And hello, South Carolina.
We all knew that college football's Week 6 was going to be a big one, and now that that fantastic slate of games is officially in the books, we know a great deal more about this season--and the teams that will play a major role in it--than we did just a few days ago.
Down in Gainesville, the Florida Gators announced their return to the ranks of the college football elite with a very impressive (and very telling) win over one-time national title contender LSU. The Tigers, who have failed to impress all season, failed once more against the Gators, and now, questions must be asked to whether this bunch is even deserving of a Top 10 ranking.
Meanwhile, up in Columbia, Steve Spurrier's South Carolina did to Georgia what Spurrier's Gators teams used to do: Embarrass the Dawgs, and put them in their place. Georgia came into this one with ambitions of challenging Alabama for SEC supremacy, but they were simply blown out of the water by a Carolina bunch that looked bigger, stronger, faster and, simply, better.
The rise of the Gamecocks and Gators--and the related fall of the Tigers and the Dawgs--was two of the biggest stories of Week 6. But they weren't the only stories--not in the least.
We'll take a look at a few others here, in our Week 6 edition of Games Worth Watching.
♦ OK, Notre Dame haters, I've got some bad news for you: The Fighting Irish are officially legit. No, the Miami team the Irish crushed on Saturday night isn't a great Miami team; indeed, it may not even be a very good Miami team. But the Irish's 41-3 beatdown over the 'Canes offered the latest evidence that this is, by far, Brian Kelly's most complete team yet. Though Kelly's bunch still isn't an elite offensive force, the defense, led by linebacker Manti T'eo, is unquestionably one of the best units in the nation. After nearly blanking a good 'Canes offense, the Irish improved their points-against average to 7.8 points per game--second-best in the nation. There are a couple big tests coming up--at home vs. Stanford, then on the road at Oklahoma in a couple weeks--but it's time to start considering the possibility that the Irish just might run the table. Believe it, folks.
♦ One team that most certainly does not have any offensive issues? The West Virginia Mountaineers, who continued to light up the scoreboard (and the stat sheet) with a thrilling 48-45 win on the road at Texas. One week after throwing for more than 600 yards in a shootout win over Baylor, 'Eers quarterback (and Heisman contender) Geno Smith returned to earth somewhat, throwing for "only" 268 yards and four touchdowns to lead an overall offensive effort that saw West Virginia rack up 460 total yards and go a perfect 5 for 5 on fourth-down conversions. It was a gutty, tough win on the road--and for that, the 'Eers should be given credit. But once again, one has to wonder if a team that routinely gives up so many points can actually make a run at the national title. I have my doubts.
♦ One of the most thrilling games of the weekend took place in Happy Valley, where Bill O'Brien's gutty (and eminently likeable) Penn State team roared back from a 28-17 deficit to knock off Northwester 39-28. Leading the way for the Nits was quarterback Matt McGloin, a kid who has endured more than his share of ups and downs at Penn State but who has, under O'Brien's tutelage, developed into one of the best passers in the Big Ten. McGloin led two key fourth-quarter touchdown drives and completed 35 of 51 passes for 282 yards and two touchdowns. He was unflappable under pressure, as well, converting several key fourth-down conversions (Penn State was 5 of 6 on fourth down on the day). It has been an awful calendar year in State College, and with Jerry Sandusky set to the sentenced on Tuesday, Penn State will once again be in the news for the scandal that nearly brought the program down. But if nothing else, this scrappy bunch has given the Penn State fans something to cheer for--and something to feel good about.