As the first season of the playoff era hits October, the more we know the less we understand. Five of the top eight and 10 of the top 19 in the Associated Press College Football Poll lost last week, a week of upsets not seen since 1990.
It started in the wee hours of Friday morning as Arizona upset #2 Oregon 31-24 in Eugene—a winning touchdown made possible by an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty called on the Ducks after a sack that would have forced a field goal. Friday night, the team thought to be this season’s outsider who could make a run, #18 BYU, lost 35-20 at home to a Utah State team playing their first without starting quarterback Chuckie Keeton, lost to an ACL injury for the second straight season. BYU lost their starting QB, Taysom Hill, to a broken leg in the game.
Saturday’s fireworks began early, in Starkville #12 Mississippi State, scoring one of their biggest victories ever: 48-31 over #6 Texas A&M in a game not nearly as close as that. Dak Prescott accounted for five touchdowns as his Heisman campaign took off. In the afternoon window, #9 Notre Dame pulled out a 17-14 win over #14 Stanford as Everett Golson found Ben Koyack on a 23-yard pass on 4th-and-11 with 1:01 remaining. The Irish remain on course for a showdown at #1 Florida State in a few weeks. Meanwhile in the Big 10, Northwestern pulled their second successive upset, beating #17 Wisconsin 2014 a week after winning at Penn State.
After Mississippi State’s win 80 miles away, #11 Ole Miss was looking for their signature win facing #3 Alabama, who came in #1 in the Coaches Poll. After a missed facemask led to a fumble returned by Alabama’s Cyrus Jones for a touchdown just before half that put the Crimson Tide up 14-3, Rebels QB Bo Wallace threw three second half touchdown passes to lead Mississippi to a 23-17 upset—their first over Alabama in 10 tries. In the Big XII, #25 TCU upset #4 Oklahoma 37-33 when Paul Dawson returned an interception 41 yards for a score 48 seconds into the 4th. The Frogs are now 4-0.
As evening fell, #5 Auburn asserted their authority and perhaps, stamped themselves as the team to beat, crushing #15 LSU 41-7 amassing 390 yards of offense in a 31-point first half. It was the worst loss ever for Coach Les Miles at LSU who allowed 566 yards on the night. Arizona State rebounded from an embarrassing home loss to UCLA, beating #16 Southern California 38-34 on the road as Mike Bercovici hit Jaelen Strong from 46 yards out as time expired. Despite a spirited comeback from #19 Nebraska, #10 Michigan State held on in their Big 10 opener 27-22, nearly blowing a 27-3 lead.
Capping one of the greatest Saturdays of football in recent memory, Utah upset #8 UCLA 30-28 at the Rose Bowl as Andy Phillips connected on a 29-yard field goal with 34 seconds left after a running into the kicker penalty gave him a second chance. Not involving ranked teams but of note late night, California beat Washington State 60-59 after the Cougars missed a 19-yard FG on the final play. The Bears returned a pair of kickoffs for touchdowns offsetting WSU QB Connor Halliday who set a new FBS record with 734 yards passing.
Coming this week, the first top-five matchup of the season, #2 Auburn at #3 Mississippi State, ESPN’s College GameDay will be there with a 2:30 pm kickoff.