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5 Questions 

Q. What impact do the losses by Oregon and UCLA have on the playoff picture?

In general, Oregon's loss creates the potential for a wild scramble for playoff hopefuls after Georgia and the Michigan-Ohio State winner on Nov. 26. TCU should remain No. 4 when the rankings come out on Tuesday, but the Horned Frogs continue to look vulnerable. Even if TCU wins out, the loss by Oregon— No. 6 last week—opens the possibility for a second SEC team or the Michigan-Ohio State loser to land a playoff spot.

More specifically, the Oregon loss—combined with UCLA's surprising home loss to Arizona—leaves the Pac-12 with just one playoff hopeful in 9-1 USC. But the Trojans face UCLA on Saturday at the Rose Bowl, finish the regular season with resurgent Notre Dame at home and then will face a test in the Pac-12 title game. Are they good enough defensively to get through that? Offensively, they are. They will also need some help after being ranked No. 7 last week, since the six teams ahead of them all won on Saturday.

Q. We'll ask this again: Shouldn't first-year Connecticut Jim Mora be getting some serious consideration for national Coach of the Year honors?

Saturday's stunning 36-33 upset of No. 19-ranked Liberty was the latest minor coaching miracle in a season that no one—and we literally mean no one—saw coming. The Huskies are 6-5 and bowl eligible with a game at 3-6 Army on Saturday. A victory there would give UConn its highest victory total in 13 years.

But some perspective is needed: Prior to Mora's arrival, UConn was a combined 4-32 in the three prior years, including 1-11 last year. As an independent, the road to a bowl game is a narrow one—but not impossible. It just requires some help with teams not qualifying for a bowl to fill conference tie-ins.

Q. Is it too late to throw Michael Penix Jr.'s name into the Heisman Trophy mix?

Saturday's performance in the 37-34 win at Oregon could be his signature Heisman moment, with the lefty throwing for 408 yards and two touchdowns, including a 62-yard scoring pass with 3:07 to play to force a 34-34 tie. The national leader in passing yards, Penix was the best player on the field in a game brimming with talent. Tennessee's Hendon Hooker was dazzling again, Georgia's Stetson Bennett turned in another excellent-but-understated performance, as he usually does, Michigan RB Blake Corum could be headed to an 1,800-yard rushing season for an unbeaten team and North Carolina QB Drake Maye continues to put up dazzling statistics (he did it again on Saturday) in the win at Wake Forest as the Tar Heels improved to 9-1. But Penix deserves to be in the conversation.

Q. Since the conference expansion frenzy began has there been a worse addition to a Power 5 conference than Nebraska to the Big Ten?

Let's review: With a 3-7 football record this year, the Cornhuskers are headed for a sixth straight losing season. The men's basketball team has a stranglehold on last place in the conference—24-65 overall the past three years, 9-50 in Big Ten play over that time—the academics are nothing special and the TV market (a driving factor in Big Ten expansion) is not even in the Top 50. Nebraska is the only Big Ten school that is not a member of the AAU, a consortium of 65 research universities, having had its membership revoked in 2011. That's the first school to have its membership revoked in a century.

Q. What is it about Vanderbilt ending lengthy SEC losing streaks against Kentucky? 

The Commodores were on a 26-game SEC losing streak before Saturday's 24-21 upset at Kentucky, thanks to Mike Wright's eight-yard touchdown pass to Will Sheppard with 32 seconds to play. Wright passed for 184 yards and a TD and rushed for 126 and a score.

In 2003, Vandy snapped a 23-game SEC losing streak by beating -- yes, Kentucky.

Who's Hot

LSU LB Harold Perkins, Jr.    

The freshman dominated in the Tigers' 13-10 victory at Arkansas that clinched the SEC West, with his strip sack/forced fumble of QB Cade Fortin with 1:17 to play ending the Razorbacks' final hopes. Perkins forced two fumbles, had four sacks and had eight tackles in a Lawrence Taylor-esque performance.

Miami S Kamren Kinchen

The struggling Hurricanes needed a boost and got one from the sophomore, who became the first Miami player since Randy Phillips in 2006 to have three interceptions in a game. One was a 99-yard pick six.

North Carolina QB Drake Maye

Another dazzling performance by the freshman in the 36-34 victory over Wake Forest: 31-of-49 for 448 yards and three TDs (with no interceptions) and 71 rushing yards and a scoring run.

Who's Not

Virginia QB Brennan Armstrong

Cavs held promise entering the year after Armstrong passed for 4,449 yards and 31 TDs a season ago. In Saturday's 37-7 loss to Pitt, Armstrong's first two pass attempts went for pick sixes and he was sacked eight times, finishing with minus 69 yards rushing. He has 12 interceptions this year with seven TD passes.

Maryland QB Tualia Tagovailoa

A promising start has turned into a nightmare season since he returned from injury, managing just 74 passing yards with minus 45 rushing yards in a 30-0 loss at Penn State. The past two games he is a combined 21-of-45 for 151 yards with 12 sacks and just one TD pass.

Oklahoma State QB Gunnar Gundy

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Imagine having to be yanked in your first career start in the third quarter by your dad for being ineffective. Gundy was on Saturday, with injured Spencer Sanders bailing out the Cowboys in a 20-14 win. Gundy was 5-of-12 with two interceptions and a TD pass before getting the hook from dad Mike Gundy, OSU's head coach.

On the Rise

New Mexico State

Aggies are 4-5, with their first three-game winning streak since 2017, following a 51-14 rout of Lamar. The school has won more than four games just once since 2004 (going 7-6 in 2017) but has a daunting finish with Missouri and Liberty left.

 Notre Dame

Irish (7-3 now) had to scratch and claw in a 35-32 win against Navy but won their fourth straight after a disastrous start to the season. Lowly Boston College is next, followed by a game against USC that could impact the playoff rankings.


Cowboys have not been deterred by the ugliest unforms in college football, improving to 7-3 overall with their fourth straight victory—14-13 at Colorado State. The program has not won more than eight games since 1996 but getting there won't be easy. Next up is Boise, with the Mountain Division of the MWC at stake, following by a game against West Division leader Fresno.

Who's Not


Once 6-0, the free-falling Orange have dropped four straight games after managing all of 142 yards of offense in a 38-3 loss to Florida State. Syracuse has been outscored 83-6 the past two games.

Texas A&M

Imagine paying Jimbo Fisher eight gazillion dollars a year and having him locked up until the year 2089 and having to watch the dreadful product he has put on the field this year. Aggies were ranked No. 6 to start the season and are 3-6 after managing 215 yards of offense in a 13-10 loss to Auburn.  


Bears suffered their sixth straight loss and were only marginally competitive in a 38-10 defeat at the hands of Oregon State. Can't wait for Saturday's rivalry game between 3-7 Cal and 3-7 Stanford.

Special Mention

Can't ignore several special performances and achievements from Saturday: Tennessee set a school record with 724 yards of total offense, scoring 38 unanswered points, in a 66-24 rout of Missouri . . . Troy LB Carlton Martial, a sixth-year senior, became the NCAA's career leader in tackles, with his 546th in a 10-9 win over Army . . . Emmett Morehead's two-yard touchdown pass with 14 seconds left gave Boston College its first win over a ranked team in eight years in a 21-20 upset of N.C. State . . . Temple freshman QB E J Warner, the son of former NFL MVP Kurt Warner, did his part in a 43-36 loss to Houston, passing for 486 yards and three TDs . . . Washington PK Peyton Henry had the game-winning field goal on a 43-yarder with 51 seconds left in the Huskies' 37-34 upset of Oregon. In 2018, his 37-yard miss on the final play of the game led to overtime, where Oregon won, 30-27 . . . South Carolina lost three fumbles on its first three possessions of the second half—by three different players—in a 38-6 loss to Florida. . . .Virginia Tech has lost seven straight games for the first time since 1951 and could be headed to its first eight-loss season since 1991.

Playing forward (all times Eastern)

Illinois at Michigan, noon, ABC 

Illini are reeling but 10-0 Michigan needs to stay focused with Ohio State looming next week.

TCU at Baylor, noon, FOX

Hard to take Baylor too seriously after Saturday's dreadful performance, but it's a rivalry game, the Bears can be dangerous at times and 10-0 TCU comes off an emotional win at Texas.

USC at UCLA, 8 p.m., FOX

The game lost some luster with UCLA's loss to Arizona, but USC has its eyes on crashing the playoffs and needs to win out to have a chance to do that.

Utah at Oregon, 10:30 p.m., ESPN

Can the Ducks rebound after a tough home loss to Washington? The sorting out process continues for the Pac-12 championship game matchup.

Tom Luicci covered college football for The Star-Ledger of Newark, N.J., from 1979-2014.