Alabama, if not for the massive left paw of Terrence Cody, would have learned the value of playing games on the field the hard way at the hands of bitter rival Tennessee. "Mount Cody" blocked two Daniel Lincoln field goal attempts, the last of which preserved a 12-10 victory in which Mark Ingram found the running lanes smaller and QB Greg McElroy continued to struggle. Nick Saban's defense is among the nation's best but without improved production in the passing game the road to another SEC West crown becomes a bit more treacherous.
As for Florida they dealt with the sight of a former assistant (Dan Mullen) instead of one of the greatest defensive minds in the history of the game (Monte Kiffin), and they struggled as well. Both Mississippi State and Florida tossed two interceptions of the "pick six" variety apiece, but the Gators were able to survive by the final of 29-19 due to the overall strength of their defense. Florida's offense hasn't had the consistent big-play ability of last year's group but they can methodically get the job done. A defense the caliber of Charlie Strong's can afford you such a luxury.
The lesson to be learned from this Saturday: nothing is a given. In light of the guarantees and prognostications of the previous week, quite a few needed the reminder.
ACC: So much for Miami's run to the BCS.
After getting through a four-game stretch that some theorizes would get Randy Shannon fired with a 3-1 mark, many assumed that the Hurricanes and a smooth path towards a BCS berth (either automatic as ACC champion or an at-large). All they had to do on Saturday was beat a Clemson team that few have been able to figure out and they'd be one step closer to that accomplishment. But not knowing which Clemson football team would show up was exactly why such a prediction shouldn't have been made.
C.J. Spiller went off on the Hurricanes, setting a school record for all-purpose yards in a game in the process, and Kyle Parker hit Jacoby Ford for a touchdown in overtime that gave the Tigers the 40-37 victory. It was a wild game that featured scores in all three phases of the game, and it showed that despite their promise the Hurricanes are still a young football team. But even with this loss, which places Georgia Tech in the driver's seat in the ACC Coastal, Miami will still be a factor in that race. It's just that now they don't control their own destiny.
Big 12: Nebraska may be in serious trouble due to their offensive...offense.
While there were questions regarding QB Zac Lee and his ability to lead the offense heading into the season, few people thought that the Nebraska offense would reach the point it did in the 9-7 home loss to Iowa State. The Huskers turned the ball over eight times, losing five fumbles to go along with three Lee interceptions.
And for those who argue that DT Ndamukong Suh shouldn't at least be considered for the Heisman, keep in mind that his performance (8 tackles, 1 sack, 3 hurries and 2 pass deflections) fit in with a defensive effort that if not present they get blown right out of Memorial Stadium.
It helps Nebraska's chances in the Big 12 North that both Kansas and Missouri lost as well, but it's tough to see them winning the division if their offense doesn't improve substantially. Lastly, it took Gene Chizik two years in Ames to win five games (5-19 record) before he left to take over at Auburn. First-year head coach Paul Rhoads is now 5-3.
Big East: Annual USF nosedive isn't a myth.
I tried to believe in the Bulls, I really did (even picked them to win the Big East). But their performance at Pittsburgh on Saturday was downright poor. One team showed up for the noon kick and it was the Panthers, who beat USF 41-14 to remain in first place in the conference standings while dealing the visitor's a crippling blow. Pittsburgh went into the locker room up 31-7, and when you hear mentions of head coach Jim Leavitt having to "pick up" his assistants in the days following their loss to Cincinnati (not sure if this is true but it was mentioned during the telecast) something's wrong.
Point blank: until this program learns how to deal with disappointment immediately and realize that "every week is a season" they won't win the Big East.
Big Ten: Penn State makes their statement for being the second-best team in the Big Ten.
Head coach Joe Paterno told his players in the days leading up to their trip to Michigan that they had to show him how good they were capable of being. If their 35-10 whipping of the Wolverines is any indication of what's to come, the Nittany Lions are going to be a tough out and could very well work themselves back into the BCS at-large discussion.
Daryll Clark (16-27, 230 yards and 4 TDs) was more than efficient in the win and the defense limited Michigan to just 3.3 yards per play. Just imagine if they'd taken care of business in the second half of that loss to Iowa.
Conference USA: Could UTEP be a contender for the West Division title?
Believe it or not yes, thanks to their come-from-behind 28-24 win over Tulsa on Wednesday night. Donald Buckram's 3-yard run in the game's final minute tied the Miners in the loss column with both Tulsa and Houston, and they've already beaten both should this boil down to a tiebreaker. Mike Price's team does have two of the more dangerous offensive threats in Buckram and QB Trevor Vittatoe, but whether or not they've got enough to win the division will boil down to two factors: defense and discipline.
The defense played well against the Golden Hurricane, limiting one of the nation's most prolific offenses to 428 yards and 5-14 on third downs. In regards to their discipline the Miners did finish the game with just three penalties and few missed assignments. But there's also this aspect of discipline: the week after they beat Houston they fell at Memphis. Stay focused and they've got a serious shot in the West.
Independents: Navy finds a way to win without their starting quarterback.
What did the knee injury to starting QB Ricky Dobbs mean for the Navy offense? Instead of rarely throwing the football Ken Niumatalolo's squad didn't throw the ball once in their 13-10 victory over Wake Forest in Annapolis. FB Vince Murray and QB Kriss Proctor combined to rush for 264 yards and a touchdown on fifty carries for the afternoon while the defense kept the Demon Deacons out of the end zone for just over fifty-two minutes of action. Now 6-2 on the year the Middies have a shot at winning ten games this season.
MAC: Temple (4-0 MAC) makes a statement and takes control of the MAC East race.
Heading into this weekend it looked as if the muscle in the Mid-American Conference resided in the West. But even though Central Michigan, on the cusp of entering the Top 25, is likely to be considered the favorites to win the league it wouldn't be wise to count out Temple. The Owls went on the road and took care of Toledo 40-24, racing out to a 23-7 lead before the Rockets pulled to within 23-17 at the half.
No problem for Al Golden's team, who scored the first seventeen points of the second half to put the game out of reach. Who's been the difference-maker? RB Bernard Pierce, who ran for 212 yards and three touchdowns on the afternoon. In the early stages of the season Vaughn Charlton's arm was relied upon and that didn't go so well for Temple. With the emergence of Pierce, Charlton has been far more efficient through the air (11-20 for 122 yards and 2 TDs, 0 INT). Looks like a win-win situation and it's one that could land the Owls in their first-ever MAC Championship Game.
Mountain West: TCU may be well on their way to a BCS bowl appearance.
For the second consecutive season the meeting between BYU and TCU garnered national attention. And for the second consecutive season the Horned Frogs proved to be a bad matchup for the Cougars, winning 38-7 in Provo. Offensively the TCU attack has proven to be too much, especially when they can put a player like the dynamic Jeremy Kerley in the slot. BYU doesn't have the personnel to deal with such an alignment given the fact that Kerley is a threat to run, catch a pass or throw one (he completed a big one to position the Horned Frogs for their second score).
Andy Dalton outplayed Max Hall, throwing three touchdown passes on the afternoon, but he also didn't have a player the caliber of Jerry Hughes chasing him down on every play. Next up for TCU: UNLV, followed by a tricky trip to San Diego State before their rematch with Utah in Fort Worth on November 14th. If they get to that one undefeated, Gary Patterson's team could be playing for a lot more than just a conference title.
Pac-10: Oregon and USC take care of business, setting up next week's showdown in Eugene.
While there's still more than a month left in the regular season the Trojans' trip to Eugene the outcome could very well determine who wins the Pac-10. The Ducks didn't get off to the fastest start in Seattle, trailing Washington 3-0 at the end of the first quarter. But in the middle two quarters Chip Kelly's team outscored the Huskies 36-3 on their way to the 43-19 victory. Jeremiah Masoli returned to the lineup after missing the UCLA game due to injury, rushing for two touchdowns while LaMichael James added 154 yards and two scores.
As for the Trojans, they found the trek to victory a bit tougher yet in the end they had enough to take care of Oregon State at the Coliseum 42-36. USC accounted for 227 yards and three touchdowns on the ground; making up for the solid job the Beavers did against the pass. So who's likely to be favored next weekend? Oregon will most likely be favored due to the home field advantage. But for those who wonder whether or not Matt Barkley can handle a hostile environment remember that he's already won at Ohio State and Notre Dame this season.
SEC: A month ago people were building statues for Gene Chizik. Wonder what the prevailing thought is now.
When the Tigers had it rolling earlier this season the buzz was all about how well Gene Chizik and offensive coordinator Guz Malzahn were doing in their first season on The Plains. Well once they got into the meat of the SEC slate things began the head downhill, with LSU shutting down that spread attack in a 31-10 beating in Baton Rouge.
QB Chris Todd threw for just 47 yards and as a team Auburn accounted for 193 yards and three turnovers, failing to slow down John Chavis' defense. What made things worse it that an LSU offense that's looked rather pedestrian at times suddenly had room to make plays all night long. Is Auburn physical enough to compete with the "big boys" of the SEC? Good question.
Sun Belt: Don't give up on Florida Atlantic just yet.
Howard Schnellenberger's Owls didn't get off to the best of starts, looking thoroughly overmatched against BCS-conference opponents (first two games) on their way to a 0-4 start to the season. But they've won two in a row, most recently beating previously undefeated (in conference play) UL Lafayette on the road 51-29.
Rusty Smith threw for 359 yards and four touchdowns for the day and Alfred Morris added 181 yards and two scores on the ground. Troy and UL Monroe remain on top of the standings without a conference loss but don't forget about FAU. They've got championship experience, having won the Sun Belt two years ago, and one of the best coaches around to guide them towards a title.
WAC: Boise State is the clear favorite but no one in the WAC wants to run into Nevada right now.
Idaho was (and still is) one of the best stories of the college football season thus far heading into their game at Nevada on Saturday. Unfortunately for Robb Akey and company they were walking into a buzz saw, with the end result being a 70-45 Wolf Pack victory. Since starting the season 0-3 Chris Ault's team has won four straight, scoring an average of 51 points per game in the process.
QB Colin Kaepernick accounted for 408 yards of offense and six touchdowns on Saturday and Nevada finished the afternoon with 662 yards of offense. And outside of their game against Fresno State on November 14th (at home) the Wolf Pack has a manageable schedule leading up to the season-ending showdown with Boise State. Imagine if that game had the WAC title and a possible BCS berth for the Broncos riding on it? That would be a far cry from the Nevada squad we saw the first month of the season.
1 Florida 7-0
2 Alabama 8-0
3 Texas 7-0
4 Iowa 8-0
5 USC 6-1
6 TCU 7-0
7 Boise State 7-0
8 Cincinnati 7-0
9 LSU 6-1
10 Oregon 6-1
11 Georgia Tech 7-1
12 Penn State 7-1
13 Virginia Tech 5-2
14 Oklahoma State 6-1
15 Pittsburgh 7-1
16 Utah 6-1
17 Ohio State 6-2
18 Houston 6-1
19 Miami (FL) 5-2
20 Arizona 5-2
21 West Virginia 6-1
22 South Carolina 6-2
23 Notre Dame 5-2
24 California 5-2
25 Mississippi 5-2