Five questions

Which teams should slink back into obscurity, not to be heard from again this season unless they do something spectacularly redeeming?

Consider this your Fraud Alert Report for the year. Vanderbilt, Mississippi State, Oklahoma State and Colorado were exposed as not-ready-for-prime-time wannabes. All but Mississippi State lost at home too. Vanderbilt fared no better against Alabama in a 59-0 loss than Nashville prep power Brentwood Academy would have. Mississippi State was physically manhandled by Georgia in 31-3 loss. Oklahoma State, which screams “look at us” every year it gets off to a fast start, was “out-offensed” in a 44-31 loss to TCU. And Colorado reminded us again in a 37-10 home loss to Washington that the program has levelled off to good-but-not-good-enough status as a legitimate Pac-12 contender.

Think Alabama was just a bit miffed by all the love Clemson was getting last week?

Wow. A word of caution to future Tide opponents: Don’t do anything to rile up Nick Saban’s crew. What Alabama did to Vanderbilt in Nashville on Saturday was essentially a full-fledged ad on why the Commodores don’t belong in the SEC. Vandy had the nation’s stingiest defense, allowing 13 points in three games, before Alabama came to town. The total offense disparity was 677 to 78 as the Tide amassed a school-record 38 first downs. Okay, okay. You’re No. 1. We get it.

Are there more believers now to the contention that Saquon Barkley is the best player in the country?

NFL GMs who are of the belief that you don’t take a running back in the first round any more because of the way the game has changed will have to make an exception with Barkley. He was spectacular again in the Nittany Lions’ 21-19 last-play victory at Iowa, rushing for 211 yards and a TD on 28 carries, catching 12 passes for 94 yards and returning three kickoffs for 53 yards. Credit to offensive coordinator Joe Moorhead too (what, you think we’re going to say something complimentary about James Franklin?): Barkley had 43 touches in the victory. Iowa, meanwhile, had 45 total plays. Best player gets most touches. Easy, right?

Did anyone happen to catch the halftime show during the San Diego-State Air Force game?

Well, no. No one did. That’s because there was no halftime show – because there was no halftime. Following an 88-minute lightning delay that started with 7:56 left in the second quarter, both teams agreed to play through halftime and directly into the third quarter.

Is it possible that Maryland – which looked to be on a steady upward trend under D.J. Durkin – might not win again this season?

First it was starting quarterback Tyrell Pigrome, a sophomore with dazzling athletic ability, who was lost in the opener to a season-ending injury. Now it looks as if his replacement, promising true freshman Kasim Hill, may have suffered the same fate in the first quarter of Saturday’s 38-10 loss to UCF. That has the Terps turning to sophomore Max Bortenschlager to face the rugged Big Ten schedule ahead. The situation is so bad at quarterback that Maryland will even be an underdog when it plays Rutgers on Nov. 4.

 

On the rise

Virginia (3-1)

Cavs’ 42-23 victory at Boise State – their first West of the Mississippi since 1991 – enabled them to already surpass last year’s win total. Virginia had lost 20 of its previous 21 road games.

TCU (4-0)

Horned Frogs have now won at Arkansas and at Oklahoma State (44-31 on Saturday) to emerge as the biggest threat to Oklahoma in the Big 12. Their offense looks to just be heating up too.

Duke (4-0)

Saturday’s 27-17 victory at North Carolina enabled the Blue Devils to already match last year’s victory total, with a telling Coastal showdown on Friday when Miami visits.

 

On the decline

Missouri (1-3)

Barry Odom can rant all he wants about how he will win at Mizzou – which he did following Saturday’s 51-14 home loss to Auburn – but the Tigers have lost three straight by a combined 119-30 after his 4-8 debut season a year ago.

Oregon (3-1)

Ducks could have easily been added to the Fraud Alert list (see above) after losing 37-35 to wobbly Arizona State, with their season now determined by an upcoming stretch of Cal, Washington State and Stanford.

Florida State (0-2)

Guess whose 89-week streak in the AP Top 25 – which was second behind Alabama’s 151-week run — has come to a screeching halt following Saturday’s 27-21 home loss to N.C. State? Seminoles’ start is their worst in 28 years.

 

Who’s hot

Myles Gaskin, RB, Washington

He gashed Colorado’s defense for a career-high 202 rushing yards and one TD on 27 carries in the 37-10 victory – his first 100-yard game since last year’s Pac-12 title game against … Colorado.

Jason Sanders, PK. New Mexico

Of all the game-winning field goal finishes on Saturday, his may have been the most impressive: a 53 yarder with three seconds left in a 16-13 victory over Tulsa.

Navy’s rushing attack

It’s always productive, but not quite like it was against Cincinnati in a 42-32 victory: 569 yards on the ground, second-most in school history and the most allowed by the Bearcats in a game. That puts a little crimp in Luke Fickell’s rep as a defensive genius.

 

Who’s not

Tanner Lee, QB, Nebraska

Cornhuskers overcame his latest pick 6 – his third allowed in the past two games – in a 27-17 victory over Rutgers. Lee leads the nation with nine interceptions now. Former Nebraska QB great Tommie Frazier had 11 – in four years.

Ryan Metz and Mark Torrez, QBs, UTEP

It doesn’t get much uglier than the numbers they combined for in a 41-14 loss to New Mexico State: 10 of 34 for 92 yards with five interceptions.

Brandon Dawkins, QB, Arizona

Wildcats played well enough to upset Utah – except for Dawkins’ three interceptions and lost fumble with 2:33 to play in a 30-24 defeat to the nationally-ranked Utes.

 

Playing it forward

The top three games of the coming week

Clemson (4-0) at Virginia Tech (4-0), Saturday

A major test for both, even though they could wind up meeting again in the ACC championship game. For now, it’s about keeping alive playoff hopes in a prime-time affair.

USC (4-0) at Washington State (4-0), Friday

How legit are the pass-happy Cougars? Is USC ready to play a complete game for the first time this year? This one is set for a 10 p.m. Eastern start on ESPN and should be a fun game to watch between too good teams.

Miami (2-0) at Duke (4-0), Friday

A key Coastal Division game between a couple of schools looking to make a run at Virginia Tech (or, possibly, Georgia Tech) in the division. Is Duke ready for this step up in competition?

 

Story Lines

1. The list of potential Power 5 bowl crashers was reduced by one when Houston lost at home to Texas Tech. But South Florida (4-0), San Diego State (4-0) and Memphis (3-0) continued to take care of business with victories on Saturday. If the Aztecs get by dangerous Northern Illinois on Saturday, they look to have a pretty clear path to an unbeaten season. If that’s the case for USF and Memphis during the regular season, they’ll meet in the AAC title game

2. Baylor gave Oklahoma all it could handle in a 49-41 loss to Oklahoma, providing yet more proof that Matt Rhule is the right guy to dig out the Bears from the mess the program is in. Rhule’s squad is severely undermanned but continues to be competitive, though it may have to wait until Nov. 4 at Kansas to be rewarded with a victory for its efforts. One look at the meltdown Temple suffered on Saturday is a reminder that Rhule got out of Philadelphia at just the right time, even if he is in for a long rebuilding haul in Waco.

3. It’s always interesting to compare the AP Poll to the coaches’ version, especially when upsets jolt the rankings. Florida State, 0-2, is out in the AP Top 25 – but not in the coaches’ version. Memphis, 3-0, still hasn’t cracked either Top 25, though 3-1 West Virginia – which has beaten East Carolina, Delaware State and Kansas – is in both polls. It’s good to see South Florida and San Diego State sprinkled in amongst almost the entire SEC in the rankings too.

 

Tom Luicci was the national college football and basketball writer for The Star-Ledger of Newark, N.J. from 1979-2014. The snarkiness is all Jersey.