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Lions, Tigers and #Nuggets: Observations from Week 8

1. Yeah, Alabama is still awesome. Here's what I wrote about Alabama last week:

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.

The lightning storm hit Texas A&M with 10:42 to play in the third quarter.

Alabama flattened Texas A&M to start the game, racking up 303 yards of total offense on 49 plays and gaining 122 yards before the Aggies gained one, but poor execution found the Tide up only 13-7 at the half. Texas A&M marched 75 yards in six plays to open the second half, taking the lead on a 25-yard strike from Trevor Knight to Christian Kirk two minutes and change into the second half.

The Aggies forced Alabama off the field on their opening possession of the second half, seemingly allowing them to achieve a level only tow teams have reached in the past 13 months -- to possess the lead and the ball in the second half against the Tide. But Shaan Washington roughed Jalen Hurts on a throw-away 3rd-and-10, Alabama turned the miscue into seven points and scored the game's final 20 in a 33-14 win.

This win, Alabama's 20th straight, was earned on the ground. The Tide limited A&M's rushing offense -- No. 7 in yards per game, No. 2 in yards per carry -- to 114 yards on 3.0 per carry while pounding out 57 rushes for 287 yards (an even five per carry).

Alabama will take a week off before a visit to LSU, but the Tide is not out of the woods even with a victory at Baton Rouge because...

2. Turns out Gus didn't forget how to coach. Remember when, supposedly, the only reason Gus Malzahn still had a job was because LSU's game-winning touchdown pass came one second late? Feels like a long time ago, doesn't it?

Since escaping the LSU game with an 18-13 win, Auburn has smacked Louisiana-Monroe 56-3, Mississippi State 38-14 (War Eagle led 35-0 at one point) and, now, 56-3 over Arkansas.

Auburn beat Arkansas like Cam Newton or Nick Marshall was running things. The Tigers completed seven passes for 89 yards... and rushed 57 times for 543 yards and seven touchdowns.

At 5-2 and 3-1 in the SEC, Auburn will find itself in the top 25 on Sunday.

3. 20-1. James Franklin's first win of significance at Penn State is Urban Meyer's first road loss at Ohio State. The Buckeyes led 12-7 at the half and 21-7 entering the fourth, but the Nittany Lions erased Ohio State's passing game -- 43 attempts for just 245 yards -- while sacking J.T. Barrett five times. Penn State wasn't spectacular on offense, throwing 23 times for 154 yards and rushing 36 times for 126. But they got enough when they needed it, moving 90 yards in five snaps to pull within 21-14, then using special teams to climb over the hump. A blocked punt set up a field goal with 9:33 to play, and a blocked field goal was returned 60 yards for a touchdown to put Penn State on top with 4:27 to play. Ohio State moved to its own 42 with 1:10 left, but Penn State sacked Barrett on third and fourth down to seal the win. Playing on the road at night for two straight weeks made me wonder if Ohio State should be on upset alert this week, and the Bucks' fourth quarter performance confirmed it.

4. LSU has become self-aware. In a game that meant a lot to him professionally and personally, Ed Orgeron kept LSU rolling with a 38-21 win over Ole Miss. A 21-21 halftime tie turned into a runaway after Dave Aranda's defense blanked the Rebels in the second half, and Danny Etling continued to progress in Steve Ensminger's attack, hitting 19-of-28 passes for 204 yards with a touchdown and an interception.

A healthy Leonard Fournette helped. The one-time Heisman front-runner, now healthy, rushed 16 times for 284 yards and three touchdowns.

LSU gets next week off, then hosts Alabama. The Tigers will be ready.

5. That one felt good. Tom Herman, Chad Morris and Philip Montgomery arrived at AAC West Division schools at the same time, with similar pedigrees. Herman received 99.5 percent of the press, because Herman waited to join Houston until completing his part in Ohio State's national championship run and because he won 18 of his first 19 games, including over the likes of Louisville, Florida State and Oklahoma.

Houston allowed the door to crack two weeks ago in a 46-40 loss at Navy, then a little more last week when Tulsa came within two millimeters of forcing overtime -- or going for two and the win -- at Houston.

SMU may have knocked the sucker off the hinges.

Morris and the Ponies opened up a 28-7 halftime lead and were never seriously threatened in the second half, coasting to a 38-16 win.

Yeah, they went there.

6. How far is the gap between Texas and Texas A&M? The Aggies fell to Alabama, sure, but that's a bit like seeing your new horror thriller take second on the best sellers list to the new Stephen King offering. A&M is 6-1 and earned its keep in the top 10.

Meanwhile, Texas is 3-4 for the third consecutive year for the first time in program history. The 'Horns lost an imminently winnable game to Kansas State, falling 24-21 in a game where they won the turnover battle by three but netted zero points on those turnovers.

As for the answer to the answer to the bolded question, one may have to go back to 1993 to find the last time the see-saw pointed so highly toward the maroon end, when the Aggies posted a 10-2 season and a Cotton Bowl finish while Texas stumbled through a 5-5-1 mark. And the schools were in the same conference at the time. Now the gap between the two seems almost as wide between the SEC and the Big 12.

7. Two box scores from the same sport (allegedly). Wisconsin beat Iowa 17-9 while Oklahoma fended off Texas Tech 66-59.

Statistic

Wisconsin-Iowa

Oklahoma-Texas Tech

Points

26

125

Total plays

133

185

First downs

34

75

Touchdowns

2

17

Pass completions

32

79

Pass yards

409

1,279

Rush yards

250

429

Total yards

659

1,708

Punts

13

4

7a. Trailing 14-6 with five minute to play, Kirk Ferentz elected to kick a field goal facing a 4th-and-5 from the Wisconsin 20. This was his explanation.

ferentz-answer

8. The Super 16. The Nuggets is honored to serve as a voter in the FWAA-NFF Super 16 poll. Here is this week's ballot.

  1. Alabama
  2. Michigan
  3. Washington
  4. Clemson
  5. Louisville
  6. Ohio State
  7. Texas A&M
  8. Wisconsin
  9. West Virginia
  10. Baylor
  11. Florida State
  12. Oklahoma
  13. Auburn
  14. LSU
  15. Nebraska
  16. Virginia Tech

9. Odds and Ends

a. Darrell Royal once said, "If a dog's gonna bit you, he'll do it as a pup." He said that in reference to football players, but the same thinking applies to coaches. Case in point: Scott Frost and Seth Littrell. The two first-time coaches, taking over teams that were a combined 1-23 last season, now have Central Florida and North Texas both at 4-3 after UCF took down Connecticut 24-16 and UNT handled Army 35-18.

b. Central Florida had the best possible response to beating UConn. Much like many of my old girlfriends sent a message about the state of our relationship by denying one existed, UCF flat-out declined the existence of the Civil ConFLiCT rivalry.

c. The game of the year in the Pac-12 will not be Oregon-Stanford, UCLA-USC or even Oregon-Washington, but 7-0 Washington at 7-1 Utah. d. Just as we all predicted, Colorado clinched a bowl trip and remained atop the Pac-12 South alongside Utah by defeating Stanford 10-5 in Palo Alto. e. With all the emphasis on targeting the game has put on head-to-head hits... how is this not targeting again?

f. Following a 28-17 Terps win, Maryland is 5-2 and Michigan State is 2-5.

g. UTSA beat UTEP 49-46 in five overtimes. Mercy.

h. Kentucky is in second place in the SEC East -- and the only East team with a win over a West team -- after holding off Mississippi State for a 40-38 win.

i. Middle Tennessee went to Columbia and beat Missouri 51-45 in a game that saw 1,213 yards of total offense and 648 rushing yards.

j. West Virginia continues to be for real, stiff-arming TCU 34-10 in Morgantown, marking two straight weeks WVU has held a Big 12 foe to 17 points or fewer. The road to the Big 12 title is indeed a country one.

k. Jake Bentley completed 17-of-26 passes for 201 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions in leading South Carolina to a 34-28 win over Massachusetts. This normally wouldn't be remarkable if not for the fact that Jake is the son of Gamecocks staffer Bobby Bentley who, after his father elected to follow Will Muschamp from Auburn to Columbia, skipped his senior year of high school to join the South Carolina roster immediately. So that was a high school senior firing two touchdown passes in FBS win.

l. There will be no winless teams this season after Rice handled Prairie View A&M, 65-44.

m. Nick Rolovich has now surpassed his predecessor's win total with a month to go. Inheriting a 3-10 Hawaii team, Rolovich now has his club at 4-4 after a 34-27 double overtime win at Air Force.

n. Uh, okay?

o. By the way, Michigan bullied Illinois to the tune of a 41-8 final score, out-gaining the Illini 561-172. p. Whatever bothered Louisville last week in a 24-14 defeat of Duke was worked out this week. The Cards blasted NC State 54-13. 10. And, finally... The Nuggets has never broken away from college football before, but we're willing to make a once-every-70 years exception: the Chicago Cubs are going to the World Series.