24. THE BELEAGUERED SOUTHEASTERN CONFERENCE. It just opened 6-5 outside the league with some galling defeats and some galling escapes. Luckily, its fans possess such a fine humility that many will commiserate with them at this difficult time.
23. STAT OF THE WEEK. A 35-10 lead dissolved to a 44-35 loss against Southern Mississippi, and Kentucky ran only 14 offensive plays in the entire second half. On the plus side, nobody could complain about the play-calling because nobody could remember any.
22. THE ODD ARC OF GUS MALZAHN. To watch Auburn’s offense serve as the reason it loses, where three years ago it bamboozled people, is to wish to spend hours in film rooms with goggle-eyed defensive coordinators, to follow the mad, hidden game of people figuring out people.
21. AN EARLY-SEASON REF BLUNDER. People love ref blunders in all seasons, and when the refs in Atlanta slapped both an errant ineligible-downfield penalty and then an unsportsmanlike penalty on a complaining North Carolina Coach Larry Fedora, it set up a big safety in the North Carolina-Georgia game. It also smacked of basketball, where North Carolina also never gets any calls.
20. SCORE OF THE WEEK: BENEDICT (S.C.) 5, LIVINGSTONE (N.C.) 3. During an 0-10 season in 2015, Benedict College (S.C.) allowed 373 rushing yards to Livingstone. In a 5-3 win over Livingstone, Benedict allowed only eight, and its relief pitching excelled.
19. PLAY OF THE YEAR SO FAR. When Texas scored to go up 37-35 on Notre Dame with 3 minutes 29 seconds left in that Sunday night fracas in Austin, then Notre Dame’s Jarron Jones blocked the extra point, then Notre Dame’s Shaun Crawford ran it to the end zone for a 37-37 tie, some thought it divine intervention. Later, when Texas’s Tyrone Swoopes scored the winning touchdown in the second overtime, some thought it football.
18. NO, THE PLAY OF THE YEAR SO FAR. In life, when you’re standing at the back of the end zone, and life is hurling at you some whirring 53-yard field-goal attempt, just try to hold steady, catch it and start running, as did Houston captain Brandon Wilson. You never know where you’ll end up.
17. MY COLORADO SCHOOL OF MINES OREDIGGERS. We took our No. 18 preseason Division II ranking up against No. 5 CSU-Pueblo, and by the time we got through with our 36-point second quarter, our 57-21 win and our six touchdown passes from Justin Dvorak, those ThunderWolves knew this is not a time to mess with us.
16. THOSE KANSAS STUDENTS WHO STORMED THE FIELD IRONICALLY AFTER A 55-6 WIN OVER FCS RHODE ISLAND THAT ENDED A 15-GAME LOSING STREAK AFTER AN 0-12 SEASON IN 2015. As say we connoisseurs of ironic field-stormings, bravo.
15. THE MIGHTY SPIDERS FROM RICHMOND. What a fine job on the road, not allowing Virginia the upset.
14. THE MIGHTY COOPER KUPP FROM YAKIMA. The Eastern Washington senior receiver who just caught 12 passes for 206 yards in a large win over Washington State averages 124 receiving yards per game in his 40-game career. Just think, you have a game where you catch, say, six for 100, and people wonder what’s wrong with you.
13. THE ONRUSHING DESHONE KIZER. Against Texas, Notre Dame’s quarterback made some throws so big-league that you could see him in the big league, or in the crowded Heisman conversation, if only Notre Dame players ever got any breaks.
12. UNITED STATES MILITARY ACADEMY. Did anyone notice that, off a 2-10 season, on Friday night, when nobody really notices anything, Army just went on the road, rushed for 329 yards and beat by 28-13 the freshly excellent program at Temple?
11. MICHIGAN AT OHIO STATE. That game is 82 days away. I might start tailgating now.
10. THE GRAND EXPERIMENT OF FOOTBALL AT BRISTOL MOTOR SPEEDWAY. When Virginia Tech plays Tennessee on Saturday night, the keys will include which team plays better defense in Turn 3.
9. HERE’S NICK CHUBB, AGAIN. The Georgia running back, who left us midstream with that galling injury last year, coaxed such a range of emotions with his 222 yards against North Carolina: happiness for him, pity for those tackling him.
8. HERE’S J.T. BARRETT, AGAIN. What a sight.
7. IS TEXAS BACK? Not yet.
6. IT’S SOUTH ALABAMA. Hey, the program that toppled Mississippi State as a 28-point underdog started football only seven years ago, when it went 7-0, with wins over Hargrave Military Academy, Army Prep School, Georgia Military College, Louisburg, Fork Union Military Academy, Milford Academy and Huntingdon College. If people want to sneer that it has a lot of new fans, that’s not really an insult.
5. THE SPURNED OC’S CLUB. On the same night offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin got a game ball after Alabama beat the school that fired him, Southern Mississippi offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson oversaw 520 total yards against a Kentucky that fired him, and a nation agreed that people shouldn’t play against people they fired.
4. “IF YOU WANT TO KNOW THE TRUTH OF IT, I WASN’T PLEASED WITH HOW WE PLAYED.” That quote from Nick Saban, following No. 1 Alabama’s 52-6 win over Southern California, referred to one night, yet told the story of an entire decade.
3. THE HOUSTON CULTURE. It has congealed into something ferocious under second-year Coach Tom Herman, and it’s hard to congeal something when residing in a city that’s actually a gigantic steam room.
2. THE NEBRASKANS. For decades, Nebraska fans have contended they have something special there. In the tribute to the late punter Sam Foltz, the thing with the voluntary delay-of-game penalty for the 10 men on the field, they had uncommonly beautiful evidence.
1. MIDSHIPMAN MALCOLM PERRY. If you just played the junior-varsity game the night before, and you start the varsity game in the stands in your dress whites, and then they come get you mid-game to play, so you get dressed into your football uniform, and then you rush seven times for 30 yards, yeah, you’re No. 1.