1. Oregon's in the Playoff driver's seat.
by Jason Kirk
If the College Football Playoff kicked off tomorrow, the Ducks would host the No. 4 team in the Rose Bowl semifinal. The biggest game of September, the biggest non-conference game of the year, and the ultimate clash of modern college football schemes lived up to its hype, and Oregon turned in just about the most impressive performance of its amazing, half-decade run.
The College Football Playoff does not kick off tomorrow. The Ducks still have at least 10 chances to lose before the selection committee names its top four. At least eight of those are viable threats (apologies to Colorado and Wyoming, both of whom are headed to Eugene). And the No. 1 spot itself is far, far away. College football is hard for everyone, and the Pac-12 is about as hard as it gets.
The Ducks are as fast, mean, and resilient as ever. Quarterback Marcus Mariota is back to his full power, commanding a squadron of screaming jet engines that put 491 yards and 46 points on one of college football's two best defensive systems. The Ducks' defense is back to doing what it did during the height of Chip Kelly's reign: accepting your big plays and creating those of its own, knowing it only needs a turnover or two to turn the tide for its offense. And the biggest play of Saturday was indeed an Oregon defensive play: cornerback Ifo Ekpre-Olomu diving to snuff out the Spartans' last real hope:
Let's just appreciate it for one moment. Two power-conference teams scheduled a campus series, and it ended up paying off for both of them. The Ducks probably bought themselves a one-loss Playoff cushion, and Michigan State demonstrated it's the Big Ten's only actual contender by surviving three quarters of that Eugene monstrosity. Give us more of this.
And, while we're on the West Coast, don't overlook USC. The Trojans' new offense sputtered against Stanford, but so does everybody's, and USC was very fortunate to win despite letting Stanford into the red zone a half-dozen times.
From here on out, though? The schedule is quite friendly. Two of USC's four true road games are Boston College and Washington State. Its only Pac-12 North opponents left are Wazzu and Cal. The game we'd all thought would be its toughest, the one vs. UCLA, is looking less tough by the week.
2. The Big Ten got exposed. Again.
by Kevin Trahan
The Big Ten had a chance to answer its skeptics during a big non-conference week. Michigan State could take down Oregon in Eugene. Michigan could end its rivalry with Notre Dame on a high note. Ohio State could assert its dominance over a good-not-great Virginia Tech.
But as it does every year, the Big Ten disappointed. All three teams lost by double digits. Nebraska struggled with McNeese State. Iowa barely pulled out a win against Ball State. Northwestern and Purdue lost to MAC teams. The Big Ten is bad ... again. That was obvious Saturday night.
So what can the conference do about it?
Adding New York/New Jersey and Maryland/DC/Virginia to the "home" recruiting land via conference realignment was huge, and it ensured that the league would have the ability to compete with the top conferences for recruits. But even the teams that have recruited well have failed to live up to the hype on the national stage.
The problem, it seems, is coaching. Coaches have gotten themselves in the conversation for plenty of top recruits, but they aren't willing to put in the time necessary to reel them in. Top prospect Jashon Cornell, who is committed to Ohio State, said that flatly this recruiting season:
"The Big Ten needs to recruit harder. They need to really go after the recruits they really need," Cornell said. "They have to hassle you a little bit, on you every single day. That makes recruits think the coaches really want me and I could go there because the coaches want me so bad. That's what the SEC does."
But it's not just recruiting. As college football has shifted from a regional sport to a national sport, the Big Ten and its coaches have failed to adapt. SI's Andy Staples summed that up well in his praise of Urban Meyer, who has won in the Big Ten since arriving in Columbus, but isn't there at a national level.
While everyone else in the league tries to build a nice little team that might make the Rose Bowl, Meyer is trying to build a monster that can compete against Alabama.
It's a mindset that plagues the whole league. Even the Big Ten's longest-tenured coach sees non-conference games as something amounting to preseason games. The more the Big Ten focuses on changing this mindset, the better it will be.
Until it does, there are going to be days like this one again.
3. There is no such thing as a bad Saturday.
by Pete Volk
Remember how you worried Saturday's schedule didn't look all that great, other than the couple really big games?
That's not to mention the actual games. Kansas State-Iowa State filled what looked like a dead noon slot quite nicely, with gadget plays, an emerging star and a frenzied comeback. USC-Stanford picked up where they left off during the second time slot, with the Trojans emerging victorious in a defensive showdown.
The night shift? Just No. 3 Oregon running away from No. 7 Michigan State, with both teams managing to impress in their own right. Oregon's defense stole the day, even with another Heisman-worthy performance from Mariota, and the Ducks look like this could finally be their year. Late night? Taysom Hill did his thing against Texas again, while Virginia Tech held off a frantic Ohio State comeback that at least kept things interesting (and ended in an ACC chant at Ohio Stadium). And then Memphis almost won in the Rose Bowl.
The lesson, as always: every college football Saturday is an excellent Saturday.
No. 1 Florida State 37, The Citadel 12 (injury report)
No. 2 Alabama 41, FAU 0 (reaction)
No. 3 Oregon 46, No. 7 Michigan State 27 (recap)
No. 4 Oklahoma 52, Tulsa 7 (recap)
No. 5 Auburn 59, San Jose State 13 (recap)
Virginia Tech 35, No. 8 Ohio State 21 (recap)
No. 9 Texas A&M 73, Lamar 3 (reaction)
No. 10 Baylor 70, Northwestern State 6 (recap)
No. 11 UCLA 42, Memphis 35 (recap)
No. 12 LSU 56, Sam Houston State 0 (reaction)
No. 14 USC 13, No. 13 Stanford 10 (recap)
No. 15 Ole Miss 41, Vanderbilt 3 (recap)
No. 16 Notre Dame 31, Michigan 0 (recap)
No. 17 Arizona State 58, New Mexico 23 (recap)
No. 18 Wisconsin 37, Western Illinois 3 (recap)
No. 19 Nebraska 31, McNeese State 24 (recap)
No. 20 Kansas State 32, Iowa State 28 (recap)
No. 21 South Carolina 33, East Carolina 23 (recap)
No. 21 North Carolina 31, San Diego State 27 (recap)
No. 23 Clemson 73, South Carolina State 7 (recap)
No. 24 Missouri 49, Toledo 24 (recap)
No. 25 Louisville 66, Murray State 21 (photos)
Appalachian State 66, Campbell 0
Arkansas 73, Nicholls State 7 (recap)
Army 47, Buffalo 39 (recap)
Boise State 37, Colorado State 24
Bowling Green 48, VMI 7 (recap)
BYU 41, Texas 7 (recap)
Cal 55, Sacramento State 14 (reaction)
Central Michigan 38, Purdue 17 (reaction)
Colorado 41, UMass 38 (recap)
Duke 34, Troy 17 (recap)
Eastern Kentucky 17, Miami (Ohio) 10 (recap)
FIU 34, Wagner 3
Florida 65, Eastern Michigan 0 (recap)
Georgia Southern 83, Savannah State 9 (recap)
Georgia Tech 38, Tulane 21 (recap)
Houston 47, Grambling State 0
Illinois 42, Western Kentucky 34 (recap)
Iowa 17, Ball State 13 (WHAT JUST HAPPENED)
Kansas 34, Southeast Missouri State 28 (recap)
Kentucky 20, Ohio 3 (reaction)
Louisiana Tech 48, UL Lafayette 20 (recap)
Marshall 48, Rhode Island 7
Maryland 24, USF 17 (recap)
Miami 41, FAMU 7 (recap)
Minnesota 35, Middle Tennessee State 24 (recap)
Mississippi State 47, UAB 34 (reaction)
Navy 31, Temple 24 (recap)
NC State 46, Old Dominion 34 (recap)
New Mexico State 34, Georgia State 31 (recap)
North Texas 43, SMU 6 (recap)
Northern Illinois 23, Northwestern 15 (recap)
Oklahoma State 40, Missouri State 23 (recap)
Oregon State 38, Hawaii 30 (recap)
Penn State 21, Akron 3 (recap)
Rutgers 38, Howard 25 (recap)
South Alabama 23, Kent State 13 (recap)
Southern Miss 26, Alcorn State 20
Tennessee 34, Arkansas State 19 (recap)
Texas Tech 30, UTEP 26 (recap)
UConn 19, Stony Brook 16 (recap)
UL Monroe 38, Idaho 31
UNLV 13, Northern Colorado 12
Utah 59, Fresno State 27 (recap)
Utah State 40, Idaho State 20
Virginia 45, Richmond 13 (recap)
Wake Forest 23, Gardner-Webb 7 (recap)
Washington 59, Eastern Washington 52 (recap)
West Virginia 54, Towson 0 (recap)
Wyoming 17, Air Force 13