Each Sunday, our staff of college football experts will offer thoughts on things they learned over the weekend.
TEXAS IS A LEGITIMATE NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP CONTENDER: Entering the weekend, no one doubted Oklahoma deserved its No. 1 ranking. So, after its 45-35 victory over the Sooners, Texas has to be a serious contender. Despite its No. 5 ranking entering the game, there was some doubt about the Longhorns because their 5-0 record was amassed against questionable competition. Those doubts proved unfounded. QB Colt McCoy and WR Jordan Shipley had solid performances, and the Longhorns' defense shut down OU's running game to give the Longhorns the inside track in the Big 12 South race.
CLEMSON HAS THUNDER AND LIGHTNING, BUT NO REIGN: A 12-7 loss to Wake Forest virtually ensures the disappointing Tigers again will be denied an ACC championship. The running back duo of James "Thunder" Davis and C.J. "Lightning" Spiller provides the Tigers with a potentially explosive offense. But potential hasn't equated to points: Clemson has scored fewer than 20 points in three of its six games.
THERE IS NO MORE FASCINATING RACE THAN THE ONE IN THE BIG 12 SOUTH: Without a doubt, it is the most competitive division in football. There's Texas, Texas Tech and Oklahoma State, which are unbeaten. And Oklahoma still is a superpower despite its loss to Texas. Even Baylor figures to be a tough out behind coach Art Briles. As we head down the stretch, we'll get to watch all of the South unbeatens battle head-to-head—and the Sooners still have shots at the Red Raiders and Cowboys.
PENN STATE IS FOR REAL: Penn State's 48-7 domination of Wisconsin sent a big statement that the unbeaten Nittany Lions not only are a Big Ten contender, but also a national championship player. That sets up a huge showdown at Ohio State on Oct. 25 that will see the winner likely go on to claim the conference crown, though both still also play Michigan State. And if it's Penn State that wins in Columbus, the Nittany Lions could cruise all the way to the BCS title game. Might a golden sendoff like that be enough to send JoePa into retirement?
THE NEXT TWO WEEKS IN THE BIG TEN WILL BE HUGE:Illinois and Wisconsin are out. Ohio State and Michigan State are in. Penn State never left. The past two weeks established a clear split between the Big Ten contenders and pretenders, and the next two weeks will play a major role in the conference race. Ohio State freshman QB Terrelle Pryor passed his first Big Ten road test last week against Wisconsin. He'll face another next week against Michigan State. Penn State has roared into the national title discussion, but must defeat Ohio State in Columbus on Oct. 25. The Nittany Lions will have to win there for the first time since 1978 to have a shot at the Big Ten title. The two games could decide the conference title - and if the league will have a representative in New York for the Heisman Trophy ceremony.
FLORIDA FANS NEED TO GET OFF DAN MULLEN'S BACK: After Florida's 31-30 home loss to Ole Miss on Sept. 27, you would have thought the Gators' offense was going the way of the stock market. Florida offensive coordinator Dan Mullen had the gall to ask Tim Tebow to run the ball on a critical fourth-and-1. The conversion failed and suddenly Florida's playcalling was "predictable" and the whole scheme needed to be scratched. Luckily, Urban Meyer isn't so rash. Florida's offense scored five touchdowns against LSU. In a league where teams are struggling to reach double-digits in points, Florida has scored at least 30 in each of its four SEC games. Tebow isn't taking the same pounding he was a year ago, which will keep him fresh down the stretch. Percy Harvin carried the ball only two times against LSU, ceding carries to newcomers Jeff Demps and Chris Rainey. The lunatic fringe of Gator Nation needs to take a deep breath and let Mullen do his job.
WHAT IS THIS – THE 1960s?: If you watched any games at all Saturday, you went to bed thinking that Alabama, Penn State and Texas would be 1-2-3, in some order. Alabama benefited from having the weekend off, while Penn State and Texas looked mighty good beating the teams they did. Texas' heretofore moribund rushing attack woke up and gashed Oklahoma, and Penn State went into Madison, whipped the Badgers and stole all the brats and beer for good measure. The rankings are enough to make fans pine for the days of Chris Schenkel (if you don't know who he is, ask someone over the age of 40).
THE PAC-10 SHOULD BE LUMPED WITH THE ACC AND BIG EAST: The league is irrelevant nationally – except for USC, which still has a good shot at playing for the national title. But even the Trojans didn't look all that good Saturday – well, offensively at least. Arizona looked as if it could be a contender but lost to Stanford. And Oregon didn't look all that good in beating UCLA. It appears the Nov. 1 Cal-at-USC game will determine the league title. But is there really any doubt as to who will win?
TONY FRANKLIN WASN'T THE ONLY PROBLEM AT AUBURN: Firing the offensive coordinator didn't make Auburn any better. In fact, Tommy Tuberville'sTigers looked even worse Saturday while losing 25-22 at home to Arkansas, which had lost three consecutive games by a combined 139-31. Auburn QBs Kodi Burns and Chris Todd were 10-of-28 for 137 yards with three interceptions and no touchdown passes against a dreadful Arkansas defense. Auburn is 108th in the nation in total offense and can spend its bye week answering questions about its reliance on a poor passing attack. Why did Ben Tate carry the ball just eight times against Arkansas? And why did the Tigers throw the ball three consecutive times after they had second-and-goal from Arkansas' 4 late in the game?
THE HEISMAN TROPHY RACE IS WIDE OPEN: Presumed front-runner Chase Daniel threw three interceptions in a 28-23 loss to Oklahoma State, which leaves two other Big 12 quarterbacks as the favorites in no particular order. Do you go with Texas' Colt McCoy or Oklahoma's Sam Bradford? McCoy won a head-to-head matchup with Bradford on Saturday, but Bradford actually put up better numbers. And what about Michigan State running back Javon Ringer, Texas Tech quarterback Graham Harrell or BYU quarterback Max Hall? Of course, they're not the only candidates. Florida's Percy Harvin and Tim Tebow, Penn State's Daryll Clark and Oklahoma State's duo of Kendall Hunter and Zac Robinson played their way into the Heisman conversation this weekend. USC quarterback Mark Sanchez probably falls to the back of the pack after throwing three interceptions in a win over Arizona State, while LSU running back Charles Scott is probably out of contention after gaining less than 3 yards per carry against Florida.