The Pac-12's College Football Playoff hopes hang by a thread. What else is new this time of year? The Power Five league with the least success lately in the CFP finds itself in a familiar position.
That's another way of saying No. 10 Oregon (5-1) cannot lose again. Such is the way of the world as we head into the second half of the season. There are 10 undefeated FBS teams. The Ducks aren't one of them. That puts Oregon -- and the Pac-12 -- in a precarious position.
The league stands on its own as the only one in the Power Five without at least one undefeated team. And if there is one thing we know (pretty much) for sure, undefeated Power Five champions make the CFP.
Oregon set itself up for CFP consideration in that big win at Ohio State. Then there was that nasty upset to Stanford on Oct. 2. That brought hopes back down to the forested earth around Autzen Stadium.
Oregon doesn't have respect of the AP Top 25 voters. Near as I can tell, the Ducks went into Columbus, Ohio, and pretty much handled Ohio State on Sept. 9. Not only is Oregon five spots behind Ohio State, it is losing ground. This despite the Buckeyes beating Tulsa, Akron, Rutgers and Maryland to get to this point (combined record: 12-15).
Whether that disrespect carries over to the CFP Selection Committee's first rankings in 11 days remains to be seen.
This game should center around UCLA quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson and his ability to avoid Oregon defensive end Kayvon Thibodeaux. Bruins coach Chip Kelly is looking for another signature win in his fourth year. The LSU victory last month seemed good at the time, and UCLA is out to a 5-2 start.
An upset this week would revive memories of the 1998 meeting when QB Cade McNown led a 41-38 overtime win over the Ducks. McNown got sick and threw up in the game. The Bruins in general were sickened when they were upset at Miami to end the regular season. That kept them out of the first BCS Championship Game.
UCLA must clean up its protection (15 sacks allowed in seven games). Oregon must not lose again.
Speaking of can't lose: No. 4 Alabama has no margin for error. Here we are in the third week of October and not much has changed. The best defense not named Georgia has held Ole Miss, Mississippi State and Miami to season-lows in yards by a combined 404 yards. High-powered Florida was held to its second-fewest yards (439) by the Crimson Tide. The best national defensive player of the year not named Jordan Davis, Alabama linebacker Will Anderson Jr., leads the SEC in tackles for loss (13.5) and sacks (7.0). Good luck to Vols QB Hendon Hooker, who was heroic against Ole Miss and is day-to-day this week heading to Tuscaloosa, Alabama.
The anonymous undefeated: Flying well below the radar is No. 8 Oklahoma State. That is reflected in Iowa State being a seven-point favorite over a top 10 team in Ames, Iowa. The Cyclones are the first unranked team favored by at least a touchdown over a top 10 team since USC was -8 against Notre Dame in 1998. The Trojans won 10-0 with future Heisman Trophy winning QB Carson Palmer. Does Brocktober continue, or are the Cowboys a legit playoff contender? Since 2020, Cyclones QB Brock Purdy is 5-1 with 10 touchdowns and 2 interceptions in the month of October. The Cowboys are 6-0 for the first time since 2015.
Present vs. future? LSU (at No. 12 Ole Miss) might be set up better than any program in recent memory with a coach who has just been "separated." Ed Orgeron leaves a top 10 recruiting class for 2022, per 247Sports, that includes 15 commitments. The next coach inherits a recruiting gold mine that was revealed when Nick Saban took over in 2000. Recruit the state and you win. Starting with Saban, every coach who has passed through has won a national championship.
Running back Tyrion Davis-Price -- one of Orgeron's early recruiting prizes -- had his coming out against the Gators with a school-record 287 yards. That doubled his season total at that point and has now accounted for more than one-fifth of his career total. Eleven of his 36 rushes went for at least 10 yards. That's the most of any back this season.
This will be a weird sort of imagine-this matchup: LSU's current coach (Orgeron) against perhaps its future coach (Lane Kiffin). Don't laugh. Kiffin has made Ole Miss QB Matt Corral a Heisman candidate and made the defense … better. Corral is questionable, still feeling the effects of running it 30 times against Tennessee last week. The last time the Tigers gave up at least 40 points in three consecutive games was 1922, 99 years ago.
Crummy game of the week: No. 3 Oklahoma at Kansas. Trot out all the best-team vs. worst-team analyses you have. We'll listen to it all -- best offense (Oklahoma is No. 7 nationally in scoring) vs. worst defense (Kansas is No. 126 in total defense) -- but this game is worth watching to see the next chapter of Caleb Williams unfold. Slap me silly and call me crazy, but is it worth considering a true freshman who has started half the games for the Heisman? Stat of the week: The last time Oklahoma has started 8-0 was 17 years ago.
Quick kicks: Consider this unlikelihood at the beginning of the season: Two quarterbacks coached by Lincoln Riley are Heisman candidates and neither of them are named Spencer Rattler. That would be Williams and SMU's Tanner Mordecai, Rattler's former backup … this might be the best stat to reflect the dominance of Georgia's defense this season. Kentucky runners last week averaged 3.6 inches before contact ... don't tell coach Kirby Smart you either one quarterback or no quarterback. Georgia's coach intends to play both Stetson Bennett IV and JT Daniels when the latter is healthy … Boise State has lost three straight home games for the first time since 1996 … halfway through the season, the average game length is 3:18, per the NCAA. That's 3 minutes shorter than 2020. The record remains 3:23 in 2007 … Clemson is an underdog in the ACC (+3 at No. 23 Pittsburgh) for the first time since 2016 … Appalachian State's upset of Coastal Carolina on Wednesday marked the Mountaineers' first win over a ranked team since the greatest upset of all-time at Michigan in 2007 … all three service academies are hosting undefeated teams: Cincinnati at Navy, San Diego State at Air Force and Wake Forest at Army. The last time Army beat a ranked team was 1972