1. It's time to throw the chart in the trash. Let's start with Exhibit A, in Gainesville, Fla. With 10:19 remaining in the fourth quarter, Jalen Hurd scored from 10 yards out to push Tennessee's lead over Florida to 26-14. Butch Jones kicked an extra point, extending the lead to 27-14. But what does that extra point actually accomplish? The odds are very low Florida scores exactly 13 points over the final 10-plus minutes, as a couple first downs along the way makes it nearly impossible for the Gators to post a touchdown and two field goals.
The difference between 27-14 and 26-14 is negligible (the main difference being you could face a possible deficit of 29-26 instead of 28-27 if the opponent rattles off two straight touchdowns), as two touchdowns still gets you beat, but the difference between 27-14 and 28-14? That's the difference between a 53-yard field goal sailing wide right sending the game to overtime and clinching the 11th straight loss to an opponent your program absolutely has to beat.
Now let's move to Exhibit B, which we'll find at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. Arkansas has just scored to push its lead over Texas A&M to 20-13 with 14:12 remaining. Instead of going for two, Bret Bielema kicks the extra point. Twelve minutes later, Texas A&M scores to make it 21-19, then converts the ensuing two-point try to tie the game.
Had Arkansas gone for two and failed, that two-point try never happens and the game goes to overtime at 20-20 instead of 21-21. But if it succeeds, Arkansas leads 22-20 with less than three minutes to play. That math is totally different at that point.
Coaches, it's time to throw away the chart. The chart is not your friend.
2. If I'm an SEC head coach that finishes the season in impressive fashion and/or makes a splash coordinator hire, I spend my entire offseason begging the press to hate my team. Auburn is 2-2 and 0-1 in the SEC. Arkansas is 1-3 and 0-1 in the SEC. Tennessee is 2-2 and 0-1 in the SEC. The only impressive win in the bunch is Tennessee's defeat of Bowling Green.
The offseason hype didn't send those teams tumbling to tough Septembers, it just made them that much tougher to swallow.
3. Jim McElwain is going to make it in this league. Florida is 4-0, thanks in large part to McElwain's ability to see what the rest of us do not. I'm not talking about talent evaluation, I'm talking about simple arithmetic. When McElwain called timeout before Tennessee's potential game-winning field goal, most of us howled at why a coach would ice a kicker before a 55-yarder. Turns out he had a better reason.
I'm also in love with McElwain's brutal honesty.
4. This tweet deserves its own section.
5. Utah pulls an Oregon on Oregon. Racking up 530 yards of offense (257 passing/273 rushing) behind a quarterback that put up Heisman-caliber numbers (227 passing yards, 100 rushing yards, five total touchdowns)? A 62-20 final score? Fakes like this? And this?
People don't do that to Oregon, Oregon does that to them. The Ducks have won 19 Pac-12 games by 28 points or more just since Chip Kelly took over in 2009. The last time they lost a Pac-12 game that badly? A 45-13 setback to USC on Sept. 24, 2005. We just hit the 10-year anniversary this week. The last time in happened in Autzen Stadium? You'd have to go back to 2003.
6.Sorting through the Pac-12. Utah, who may have the nation's best resume at this point, and UCLA, a 56-30 winner at Arizona, are the clear leaders of the South. If the season ended today I'd have both in my College Football Playoff. Meanwhile, a week after losing 41-31 to Stanford, USC went on the road and blew out Arizona State 42-14. You figure it out.
The favorite in the North has to be, at this point, Stanford, though Oregon and California could draw consideration as well.
7. Who wants Michigan? Yes, Michigan caught BYU at the right time, on the trail end of a gauntlet saw the Cougars open with Nebraska, Boise State, UCLA and the Wolverines - three of them on the road. But disparities like 448-105 in total yards or 22-8 in first downs don't just happen. Michigan of the past eight years wouldn't have done that. Jim Harbaugh's Wolverines outscored Oregon State, UNLV and BYU a combined 94-14, and perhaps their best bullet point comes in their hard fought 24-17 loss at Utah that now looks better by the week.
With BYU, Georgia Tech and Missouri on their way out of the top 25, Michigan could very well find itself ranked on Sunday. The Wolverines visit Maryland next week before two very interesting home dates with Northwestern and Michigan State. It's mostly smooth sailing from there until Ohio State visits the Big House in late September.
Many thought eight wins to be the ceiling for Harbaugh's debut in Ann Arbor; now it's looking like that may be the floor.
8. Just go ahead and put Bowling Green in the Big Ten West already. The Falcons topped Purdue, 35-28, two weeks after running away from Maryland in College Park. Is there anyone who thinks Dino Babers' bunch wouldn't contend in the Big Ten West?
9. Welcome to the Big 12, where everything's made up and the officiating doesn't matter. On Saturday, this counted as roughing the passer:
This is defensive holding:
This is unsportsmanlike conduct:
And this, while a nifty play call, should not have held up under review.
That said, you put yourself in position to lose when you gain only 11 first downs (in UT's case) or allow 37 (in Tech's). And especially when you fail to execute the fundamentals in critical situations.
The officials did not cause Texas or Texas Tech to lose Saturday, but that does not excuse incompetence, either.
10. So, what else happened in Austin and Lubbock? Texas got two defensive touchdowns but still blew a 27-24 fourth quarter lead in a little over 90 seconds, as the snap you see above led to a field goal that allowed Oklahoma State to escape with a 30-27 victory. Texas Tech came out on the wrong end of a game that saw 11 lead changes. Worst of all, fate allowed the Red Raiders to believe they'd beaten No. 3 TCU for about half a second, as a 4th-and-game pass from Trevone Boykin bounced off Josh Docton's hand and right to running back Aaron Green, who found himself alone in the back of the end zone. TCU 55, Texas Tech 52, in what was the game of the day and possibly the season so far.
TCU and Oklahoma State enter the scrum that is the Big 12 race, battling with Baylor, Oklahoma and West Virginia (we'll get to them later), while Texas and Texas Tech enter that weird version of college football purgatory where you put your head down, go to work and hope your final record pays off the actual progress you've made on the field.
If Texas Tech scores on this last-gasp heave below, and especially if offensive lineman Le'Raven Clark rumbles in, you're looking at one of the greatest plays in college football history.
11. Forecasting the rest of the season, one month in. The first month is complete, and most teams have now played one third of their schedules. Depending on how yours has gone, this fact will either relieve or depress you.
With one month of evidence behind us, here's an attempt to forecast the four Playoff teams and other important yet meaningless benchmarks:
CFP Teams: 1) Ohio State, 2) UCLA, 3) Michigan State, 4) Georgia
Conference champions: Ohio State (Big Ten), Georgia (SEC), Clemson (ACC), Baylor (Big 12), UCLA (Pac-12), Memphis (AAC), Western Kentucky (C-USA), Toledo (MAC), Boise State (MW), Appalachian State (Sun Belt)
Heisman winner: Leonard Fournette, LSU
12. Odds and Ends
a. LSU's 34-24 win at Syracuse was the program's 50th straight regular season non-conference victory. Fifty straight. And don't think the Tigers have Baylor'd their way to 50 either; the streak includes wins over Oregon, Wisconsin, TCU, Washington, West Virginia, North Carolina, Virginia Tech, Arizona and a host of other major programs.
b. With a 31-24 win at Wake Forest, Indiana moved to 4-0 for the first time since 1946. They may not match the '46 team's move to 5-0 with Ohio State coming to Bloomington next week, but Kevin Wilson's bunch has a great shot to reach its first bowl game after a couple close calls in years past.
c. Boise State's 56-14 win at Virginia Friday night snapped the Mountain West's 21-game non-conference losing streak.
d. Mike London's bunch may very well be improved from seasons past, but with a non-conference schedule requiring a trip to UCLA and home games with Notre Dame and the aforementioned Broncos, how could you possibly tell?
e. Yes, it's come against Georgia Southern, Liberty and Maryland, but West Virginia is 3-0 with an average score of 43-7. The Mountaineers battered Maryland 45-6 on Saturday, racking up 297 passing yards and 304 rushing yards, and Tony Gibson's defense held the Terps scoreless until the score was already 45-0. In fact, West Virginia outscored its non-conference opponents a cumulative 74-0 in the first half. Put up or shut up times arrives now, as WVU faces Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Baylor and TCU (all but OSU on the road) in October.
f. Mid-majors usually have to beat a ranked team to climb in the rankings themselves, at least this early in the season, but the Fighting Justin Fuentes of Memphis should absolutely be ranked after outlasting Cincinnati 53-46 on Thursday.
g. After falling to TCU on opening night, Minnesota has now won three straight games, and all have come by exactly three points. The Gophers beat Colorado State 27-24 on Sept. 12, Kent State 10-7 on Sept. 19, and topped Ohio 27-24 on Saturday. f. UNLV beat Idaho State 80-8. Let's see if anyone tops that this season.
h. Georgia Tech wasn't held below 25 points for the entire 2014 season. The Jackets have now missed that number two weeks in a row following a soggy 34-20 at Duke.
i. Colorado is 3-0 for the first time since 2008.
j. California is 4-0 for the first time since 2007.
k. Texas is 1-3 for the first time since 1956.
m. James Madison racked up 729 yards of total offense to SMU's 494 in a 48-45 win over the Ponies.
n. Houston has topped 600 yards two times in three games, and Tom Herman is the first Houston in 25 years coach to win his first three games.
o. The good folks of Philadelphia were deprived of college football content on ABC (Ohio State-Western Michigan), CBS (Florida-Tennessee), NBC (Notre Dame-Massachusetts) and FOX (Texas Tech-TCU) because the Pope was in town. Get your priorities in order, people.
p. May we all be as bold this week as this Rutgers defender here. Remember, rules are meant to be broken. Wildly.