With all of the Top Ten match-ups, we knew that Saturday was going to be crazy. And it was:
No. 1 Georgia was dominated by Auburn 40-17.
No. 2 Alabama had to score with 25 seconds left to win at Mississippi State 31-24.
No. 3 Notre Dame was never a factor at No. 7 Miami, losing 41-8.
No. 4 Clemson beat Florida State 31-14 but not without a fight.
No. 5 Oklahoma made its point with a thorough beating of No. 6 TCU, 38-20.
No. 8 Wisconsin set the table for its run to the playoffs by beating Iowa 38-14.
So what did we learn? As it turns out, a lot:
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1—Auburn played its best game in five years under Guz Malzahn: Here is how crazy college football is. When I arrived at Auburn’s Jordan-Hare Stadium on Saturday I talked to a bunch of people about the future of Coach Gus Malzahn. The consensus of opinion was that he had to split games between No. 1 Georgia and No. 2 Alabama to have a chance of keeping his job.
So what I was hearing was that Malzahn could have an 8-4 record with losses to No. 1 (Georgia), soon to be No.1 (Alabama), No. 3 (Clemson) and No. 24 (LSU) and still get fired.
Beat Alabama on Nov. 25 and Auburn will meet Georgia again in the SEC championship. Win in Atlanta and the Tigers are in the playoffs with a chance to win it all.
Is this a crazy game or what?
2—Yes Georgia Bulldog fans, you are still in it.
Woody Hayes, that great Western philosopher, once said that: “There is nothing that cleanses the soul like getting the hell kicked out of you.”
Based on what we saw yesterday at Auburn, Georgia’s soul should be thoroughly cleaned and disinfected.
“They were more physical than us on both lines of scrimmage,” Coach Kirby Smart told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Coaches hate to admit that.
But the reality is that Georgia still has a path to the College Football Playoff. The Bulldogs have Kentucky this week and Georgia Tech the following week. Then they will play either Alabama or Auburn for the SEC championship. Win in Atlanta and the Bulldogs are in the playoffs at 12-1. My guess is that Georgia would like a shot at Alabama because based on what I saw the Dawgs don’t want any part of Auburn again.
“They’ve got to get up and go fight,” Smart told the AJC.
Georgia has gone an entire season getting weekly praise. How will they react in the season’s home finale? Will they show some fight?
3—Jalen Hurts is one cool dude: Critics of the Alabama quarterback are constantly telling me what Hurts CAN’T do. But I’m telling you: If I need a two-minute drive to win the game then Hurts is my guy.
Remember that he almost won the national championship game against Clemson last January when he scored on a 30-yard run without about two minutes left. The only mistake was leaving that much time for Clemson’s Deshaun Watson to work his own magic.
But Hurts did it again on Saturday night at Mississippi State. With the score tied at 24-24 Alabama got the ball back with 1:09 remaining. Hurt drove his team 68 yards in 44 seconds and threw a 26-yard touchdown pass to DeVonta Smith with 25 seconds left.
Hurts is now 23-1 as Alabama’s starting quarterback.
“Most of the time the bigger the situation the better he is,” Alabama coach Nick Saban told AL.com after the game.
4—Thanks to Mark Richt, “The U.” is back: Mark Richt’s 15th and final team at Georgia went 10-3. Over the course of those 15 years Richt’s teams averaged 9.6 wins per year. But after the 2015 season the decision was made that Richt had taken Georgia as far as he could. He was replaced by Kirby Smart. It has worked out well for both schools.
After Saturday night’s thorough destruction of Notre Dame, Richt has Miami back in the national championship discussion. The Hurricanes should be no worse than No. 4 when the new CFP rankings are released Tuesday night. They could be as high as No. 2.
“The U. is back. I don’t think anybody can say that we’re not,” wide receiver Braxton Berrios told The Miami Herald after the game.
Miami (9-0) has a clearly-defined path to the playoffs. The Hurricanes get Virginia (6-4) at home this Saturday and then go to Pittsburgh (4-6). Then there is a date with Clemson is the ACC championship game in Charlotte, where the winner is a virtual lock for a playoff spot.
5—You read it here first: Florida (3-6) had better be on upset alert against UAB:
Florida played a little harder on Saturday in a 28-20 loss to South Carolina in Columbia. Now the Gators, under interim head coach Randy Shannon, have two home games remaining with UAB and Florida State. If the Gators look ahead to the state rival they could get burned by the Blazers.
UAB is one of the feel good stories in college football. The football program was shut down in 2014 in a sleazy, political, move that I won’t take the time to repeat here. But the public backlash against the move was so great the program was reinstated. This is the first season back and the Blazers are 7-3 with a one-point loss to Charlotte and a three-point loss to North Texas.
Bill Clark, who could have left when the program was shut down, agreed to stay on and help build it again. He should get some national coach of the year votes.
Okay, Gators. You’ve been warned.