-- In August, the Southeastern Conference race seemed at least somewhat predictable. Georgia would threaten for a national championship by winning the East division. Louisiana State, which was coming off a share of the national championship, would almost certainly win the West, and the Bulldogs and Tigers would meet -- again -- in the SEC title game for the right to appear in a Bowl Championship Series game.
So much for August. After a wild Saturday across college football, there was nothing wilder than the SEC. After Georgia-Tennessee, South Carolina-Mississippi and Florida-LSU were all decided in the last 65 seconds, about the only things that remain clear are two scenarios that seemed unlikely prior to the season: Auburn controls its fate in the West, and Tennessee controls its fate in the East.
"This puts us behind the eight ball," Georgia Coach Mark Richt told reporters after the Bulldogs' 19-14 loss to the Volunteers, which came down to the final play.
Tennessee (4-1, 2-1) responded to a humiliating home loss to Auburn by holding Georgia quarterback David Greene -- who threw five touchdown passes the previous week against LSU -- to 15 of 34 without a score. Greene's 19-yard pass as time ran out wasn't close to a threat for a touchdown. The Vols -- who have already faced Florida, Auburn and Georgia -- benefit from their front-loaded schedule. Their toughest remaining conference game (they also host Notre Dame) is Oct. 30 at South Carolina.
Auburn, which has allowed one touchdown or less in five of its games, didn't have much concern in a 52-7 victory over Louisiana Tech. The surprising Tigers (6-0, 3-0) host Georgia (4-1, 2-1) on Nov. 13, a game that should be the most significant obstacle to an undefeated regular season.
Because Auburn already beat LSU (4-2, 2-2), LSU is almost certainly out of the SEC West race -- even with Saturday night's late 24-21 victory over Florida. But the Tigers' victory is typical of this unpredictable SEC season. LSU Coach Nick Saban, whose team was crushed, 45-16, at Georgia a week earlier, seemed to make a statement by granting freshman JaMarcus Russell his first start, seemingly ending the strict quarterback rotation with senior Marcus Randall.
But Russell threw two first-quarter interceptions, then sprained his left ankle and didn't return. So all that remained to cap the SEC's day was for Randall -- who has been maligned all season -- to complete 18 of 27 passes for 198 yards and two touchdowns, the final one with 27 seconds left for the victory.
"I don't want to be harsh," Saban told reporters afterward. "But humiliated is what we felt just one week ago."
Careful: In the SEC, who's humiliated -- and who does the humiliating -- seems to be a week-to-week issue.
Keep in mind that former Nebraska coach Frank Solich was fired for going 9-3 last season. So what happens to first-year coach Bill Callahan? The Cornhuskers' 70-10 loss to Texas Tech -- what part of 10 touchdowns don't you understand? -- was just their second of the year, but people in Lincoln have never had to deal with such ugliness. The Huskers, who have played football for 115 years, set school records for most points allowed and most lopsided loss, turned over the ball on five straight second-half possessions, and allowed the Red Raiders to score touchdowns on seven straight second-half drives.
"It's gut-wrenching to go through an experience like this," Callahan said.
When Nebraska Athletic Director Steve Pederson fired Solich, he said he felt the Huskers' traditional dominance was eroding, that they no longer could compete with Oklahoma or Texas. He didn't imagine a 60-point loss, not to mention a home loss to Southern Mississippi.
Now, Nebraska (3-2) has only one game remaining, Saturday against Baylor, in which it will be a clear-cut favorite and another, against Iowa State, which it should win. But that's only five victories. In order to qualify for a bowl, the Huskers likely will have to beat Kansas State, Oklahoma, Colorado or Missouri.
Purdue quarterback Kyle Orton threw an interception Saturday, his first of the season. The stunner: He threw another in the fourth quarter. The totals for the season are 18 touchdowns and two interceptions, and the unbeaten Boilermakers prepared for Saturday's showdown with unbeaten Wisconsin by beating Penn State, 20-13. Keep in mind: Even though Wisconsin allowed 13 points to Ohio State on Saturday, the Buckeyes' touchdown came on a punt return, and the Badgers' defense has still allowed only two touchdowns all year. . . . An example of how important turnovers can be: N.C. State outgained North Carolina 587-334 -- and lost. The turnover totals: Wolfpack three, Tar Heels zero. The final one was controversial, when Wolfpack running back T.A. McLendon fumbled at the UNC 1 a play after one official signaled McLendon had scored. The points went up on the scoreboard -- but were taken off.