1. Alabama is the only invincible team.
Until Friday, Clemson-Alabama 3.0 seemed like an inevitability. Now, with the exception of Alabama, the Playoff chase is wide open. While top teams struggled and lost to unranked opponents, Alabama went about their usual business and dismantled Arkansas 41-9.
Generally, nothing is for certain in college football – injuries can happen anytime. However, Alabama is immune to suffering a season-altering injury because their second and third-stringers are capable of winning a national championship.
Playoff scenarios began to be bandied about this week and talk of two SEC teams (Georgia and Alabama) emerged. This is only possible if both teams make the SEC Championship Game, however, I think it is only possible if Alabama beats UGA.
With Florida State, Ole Miss, and LSU having down years, the Alabama resume is devoid of a signature win. There is no doubt they are leaps and bounds above any other team in the country, but their resume is unusually weak.
The Playoff debate is a battle of who’s most deserving vs. who are the four best teams in the country. The Tide is a clear-cut No. 1, but if they somehow falter down the stretch, their resume might not be enough to push them into the Playoff.
2. Rich Rodriguez is off the hot seat because he discovered Lamar Jackson 2.0 is on his roster.
After a home loss to Utah on Sept. 22, Arizona sat at 2-2 with their only wins coming over listless opponents Northern Arizona and UTEP. After starting quarterback Brandon Dawkins threw three INTs in the losing effort vs. the Utes, Rodriguez decided to go to Khalil Tate at QB. That single decision may have saved Rodriguez’s tenure in Tucson.
Tate has been nothing short of remarkable in his two starts. In his first start, Arizona upset Colorado and Tate accounted for 327 yards rushing and fourt touchdowns. He also was 12/13 for 154 yards and one touchdown through the air.
Saturday, Tate continued to tally freakish stats in another upset for Arizona. This time the Wildcats beat UCLA 47-30, while Tate again was spectacular on the ground, this time rushing for 230 yards.
In two games as a starter, Tate has rushed for 557 yards on 29 carries. He is also serviceable through the air to keep opposing defenses honest. The real question is how did Rodriguez allow him to sit on the bench for this long?
3. The Washington-Arizona State game was a perfect #pac12afterdark game.
Usually for a game to qualify as a #pac12afterdark gem, there needs to be an obscene amount of scoring and some monumental special teams or officiating gaffes. This tilt had the former not the latter and was as puzzling an outcome as we’ve seen this season.
For those of you who went to bed early, Washington fans still can’t figure out how they lost to Arizona State. pic.twitter.com/JePS4WQMvI
— Ricky Muncie, RBR (@RickyRBR) October 15, 2017
Washington’s special teams ended up killing the Huskies. UW missed a pair of field goals inside of 30 yards as the Huskies were attempting to mount a second half comeback. After UW kicker Van Soderberg missed a chip shot, Chris Peterson passed up a fourth and short opportunity and decided for another field goal attempt only to see Soderberg hit the right upright.
Arizona State winning was certainly surprising, but the manner in which they won was more shocking. Entering Saturday, the Sun Devils ranked near the bottom of FBS in nearly every defensive statistical category and ASU had given up 30+ points in 11 straight games.
So naturally, the Sun Devils held Washington scoreless for 3.5 quarters and held Heisman hopefuls Jake Browning and Dante Pettis in-check. Leading 13-7 with two minutes remaining, Todd Graham decided to go for a 4th & 3 on about the Washington 45 to seal the game.
HOW BOUT THEM DEVILS!
Arizona State UPSETS No. 5 Washington on a crazy 4th-down conversion. 🔥 pic.twitter.com/yuXOBsIICu
— LeadingNCAA ™ (@LeadingNCAA) October 15, 2017
The Huskies brought pressure and ASU QB Manny Wilkins overthrew his intended receiver only to see the ball somehow avoid two UW defenders and land in the hands of Sun Devil receiver Ceejhay French-Love for is lone catch of the game to secure the upset.
4. Butch Jones and Mike Riley are done.
The only reason Butch Jones isn’t already backing his bags in Knoxville is because the Vols take on Alabama this week and the administration is showing mercy to whomever the interim coach would be. Tennessee’s loss to South Carolina was the final straw. The Vols had chances to pull away in the first half, but were unable to convert red zone opportunities.
Tennessee also had an opportunity to pull out the win in the final seconds, but the clock was mismanaged and the they could not get in the endzone.
The bigger problem than the play on the field is the disgust and apathy from fans and students. The student section wasn’t even half filled Saturday and by the second half, 1/4 of the stadium had left.
In our weekly picks on Friday, we mentioned that Nebraska +24.5 was a good bet because not matter how bad the Cornhuskers are, there was no way they could lose two straight home night games by 20+ points. Well, we were wrong. Ohio State dominated Nebraska en route to a 56-14 win.
Tanner Lee received a ton of hype in the preseason, but he has been underwhelming and Nebraska’s defense are black shirts in name only. The Cornhuskers have work to do just to get bowl eligible this season.
The Riley hire never really made sense from the get go. He has a reputation as the nicest guy in college sports, but that only gets you so far. Nebraska announced they hired Bill Moos, formerly of Washington State, as their new athletic director this weekend, so Riley’s firing is all but a formality. Scott Frost has to be at the top of the wish-list with Craig Bohl as another top candidate
5. Texas is actually good.
Texas came close to upsetting Oklahoma on Saturday in the Red River Shootout. After the Sooners bursted out to a 17-0 lead as the Texas defense seemed to return to their form of the earlier in the season, the Longhorns rallied and eventually took the lead in the fourth quarter.
Baker Mayfield quickly retook the lead and UT was unable to answer to fall to 3-3.
Despite the loss, Texas freshman QB Sam Ehlinger was a stud in the game and continued to tighten is stranglehold on the starting position.
Although they have a .500 record, Texas has shown massive improvements from a year ago. After the debacle of week one vs. Maryland, Texas has looked like a top-25 team. There two losses came in double overtime on the road vs. USC and Saturday’s close loss to OU.
With the upcoming slate, Texas will have a hand in deciding who wins with Big XII and with the advent of the Big XII conference championship game this season, still have a chance of winning the conference title.
6. Jim McElwain could easily be 1-5.
Florida is an unbelievable defensive lapse and questionable holding call vs. Kentucky and a miracle Hail Mary vs. Tennessee from being 1-5. While Kevin Sumlin, Brett Bielema, and Butch Jones take up most of the room on the SEC hot seat, McElwain is stuck in neutral in his third year in Gainesville.
The Gators still cannot find any consistency on offense and at the quarterback position. It is Oct. 16 and the Gators are already find themselves out of the SEC East race. With games vs. Georgia, South Carolina, and Florida State still remaining, the Gators have to get in gear quickly to salvage the season.
Barring a complete collapse, McElwain will be back as the coach next season, but without any discernible progress, his days at Florida could be numbered. Many people could point to the numerous suspensions to key players as a main reason for the struggles, but that points to a lack of discipline and control of the program.
At least when Urban’s players were getting arrested and suspended, the Gators were winning of the field.
7. The PAC 12 has a lot of work to do to get to the Playoff.
With Washington and Washington State falling this weekend, the best the PAC 12 can do is have a one-loss champion – presumably the winner of the Apple Cup. With Oregon down and USC unable to live up to the hype, the PAC 12’s hopes will most likely fall to Washington and Washington State.
Cal’s win over Wazzu Friday was so dominant that the Cougars will have a tough time climbing back up in the polls. Washington’s loss was less one-sided, but more puzzling. The Huskies have the most talent in the conference, but now need Arizona State to finish strong to have that loss look better than it does now.
Stanford is the wild card in the conference. There has never been a two-loss team make the Playoff, but the Cardinal have the potential to be the first.
Obviously, they need a ton of help, but with games against Washington, Washington State, a potential rematch vs. USC in the PAC 12 Championship, and Notre Dame, the Cardinal have the capabilities to build a championship resume with the right breaks.