Four overtime games in 12
Bret Bielema's Arkansas Razorbacks are chaos addicts. In 2015 alone, they lost in overtime to Texas A&M, beat Auburn in four overtimes, beat Ole Miss in overtime in the best game of the season, then lost 51-50 to Mississippi State two weeks later.
They began 2016 with a one-point comeback win over Louisiana Tech, and on Saturday night, they beat TCU in two OTs. They allowed three touchdowns in seven minutes to watch a 20-7 lead turn into a 28-20 deficit, then they tied the game with a 16-yard touchdown pass from Austin Allen to Keon Hatcher, then tied the game with a two-point conversion ...
... and sent the game to OT by blocking a field goal with a 6'10 offensive lineman.
Arkansas is the new LSU. For years, Les Miles' Tigers appeared to willfully create late-game chaos, trusting (often correctly) that they could maneuver under insane conditions better than their opponent. Be it by allowing comebacks or initiating them, Bielema’s squad knows drama.
And they’ve begun to win these chaotic games, too. After starting Bielema’s tenure 0-9 in games decided by one possession, they’ve won five of their last six.
Oh, and they have about five virtual tossups remaining on the schedule. Buckle up.
A 79-7 deficit
Kentucky doesn't have the most distinguished football history in the SEC. The Wildcats haven't finished a season ranked since 1984 and haven't made the Sugar Bowl since 1950. And in more recent times, they have struggled since boat enthusiast, golfer, and retirement-life liver Rich Brooks left in 2009.
One thing that hadn’t been a problem: fast starts. They've lost 13 of their last 16 in November, but they had started 2-0 in seven of their last nine seasons and hadn't begun a year 0-2 since 1996.
"Hadn't": past tense.
Mark Stoops' Wildcats began by racing to a 35-10 lead over Southern Miss. In the six-plus quarters since, they have been outscored, 79-7. Southern Miss raced back for an unlikely comeback win, 44-35, and then Florida obliterated UK in Gainesville on Saturday, 45-7.
Google searches for "Mark Stoops buyout" have surged over the past week and a half.
On the bright side, the last time UK began 0-2, the Wildcats ended up hiring Hal Mumme. That didn't result in a ton of wins (he went 20-26 over four seasons), but Mumme's air raid offense did help to change college football. So, it benefited the rest of us, at least.
An 0-7 record
After Penn State’s 42-39 loss to Pitt on Saturday, head coach James Franklin is 0-7 against Pitt, Michigan, Michigan State, and Ohio State. He’s also 2-2 against Temple and Maryland.
I can point to improvement on paper — in Franklin’s two years on the job, PSU has improved from 52nd to 46th to 30th in S&P+, and while it’s early, the Nittany Lions are still 27th this year so far — but you spend every ounce of your fan goodwill if you lose to every program fans might consider a rival. (Granted, PSU is "unrivaled" and all, but you know what I mean.) This might be a good year for Franklin to pull a Big Ten East upset or two.
10 of 12 fumble recoveries
The good news: Tennessee is 2-0. That's what counts the most. The Vols have dealt with two stiff tests and have lived to tell the tale. They dealt with adversity in two early deficits, and on Saturday in Bristol, they turned a 14-0 Virginia Tech lead into a 45-24 UT win.
The Vols have also been lucky. In theory, that's not something they'll be able to count on. They recovered three second-half fumbles against Appalachian State, when recovering only two of three might not have allowed them to take the game to OT. And on Saturday, there were seven fumbles (five by VT, two by UT) ... and they recovered all seven.
Tennessee was reeling and down 14-0 when a poorly timed snap resulted in a Tech fumble at its 16. One play later, it was 14-7. With the game tied at 14-14, a Mitchell Ludwig punt hit a Tennessee player, but the Vols fell on the ball. Early in the third quarter, UT quarterback Josh Dobbs fumbled a ball out of bounds, and two plays later, Tech's Travon McMillan lost a fumble. Tech lost another fumble while driving inside the Tennessee 25, then UT put the game away but recovering a muffed punt and scoring three plays later.
Tennessee has recovered 10 of the 12 fumbles in its two games. The Vols have been sloppy in fumbling six times, but they've lost only one. This is crazy, and it won't last.
But it's bought them some time — if a more confident Tennessee gets its act together moving forward, the Vols can still live up to lofty preseason hype.
A two-point win
Georgia beat Nicholls State by just two points on Saturday, 26-24. This is a confusing result for plenty of obvious reasons — Georgia was ranked ninth in the country, Nicholls State hasn't had a winning season since 2007, etc. — but it’s also more confusing for the simple fact that ... this doesn’t happen to Georgia.
Other programs have struggled and/or fallen victim to FCS teams, but in 17 games against non-FBS programs since 1953, the Dawgs had never won by fewer than 20 points. And the only team to stay within 30 was Georgia Southern (45-21 in 2008, 48-28 in 2004, 29-7 in 2000, 34-7 in 1992), now a Sun Belt power.
That 1953 game, by the way: a 14-0 loss to Southern Miss. You have to go back to 1943 to find such a poor result against a team that isn’t currently in FBS (Daniel Field 14, UGA 0).
Six straight losses
We can debate how well independence is going for BYU. The Cougars have won nearly nine games per year since leaving the Mountain West, have spent parts of each of the last two seasons ranked, and have put together some impressive home-and-home series with power-conference programs. Their attempt to join the Big 12 isn’t going incredibly well at this exact moment, so they can perhaps expect to remain independent for a while, but that might not be the worst thing in the world.
One thing is certain, though: Beating Utah would make everybody feel a lot better about where BYU stands. The Cougars have lost six in a row to the rival Utes, including a 35-28 Royal Purple Bowl loss to end 2015 and a 20-19 loss on Saturday. Power to them for going for the win — after Taysom Hill scored to cut Utah’s deficit to one point with 18 seconds left, the Cougars went for two — but fortune doesn’t always favor the bold.
Nine losses in a row ... no more!
This is a tricky time for New Mexico State. The Aggies will soon lose their Sun Belt membership but are holding out and remaining in FBS, most likely hoping to move into another conference (Conference USA, perhaps?) if or when the Big 12 sets a few more realignment dominoes in motion.
With Doug Martin in the fourth-year of a slow-motion rebuild, the Aggies have yet to finish better than 3-9. They also had yet to beat either of their two main rivals, UTEP or New Mexico, until Saturday. After nine straight losses to the two, NMSU pulled off a nine-point comeback to beat the Lobos, 32-31, in Aggie Memorial Stadium. You've got to start somewhere.
10 scoring opportunities
If you think about it, college football can be boiled down to two things: creating scoring chances and finishing them. Cal did the former on Saturday. The Golden Bears created 10 scoring opportunities (first downs inside the opponent’s 40) against a strong San Diego State defense, while the Aztecs generated only six such chances. Going by national averages, this should have resulted in about a 43-26 win.
SDSU won, 45-40.
Cal’s 10 chances resulted in five touchdowns, two field goals, two turnovers, and a turnover on downs. Not great, but not terrible. Meanwhile, SDSU actually suffered a turnover on downs as well and got backed up into a punt. But Rashaad Penny’s 100-yard kick return in the first quarter and Ronley Lakalaka’s 9-yard pick-six in the second made the difference.
This was a huge weekend for the Mountain West — both SDSU and fellow conference heavyweight Boise State beat Pac-12 opponents. And now, after taking advantage of a couple of Saturday night breaks, SDSU has a better than 1-in-4 chance of finishing 11-1 or better.
13 scoring opportunities
Anybody watching Louisville’s 62-28 destruction of Syracuse on Friday night already knew this, but it could have been so much worse. The Cardinals gained 845 yards and generated a whopping 13 scoring opportunities in 19 possessions.
Bobby Petrino’s Cards scored touchdowns in four of their first seven snaps, but they also lost a fumble at the SU 25, threw an interception from the SU 38, and settled for three field goals, missing one. If those darn Cardinals weren't so sloppy, they might have scored 90.
53 percent success rate
Tago Smith waited three years to succeed record-setting Keenan Reynolds as Navy's starting quarterback, then tore his ACL in the first start of his senior season. While Navy is exploring a medical redshirt for him — rare for a service academy — the Midshipmen still have football to play this year.
So far, so good. In the first game with intended backup Will Worth as starting QB, Navy looked like Navy. The Midshipmen generated a 53 percent success rate, 56 on the ground, and outlasted UConn, 28-24. Worth also went 6-of-8 passing for 130 yards, which allowed him to outduel smoking hot Husky quarterback Bryant Shirreffs (23-of-26 for 239).
Navy is now 2-0 and should still be undefeated when it visits Air Force on Oct. 1.
252 yards rushing and receiving
North Carolina A&T's Tarik Cohen has been relatively well-known in college football circles for a while. Though small (5'6, 179), he is strong enough to have received some NFL Draft hype. He also flips a lot.
He’s also prolific as hell. He rushed for 4,031 yards and caught 72 passes for 731 in his first three seasons, and on Saturday night against an FBS opponent (Kent State, which technically counts), Cohen went off. His 26 carries and nine receptions generated 252 yards, and his 2-yard touchdown with 5:50 left eventually sent the game to overtime. The Aggies eventually won, 39-36, after four OT periods. It was the first HBCU win over an FBS opponent since Bethune-Cookman beat FIU in 2013 and 2014.
647 yards! From Missouri!
Yes, it happened against EMU’s defense, but ... still counts! Missouri gained 647 yards and scored 61 points in a 40-point win over the Eagles on Saturday night.
This wouldn’t have been a big deal in previous seasons — the Tigers, after all, averaged nearly 40 points per game while going 12-2 in 2013. But they had averaged only 12 points per game against FBS opponents over the previous 12 months. The bottom fell out last year, and Barry Odom’s Tigers are putting the pieces back together. Drew Lock completed 24 of 37 passes for 450 yards, and three youngsters -- sophomores Emanuel Hall and Ray Wingo and redshirt freshman Johnathon Johnson -- combined for 11 catches and 330 yards. You've got to start somewhere.