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What We Learned: Good SEC teams can close deal; Badgers are vulnerable

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Missouri couldn't keep up with Georgia in the second half of its SEC debut. (AP)  
Missouri couldn't keep up with Georgia in the second half of its SEC debut. (AP)  

One of the things that make college football great is that every Saturday morning you wake up thinking you have a pretty good handle on the landscape of the sport. And before you go to bed that night, just about everything changes.

Last Saturday was just such a day. So what did we learn?

Good SEC teams know how to finish

Texas A&M and Missouri learned this the hard way: Both of the SEC's newbies were leading their respective conference openers at halftime on Saturday. Neither was able to close the deal.

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"Everybody knows that college football is a 60-minute game, but that is especially true in the SEC," said former Ole Miss and Arkansas coach Houston Nutt, now an analyst for the CBS Sports Network. "The good teams just know how to finish."

Florida trailed at Texas A&M 17-10 at halftime and won 20-17. The Gators held the Aggies to just 65 yards and three first downs in the second half. It was the first time the Gators had won under coach Will Muschamp after trailing at halftime.

Georgia trailed 17-9 at Missouri early in the third quarter, but afterward the Bulldogs got a foot in the door, then slammed the door shut with a 32-3 run.

Russell Wilson was good

Wisconsin almost lost its home opener (26-21) to Northern Iowa on Sept. 1; at the time we wrote it off to a good team being disinterested in its opponent. But it's kind of hard to explain away the Badgers' 10-7 loss to Oregon State in Corvallis.

I know it's early, but I get the sense Wisconsin doesn't have its typical earth movers on the offensive line. Montee Ball, the Heisman Trophy hopeful, was held to just 61 yards. And over the next two weeks the Badgers have Utah State (coming off an upset of Utah) and Texas-El Paso, which gave the Sooners all they could handle on Sept. 1. Then comes the Big Ten schedule.

But with Ohio State and Penn State ineligible to go to the Big Ten championship game, somebody's got to represent the Leaders Division. If not Wisconsin, then who? All I know, with all due respect to Danny O'Brien, is that the Badgers are missing quarterback Russell Wilson right about now.

Air Force is the best team in Colorado

What other conclusion can be drawn? Air Force hung in there against Michigan, losing by five (31-26) despite another vintage day from Wolverines quarterback Denard Robinson (426 yards of total offense).

Meanwhile, Colorado has its fans screaming into the night for the return of Bill McCartney after Sacramento State, an FCS school, kicked a field goal at the buzzer to beat the Buffs (30-28). And by the way, the guy who kicked the winning field goal, Edgar Castaneda, led his junior college to a national championship before coming to Sacramento State this season. He was a walk-on until kicking that field goal. Now he's on scholarship.

Colorado State, coached by former Alabama offensive coordinator Jim McElwain, lost 22-7 to North Dakota State, the defending FCS champions.

It could be a very long year for football in that state.

Don't rule out Collin Klein, K-State in Big 12

The Kansas State quarterback is efficient to the point of being ridiculous. On Saturday he saw a Miami (Fla.) defense stacked to stop the run, so he throws for 200 yards and a touchdown. He also had three rushing touchdowns and 71 yards on the ground in a total beatdown (52-13) of Miami. After scoring 103 points in their first two games, don't we need to start looking at the Fighting Bill Snyders as a team that could win the Big 12? The Wildcats play North Texas this week and then go to Oklahoma on Sept. 22. They play West Virginia on the road (Oct. 22) and TCU on the road (Nov. 10). We'd better keep an eye on these guys.

That didn't take long for RichRod, Mora

It didn't take RichRod (Arizona) and Jim Mora (UCLA) to pick up their signature wins. When Arizona athletics director Greg Byrne hired Rich Rodriguez there was no doubt in my mind that the Wildcats would be heard from sooner rather than later. But I don't think anybody expected Arizona to completely dismantle No. 18 Oklahoma State (59-38) Saturday night. It will be interesting to see how Arizona holds up in a couple of weeks when the Wildcats go to Oregon, a team that looks scary good.

I was more skeptical about Mora's hire at UCLA because he hadn't done it at the college level. But it's hard to argue with 653 total yards on 94 plays in a 36-30 win over the Nebraska Cornhuskers.

With these two guys and Mike Leach coming on board at Washington State, the Pac-12 is going to get very interesting very quickly.

Watch The Tony Barnhart Show on Tuesdays at 9 p.m. ET on the CBS Sports Network.


Tony Barnhart is in his fifth season as a contributor to CBSSports.com. He is a college football analyst for CBS Sports and The CBS Sports Network. Prior to joining CBS he was the national college football writer for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution for 24 years. He has written five books on college football.
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