Top 25 Takeaways: Vols catch a break; tension at Texas

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.

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

1. 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 growing up? 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.

2. 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 out of the West. That could keep Florida in the race.

3. If you watched the 23rd-ranked Gators slog around against Vanderbilt you will know that's a long shot.

4. Coach Jim McElwain was not about to throw back the ugly victory.

5. 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.

6. Wisconsin had 13 drives against No. 4 Michigan. None covered more than 38 yards. Only three gained more than 20.

7. The Badgers mercifully get a week off before going to No. 2 Ohio State for Part III of their gauntlet.

8. Though that Wisconsin game at Iowa on Oct. 22 isn't looking quite so tough.

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

10. 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.

11. Texas had three extra points blocked, which seems next to impossible.

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. Take a look at Washington's remaining schedule. Not so tough. Suddenly, it looks a lot less likely that the Pac-12 will miss the playoff for a second straight season.

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.

19. But it still feels like Oklahoma is the team to beat after winning at TCU.

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. Beating Minnesota at home in overtime probably should not qualify as a big victory for Penn State, but that's where the Nittany Lions are now. And how bad would it have been for James Franklin if his team lost to the Gophers?

22. 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.

23. Not sure if Miami's convincing victory at Georgia Tech says more about the 14th-ranked Hurricanes of 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 draft pick.

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

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