Each Sunday, our staff of college football experts will offer thoughts on things they learned over the weekend.
Texas A&Mcan hold a lead. For the third consecutive game, Texas A&M had a double-digit lead going into the second half. But unlike second-half collapses against Oklahoma State and Arkansas, the Aggies showed they could hold on to it in a 45-40 victory over Texas Tech. Although outscored 20-14 in the second half, the Aggies thwarted Texas Tech's attempts to rally by blocking a field-goal attempt and returning it for a touchdown. They also stopped a key fourth-quarter drive and forced the Red Raiders to settle for a 30-yard field goal.
Arizona is in free fall. It was painful when the Wildcats lost four in a row to Oklahoma State, Stanford, Oregon and USC; frankly, though, those games were against strong opponents that figured to beat the Wildcats. But a 37-27 loss to Oregon State signaled that this season probably is lost cause. The Wildcats still have road games against Washington, Colorado and Arizona State and home games against UCLA and Utah. Though not impossible, it's highly unlikely the Wildcats will a make a fourth consecutive postseason appearance.
Oklahoma can play defense. While everyone has been (rightly) fawning over the defenses for Alabama and LSU, Oklahoma's looks good, too. Texas entered the Red River Rivalry averaging 206.0 rushing yards per game. But the Sooners sat on the Longhorns' ground game, allowing just 56 yards on 44 carries (1.3 ypc). And Oklahoma's defense also is opportunistic, outscoring Texas' offense by tallying three touchdowns in the Sooners' 55-17 whipping of the Longhorns.
Hey, what about K-State? Following a 24-17 victory over Missouri, it's time to start paying attention to Kansas State. The Wildcats may be the nation's quietest 5-0 team, although it also has victories over Miami and Baylor. But it's going to be difficult to ignore K-State down the stretch. The Wildcats, whose 5-0 start is their best since 2000, aren't pretty, combining tremendous defense (ranked No. 2 in the Big 12 entering Saturday) with a physical offense that likes to run (ranked No. 4). Add in the standout coaching of Bill Snyder, and K-State suddenly is in the thick of the Big 12 race. The Wildcats will have some defining games down the stretch, including a visit from Oklahoma (Oct. 29) and trip to Oklahoma State (Nov. 5) in consecutive weeks.
Somehow, Penn State is 5-1. The Nittany Lions have yet to find a consistent quarterback, and they rarely look pretty -- or exciting. That didn't change Saturday against Iowa. Penn State continued to switch between Matt McGloin and Rob Bolden at quarterback and led 6-3 going into the fourth quarter. Penn State won 13-3 after a late McGloin touchdown pass aided by an Iowa turnover. Penn State quietly has a top-10 defense despite the season-ending injury to LB Michael Mauti. Penn State might not be a great team, but the Nittany Lions' schedule for the rest of October isn't all that daunting with Purdue, Northwestern and Illinois. As long as the defense keeps this up and TB Silas Redd can continue to carry the offense, Penn State should be in contention for a New Year's Day bowl.
Figuring out the Big East is a fool's errand. West Virginia still looks like the favorite to win the Big East, but the Mountaineers led Connecticut just 10-9 at home at halftime before pulling away for a 43-16 victory. We can probably count out Louisville and the Huskies, and Syracuse continued its habit of playing down to its opponent by beating Tulane on the final play. Where the other teams in the Big East fit is anyone's guess. Look no further than Rutgers' 34-10 win over Pittsburgh on Saturday. The Panthers looked as they had turned a corner with their win over USF a week earlier, but they went back to their old problems (six sacks, three interceptions) against Rutgers. Meanwhile, the Scarlet Knights, at least for a week, found the right mix for their rushing attack. But Rutgers, which leads the Big East at 2-0, has a freshman quarterback. Cincinnati and USF had the week off, but I doubt we've heard the last of either of those teams. It will be an interesting race, to say the least.
Florida State better learn to run the ball. Florida State began the season in the top 10, but the Seminoles have lost three in a row and won't sniff the top 25 again this season unless they win four or five in a row. Their rushing attack is a huge problem. They are last in the ACC and 112th nationally in rushing at 85.6 yards per game. Their best rushing performance of the season is 170 yards against FCS member Charleston Southern, and their 110-yard performance in Saturday's loss to Wake Forest was their second-best of the season. The problem is a line that gets no push whatsoever when blocking for the run. An easy schedule means the season is not lost, though an ACC Atlantic Division title seems out of reach. Regardless, improving the rushing attack has to be a priority.
The bleeding isn't over for Ohio State. If I'm an Ohio State fan, I definitely am cursing Jim Tressel -- and not just for his actions that got the school into trouble with the NCAA. A school such as Ohio State never should be this devoid of playmakers. The suspensions of TB Dan Herron and WR DeVier Posey have robbed the Buckeyes of their only two big-play threats. How in the world is it that Ohio State has no other playmakers? Even if QB Terrelle Pryor still were on hand, Ohio State would be struggling because this is an offensive roster with a lot of "guys" at the skill-position slots. You need studs at the skill positions, not guys, to win games. The Buckeyes have lost two in a row and have two unbeaten teams in their next two games -- Illinois and Wisconsin. Penn State and Michigan loom at the end of the season. While the Buckeyes shouldn't finish below .500, that is a possibility -- and that is startling.
Virginia Tech QB Logan Thomas can handle adversity. Thomas was billed as a rising star before the season, but he didn't do much through the first five games to back up that speculation. One week ago, Thomas threw for just 125 yards as Virginia Tech lost 23-3 to Clemson and failed to reach the end zone in a home game for the first time since 1995. He headed into this week's showdown with Miami having thrown five interceptions and two touchdown passes in his last four games. But he showed what all the fuss was about Saturday with a breakthrough performance in a 38-35 victory over the Hurricanes. Thomas went 23-of-25 for 310 yards and three touchdowns. Of his two incompletions, one was a dropped pass and the other came when he threw the ball away after a snap. Thomas also showed his speed and decision-making ability by racing 19 yards for the winning touchdown on a fourth-and-1 play with 56 seconds left.
Georgia has a great chance to win the SEC East. Maybe it's time to stop preparing those obituaries about Mark Richt's Georgia tenure. Instead of heading to the unemployment line, he could be heading to the SEC championship game. After losing its first two games of the season, Georgia has won four in a row, including a 20-12 victory Saturday at Tennessee. Georgia and South Carolina are tied for first place in the SEC East with identical 3-1 conference records. South Carolina owns the tiebreaker advantage because it won the head-to-head meeting with Georgia, but the Gamecocks also have a tougher remaining schedule. South Carolina's next three games are against Mississippi State, Tennessee and Arkansas -- all on the road. Georgia's last four SEC games include home contests with Kentucky and Auburn, a trip to Vanderbilt and the annual game with Florida in Jacksonville. The Bulldogs' season started in the Georgia Dome. They just might make a return trip in early December.
TEAMS Thought you'd kick butt, you did: Clemson
Thought you'd kick butt, you didn't: Missouri
Thought you'd get your butt kicked, you did: Florida
Thought you'd get your butt kicked, you didn't: Wake Forest Dang, they're good: Boise State Dang, they're bad: Colorado
Did the season start? Boston College Can the season end? Utah
Can the season never end? Alabama
GAMES Play this again: Virginia Tech 38, Miami 35
Never play this again: Oklahoma State 70, Kansas 28
What? Rutgers 34, Pittsburgh 10
Huh? Oklahoma 55, Texas 17
Are you kidding me? Kansas State 24, Missouri 17
Oh ... my ... God: Wake Forest 35, Florida State 30
Told you so: LSU 41, Florida 11
NEXT WEEK Ticket to die for:Oklahoma State at Texas
Best non-Big vs. Big Six matchup: Navy at Rutgers
Best non-Big Six matchup: UCF at SMU Upset alert: Michigan over Michigan State in East Lansing
Must win: Illinois over Ohio State in Champaign
Offensive explosion: Baylor at Texas A&M
Defensive struggle: Virginia Tech at Wake Forest
Great game no one is talking about: Arizona State at Oregon
Intriguing coaching matchup: Kansas State's Bill Snyder vs. Texas Tech's Tommy Tuberville Who's bringing the body bags? Indiana at Wisconsin
Plenty of good seats remaining: USF at Connecticut
They shoot horses, don't they? Oklahoma at Kansas