1. There's no doubt about it, LSU's season has been reborn under Ed Orgeron. Les Miles was fired because Nick Saban evolved and he didn't.But LSU has been evolving in hyper speed since his departure. The Tigers play with a different level of passion and a new-found sense of confidence since their Sept. 25 coaching change. The Coach They Call O has changed the Tigers' approach, making practices crisper and their game-plans sharper. The numbers bear that out, too: LSU ranked No. 70 in yards per play in September, and No. 2 in October. Orgeron promised new offensive coordinator Steve Ensminger would attack downfield more, and all he's done is shed a digit off the Tigers' passing numbers -- from No. 113 in yards per attempt in September to No. 13 in October in yards per attempt, and from No. 114 to No. 17 in passing efficiency.
Of course, some of that can be chalked up to playing Wisconsin and Auburn in September and not October. But even then, LSU never hit 5.75 yards per play against Wisconsin, Mississippi State or Auburn and then turned around and dropped 7.73 yards per play against Missouri and 8.05 against Ole Miss.
There's definitely something here, but it won't count until it happens against Alabama.
Perhaps it's unfair to compare a reconstructed-on-the-fly LSU team against Alabama, but the standard is the standard -- and it's a frightening one. The Tide rank No. 3 in yards per play allowed, No. 1 in sacks and No. 1 -- by a mile -- in rushing defense and yards per carry allowed.
Clearly, LSU will need the opposite of Leonard Fournette's production in last year's Alabama blowout -- Fournette carried 19 times for 31 yards and a touchdown in a 30-16 rout -- to give quarterback Danny Etling room to breathe and keep the Tigers' downfield passing attack credible. There's reason to believe Fournette is capable of a Fournette performance -- he rushed 16 times for 284 yards and three touchdowns against Ole Miss, and barely cracked a sweat in doing so.
LSU hasn't beaten Alabama since the 9-6 Game of the Century in 2011, which was in Tuscaloosa, but the Tigers have been within a whisker in the Tide's last two descents into Death Valley. They led 17-14 inside the final two minutes in 2012 before a 5-play, 43-second, 72-yard drive ripped away a 21-17 decision, and in 2014 they led 13-10 inside the final minute before falling 20-13 in overtime.
Based on what we know, Saturday night in Death Valley should be low-scoring, it should be tense and it should be tight.
2. An elimination game in Columbus. Nebraska coasted into the top-10 on the strength of simply not losing against a weak schedule, but Mike Riley's bunch acquitted themselves well against a tough Wisconsin team, fighting back from a 17-7 fourth quarter deficit before falling 23-17 in overtime. But fall they did. And now they enter a must-win game against Ohio State.
A loss to the Buckeyes not only denies Nebraska a desperately-needed resume boost, but it puts them behind the 8-ball to even reach the Big Ten championship -- the 'Huskers and Badgers would be tied in the standings, and Wisconsin, obviously, owns the tiebreaker. And Wisconsin closes with Northwestern, Illinois, Purdue and Minnesota.
Ohio State would still likely have the resume to reach the Playoff with a loss Saturday night -- wins over Oklahoma, Wisconsin and a Big Ten title would be enough. But they probably won't get there without a win Saturday. Even an upset -- and it would be an upset at this point -- over Michigan wouldn't be enough unless the Wolverines drop another game down the road.
The Buckeyes were college football's best team in September:
Ohio State September
Yards Per Play
Yards Per Play Allowed
But they fell off considerably in October:
Ohio State October
Yards Per Play
Yards Per Play Allowed
It's now November. Which version of the Buckeyes will we see?
3. Kentucky continues its march to Atlanta. And not for the Peach Bowl. After starting 2-3 and 1-2 in SEC play, Mark Stoops's troops have ripped off a 3-game winning streak -- the program's first 3-game SEC winning streak in a decade -- and played themselves into contention for the SEC title game.
Kentucky would need Florida to lose twice, but that's not implausible. The Gators visit Arkansas on Saturday and a trip to a resurgent LSU waits later this month.
While that lays outside Kentucky's control, the Wildcats have a real chance to beat Georgia on Saturday. The Dogs are 2-4 in SEC play and scored 26 points total in consecutive losses to Vanderbilt and Florida.
Flip the uniforms and nothing else and it wouldn't even be a question who wins on Saturday.
4. The Charlie Chronicles hit Lubbock. How's this for a stat? In every Texas-Texas Tech game dating back to 1989, the team that won the rushing battle won the game.... until last year, when UT pounded out 403 ground yards (to Tech's 293) yet lost a 48-45 decision. Who knows what anything means in the post-defense era of the Big 12?
Here's what we do know: a 4-4 Texas team visits a 4-4 Tech game in a game where anything can happen. D'Onta Foreman, the nation's second-leading rusher, faces off against the nation's No. 120 yards per carry defense. Patrick Mahomes, the nation's leading passer, faces the nation's No. 125 passing efficiency defense.
Mix in some popcorn with your lunch plans.
5. The nation's most sneaky-good team is.... USC? Colorado is the nation's biggest surprise. Auburn is the nation's fastest riser. But while the nation stopped paying attention, USC started putting it together.
After a 1-3 start and a change at quarterback, USC finished leapfrogged from 99th in yards per play in September all the way to seventh in October. In raw numbers, the Trojans exploded from 5.35 per snap to 7.58.
Now, behind redshirt freshman quarterback Sam Darnold, a USC team with very real Pac-12 championship hopes -- especially if Colorado can beat Utah -- hosts an Oregon team that, while still struggling defensively, has figured it out on offense behind its own freshman quarterback Justin Herbert.
Win that, and the Trojans will be well-positioned for a potential season-shaking upset in Seattle next week.