A wild Saturday could have been a lot wilder with Clemson, Michigan, and Southern Cal (as well as others) fighting off challenges from inspired conference foes. Oklahoma wasn’t so fortunate, dropping its conference opener at home to perennial thorn-in-the-side Kansas State. Meanwhile, Kentucky, Ole Miss, and even Georgia sleepwalked through games against middling Group of 5 opponents. Doing great, everybody! We won’t even mention Miami suffering one of the most embarrassing losses in school history. Oops, we just did. Anyways...
Clemson - The Tigers’ defensive struggles against Wake Forest are well documented, but at the end of the day a road win over a top-25 divisional foe coupled with an outstanding performance by DJ Uiagalelei is enough reason to consider it a successful Saturday. NC State comes calling this week — potentially in a driving rainstorm — in what stands to be the ACC’s game of the year, and the Tigers will need to shore up a number of things and try to get healthy if they want to outlast a veteran Wolfpack squad. It should be a good one in the Valley.
Tennessee - The Vols needed a home win over Florida to give themselves a chance to contend in the SEC East, and they held off the Gators behind an excellent dual-threat day for quarterback Hendon Hooker. Surrendering nearly 600 yards on defense is alarming, as the Gators certainly won’t be the best offense Tennessee faces, so the Vols will have a bye week to work out the kinks before back-to-back games against LSU and Alabama. We will know a lot more about this team by the time mid-October rolls around.
Texas A&M - If we are going to trash A&M when they lose to App State, then we are in some way obligated to give the Aggies credit when they beat a good opponent. Jimbo Fisher’s team eked out a bizarre win in its annual rivalry game with Arkansas that included a 99-yard fumble return and a missed field goal off the top of the upright. The Aggies still have a long row to hoe before anyone would consider them a Playoff threat, and they have now lost top receiver Ainias Smith for the season with a leg injury. But they have managed back-to-back wins since their loss to App as opposed to letting the wheels fall off, so they at least have that going for them.
Oklahoma - The excitement of the Brent Venables era has been tempered with something that has become almost expected for Oklahoma’s football team — a loss to Kansas State. The Sooners have now lost three of their last four games against the Wildcats with two of those losses coming at home. Kansas State quarterback Adrian Martinez torched the Oklahoma defense with 234 passing yards, 148 rushing yards, and five total touchdowns a week after the Wildcats managed just 10 points at home against Tulane. The Big XII is as wide open as we have ever seen it, so we won’t completely bury the Sooners yet, but any margin for error they might have had is gone after this disappointing loss.
Arkansas - Perhaps Arkansas’ lackluster effort against Missouri State was less an anomaly and more a sign of things to come. The Razorbacks led 14-0 in the first quarter against Texas A&M on Saturday and seemed poised to run away from the Aggies, but they surrendered 23 straight points including a game-changing fumble return touchdown before a KJ Jefferson touchdown run trimmed their deficit to 23-21 in the fourth quarter. Arkansas had a chance to regain the lead on a 42-yard field goal in the final minutes, but the kick faded right and bounced off the top of the goalpost to seal the win for A&M. The Hogs will now have to beat Alabama this week to keep any hope of crashing the four-team field alive. No pressure.
Texas - Texas’ play of late — including a near-upset of Alabama — had it looking like a darkhorse Playoff contender, but the Longhorns couldn’t hold a two-touchdown lead in the third quarter on the road this week at Texas Tech and fell in overtime. They can pretty much forget about any Playoff aspirations now and will need to focus on not letting this season go off the rails the same way it did in 2021, or Sark’s seat could get scorching hot.
Top-25 games galore - It’s rare to see as many as five matchups between ranked teams in a single week, but that’s exactly what we get this Saturday. It starts at noon with a proving-ground game between atypical top-15 teams Kentucky and Ole Miss and culminates with a top-10 battle for the driver’s seat in the ACC Atlantic when Clemson takes on NC State in primetime. Sandwiched in between is a nice triad of games that includes Arkansas-Alabama, Oklahoma State-Baylor, and Wake Forest-Florida State. Conference play is in full swing now, and we should have a pretty entertaining day of football.
GAMES TO WATCH:
No. 7 Kentucky @ No. 14 Ole Miss - Noon
No. 2 Alabama @ No. 20 Arkansas - 3:30 p.m.
No. 9 Oklahoma State @ No. 16 Baylor - 3:30 p.m.
No. 22 Wake Forest @ No. 23 FSU - 3:30 p.m.
No. 10 NC State @ No. 5 Clemson - 7:30 p.m.