By the end of Saturday ...
- We should have more certainty about the SEC East. As of now it remains wide open. (Sorry, Vols).
- There will be more uncertainty -- not less -- about several coaches fighting for their jobs.
- A top contender to No. 1 Alabama in the SEC West will be identified.
- Michigan will still be two weeks from going on the road for the first time. (But it will at least play a living, breathing Big Ten opponent.)
... but for now, enjoy this week's storylines.
1. Hot seat bowl: It's sort of sad the job security of the two coaches in LSU-Auburn headline this game, but it is the world we live in. A coaching controversy is second only to a quarterback controversy in popularity in college football's knee-jerk space.
LSU and Auburn basically have both. It has come down to Les Miles relying on a Purdue castoff (Danny Etling), who actually shows promise. That doesn't quite cover up what Brandon Harris has become, which is a benched starter with issues.
Gus Malzahn has to win because, for now, he has lost his quarterback magic. The defense is carrying Auburn and may be enough to beat LSU. But at a place that has produced Cam Newton and Nick Marshall, there needs to be some fireworks Saturday.
If that isn't enough, CBS Sports Network analyst Rick Neuheisel provided this prediction: "Art Briles will be at Auburn next year, whether it's as the head coach or the offensive coordinator."
Yikes. For the loser, the sideshow progresses into a fire walk.
2. Tennessee torture, Florida fun: If the Vols don't beat the Gators on Saturday, it may never happen. OK, that's a healthy dose of hyperbole, but this discussion has to begin with health. The stage is at least set for the Vols to break the 11-game losing streak to their most hated rival.
Even without injured quarterback Luke Del Rio, the Gators face the prospect of beating Tennessee in its den of din -- Neyland Stadium. You know, the one where Florida have won five in a row and seven of the last eight?
Boil it down and you have to admit the obvious: This is a must-win game for Butch Jones and the entire state of Tennessee. Mentally, psychologically, competitively. The Vols have the most talent in the SEC East. We're still wondering if they can fulfill that destiny.
Florida has gotten to this point beating teams that are 67th, 119th and 128th in total offense (UMass, Kentucky and North Texas, respectively). Tennessee has gotten here struggling with Appalachian State and Ohio.
The stage has been set before, but the Gators always seem to trash the production. Last year, Tennessee outrushed Florida 254-109. Last year, Florida was held to 3 of 15 on third downs. The Vols probably need a shrink to get past last year. Make that the last 11 years.
3. Recalibrating the Big Ten: The nation's best conference suddenly has a different look. It's not just enough to follow Jim Harbaugh on Twitter or J.T. Barrett in the Heisman race. As the league opens conference play, we must also consider Wisconsin, Michigan State and Nebraska.
Is Nebraska (at Northwestern) back? The fact we can even ask that question is refreshing. It's always something with the Cornhuskers. In an 18th season without a conference title, the Huskers are now a definite threat in the West Division. Sure, it was only 22nd-ranked Oregon last week, but read this and you get a feel for how big a game it was. The Huskers had lost nine of their previous 13 games decided by eight points or less.
Wisconsin travels to Michigan State in the early feel-good game for the Big Ten. This wasn't expected to be a expected to be a game between unbeatens. The Spartans' beatdown of Notre Dame was epic. The 36-point run was the fourth-highest consecutive number of points ever hung on the Irish at home. Oh, Mark Dantonio is already rubbing his hands together in anticipation of both Ohio State and Michigan visiting this season.
4. Overtime hell: The Texas A&M-Arkansas winner becomes the No. 1 challenger to Alabama in the West -- at least for now. Just don't let the game go to overtime for the Hogs. They've lost four straight to the Aggies, the last two in overtime after blowing fourth-quarter leads. "Well, you know, we've kinda become overtime poster children around here," Bret Bielema said this week.
The Hogs wouldn't be here undefeated without slipping past TCU in overtime two weeks ago. The Arkansas coach is 2-3 in overtime since arriving from Wisconsin, where he lost three OT games in a month in his final season with the Badgers.
5. Florida State's hangover: The question now, even if FSU wins out, is whether the College Football Playoff Selection Committee will consider a team that got curb-stomped by 43 last week at Louisville? There are not many teams making the playoff -- or at least there shouldn't be -- after giving up the most points in their history (63).
Such is the case of the Noles, which try to avoid an ambush at South Florida. Dalvin Cook ran for career-best 266 yards last season against the Bulls. USF's Marlon Mack -- the two-time American Athletic Conference rushing champ -- is averaging 9.6 yards per carry.
6. The Other Stoops: You can take the coach out of Youngstown, but you can't take the Youngstown out of the coach. Kentucky's embattled Mark Stoops went nuclear this week of South Carolina with the walls closing in around him. "Until we grow up and get a mentality about us and have some guys step up and get tougher, then we're going to look like the same bunch of crap," Stoops told reporters.
"Some guys need to grow up in a hurry. We have no idea what it takes to have concentration, from the beginning of the week through the end and through a whole game and so on. You get the picture? We're not real tough, we're not real smart and we've got a long way to go."
The Wildcats are trying to beat South Carolina for a third consecutive year. Only oonOnly six teams nationally are worse nationally than Kentucky in total defense. Stoops is on his third offensive coordinator in three years.
No one wants to see a guy fired, but this one is interesting in a wreck-on-the-highway kind of way. You want to at least slow down for a second and look.
7. The last days of the Big 12: Or so it seems, in the playoff picture. The league's two remaining undefeated teams are at home this week against quality teams. Oklahoma State has a chance of winning a shootout at No. 16 Baylor (3-0). Shootout? It took Mason Rudolph throwing for a career high 540 yards to beat Pittsburgh by a touchdown last week.
8. A meaningful heartfelt salute: If you haven't noticed, all three service academies are undefeated (combined 8-0) through three weeks. Army and Navy are each 3-0 for the first time since 1960. If Air Force wins at Utah State this week, the three academies will all be at least 3-0 for the first time ever. Take a good look now because the undefeated streak is sure to end next week when Navy visits Air Force.
9. Upset special: Arizona over Washington. This a perfect trap game for the overrated Huskies (No. 9, really?) , whichgo on the road for the first time. The Wildcats have beaten U-Dub four straight times in Tucson. Since 2005, Arizona is 7-5 against top 10 teams at home.
10. Short gains: Ole Miss has blown combined leads of 43 points to Florida State and Alabama. Georgia is 2-0 in games this season decided by two points or less. I'll take Rebels-Dawgs for a look at the SEC's quarterback future (Jacob Eason) and currently the SEC's best (Chad Kelly) ... This week Vanderbilt will be the first SEC team to visit Western Kentucky. What could go wrong for the Commodores? The Hilltoppers are 19-2 in their last 21 including a two-point win at Vandy last year... Iowa's Kirk Ferentz on that two-point loss to North Dakota State: "We're just not doing well with the makeables. Makeables to me are plays that you should be able to execute without having a superstar player." Doesn't that describe the Hawkeyes every week as they travel to Rutgers? ... It may be time to forget about Oregon in the Pac-12 at this early point in the season for the first time about a decade. Following the Nebraska loss, left tackle Tyrell Crosby and receiver Devon Allen have been lost for the season. In 2006, Mike Bellotti went 7-6 in his 11th season in Eugene. A similar record seems likely this season ... This is the first time Colorado (at Oregon) will go from Eastern to Pacific time zones in successive weeks. After visiting Michigan, the combined road trips span 4,200 miles.