They don't give out a Halfway Heisman.
There's no such thing as a 50 percent national championship. Or a Sort-Of All-American.
But here we are at the halfway point of the season. After Saturday, there will be seven weeks down, seven weeks to go until Selection Sunday.
We've had our minds blown by Lamar Jackson, scratched our heads about Notre Dame. We're still not sure about USC. LSU's administration lost faith in Les Miles. Texas might be headed that way with Charlie Strong.
Washington is back. Miami might be. If these were midterms, the Big 12 would have failed. Houston needs to stay after class and do some extra credit. Oregon still has its swoosh but has lost its mojo.
The hottest name in the country, Tom Herman, has all of 20 games under his belt as a head coach. Meanwhile, Kansas State's 77-year-old Bill Snyder is showing no signs of slowing down.
But as we ease past the halfway point, it's worth a reminder change is inevitable. Half of the top 10 teams in the preseason AP Top 25 have at least two losses. Three (LSU, Stanford, Notre Dame) aren't even ranked.
A year ago at this point, 14 teams were undefeated. This week there are 11 unbeatens. It's easy to throw a blanket around six or seven of them who are most likely to be in the College Football Playoff.
We could be wrong. Four of those teams play each other (Alabama-Texas A&M, Ohio State-Michigan). Louisville isn't out of it in the ACC. Nebraska controls its own destiny in the Big Ten West and perhaps beyond. Baylor (!) is still undefeated in the much-disparaged Big 12.
Buy into any of this at your own risk. The only certainty at the halfway point is uncertainty. Change is indeed inevitable.
1. The awesomeness of Alabama's defense: I'm beginning to believe Bama's D can win games by itself. Start with the valid conclusion that Nick Saban's offensive line isn't elite. For all his accomplishments, true freshman quarterback Jalen Hurts is still learning on the job.
Meanwhile ... there have been nine non-offensive touchdowns for Alabama. There were two more defensive last week at Arkansas. Tim Williams had a scoop and score. Defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick had more picks in that game (three) than 33 teams have had all season. There are whispers this might be Saban's best Alabama defense. Tennessee is about to find out.
The third Saturday of October has arrived with these truths self-evident: Alabama defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt will make sure to take away Josh Dobbs' feet, his ability to scramble. Dobbs, as a pure passer, tends to make questionable decisions under pressure. He is not patient, so get him moving side-to-side and the Alabama secondary will close in. Dobbs' eight interceptions lead the SEC.
Unless Tennessee can win on first and second down via the run, the task becomes even more difficult.
Yes, it will probably go down to the fourth quarter. (How can it not with Tennessee involved?) Yes, Jalen Hurd is back in the lineup for the Vols. And yes, Tennessee can "afford" a loss and still win the SEC East.
Consider Alabama-Tennessee an SEC title game preview. After the loss, the Vols will have a couple of months to game plan for a rematch.
2. Big Ten rock fight: The Saturday forecast in Madison, Wisconsin, calls for isolated thunderstorms. Yeah, as if Ohio State-Wisconsin needs another reason to bet the under. I can't believe more people aren't seeing the obvious. This is going to be an old-fashioned Big Ten slog of a game played in a phone booth.
You know how I know? J.T. Barrett is coming off one of the worst passing games of his career (9-of-21 passing, 93 yards vs. Indiana). Ohio State types were looking past the rest of the season moaning about the hit to Barrett's Heisman hopes.
Yo, over here in Mad Town! Three of the nation's top four defenses reside in the Big Ten. Two of them face off at Camp Randall.
Wisconsin's defense is for real having allowed all of two rushing touchdowns this season. Wisconsin's offense (106th nationally) isn't. The difference may be the absences of Badgers linebacker Vince Biegel and corner Natrell Jamerson (both injured), plus the presence of Barrett.
Trust me, first one to 13 may win this game; considering the weather, the defenses and the stakes, points will be at a premium.
We know Ohio State is a steamroller. With a win, Wisconsin beats its third top 10 and is in the playoff discussion at the halfway point.
3. Rush to the Cotton Bowl: After Houston's loss, a spot has seemingly opened up for the Group of Five automatic qualifier in the New Year's Six. That game will be played Dec. 30 at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. (If Houston or any Group of Five team qualifies for the CFP, that automatic spot goes away.)
These three teams in the running play significant games this week:
- Western Michigan (6-0) at Akron: The Broncos are off to their best start in 65 years. Coach P.J. Fleck may be off to a Power Five school next year.
- Tulsa at Houston (5-1): The Cougars need plenty of help to get back into playoff competition. That probably means two Power Five champions end up with two losses.
- Colorado State at Boise State (5-0): Bryan Harsin has the Broncos back up to a Chris Petersen-era level. Boise State has won seven in a row, tied for the fourth-longest winning streak.
4. Crappy game of the week: Illinois at Rutgers. The Illini (1-4) are coming off an almost unforgiveable overtime loss to Purdue. That pales in comparison to the Scarlet Knights (2-4), who have given up 142 consecutive points in its last nine quarters (to Iowa, Ohio State, Michigan). No kidding. (For comparison, consider Alabama in 2011 gave up 106 points all season.)
There is some hope at Illinois where Lovie Smith has the Illini playing close the last two weeks. Rutgers is a Big Ten member in name (and revenue) only. If I didn't know better, I'd say the Knights were applying for FCS membership.
5. Quote of the week: Asked how Kansas State has won the last two games in Oklahoma, Snyder said this week in preparation for another trip to Norman, "Beats the tar out of me."
6. Please explain ... how Arizona State has gotten to 5-1 and is in a three-way tie for the Pac-12 South lead. The Sun Devils may be down to a fourth-string freshman quarterback Dillon Sterling-Cole starting against Colorado ... At 4-2, how Arkansas (hosting Ole Miss) has gotten this far. Its offensive line is stunningly mediocre.
... why Washington State can't win the rest of the games left on its schedule. Coming off consecutive wins over Oregon and Stanford, the Cougs host UCLA. That schedule includes the Apple Cup at home vs. Washington on Nov. 25.
... going into the weekend, how only the SEC (three) had more unbeaten teams than the Big 12 (two).