Forty names, games, teams and minutiae making news in college football (Caffeine sold separately to understandably bored and depressed Pittsburgh fans) :
THE CURRENT CAPITAL OF COLLEGE FOOTBALL
Where is the game hottest and most relevant right now? The state of Oklahoma, where two teams (and their quarterbacks) are rolling.
Oklahoma (11) and Oklahoma State (12) put the O in offense: they rank second and third (Sooners then Cowboys) in the nation in yards per play; third and fourth (Cowboys then Sooners) in yards per game; and, among teams that have thrown 100 or more passes, first and second (Sooners then Cowboys) in pass efficiency.
If Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield (13) isn’t your choice for early Heisman Trophy frontrunner, then maybe Oklahoma State quarterback Mason Rudolph (14) is. Mayfield is second nationally in efficiency – a category he led last year – but Rudolph is coming off a staggering bombardment of Pittsburgh: 423 passing yards and five touchdowns in the first half alone.
If 33-year-old prodigy Lincoln Riley of Oklahoma isn’t your choice for early national Coach of the Year, then maybe Oklahoma State Mullet Man Mike Gundy is. They both have their programs operating somewhere near peak efficiency at this juncture: the Sooners have not trailed in the fourth quarter yet this season, despite a trip to Ohio State; the Cowboys have not trailed for a second in 2017 against softer competition.
You can guess where all this is leading: Bedlam. The annual grudge match between the two rivals is Nov. 4, earlier than usual but perhaps providing some cushion before a potential rematch in the Big 12 championship game Dec. 2. (A game that still is not a good idea, in The Dash’s estimation.) The location will be T. Boone Pickens Stadium. There are some land mines along the way – TCU is playing well, Texas will be a dangerous underdog, nobody likes going to West Virginia – but it could be the biggest Saturday Stillwater has ever seen.
FLORIDA: THE FORGOTTEN STATE
Until Feleipe Franks put a charge into things with that Hail Mary heave in The Swamp Saturday, the former capital of college football had become easy to overlook. Canceled games, big losses and missing players had been the primary news coming out of the Sunshine State.
Florida (15) was thumped by Michigan in the season opener without 10 suspended players, including leading rusher Jordan Scarlett and leading receiver Antonio Callaway. Then the Gators’ second game against Northern Colorado was canceled by Hurricane Irma. They still were without Scarlett and Callaway Saturday against Tennessee, and their offense was a special kind of putrid most of that game – but they pulled it out at the very end. Now Florida has a chance to do what it does best – crush Kentucky’s hopes and dreams, something the Gators have accomplished 30 straight times. But this one won’t be easy, and it will be on the road. Put Florida on upset alert.
Florida State (16) and Miami (17) haven’t played since Sept. 2. Their Sept. 9 games were wiped out by Irma, and the annual rivalry matchup between the two was postponed from Saturday to Oct. 7. Last we saw of either team, the Seminoles were figuring out how to cope with a season-ending injury to quarterback Deondre Francois and the Hurricanes were posting a nondescript victory over Bethune-Cookman. There will be legitimate curiosity to see what both look like Saturday after three weeks off – Florida State against North Carolina State and Miami against Toledo.
All that being said, don’t sleep on undefeated South Florida (18). The Bulls take a while to get going (outscored 25-16 in the first quarter this year) but then they’re all business (outscoring opponents 104-37 the last three quarters). Quarterback Quinton Flowers is Lamar Jackson Lite, dangerous both running and throwing, and the Bulls are tied for third nationally in turnover margin at plus-six (their eight interceptions rank second in the nation). Charlie Strong inherited a good team from Willie Taggart and the transition has been smooth thus far. (Blocked kicks and excessive penalties aside.)
TENNESSEE: THE SURPRISE STATE
There are two undefeated FBS teams in the state, and neither has orange in their color scheme. Salute the two that are doing good work thus far:
Memphis (19) is one of the few teams nationally with a 300-yard rushing game (against Louisiana-Monroe) and a 300-yard passing game (against UCLA in a huge win Saturday). Dash colleague Pete Thamel wrote a nice (and prescient) story last week on Tigers quarterback Riley Ferguson, but don’t overlook another great success story in wide receiver Anthony Miller. The former walk-on now has 153 career catches for 2,326 yards, and should become Memphis’ all-time leading receiver if he stays healthy. He caught nine for 185 yards and two touchdowns against the Bruins.
Vanderbilt (20) is 3-0 for the first time since 2011, James Franklin’s first season. The Commodores are doing it the opposite way from Memphis, with defense. That is coach Derek Mason’s calling card, and it has made his team progressively tougher to beat in his four seasons in Nashville. Vandy leads the SEC in total defense and scoring defense, allowing just 13 points in three games and giving up just one play of longer than 30 yards. Linebacker Charles Wright, an emerging star, has racked up six sacks this year after two seasons of modest productivity.
More from Yahoo Sports:
• Fans prove the NFL made a big mistake moving to Los Angeles
• Pat Forde: College football coaches on the hot seat, along with ADs
• Chiefs’ star could be first player fined under new NFL rules
• Jeff Passan: The American League is about to descend into chaos