Dude, where's my chaos?
A slip of the fingers. A couple of inches. A break from the refs. That's how close Tennessee, Northwestern and Washington all came to potentially pulling off upsets of top-10 teams Saturday.
The Volunteers saw their chances of upending No. 6 Georgia fade away when Alton "Pig" Howard lost control of the ball as he was diving for the pylon in overtime. The play, originally ruled a touchdown, was correctly called a touchback after a review, and the Bulldogs then survived with a game-winning field goal.
Northwestern had the ball on No. 4 Ohio State's 34-yard line on fourth-and-1, down just four points with less than three minutes to go. But the exchange between center Brandon Vitabile and quarterback Kain Colter ended up on the ground, forcing Colter to pick it up and try to sneak his way through a pile of defenders. The Wildcats got no benefit of the doubt on a controversial spot on the field or after a review, and Ohio State took over en route to a 40-30 win.
Washington trailed No. 5 Stanford 31-28 in the final two minutes but was driving in Cardinal territory when Keith Price's third-down pass went through star tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins' hands. On the next play, Price found Kevin Smith for what was initially called a complete pass and a first down; however, after a lengthy review, officials ruled the ball hit the ground.
These were heartbreaking, oh-so-close losses for all three underdogs. But for the nation's elite, it was simply business as usual in 2013.
We love college football for a variety of reasons, not least of which is the sport's unpredictability from week to week during its high-pressure regular season. But after six weeks of action -- half a regular season's worth for some teams -- we have to ask: Dude, where's my chaos?
There's no more secure place these days than the penthouse. Consider that of the teams who were ranked in the top 12 of the preseason Associated Press poll, 10 of them should still be among the dandy dozen when the new rankings come out Sunday. The two exceptions are South Carolina, which was ranked No. 13 last week, and Florida, which checked in at No. 18.
That preseason top 12 has suffered five losses, but four of those defeats (Georgia to Clemson, LSU and South Carolina to Georgia and Texas A&M to Alabama) came against teams currently ranked in the top six. The worst loss incurred by a preseason top-12 team was Florida's setback to Miami, which is 5-0 and creeping toward the top 10 itself. Hardly a bad loss by the Gators.
Were the poll voters unusually prescient in August? Is there less parity than we've become accustomed to seeing? Or are we in store for an upset-filled final two months?
Even the ACC, which for years has reliably provided us with rush-the-field moments as its top-ranked contenders gagged, seems immune to the upset so far. No. 3 Clemson crushed Syracuse 49-14 on Saturday, while No. 8 Florida State took out previously unbeaten Maryland 63-0. The Oct. 19 showdown between the Tigers and Seminoles -- and their two Heisman candidate quarterbacks, Tajh Boyd and Jameis Winston -- is appointment television.
So, too, is the Nov. 7 clash between Stanford and No. 2 Oregon, and No. 10 LSU at No. 1 Alabama a week later.
But those are the games we've anticipated for months. We're still waiting for the kind of "Wait, what happened?" results like Iowa State over Oklahoma State in 2011 or Pitt over West Virginia in 2007. At this point, we'd settle for just a run-of-the-mill top-10 takedown by an also-ran.
But so far this year, aside from some close calls like we saw on Saturday, life isn't lonely at the top of the polls. It's quite lovely.
Cats still can't get over the hump
EVANSTON, Ill. -- The first thing he did was thank the media, and then the fans, especially the fans, the ones who helped create an atmosphere unseen around these parts since he was the one out on Ryan Field making hits some 18 years ago.
And then Pat Fitzgerald offered a bit of an apology.
"Our students were absolutely amazing. I think they started their day at about 2 in the morning, and we're sorry we didn't finish the job for them and give them a great homecoming," said Fitzgerald, the eighth-year Northwestern coach and former Wildcats linebacker. "But unbelievable, the amount of support that we've received from our students. Unbelievable homecoming setting. Incredibly thankful for that."
This town proved itself to be more than worthy of all of the national attention that was washed upon it this past week, from the "College GameDay" circus to the announced crowd of 47,330 in attendance for the prime-time kickoff. Fans and alumni from both Ohio State and Northwestern flooded the L-trains coming from the city and helped give some validation to the moniker of "Chicago's Big Ten Team." Tailgaters weathered late-afternoon thunderstorms that threatened to end this party a few hours too soon.
Then the No. 16 Wildcats gave the natives plenty to cheer about, going blow-for-blow with the No. 4 Buckeyes before falling by a 40-30 final that gave little indication of just how tight the preceding 60 minutes had been.
"Our players went out there with the right attitude," said linebacker Damien Proby, who was responsible for the third of Braxton Miller's three turnovers when he forced a fumble in the third quarter. "We didn't play this game or approach this game for the media; we played this for ourselves, and we wanted to prove something to ourselves. And that's something that we still need to do, but we definitely took a step in that direction like we wanted to."
To read Matt Fortuna's full story, Click here.
Stanford, Oregon still a cut above in Pac-12
STANFORD, Calif. -- The track carrying the Pac-12's resident crazy trains -- Stanford and Oregon -- remains unaltered. Both continue to steam ahead at a furious pace with a nationally televised collision scheduled for Nov. 7.
The Cardinal strengthened their position with a hard-earned 31-28 win over No. 15 Washington Saturday night. And if there is any dignity left in the voting process, the Huskies should remain in the top 20 when the new polls come out Sunday for pushing the No. 5 team in the country at home for 59 minutes, 30 seconds and one close replay.
No. 2 Oregon, meanwhile, continued its blistering pace with a 57-16 win over Colorado. It's the fifth straight game the Ducks have broken the half-century mark, and just the second time ever that a school has scored 50-plus in its first five. The last? That offensive juggernaut that was the 1885 Princeton Tigers.
All along we figured it was going to be Oregon and Stanford, but we've been wrong before. Recall last year that USC and Oregon was supposed to be the Game of the Century. By the time it rolled around, it was barely the Game of the Week.
But so far Stanford has fended off two of the league's rising challengers in Arizona State and Washington, not to mention a vastly improved Washington State squad that is two games away from bowl eligibility after the "Air" out-raided the "Bear." But before we can see the highly anticipated Oregon-Stanford showdown, the Cardinal still have to go to Salt Lake City next week and Corvallis with a home date against UCLA sandwiched in between.
Rest assured, this was not the last close call.
To read Kevin Gemmell's full story, click here.
Record-setting Baylor ready to roll Big 12
WACO, Texas -- Oklahoma is grinding. Oklahoma State is slipping. Texas is simmering.
And Baylor is scoring and scoring and scoring.
The Bears got all dressed up on Saturday night, in their finest black attire and shiny gold chrome lids, and then they went to work, tearing apart a solid West Virginia team with cold, quick efficiency to win 73-42.
A team that's sick of hearing it hasn't played anyone yet faced a Mountaineers team that one week ago beat the Big 12 favorite. Ten minutes into the game, it was already over.
The numbers the Bears put up were better than Xbox quality. Baylor set the new Big 12 record for total offense with 864 yards and a school record for points. The Bears rushed for 468 and passed for 396.
When told of these numbers, quarterback Bryce Petty had one response: "Good grief, really?"
A total of 617 yards came in the first half alone. Had the starters not been pulled one drive into the third quarter, they easily might've broken the NCAA record of 1,021 yards. The list goes on and on.
The three best single-game offensive performances in FBS this year, by yardage, belong to: Baylor, Baylor and Baylor. This is an offense that averages nearly a first down on every snap, an offense that scored touchdowns on nine of its first 10 drives Saturday and still hasn't been held to a three-and-out.
"It's about execution and production," Baylor coach Art Briles said. "We'll just do what we're supposed to do, and do it with a lot of predictable outcomes."
To read Max Olson's full story, click here.
Miami, VT separate themselves in the Coastal
MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. -- If you had taken a glance over at the Miami sideline after the first quarter ended Saturday afternoon, you would have never known the Hurricanes trailed 17-7.
Everybody was calm. Nobody was flustered. The team leader on offense, Stephen Morris, stayed positive and smiled. The team leader on defense, Shayon Green, stayed positive and smiled. Their attitudes carried over to their teammates, who kept their poise, weathered the adversity and survived Georgia Tech's upset bid, 45-30.
Could they have done the same a year ago? The fact that is even a question shows just how much this team has grown up in the span of 12 months. On this same weekend in 2012, unranked Miami hung close with No. 9 Notre Dame, trailing 13-3 at halftime. But the Hurricanes got blown out in the second half and lost 41-3, one of three double-digit defeats to ranked teams on the season.
Today, the No. 14 Hurricanes stand 5-0 and proved something to their coaches, and even to themselves with the way they won their ACC opener.
"We kept saying to the team -- you don't have any leadership until you have a bead of sweat and the [stuff] hits the fan," coach Al Golden said. "And that's what happened. We learned a lot about our team and we had great leadership throughout that. We had great poise."
Miami remains the favorite to win the ACC Coastal, but it has company atop the division standings, as longtime nemesis Virginia Tech also remained unbeaten in league play with a 27-17 win over North Carolina. It became exceedingly obvious over the course of Saturday that it is Miami, Virginia Tech and then everybody else in that division.
To read David Hale's full story, click here.
Dawgs find a way in another thriller
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- Aaron Murray's not sure how much more of this he can take.
Then again, this is precisely the reason he came back to Georgia, for moments like this.
A fifth-year senior, who was once branded as the guy who couldn't win the big one, Murray has made winning an art form this season for No. 6-ranked Georgia, and he engineered yet another thrilling 34-31 overtime win Saturday against Tennessee in Neyland Stadium.
"These are memories we'll have for the rest of our lives," Murray said. "When we come back and have reunions and meet up, these are the games we'll talk about. I'm getting goosebumps just thinking about it.
"We're five games into the season and made a ton of memories ... and have a lot more to go."
Murray, who became the SEC's all-time leader in passing yards, was one of the few in the Georgia locker room not on crutches or ailing in some way Saturday evening on the banks of the Tennessee River.
In Saturday's game alone, the Bulldogs lost tailback Keith Marshall and receivers Michael Bennett and Justin Scott-Wesley to knee injuries. Even punter Collin Barber was knocked out of the game with a concussion.
To read Chris Low's full story, click here.
Three weekend observations
1. Who knows where No. 6 Georgia goes from here? The Bulldogs lost three major offensive contributors to what appear to be serious knee injuries Saturday in their 34-31 overtime win at Tennessee. But play Mark Richts team in a close game at your own peril. Quarterback Aaron Murray proves Saturday after Saturday that talent and experience is difficult to defeat. I dont know if Murray will win the Heisman. But if college football decides to give an MVP award, I have my candidate.
2. Georgia narrowly survived what turned out to be a Shakeout Saturday. No. 25 Maryland and Iowa, after September surges, showed they dont have what it takes to contend for their division titles. North Carolina, a preseason dark horse in the ACC Coastal, fell to 1-4. No. 21 Arizona State, by losing a close one to Notre Dame, confirmed that No. 11 UCLA is the class of the Pac-12 South. That may not be saying much. The division is 0-6 against the Pac-12 North.
3. You couldnt tell it by the final score, but if you didnt stay up til nearly 2 a.m. ET to see No. 5 Stanford hang on to defeat No. 15 Washington 31-28, you missed an outstanding fourth-quarter performance by Huskies quarterback Keith Price and an outstanding four-quarter performance by the Huskies defense. How did the Cardinal hang on? By dominating special teams and taking advantage of Washingtons 10 penalties for 97 yards. The Cardinal didnt make many plays but made fewer mistakes.
Week 6 Impact Performances
GameDay crew final thoughts
You saw the value in teams believing they could win in tight situations because they had experience and have done it before. I think that ended up being the difference in the Ohio State-Northwestern and Stanford-Washington games. It wasn't really that Northwestern or Washington did anything wrong, it was just the other guy made just enough plays to win. Eventually, one of those teams will break through.
I think Washington looks like a contending team. It's going to catch somebody sleeping before the season is over. Oregon better be ready next week, depending on how much the Huskies have left in the tank.
That leads to another point: I think sometimes we underestimate -- especially with young, amateur players -- the toll it takes on a team if it has an emotional game one week and plays a really good opponent the next week.
Washington is coming off an emotional game and is playing maybe the best team in the country in Oregon next week. Does it have enough to muster the same type of performance two weeks in a row? The spirit will be willing, but will the flesh and the mind allow it? That's one of the things you'll see: Who can maintain consistency in performance? Those teams are usually the ones that emerge at the end.
Helmet stickers go to ...
Impressive day by Florida State. It really flexed its muscles against Maryland. Jameis Winston did a terrific job. Clemson also looked very impressive.
There were some hard-fought battles, right down to the wire. Great games to watch. There really wasn't any separation between Ohio State and Northwestern or Stanford and Washington.
Tennessee and Georgia was a great game. Georgia is a must-watch every single week, even with its injuries. It goes down to the wire and Aaron Murray makes the big play. Nobody talks about him on the Heisman list, but you talk about a most valuable player or most outstanding player, and you have to think about Murray.
Helmet stickers go to ...
• QB Jameis Winston , FSU
• RB Carlos Hyde, Ohio State
I'm anxious to see some really critical games coming up, such as Clemson-Florida State.
I don't think that Ohio State will be challenged this year to get to the championship game.
Georgia is really in a precarious position. It lost both running backs and its top three receivers. The defense isn't playing well enough to carry the Dawgs. Aaron Murray is, but I don't know how they're going to keep it going.
Every team has a story. Jadeveon Clowney not playing is a story for South Carolina. Injuries at Georgia are a story. Jameis Winston is a story. It goes on and on.
I can hardly wait until next week since I don't know what's going to happen, and neither does anybody else, which makes it exciting.
Helmet stickers go to ...
What we learned in Week 6
Click below to see what our reporters learned in each conference after the sixth weekend.
There is one game every ACC fan should be anticipating, and that's Clemson vs. Florida State. After the show those two put on against formidable conference foes this weekend, their meeting in two weeks is even more interesting. ACC
Baylor's offense is a sight to behold. The numbers are video-game-like, but the results are real. The Bears can't be under the radar too much longer. Behind them, though, the Big 12's offenses have not been pretty. Big 12
Ohio State survived its first big test of the season and is still tops in the league. Elsewhere, Michigan looks to be back on track after a much-needed bye. Illinois, Iowa and Penn State, though, seemed to derail after promising starts. Big Ten
The game of the week, Washington-Stanford, definitely lived up to the hype and was a statement game for both teams. While those teams, as well as Oregon, seem to be up to the challenge, another Pac-12 ranked team, Arizona State, took a step back on the national stage against Notre Dame. Pac-12
Aaron Murray has been criticized his whole Georgia career for folding in clutch situations. After a third down-to-the-wire win -- this time against a Tennessee team that is clearly improving every week -- the quarterback isn't hearing the haters anymore. SEC
Photos from Week 6
Helmet stickers for Week 6
Every week our reporters will hand out helmet stickers to the week's top players, coaches, teams or anything else worth this honor.
Week 6 Takeways
A year ago Saturday, Florida State choked away a second-half lead at North Carolina State, and before the season's halfway mark, it signaled another year of embarrassment that the ACC would not have a title contender.
"I can't believe this is happening again," one league official told me then.
Fast forward to the present, and the league still has two contenders. (Maybe three, if you're willing to stick your neck out on Miami improving in the coming weeks.)
Quarterback play is the reason, as Clemson's Tajh Boyd and FSU's Jameis Winston (in his first season as a starter) have their teams on a collision course for their Oct. 19 meeting in Death Valley.
Both teams are playing so well that the winner of that game should emerge as a legitimate national title contender. Which leads off our Takeaways for Week 6.
1. Winner of Clemson-FSU matchup could make BCS title game
Boyd and Winston entered dangerous games Saturday at Syracuse and against Maryland, and they exited with their Heisman campaigns padded significantly. Winston's candidacy, in fact, might have been announced in earnest.
To read Travis Haney's full story, click here.