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Top 25 takeaways: Vols catch a break; Jackson strikes a pose

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The fifth week of the season was supposed to provide some separation from contenders and pretenders. It certainly did in the Pac-12 North and SEC East. In the ACC Atlantic, just little.

Thoughts, takedowns and takeaways from the first college football weekend in 14 seasons with three games matching top-10 teams:

1. No. 5 Clemson won what could end up being the game of the year, but you can start engraving Lamar Jackson‘s name on the Heisman Trophy. He has played two of his three toughest opponents and been spectacular. Unless the sophomore suddenly slumps against Duke, North Carolina State, Virginia, Kentucky, etc., Jackson is primed to run away with award.

2. Reminder: No. 3 Louisville at No. 6 Houston on Nov. 17.

3. If Louisville doesn’t lose again, the Cardinals could be an interesting test case for the College Football Playoff selection committee when it comes to teams that don’t win a conference.

4. No. 11 Tennessee was the team that choked away so many close games last season. Now the Volunteers are the comeback kids. Did coach Butch Jones get smarter? Are the Volunteers learning how to win? Sometimes the breaks you don’t get in one season, you get the next season and it makes all the difference in the world.

5. The Volunteers should roll to the SEC East title from here, right? One thing to keep in mind. Tennessee plays both No. 1 Alabama and No. 9 Texas A&M (next Saturday) out of the West. That could keep Florida in the race.

6. If you watched the 23rd-ranked Gators slog around against Vanderbilt you will know that’s a long shot. Coach Jim McElwain was not about to throw back the ugly baby.

7. The Vols have the second-longest winning streak in the country at 11 games afterNo. 19 San Diego State lost at South Alabama . The Jaguars have beaten Mississippi State and San Diego State and lost twice to Sun Belt rivals.

8. It is possible that linebacker/safety/demon terror Jabrill Peppers is only the second-best player on Michigan’s defense behind cornerback Jourdan Lewis,who did Odell Beckham Jr. things against No. 8 Wisconsin.

9. Wisconsin had 13 drives againstNo. 4 Michigan. None covered more than 38 yards. Only three gained more than 20.

10. Prediction: Ohio State quarterback J.T. Barrett will be Heisman Trophy finalist.

11. Texas’ victory in week one against Notre Dame seems like years ago. Coach Charlie Strong has gotten the offense fixed but now the defense and special teams are a wreck. Strong will enter the Red River Rivalry game against Oklahoma next week much like last year, needing a victory to change the direction of the season.

12. Did LSU call dibs on Tom Herman?

13. Usually North Carolina is good for at least one intensely excruciating and painful loss during a season. It looked like the Tar Heels were all set to put it on the board against Florida State. Instead, North Carolina pulled it out and ended the Seminoles’ 22-game winning streak.

14. North Carolina’s Larry Fedora is going to be a coach other teams take a look at when the silly season kicks into high gear. Maybe Plan B for LSU.

15. The next step in the re-establishment of Washington as a national power comes next week against at Oregon. The Huskies have lost 12 straight to the Ducks and rarely have the games been close. As impressive as the beat down against Stanford was on Friday night, clearing that Oregon hurdle will mean even more to Washington fans.

16. Even though that Oregon hurdle might be more like stepping over a puddle in Seattle for the Huskies.

17. Baylor is doing its best to keep the Big 12’s playoff hopes alive, but that great escape at Iowa State still makes it difficult to see the Bears not taking a loss or two.

18. West Virginia is still unbeaten in the Big 12, too, but it feels like Oklahoma is the team to beat after winning at TCU.

19. That rebuilding year when No. 17 Michigan State takes a step back is apparently here.

20. Under-the-radar nice start for Maryland. The Terps are 4-0 after crushing Purdue.Sure, Maryland has played nothing but weak competition, but just last season the Terps were the weak the competition on other team’s schedules. Props to first-year coach DJ Durkin.

21. It is not exactly old-school option football being played by No. 15 Nebraska these days, but Cornhuskers fans have to like the way the their team is controlling the ball.Nebraska has had at least 35 minutes of possession time in its last three games.

22. They weren’t season-saving victories by any means for Southern California and LSU , but the Trojans and Tigers showed off the talent that makes them both dangerous and frustrating.

23. Not sure if Miami’s convincing victory at Georgia Tech says more about the 14th-ranked Hurricanes or the Yellow Jackets, who have now been knocked around in two straight ACC home games. After 3-9 last season, and with a new athletic director in town, another losing record puts Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson on shaky ground.

24. If you’re a Notre Dame fan, the most frustrating thing about the team’s defensive failures is that they have doomed the likely last college season of a quarterback,DeShone Kizer, who is headed toward being a high first-round NFL draft pick.

25. Rock-n-roll-kicker-taunting-the-opponent celebrations are the best celebrations.

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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