1. The longest 10 seconds in the history of Michigan football. All Michigan needed to do to beat Michigan State, to snap a streak of six losses in seven tries, to officially or unofficially steal back their home state from the nuisance up north, to keep pace with Ohio State in the Big Ten East, to announce themselves as a legitimate top 10 team and a College Football Playoff contender, was punt the ball.
Here's how the final 10 seconds of the best game of the year (to date) played out in your head:
0:10) All they've got to do is punt? This is over. Has A&M-Alabama gone final yet? I wonder if I can find LSU-Florida somewhere.
0:09) Why is Sean McDonough screaming at me?
0:08) What are you doing, man? Fall on the ball!
0:06) Is he gonna make it?
0:05) You're not gonna make it! Go out of bounds.
0:03) This is going to end with him getting tackled at the five with no time left on the clock.
0:02) There's no one there! They're not going to get him!
0:01) You were one step too late, you poor, poor Michigan tacklers.
— Big Ten Network (@BigTenNetwork) October 17, 2015
Before you blame the punter, consider: A) Michigan settled for three field goals on the day, including a 21-yarder, B) The Wolverines built a 23-14 lead with nine minutes remaining and immediately allowed a 74-yard completion, C) Michigan possessed the ball - THREE TIMES - with a 23-21 lead and gained a total of 13 yards in what amounted to three consecutive three-and-outs.
Jim Harbaugh, who I trust will not serve poor Blake O'Neill's innards for team dinner on Sunday night, can tell his team it lost because its pass defense was not good enough (Connor Cook threw for 328 yards on the day), because its running game was not good enough (33 carries for 62 yards), and because it was not yet ready to win a game like this.
He can also tell his team it was absolutely good enough to win a game like this, and because of what happened Saturday, the next time it gets the chance - say, six weeks from now - it will pull it out.
I mean, can you blame him?
2. Memphis's moment. The true greatness of college football - what separates this sport from every other - is the regular season. Because the regular season is an end to itself and not just a three-month prologue, every season provides at least one campus with a pot of gold, where the best outcome that can possibly happen actually happens. Last year it was Ole Miss's turn, when the Rebels fought back from down 14-3 to beat then-No. 1 Alabama 23-17.
Saturday, it was Memphis's turn. And it was Ole Miss's turn to graduate from spoiler to spoiled. The Tigers trailed 14-0 five minutes in and then turned the blowout on its head, scoring 37 of the game's final 47 points in route to a 37-24 win. Most satisfying to Justin Fuente and staff is that Memphis stood up to Ole Miss physically, stuffing Robert Nkemdiche on a 3rd-and-1 and Chad Kelly on a 4th-and-1, and outrushing the Rebels 107-40. An undefeated regular season, a Peach or Fiesta bowl berth, or something more? It's all on the table. "It means everything," a euphoric Memphis athletic director Tom Bowen told the Memphis Commercial Appealafterward.
3. Alabama beats another top-10 team, and water is wet. The most remarkable thing about Alabama beating a top-10 team is that it really wasn't remarkable at all. It happens twice a season. The Tide downed No. 9 Texas A&M 41-23 on Saturday, moving their mark to 18-7 since 2008 against teams that entered the game with a top-10 ranking. They play more games - by far - against teams coming off bye weeks than anyone else in college football, especially the SEC. They did it Saturday, and they'll do it again the next two weeks as well as Tennessee and LSU come to town.
Alabama faces one ranked team the rest of the way - LSU. Win that and avoid an upset and the Tide will book its fifth straight regular season with no more than one loss, and seventh in the last eight years. That is the type of consistency only Tom Osborne and Bobby Bowden ever showed, and in a more competitive era.
4. LSU is the lone survivor. There is one SEC team left without a loss, and it is the Fighting Fournettes of LSU. The Heisman front-runner tacked on 180 yards and two scores to his national best rushing total, and the game-winning score came in a vintage Les Miles fake field goal, but what was most encouraging for the Bayou Bengals was Brandon Harris completing 13-of-19 passes for 202 yards with two touchdowns and no turnovers.
Good as he is, Leonard can't beat Alabama by himself. Or maybe we should keep telling himself that in hopes that he'll try.
5. It's time we sat down and had a serious discussion about Iowa going undefeated. The Fighting Ferentzes smashed Northwestern 40-10 in Evanston, pushing their record to 7-0 (3-0 Big Ten) with road wins over their top two Big Ten West competitors. The Hawkeyes are off next week, then face this remaining schedule:
Those five opponents are 14-20 overall and 2-11 in the Big Ten - and both of those wins came within the group. This team has proven it can run the ball and play defense, generally as good an upset-proof combination as there is. Win those next five and you're just a few breaks, a turnover and some favorable calls away from upsetting a potentially undefeated Ohio State or Michigan State and waltzing your way into the Playoff.
It probably won't happen. But if it does, don't say you weren't warned.
6. Acknowledging pieces of greatness. They didn't come against the harshest competition, but each of these contenders posted accomplishments worth noting:
a) Ohio State beat Penn State, 38-10, giving Urban Meyer his second 20-game winning streak at Ohio State and his fourth overall as a head coach. That is insane.
b) TCU topped Iowa State, 45-21, giving the Frogs their 15th straight win - a school record. After allowing 38 first-half points to Kansas State and 21 first quarter points to the Cyclones, Gary Patterson's defense has tightened things up in two straight second halves.
c) Florida State outlasted Louisville, 41-21, giving the Seminoles their 28th straight ACC win and their 35th win in their last 36 tries. The Seminoles have not committed an offensive turnover yet this season.
d) Baylor thundered past West Virginia, 62-38. The Bears are 9-0 all-time at McLane Stadium, winners of 19 straight in Waco, and average 56.8 points a game with a high of 73 and a low of 30 over the life of the streak. Baylor's scoring output this season: 56, 66, 70, 63, 66 and 62.
e) After talking this week about how much he hated the term "Clemsoning," Dabo Swinney and Clemson avoided, ahem, Clemsoning in a 34-17 win over Boston College. The Tigers dropped 532 yards on what entered the day as college football's No. 1 total defense. Make that 35 straight wins over unranked opponents for Clemson.
7. The Playoff picture at the midpoint. This week marks the exact midway point of college football's regular season. With the year now halfway complete, here are the teams that, barring a Chinese fire drill, have a shot at reaching the College Football Playoff:
ACC: Clemson, Florida State
Big 12: TCU, Baylor, Oklahoma State, Oklahoma
Big Ten: Ohio State, Michigan State, Iowa
Independents: Notre Dame
Pac-12: Utah, Stanford, California
SEC: Alabama, LSU, Florida, Texas A&M
That's 17 teams. Eleven or twelve will eliminate themselves over the next seven weeks. The rest is up to the committee.
Group of Five contenders: Memphis, Houston, Temple, Navy, Toledo
Boise State's loss to Utah State eliminated the Mountain West from contention. To my eyes, the winner of the American will play in the Peach or Fiesta bowl but, if that league eats its own and Toledo remains undefeated, Matt Campbell's bunch remains on standby.
8. While we're at it, keep these games in mind.
Oct. 31: Notre Dame at Temple
Nov. 7: Florida State at Clemson, LSU at Alabama, TCU at Oklahoma State, Navy at Memphis
Nov. 14: Oklahoma at Baylor, Memphis at Houston
Nov. 21: Michigan State at Ohio State, TCU at Oklahoma, Baylor at Oklahoma State, California at Stanford
Nov. 27: Baylor at TCU, Navy at Houston
Nov. 28: Florida State at Florida, Texas A&M at LSU, Notre Dame at Stanford, Oklahoma at Oklahoma State
9. This week's fictional Heisman vote: 1) Leonard Fournette, LSU; 2) Trevone Boykin, TCU; 3) Dalvin Cook, Florida State
10. Odds and Ends.
a) Shawn Elliott's interim debut went better than Clay Helton's or Mike Canales's. South Carolina beat Vanderbilt 19-10 in its first post-Spurrier game, while USC fell to Notre Dame 41-31 and North Texas lost to Western Kentucky 55-28 on Thursday night.
b) It was a great week for Hot Young Coaches. We've already covered Fuente's monumental win, but he may not have had the best performance of the weekend. Matt Wells's Utah State team forced eight Boise State turnovers, seven in the first half, in a 52-26 blowout on Thursday night. P.J. Fleck and Western Michigan stomped 5-1 Ohio 49-14. And Tom Herman and Houston earned their second straight national TV win with a 42-7 dusting of Tulane.
c) Maybe Oklahoma should spent more time in airports. After an eight-plus hour delay on Friday, the Sooners arrived in Manhattan and promptly delivered a tail kicking, beating Kansas State 55-0. It was OU's largest margin of victory in a Big 12 game since downing Texas A&M 65-10 on Nov. 14, 2009.
d) With 5:25 left in the third quarter, Indiana held a 52-27 lead over Rutgers. Twenty minutes and 25 seconds of game clock later, Kyle Federico knocked in a 26-yard field goal to give Rutgers a 55-52 win. With Michigan State, Iowa and Michigan up next, it appears Kevin Wilson will have to beat Maryland and Purdue - both on the road - to reach his first bowl game in five seasons in Bloomington.
e) After trailing 24-14 entering the fourth quarter, Virginia rallied to outlast Syracuse 44-38 in triple overtime. Cuse has now lost three straight after a 3-0 start and now has 5-1 Pittsburgh, undefeated Florida State, and undefeated Clemson over its next four games.
f) Georgia beat Missouri 9 to 6. That's all you need to know about this game.
g) After all but guaranteeing victory this week, Mike MacIntyre and Colorado lost to Arizona 38-31 in Boulder. Colorado is undoubtedly in a better place than when he arrived, but the Buffs are just 1-20 in Pac-12 play under Mac.
h) Who's the most underrated team in the country? I submit that title belongs to North Carolina. The Tar Heels lost to South Carolina 17-13 on opening night and immediately fell off the map for most, but Larry Fedora and Gene Chizik quietly rounded the troops after that. Now 5-1, North Carolina dropped 50 points and 538 yards on a defense that shut out Boston College and held Florida State to 24 points and 329 yards in its last two outings. The Heels are allowing 17.3 points per game and held four of their last five foes to exactly 14 points.
i) Wyoming won its first game of the season with a 28-21 triumph over Nevada.
j) After entering the year 0-14 all-time in FBS road games, Georgia State has now won two of its last three. The Panthers edged New Mexico State 34-32 in September and topped Ball State 31-19 on Saturday.
k) Bob Diaco picked the right Floridian rival. A week after beating Central Florida in the inaugural Civil Conflict game, Connecticut lost to South Florida 28-20 in Storrs.
l) After losing eight straight during the Pete Carroll glory years, Notre Dame has now beaten USC in four of the last six and three of the last four meetings.
m) With a 27-18 win Saturday night, Utah snapped an 11-game losing streak to Arizona State, dating back to 1977.
n) Utah State's blowout of Boise State snapped a 12-game losing streak in the series, dating to 1998.
o) From 1900 to 2003, Washington owned a 58-33-5 edge over Oregon. From 2004 on, it's Oregon 12, Washington 0.
p) We mentioned at the beginning of the month that if West Virginia survived a gauntlet that saw them visit Oklahoma, host Oklahoma State, visit Baylor and then visit TCU they should be able to skip November and walk to the College Football Playoff. Well, the Mountaineers have now dropped the first three. According to WVU beat writer Mike Casazza, West Virginia has now suffered a three-game losing streak five times in its four years of Big 12 membership.
q) And, finally, may we all be as overjoyed to do our jobs as Shawn Elliott was on Saturday: