25. THOSE SUSPENDED REFS. With the referees from the Central Michigan-Oklahoma State error about to spend two Saturdays idle, you wonder what idle refs do on a Saturday, and whether it frightens others when they walk around their neighborhoods miked up.
24. THOSE SUSPENDED REPLAY OFFICIALS. They could have advised the officials of their error and prevented the Central Michigan play that never should have happened, and as part of the penalty for helping enable an illegal but mind-boggling play, they will not get a bowl assignment, and this is so glum that at least somebody ought to send them a bowl swag bag.
23. THE 0-2 NORTHWESTERN WILDCATS. They have come off a 10-win season to lose at home to Western Michigan and Illinois State. These are the moments when, occasionally, athletic programs begin to tout graduation rates.
22. SCORE OF THE WEEK: ARIZONA STATE 68, TEXAS TECH 55. As Paola Boivin wrote in the Arizona Republic, Sparky the Sun Devil did so many push-ups that “you may want to check his locker for PEDs.” It’s inexcusable that the Pacific-12 Conference has no mascot testing program in place.
21. SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA AT NO. 7 STANFORD. The Trojans come off their 45-7 win over Utah State, which came off their 52-6 loss to Alabama, which suggested that the continuation of their football program is an act of courage.
20. TEXAS FOOTBALL. The Longhorns followed their win over Notre Dame with a no-letdown 41-7 win over UTEP and knew that, as they reached 2-0 with such excitement around them, their fans will continue to demonstrate the kind of extreme patience for which they are widely renowned.
19. MY COLORADO SCHOOL OF MINES OREDIGGERS. At No. 12 in Division II, we beat New Mexico Highlands, 54-14, as our petroleum-engineering-major quarterback (Justin Dvorak) threw five touchdown passes, four to our metallurgical-and materials-engineering-major receiver (Brody Oliver). One thing I love about our team is it gets me reading about metallurgy like nothing else in life.
18. HAPPINESS IN SALT LAKE CITY. Because it stopped Brigham Young quarterback Taysom Hill’s two-point conversion with 18 seconds left, Utah has a sixth straight win in that particular seething series. And the idea that such mirth can result from the stoppage of a two-point conversion reinforces that we are all insane.
17. HAPPINESS IN PITTSBURGH. They renewed a rivalry, and at the end, a Pitt cornerback, Ryan Lewis, made a saving interception against Penn State and said, in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, “As soon as I caught the ball and the crowd started erupting, I didn’t even know where I was.” And the idea that there was a 16-year hiatus in this rivalry reinforces that we are all insane.
16. THE GREG WARD JR. QUESTION. No. 6 Houston plays a potentially tricky thing at Cincinnati on Thursday night, five days after the quarterback sat out against Lamar with a shoulder injury. The fact that this matters nationally is yet another tribute to No. 6 Houston.
15. NO. 1 (FCS) NORTH DAKOTA STATE AT NO. 13 (FBS) IOWA. This fascinating gem doesn’t even begin to resemble the usual FCS-FBS motif where the FCS team comes in to serve as yard mulch and collect the check. You wonder how these schools lapsed into such a flagrant violation of our cultural standards.
14. SEATTLE! Things are happening again at Washington, which graces the top 10 for the first time in 15 years, and where Coach Chris Petersen traveled last Friday night to see a top offensive line recruit at a high school game in nearby Tacoma by helicopter, with Adam Jude of the Seattle Times writing, “Petersen said the helicopter ride was less about making a flashy statement and more about time-management.” What a lost opportunity; Jim Harbaugh would have skydived in.
13. BLESS SCOTT FROST. Central Florida’s new coach boldly risked derision when he said his team “outhit” Michigan in a 51-14 loss, and that there “was no doubt who was hitting harder,” and that while UCF neared 300 rushing yards, Michigan “had to run a fly sweep in the fourth quarter to get to 100.” We should commend such candor while still discouraging any denigrations of the fly sweep.
12. NO. 12 MICHIGAN STATE AT NO. 18 NOTRE DAME. We’re nearing the 50-year mark since they played as No. 1 and No. 2, to a 10-10 tie, back in those primordial days when if two teams tied, nobody knew what to do about it, so everybody just left and went home.
11. THAT FAMILIAR OFFSEASON SENTENCE, “OHIO STATE RETURNS ONLY SIX STARTERS.” Everyone is beginning to realize that the next sentence should have gone: “But those are really good starters.”
10. THE AP POLL VOTERS OF THE 21ST CENTURY. Twentieth-century tradition had it that if you won, you pretty much kept your spot, no matter whom you beat, but nowadays they punish unsightly wins, dropping Clemson from No. 2 to No. 5, Georgia from No. 9 to No. 16 and Tennessee from No. 9 to No. 17 the week before. Never let anyone peddle you the myth that life was better back then.
9. NO. 3 OHIO STATE AT NO. 14 OKLAHOMA. Let’s see whether the AP voters can go one further and, if Oklahoma loses but impresses, keep it lodged at No. 14, or maybe even move it up a notch. This kind of reward for such outstanding September scheduling would make America freshly great.
8. KEEP AN EYE ON SAN DIEGO. The nation’s leading rusher (189.5 yards per game) is San Diego State’s Donnel Pumphrey, who gained 281 yards in a win over California, broke Marshall Faulk’s career school rushing record and fields questions about his size (5 feet 9, 180 pounds) with such pearls as, “If you play this game of football, you have to be a dog.” You just really can’t get any better than that.
7. KEEP ANOTHER EYE ON LAMAR JACKSON. He starred so memorably in the last Music City Bowl — at least among those who tend to remember Music City bowls — with 226 rushing yards against Texas A&M, and now the Louisville quarterback has 13 touchdowns in two games (six passing, seven rushing) and has prompted Syracuse Coach Dino Babers to say this: “I saw him outrun contain where three guys were exactly where they were supposed to be and we should have tackled him for a two-yard loss, and he runs all the way to the other side for an eight-yard gain and runs out of bounds — and you can’t get mad at them.” In this season rife with stars, the Heisman people could wind up inviting 10 finalists, which could add extra hours onto the painful annual ESPN show, which in turn would be a travesty.
6. NO. 2 FLORIDA STATE AT NO. 10 LOUISVILLE. Yeah.
5. SCARY PIRATES. With a sixth win against the ACC since 2013 secured (by 33-30 over North Carolina State), East Carolina heads this week for the SEC and South Carolina, which just lost to Mississippi State, after which new Coach Will Muschamp said of his defense, “It’s hard to be a good defensive player if you don’t like to tackle.” Congratulations to South Carolina for this brave turn of scheduling.
4. TWENTY-SEVEN DUMP TRUCKS. After another game at Bristol Motor Speedway this weekend — East Tennessee State vs. Western Carolina — the dump trucks will come back to remove the 450 loads of rock and sand from beneath the football field. All these years of attending football games, and people never think about the indispensable role of dump trucks.
3. NO. 1 ALABAMA AT NO. 19 OLE MISS. Ole Miss has beaten Alabama twice in a row for the first time in history, upturning all known laws of physics, chemistry, math, history, physiology, religion, sociology, psychology and political science. If it happens again, you’d have to add anthropology.
2. THE THING ABOUT KALEN BALLAGE. It’s one thing to spend an American Saturday evening as a running back touching the football 15 times and scoring an NCAA-record-tying eight touchdowns.
1. THE OTHER THING ABOUT KALEN BALLAGE. It’s another thing, a No. 1 thing, to insist that your Arizona State offensive line come to the postgame news conference with you, and then to find them chairs.