Some Saturdays it just sort of feels as if no one knows anything about college football when all the teams we thought were good don't play that way.
It was one of those days when you could be excused for thinking: Everybody's terrible.
Most of the highly ranked teams avoided big upsets against unranked teams. No. 5 Notre Dame, No. 9 Texas and No. 10 UCF all escaped with narrow victories — the Fighting Irish and Longhorns doing so at home against double-digit underdogs. No. 14 Florida needed to rally from 18 down to beat Vanderbilt and No. 3 Ohio State spent most of the game trying to shake Minnesota.
None of those inspired much confidence, but a win's a win — which is more than No. 8 Penn State got. In what must seem like a recurring nightmare to Nittany Lions fans, Penn State wilted in the fourth quarter and let Michigan State swipe a victory in Happy Valley. Scratch Penn State off the list of playoff contender.
No. 21 Auburn lost to Tennessee, but considering the way the Tigers have been playing lately that might not even be an upset.
The underdogs also won the two biggest games of the day, though the big surprise was how.
No. 13 LSU blew out No. 2 Georgia for the Tigers' third victory this season against a team that was ranked at the time. This was by far LSU's most impressive, coming off a tough loss at Florida and shutting down the Bulldogs' offense. The Tigers might have even sparked a quarterback controversy in Athens — at least among Georgia fans who had to be wondering why freshman Justin Field never got a chance to replace the struggling Jake Fromm.
Most damaged by Georgia's dud? The Southeastern Conference's chances of getting two teams in the College Football Playoff — unless maybe those two teams are LSU and Alabama. The top-ranked Tide visit the Tigers on Nov. 3, and looking at Alabama's schedule, it might be the only real challenge Nick Saban's team faces in the regular season.
For much of the first month, LSU seemed like more of an early season novelty than a legitimate College Football Playoff contender.
The offense is limited in the passing game, but Joe Burrow is a decent runner and generally avoids mistakes. The running game lacks the All-America back that it has in recent years, but the offensive line has come together to allow LSU be the bruising offense its wants. And the defense is nasty, with preseason All-America linebacker Devin White and two of the best defensive backs in the country in cornerback Greedy Williams and safety Grant Delpit.
There are still challenges ahead, before and after the Tigers face Alabama, but Ed Orgeron's team now appears to be in this race for the long run.
The Tigers' coach has been looked at as a bit of novelty, too, but Orgeron and offensive coordinator Steve Ensminger worked over Kirby Smart and his staff in Death Valley.
"He knows what he's doing. People just, they hear his accent and they just think, 'Oh, this guy is just all rah-rah,'" senior tight end Foster Moreau said. "He made all the right decisions tonight."
Must be nice to be worried about getting ONLY one team in the playoff. After what happened at Autzen Stadium on Saturday, the Pac-12 is going to struggle to get one.
No. 17 Oregon beat No. 7 Washington in overtime, catching a break when the Huskies missed a short field goal to win it at the end of regulation. Good for the Ducks, bad for the conference. Washington has two losses and the setback to Auburn is not aging well. The Ducks look like the best team in the conference, with talented quarterback Justin Herbert leading the way, but that loss to Stanford last month means they are not even in the driver's seat to win the North.
Making matters worse, Oregon's nonconference schedule was awful and the selection committee won't care that Texas A&M bailed on a home-and-home series with the Ducks.
No. 19 and unbeaten Colorado was playing at Southern California late Saturday. Sure there is a path for the Buffs or Ducks to get in the playoff mix, but the Pac-12 is going to need some of those near-upsets to turn into actual upsets in other conferences.
AROUND THE COUNTRY: No. 3 Ohio State can't get its running game going and the defense has been spotty all season, but Dwayne Haskins and his receivers are good enough to mask most of the issues — at least for now. ... It is hard for Rutgers to hit a new low, but a 34-7 loss to Maryland in which the quarterbacks threw five interceptions and completed two passes qualifies. The Scarlet Knights are 1-6 and the difficult part of the schedule has yet to come. In November, Rutgers plays Wisconsin, Michigan, Penn State and Michigan State. ... UCLA got Chip Kelly his first victory with the Bruins in resounding fashion against Cal, but Nebraska is now 0-6 after a gut-wrenching loss to Northwestern. The Huskers have that added game against Bethune-Cookman in two weeks that should take 0-12 off the table for Scott Frost's team.
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