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What we learned: Thanks to USC, Michigan State, college football playoffs start Saturday

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Once again, the college football landscape looks totally different today than it did on Saturday morning -- thanks to losses by Southern California and Michigan State. So what did we learn?

The playoffs start Saturday

No. 10 Clemson goes to No. 4 Florida State on Saturday which will be the first of eight matchups between Top 10 opponents between now and Nov. 24. Using the AP poll, here is the list (if I left one out, please let me know).

 No. 1 Alabama at No. 2 LSU, Nov. 3 (Will they play again?)
 No. 2 LSU vs. No. 7 South Carolina, Oct. 13
 No. 3 Oregon vs. No. 9 Stanford, Nov. 17
 No. 4 Florida State vs. No. 10 Clemson, Saturday
 No. 5 Georgia at No. 7 South Carolina, Oct. 6
 No. 6 Oklahoma at No. 8 West Virginia, Nov. 17
 No. 7 South Carolina at No. 2 LSU, Oct. 13; at No. 10 Clemson, Nov. 24

The Big Ten simply isn't very good

Michigan State lost to Notre Dame and it wasn't even close. Wisconsin lost to Oregon State (10-7), fired its offensive line coach, and then almost lost to Utah State.

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Michigan, the favorite to win the Big Ten, got thumped by Alabama and had to hold on for dear life against Air Force.

Ohio State needed a blown coverage at the end of the game to beat California 35-28.

Indiana lost to Ball State.

Nebraska gave up more than 600 yards of total offense to UCLA.

The only unbeaten Big Ten teams after three weeks are Minnesota, Northwestern, and Ohio State. The Big Ten is 26-10 in non-conference games. The losses are to Alabama, Iowa State, Notre Dame (twice), UCLA, Arizona State, Ball State, Oregon State, Ohio and Virginia. But give the Big Ten credit: At least they are playing FBS schools and not Savannah State.

Barkley won't win Heisman

Losing to Stanford in the third game shouldn't knock anybody out of the Heisman Trophy race. Barkley could still put up monster numbers and USC can still win the Pac-12. But our blogger Chris Huston, the Heisman Pundit, makes a compelling argument.

Chris points out that almost every Heisman winner has a narrative that drives his candidacy. In the case of Barkley, it was that of a blonde, blue-eyed quarterback from a glamour school who passed on NFL millions in order to return to college and lead USC to the national championship. In the process of taking care of "unfinished business" the cherry on top was going to be winning the Heisman Trophy.

That narrative, as Chris points out, has been disrupted. So in order for Barkley to win the Heisman now he has to create a new narrative of the comeback kid overcoming a loss and leading his team to the national championship game.

But I wonder: USC's starting 22 are as good as anybody's. But will a lack of depth, created by the NCAA sanctions, finally kick in come Nov. 3 when the Trojans have to play Oregon?

It was a bad weekend for four SEC coaches

Kentucky's Joker Phillips: Lost to Western Kentucky 32-31. WKU has been an FBS program for only four seasons and had never beaten an SEC team. I've heard from a lot of Kentucky fans who are really unhappy. Will Bobby Petrino's name surface here? Remember that he won a Big East championship just down the road at Louisville.

Tennessee's Derek Dooley: There are bad losses and then there are terrible losses. Tennessee's 37-20 loss to Florida was the latter. Tennessee's fan base was primed to finally celebrate a signature victory under Dooley.

Tennessee had started 2-0 and looked sharp doing it. Florida was coming off a tough road win at Texas A&M and the Gators were pretty beat up. Florida was a tougher, more resourceful football team at Knoxville.

Tennessee gets Akron this week and then goes to No. 5 Georgia on Sept. 29. It is going to be hard for Dooley to rally the troops.

John L. Smith, Arkansas: I said at the beginning of the season that Arkansas was a talented-but-fragile team. Now we know how much. When it became clear that quarterback Tyler Wilson was not going to play, the worst possible thing happened. Arkansas' players mailed it in and lost 52-0. Wilson even called his teammates out and he should have. We now know that John L. Smith won't be the coach at Arkansas next year. But who does Jeff Long hire?

Gene Chizik, Auburn: There are losses that feel like a win and wins that feel like a loss. Auburn's 31-28 overtime win over Louisiana-Monroe was definitely the latter. Auburn needed a Hail Mary touchdown pass on the last play of the first half and two partially blocked field goals to beat the team from the Sun Belt. And things don't get any easier for Auburn (1-2) as the Tigers still have to play No. 2 LSU, No. 5 Georgia, and No. 1 Alabama.

There's really bad, and then there's Colorado

After losing to Sacramento State, an FCS school, you just didn't think it could get any worse for the Buffs. But it did. Fresno State outgained Colorado 516-123 in the first half and led 55-7 at halftime. Pac-12 play begins this week.

For Colorado, there is simply not a win on the schedule. Could somebody please tell me how Colorado got so bad? Only 22 years ago Colorado won the AP national championship. Only 11 years ago the Buffs were in the Fiesta Bowl under Gary Barnett. Since Barnett left after the 2005 season, the program has not had a winning record. Jon Embree has a tall task in front of him.

Watch The Tony Barnhart Show Tuesdays at 9 p.m. 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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