THE BOTTOM LINE
By Brad Edwards, Special to ESPN.com
On a day when most of America was focused on the epic nonconference battle between USC and Notre Dame, conference races quietly became a major storyline in college football.
Penn State entered Saturday as the Big Ten's only undefeated team but fell to Michigan, opening the door to a potentially crazy final five weeks of the conference schedule. Five teams currently have one loss in league play, and four teams have two losses. At this point, only Illinois and Purdue (both 0-3) appear to be out of contention.
The surprise is that Michigan, 1-2 in conference after last week's loss to Minnesota, is very much back in the thick of the race. The most important remaining game may be Wisconsin (3-1) at Penn State (3-1) on Nov. 5. Unless the Badgers win, it seems almost certain that the Big Ten's BCS bid won't be determined until the final day of conference play (Nov. 19).
The same situation holds true for Conference USA, in which 10 of the 12 teams now have either one or two losses in league play. One game separates first and sixth places in the East division standings, and all six teams still seem to have a legitimate chance to win.
Meanwhile, a couple of teams have seemingly seized control of their respective conferences or divisions. TCU is 4-0 in the Mountain West, and Colorado State is the only other team in the league with fewer than two conference losses. The Rams travel to Fort Worth on Nov. 5, but if they don't take care of business between now and then, the Horned Frogs could have the title secured before Halloween.
Georgia is in a similar position in the SEC East. The Bulldogs are 4-0 in conference play, and everyone else in the division has at least a pair of defeats. Georgia has already beaten two of the three teams with two losses, Tennessee and Vanderbilt, so only Florida still has a remote chance to challenge. If the 'Dogs beat Arkansas this Saturday and the Gators on Oct. 29, the East race is history.
And the Big East race may not be too far behind.
West Virginia's comeback victory over Louisville boosted its Big East record to 3-0 and probably eliminated the preseason-favored Cardinals from the race, but the Mountaineers are not necessarily in control of the conference. Not yet, anyway. WVU's final four games all come against teams with just a single loss in Big East play, so there is still plenty of work to be done. But if the Mountaineers can win their next two -- against South Florida and Connecticut -- it could be done sooner rather than later.
DON'T MESS WITH TEXAS
They say everything's bigger in the state of Texas. Apparently, that includes passing numbers.
With Texas Tech's Cody Hodges throwing for 643 yards against Kansas State on Saturday, the four best passing days in major-college football history have all come from the Lone Star State. Amazingly, Hodges' performance was not even a school record. That mark belongs to B.J. Symons, who threw for 661 against Ole Miss in 2003.
Naturally, such a big passing day requires some pretty gaudy receiving numbers to go with it. The Red Raiders had four players with more than 100 receiving yards. It is not known whether this is the first such occurrence in history, because the NCAA record book does not list this category. Regardless, it was quite an impressive afternoon for the Tech passing game.
The important question is whether the Raiders saved anything for next week. They'll need plenty, as they travel to Austin for a Texas-sized showdown with the No. 2 Longhorns.
I CAN'T BELIEVE WHAT I JUST SAW
Each week on College GameDay Final, we present four nominees for the Pontiac Game Changing Performance of the weekend.
Usually, one or two plays overshadow the others, and the list is completed with a couple of good, but perhaps not spectacular plays. This past Saturday was special, though, and there were more performances worthy of nomination than we had space for. Ten games involving Top-25 teams were decided in the final minute, including seven that were in doubt until the final play.
From Maurice Drew's TD plunge to Matt Leinart's TD lunge to Alabama's last-second field goal ... from Chad Henne's pass on the final tick to Virginia's last-minute pick ... from Louisville giving up a 10-point lead in the final five minutes at West Virginia to Boston College overcoming a nine-point gap in the final three minutes.
Three undefeated teams escaped the chopping block, and two undefeated teams got chopped. Conference title hopes survived, and conference title hopes crumbled.
Saturday had a little bit of everything. And unless your team was on the wrong end of one of these thrillers, it was a great day to be a fan.
INSIDE THE NUMBERS
260Florida's average total yards per game against ranked teams this season
(247 vs. Tennessee, 326 at Alabama, 206 at LSU).