Five Things We Learned: Winning big ends Clowney circus; ACC is big-time

This Saturday we learned, or at least were reminded of, the thing that makes college football the greatest/cruelest game in the world: 60 minutes of football on any given weekend can change everything -- absolutely everything -- for good or for bad.

After a weekend where ranked teams were falling left and right, here are five things that look totally different today than they did on Saturday morning:

1. The South Carolina/Jadeveon Clowney hubbub: It was one of those self-inflicted wounds that you would rather avoid if you're a veteran coach like Steve Spurrier. But it happened, a lot of people got mad, and for a week Jadeveon Clowney became the poster child for athletes' rights and the inherent dangers that exist for elite football players (see: Marcus Lattimore) who have to risk injury for three years in the current system.

Early Saturday morning in Fayetteville, Ark., it had gotten so silly that there were reports that Clowney didn't take the team bus to the stadium (wrong).

Winning cures just about everything and winning big clears the air. South Carolina boat-raced Arkansas 52-7, Clowney played, and the Head Ball Coach was feeling his regular frisky self afterwards when he spoke to reporters: "I do feel badly for Arkansas," Spurrier said after laying half a hundred on the Razorbacks. "It's no fun getting your butt beat like this, at home on homecoming and all that."

The man's compassion knows no bounds.

2. Stanford's national championship hopes: Admit it. We all thought that Nov. 7 was going to be the key date for Stanford's hopes of playing for the BCS national title. That is when the Cardinal host No. 2 Oregon, a team it beat 17-14 a year ago.

Yes, a lot of things can still happen for Stanford. But when this season is over I think David Shaw's team will look back on Saturday's stunning loss at Utah (27-21) as the night the BCS championship slipped away.

Stanford (5-1, 3-1 Pac-12) can still run the table and win the Pac-12 North. The Cardinal get UCLA, Oregon and California at home with Oregon State and Southern California on the road. And if there is are no undefeated teams or just one unbeaten, the case can probably be made that Stanford deserves a look. I just get the sense that Stanford's one loss to 4-2 Utah might be the worst loss if there are a bunch of 12-1 teams

3. Mack Brown's future and the Big 12 race: Someone tweeted that the guy in charge of cleaning out Mack Brown's office got a "not so fast my friend" call at halftime of Texas' impressive 36-20 win over Oklahoma in Dallas. The discussion going into the game was not about who was going to win, but how BADLY Brown and the Longhorns would get beat. And if Brown got blown out again by OU, went the narrative, he was done.

Today we can say this: Mack Brown is not going to get fired at Texas. He will control his exit. That's how big this win was.

To Brown's credit, Texas started the game aggressively and didn't back off. The Longhorns had a pick-six, a 59-yard touchdown pass, and an 85-yard punt return for a score.

So now Texas (4-2, 3-0 Big 12), given up for dead after getting embarrassed by Ole Miss on Sept. 14, might just screw around and win the Big 12. The Longhorns are certainly right in the middle of the conference race with Texas Tech (6-0, 3-0) and Baylor (5-0, 2-0), which looked almost human in beating Kansas State 35-25. Here are just a few dates you need to mark on your calendar:

Oct. 26: Texas Tech at Oklahoma
Nov. 16: Texas Tech at Baylor
Nov. 28: Texas Tech at Texas
Dec. 7: Texas at Baylor

And speaking of Texas Tech, Kliff Kingsbury, the rookie head coach, is already bowl eligible.

4. The SEC East race: There were a lot of things we predicted this summer that have since come true. But here's one we never contemplated: On Oct. 13 Missouri stood alone atop the SEC East standings.

Missouri marched into Georgia's Sanford Stadium and won 41-26 to go 6-0 and 2-0 in the SEC. It was a bittersweet victory, however, as quarterback James Franklin was lost (separated shoulder), possibly for the season. The East is wide open. Four teams have a legitimate chance to get to the SEC Championship Game in Atlanta on Dec. 7. Here is how they get there.

Missouri (2-0): The Tigers won't get to enjoy the Georgia win for long as Florida and South Carolina come to Columbia, Mo., the next two weeks. On Nov. 30 Mizzou hosts Texas A&M. Without Franklin it's going to be hard to go 2-1 against those teams.

Florida (3-1): Despite losing a tough one (17-6) at LSU on Saturday, the Gators can still go to Atlanta by running the table against Missouri, Georgia, Vanderbilt and South Carolina.

Georgia (3-1): Missouri has to lose twice and Georgia has to win its final four conference games with Vandy, Florida, at Auburn, Kentucky.

South Carolina (3-1): Georgia has to lose again and the Gamecocks have to win their final four games with Tennessee, Missouri, Mississippi State and Florida.

5. The ACC's level on the excitement meter: It was already high with Miami's win over Florida and Clemson's win over Georgia. Now it is getting ready to go off the charts.

Clemson almost put a big dent in the ACC's plans by struggling against pesky Boston College at home before finally winning. That sets up the long-awaited showdown between the No. 3 Tigers (6-0) and No. 5 Florida State (5-0) on Saturday at Clemson. It is easily the biggest ACC regular-season game since No. 3 Florida State went to No. 5 North Carolina (coached by Mack Brown) in 1997.

The ACC has been trying to get into this position -- to be relevant in the BCS championship picture in late October and November -- for a long time. The surprising play of No. 10 Miami and No. 19 Virginia Tech is going to make the Coastal Division race exciting. Again, mark your calendars:

Saturday: Florida State at Clemson
Nov. 2: Miami at Florida State
Nov. 9: Virginia Tech at Miami

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