Chaos, at all levels, remains the most consistent element of this 2021 college football season.
Well, aside from the clear-cut dominance of reigning champ and top-ranked Alabama, as well as its Southeastern Conference brethren, Georgia. The Tide and Bulldogs outscored their top-15 opponents, Ole Miss and Arkansas, respectively, a combined 79-21 – and it was 79-7 combined before Ole Miss scored two late-game touchdowns against Alabama in its 42-21 loss.
In a weekend where Lane Kiffin's popcorn never popped, though Kiffin still executed the past week in a more professional manner than some media who delivered cheap-shots directed at the Ole Miss coach, four top-10 teams lost, a former NFL star-turned-head-coach registered a major victory and officiating again was brought front-and-center in an unfortunate manner.
And Florida suffered something it had not done as a football program since Ronald Reagan's second term featured an average price of .86 cents for a gallon of gas, the Berlin Wall had yet to fall and the 'Black Monday' stock market crash was a year away.
The Gators lost at Kentucky, 20-13, though Gators' coach Dan Mullen pointed out postgame that Florida had easily outgained its hosts, 382 yards to 211.
Mullen took umbrage when asked by a reporter if Mullen & Co. had been outcoached by Kentucky's Mark Stoops and the Wildcats' staff.
Mullen was further questioned Monday about his timeout usage – or lack thereof – in the closing moments of the first half, as the Gators held a slim lead over the Wildcats.
“The use of timeouts,” Mullen mumbled, incredulously, as the question unfolded.
Meanwhile, David Shaw and Stanford continued to be a bit Jekyll and Hyde; they thwarted previously unbeaten and third-ranked Oregon, 31-24, in overtime but Shaw still measured his comments carefully postgame when he said he would take his officiating complaints behind closed doors.
Shaw said officials must enforce the rule where defenses cannot deliberately bark play-calls in an effort to prompt the offense to jump offsides or everyone should seek to disrupt the opposition at will.
“I'm saying just enough not to get fined or get in trouble, right?,” Shaw said in his postgame press conference. “The defense is shouting signals while the quarterback is in his cadence, that's what we need to talk about. I could be dead wrong, maybe those things are not going to get called.
“If they're not going to get called, everybody in our league, everybody in college football should do it. Every single snap.”
Elsewhere, Eddie George – the former Ohio State and Tennessee Titans legend – notched his first career win against a fellow Football Championship Subdivision program as a head coach.
George, who earlier this year took over at HBCU program Tennessee State, in George's current hometown of Nashville, led the Tigers to a stunning upset of an Austin Peay team that has designs on the Ohio Valley Conference title and the FCS Playoffs.
TSU won, 24-22, though the game does not count in the OVC standings. The game was scheduled to fill out the two teams' schedules, as Austin Peay needed a home game.
They play again in late-November in Nashville at the Titans' Nissan Stadium in a game that will count in the OVC race.
TSU outgained the Govs by more than 100 yards, 485-383, and also possessed the ball nearly eight minutes longer than their hosts.
The Tigers could make it a two-game winning streak when they host OVC rival Tennessee Tech in two weeks after their open date. Tech is just 1-4, though fresh from registering a 28-17 comeback-win over the weekend against Southeast Missouri State; the Golden Eagles have averaged just 11.2 points-per-game in scoring just 28 points the entire month of September before scoring the same amount in their win.
Elsewhere, a former NFL head coach got a crucial victory that pushed his team atop the PAC-12 South standings.
Herm Edwards's Arizona State squad hammered host UCLA, 42-23, Saturday in Los Angeles. The Sun Devils, still dealing this season with an NCAA inquiry into the program's recruiting tactics during the COVID-19 pandemic restrictions, vaulted to 2-0 in league play and 4-1 overall – their only loss at BYU.
Edwards was asked if it was anymore gratifying to beat another former NFL skipper – Bruins head man Chip Kelly.
“I’ve known Chip from a long time,” Edwards said. “He’s a fabulous football coach. Any time you can go win a road game against a PAC-12 opponent, that’s good stuff. It’s hard, man. It’s hard. This conference is hard. It just is.
“Nine games you play against opponents, whether it’s South or North (division games). It’s tough. You see it. Every week. It happens. But, good fortune so far, we’ve won two.”
HE SAID WHAT?
One of the most enjoyable elements of the weekly FootballScoop Roundup is the gathering of the top comments from the weekend's action:
“I'm going to enjoy this one. Take a shower. Get on the bus. Start watching the film, and we'll start corrections from there. Nothing personal for me in this, other than I wanted our players to get a result that showed the type of work they're putting in.” – Tennessee Vols first-year coach Josh Heupel, who notched his first career win in SEC play against host Missouri – the school that employed Heupel as its offensive coordinator prior to his three-year run atop the Central Florida Knights from 2018-2020.
“I've been working hard for a long time to provide that type of team. But that's what we need it like every week. We could recruit players when our stadium is like that. Our players will play hard, and it affects the offense as it did tonight with some of those pre-snap penalties, really a big shout-out to you (fans) really. It definitely affected the game. Playing at Kroger Field was a home-field advantage tonight.” – UK coach Mark Stoops, whose Wildcats remained undefeated with their 20-13 win against visiting and nationally ranked Florida, after Kentucky defeated Florida inside Commonwealth Stadium for the first time in 35 years.
“Yeah, it was really good. They had that kind of vibe about them from when they first stepped into the locker room, when we first got here early this morning. The vibe was they were not going to be denied. They weren’t going to flinch when punches were thrown. And that’s the way it played out.” – Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh, asked about his Wolverines adopting their Wisconsin hosts' tradition of bouncing up and down as the Camp Randall Stadium blares 'Jump Around.' Michigan throttled Wisconsin for its first-ever win as an underdog, on the road, against a ranked foe under Harbaugh.
“If there’s a negative in the game, we got to learn how to finish games. We didn’t finish the game like we’d like. … I thought it was a great win. They have a good team. They have a lot of great players. They’re very well coached.” – Alabama coach Nick Saban, whose Tide team raced to leads of 35-0 and 42-7 in an eventual 42-21 shellacking of previously unbeaten Ole Miss.
LOOKING TO THIS WEEKEND
Some of the top games this weekend are both conference clashes and traditional rivalries, including …
Penn State at Iowa: The fourth-ranked Nittany Lions visit the host third-ranked Hawkeyes in a battle of the Big Ten's two highest-ranked teams and perhaps the league's best shot at the College Football Playoff – though Ohio State and Michigan surely will factor into that conversation at some point.
Still, the Hawkeyes might be the most physical team in the league and arguably among the most physical in the nation alongside Georgia and Alabama, as well as Clemson's defense.
Penn State has more team speed than the Hawkeyes and also has played lights-out defense.
Last year, Iowa routed the Nittany Lions in State College, Pennsylvania – a 41-21 that matched the Hawkeyes' second-largest margin of victory against Penn State and snapped the Nittany Lions' six-game winning splurge in the series that dated back to 2011.
Michigan State at Rutgers: The Spartans have raced out to an undefeated start under second-year coach Mel Tucker and joined their in-state rival Wolverines in the national rankings. It's a football awakening through the season's first five weeks in Michigan.
Don't forget Western Michigan got a big win at Pittsburgh last month as well.
Wyoming at Air Force: The host Falcons are 4-1, their only loss a tough setback on the road to Mountain West Conference foe Utah State. The Cowboys are 4-0, coming off their bye week and riding considerable momentum – though three of their four wins are by a combined 12 points including their Sept. 25 comeback at lowly UConn.
Still, Troy Calhoun and Craig Bohl at Air Force and Wyoming respectively are case studies in building and maintaining programs, finding and developing talent and achieving success despite lacking some of the resources and recruiting footprints of their rivals.
No. 16 Northern Iowa at No. 5 North Dakota State: Northern Iowa's only loss this season was a 16-10 game in which it almost pulled a monumental upset against then-top 10 Iowa State to open the season. Meanwhile the Bison, after they finished as national runners-up to Sam Houston State in the spring season, have outscored their first four foes 143-23 on the season. They yet to allow more than 10 points this fall and just dispatched rival North Dakota, FCS' No. 13 team, 16-10.