Originally Published: September 22, 2013

It won't always be this way

By Ivan Maisel | ESPN.com

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All I can tell you, College Football America, is it gets better.

It gets better than what we witnessed Saturday, an amalgam of inconsistency, a national display of uninspiration, an all-you-can-watch buffet of turnovers, inaccurate arms, blocked kicks and overall underachievement.

Granted, this does not apply to everyone.

Mack Brown
Ronald Martinez/Getty ImagesMack Brown's Texas squad avoided an unfavorable 1-3 start with a win over Kansas State.

Bless your heart, Texas. You rose and smote Kansas State, showing resolve and the ability to tackle, two qualities heretofore as rare in Austin as a white Christmas. Maryland and Iowa, a pair of four-win teams last year, have rediscovered their form of a decade ago, when they won 10 games as regularly as they put on their cleats. And Utah beat archrival BYU for the fourth straight year. Not sure how that gets better.

Everyone else?

It gets better, No. 1 Alabama and No. 5 Stanford, No. 9 Georgia and No. 18 Northwestern. Your internal clocks will reset and you will play at your accustomed level for the entire 60 minutes.

It gets better, No. 20 Baylor. Your schedule -- it gets better. Don't be lulled to sleep.

It gets better, No. 15 Michigan. You have two weeks to work out your offensive kinks, maybe launder Devin Gardner's No. 12 jersey and get him back to someone we recognize. Your next game is for the Little Brown Jug. That should be incentive enough.

It gets better, MEAC. Your paycheck Saturday is behind you. Florida A&M, Bethune-Cookman and Savannah State got beat by a combined 207-13 on Saturday, which is embarrassing. Not to them, mind you, but to No. 4 Ohio State, No. 8 Florida State and No. 16 Miami, which scheduled them. The playoff may rid us of these glorified scrimmages. Can't happen soon enough.

It gets better, Jeff Driskel. Good luck in your physical rehab.

It gets better, Bo Pelini. Good luck in your behavioral rehab.

And yet, for all the missed assignments, killed momentum and unfulfilled potential, no one got upset. The only ranked team to lose a game, No. 22 Arizona State, lost to Stanford, 42-28. The Sun Devils waited until the fourth quarter to score three touchdowns, another example of sputtering. Arizona State's finish should at least propel it to face USC this week in an important Pac-12 South game.

And guess what, kids? That's not the only good game in Week 5. No. 14 Oklahoma plays at No. 22 Notre Dame. No. 24 Wisconsin goes to Ohio State for a game that may determine the Big Ten Leaders race before we get to October. No. 21 Ole Miss plays at Alabama, which, for all its dominance, has won only three of its last five SEC home games.

In the marquee game, No. 6 LSU plays at No. 9 Georgia, which could be a reprise of a decade ago, when the Tigers defeated the Dawgs in September 2003, then beat them again in the SEC championship game.

See? It gets better.

Ivan Maisel | email

ESPN Senior Writer

Why not LSU in the SEC?

By Chris Low | ESPN.com

BATON ROUGE, La. -- Shaquille O'Neal -- make that Dr. Shaquille O'Neal -- was in the house Saturday night at Tiger Stadium.

His diagnosis had a decided purple-and-gold tinge to it.

"We're coming after you, Alabama,"O'Neal proclaimed.

Make that LSU and everybody else in college football.

But after the monsoon Jeremy Hill and LSU unleashed on Auburn in the kind of rainy, windy night on the Bayou that only a duck would have loved, maybe Shaq is on to something.

Why not LSU?

The No. 6 Tigers weren't real thrilled with themselves over the way they slopped around in the second half of their 35-21 win, and Auburn's fight and grit had something to do with that. But this is clearly an LSU team that nobody should discount in the SEC race.

"One thing about it is that we're capable of a lot more,"said Hill, who romped for 184 yards and three touchdowns, 152 of those yards coming in the first half. "We just need to make sure we don't let off the gas. You've got to do that for four quarters, the way we came out to start the game.

"That's what it's going to take to keep this thing going."

To read Chris Low's full story, click here.

Chris Low | email

ESPN Senior Staff Writer

Pac-12 looks formidable going into league play

By Kevin Gemmell | ESPN.com

While the Pac-12 versus Notre Dame trilogy has yet to be written, and we still need to see if Colorado-Fresno State gets rescheduled (it's looking unlikely), it's safe to say that the Pac-12 as a whole came out of its nonconference slate in impressive fashion.

Through the first four weeks, the league flexed its muscles against weaker competition, gutted out wins against comparable foes and showed considerable top-to-bottom depth. Oregon and Stanford announced national title intentions without incident and teams like Washington and UCLA have steadily climbed the Top 25 ladder.

Travis Wilson
Chris Nicoll/USA TODAY SportsTravis Wilson and Utah got a fourth straight victory over BYU on Saturday.

After three straight weeks of just one league game, every game in Week 5 will be Pac-12 on Pac-12, meaning the league had the opportunity to put a nice little bow on the bulk of its nonleague schedule in Week 4. And that's exactly what it did, adding six more nonconference wins, headlined by Utah's victory over arch-nemesis BYU.

Not only is it the fourth straight win for the Utes over BYU, but with the teams not playing again till 2016 they now get two extra years to savor the flavor of their 20-13 victory over the Cougars. This year's Holy War had everything we've come to expect from a Utah-BYU showdown. Hard hits, flared tempers and drama right until the final play.

With many wondering if BYU was a Top 25 team after blasting Texas two weeks ago (it was receiving votes in the coaches poll), the Utes proved to be the stronger team, bouncing back from last week's overtime loss to Oregon State to win on the road. And with a 3-0 mark in its nonconference games, Utah is slowly proving that it's making strides as a full-fledged Pac-12 program.

Some nonconference numbers for your consideration:

  • After going 25-11 out of conference last season (not including bowl games), the Pac-12 is 29-4 against nonconference teams through the first four weeks.
  • The Pac-12 is 21-3 against FBS opponents.
  • The league went 3-2 against the Big Ten and 10-0 against the Mountain West.
Why is this important? The Pac-12 will see both leagues a couple of more times in the postseason.

To read Kevin Gemmell's full story, Click here.

Week 4 evens the field in the Legends Division

By Brian Bennett | ESPN.com

The Big Ten Leaders Division race could very well be decided next week when Wisconsin goes to Ohio State. With Penn State ineligible for the conference championship game and Illinois, Indiana and Purdue all looking at least a step behind, the winner of that Saturday showdown in Columbus will occupy the inside lane on the road to Indianapolis.

As for the Legends race? Well, it might take all season to sort out that scrum.

A little more than a week ago, Michigan looked like the division favorite. That was before the Wolverines barely got by Akron at home, and then -- as if to prove that wasn't merely a post-Notre Dame letdown -- they struggled mightily in a come-from-behind, 24-21 squeaker at winless UConn in Week 4. Brady Hoke's team has some serious issues, including an unreliable running game and Devin Gardner's sudden inability to keep the ball from going to the other team.

Northwestern remains a major threat, but the Wildcats' tendency to play down to their competition surfaced again in an unimpressive 35-21 win over Maine. It sure seemed as though Pat Fitzgerald's team was playing with one eye on the calendar, which presents a bye week in Week 5 followed by possibly the biggest regular-season game in school history: Ohio State's visit to Evanston on Oct. 5.

In South Bend, Michigan State showed it is exactly what we thought -- a great defense saddled by continual ineptitude on offense. The Spartans will be in every game because of that defense; how many they can actually pull out is a big question mark. Nebraska weathered the storm of the Bo Pelini controversy but still hasn't ironed out its problems on defense, which is priority No. 1 for Pelini for the upcoming bye week.

But the real reason the Legends has become so unpredictable is because the bottom has risen up.

To read Brian Bennett's full story, Click here.

Brian Bennett | email

ESPN Staff Writer

Baylor might be the Big 12's biggest threat

By Jake Trotter | ESPN.com

Oklahoma and Oklahoma State had the day off. So the two schools got a good look at the biggest threat to Bedlam deciding the Big 12 in December.

Baylor whitewashed yet another opponent Saturday, serving notice to the Oklahoma schools that this won't just be a two-team race for the conference crown.

By annihilating Louisiana-Monroe 70-7, the Bears became the first FBS team to score at least 60 points in three consecutive games since the Sooners did it five times in a row in 2008. That Oklahoma team set a modern college football scoring record on its way to capturing the Big 12 title.

Bryce Petty
Jerome Miron/USA TODAY SportsBaylor's Bryce Petty looks like the most complete quarterback in the Big 12.

The Bears are quickly proving they too have a Big 12 championship-caliber offense.

Sure, Baylor has yet to face a quality opponent. Wofford, Buffalo and Monroe hardly comprise a challenging nonconference slate.

But it's not who the Bears have beaten. It's the way they've beaten them.

Through three games, Baylor has outscored its opponents by a combined score of 209-23 -- the largest scoring differential through the first three games by any FBS team in the last decade.

Buffalo's defense gave Ohio State problems in Columbus. The Sooners struggled to move the ball against Monroe in Norman.

But in Waco, Buffalo and Monroe were fortunate Baylor didn't drop off a hundred on them, because it probably could have.

The Bears are the first team to score 28 points in the first quarter in three consecutive games since the stat started being tracked in 1996. Against Monroe, they opened with five touchdowns, despite holding possession for just 2 minutes, 54 seconds.

And through just three games, Baylor has already totaled 24 touchdown drives of two minutes or less. Oregon, for context, led the FBS with 45 such drives last year.

"We've got good people," coach Art Briles said after the Monroe shellacking. "We've got a good football team."

The Bears might have more than just that.

To read Jake Trotter's full story, click here.

Jake Trotter | email

ESPN Staff Writer

Weird days are nothing new in the ACC

By Andrea Adelson | ESPN.com

Duke coach David Cutcliffe greeted reporters at his postgame news conference with quite an opening line.

"That was a bizarre game."

More like a bizarre Saturday in the crazy Coastal.

You thought North Carolina and Georgia Tech would repeat their high-scoring, record-setting game from last year? Nope. Duke and Pitt did their best to recreate that game in Durham, combining for 113 points and 1,130 yards of total offense in the Panthers' 58-55 victory.

What of Georgia Tech and North Carolina, you ask? Both defenses showed up today, but the North Carolina offense went missing after the second quarter as the Jackets reeled off the final 21 points to win 28-20 and jump to 3-0 on the season.

Then there was Virginia Tech. You want bizarre? A defense that held No. 1 Alabama to 212 yards of total offense gave up 21 points and 205 total yards in the FIRST HALF to Marshall before pitching a shutout the rest of the way in a 29-21 triple-overtime win.

Nothing ever seems to come easy in the ACC. Still, there were plenty of head-scratching moments for fans who have come to expect the unexpected.

To read Andrea Adelson's full story, click here.

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