1. Texas wins a Red River Thriller. The modern history of the Red River Rivalry was written with major blowouts, mainly in Oklahoma’s favor. Those days are over. Heading into Saturday’s game, the last five Red River games had seen Texas win twice as a major underdog and Oklahoma win by exactly five points three times. With No. 7 Oklahoma an 8-point favorite but No. 19 Texas riding a 4-game wining streak, Saturday’s game figured to be another of that vintage.

After Oklahoma opened the second quarter with a 32-yard Austin Seibert field goal to tie the game at 10-10, Texas went on a 35-14 run that served as a milestone for not only the game, but Texas’s decade-long climb back up the mountain and perhaps the trajectory of the Big 12. The Longhorns marched 75 yards in 10 plays to take a 17-10 lead, moved another 75 yards in eight plays to take a 24-10 lead and, after an OU score just before the halftime gun, opened the second half with an 11-play, 75-yard drive to push the lead back to 31-17.

Oklahoma did not force its first punt until the 8:29 mark of the third quarter, but that momentum proved incredibly temporary, as Kyler Murray gave the ball right back with a fumble at his own 23. Texas scored in five plays and, after an OU score, pushed its lead to 45-24 with a 9-play, 82-yard drive. When Sam Ehlinger registered his fifth touchdown of the game on a 15-yard strike to Lil’Jordan Humphrey with 56 seconds left in the third quarter, the game appeared over.

When Texas forced an OU punt with 13:33 to play and a 45-24 lead in hand, the game appeared doubly over.

(Narrator: It wasn’t.)

Oklahoma took over after a Texas punt with 10:28 to go and needed 9 minutes and 50 seconds of game action to come all the way back, tying the game at 45-45 with 2:38 to spare. Over that 9:50, Oklahoma possessed the ball for just 10 plays, needing only 3:16 to cover the 178 required yards.

But 2:38 was too much time, and Texas mustered one more drive, killing all but nine seconds to set up true freshman Cameron Dicker (with a true freshman snapper and a true freshman holder) for a game-winning 40-yard field goal.

1a. So, is Texas BACK?!?!?! No one hands you a certificate saying you’re officially back among the nation’s elite, but Texas will wake up Sunday at the midpoint of the season and a ranking at or near the top 10 and a 3-0 record in Big 12 play — with crucial wins over TCU and Oklahoma in the barn. No. 9 West Virginia comes to Austin on Nov. 3. Being BACK is subjective — at least, until you hoist a conference championship trophy — but it’s a fact that, in 2018, the road to the Big 12 title runs through Austin.

2. So, about that Oklahoma defense. Last season, Oklahoma wasted one of the most efficient, most explosive offenses on college football history on a defense that couldn’t stop Georgia. Forty-eight points and 531 yards against one of the nation’s top defenses weren’t enough, because Oklahoma simply could not stop Georgia: Jake Fromm was 20-of-29 for 201 yards and two touchdowns and Nick Chubb and Sony Michel combined to rush 25 times for 326 yards and five touchdowns in a 54-48 Bulldogs win.

But Lincoln Riley brought Mike Stoops back, with optimism nine months of development would yield improvement. In OU’s first game of consequence since that Rose Bowl, it’s clear that bet came back snake eyes.

Texas did not put up the numbers Georgia did, but everything Texas wanted was available when the Longhorns wanted it. Sam Ehlinger rushed 19 times for 72 yards and three touchdowns, all of them on QB Powers that everyone in the stadium knew was coming. Through the air, he was 24-of-35 for a season-high 314 yards and two touchdowns. Many of those yards were to Lil’Jordan Humphrey, Collin Johnson and tight end Andrew Beck. The Texas coaches thought they could throw the ball underneath to their big targets, and those big targets would overpower and undersized Sooner secondary — who often compounded their lack of size with poor tackling habits.

That strategy worked.

They key play of the game came with 12:21 in the third quarter. Facing a 3rd-and-21 from the OU 46, Ehlinger hit Humphrey underneath, who promptly carried a host of Sooners for a good 10 yards, turning a 4th-and-12 into a 4th-and-2. Ehlinger ran for seven yards on 4th-and-2, and four plays later Texas had a 31-17 lead.

“That to me was the play of the game,” Tom Herman said. “The play of the game.”

That was actually the second time Texas turned a 3rd-and-20 into a touchdown. In the second quarter, Andrew Beck caught an 18-yard pass on 3rd-and-20, and two plays later Ehlinger hit Tre Watson on a 28-yard wheel route to give Texas a 17-10 advantage.

Oklahoma has enjoyed Heisman-level quarterback play for four years running. That’s been good enough to win Big 12 titles in each of the past three seasons, but it cost them a national title in 2017 and, unless something changes, it’ll do the same in 2018, too.

2c. Welcome to a new dynamic in this rivalry. Thanks to the unnecessary revival of the Big 12 Championship Game, these two teams could very well meet again Dec. 1 in Arlington.

3. LSU was the team of September. It’s no longer September. LSU was not the No. 1 team in the country through the first five weeks of this season, but Ed Orgeron’s Tigers had the best resume. No one else went away from home to beat two top-10 teams (at kickoff, at least) as they did in beating Miami and Auburn.

But the way LSU got those wins didn’t inspire confidence the winning streak would continue into a more challenging October, and we immediately saw why: they just can’t throw the ball. Joe Burrow was 19-of-34 for 191 yards with no touchdowns and two interceptions, including a pick six with 1:49 remaining as No. 22 Florida polished off a 27-19 win over No. 5 LSU.

 

This was after LSU scored 22 against Auburn and 26 against Miami (the defense added seven more).

This isn’t your father’s SEC. This isn’t even your slightly older brother’s SEC. Georgia averages 43.2 points per game. Alabama leads the nation in scoring.

Those teams happen to be two of LSU’s next three opponents, starting with a visit by No. 2 Georgia on Saturday.

4. LSU isn’t the only SEC West team struggling to move the ball. Five and a half years into Gus Malzahn’s tenure, this has become apparent: either the Gus Bus tramples everything in its path or it’s stuck in the mud, with very little in between. Auburn is stuck in the mud right now.

The Tigers rushed 59 times for 429 yards and six touchdowns in a glorified scrimmage against Alabama State on Sept. 8; in the four games since, No. 8 Auburn has carried 131 times for 407 yards and six touchdowns. That includes a 21-carry, 90-yard, no-touchdown effort in a 23-9 loss at Mississippi State on Saturday. Nick Fitzgerald, by the way, ran 28 times for 195 yards and two touchdowns on his own, in the process breaking Tim Tebow’s SEC records for rushing yards and touchdowns by a quarterback.

That inability to run the ball or stop the run led to a 42-18 time of possession deficit for Auburn, compounded by a sequence at the end of the first half and beginning of the second in which, thanks to an Auburn fumble on a punt return, Mississippi State possessed the ball for 16 minutes and 37 seconds straight, running 28 plays for 124 yards and increasing the Bulldogs’ lead from 6-3 to 16-3.

4b. I bring all this up because…

The nation’s highest scoring team padded its average on Saturday with a 65-31 slaughtering of Arkansas on Saturday. At the midpoint of the regular season, Alabama is averaging an even 56 points per game, with a low of 45.

5. Florida State and Miami staged a ugly, rough, classic FSU-Miami game. This wasn’t a vintage that you would confuse for the Deion Sanders, Ray Lewis, Ed Reed days, but it sure was entertaining.

Thanks to two long punt returns (one for a touchdown), a fumble and an odd decision to go for a 4th-and-3 near midfield, Florida State grabbed a 27-7 lead early in the second half, putting themselves in prime position to earn by far the biggest win of the young Willie Taggart era.

But then the ‘Canes harkened back to the glory days of 2017, as the Turnover Chain made appearances on consecutive drives. First a strip sack of Deondre Francois gave Miami the ball at the FSU 20, and a fourth-and-goal touchdown pass cut the deficit to 27-14. Two plays later, an interception of Francois gave Miami the ball at the FSU 17, and one play after that the score was 27-21.

Florida State momentarily pushed the lead back to 34-21 on a double pass touchdown, but replay called the score back. It was not the right call. As you can see below, Francois throws the ball from just in front of the 45, and D.J. Matthews catches it just behind that parallel.

Nevertheless, the score was called back, and the drive ended in a missed field goal. Miami scored on the ensuing drive, and the No. 17 Canes pulled out a 28-27 win.

Emblematic of what type of game this was, the winning quarterback completed 13-of-32 passes, but those 13 completions went for 204 yards with four touchdowns and no interceptions.

The win gives Miami consecutive victories over Florida State for the first time since taking six straight from 2000-04. It was also the 16th one score game in the last 20 meetings.

6. Notre Dame wins a game that Playoff teams win. Ian Book was spectacular in his first two starts, wins over Wake Forest and Stanford, but he wasn’t spectacular against No. 24 Virginia Tech, at least not early. No. 6 Notre Dame jumped to a 10-0 lead, but the Hokies crept back in the game, pulling within 10-9 just before the half.

But freshman defensive lineman Khalid Kareem forced a defensive score with a play of maniacal effort, beating a double team to force Virginia Tech quarterback Ryan Willis out of the pocket, then rising off the turf to get a paw in and force a fumble, which Julian Love scooped and scored on a 42-yard return.

Virginia Tech answered immediately, pulling within 17-16 at the half, but Notre Dame shut the door in the second half. Dexter Williams busted through for a 97-yard touchdown run to push the lead to 24-16, Book hit Miles Boykin for a 40-yard score to make it 31-16, and the pair hooked up again to close the door with 9:08 left in the fourth quarter, helping the Irish cruise to a 45-23 win… in Lane Stadium… at night.

We mentioned this last week, but it bears repeating again, Notre Dame’s second half schedule is very un-Notre Dame like:

vs. Pittsburgh
vs. Navy (at San Diego)
at Northwestern
vs. Florida State
vs. Syracuse (at New York)
at USC

ESPN’s algorithm that its talking heads mention all the time but no one knows how it works gives Notre Dame a 60 percent chance to reach the Playoff. The Chaos Candidate is alive and well.

7. San Diego State wins the Game of the Year in the Mountain West. San Diego State and Boise State have combined to win the last four Mountain West titles (though, oddly, they’ve never met each other in the title game). The Aztecs went to Boise in a game both teams circled as soon as the schedule came out.

Boise State entered the game carrying a 2-game series winning streak and a 109-7 home mark since 2000, but San Diego State won the game the Aztec way. San Diego State ran the ball 44 times for 154 yards and two touchdowns while harassing Boise State quarterback Brett Rypien into his worst game of the season. The senior entered Saturday hitting 70.1 percent of his throws for an even nine yards per attempt with a dozen touchdowns against no interceptions, but the Aztecs limited him to 21-of-41 for 170 yards with no scores and two picks, plus four sacks.

San Diego State entered a 14-point underdog and left a 19-13 winner.

“If you don’t come with the right attitude, you’re going to get run right out of the stadium,” SDSU head coach Rocky Long said, via the San Diego Union Tribune. “I guess I’ve got the right kind of guys because they come with the right attitude.”

There’s a long way to go, but we could easily see a rematch on Championship Saturday. Thanks to Saturday’s win, that rematch would likely be in San Diego.

8. The Super 16. The Nuggets is honored to once again vote in this year’s FWAA-Super 16 poll. Here’s this week’s ballot.

  1. Alabama
  2. Georgia
  3. Ohio State
  4. Clemson
  5. Notre Dame
  6. UCF
  7. Texas
  8. Washington
  9. Penn State
  10. West Virginia
  11. Oklahoma
  12. Michigan
  13. Oregon
  14. Wisconsin
  15. Texas A&M
  16. LSU

9. Odds and Ends

a. I wouldn’t have believed it had I not seen it with my own eyes, but No. 13 Kentucky’s first play from Texas A&M territory was their first snap in overtime. This means Kentucky went to overtime in a game in which they did not snap the ball inside opponent territory. The Wildcats scored on a 54-yard toss and a 40-yard fumble return, but fell to Texas A&M, 20-14.

The Aggies limited Heisman candidate Benny Snell, Jr., to 60 yards on 13 carries. He did not touch the ball on Kentucky’s three plays in the extra frame.

b. No. 23 NC State is 5-0 for the first time since 2002 after a 28-23 win over Boston College. Dave Doeren’s Wolfpack has two weeks to prepare for a trip to No. 4 Clemson.

c. No. 21 Colorado is 5-0 for the first time since 1998 after a 28-21 win over Arizona State. Mike MacIntyre’s Buffs get USC and No. 10 Washington in their next two games.

d. I didn’t watch a play of this game, but I’m told South Carolina’s 37-35 win over Missouri was a beautiful mess.

e. Baylor notched a late field goal to beat Kansas State, 37-34. It was the Bears’ first win over a Big 12 school other than Kansas since Oct. 1, 2016.

f. Iowa State upset No. 25 Oklahoma State 48-42, moving Matt Campbell’s club to 4-2 against ranked teams over the past two seasons.

g. A swinging gate direct snap touchdown run… by Iowa?

Iowa beat Minnesota, 48-31. As we discussed this week, the Hawkeyes have beaten Minnesota now four in a row, and six of seven, and nine of 12, and 14 of 18 and, well, you get the point.

h. Paul Johnson is a big-time grudge guy, and he took out some pent up anger against Louisville defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder on Friday night, which stems from VanGorder trying to move Georgia Southern more than a decade ago.

As I said, Johnson is a big-time grudge guy. Georgia Tech won the game, 66-31.

i. Northwestern built another lead over a ranked opponent, lost it, but then got it back, turning a 19-14 third quarter deficit into a 29-19 win over No. 20 Michigan State. The Wildcats had blown second half leads in losses to Akron and No. 15 Michigan.

j. Nebraska would love to be in a position to blow a second half lead, because blowing a second half lead would represent progress. In falling 41-24 to No. 16 Wisconsin, the Huskers have faced halftime deficits of 39-0, 27-7 and 20-3 in their three Big Ten games.

k. New Mexico State beat Liberty, 49-41 in Las Cruces. The Flames and Aggies will play again on Nov. 24 in Lynchburg, part of an unusual arrangement for two FBS Independents to fill out their 12-game schedules.

l. Buffalo beat Central Michigan, and Lance Leipold’s Bulls are 5-1 for the fist time in school history.

m. Cincinnati beat Tulane 37-21, and Luke Fickell’s Bearcats are 6-0 for the first time since 2009.

n. Air Force spanked Navy 35-7, handing the Falcons their third straight win over Navy in Colorado Springs and their fourth in five tries. A win over Army on Nov. 3 hands Troy Calhoun’s club the Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy for the second time in three seasons.

o. What have you got in your playbook for 3rd-and-55?

p. Charlie Strong and South Florida are 5-0 after a 58-42 win over Massachusetts. Jordan Cronkite ran 23 times for 302 yards and three touchdowns.

q. After starting 4-0 and putting No. 4 Clemson on the ropes, Syracuse is now 4-2 after falling at Pitt, 44-37 in overtime.

o. This is Pac12AfterDark in action. This is art.

10. And finally…

It was a wild Saturday in FBS, but even wilder in FCS — at least at the top. No. 9 Elon went to Harrisonburg and snapped No. 2 James Madison’s 20-game CAA losing streak and 19-game home winning streak with a 27-24 stunner.

The Phoenix was a 40-point underdog.

Elsewhere, No. 22 Northern Iowa put No. 1 North Dakota State’s 10-game winning streak on watch by taking a 31-28 lead on the final play of the third quarter. And then NDSU ripped off 28 unanswered in the fourth quarter to win 56-31.

One out of two isn’t bad.

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National columnist - Zach joined the staff in 2012...and has been attempting to improve Doug and Scott's writing ability ever since (to little avail). Outside of football season, you can find him watching the San Antonio Spurs reading Game of Thrones fan theories.