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Eye on the Nation: Separation Saturday Part I

Three top-10 teams fell, and shake ups were a plenty this week in college football.

NCAA Football: Texas at Oklahoma Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

And a five, six, seven, eight.

The landscape for college football got a little shaken up in Week 6, as Oklahoma, LSU and Auburn— all AP Top 10 programs— took a loss this weekend.

The Sooners rallied from 21-down in the fourth quarter, only to lose on a field goal with nine seconds left in regulation from the foot of Dicker the Kicker. The Sooners’ defeat may have been foreshadowed a couple of weeks ago, when they nearly lost to Army at home. On the flipside, Texas, who lost to Maryland in their opening game, is sitting at No. 9 in the country after the upset of OU.

As Saturday wore on, more wild stuff happened— with the SEC leading the way. Joe Burrow threw two interceptions in a loss at Florida, giving the LSU Tigers their first loss of the season. Just three weeks ago, the second half heroics of Burrow, an Ohio State transfer, guided the Bayou Bengals over Auburn. Now, LSU is No. 13. While they aren’t out of the title picture just yet, life won’t get any easier; Georgia, Alabama, and a season finale at Texas A&M are still on the slate for Ed Orgeron’s program.

Speaking of Auburn, they were nipped by the Mississippi State Bulldogs in Starkville, Miss. on Saturday. These Tigers, who already defeated a top-10 Washington program in the opening week, have been dealt two road losses before the midway point of October. LSU got Auburn on a game-winning field goal as time expired, but Miss. State absolutely worked Auburn.

The Bulldogs had 349 yards on the ground compared to AU’s 90. On third down, the Tigers went 3-of-14, and never scored a touchdown. The Bulldogs of Starkville aren’t just a fluky team; in the latest AP Poll, their 4-2 record was rewarded with a No. 24 ranking. The College Football Playoff is out of the question for Auburn, and a repeat crown in the SEC West has basically flatlined, too. If Auburn were to somehow when the West, they’d have to beat A&M, Alabama and Georgia, with the latter two on the road. That’s an incredibly hard ask for any squad, let alone one that’s suffered two losses in the first six weeks of the season.

Notre Dame, the No. 6 team entering the weekend, looked mortal in the first half against Virginia Tech, but pulled away easily after intermission. The Fighting Irish escaped Blacksburg, Va. with a win, and carry on as an unbeaten for another week.

Separation started between contenders and pretenders, and at the same time, the stresses of the season have begun to show.

Kentucky, my personal Cinderella of the season to this point, was No. 13 before entering a road game with Texas A&M. A win in College Station, combined with the craziness already seen this weekend, would almost surely put them in the top-10. This game had a little bit of everything: The Aggies getting the ball to bounce their way, and the Wildcats getting a turnover when they absolutely needed it.

In the end, though, Kentucky suffered their first loss of the season by way of overtime. They are a 5-1 squad, but a loss like this could snowball them out of the Top 25 in just a few weeks’ time.

Next, let’s look at what’s happened to Stanford.

After losing to Notre Dame last week, the Cardinal fell again on Saturday night. #Pac12AfterDark claimed another victim this week, and has left the Pac-12 in chaos. Colorado is the leader in the South, but back-to-back road games with USC and Washington could spell trouble.

Washington, on the other hand, is going into Autzen Stadium to face Oregon this weekend. The loser of that game is effectively out of the national title picture, as they’ll have two losses. The playoff hopes of a conference rest on either Washington or Colorado, but with the way things have shaken out in the first six weeks, the Pac-12 being left out of the CFP looks more and more likely every week.

Washington is the best bet, as head coach Chris Petersen has guided the Huskies to the playoff before. Colorado and Oregon have head coaches that haven’t been in the same position as Petersen/the Huskies. If either the Buffaloes or Ducks get into November as either unbeaten or one-loss, can they survive the pressure that comes with being a Playoff contender?

This season won’t be as crazy as 2007 (will it?), but y’all better buckle up. Next weekend, ESPN’s “College GameDay” will be in Ann Arbor, Mich., for the Michigan-Wisconsin game. The loser of that game is out of the playoff picture, and for UM, a loss pretty much guarantees that their ceiling in the Big Ten East is runner-up. The Badgers have a baaad loss to BYU on the résumé, and they’ll need to win out just to have a shot at making a semifinal in either the Cotton Bowl or Orange Bowl.

Alabama looks like the only, truly safe team in college football right now, but they will have to play Georgia if chalk prevails from here. Ohio State certainly controls its own destiny, but No. 4 Clemson has looked shaky at best, thanks to their ever-evolving quarterback situation.

Everyone else is scrambling for the remaining playoff seats, and it’ll only get tougher from here on out. We just turned the calendar to October, and things look murkier than when we started in August.

The first “Separation Saturday” as occurred, but they’ll be another one— and maybe even another one after that. This is the college football version of the “Hunger Games.”

May the odds be in your team’s favor.