After Further Review: Will Levis stumbles on big stage, Lane Kiffin trolls Jimbo Fisher, Drake Maye turning into a star

There are so many games over the course of a college football weekend that some slip through the cracks and others require further examination the next day. Before we turn the page to Week 10, here’s a closer look at some of the most interesting outcomes of Week 9.

Tennessee 44, Kentucky 6

Kentucky’s loss to Tennessee on Saturday was miserable for the Wildcats.

The UK offense couldn’t do anything and the offense’s 205 yards highlighted an alarming trend in big games.

Kentucky QB Will Levis has been hailed by some in NFL draft circles as a potential top-10 pick in 2023. While many view Ohio State’s C.J. Stroud and Alabama’s Bryce Young as the best options in a very good quarterbacks class, Levis has gotten some love as an early selection thanks to his size, arm strength and athleticism. His completion percentage and yards per attempt numbers are also better in 2022 than they were in 2021.

But Levis’ production at Kentucky hasn’t matched his draft hype. Especially in significant games.

On Saturday, Levis was 16-of-27 for 98 yards and threw three interceptions. It was his worst passing performance of the season and the second-worst of his Kentucky career.

Kentucky quarterback Will Levis (7) looks to throw to a receiver during the first half of an NCAA college football game against Tennessee, Saturday, Oct. 29, 2022, in Knoxville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Wade Payne)
Kentucky quarterback Will Levis (7) had a rough outing in Knoxville on Saturday. (AP Photo/Wade Payne)

Kentucky’s offense is predicated around a strong running game. But that offensive philosophy doesn’t and shouldn’t prevent an NFL-caliber quarterback from taking over a game with his arm. And Levis, quite frankly, has never done that in a win over a Power Five team in his Kentucky career.

Kentucky has nine wins over Power Five teams in games Levis has started since he transferred from Penn State after the 2020 season. His best passing performance in any of those came against Iowa in the Citrus Bowl in January when he threw for 233 yards. That’s the most yards Levis has thrown for in any of those nine victories.

While Levis has thrown for over 300 yards in five games at Kentucky, four of those performances came in wins against Group of Five or FCS teams. His only 300-yard passing game against a Power Five opponent came when he threw for 372 yards in a loss to Tennessee a season ago.

Kentucky’s success under head coach Mark Stoops has been remarkable. The team has won 10 games twice in the past four seasons after winning 10 games in a season just twice in school history before 2018. But 10 wins is likely out of reach in 2022 with a game against Georgia still to come. If Kentucky has any hope of beating Georgia and getting to 10 wins again, Levis needs to have a massive game. Past performance doesn’t make that very likely.

- Nick Bromberg

Ole Miss 31, Texas A&M 28

Lane Kiffin couldn’t resist.

Ole Miss went into College Station and knocked off Texas A&M on Saturday night to improve to 8-1 on the year. In the win, Kiffin’s Rebels put up a whopping 390 rushing yards with freshman Quinshon Judkins leading the way with 205 yards.

It was a dominant effort from Kiffin’s offense. And when he was asked about it in the moments after the game, Kiffin made sure to get a few jabs in at Texas A&M head coach Jimbo Fisher.

“I thought the running backs did well; 390 yards rushing against a bunch of five-stars is pretty good,” Kiffin said.

Later, Kiffin was asked if he had a Halloween costume planned out.

“Maybe Jimbo has a Joker outfit for me,” Kiffin quipped.

The jabs at Fisher from Kiffin come on multiple levels. They stem from Fisher’s highly publicized offseason spat with Alabama head coach Nick Saban. In case you forgot, Saban said that Texas A&M “bought every player” in its historic recruiting class via NIL deals. This infuriated Fisher, who fired back at Saban and also made sure to address offseason comments made by Kiffin as well.

Kiffin said that Ole Miss did not have the same NIL resources as other schools and then specifically referenced Texas A&M.

“It’s like dealing with salary caps. I joked I didn’t know if Texas A&M incurred a luxury tax with how much they paid for their signing class,” Kiffin said.

After the Saban comments surfaced, Fisher said the SEC coaches who alleged that NIL was a major factor in A&M’s signing class were “clown acts” and “irresponsible as hell.”

Once their teams met on the field all of these months later and Kiffin’s team emerged victorious, he was going to puff his chest out. The whole thing was very on brand for Kiffin, who made multiple references to how many five-star recruits are on Texas A&M’s roster.

“When someone attacks you personally and calls you and your buddy Coach Saban both clowns, you take that personal,” Kiffin said after the game. “I’m glad we won.”

Ole Miss is 8-1 headed into the bye week and still in the mix in the SEC West. Texas A&M, meanwhile, dropped to 3-5 and is in serious danger of missing a bowl game.

- Sam Cooper

Arkansas 41, Auburn 27

Things aren’t getting any better at Auburn.

The Tigers dropped to 3-5 overall and 1-4 in the SEC after a home loss Saturday. The Tigers gave up 286 rushing yards as Arkansas' Rocket Sanders rushed 16 times for 171 yards thanks to a 76-yard scamper.

The loss to Arkansas was the fourth defeat in a row for the Tigers and Auburn could easily be on a six-game losing streak. The lone win in Auburn’s past six games came in a 17-14 overtime win over Missouri where the Tigers from Missouri missed a short field goal to win in regulation and the ball was dropped inches from the goal-line on a likely game-winning TD.

After the loss, the school announced on Monday that it's parting with head coach Bryan Harsin in just his second season leading the team. He finished with a 9-12 record for the Tigers. The news came on the same day that Auburn is reportedly set to hire John Cohen as its new athletic director.

Cohen’s move to Auburn would be surprising; he’s the AD at Mississippi State, where he also graduated and was the school’s longtime baseball coach.

Now, Cohen has the immediate task of finding a new football coach to take over a struggling program.

- Nick Bromberg

Auburn fired head coach Bryan Harsin on Monday after the team stumbled to a 3-5 record. (AP Photo/Butch Dill)
Auburn fired head coach Bryan Harsin on Monday after the team stumbled to a 3-5 record. (AP Photo/Butch Dill)

North Carolina 42, Pittsburgh 24

Can we take a minute to appreciate Drake Maye?

Maye, North Carolina's redshirt freshman quarterback, has been torching defenses all season long. A one-time Alabama commit, Maye sat behind Sam Howell last season before winning the starting job during preseason camp.

He certainly hasn't looked like a freshman. In UNC's win over Pitt on Saturday night, Maye turned in another outstanding performance. He completed 34 of his 44 attempts for 388 yards and five touchdowns. He also had 61 rushing yards.

Throughout the game, Maye's pinpoint accuracy, anticipation and arm strength were on full display.

Maye just kept making plays. He dropped a dime to Antoine Green for UNC's first touchdown of the game. He improvised, rolled left and hit Green in stride for a huge gain in the second quarter. He twice found Josh Downs behind the defense on beautiful touchdown throws. And he capped off the night with a perfect back-shoulder touchdown throw to Green right at the pylon.

For the season, Maye has thrown for 2,671 yards and 29 touchdowns with just three interceptions while completing 71.3% of his attempts.

Not only does Maye look like a future first-round NFL draft pick, he has the Tar Heels on a path to the ACC title game. At 7-1 overall and 4-0 in conference play, UNC sits alone atop the ACC Coastal and seems destined to square off with mighty Clemson with the conference championship on the line.

- Sam Cooper

Extra points

Michigan 29, Michigan State 7: The chaos that followed Michigan's win over rival Michigan State in Ann Arbor is going to overshadow the dominant performance from the Wolverines on the field. Michigan completely controlled the game in all facets, but one alarming trend surfaced again for Jim Harbaugh's team: poor red zone execution.

UM reached the red zone five times and settled for a field goal on three of those drives. There was also a field goal kicked from the MSU 21 and one of those touchdowns came after a gaffe from MSU's punt team gave the Wolverines the ball at the 8-yard line.

Michigan has scored touchdowns on 63.4% of its red zone opportunities. That ranks No. 58 nationally, a ranking that has dropped significantly with Michigan converting just four of its past 11 red zone trips into touchdowns. It's something that needs to be cleaned up in the coming weeks.

ANN ARBOR, MICHIGAN - OCTOBER 29: J.J. McCarthy #9 of the Michigan Wolverines runs with the ball and avoids a tackle by Derrick Harmon #41 of the Michigan State Spartans during the first half of a college football game at Michigan Stadium on October 29, 2022 in Ann Arbor, Michigan. (Photo by Aaron J. Thornton/Getty Images)
J.J. McCarthy and Michigan moved the ball at will against Michigan State except when the Wolverines got in the red zone. (Photo by Aaron J. Thornton/Getty Images)

Oklahoma 27, Iowa State 13: The Cyclones dropped to 0-5 in the Big 12 after the loss to the Sooners. The 14-point margin of the defeat matched the combined margin of victory of the four Big 12 teams that had beaten Iowa State previously this season. Hunter Dekkers threw two fourth-quarter interceptions that blunted any chance of an Iowa State comeback. At 3-5, Iowa State has to go 3-1 over the final four games of the season to make a bowl game. That’ll be tough with a remaining schedule of West Virginia, Oklahoma State, Texas Tech and TCU.

Fresno State 32, San Diego State 28: You were likely asleep when one of the best finishes of the weekend took place. Fresno State trailed San Diego State 28-10 but managed to rally back and win.

Fresno's final two touchdowns came in the span of 13 seconds. Jordan Mims scored from 3 yards out with 1:09 remaining and a successful two-point conversion cut the deficit to 28-25.

The Bulldogs then recovered an onside kick. On the very next play, Jake Haener hit Nikko Remigio for a 37-yard touchdown with 56 seconds to go. From there, the Fresno defense sealed the win with an interception. After a 1-4 start, Fresno has won three straight and is in first place in the Mountain West's West division. Fresno and San Jose State are 3-1 in MWC play, but Fresno holds the divisional advantage thanks to a head-to-head victory.