Tear up your mock BCS standings
You had your mock BCS standings all figured out headed into Saturday's games, all the unbeatens slotted in, the one-loss SEC teams sprinkled throughout the top, too.
October always brings some unpredictability and a whole bunch of chaos. How fitting, then, that the most chaotic weekend to date came on BCS standings eve, punching holes throughout mock standings everywhere and leaving America to collectively wonder, "What just happened?"
Did No. 3 Clemson really give up 51 points in an embarrassing loss to No. 5 Florida State?
Did No. 6 LSU really lose to unranked Ole Miss?
Did No. 7 Texas A&M really lose at home to No. 24 Auburn?
Did No. 8 Louisville really lose to unranked UCF?
But wait, there is more.
No. 9 UCLA lost, too?
And No. 11 South Carolina to unranked Tennessee?
The top-10 wreckage has not left college football in shambles, however. Three unbeatens no longer remain, but the chaos we saw Saturday served a larger purpose.
We now see true separation at the top. Nobody disputes that Alabama, Oregon, Florida State and Ohio State are the top four teams in the nation. Baylor, off yet another 70-point showing, merits discussion. Miami, Missouri and Texas Tech are unbeaten, too, so throw them into the mix.
This is where everything gets just a bit fuzzy and where the first BCS standings become so important when they're released Sunday night.
How will the top four teams be slotted? Where will Baylor, Miami, Missouri and Texas Tech end up? How about one-loss Clemson and one-loss UCLA? One-loss Stanford and one-loss Auburn?
A few points to consider.
First: Does the chaos in the SEC affect Alabama when it comes to strength of schedule? Its best win is on the road against Texas A&M, a team with two losses now. Eight of 14 SEC teams have three or more losses; the East features four teams at 4-3. The gap between the SEC and the other conferences seems to have closed, especially if you look at the Week 8 results. In all, four top-15 SEC teams lost, three to unranked teams (LSU, South Carolina, Georgia). The SEC knows what it feels like for its middle-of-the-pack teams to rise up and cannibalize its top tier.
Second: How will the computers view Oregon, Florida State and Ohio State? The Ducks have put up their usual video-game numbers, but they have not beaten anybody with more than four wins. Washington qualifies as their best win, but the Huskies now have three losses after getting slammed 53-24 by Arizona State on Saturday. Oregon has two wins over teams with winning records.
Turn to Florida State, and the Noles have three wins over teams with winning records, including two over teams ranked when they played (Maryland, Clemson). Turn to Ohio State, and its best win remains Wisconsin. The Buckeyes also have three wins over teams with winning records, but only Wisconsin has five wins.
Third: Where do the other unbeatens fit? Miami went into the weekend ranked No. 10, Baylor No. 12, Missouri No. 14 and Texas Tech No. 16. Are all four top-10 teams? How do the computers view their respective schedules? And let's not forget about unbeaten non-AQs Fresno State and Northern Illinois, either. Each is hoping to earn an automatic spot in a BCS bowl game.
Yes, Saturday's theme was easily chaos. But that was just a prelude. The BCS standings are sure to create their own special chaos.
Welcome to the new SEC
At the start of the season -- heck, even two weeks ago -- nobody outside of the state of Missouri gave Gary Pinkel's team much of a shot at representing the SEC East in the conference's championship game.
I, for one, welcome our new Tiger overlords. Because like it or not, Saturday's losses by all three of the division's preseason favorites -- No. 11 South Carolina, No. 15 Georgia and No. 22 Florida -- mean No. 14 Missouri has a two-game lead in the division and is suddenly an enormous favorite to carry the East's banner in Atlanta.
Credit Pinkel. Nobody in the league occupied a hotter seat when the season started, but he led his team to initial wins against a bunch of nobodies, then to progressively more impressive victories against Vanderbilt, Georgia and Florida over the last few weeks. Another home win against South Carolina next Saturday and Missouri fans can start booking flights to Atlanta for the weekend of Dec. 7.
And that might not even be the most bizarre development of this weekend from around the conference.
Not when South Carolina lost QB Connor Shaw to injury Saturday, and probably its chances of winning the East.
Not when Ole Miss, which had lost three in a row -- including stomach-churning losses to Auburn and Texas A&M in the last two weeks -- and nine of its last 11 games against LSU, took down the No. 6 Tigers 27-24 with a late field goal.
Not when Vanderbilt, a 51-28 home loser to Mizzou its last time out, scored 17 unanswered, fourth-quarter points behind backup quarterback Patton Robinette to beat Georgia in Nashville for the first time since 1991.
Not when Tennessee, which gave up 59 straight points in an embarrassing loss at Oregon on Sept. 14, hit a walk-off field goal to beat South Carolina 23-21 just when it looked like the Gamecocks might be the team with the best shot of unseating Mizzou in the East.
And certainly not when No. 24 Auburn, which surrendered 63 points and a program-record 671 yards to Johnny Manziel and Texas A&M last fall, traveled to College Station and shocked the No. 7 Aggies 45-41 to continue one of the season's best comeback stories.
By that measure, unbeaten Missouri's convincing 36-17 win against Florida was completely predictable and not at all surprising. Aside from top-ranked Alabama's 52-0 win against Arkansas on Saturday night -- we all saw that one coming -- Mizzou's win probably was the least surprising victory in the entire league.
That's where we are in the SEC right now. The conference was bragging about its record eight ranked teams at the beginning of the week. Five of them lost on Saturday, three to unranked opponents whose results against ranked teams in recent years were abysmal.
To read David Ching's full story, click here.
Clemson, FSU revert to old ways
CLEMSON, S.C. -- In the third quarter of Saturday's dismantling of No. 3-ranked Clemson, Florida State linebacker Telvin Smith approached wide receivers coach Lawrence Dawsey on the sideline and asked him a question about his playing days with the Noles, an era in which the program experienced its first four 10-win, top-five poll finishes.
"I said, 'This is how it felt when y'all were doin' it?'" Smith said. "He said, 'Yeah, that's definitely how it was.'"
Kelvin Benjamin and FSU looked like the Seminoles of old, and there was little Clemson could do about it.
They're back -- Florida State AND Clemson.
On Saturday night in Death Valley, on the biggest stage college football had to offer in the first half of the season, both No. 3 Clemson and No. 5 Florida State reverted to their signature ways. For the Seminoles, that meant playing with a confidence and swagger not seen since the '90s. It meant an elite group of athletes who simply looked superior against what was expected to be their toughest opponent of the season. For Clemson, it meant imploding like it was 2008. It meant another monumental collapse when it mattered most -- an embarrassing 51-14 loss on home turf with national title implications at stake.
Florida State didn't just look like the best team on the field on Saturday. The Seminoles looked like one of the best teams in the country. Period.
"We've got that swag," quarterback Jameis Winston said with a smile.
This would have been a different story had Clemson lost a close, exciting, hard-fought game, but the Tigers were flat-out dismissed at home by a better team. From the opening play of the game, a Clemson turnover that led to an FSU touchdown, the Tigers looked rattled and out of sorts -- exactly how many expected FSU to look on the road. FSU proved that the gap between the two programs was far wider than their top-five rankings have indicated. The Noles proved that they are good enough to be great again.
To read Heather Dinich's full story, click here.
Baylor's defense has caught up to its offense
WACO, Texas -- You have to give Ahmad Dixon credit: He isn't afraid of saying what everyone else is thinking.
Baylor's offense did what it almost always has done this season in a 71-7 victory over Iowa State on Saturday. But the senior safety knows this team won't end up where it wants to be without seven more strong games from the Bears' defense.
"We're the only thing that can hold us back," Dixon said. "Nothing else can hold us back or can stop us from winning this Big 12 championship except for us, and by us I mean our defense."
As we come one week closer to crowning the champion of this conference, that issue is coming into focus in a lot more places than Waco. There's plenty of bad offense being played right now in the Big 12. But who's capable of producing an elite defense, one that can survive the tough games?
The tough games are coming for Baylor. Iowa State definitely wasn't one of them, but this was an opponent that scored 35 on undefeated Texas Tech and 30 against Texas.
And here's what Baylor's once-maligned, oft-underestimated defense did: The Cyclones gained 74 yards and four first downs in the first half, averaged 1.2 yards per rush and didn't score until the game's final minute, against a squad of Baylor backups.
"My hat's off to the defense," Baylor quarterback Bryce Petty said. "I mean, holy cow, in my mind that's a goose egg."
To read Max Olson's full story, click here.
Statements made, lost in Pac-12 in Week 8
It was "statement Saturday" in the Pac-12.
Some teams, Stanford and Arizona State to name a couple, made huge statements. Other statements were significant, if not understated. Still, others failed to make statements with the weight of increased scrutiny bearing down on them.
Cody Kessler and the USC offense couldn't get much going in the loss to Notre Dame.
USC stumbled on a national stage at Notre Dame. UCLA failed to beat the Cardinal for the third time in 10 months. Arizona State absolutely stuffed Washington. Utah failed to follow up its big win last week with a win on the road. Perhaps the most shocking of all ... Andy Phillips missed! Twice! Gasp! Strange things were certainly afoot in Week 8.
And yet, isn't this exactly what we've come to expect from the Pac-12? Just when we think we've got a handle on things, Arizona rises, Arizona State romps, Kodi Whitfield makes a one-handed grab and Washington stumbles. Parity reminded us all that each week brings unpredictability.
To read Kevin Gemmell's full story, click here.
Three weekend observations
1. So six of the top 11 lost Saturday, and suddenly the BCS championship picture came into much sharper focus. Alabama, Oregon and Florida State have separated themselves from the pack. Missouri, Ohio State, Miami and Texas Tech are undefeated but haven't shown the same level of dominance. Baylor has played one team with a winning record, Buffalo. Florida State and Miami play in two weeks, Baylor and Texas Tech meet two weeks after that, and Alabama and Mizzou could play for the SEC title. The puzzle will solve itself.
2. I had singled out No. 24 Auburn as not worthy of its ranking, and the Tigers' 45-41 upset at No. 7 Texas A&M proved me wrong. The Auburn defense won by beating up Johnny Manziel. Although he accounted for 502 yards of total offense and five touchdowns, he played much of the second half in obvious pain. It slowed him down enough to allow Auburn to hit him more. Auburn not only beat a top-10 team, but at 6-1, the Tigers qualified for a bowl a year after going 3-9. Kudos.
3. The ramifications of UCF's 38-35 upset of No. 8 Louisville extend all the way to Glendale, Ariz., where the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl has the final pick among the four BCS bowls. With Houston's loss to BYU on Saturday, the champion of the American will have one loss and end up playing the Big 12 champion, the Fiesta host team. Would the Orange and Sugar bypass UCF and send the Knights 2,150 miles to the west? You bet they would. Of course, if Florida State plays for the crystal football, UCF would be a lot more enticing to the Orange.
Week 8 Impact Performances
GameDay crew final thoughts
If the SEC is going to extend its national championship streak to eight, Saturday's results almost ensured that it won't be a one-loss team playing for the championship. Things would really have to fall apart for Alabama to be able to survive a late loss. The only one-loss scenario could be if Auburn runs the table. It would seem that the SEC's hopes of extending its championship streak to eight lie with Alabama or Missouri finishing undefeated.
A lot of people criticized the SEC last season because the top six teams went 30-0 against the other eight schools. Five of those six teams lost to the "other eight" from last year, so now the criticism is that the league is too balanced and the top isn't as good as usual. The best way to prove your argument isn't to keep moving the target, but to beat it in the championship game.
I thought that Stanford re-established its identity running the football and put itself in the best position among one-loss teams.
Some teams are really having their seasons hanging in the balance as they try to avoid complete disasters. Georgia and Florida are chief on this list. The upside-down nature of the SEC this season has been one of the most surprising things. Injuries have really taken a toll, not just in the SEC but also across the country.
Helmet stickers go to ...
A wild week in the SEC, which doesn't normally happen in this power conference. Usually you get one or two upsets -- not nearly as many as happened Saturday.
I think the biggest surprise in the conference is probably Auburn. With the Tigers' remaining schedule -- Florida Atlantic, Arkansas, Tennessee, Georgia -- they could be 10-1 heading into the Iron Bowl. Gus Malzahn has done a terrific job and should be complimented on what he's done so far this year.
Florida State had a monstrous game. Jameis Winston is the leader in the Heisman race right now -- previously I had Marcus Mariota first. Johnny Manziel -- you can't take anything away from him; the Aggies' troubles are all on defense. The kid's a gamer and should definitely be on everyone's top-three list, even though they have two losses.
Out in the Pac-12, Stanford re-established itself. Its defense is back -- it looked it was playing in quicksand and was tired against Utah, but the Cardinal had fresh legs Saturday and proved themselves on offense and defense.
It was one of those great days when people just sit back and think it's just another football Saturday, but then you get all the upsets. You see some teams get exposed while others prove themselves.
How about Missouri? Two weeks ago its marquee win was against Vanderbilt. Now, even after losing its starting quarterback, it is sitting on a two-game lead in the SEC East.
Baylor is a juggernaut. It hasn't played the toughest competition, but it continues to dominate each week. There's nothing more you can ask -- you're supposed to dominate against those teams, and the Bears do it with authority.
Helmet stickers go to ...
It was a crazy week in the SEC. Who would have thought LSU, Texas A&M, Georgia, South Carolina and Florida would all lose conference games on the same day?
Looking nationally, I think Florida State took one giant leap. It reminds me so much of Alabama, with a great defense and a great offense.
Oregon continues to roll offensively. It was nice to see Stanford bounce back, which will set up a big game in a couple weeks. The Ducks do face UCLA next week -- it will be interesting to see if the Bruins bounce back after a disappointing performance this week.
Baylor continues to roll, and it looks like it'll be undefeated when it plays Oklahoma at home in early November. We'll have an indication then whether Baylor is one of the top teams.
Ohio State just finds a way to win. I don't see anyone being able to challenge it in the Big Ten. I think the Buckeyes continue to win, but there are so many upsets. You see Louisville getting beat and dropping out of the championship mix. Every week is a different week!
Helmet stickers go to ...
What we learned in Week 8
Click below to see what our reporters learned in each conference after the seventh weekend.
Florida State looks like the Florida State of old and smells of national title contender. The ACC's other unbeaten, Miami, still has work to do to deserve that label. ACC
J.W. Walsh and Jeremy Smith started the game for Oklahoma State, but Clint Chelf and Rennie Childs finished it ... and should've started. The other Oklahoma team -- the one that couldn't do anything against Texas last week -- recovered admirably against Kansas. Big 12
The Big Ten really is wide-open. Anybody has a chance to beat anybody else (see Minnesota over Northwestern). Even Ohio State, the class of the conference, had to sweat out most of its game against Iowa. Big Ten
Stanford bounced back from its first loss in a big way, dethroning previously unbeaten UCLA. Arizona State also made a big statement, dismantling No. 20 Washington from start to finish. Pac-12
And then there's the SEC -- the new league for cannibals in college football. If this week taught us anything, it's that no one can overlook any conference game on its schedule. SEC
Photos from Week 8
Helmet stickers for Week 8
Every week our reporters will hand out helmet stickers to the week's top players, coaches, teams or anything else worth this honor.