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AP Top 25 takeaways: Vols run out of magic, Houston upset

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If the first six weeks of the college football season have taught fans anything, it’s this: Never turn off a Tennessee game.

The Volunteers remained America’s most interesting college football team, though not undefeated. Navy upset the playoff race and Charlie Strong had another bad, bad day.

Thoughts, takedowns and takeaways from Week 6:

1. If you were looking forward to a couple of months of talking about whether No. 6 Houston could or should be selected for the College Football Playoff, Navy just ruined it for you. The dream is not quite dead for the Cougars, but it is on life support.

2. Best-case scenario for Houston: 12-1 with an American Athletic Conference championship game victory against a USF team with only one loss coming in. Oklahoma wins the Big 12. Louisville, which plays at Houston in November, doesn’t lose another game. Could that resume be good enough to get Houston into the playoff if a bunch of Power Five conference teams finish the regular season with multiple losses?

3. The other big winner with Houston losing: No. 19 Boise State and Western Michigan. Both those unbeaten Broncos will be competing with the Cougars for the Group of Five’s automatic bid to a New Year’s Six Bowl.

4. Because this is college football, somewhere there is at least one Houston fan complaining that Tom Herman is all hype and just might not be the guy to get the Cougars over the top.

5. Speaking of Herman, let’s talk Texas.

6. Charlie Strong, a former defensive coordinator, took over those duties at Texas this week. The Longhorns allowed 672 yards in a loss to Oklahoma , the third consecutive game of more than 500 and five yards shy of the most the Sooners have ever gained against Texas. So who gets replaced now?

7. At some point the negativity around a program can become so overwhelming, success seems impossible. Texas seems very close to reaching that point.

8. How will No. 9 Tennessee have anything left for No. 1 Alabama next week after emotional rallies against Florida, Georgia and now Texas A&M? The Vols couldn’t complete the deal against the Aggies.

9. Hard to see the Vols beating the Crimson Tide in Knoxville, but chances are decent it is entertaining.

10. Alabama is so good it is driving fans of other teams a little crazy.

11. Texas A&M had been 5-0 each of the last three seasons, but couldn’t get to 6-0. The Aggies now have a week off before playing at Alabama with house money. Trevor Knight, who accounted for five touchdowns against the Vols, does have a history of success against the Crimson Tide. Small sample size, but still.

12. Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh said he wasn’t trying to give Jabrill Peppers a chance to shine in his home state of New Jersey, but there was no doubt the prime-time blowout of Rutgers was the do-it-all star’s opportunity to get some Heisman Trophy traction.

13. Harbaugh called Peppers the finest player in the country, said the junior “in my humble opinion” looked like a Heisman winner, and when asked if he could ever remember a more versatile player than Peppers the coach came up empty at first. Then it dawned on him. “Maybe Jim Thorpe. That’s a good comparison.”

14. It was easy to see what was coming between No. 5 Washington and Oregon, but still it was worse than expected. The Ducks can only hope this was the bottom.

15. At the midway point of the season, the College Football Playoff favorites are clear: Alabama, Clemson, Washington and the winner of the Ohio State-Michigan game.

16. No. 10 Miami lost a heartbreaker to No. 23 Florida State . It came down to a blown kick. After all those wide rights and lefts, Bobby Bowden had to be smiling.

17. Is Gus Malzahn off the hot seat at Auburn after the Tigers crushed Mississippi State? Things look good at 4-2 heading into an off week, but ahead is No. 16 Arkansas, road games at No. 14 Mississippi and Georgia, and of course, the Iron Bowl. That 4-2 could still turn into 6-6.

18. Maybe the most surprising result of the weekend happened in Chapel Hill, North Carolina: Virginia Tech 34, North Carolina 3. The Tar Heels came in averaging 7.47 yards per play, fifth best in the nation. Bud Foster‘s defense held UNC to 2.11 yards per play and eight first downs.

19. Ohio State held Indiana to 4.13 yards per play and had a key fourth-and-1 stop near the goal line in the fourth quarter in the latest smothering defensive performance by the rebuilt Buckeyes’ defense. Nice resume builder for new defensive coordinator Greg Schiano, who is hoping to land another head coaching job.

20. Thanks to Sam Darnold , the thought of USC winning the Pac-12 South doesn’t sound so crazy.

21. SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey said that the LSU-Florida game “needs to be played. ” At some point Sankey is going to have to tell the schools that and make this decision instead of waiting for them to compromise.

22. Kind of a weird way to get a signature victory , but North Carolina State coach Dave Doeren will take it.

23. BYU running back Jamaal Williams needs more attention. He had 163 yards and two touchdowns against Michigan State and is averaging 144.5 per game with 10 touchdowns. The Spartans have lost three straight for the first time since 2009.

No. 24. Kansas still has not won a Big 12 game under second year coach David Beatty, but the Jayhawks are showing enough signs of improvement to hand the title of worst Power Five team to Rutgers. Or maybe it’s Illinois? We’ll find out next week when the Illini visit the Scarlet Knights.

25. Are we sure Tennessee hasn’t figured out a way to pull out that Texas A&M game?

Republished with permission from the Associated Press.

Bob Sparks is President of Ramos and Sparks Group, a Tallahassee-based business and political consulting firm. During his career, he has directed media relations and managed events for professional baseball, served as chief spokesperson for the Republican Party of Florida as well as the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and the Attorney General of Florida. After serving as Executive Deputy Chief of Staff for Governor Charlie Crist, he returned to the private sector working with clients including the Republican National Committee and political candidates in Japan. He lives in Tallahassee with his wife, Sue and can be reached at [email protected]

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