It's amazing how quickly things can change in college football. A turnover or injury can drastically change the course of an entire season. More than a few teams know about that after an eventful Week 8. What should we make of Alabama without quarterback Tua Tagovailoa? What about Wisconsin now that the Badgers were exposed in a stunning upset by Illinois? And is Texas really one of the Big 12's two best teams?
Weeks like these always lead to overreactions, and that's OK. We are creatures of the moment. Overreactions are just as much a part of the game as touchdowns. So with Saturday's action mostly in the books, let's look at the biggest overreactions from the action and how absurd -- or completely warranted -- they might be.
Alabama is no longer the SEC's best team without Tua Tagovailoa: This is potentially interesting. The good news is Alabama won't be without him for long. Nick Saban said after a 35-13 win over Tennessee that Tagovailoa will miss one to two weeks with a high ankle sprain. That would sideline until the Nov. 9 game against No. 2 LSU. Presumably, he'll be at full strength then, but sometimes those high ankle sprains can linger for longer and make it hard to step into throws. If that continues to bother him, this conversation becomes more prevalent. It's worth noting what Tagovailoa brings to the table. This is the Reigning SEC Offensive Player of the Year and 2018 Heisman Trophy finalist. At the very least, he was likely going to be a Heisman finalist again this season. Combined with the Crimson Tide's tremendous wide receivers, Tagovailoa anchored one of college football's most explosive offenses. He is one of the most irreplaceable players in the country. And given what LSU is doing on offense, it stands to reason the Nov. 9 showdown will be won with points more so than defense. None of this is even mentioning the Iron Bowl against Auburn. Sophomore quarterback Mac Jones can handle Arkansas at home, but going forward, a healthy Tagovailoa might mean the difference between a national title and failing to make it out of the SEC West.
Tennessee has the most tortured fan base: This is a decisively non-team related reaction. Honestly, I don't know how Vols fans do it. I'm not bagging on you, I'm empathizing. Alabama was begging Tennessee to make this a game all night, and down 28-13 in the fourth quarter at the 1-yard line, the Vols were close to making it a one-score game. But then Jarrett Guarantano tried to reach the ball over the goal line only to have it knocked away for a 100-yard scoop-and-score to put the game out of reach. If you want to sum up Tennessee football over the last decade-plus, that's it.
Joe Burrow's touchdown record says as much about LSU as it does about him: Speaking of the top-end SEC teams ... through seven games, Burrow has already broken the school's single-season passing touchdown record. On one hand, yes, this says a lot about Burrow's growth in this Joe Brady offense, which has become one of college football's best. On the other hand, that a LSU quarterback had never thrown more than 28 passing touchdowns in a season before, given the talent available and offenses that run this game, remains wild. Burrow is going to shatter this record.
Texas is the most overrated team in the country: Well, it certainly didn't help that Longhorns quarterback Sam Ehlinger said this program was "back." That's just setting yourself up for disappointment. But a closer look at this team following a 50-48 scare against Kansas reveals plenty of concerns. Namely, the defense remains a problem. This is true because of injuries and tackling, which in a lot of respects go hand in hand. It's a vicious cycle. And contrary to popular belief, there are a lot of teams playing defense in the Big 12 this season. Two of the better ones, Baylor and Iowa State, are back-to-back opponents for the Longhorns in November ... on the road. Dropping one, or both, of those games is absolutely possible. And Ehlinger didn't declare Texas back to go 8-4.
Let Wisconsin be a lesson for all college football teams: When Ohio State thumped Northwestern 52-3 Friday night, it brought out plenty of skeptics who were quick to point out how bad the Wildcats are. It's true: Northwestern isn't good and the Buckeyes did what was expected. But don't take that for granted. Just ask Ohio State's next opponent, Wisconsin, who wasn't sharp in a 24-23 upset at Illinois. That's a classic look-ahead game and the Badgers, a 30.5-point favorite, refused to put the Illini away. Now, Wisconsin-Ohio State has a lot less shine to it. The moral of the story? College kids are unpredictable, so appreciate it when they do something right.
Penn State is the biggest threat to Ohio State in the Big Ten: True, and that seemed right even before Wisconsin's loss at Illinois. The Nittany Lions survived a Michigan rally in a 28-21 win, and there are certainly periods of time when their offense disappears. However, Penn State has two things that give it a puncher's chance against the Buckeyes: a seriously good defense and wide receiver KJ Hamler. The latter is a mismatch with speed to burn and if you get him singled up, he's going to make you pay. Penn State has the speed and athleticism to match Ohio State, whether they will or not is what we'll find out on Nov. 23.
It's officially time to worry about Georgia's offense: I'll give the 10th-ranked Bulldogs a slight pass on this one. The 21-0 win over Kentucky wasn't pretty, but it was played in driving rain. Quarterback Jake Fromm went 9-of-12, but for 35 yards -- not even three yards per attempt. In fairness, Kentucky, playing a wide receiver at quarterback, completed two whole passes for the game. Sometimes, it's just ugly. But it is worth noting that this is the second straight game, and the third time this year, in which Fromm hasn't been able to find much in the passing game downfield. Weather problems aside, there's just not a true No. 1 receiving target for Fromm. That's been evident most of the year. So, yes, that part is a concern.
Miami is the most disappointing team in the country: Given how good the Hurricanes should be? Yeah, I can buy that. Only Miami could nearly cap off a come-from-behind effort against Virginia Tech, turn around and beat Virginia the following week, only to lose 28-21 in overtime to [/checks scores] Georgia Tech?? It's not like this team has looked great in wins against FBS teams, either. Coach Manny Diaz has called his first season a rebuild, and that's true. But I can't imagine the Canes are going to be favorites in many remaining games.
Missouri, meanwhile, is the most perplexing: I doubt Missouri is actually going to win the SEC East considering it has to play Georgia and Florida in consecutive weeks in November. Technically, though, the Tigers are still very much in this divisional race. It would be something if Missouri made it to Atlanta by beating either the Bulldogs or Gators (or both), while losing to Wyoming, and now Vanderbilt 21-14 on Saturday. In any case, just when you think Barry Odom's team is good, they do something like this.
And USC is, oddly, quietly, the most interesting: I'm not sure the Trojans' 41-14 thrashing of Arizona tells us a whole lot about this team that we didn't already know. And what we know is that, for as frustrating as USC is sometimes, it's also a fun team to watch when it's playing at a high level. This remains a supremely athletic team that, at 4-3, still controls its Pac-12 South destiny. Other than a Nov. 2 game vs. Oregon, the Trojans will probably be favored in their remaining games if they rattle off some wins. Does that mean they will win all of those games? Based on this team's track record, not necessarily, but it creates an interesting possibility, especially with Clay Helton's job on the line.
Cal quarterback Chase Garbers must have been the Pac-12 MVP: OK, so it's definitely going to be someone else, but Cal has unquestionably suffered with Garbers out over the past few weeks. Since Garbers sustained an apparent shoulder/collarbone injury, the Bears are 0-3, including a 21-17 loss to Oregon State on Saturday, and have averaged less than 14 points per game. Will Cal win another game this season? Maybe, but this team went from Pac-12 North contender to fringe bowl team with a quickness without Garbers.
The Group of Five's New Year's Six spot is wide open: When you focus too intently on the College Football Playoff, you lose sight of other fun races that are unfolding. BYU's 28-25 win over No. 14 Boise State opens up the door for other teams to make their way into a major bowl game. No. 19 SMU would be the highest-ranked option after this weekend, though No. 21 Cincinnati and No. 24 Appalachian State are in the immediate conversation as well. There are some intriguing teams beyond the usual suspects who have a window now.