The beauty of college football is that when you sit down on a Saturday that doesn’t have much of a spectator appeal, things will end up happening that you’ve never seen before.
Like a nine overtime game in which only 38 points are scored.
Like a quarterback stealing the ball from his own running back and carrying it on a key first down to maintaining an undefeated season.
Both of these things happened at the games noon window, causing what was supposed to be a mundane weekend to go off the rails. Illinois stunned Penn State 20-18 in the nine-overtime fandango that showed the flaws of the completely gimmicky new overtime rules and showed both teams’ offensive futility. It was, technically, the longest match in the history of the sport and also one of the worst. Neither team was able to rack up three yards to score in five straight overtime periods when they progressed to the two-point conversion stage in the third overtime. For 10 straight plays out of three, neither team could find the end zone.
It was hilariously scary.
The same could describe Oklahoma’s whistle beyond Kansas in Lawrence. The fact that Kansas was shut out for the middle of the weekend, which entered the weekend as 129th out of 130 teams nationally in scoring defense, was an incredible development for the high-octane Sooners. But first-year quarterback Caleb Williams put it together in the second half and Oklahoma was clinging to a 28-23 lead when the second all-time afternoon hit.
Facing a quarter and one on his own side of the 50-yard line, Lincoln Riley went for it. A Kennedy Brooks carry appeared briefly to carry the ball over the line and win for a first down, but was rejected. Before the officials could blow their whistles and stop the play, Williams rushed in and forcibly removed the ball from Brooks’ hands, the second installment of the play, which went from Williams to Brooks to Williams, and ran five yards and the first chance. .
After much consternation and official replay review, the play was declared legal and the momentum continued. Oklahoma scored the decisive touchdown seven plays later and left town with its seventh disappointing victory. And from then on, every time a player steals the ball from a teammate and runs with him, it will be known as “The Caleb Williams Play.”
After those two wild events, the rest of the day went largely as expected. The week started with 11 undefeated teams and ended with nine, the only casualties being Coastal Carolina at Appalachian State on Wednesday and Oklahoma State losing (like an underdog on the road) to Iowa State on Saturday.
This wasn’t the first time Oklahoma State saw an undefeated season at Ames. A decade ago, the Cowboys had the inside court to play in the BCS Championship Game but were defeated 37-31 by the Cyclones. This year’s team had a long way to go to get closer to the national title, but now the road to the playoffs seems blocked. Oklahoma State’s best option might be to play a spoiler for Oklahoma when the Sooners visit Stillwater on November 27, although the Cowboys will have to keep an eye out for The Caleb Williams Play.
1. Georgia (7-0)
Last game: Beat Kentucky October 30-13.
Next game: Florida at Jacksonville Oct.30
The tumult elsewhere on Saturday did nothing to diminish the belief that the Bulldogs (7-0) are the best nationally thus far. They have won every game in the Southeastern Conference by at least 17 points, and unless the Gators produce a rivalry effort inspired by the Cocktail Party game, that level of dominance could continue for the remainder of the regular season. Coach Kirby Smart has this season under control enough to spend Friday night in New Orleans watching high school student Arch Manning throw spirals. Georgia’s recruiting machine never rests.
2. Michigan (7-0)
Last game: Defeat Northwestern 33–7
Next game: at Michigan State Oct. 30
The Wolverines were in a half fight against the Wildcats, then threw a 23-0 shutout after intermission. This was exactly what Michigan is: hitting the ball at Northwestern on the ground, with Blake Corum and Hassan Haskins gaining 100 yards; the defense that kept the Wildcats out of the end zone other than a 75-yard rush in the second quarter; special teams delivering a blocked punt. Michigan still doesn’t have much juice in the passing game, throwing for 163 yards with just 5.1 yards per attempt and no completions over 18 yards. Even at 7-0, the Wolverines have to improve to win their division.
3. Michigan State (7–0)
Last game: defeated Indiana from October 20 to 15, October 16
Next game: Michigan at East Lansing Oct.30
Even after an open date, the Spartans remain the only Power 5 team in the country that is 4-0 on the road. His big-play offense stalled last week against the Hoosiers, producing just 241 yards and 3.89 yards per snap. They’ll have to rediscover some pop on Saturday when the Wolverines hit town. Defensively, Michigan State is one of two teams not allowing more than 21 points in a game this season. (Georgia is the other).
4. Cincinnati (7-0)
Last game: Beat Navy 27–20
Next game: in Tulane October 30
The Bearcats (7-0) endured their endodontics from the service academy, holding the Midshipmen 1-6 at bay in a game that was not secured until the last minute. Had it not been for a Navy collapse late in the first half, a bad play led to taking sacks and then blocking a long field goal, with Cincinnati then hitting 52 yards this could have turned out differently. The Navy completed 84 offensive plays to Cincinnati’s 51, playing keep away and shortening the game. The best thing that happened to the Bearcats on Saturday was that Notre Dame dispatched USC by 15 points and improved to 6-1, putting a little more polish on Cincy’s victory.
5. Oregon (6–1)
Last game: Defeat UCLA 34–31
Next game: Colorado at Eugene Oct. 30
The Ducks (6-1) needed a defensive position late for the third straight game. The first was unsuccessful (at Stanford) but the next two have worked (California, at UCLA). This time, Oregon received an interception to stop a last-minute Bruins attack and avoid a collapse in the fourth quarter after leading by 17. The Ducks are injured and barely dominating lately, but they have the head-to-head victory over Ohio. Been to Columbus. As long as they both have the same record, that keeps Oregon one spot ahead of the Buckeyes in my opinion. They played the game and the results of that game should matter. (If anything should jeopardize Oregon’s place in the Top 10, it’s those pitiful speckled egg uniforms the Ducks wore. Looks like they were washed with a box of dripping ink pens.)
6. Ohio State (6–1)
Last game: defeated Indiana 54–7
Next game: Penn State at Columbus Oct.30
The Buckeyes (6–1) cut through another opponent outnumbered by the Big Ten East, scoring 30 points in the second quarter and advancing into the second half at Bloomington. Combined score from their last three games, against Indiana, Maryland and Rutgers: 172–37. Quarterback CJ Stroud has been on fire in that stretch, throwing for 1,002 yards and 14 touchdowns with no interceptions. More importantly, Ohio State has come a long way on defense since a porous start to the season on that side of the ball. Penn State’s loss to Illinois on Saturday dulls considerable shine to the Nittany Lions’ upcoming visit to the Horseshoe.
7. Alabama (7-1)
Last game: Beat Tennessee 52–24
Next game: LSU in Tuscaloosa Nov.6
The Crimson Tide (7-1) sputtered most of the night against the Volunteers before opening the game in the fourth quarter. Nick Saban doesn’t have to worry about a lot of “rat poison” from the media after his secondary gave up three long plays to Tennessee, his special teams allowed a blocked punt, and his offense had a number of trouble lining up and getting bad plays without incidents. But here’s the thing with Alabama: You can do all those things wrong and still win by 28 when you have a talent for breaking the game. The Tide still has a very manageable road to SEC championship game.
8. Oklahoma (8-0)
Last game: beat Kansas 35-23
Next game: Texas Tech at Norman Oct. 30
Of all the Sooners’ shaky wins this season, that is to say almost all of them, this could be the most shaky. The Jayhawks hadn’t led a Big 12 game by a second this year, but they were up 10-0 in the second half. They eventually cracked up on defense, but the game was still in doubt as Williams made his super smart move to steal the ball from his own teammate. Oklahoma has won all of its games, but right now Oklahoma’s resume is barely better than Wake Forest’s.
9. Kentucky (6–1)
Last game: Lost to Georgia 30-13 October 16
Next game: at Mississippi State October 30
It’s hard to find 10 teams worth qualifying for, so why not the Wildcats (6–1)? They were respectable against the Bulldogs between the hedges, and they have a blast from LSU and a win over Florida. Maybe Wake Forest should be ranked here, but the Demon Deacons would certainly have a loss to Georgia if they were to play the Bulldogs.
10. Mississippi (6 to 1)
Last game: Beat LSU 31–17
Next game: in Auburn on October 30
The Rebels showed their defensive growth against the Tigers on Saturday, holding them to seven points in three quarters and just 326 total yards for the game. Matt Corral’s numbers didn’t do much for his Heisman Trophy campaign (209 rushing yards and passes and a touchdown each way), but he did have a 19-yard catch for some extra style points. Ole Miss painted “MANNING” in the end zones for the game, ostensibly to honor the retirement of Eli’s jersey number, but rest assured it was a message that meant more to her nephew Arch.
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.