The College Football Playoff selection committee will release its initial rankings in a few days. After its wild, frenetic, last-second loss to Georgia Tech, which was yet another reminder of how awesome and unpredictable college football is, previously unbeaten Florida State has fallen out of the top tier, along with formerly undefeated Utah, who got slapped around like the hyperventilating woman in Airplane by an embattled, yet superbly talented, USC squad.
The Trojans’ gifted freshman linebacker Cameron Smith had his national coming out party with three interceptions against the Utes, one of which he returned for a 54-yard touchdown in the second quarter. Averaging close to nine tackles per game, he's on pace to become the first true freshman linebacker to ever lead USC in tackles.
I thought Texas A&M would play much better than they did against Ole Miss, who rebounded from their loss to Memphis by spanking the Aggies 23-3. And they did it without their injured defensive studs Robert Nkemdiche and Tony Conner. A&M QB Kyle Allen struggled mightily against the Rebels, completing only 12 of his 34 passes for a paltry 88 yards. The extent to which the Aggies’ high-powered offense was stymied, and the complete, dominant nature of the pounding that Ole Miss delivered was shocking.
And speaking of savage beatings, Clemson delivered an inglorious ending to the Al Golden era with a 58-0 drubbing of the Miami Hurricanes that was about as ignominious and vicious as Sonny Corleone’s final moments.
Florida State’s loss was its first in the regular season since 2012, which is about as remarkable as Dr. Ben Carson proving that even a neurosurgeon can have a brain like Homer Simpson's. Their November 7th match-up against Clemson will be a titanic one.
But the Seminoles and Tigers are not the only ACC squads looking to do big things this year. The Thursday night North Carolina/Pitt game features two surprising squads with realistic hopes of advancing to the ACC championship.
The Panthers’ first-year head coach Pat Narduzi has them undefeated in conference play, with an overall 6-1 record, already matching last season’s win total. The Tar Heels are off to their first 3-0 conference start in 18 years while averaging 38 points per game.
The game within the game will be how Pitt’s talented receiver Tyler Boyd, who leads the league with 53 catches, fares against the Panthers’ stingy pass defense, which is allowing a conference-low 137 yards per game through the air.
Be prepared to make good use of your remote control on Thursday evening, because the West Virginia/TCU game is worth checking out as well. Over the last three years, the Mountaineers and Horned Frogs’ games were all not decided until the very last play.
West Virginia has lost its last three after jumping out to a 3-0 start, but their last three opponents - Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Baylor - are a combined 20-1.
TCU’s quarterback/wide receiver combo of Trevone Boykin and Josh Doctson deserve every bit of the national attention they’ve received this year, but don’t sleep on the Mountaineers’ talented receiver Shelton Gibson and their underappreciated running back Wendell Smallwood.
Ohio State, Baylor, LSU, Michigan State and Alabama have byes this weekend, so the majority of the big boys will be resting up. So this might be a good chance to check out the best offense you probably haven’t seen yet, the Houston Cougars, as they take on an SEC team, albeit an inferior one in Vanderbilt. Houston averages 48 points and 561 yards per game.
The Florida/Georgia contest is always fun, and this year should be no exception. The Gators have been one of the best surprise stories of this season, and Georgia will be looking to avenge last year’s 38-20 loss.
The biggest game of the weekend will take place on Saturday night in Philadelphia, when Notre Dame and Temple clash.
The undefeated Owls are off to their best start in school history and Matt Rhule should be in consideration for National Coach of the year honors. Two years ago, Temple went 2-10. Last year, they were 6-6 before this season’s surprising appearance in the top 25.
The last time Temple was nationally ranked, Magic Johnson was a college sophomore beating up on some kid at Indiana State named Larry Bird.
The Fighting Irish’s Will Fuller, a Philadelphia native, is one of the country’s best receivers who averages 22 yards every time he gets his hands on the ball. The Owls ability to slow him and C.J. Prosise, who has unexpectedly emerged as one of the nation’s top running backs, will determine if they can improve to 8-0 and ruin the Fighting Irish's outside chance at snagging a playoff bid.
If you haven’t seen Temple this year, keep your eyes on their signal caller P.J. Walker and running back Jahad Thomas, who is the American Athletic Conference’s leading rusher. Temple won’t wow you on offense, but Walker does a lot of things well as he efficiently manages the game and directs an attack that’s designed to eat up the clock.
This weekend should be the calm before the storm, when the Buckeyes, Baylor, LSU, Michigan State, Alabama, Clemson, TCU, Stanford and the rest of the programs with playoff aspirations make their push in the season's second half for one of the coveted four playoff seeds in the weeks ahead.