Two weeks into the season, here's the state of play in the Big 12. Teams that opened their seasons with home losses to Arkansas State and Louisiana-Lafayette are now in the driver's seat to reach the Big 12 Championship, while Texas and Oklahoma are gearing up for a Big 12 elimination/Cheez-It Bowl play-in game.
Iowa State 37, Oklahoma 30 and TCU 33, Texas 31 shouldn't surprise anyone who pays the slightest bit of attention to this conference. (Naturally, I picked both games wrong.)
The Cyclones' date with Oklahoma was the program's biggest game in decades, and they played like it. Matt Campbell's team cleared the way for Breece Hall to rush for 139 yards and two scores while limiting OU's once-mighty running game to 114 yards on 3.5 a pop. Spencer Rattler has all the arm talent in the world, but he's not at a place in his career where he can carry the Sooner attack by himself. And so Jim Heacock's defense put the clamps on Rattler as the night went on, in the process staging a 31-13 rally over the game's final 34 minutes.
-- It's the fifth straight game Oklahoma has been held below four yards per carry
-- It's Iowa State's first win over OU in Ames since 1960
-- It's the first time OU has started 0-2 in Big 12 play since 1998, the final year of the pre-Bob Stoops era
-- It's the first time Iowa State has started Big 12 play 2-0 since 2002, and the second time since 1983
-- It's the fifth time since 2017 Oklahoma has lost a game it once led by double digits, and the first time since 1996 the Sooners have lost consecutive games they led at the half since 1996, according to ESPN Stats & Information
The key sequence: Tied at 23 early in the fourth, Oklahoma forced its first turnover in what felt like years, a strip sack of Brock Purdy in Cyclone territory. The Sooners cashed it in for a touchdown, then immediately surrendered an 85-yard kickoff return. Iowa State scored three plays later; then forced an OU three-and-out; then went 55 yards in four plays to notch the winning score. Oklahoma capped a loss with a Rattler interception for the second straight week.
As for TCU's win over Texas, well, what can you say about the seventh time in nine tries -- the number of wins Gary Patterson owns over UT -- that you didn't say six of the previous eight?
They treat this game like a rivalry in Fort Worth, and the results prove it. (The quote referenced here was authored by Tom Herman.)
This back-and-forth affair turned midway through the fourth quarter. Leading with possession of the ball for the first time all game, Texas' offense had a chance to put the game on ice and instead went three-and-out.
Having been held out of the end zone since early in the second quarter (eight straight drives), TCU scored in five plays, taking the lead on a 26-yard Max Duggan draw straight up the gut. Texas moved in position to regain the lead with 2:30 remaining when running back Keontay Ingram tried to stretch the ball across the goal line and instead got stripped.
Ball, meet game.
We now live in a reality where Oklahoma State is the Big 12's only unbeaten (having allowed 27 points in three games), K-State and Iowa State lead the power rankings and, a week from today, either Texas will be 1-2 or Oklahoma will be 0-3 in conference play.
Alabama is still Alabama, and Texas A&M is still Texas A&M. A&M gave everything Alabama could handle in their first two years as SEC bunk mates. The Aggies won 29-24 in Tuscaloosa in 2012, then played the Tide to a 49-42 final a year later. And then Johnny Manziel left.
Alabama won its eighth straight over the the Aggies on Saturday, and the last few editions of this rivalry have essentially been repeats of the same game.
Alabama-Texas A&M, post-Manziel era
* - Jimbo Fisher era
There's no use in picking nits out of any of those games, even Saturday's, because doing so would miss the forest for the trees. Nick Saban does this to just about everyone, especially his former assistants.
Jimbo Fisher was hired to close the gap between College Station and Tuscaloosa. Bama-A&M games were supposed to be events, in the way that 2013 game was. Watching Saturday's game, you came away thinking those programs were between three and four touchdowns apart.
And that's the entire problem, isn't it?
Oh, and Georgia is just fine, too. In another timeline, Jake Fromm is still Georgia's quarterback. In another, Justin Fields is under center for the Bulldogs.
In this one, Georgia has entrusted its offense to JuCo transfer Stetson Bennett IV, and for now that's more than enough.
Since entering the Arkansas game with the Dogs trailing 7-2, Georgia has out-scored its opponents 62-9 while Bennett went 37-of-57 for 451 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions.
Of course, there's more to it than that.
The running game and the defense are still among the fiercest in the country. That should be enough to beat everyone but Alabama and Florida, but Kirby Smart hired Todd Monken to diversify and modernize the Georgia attack. That was the thinking when it looked like Jamie Newman, the Wake Forest transfer, was going to be Georgia's quarterback.
Can Georgia win a track meet? We'll find out in two weeks in Tuscaloosa.
Arkansas shuts down Leach, because of course they do. After going 0-for-the Chad Morris era in SEC games, the Hogs are 1-1 in the Sam Pittman era.
Barry Odom made Bo Pelini's game plan look even worse than it did a week ago, limiting KJ Costello to [pulls out calculator] 320 fewer passing yards than he compiled in last week's upset of LSU. The Hogs picked Costello three times, one of them a 69-yard pick-six that proved the difference in their 21-14 win.
The Super 16. We opted out of filing a hypothetical ballot last week, but we'll dive back in today.
- Ohio State
- Notre Dame
- Notre Dame
- Penn State
- North Carolina
- Oklahoma State
Odds and Ends
a. SMU earned a massive, gutty win on Saturday. The Ponies raced to a 24-3 lead over Memphis, lost both the lead and leading wide receiver Reggie Roberson, Jr., plus running back TJ McDaniel, then rebounded to pull out a 30-27 win. The 4-0 Mustangs are one of two unbeatens in the American (not counting Temple and Houston, who haven't played yet).
b. That win became even bigger when Tulsa upended UCF, 34-26. Philip Montgomery's team -- who played Oklahoma State tough in Stillwater two weeks ago -- rallied from a 23-5 (you read that correctly) deficit that included turnovers on three consecutive plays, scoring the game's final 15 points and fending off the Knights in their own end zone to seal the win. It's Tulsa's second straight win over UCF, and UCF's first home loss since Nov. 19, 2016... to Tulsa.
It's the highest-ranked road win (UCF was No. 11 in the AP poll) in school history.
c. Shame on me for not mentioning them yet thus far, but BYU is straight up mauling people so far this year. Kalani Sitake's team owns a 55-3 mauling of Navy, a 48-7 demolition over Troy, and a 45-14 blowout of Louisiana Tech on Friday night.
d. With Notre Dame in quarantine, Air Force now owns the nation's longest winning streak. The Falcons, down 40 players this season, opened their 2020 campaign with a 40-7 win over Navy.
e. College football has been building toward this moment for 15 years now.
f. Just like they drew it up, right?
g. Will Healy elected to go for a 4th-and-4 from the plus-6 yard line, trailing Florida Atlantic 21-10. It worked out; the 49ers picked up the first down and scored a play later.
h. Florida Atlantic won the game, though, 21-17, making Willie Taggart a winner in his FAU debut.
i. Lane Kiffin earned his first win at Ole Miss, a 42-41 overtime thriller at Kentucky. The Rebels surrendered 408 yards on 7.3 yards per carry and six rushing touchdowns, but won thanks to Matt Corral completing 24-of-29 throws for 320 yards and four touchdowns. The clincher went to Elijah Moore, a guy who holds a special place in Rebel football history.
j. Tennessee stretched its winning streak to eight with a 35-12 drubbing of Mizzou. It's Big Orange's longest winning streak since an 11-game winning streak from 2015-16. Next up: at Georgia.
k. NC State knocked off undefeated Pitt, 30-29, thanks to a 13-yard touchdown pass with 23 seconds left and a goal line stand that saw the Wolfpack turn a 1st-and-goal at the 1-yard line into a turnover on downs.
l. Scottie Walden earned his first win as an (interim) head coach, leading Southern Miss to a 41-31 road win over North Texas. Also, we're all old.
m. The good news: South Carolina put together an 18-play, 74-yard drive that gnawed 7:23 off the clock. The bad: it resulted in no points, and the Gamecocks trailed Florida 38-24 at the time. They lost, 38-24.
n. Cincinnati intercepted five South Florida passes in a 28-7 Bearcats win.
o. Florida State rallied from a 21-7 deficit to earn the first win of the Mike Norvell era, 41-24 over Jacksonville State.
p. West Virginia continues to show steady improvement under Neal Brown, winning a muck-fest over Baylor, 27-21 in double overtime. The Mountaineers limited the Bears to 0.8 yards per carry and an even six yards per pass attempt.
q. My man for Georgia Southern nearly knocked ULM quarterback Colby Suits into the end zone here.
r. Navy's scoring differential in the second half against Tulane: +27. Navy scoring differential in five other halves this season: -109.
Not all the college football action took place at the FBS level on Saturday. North Dakota State played, essentially, a fall exhibition game against Central Arkansas, winning 39-28.
The Bison will now take [checks calendar] 20 consecutive bye weeks before opening their 2021 season on Feb. 21.