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Nuggets: Lincoln Riley arrives, and Clemson isn't going anywhere

1. Oklahoma makes an Ohio State-ment. I wrote on Friday that Lincoln Riley and Oklahoma needed to approach Saturday night's visit to the Horseshoe like they had nothing to lose and let it all hang out. I'm not going to say Riley read my writing, but, he coached like he read my writing.

Riley pummeled his counterpart Greg Schiano like an old boxer, with jabs and uppercuts that were setting up other jabs and uppercuts once Schiano adjusted to the original onslaught, all leading to a flurry of haymakers that saw the Sooners put up 21 points over a decisive 8-minute span from the late third to the early fourth quarter, turning a 13-10 deficit into a 31-13 lead en route to a 31-16 runaway victory.

Playing the large majority of the night without his best weapon in tight end Mark Andrews and with Baker Mayfield battling cramps, Riley sliced Ohio State's secondary wide open with a battery of skill players most of the country had never heard of before tonight. Mayfield was 27-of-35 for 386 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions. His leading receiver was H-back Dimitri Flowers, who grabbed seven balls for 98 yards and a score. His leading rusher and top two leading receivers weren't even on the team last season. And still, Oklahoma is here to stay as a College Football Playoff contender. 1a. Baker Mayfield is absolutely your Heisman leader until he says otherwise. And it's for stuff like this as much as his ridiculous stat line.

2. Ohio State is 62-7 under Urban Meyer and Buckeye Nation seems like the most miserable program in the country. J.T. Barrett was 19-of-35 for 183 yards with no scores and an interception. After a year in which Meyer pledged to remake the offense pretty much from the moment his feet left the Fiesta Bowl turf last season, it's clear that, despite the staff changes Meyer made and all the work in the offseason, the only way in which the Buckeyes' offense developed was through signing true freshman running back J.K. Dobbins.

Oklahoma made it obvious that the second-half explosion in last week's win over Indiana was more about Ohio State simply having better players than IU rather than the Buckeyes figuring things out.

3. USC proves it's on the opposite end of the spectrum from Ohio State. USC entered the final minute of the third quarter of last week's game with Western Michigan trailing 21-14. The Trojans scored 35 points over those final 16 minutes and haven't stopped scoring sense. USC flipped the script on Stanford on Saturday night, bullying their way to 307 rushing yards in a 42-24 win over the Cardinal. Ronald Jones II rushed 23 times for 116 yards and two touchdowns, "other" running back Stephen Carr carried 11 times for 119 yards and Sam Darnold hit 21-of-26 passes for 316 yards with four touchdowns (and two interceptions). A few other stats:

  • 623 yards of total offense
  • 8.42 yards per play
  • 10-of-12 on third down
  • 28 first downs

Only a select few defenses in college football can stop this offense, and Washington isn't on the schedule. 4. Clemson is still in the elite of the elite. Just how good is Clemson's defense? The Tigers can put 14 points on the board, with Gus Malzahn standing on the opposite sideline, and take their foot off the gas. Auburn carried a 6-0 lead into the final minute of the first half, but the game was all but over when Kelly Bryant bellied in for a 3-yard keeper just before halftime. Bryant's 27-yard dash early in the third put the game out of reach, and the purple-and-orange Tigers coasted from there for a 14-6 win. Brent Venables's defense sacked Auburn's Jarrett Stidham eleven times and held him to 3.29 yards per attempt on 24 passes. Auburn moved 69 yards on its first drive, and didn't travel farther than 25 yards in any of its 10 touches after that; it totaled 42 yards on 38 non end-of-half snaps after taking that 6-0 lead.

Deshaun Watson is no longer in town, but Clemson's championship pedigree is still on campus.

5a. Clemson's record in 1-score games since the beginning of 2015: 12-2. No stat proves the strength of Clemson's relentless depth like this one.

5b. Clemson's opponent next week? Lamar Jackson, on the road.

6. As if there was any doubt, Georgia is the favorite in the SEC East. That statement doesn't necessarily place them in the national elite, but Georgia had a level of athleticism Notre Dame couldn't match. The Bulldogs harassed Irish quarterback Brandon Wimbush all night, limiting him to 211 passing yards on 39 attempts and one yard on 16 credited rushes, and the Irish offense to 3-of-17 on third down. Notre Dame ran the ball 37 times -- and not a single one of them went for 10 yards.

A superior defensive performance covered for a pedestrian offense -- 185 rushing yards, 141 passing -- as the Bulldogs eeked out juuust enough points to leave their first-ever trip to South Bend with a 20-19 win.

The degree of difficulty will drop for true freshman quarterback Jake Fromm and whether it's him or Jacob Eason pulling the trigger for the Dawgs, Georgia's defense is enough to place them at the top of an offensively challenged division. 7. The corner was there for Matt Campbell and Iowa State, but they couldn't turn it. A rivalry game in Ames was a chance for Campbell's program to take a major step forward in Year 2 and, man, was the chance ever there. Trailing 21-10 after surrendering 261 yards in touchdown drives, Iowa State answered with three straight drives of its own, moving 198 yards with approximately an equal number of broken tackles.

The Cyclones surrendered a touchdown to allow Iowa to pull within 31-28, then immediately threw an interception that staked the Hawkeyes at the ISU 5-yard line.

No matter, Iowa State answered like the grown-up program they're trying to become. The defense didn't surrender a yard, forcing a game-tying field goal instead of a go-ahead touchdown. Then Jacob Park found Hakeem Butler for a 74-yard touchdown. And then the defense forced Iowa two yards backward to force another three-and-out.

So just two minutes and 23 seconds after Iowa State's defense took the field with a 35-31 deficit seemingly imminent, the Cyclones' offense walked on the field with a 38-31 lead. Big boy stuff, right?

With 3:27 left in the game, a couple first downs would salt away Iowa State's first CyHawk win in Ames since 2011.

Instead, the Cyclones committed every growing-pain mistake possible. The offense went a meek three-and-out, and the defense allowed Iowa to move 89 yards in seven plays (a blatant missed offensive pass interference helped) to send the game to overtime, and Iowa won it in the first frame by forcing a field goal then scoring a touchdown of their own. A 38-31 Iowa State lead with 3:27 to play and the ball in their possession became a 44-41 overtime loss just like that.

“We just couldn’t make that final dagger play you’re going to have to make to beat that team,” Campbell said after the game.

8. The Super 16. The Nuggets is honored to again hold a vote in this year's FWAA-NFF Super 16 poll. Here's this week's ballot.

  1. Alabama
  2. Clemson
  3. Oklahoma
  4. USC
  5. Washington
  6. Penn State
  7. Oklahoma State
  8. Michigan
  9. Stanford
  10. Georgia
  11. LSU
  12. TCU
  13. Florida State
  14. Louisivlle
  15. Ohio State
  16. Wisconsin

9. Odds and Ends

a. This is one of those "I'm going to tell you exactly how much I don't care about you" quotes that we've all either said or had said about us after a bad relationship, but, damn.

b. Texas endured the third-most embarrassing loss of Week 1. The Longhorns responded by beating San Jose State, 56-0.

c. UNLV endured the second-most embarrassing loss of Week 1. The Rebels responded by beating Idaho, 44-16.

d. Texas A&M endured the most embarrassing loss of Week 1. The Aggies responded by... closing on a 10-0 run to beat Nicholls State, 24-14.

e. Josh Rosen since UCLA fell behind 44-10 against Texas A&M: 45-for-57 (78.9 percent) for 671 yards (12.56 yards per attempt) with nine touchdowns and no interceptions. That's a quarterback rating of 229.94.

f. The only reason Rutgers is in the Big Ten is because of the existence of BTN. So, essentially, BTN subsidized Rutgers's payment of $860,000 to Eastern Michigan to come to New Jersey... so BTN could broadcast Eastern Michigan beating Rutgers, 16-13.

g. It wasn't pretty, but TCU went to Fayetteville and pretty much suffocated Arkansas to the tune of a 28-7 win. In his three seasons coming off losing campaigns, Gary Patterson is now a combined 25-2. h. Army is 2-0 and has thrown for 17 yards all season. i. Army's ongoing 5-game winning streak is the program's longest since ripping off 11 in a row in 1995-96. j. Bad: Baylor is off to an 0-2 start after falling 17-7 to UTSA. Worse: The Bears will be heavy underdogs until a trip to Kansas on Nov. 4. k. After allowing 42 points and 409 yards in the first half to Oregon, the idea of Bob Diaco making halftime adjustments seemed like a dark joke. But the Cornhuskers limited Oregon to 157 second half yards and pitched a shutout. It wasn't enough to overcome Tanner Lee's four interceptions, though, and Nebraska fell to the Ducks, 42-35. l. The happiest coach in college football this week isn't Lincoln Riley or Kirby Smart or Dabo Swinney. It's Middle Tennessee defensive coordinator Scott Shafer. As we know, Shafer's last job before coordinating MTSU's defense was as the head coach of Syracuse. He didn't leave Syracuse on his own. The Blue Raiders held Syracuse to 2.6 yards per carry and 4.1 yards per attempt, creating a key interception and a safety to help Middle Tennessee upset the Orange, 30-23.

m. It came a week late, but Major Applewhite coached his first game as a head man -- and led Houston to a 19-16 win over Arizona in Tucson.

n. San Diego State went to Tempe and pushed Arizona State around, running for 279 yards (while allowing 44) in a 30-20 win.

o. Utah went to Provo and beat BYU, 19-13. It's Utah's seventh straight Holy War win, and their sixth in that streak by a touchdown or less.

p. P.J. Fleck went to Corvallis and beat Oregon State 48-14 while throwing eight passes. Tonight was the night he truly became a Big Ten coach.

r. Boise State led Washington State 31-10 into the middle part of the fourth quarter. It was so bad for Wazzu that Mike Leach benched all-time leading passer Luke Falk at one point.

But Washington State scored three touchdowns in the final eight minutes and outlasted Boise, 47-44 in triple overtime. A day that started at noon ET ended at 2:42 a.m. on Sunday.

10. And finally... I know you've probably seen this before, but this is too insane not to discuss.

I'm sure there's been another time in college football history where a team ran a third-and-goal play from its own 7-yard line, but I can't think of it.