Inside the Pocket: Storylines shift after Separation Saturday


Week 6 was billed as the biggest of the young college football season, and it more than delivered. In fact, it might have been one of the best ever in the sport thanks to the sheer number of great games available on television and all of the exciting plays that seemed to happen back-to-back-to-back.

As much as we love college football and the inherent craziness it features each week, few things can match the fun that goes on as the early NFL games start to come to an end on the RedZone Channel. Well, Saturday was like an overcaffeinated RedZone Channel, but all day long.

Separation Saturday was what we labeled the week, and rightfully so. There's a lot of football left to be played, but we did get a much clearer picture of where teams stand in the race for the College Football Playoff and who's not quite as good as we thought on Wednesday. With that in mind, time to play a little before and after.

Before: The Heisman Race was Marcus Mariota's to lose, but several running backs and wideouts have a shot.
After: Although Oregon was tripped up by Arizona at home in front of all to see on Thursday, Mariota's not out of the Heisman running. In fact, his play this year is the only reason the Ducks are still in the top 15. Despite bad defensive play the past two games and a terrible offensive line, Mariota still hasn't thrown an interception and has still played well despite being under siege every time he drops back to pass. That said, his reputation took a hit and it will take big games against UCLA and Stanford for him to climb back to the top of the race. The biggest surprise in the race might be the emergence of Dak Prescott, who vaulted to No. 1 in the mind of some folks after torching Texas A&M. He can solidify frontrunner status with a win over Auburn this week. Jameis Winston's chance at a repeat seems to be out the window already, and Baylor's Bryce Petty has been notably absent from this conversation.

Before: Florida State is the No. 1 team in the country.
After: The Seminoles are still the most talented team in the country, but, suffice it to say, haven't been playing like it. Yes, they captured a win over another overmatched opponent on Saturday, but things started off roughly with two turnovers on the team's first two drives. That comes after a game in which the Seminoles allowed 41 points to N.C. State, which was then shut out by Clemson and had just 156 yards of offense against the Tigers. Beating Clemson and Oklahoma State look better and better on the resume, but this team just isn't firing on all cylinders. Winston is pressing, the offensive line has some issues and the defense is not living up to its potential. There's time to get things fixed, but that showdown at Notre Dame looks increasingly like trouble.

Before: The state of Alabama was the center of the college football universe.
After: The state of Mississippi is the center of the college football universe. What a weekend for the Magnolia State as the two SEC powers that reside within its borders vaulted into the top five after a pair of wins over top six teams. We still have plenty to learn about whether both teams can keep this run up, but for now it's looking like Ole Miss and Mississippi State are ready to make a run at the division, the league and the College Football Playoff.

Before: The Big 12 will come down to Baylor at Oklahoma.
After: That still might be the case due to the league's round-robin schedule, but things won't be that simple after TCU upset what might have been the most complete team in the country entering Week 6. Gary Patterson's squads have always had a good defense, and now they have an offense to match. The Horned Frogs have a chance to really make noise nationally if they can beat Baylor on the road this week. The Bears' defense has been impressive, but the offense hasn't looked as sharp as we expected. If the Horned Frogs can get by the two powers before the middle of October, maybe they're the ones that can emerge out of the Big 12 to make a run at the playoff. If not, we could be looking at a complicated mess of tiebreakers to determine the Big 12 champ.

Before: The Pac-12 is the second-best league in the country.
After: The SEC is the clear No. 1 when it comes to conference rankings, but the losses of UCLA and Oregon have put a damper on the Pac-12 being right behind them. It shouldn't, as few teams can boast of the depth like there is out west. The bottom feeders a year ago, Cal and Colorado, look vastly improved, and the Bears are even leading the North division at the moment. Throw in surprises in the South like Arizona and even Utah and there's a lot of quality teams in the Pac-12. The problem for league commissioner Larry Scott could be that they cannibalize each other and prevent a team from making the playoff. There might not be the elite teams we thought coming into 2014, but this is still a good league.

Before: The Big Ten has no shot at the playoff.
After: Michigan State blew a big lead against an undefeated Nebraska team at home, but the Spartans are still a sneaky good team that is getting all the breaks needed to make it to the final four at the end of the year. If the Spartans keep winning and the other leagues continue to beat each other up, things might just turn out fine for Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany and company. At this point, all MSU might have to do is get past an Ohio State team that is getting better each week.

Stat of the week

Arizona's jump from unranked to No. 10 in the AP Top 25 poll is the largest in the poll's history since expanding to 25 teams in 1989. Arizona was unranked in College Football 24/7 Top 25 Power Rankings last week, but shows up at No. 13 in the poll released Sunday. Week 6 was also the only time five of the top eight in the AP poll lost.

Stats to chew on

-- Wisconsin's Melvin Gordon is now averaging 42.8 yards per carry on his first attempt of the second half. The Badgers have scored a touchdown on their first drive of the second half every single game this year

Check out the alternate college football uniforms worn during the 2014 season.

-- TCU hadn't scored more than 20 points against Oklahoma until they put up 37 on the Sooners on Saturday.

-- The longest losing streak in the country was snapped Saturday after Miami (OH) came from 41-14 down to beat UMass by one and win for the first time in 21 games.

-- Washington State quarterback Connor Halliday set the Division-I record for passing yards in a game with 734 and fell just three yards short of the overall NCAA all divisions record. He also set the FBS record for total offense and Wazzu and Cal combined for an FBS record 1,261 passing yards. Halliday and Cal's Jared Goff combined for 123 pass attempts without an interception, just six attempts shy of the FBS record. There was a point in the third quarter where the Cougars had scored four touchdowns before Cal even took an offensive snap thanks to back-to-back kick returns for a scores.

-- Michigan is 0-2 in Big Ten play for the first time since 1967.

-- ABC noted on its broadcast Saturday night that Michigan State's Mark Dantonio is now 37-0 when leading by 17 at some point in the game.

-- Marshall's Rakeem Cato has thrown a touchdown pass in 37 straight games, just one shy of the FBS record set by Russell Wilson.

-- Boise State still has never lost back-to-back Mountain West or WAC conference games.

-- There have been 11 games of 500-plus yards passing by quarterbacks this season. There were just eight all of last year. Six of the games involved a Pac-12 quarterback.

Quote of the Week

"It is never rock bottom. It is not rock bottom until the season is over. We will never reach rock bottom. We still have six games left. We are a family and we are a team. We are going to fight for each other for the rest of the season." -- Michigan receiver Devin Funchess.

Sound from Saturday

It couldn't be anything but Arizona State's Hail Mary to beat USC, which some are now labeling the Jael Mary in a nod to receiver Jaelen Strong.

Tweet of the Week

���������������������������������������� ��� KATY PERRY (@katyperry) October 4, 2014

Sideline standouts

Gold medal: Hugh Freeze, the former high school coach knocked off Alabama and has done a great job rebuilding Ole Miss.

Silver medal: Gary Patterson, who captured the biggest Big 12 win in TCU history against Oklahoma.

Bronze medal: Chuck Martin, for leading a remarkable comeback at Miami (OH) to end the nation's longest losing streak.

Pre-snap read

Auburn at Mississippi State: No rest for the Bulldogs, who have another huge SEC West showdown against the defending league champions. The Tigers' defense is better than expected, but it'll have its hands full trying to stop Dak Prescott and company. The key will come down to MSU's defense slowing down Nick Marshall through the air, however.

You can follow Bryan Fischer on Twitter at @BryanDFischer.

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