Auburn, Notre Dame escape; Arkansas falls; SEC takes hit
No. 6 Auburn escaped defeat, if not embarrassment, and No. 9 Notre Dame pulled out a wild one, but still had a huge loss.
At least the Tigers and Fighting Irish avoided being upset. No. 18 Arkansas was not so lucky.
The Tigers needed overtime to beat FCS Jacksonville State 27-20, a win that took a lot of luster off a team that came into this season as one of the favorites in the Southeastern Conference.
Following a week in which every SEC West team was ranked in the AP Top 25, and 10 SEC teams overall made it into the poll, Auburn and Arkansas gave those who believe the SEC is overrated plenty of material to talk about.
A week after throwing three interceptions against Louisville, Auburn quarterback Jeremy Johnson threw two more picks against the Gamecocks.
''We've got some growing up to do; there's no doubt about that,'' coach Gus Malzahn said.
Arkansas also has some work to do. After coach Bret Bielema criticized No. 1 Ohio State's schedule earlier in the week, the Razorbacks lost 16-12 to Toledo. The Rockets are one of the top teams in the Mid-American Conference. The Buckeyes, who were sluggish but still beat Hawaii 38-0, play two MAC contenders over the next two weeks in Northern Illinois and Western Michigan.
And then there was No. 23 Tennessee. The Volunteers, a trendy dark horse pick to win the SEC East and generally thought of as a program on the rise, blew a 17-3 fourth-quarter lead and lost 31-24 in double OT to No. 19 Oklahoma.
Score one for Big Game Bob Stoops and the Big 12.
''Of all our wins, this was maybe my favorite,'' said the Sooners' coach, who has a national championship on his resume.
Coach Butch Jones' Volunteers are still looking for a signature victory to announce their return to serious contender status.
Even with the ugly win, if Auburn can fix Johnson, all its goals are still possible.
Notre Dame can say the same, but the road will be tougher after losing quarterback Malik Zaire to a broken ankle in a 34-27 victory in Charlottesville, Virginia. Without Zaire, DeShone Kizer came off the bench and threw a 40-yard TD to Will Fuller with 12 seconds left to give Notre Dame the lead.
No doubt it was a win that Irish fans will remember forever, but losing Zaire could be a mighty blow. Kizer, a sophomore, was Notre Dame's third-string quarterback until Everett Golson transferred after spring practice. He moved into the backup role in the preseason, ahead of freshman Brandon Wimbush.
So far so good for Kizer, but Notre Dame has now lost three key players to injury: Zaire, running back Tarean Folston and defensive tackle Jarron Jones.
''Now, DeShone has to run our football team and we feel good about it,'' Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly said.
The perils of making playoff proclamations in September came to bear least year when Ohio State won the national title after an early season loss, but No. 5 Michigan State's 31-28 victory against No. 7 Oregon in East Lansing, Michigan, gives the Spartans a resume win that could go a long way come selection time.
''They all count one, they really do,'' Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio said. ''Maybe at the end of the season this pays dividends. It moves you forward when people think and talk about strength of schedule and things of that nature.''
Eventually Michigan State and Ohio State will play in November in a game that could settle the Big Ten East, the Big Ten title and maybe even a playoff spot.
Beating Oregon, though, might give the Spartans a little leeway if the matchup with the Buckeyes in Columbus, Ohio, doesn't go their way.
There's a long, long way to go, but playing out a scenario in which Michigan State goes 11-1 and Oregon wins the Pac-12, or at the very least makes it to the conference title game, is not farfetched.
The playoff selection committee is supposed to emphasize conference champions, but what happens when a conference champion is vying for a spot with a team that it has lost to in the regular season?
Two weeks into last season, the Big Ten was being pronounced out of the playoff.
Two weeks into this season, the Big Ten looks like the most likely conference to get two teams in the playoff.
Follow Ralph D. Russo at www.Twitter.com/ralphDrussoAP