1. Alabama is awesome. There are two steps in becoming a truly great coach: to build, and then to maintain. Lots of coaches can build. Few can maintain. Even fewer can pull off what Nick Saban has accomplished: to build while he maintains.
Not only is Alabama not slowing down as the program evolves from its second to third generation under Saban, but it keeps getting better. The Tide aren't simply riding the wave, they're taking one peak and using it as a baseline for their next peak. Saban has built himself a castle around his already existing castle.
That's the main take away from No. 1 Alabama's 49-10 ripping of -- an admittedly ripe of the picking -- No. 9 Tennessee. This version of the Tide has kept the ferocious pass rush Kirby Smart cultivated before he left for Georgia, but now they're even more aggressive under Jeremy Pruitt. They're faster than ever, but sacrificed none of their trademark physicality. On offense, Lane Kiffin has designed an attack under Saban's first true dual-threat that can run at you, run around you and throw it over the top of you. Jalen Hurts rushed for 132 yards and three touchdowns -- he's already well on his way to putting together the best running season for an Alabama quarterback ever -- Bo Scarborough rushed for 109 yards and Damien Harris added 94. As a team, Alabama carried 49 times for 438 yards and five touchdowns. They returned a punt for a touchdown. They returned an interception for a touchdown. Seven different defensive players have scored this season.
So, yes, Alabama is awesome, but not in the way you'd describe the new pizza place around the corner. No, Alabama is awesome in the literal sense of the word, because they inspire awe. They're version of a lightning storm -- beautiful to observe from a distance, but not quite the same when they're bearing down on top of you.
1a. This was more of the colloquial, less-literal form of awesome. Lane Kiffin literally threw shade on Tennessee as he left the Neyland Stadium field for the first time since he presumably left for good in 2009.
2. Alabama is awesome, and Ohio State isn't far behind. Some nights you have it, and others you just don't. Saturday looked like the latter for Ohio State when, trailing 16-6, J.T. Barrett tossed an interception into Wisconsin's end zone.
But the Buckeyes' defense forced a three-and-out and then an interception, allowing the offense two short fields to storm back and take the lead at 20-16. Wisconsin answered with a touchdown, which forced Ohio State to march down for a field goal to send the game to overtime.
Ohio State overcame two penalties in the top of the first overtime to secure a touchdown, then mounted a goal-line stand after allowing a first-and-goal at their own 4. Two Corey Clement runs were stuffed for no gain, and a fourth-down Alex Hornibrook pass was swallowed whole before it could ever leave his fingertips.
And with that, Ohio State registered another signature win of this season and pushed its road winning streak to 20, the first such streak in nearly 30 years.
All this is a game where Ohio State was out-rushed by 50, trailed by 10 and, as mentioned above, turned the ball over in the opponent's end zone. Against a top-10 team.
3. You come at the king, you best not miss (a game-winning field goal). The recipe was there for an upset. Noon kick. Capable yet unheralded opponent. Uninspired performance. Turnovers. Noon kick. Noon kick a third time.
NC State forced three fumbles deep inside its own territory and returned an interception for a touchdown. The Wolfpack launched a 75-yard drive to tie the game after falling behind 17-10 in the fourth quarter, forced a punt on Clemson's next possession, then moved again into scoring territory. With two seconds remaining, Dave Doeren's club needed just a 33-yard field goal to secure a program-affirming, season-altering upset.
Clemson scored a touchdown to open overtime, converting a 4th-and-1 in the process, then intercepted Ryan Finley on the first play of NC State's possession. What was one short field goal from being a 20-17 stunner turned into a 24-17 Clemson win. Dabo Swinney's Tigers remain incredibly hard to kill.
4. You come at the king, you best not miss (a game-tying touchdown pass). Philip Montgomery's progress at Tulsa nearly hit warp speed when his Golden Hurricane fought back from 31-17 down in the fourth quarter to tie the game, forced a punt and took over for what could have been a game-winning drive with 90 seconds -- roughly 45 minutes in regular Earth time -- remaining. But Houston, as Houston does, forced a fumble and returned it for what appeared to be a clinching touchdown just one play later.
No matter, Tulsa took over at its own 25 with 1:15 remaining, moved to the 43, the Houston 32, the 24 and then the 1-yard line. A run with eight seconds remaining lost a yard, and the Hurricane's final pass from the 2-yard line came thiiiiis short.
5. The ACC was wild today. Remember when that Miami-Virginia Tech game on Thursday night was going to decide who played spoiler against Clemson? Yeah, not quite.
Mark Richt was unable to shake his program's cobwebbed history after losing to Florida State, falling behind 20-3 at the half before submitting to a 20-13 defeat.
Elsewhere, a Virginia Tech team that had cruised after losing to Tennessee -- including a 34-3 blowout of UNC last week -- was soundly beaten 31-17 at Syracuse, providing the first significant moment for Dino Babers in western New York.
The Atlantic Division is simple -- Clemson has to lose twice and, in the unlikely event they do, Louisville will most likely win the division. The Coastal? Good luck figuring that out. 6. I see you, West Virginia. There are two ways to view the first third of West Virginia's season: the Mountaineers were good the whole time and we just didn't see it, or they played as expected against a below-average schedule. Either way, there was nothing average about the way Dana Holgorsen's bunch thumped Texas Tech. West Virginia made Texas Tech's offense look... ordinary. The 48-17 final score snapped the Red Raiders' NCAA-record streak of nine straight home games hitting the 50-point barrier and was the second-lowest scoring output of the Kliff Kingsbury era. Tony Gibson's defense held Patrick Mahomes and company under 350 passing yards on 50 attempts -- Tech came in averaging 544 yards a game and 9.8 an attempt -- and a grand total of 34 yards on 27 rushes. If there is hope for the Big 12 yet, it may lie in a defense. Just as we all predicted. 7. At the halfway point, a College Football Playoff prediction. If the season ended today, here's how I'd slot the two semifinals: PEACH: No. 1 Alabama vs. No. 4 Washington FIESTA: No. 2 Ohio State vs. No. 3 Clemson At this point in the season, here's how I see the Playoff actually shaking out: PEACH: No. 1 Alabama vs. No. 4 Michigan FIESTA: No. 2 Ohio State vs. No. 3 Clemson 8. The Super 16. The Nuggets is honored to serve as a voter in this year's FWAA-NFF Super 16 poll. Here's this week's ballot.
- Ohio State
- Texas A&M
- Boise State
- West Virginia
9. Odds and Ends.
a. Every single person on GameDay picked Indiana to beat Nebraska. Final score? Nebraska 27, Indiana 22. And Nebraska was favored!
b. Notre Dame is 2-5 and Eastern Michigan is 5-2. The Eagles won five games over the last three seasons combined, have topped four wins once in the past 20 years and haven't started 5-2 since 1995.
c. Also 5-2 for the first time in a while? Colorado. The Buffs are legitimate threats to win the Pac-12 South after pummeling Arizona State 40-14 in Boulder.
d. Michigan State is in a bad way right now. The Spartans have now dropped four straight after allowing a Spartan Stadium opponent record 54 points in a 54-40 loss to Northwestern.
e. Illinois beat Rutgers 24-7, which means the Knights have scored seven points in three weeks and 14 points in four weeks.
f. Ed Orgeron must have cooked up something special at halftime. LSU, who, needless to say, could not afford to lose to Southern Miss, entered halftime tied 10-10 with Southern Miss. They won the game 45-10.
g. South Alabama may need to leave the Sun Belt. The Jaguars beat Mississippi State and San Diego State in non-conference play, but sit at 0-3 in conference play after losing to 1-4 Arkansas State.
h. I don't get many predictions right, but I nailed this one: Vanderbilt 17, Georgia 16. It's Vandy's first SEC road win since November 2013.
i. The final winless team in FBS nearly broke through Saturday. Rice shutout UTSA in the second half but two last gasps came up empty and the Roadrunners fended off the Owls 14-13.
j. Never assume a PAT in college football... on either side. Western Kentucky won a shootout over Middle Tennessee, 44-43 in double overtime, thanks to a missed PAT by the Blue Raiders in the top of the second extra frame.
k. It's been a struggle for Arkansas's defense this season, but it was nice to see the Hogs rise up and make stops -- an interception, a three-and-out and a timely sack -- to Arkansas secure a crucial 34-30 win over Ole Miss.
j. I don't think any assistant agriculture professors will be yelling at Bret Bielema this week.
l. Best team you (probably) haven't seen this season? Troy. The Trojans, 4-8 last season, are 5-1 and in first place in the Sun Belt after beating Georgia State 31-21 on Saturday. Their only loss was a 30-24 setback at Clemson in which they came up on the short end of some tough calls.
m. The best game you didn't see on Saturday? Temple 26, UCF 25. The Knights led nearly throughout, including an Oregon-style 2-point conversion to take an 8-0 lead, and clung to a 26-20 advantage when Temple took over at its own 30 with 32 seconds left. Phillip Walker hit completions of 20, 16, 26 and eight yards, to give the Owls their only lead of the night -- with exactly one second to spare.
n. Boise State led Colorado State 28-3 with five minutes remaining. Three touchdowns, two onside kicks allowed and one failed 4th-and-1 plunge later, Colorado State was trying the Stanford Band play for the win. The Broncos held on 28-23.
10. And, finally... the Nos. 2 and 3 teams at the FBS level narrowly avoided upset, but the No. 1 team in FCS was not so lucky.