Here at the halfway point of the college football season, not much has changed at the top.
Urban Meyer still hasn’t lost a game at Ohio State.
Oregon, without Chip Kelly, is still putting up basketball scores.
Everyone is still chasing Alabama, and Nick Saban still isn’t smiling.
The first BCS standings will be out soon, and the bickering can begin. Oregon, Ohio State, Clemson or Oklahoma vs. the Tide? Imagine the shrieking if they all finish unbeaten.
The Saturdays begin to really matter now, and so we lead this week’s Tense 10 — 10 games where there is something to prove — with a key matchup in the Northwest:
1. Oregon at Washington: The Ducks stay in Alabama’s rearview mirror with a quarterback doing everything that anyone — including Heisman voters — could ask. Marcus Mariota has thrown 14 touchdowns without an interception and averages 12.1 yards per carry, rushing for seven touchdowns. Sounds like Johnny Manziel without the tweets. No wonder Oregon averages 59 points a game. But Washington is 11th in the nation in scoring defense and can be mean at home. The Huskies should put in a request for the standard Seattle rain. Oregon has Nike on its side, Washington could at least have nature.
2. Missouri at Georgia: The only unbeaten team in the SEC not named Alabama is ... Missouri? Yep. Hardly anyone has noticed the Tigers or their 46.6-point scoring average, but the team from the Show-Me State will show me, you and everyone else if it ends Georgia’s 15-game home winning streak. The Bulldogs —the Red Cross team of the week — have to prove they can carry on despite injuries to their top two rushers and top three receivers.
3. Oklahoma vs. Texas in Dallas: The Longhorns have lost three games in a row to the Sooners, the last two by a combined score of 108-38. Mack Brown needs this like Congress needs a happy pill.
4. Indiana at Michigan State: The Hoosiers finally get out of Bloomington for their first road game, assuming they can find their suitcases. They’ll see how the Big Ten-leading offense works in a hostile setting, against the No. 1 rated total defense in the country.
5. South Carolina at Arkansas: Jadeveon Clowney, apparently saving his breath and body for the NFL, has gone from Heisman candidate to a reality show. He has turned every South Carolina game into an adventure.
6. Miami (Ohio) at Massachusetts: They’re both 0-5. Miami, which just fired its coach, is next-to-last in the nation in scoring, averaging 8.8 points a game. Massachusetts is last at 7.0. No need to save parking for the ESPN GameDay trailer, but a win will still feel mighty good to someone.
7. Northwestern at Wisconsin: Are the Wildcats emotionally over Ohio State? They’d better be. Wisconsin is not only at home but coming off a bye. The combined score of the last five post-bye games for the Badgers: Wisconsin 243, the other guys 44.
8. Florida at LSU: Florida is No. 2 in the nation in total defense, but its problem is location. Baton Rouge is French for “all ye enter here abandon hope.” LSU has won 27 of its last 28 home games.
9. East Carolina at Tulane: OK, this game in the Superdome is not going to remind anyone of what Drew Brees does there on Sundays. But it’s a match between two division leaders in Conference USA. East Carolina, at 4-1, is off to its best start since 1999. If Tulane wins to go 5-2, it’ll be the Green Wave’s best start in 34 years.
10. Baylor at Kansas State: We should light a candle each week for whichever defensive coordinator is getting ready to play Baylor. Kansas State’s Tom Hayes must ponder these numbers: Baylor is the first team since 1930 to score 70 points in three consecutive games. Quarterback Bryce Petty’s 10 touchdown passes this season have been an average of 52.1 yards. And most staggering of all — Baylor’s 49.75 average in the first half would have the Bears No. 4 in the nation in scoring for the entire game. How you sleeping, Tom?