Return of the football informant: The real season begins

This was a wild weekend in college football, with conference play beginning in earnest and a choice selection of excellent match-ups. Contenders were exposed, heavyweights dominated, and many teams finally displayed their true colors after starting out against weak competition. Alabama achieved an impressive road win to hold up to LSU’s early triumphs, while Oklahoma continued its early warm-up run. Boise State took out its frustrations from last season against Nevada, while Ohio State and TCU fell further from national relevance. The SEC East descended into chaos, while the Big Ten hierarchy became much clearer. Most major conferences now have a dominant front-runner or two, followed by a thoroughly muddled middle of the standings. Though the ultimate results are uncertain, the season will certainly be exciting.

After this weekend, only fifteen of the 120 top-division teams remain undefeated. About one-third of these teams reside in the former Big 12, where schedule stuffing has resulted in a barrage of early victories against unimpressive opponents. Seven unbeaten teams fell this weekend, including two losers of unbeaten-on-unbeaten games in the Big 12. Here is the prognosis going forward for these first-time losers and advice on whether their supporters should panic yet.

Iowa State Cyclones: Yes, somehow, ISU won their first three games, including a dramatic upset of rival Iowa. Still, it was no real surprise when Texas stampeded the Cyclones. No need to panic, as a bowl game is still well within reach.

Baylor Bears: This was a bad weekend for Baylor, which lost in heartbreaking fashion at Kansas State, while their earlier marquee win over TCU lost much of its impressiveness when the Frogs bowed out at home against SMU. That shiny new national ranking is likely gone for good, as the schedule’s difficulty increases dramatically from here. For those who were dreaming of a conference title, it is past time to panic.

South Florida Bulls: USF opened the season strong, but got buzz-sawed in the second half at Pitt. The Big East is now devoid of unbeaten teams, and the title race has been thrown wide open. The Bulls are still in it, however, as Pitt’s inconsistency this season means that they will be hard-pressed to hold the lead in a title race. Time to worry, but not yet to panic.

South Carolina Gamecocks: A disappointing loss to Auburn means that Carolina’s good luck is souring. After a series of dramatic victories and dominating performances by RB Marcus Lattimore, the Gamecock offense finally stalled out in a flood of Stephen Garcia interceptions. The Gamecocks are muddled in a four-way deadlock in the loss column for the SEC East lead. However, it seems probable that Auburn, the fourth-best side in the West, is better than any East team this season. Carolina is still very much in the title hunt. Don’t panic yet.

Florida Gators: The main reason that Carolina’s prospects are still positive is that Florida was dismantled by the Crimson Tide. UF was outscored 38-3, and quarterback John Brantley suffered a potential season-ending knee injury, courtesy of the Tide’s NFL-caliber defensive line. The Gators’ schedule has them staring down the barrel of three probable losses in a row (at LSU, at Auburn, vs. Georgia). Panic, and panic hard.

Nebraska Cornhuskers: Wisconsin threw the Huskers a rude welcome to the Big Ten, with a dominant 31-point demolition in Madison. Nebraska is clearly a long way from the Big Ten elite, and with unbeaten challenger Michigan improving each week, the Huskers will be hard pressed to make it to the inaugural conference title game at Soldier Field this December. Time to panic in Big Red country.

Virginia Tech Hokies: Clemson continued its out-of-nowhere run, beating down the Hokies in Blacksburg. Tech looked somewhat shaky in its warm-up games, so this is not entirely unexpected. Tech still controls its own destiny in the ACC, with a late-season game against Georgia Tech looming large. However, nobody seriously expected greatness from these Hokies, so there is no need to panic yet.

Game Picks for Week 6:
Texas by 3 vs. Oklahoma (Upset Special!)
LSU by 20 vs. Florida
Arkansas by 4 vs. Auburn
Stanford by 17 vs. CU
Nebraska by 14 vs. Ohio State

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