1. That the SEC was vastly overrated this year. It's funny to think that just a few months ago, people were asking me whether the SEC would ever relinquish its spot as the nation's preeminent conference. If you've been reading me for any period of time, you know I preach that conference strength is cyclical (see: preseason preview) and that every league has its ups and downs from year to year. The SEC has two fantastic teams this year in Alabama and Florida. But remember when there were five SEC teams in the Top 10? Umm ... not anymore.
First Auburn and Tennessee fell to pieces. Now we're seeing with each passing week that Georgia and LSU aren't what we thought they'd be. For all the Dawgs' talent, their injuries (and perhaps their damaged psyche from the Florida game) have caught up to them. For the second straight week, Georgia struggled to beat an inferior foe on the road, this time 17-13 at Auburn. Then there was LSU, falling behind 31-3 on its home field to ... Troy. Most telling of all: South Carolina, blown off the field at Florida, may still wind up in a New Year's bowl -- by default.
2. That Vanderbilt is going to a bowl! At least there's one great story amongst the SEC's mediocre middle. At long last, the Commodores' 26-year bowl drought is over. With a 31-24 win at Kentucky, Bobby Johnson's team broke a four-game losing streak and improved to 6-4. They should make it seven next week against woeful Tennessee. Even if they don't, Vandy is all but guaranteed a bowl slot. Barring a miracle finish by Auburn or Arkansas, the league will only produce eight bowl-eligible teams for nine spots (not including a likely second BCS berth).
While the 'Dores' offense has been anemic at times this season, their defense has been a constant, holding the Wildcats to 241 total yards Saturday. Leading the charge was potential All-American CB D.J. Moore, who had two interceptions, including a game-saver at the Vandy 17. Moore also played offense and made the first two catches of his career in the first quarter -- both for touchdowns. Finally, Johnson earns a tangible reward for taking a program that has now produced as many SEC wins the past four seasons (10) as it had in the decade prior to his arrival.
3. That Oregon State is inching closer to Pasadena. Facing their first formidable foe since early October, the Beavers (7-3, 6-1 Pac-10) dispatched Cal 34-21 to push their winning streak to five and now stand two wins away from earning their first Rose Bowl berth since 1965. The more games they play, the less fluky that USC upset seems. Just as it did against the Trojans, Oregon State rode RB Jacquizz Rodgers (144 yards on 27 carries) and a surprisingly stingy defense that held the Bears to 232 yards and QB Kevin Riley to 11-of-25 completions.
The Beavers are a solid, top-20 caliber team that got off to a slow start (2-3, including an opening loss to Stanford and a 45-14 blowout at Penn State). If in fact the Rose Bowl is on the line when Oregon State hosts the Civil War against Oregon in two weeks, I can't imagine the Beavers won't win. Their biggest roadblock will come next week at 6-4 Arizona, where the Wildcats have won six of their past seven home games. Arizona mounted a near-miraculous comeback at Oregon on Saturday, rallying from a 48-17 deficit to 48-45 before falling. If OSU wins there ... watch out.
4. That Colt McCoy is not down for the count. Over the past few weeks, the Texas quarterback has been beaten, bloodied (a split upper lip suffered in the Texas Tech game that has required antibiotics) and suddenly overshadowed in the Heisman race by Big 12 rivals Graham Harrell, Sam Bradford and Michael Crabtree. He suffered four sacks and threw a costly interception against the Red Raiders and threw two picks in a game for just the second time this season in last week's tougher-than-expected win over Baylor.
But the junior responded Saturday with one of his most complete performances of the season, going 24-of-34 for 255 yards, two touchdowns and no picks while rushing for 78 yards on a season-high 16 carries in a 35-7 win at Kansas. McCoy will still have trouble overtaking Harrell and Bradford, who square off next week. Of the three, he has the fewest passing yards (3,134) and touchdowns (30). But it's worth nothing that he remains on pace to shatter the NCAA record for completion percentage (currently 77.2) and remains his team's leading rusher (527 yards).
5. That Maryland is the new ACC frontrunner (for this week). The ACC race has become downright stupefying, with nine of the 12 teams still within a game of first place in their respective divisions, and the Terps are undoubtedly its strangest team. With a 17-15 win over No. 17 North Carolina on Saturday, Maryland not only took the lead in the Atlantic Division (thanks in part to losses by Florida State and Wake Forest) but became the only team in the country to beat four ranked foes. Never mind that they've also lost to Virginia (31-0) and Middle Tennessee.
The Terps don't exactly wow you -- they won Saturday despite going the last 43 minutes of the game without a touchdown -- but they control their own destiny heading into next week's game against 7-3 Florida State. Meanwhile, in the other division, Miami moved into first with its win over Virginia Tech, but the 'Canes will be hard-pressed to win at Georgia Tech this week. That division could well wind up in a four-way tie, in which the Hokies (provided they beat Duke and Virginia at home) would emerge the victor. Check back next week when this all changes again.