College football can be painful. Heartbreak and disappointment are part of the deal, especially this time of year, as games garner more importance and people start to realize if their teams are for real or really out of it.
October is the month of discontent for teams whose fortunes have taken a turn for the worse. Coaches become agitated, fans get despondent and, all of a sudden, players on mediocre teams celebrate cutting a deficit to three touchdowns by flipping off the opposing team's fans.
And that's just Tennessee.
Misery loves company, and there was plenty of it to go around Week 8. Take the Vols: The big orange machine has been more of a melted Creamsicle this season, and fans are diving off Vol Navy vessels to get away from this sinking ship.
Butch Jones is at the very end of his leash with fans, and it seems as though each loss is worse than the previous. Saturday was no different, even if No. 1 Alabama was the opponent. Tennessee did manage to score its first touchdown since Sept. 23, but couldn't even do so with decency. Daniel Bituli's 97-yard interception return cut the Tide's lead to 28-7 in the third quarter. That prompted defensive back Rashaan Gaulden's middle-finger salute to the Crimson Tide fans behind the end zone. He apologized after the game, saying "there was just a lot of frustration that led up to that."
After having 66 yards in the first half, the Vols managed just 42 more in a 45-7 Alabama rout, showing once again that while the Tide continue to race toward the top, Tennessee is racing even faster to the bottom.
"We're never satisfied," Alabama tight end Hale Hentges told ESPN on Saturday. "We're going to put our foot on the gas pedal and never slow down.
"It doesn't matter if we're playing the New England Patriots, we're going to try and enforce our will."
Gaulden wasn't the only one to let his emotions get the best of him on Saturday. Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher, who has no doubt lost even more hair coaching through this ugly 2-4 season, got into a verbal altercation with a Seminoles fan after Saturday's 31-28 loss to Louisville in Tallahassee.
As Fisher walked off his home field, a fan yelled at him about making changes on his coaching staff, so Fisher reportedly responded by telling the fan to come down onto the field and argue with him face to face. Yes, it was stupid, but when you coach one of the sport's premier programs, you get a little testy when things fall apart like they are for the Noles this season.
"There's no reason to be nasty," Fisher said. "But at the same time, defending players and people you're with, I'm in charge of them. I love them like a father. When they say something to your family, you take up for it."
Perhaps the worst kind of misery comes when a once-promising season falls short of expectations in October. Say hello to Michigan and USC, formerly College Football Playoff contenders, who both fell flat during prime time. The No. 11 Trojans watched helplessly as Notre Dame's Brandon Wimbush (106 yards, two touchdowns) and Josh Adams (191 yards, three TDs) ran all over their already tattered defense in the 13th-ranked Irish's 49-14 win.
USC quarterback Sam Darnold continues to be a total enigma this season. On paper, his stats weren't bad on Saturday -- 20-of-28 passing for 229 yards with two touchdowns and an interception -- but it's getting harder to defend Darnold when he's either wildly inconsistent with his performances or his team gets blown out at Notre Dame.
Now, the player who entered the season as the favorite to win the Heisman Trophy, leading a team poised to reach the playoff, has appeared to be more of a disappointment than a top NFL draft pick.
A Pac-12 title is still in USC's sights, but the Trojans' playoff hopes are all but finished with this loss.
As for the Wolverines, if that hideous 14-10 loss to Michigan State two weeks ago didn't end their playoff hopes, Saturday's 42-13 thrashing by No. 2 Penn State certainly did. During the week leading into the game, Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh said his struggling offense needs to be more "precise." There was little of that offensively or defensively for the Wolverines, as they were out-gained 506-269.
Harbaugh fell to 4-5 against Big Ten foes Penn State, Michigan State, Ohio State and Wisconsin. He has been a great off-field storyline in college football since he was hired in 2014, but his big-game record has to cause Wolverines fans just the right amount of frustrating pain.
In the case of Texas, there is a nagging sense of wondering when the breakthrough is going to happen under first-year coach Tom Herman. The Longhorns missed another opportunity for a signature win when quarterback Sam Ehlinger casually lofted a pass to no one in particular in the end zone and watched the ball get intercepted by Oklahoma State's Ramon Richards to clinch the Cowboys' 13-10 overtime win. A a chip-shot field goal was waiting to send the game into a second overtime, but Ehlinger's interception put another painful dagger into the Longhorns' topsy-turvy 3-4 season.
Texas was unlikely to really challenge for the Big 12 title in Herman's first year, but you expected the Longhorns to have beaten somebody at this point. Herman had a knack for winning big games as an underdog while at Houston, but the Longhorns have come up short against USC, Oklahoma and now OSU.
"I don't know when we're going to break through that barrier," Herman said Saturday. "I thought it was going to be this week."
Here's the best of the rest from Week 8.
Rock-a-bye Turnover Chain
Miami forced four turnovers against Syracuse. So, the Turnover Chain got a workout today.
Ride your wave, Lee
CORSO JUST CROWD SURFED pic.twitter.com/vpFvdXDbA3— College GameDay (@CollegeGameDay) October 21, 2017