No. 8 Michigan State top No. 6 Michigan 37-33 for a thrilling comeback win on Saturday.

“I don’t feel like it was a Heisman moment,” said Walker, who started the day leading the nation in rushing and finished it with 1,194 yards rushing and 15 touchdowns. “But it was just a great team win.”

The Wake Forest transfer had a lot to do with it.

The Spartans (8-0, 5-0 Big Ten) trailed by nine at halftime and 30-14 with 6:47 left in the third quarter before rallying as Walker boosted his chances of being selected college football’s most outstanding player.

Walker’s fifth touchdown – a 23-yard run – lifted the Spartans to a 37-33 lead with 5:08 remaining. He had 8.6 yards a carry, an average that spiked thanks to his 58-yard touchdown that helped the Spartans pull into a 30-all tie early in the fourth quarter.

“This was a huge stage, the whole world was watching, and you got a chance to see what type of player he is,” coach Mel Tucker said. “Any recognition he’s getting for Heisman consideration is well deserved.”

The Wolverines (7-1, 4-1) forced a final punt and had the ball at their 33 with 1:15 and no timeouts left.

After a roughing-the-passer penalty gave them the ball at midfield, Michigan State cornerback Charles Brantley sealed the victory by picking off a floating pass from Cade McNamara.

“This one stings,” McNamara said. “We have to respond. Our backs are against the wall now.”

McNamara threw for 383 yards and two touchdowns, but his interception was costly, as was freshman quarterback J.J. McCarthy‘s lost fumble on an attempted handoff in the fourth quarter.

“That exchange didn’t go smoothly,” said Harbaugh, who said McNamara was “working through something,” when he the freshman replaced him.

The rivals were on the same field with 7-0 or better records for the first time, matching up as top-10 teams for the first time since 1964.

Michigan State’s win puts the program in contention for the Big Ten conference championship and potentially a spot in the College Football Playoff.

“We’re in the hunt,” Tucker said.

Michigan’s loss leaves Jim Harbaugh with a 3-4 record against Michigan State as a coach, putting even more pressure on him to earn his first victory against No. 5 Ohio State next month.

The Spartans had some calls and reviews go their way, including one that overturned Payton Thorne‘s fumble late in the first half that Aidan Hutchinson recovered in the end zone, but Harbaugh refused to publicly lash out.

“I made my thoughts known throughout the game,” he said.

The Wolverines started strong, leading 23-14 after an entertaining first half and by 16 points in the third quarter.

On their first drive, McNamara threw a 93-yard touchdown pass to former East Lansing High School star Andrel Anthony. After Thorne’s second interception, the Wolverines settled for the first of four Jake Moody field goals and a 10-0 lead late in the first quarter.

Walker bounced a run to the outside, finding a hole to sprint through for a 27-yard touchdown run on the first play of the second quarter.

Tucker went for it on fourth-and-1 near midfield and Thorne’s play-action pass to Jalen Nailor set up Walker’s 8-yard TD run and a 14-13 lead.

Anthony caught a 17-yard TD pass and Moody kicked a 35-yarder in the final seconds of the first half. McNamara tacked on another TD pass in the third, finding Mike Sainristil for a 19-yarder that made it 30-14 with 6:47 left.

Tucker went for it again on fourth down late in the third as Thorne threw a 28-yard pass to Jayden Reed to set up Walker’s third touchdown.

Michigan State was 0 for 7 on third down until converting three straight on one drive, including Walker’s 58-yard touchdown run.

THE TAKEAWAY

Michigan: Hassan Haskins was held to 59 yards on 14 carries and Blake Corum had just 45 yards rushing on 13 carries. Entering the game, the duo helped Michigan average 253.3 yards rushing.

Michigan State: Tucker has a ton of momentum with an 8-0 record this year and a 2-0 mark against the in-state rival, becoming the first Michigan State coach to win his first two games against the Wolverines.

POLL IMPLICATIONS

Michigan State and Michigan may flip spots in the AP Top 25 after living up to the hype with a closely contested game.

“That was an epic game,” Tucker said.

SLANTED SERIES

The Spartans have won 10 of the last 14 games against Michigan.

UP NEXT

Michigan: Hosts Indiana on Saturday.

Michigan State: At at Purdue on Saturday.

Florida shakes up secondary after dismal game at Tennessee

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Florida coach Billy Napier is shaking up his secondary after the Gators allowed 349 yards passing – including 247 of those on eight plays – in a loss at Tennessee.

Safety Trey Dean, a fifth-year senior who has started 32 games and played in 54, is out with what Florida is calling a “lower leg injury.” But no one would be surprised if Napier was quietly benching Dean after he made two mental errors against the Volunteers that resulted in 70- and 45-yard gains and set up touchdowns.

Freshman Kamari Wilson will replace Dean and make his first college start Sunday against Eastern Washington.

Cornerback Jaydon Hill will join Wilson in the starting lineup. Hill, a third-year sophomore, will make his first start since 2020. He missed the 2021 season with a torn knee ligament. He impressed Napier and his new staff in the spring but sat out preseason camp with another knee injury.

Hill will replace sophomore Avery Helm, who also struggled against the Vols.

“You talk about what he’s been through from an injury perspective,” Napier said following practice Wednesday. “Jaydon was one of the better players that we had on our team in spring practice. I was very impressed . It’s no surprise to me. He showed pretty quickly here that he’s very capable. I’m excited to watch him play.”

Georgia transfer Jalen Kimber, a former five-star recruit, is now listed as a third-team cornerback. Kimber played just 11 snaps in Knoxville a week after he returned an interception for a touchdown in a 31-28 win against South Florida.

“I like to say we try to eliminate the bad football,” Napier said. “Talking about mental errors, misalignments, poor communication, bad fundamentals and techniques, bad decision-making within the play. … We have a laundry list of things that we need to eliminate each week.

“Last week’s game, I thought we were really close, but there’s 12 or 15 plays in the game where Florida is beating Florida. We’ve got a smart group here. I think they’re very aware of what the issues are, and I think they’re working hard to address those issues.”

Pac-12 looking stronger at top after early-season losses

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When Oregon got throttled by top-ranked Georgia and Utah lost at Florida, it appeared as though the Pac-12 was headed toward another College Football Playoff miss.

One week into the season and two of the conference’s top teams had already failed big early tests.

Flash forward three weeks and it seems the Pac-12 might be in good shape after all.

The Ducks and Utes bounced back with big wins and the top of the conference looks strong, with four teams in the top 15 for the first time since 2016.

It’s still early, but the Pac-12 is putting itself in position to get a team through to the CFP for the first time since Washington in 2016-17.

A look at how the top of the Pac-12 is stacking up headed into the first weekend of October:

SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA

The No. 6 Trojans (4-0, 2-0 Pac-12) seem to have quickly returned to glory in their first season under Lincoln Riley. The former Oklahoma coach brought quarterback Caleb Williams with him to Southern California and they have thrived through the first four games.

Williams has thrown for 1,054 yards and nine touchdowns, adding 100 yards and two more scores rushing. USC’s defense has been opportunistic, leading the nation with 11 interceptions while tied for the lead with 14 takeaways.

The Trojans survived a scare against scrappy Oregon State over the weekend to start 4-0 for the first time since 2012. USC has to play at Utah on Oct. 15, but avoids Washington and Oregon this season.

UTAH

The 12th-ranked Utes opened the season with a tough road loss at The Swamp in Florida, but have won three straight lopsided games.

Outside of a costly interception late against the Gators, quarterback Cam Rising has been sharp, throwing for 954 yards and 10 TDs. Utah (3-1, 1-0) has a physical defense and is third in the FBS, allowing 132.8 yards passing per game.

The Utes also have a veteran team that won the Pac-12 championship last season. The bad news: tight end Brant Kuithe, their leading receiver, is out for the season with a knee injury.

Utah plays Oregon State this weekend and has tough games against USC and Oregon still on the schedule.

OREGON

The Ducks’ playoff chances took an immediate hit with a 49-3 loss to reigning national champion Georgia in their opener.

No. 13 Oregon (3-1, 1-0) bounced back with a decisive win over a good BYU team and outlasted previously undefeated Washington State 44-41 last week.

The Ducks were no match for the Bulldogs in any aspect – few teams are – but have averaged 51.6 points the past three games. Oregon’s biggest weakness is its pass defense. The Ducks are allowing 72.5% of passes to be completed, third worst in the country.

Oregon’s biggest tests left in the season will come in back to back games against Washington and Utah.

WASHINGTON

The Huskies have made a quick turnaround in their first season under coach Kalen DeBoer.

Quarterback Michael Penix Jr. has been superb now that he’s healthy, throwing for an FBS-best 1,388 yards and 12 TDs with one interception. No. 15 Washington (4-0, 1-0) picked up a solid home win against Michigan State and has 15 sacks this season, including eight against Stanford last week.

The Huskies play their first road game at undefeated UCLA on Saturday and have to face Oregon on Nov. 12.

UCLA

After winning at Colorado for the first time since 2014 last Saturday, the Bruins (4-0, 1-0 Pac-12) have their longest winning streak since winning the first eight games in 2005.

UCLA had a hard time getting past South Alabama and opened its Pac-12 schedule with a win against the struggling Buffaloes.

The Bruins will find out how good they are over the next three weeks, a brutal stretch that includes home games against Washington and Utah before heading to Eugene to play the Ducks on Oct. 22.