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Saturday Lessons: October 3

This year, it's never a bad week to have a bye.

Four more previously undefeated teams went down this weekend, some in spectacular fashion. Houston lost to UTEP by three scores despite gaining 664 yards and getting 42 first downs. Texas A&M lost by nearly 30 to Arkansas despite outgaining the Hogs and running 17 more plays. Michigan went down to a Michigan State team that had failed to beat anyone of note until then. UCLA went down to Stanford, but that wasn't that big a shock.

Other unbeaten teams got pushed hard by their opponents, like Iowa, LSU, and Wisconsin. Meanwhile, undefeated Florida, Texas, TCU, Missouri, and Kansas all were idle. You really can't complain about getting a week off this season.

Kentucky might be really good if it wasn't so charitable.

The Wildcats football team once again performed a comedy of errors, showering Alabama with personal foul penalties and turnovers. A fumble return for a touchdown was the first of three consecutive scores off of turnovers that allowed Alabama to break the game open in the second and third quarters, but before that, UK was more than up to the task of staring down one of the nation's elite. A pair of 10+ play drives for field goals in the first quarter left the Cats down just one heading into that fateful second quarter.

Kentucky looked much more comfortable against Alabama's conventional offensive attack than it did against Florida's option, and they were able to get some late game scores on the Tide's defense that they weren't able to get on the Gators. Greg McElroy had a modest day, but with UK shooting itself in the foot and Mark Ingram rushing to a career day, more wasn't necessary. This year is all about survive and advance now, and that's exactly what Bama did.

Speaking of "survive and advance..."

That's all you can really say LSU did against Georgia. The Tigers couldn't turn a dominant first half into anything more than a 6-0 lead, and they came out after halftime and promptly lost 11 yards for the entire third quarter. The word I had for most of this game in the game thread was "forgettable," and it seems prescient now that no one much cares about what happened before the final three minutes. The twin unsportsmanlike conduct penalties benefited LSU more, as they have the far better return man in Trindon Holliday, but LSU probably should have won the game anyway.

Bizarre penalties aside, I came away feeling like these teams weren't that far apart, even if LSU dominated the game statistically. Georgia at least did itself the favor of not wasting many yards, as a quick check of the drive chart shows 100 yards gained on nine non-scoring drives and 139 gained on the two drives that yielded points. Clearly the UGA's problem was being too disciplined. When the Bulldogs commit seven or fewer penalties this year, they are 1-2 and average 14.3 points per game; when the commit more than that, they are 2-0 and average 46.5 points per game.

There might be something to this Auburn team.

Auburn and Tennessee didn't stage another Punt Bowl, thankfully. At least, Auburn didn't as the Tigers punted six times to Tennessee's eight. Auburn was held under 500 total yards for just the second time this season, but that was to be expected against the good but banged up Tennessee defense. However they still gave up 459 yards, a mark last year's Vol unit surrendered just once. In UT's favor, they gained 410 yards on a pretty good defense, but the moral victories for this team are quickly outpacing actual victories.

The Tigers meanwhile got a solid win that would have looked better if not for a UT touchdown on the final play of the game. Without it, the final is a 26-16 road win, a number not that far off from what Florida did to the Vols at home. The Tigers are fifth in the nation in both total offense and scoring offense despite the modest point total. They now have two SEC wins under their belt to go with a non-conference win over a Big East team. I don't think anyone could have predicted that Gene Chizik's tenure would start so nicely.

BCS busting is now down to two.

It's not just that Boise State and TCU are the only good non-AQ conference programs left without a loss. They're the only non-AQ conference teams without a loss. There's no one out there like last year's Ball State to improbably go 12-0 before going down in flames in a conference title game. This is actually a comforting fact to me since BSU and TCU being the main BCS busting candidates is one of the few preseason predictions of mine that are actually holding up (along with Oregon and not Cal being the primary contender for USC's Pac-10 crown).

That is, of course, unless you consider a Big East team going undefeated and making it into the BCS championship game a "BCS Buster," because Cincinnati and USF could still do just that. And don't lie, because now that I've mentioned it, you kind of do.

All is not well at Ole Miss.

The initial reaction for I think a lot of folks to Ole Miss's 23-7 win over Vandy was, "all right, the Rebels are back on track after beating a team they should have beaten." While the sentiment is nice, and the final score is remarkably close to LSU's 23-9 win over the same Commodore team, things aren't yet fixed in Oxford. Specifically, Jevan Snead is not playing like the second team all-SEC player he was expected to be, chucking up three interceptions and managing just seven yards a toss in the win. That'll do against another hapless Vandy team, but it'll get the team pounded into dust this week against Bama.

Arkansas is the most predictable team in the conference.

All offense, no defense. It continues, despite the oddly scored 47-19 win over Texas A&M. The Razorbacks took advantage of three turnovers on downs and two interceptions to run up such a score, but the Aggies outgained the Hogs 458-434. The Arkansas defense was good on a situational basis for sure, hence those five turnovers, but it wasn't great on a down-by-down basis. It was enough for Arkansas to overcome three turnovers of their own and pick up their first win over a I-A opponent.