One such weekend pops up next, and it begins with the state of Texas alone. Not only will No. 6 Oklahoma (5-0) cross the line again to play No. 11 Texas (4-1) on Saturday at ungodly 11 a.m. in Dallas, and not only will the Texas State Fair present its innovative foods of arterial damage.
Not only did Texas Coach Tom Herman just say to reporters in West Virginia after a 42-31 win there: “When you play teams 60, 70, a hundred times, to me, that defines a rivalry. We don’t play any less hard against West Virginia than we do anybody else on our schedule. Obviously the team we play next week is, by and large, our biggest rival.”
Not only did Oklahoma Coach Lincoln Riley just say to reporters in Kansas after a 45-20 win there: “I like where our heads are at. I like this team. I do …”
No, the state of Texas also will stage the sound of No. 24 Texas A&M (3-2), its home den booming even more than usual with the presence of No. 1 Alabama (5-0).
And as much as people do forget Waco, do not forget Waco, where one of the genuine human beings in the game, Matt Rhule, has become that rare native New Yorker to lead Baylor — Baylor! — from dire wreckage to 5-0 this year. The freshly ranked No. 22 Bears just recorded a daydream number of sacks (six) and tackles for loss (15) in their 31-12 win at Kansas State and are set to welcome Texas Tech (3-2), which just knocked off Oklahoma State.
“We have a brotherhood like no other,” nose tackle Bravvion Roy told reporters Saturday, and in a sport where seemingly every team spends this young century self-referencing as “brothers,” that’s serious brother brio.
Just outside of Texas lies that team that ransacked Texas in Austin on Sept. 7, and what a time for No. 5 LSU (5-0) to welcome No. 7 Florida (6-0). Florida and “The Swamp” just finished sending Auburn into a woozy state of disappearance, such that Auburn Coach Gus Malzahn’s description of one false start — “The crowd got us, I guess” — could have applied to the whole afternoon.
Now Florida will take a turn as the team coping with unsympathetic noise, under the hazy lights of an LSU “valley” which claims to offer “death.”
Here’s an LSU that throws the ball around expertly, making it an LSU-plus or a frightening LSU. Quarterback Joe Burrow has a touchdown-to-interception ratio of 22-3, and Justin Jefferson, Ja’Marr Chase and Terrace Marshall Jr., already have caught 30, 23 and 20 passes for 547, 451 and 304 yards, and good grief on that. Further, the 42-6 win over Utah State Saturday shouldn’t go dismissed as something blasé, what with Utah State conducting a very good program in general.
“I mean, we had 600 yards of offense and we’re not very happy,” Burrow told reporters in Louisiana. “That tells us where we can go … You know, 42-6, 600 yards of offense, you know, last year we would have been very happy about that. But this is a new team, a new offense, and things have changed around here when you’re not happy about this performance.”
Then, with LSU’s defense spending recent weeks mired in the pinpoint scrutiny that American college towns often offer leaky defenses, especially after allowing Vanderbilt 38 points in an alleged breach of the Ten Commandments, that undefeated yet embattled unit allowed Utah State 216 yards fewer than it had in any game this year (159, a feat even given Utah State’s upgrade in opponent).
“I feel like as far as defense, we needed this,” linebacker K’Lavon Chaisson told reporters in a bizarre country. “We needed something to help establish, I feel like, to get our confidence back and get going.”
Yet the docket bulges with so much else. Southern California (3-2) will visit No. 9 Notre Dame (4-1), with the very confluence of those two sets of uniforms always a feast, especially given all the cowering scheduling out there. A curious team from No. 10 Penn State (5-0) makes a curious visit to No. 17 Iowa (4-1, after its 10-3 strife at Michigan). No. 8 Wisconsin (5-0) will welcome Michigan State (4-2, after its 34-10 strife at mighty Ohio State).
Then the really sick pups — hi — must cast glances at other places, maybe alongside other meals. If No. 20 Virginia (4-1) can win at Miami (2-3), that will make a two-week Virginian sweep of the home Hurricanes (following Virginia Tech’s win), a prospect so alien to past American life that it suggests some sort of end of time. When South Carolina (2-3) plays at No. 3 Georgia (5-0), feelings always run deep even if Gamecock hopes do not. Nebraska (4-2) goes to the giddy story developing at Minnesota (5-0), whose Rodney Smith just rushed for 211 yards at Illinois. Florida State (3-2) might take a strafing at No. 2 Clemson (5-0), but that strafing figures to tell us some truths.
And speaking of truths, Coach Sonny Dykes spoke a big one Saturday night. His second SMU team had trailed Tulsa 30-9 as the fourth quarter began. He had said of his 6-0 squad, “I knew that our players, the buy-in was so much better Year 2 than it was Year 1.” He had said, “We tell our guys all the time that confidence, really, is preparation.”
And as his fresh American Athletic Conference threat with a No. 21 ranking, its howling history, its death penalty tucked back in there, reveled in its 43-37, triple-overtime win, Dykes said: “If you’re ever going to play for, or coach for, a championship football team, you’ve got to win some games like this. That’s just part of the road to a championship, winning some games that, you know, at some point in the game, you kind of think, ‘Well, this is not going to go our way.’ ”
A thousand coaches and the current king, Clemson’s Dabo Swinney, could tell you likewise. It’s among the many reasons so many of us, knowing we suddenly might find ourselves gripped helplessly by an SMU-Tulsa game, commit to an autumn series of poor Saturday health choices. Anyway, SMU will not play this weekend, proving there’s actually such a thing as too much.