College football Week 7 primer: Big 12 once again staring into the abyss

Welcome to the halfway point. After Saturday, it will be seven weeks down, seven to go until the conference championship games.

If the first half has taught us anything, it's that …

One half of the College Football Playoff bracket is already filled out.

If Penn State's Saquon Barkley isn't the best player in the country, that accolade goes to Stanford's Bryce Love.

Mike Leach is the national coach of the (half) year largely because Washington State can play defense

The SEC is still down, the ACC is still up and the Big 12 is still fighting for its playoff life.

Kirk Herbstreit's "You should be thanking ESPN" comment about the network televising Pac-12 games was a low point of the first half. Washington coach Chris Petersen may have been right about a West Coast bias due to late starts, but he never mentioned ESPN by name. Worse, the Huskies were later mocked by the network with three actual edible cupcakes displayed to summarize their nonconference schedule.

Here's to a more civil discourse in the second half …

1. Big 12 staring into the abyss: Six weeks in, TCU is the Big 12's lone sure thing. If the Horned Frogs (5-0) win out, that all but would assure them of a playoff bid. Now try to find anyone who believes TCU can win out. Gary Patterson has a fine team but not a powerhouse. At least not yet. The Frogs reach the halfway point Saturday traveling to Kansas State, which has left two winnable games on the field against Vanderbilt and Texas. Would anyone be surprised if Bill Snyder's canny Cats won by double digits?

2. Red River dilution: Is it too much to ask that either Texas or Oklahoma come into the Red River Shootout on a roll? The Horns (3-2) seem to have righted themselves a bit, but OU … wow. That Iowa State loss may have eliminated the Sooners (4-1) from playoff consideration. Think about it: The CFP Selection Committee may have to consider a Big 12 champion that lost at home to Iowa State or beat a team that lost at home to Iowa State. The Big 12's strength of schedule is slipping away.

3. No margin for error with USC: It all started a year ago in Salt Lake City, Utah, for Sam Darnold. In his first start, the USC quarterback won the job for good in a 31-27 loss. The Trojans won their next 13 in a row. Here we are again, Utah-USC, this time at the Coliseum. The Trojans playoff hopes are on the line from here on out. His Heisman hopes have dimmed, but Darnold and USC still have eight games remaining (possibly nine with a Pac-12 title game).

4. Straitjacketed: Georgia Tech is the least talked about contender in the ACC, which makes the Yellow Jackets one of the least talked about teams in the country. But when it travels to Miami on Saturday, Georgia Tech has a chance to absolutely wreck the Canes season. The euphoria over Florida State? Forget it if Paul Johnson is able to unleash the nation's No. 2 rushing attack (No. 1 among Power Fives). Tech has 16 rushing touchdowns, which is more than 31 teams have total touchdowns all season.

This is not a good matchup for the Canes. Tailback Mark Walton has been lost for the season. Three other starters were injured against FSU and didn't practice: guard Navaughn Donaldson, cornerback Dee Delaney and safety Sheldrick Redwine. Miami is tied for the national lead having allowed just one rushing touchdown, but it is just middling nationally allowing 148 yards per game. The winner has the outright lead in the ACC Coastal.

5. Sign of the times in the Big Ten: The last time Nebraska was a 24-point underdog at home was 60 years ago against Bud Wilkinson's Oklahoma. That's at least embarrassing for the Huskers. It's also a sign that Ohio State has remade itself into the Big Ten favorite. Sure, the Buckeyes have gotten well playing four nobodies, but consider what they have done. Ohio State has used these four games to square away responsibilities while instilling confidence. Bill Snyder used soft nonconference schedules for decades at Kansas State.

Not to compare Ohio State to Kansas State, but there is no comparison between Ohio State and Nebraska at the moment. The Huskers must find an athletic director before it can find its way. The Big Ten race has a chance to officially tip in Ohio State's favor next week at home against Penn State.

6. LS-Who? My brain is starting to hurt. LSU really lost to a Troy team at home that lost at home to South Alabama by double digits Wednesday. Those same Tigers are coming off a one-point win in The Swamp. You tell me what's going to happen Saturday with Auburn coming in.

7. Naval exercises: Undefeated Navy can grab control of the AAC West with a win at Memphis. Bigger news: The Mike Norvell-to-Arkansas rumors are starting to heat up.

8. Pieces falling into place at Arkansas: The Hogs will get rolled once again by Alabama. (Nick Saban has not lost in 10 tries while at Bama.) Bret Bielema will end a disappointing season next month with a win against Missouri. Mizzou fires Barry Odom. Bielema goes to Mizzou. At least that's the way some are seeing it if the Hogs get off to a 2-4 start for the third time since 2012 and second time in last three years under Bielema.

9. Mountain West brand name: It used to be Boise State. Now, it's San Diego State. The Aztecs toughest remaining game may be this week against the Broncos. This is not your father's Boise. The Broncs resemble a fading power having won only three of their last seven games. No matter what SDSU coach Rocky Long says ... "If you go past the Rocky Mountains, they know who Boise State is and they don't know who the rest of us are," Long said. "So that makes sense. Those people associate our league with Boise because of history." That's on you, Rocky. Since starting 1-3 in 2015, your Aztecs are 27-3. In that time period only Alabama (31-1) and Clemson (31-2) are better.

10. Quick hits: I was told this week by someone who would know Chip Kelly is "anxious" to get back into coaching. I mention this because one logical landing spot for the former Oregon coach (Arizona State) hosts Washington this week … Another reason why Alabama is dominant: Through six games, the Tide lead the country with just one turnover. In the prior 63 games, Alabama turned it over 84 times  … Since the loss to Clemson in the 2015 CFP, Oklahoma's Baker Mayfield has thrown 55 touchdowns and only eight interceptions in 18 games … If freshman Sam Ehlinger starts vs. the Sooners, Texas will not have a quarterback start in consecutive Red River games in this decade against Oklahoma. 

CBS Sports Senior Writer

Dennis Dodd has covered college football for CBS Sports since it was CBS SportsLine in 1998. He is one of only seven media members to attend all 16 BCS title games and has chronicled conference realignment... Full Bio

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