It's hard to believe the season is already half over. It seems like only yesterday Alabama and Michigan were squaring off in a epic duel that proved only half epic.
In the past six weeks, there have been many teams that have excited and even more that have disappointed. There have been crazy upsets, ridiculous scoring duels and a team from the Sun Belt Conference that tried to level the playing field a little bit.
There are several teams that made storylines through the first half of the season, but here are 10 we thought were the most influential through six weeks:
Oklahoma: The Sooners season started with an incredibly late game at UTEP that few stayed awake to watch, but their struggles against the Miners were a precursor of things to come. Kansas State beat them 24-19, to make the climb to a BCS bowl a bit of a challenge. But after that game, things changed. The inconsistent offense started to find a rhythm and quarterback Landry Jones started to remember he was once a Heisman Trophy candidate. The 41-20 win over Texas Tech two weeks ago and last week's 63-21 beatdown of Texas make Oklahoma one of the most intriguing teams heading into the second half of the season. All they need is for Kansas State to falter.
Louisiana-Monroe: The Sun Belt isn't the Big Six's doormat anymore. Fiesty ULM sent Arkansas' season into a tailspin and nearly did the same for Auburn and Baylor. The Warhawks were responsible for three of the most interesting and fun games of the nonconference season. Unfortunately, the Warhawks' national glory was short-lived, but they proved that the playing field is leveling and that even the smaller schools can pack a major punch.
USC: There were few teams that fell off the national radar more than USC during the first half of the season. Several major schools suffered losses, but when USC lost 21-14 to Stanford on Sept. 15, it was like everyone outside of the Pac-12 forgot the Trojans existed. Well, much like characters in Monty Python's Holy Grail, the Trojans are not dead yet (look it up). They're 10th in the BCS standings and trail Arizona State for the Pac-12 South lead, but the Trojans have seemingly thrived without the media hype and have a very telling stretch to end the season.
Louisville: It's hard to believe that Louisville is one win away from tying its win total in each of the past two seasons, but coach Charlie Strong has his players believing and there are really only two major hurdles on the way to an undefeated season — No. 21 Cincinnati and No. 15 Rutgers. So what's been the biggest different for the Cardinals this year? Quarterback Teddy Bridgewater. Bridgewater ranks 13 nationally in passing efficiency and the Louisville scoring offense ranks second in the conference. Could we see a rebirth of the 2006 Cardinals that went 12-1?
Kansas State: The Wildcats' surge into the upper echelon of college football isn't all that surprising. They did finish 10-3 last year and played Arkansas in the Cotton Bowl. But the half season quarterback Collin Klein and his Wildcats have put together so far has been fun to watch. Kansas State toppled Oklahoma in the first half of the season, but it gets a lot more difficult in the second half of the schedule. The race for the Big 12 is far from over and with several teams nipping at the Wildcats' heels, they'll have to be every bit as good as they were through the first six weeks.
Oregon State: At the beginning of the season, many were wondering how long it would take until Oregon State coach Mike Riley was sent packing. Five wins and a couple trips to In-n-Out later and it's clear Riley isn't going anywhere and either are the Beavers. Through the first half of the season, no Pac-12 team has been more impressive and some would say no team nationally has been more surprising. But there are a lot — a lot — of tough tests in the second half, including games against Arizona State, Stanford and Oregon. Can Riley bring his team back to the success it enjoyed from 2006-2009?
Penn State: If Bill O'Brien isn't Coach of the Year through the midway point of the season, I don't know who is. No one has had to deal with more off the field than O'Brien and no one has had a tougher job of keeping a program together. Through everything Penn State has gone through in the past year, the Nittany Lions are 4-2, 2-0 in conference play and playing some of their best football. There's no postseason for Penn State this year, but if this keeps up, the season won't need a bowl game to be considered one of the best in school history.
West Virginia: No team in the country is more different on offense and defense that West Virginia. On offense, the Mountaineers led by quarterback and Heisman frontrunner Geno Smith, are absolutely dynamic. Watching the offense work is often like watching a video game. But on defense, the Mountaineers are one of the worst products on the collegiate field today. Will the two come together to give the Mountaineers a magical season? Probably not — the chasm is that great — but at the very least they're one of the most entertaining teams in the country.
Rutgers: So, coach Greg Schiano leaves and Rutgers gets better? Not sure anyone could have foreseen that, but the Scarlet Knights have asserted themselves as one of the country's top teams with a 6-0 start. To be fair, the schedule hasn't exactly bowled anyone over — FCS opponent Howard is the only opponent with a winning record — so this is the time for Rutgers to prove it belongs in the conversation. We'll see if it lives up to its billing.
Mississippi State: Remember a year ago when Mississippi State was supposed to be good and fell flat on its face? Yeah, not this year. The Bulldogs have embraced the underdog role and ridden it all the way to a 6-0 record to stay step-for-step with top-ranked Alabama. But similar to a lot of the teams on this list, the meat of the season is in the back half. After Middle Tennessee this weekend, the Bulldogs face three consecutive ranked foes in No. 1 Alabama, No. 18 Texas A&M and No. 6 LSU. As the adage goes, it's time for Mississippi State to run with the big dogs or stay on the porch.
Arkansas: It's hard to argue that no one has had a more disappointing season than the Razorbacks (not even you Florida State). This was a team that many believed could challenge for a national title before former coach Bobby Petrino put Jessica Dorrell on the back of his motorcycle. Since then, the Razorbacks have been in a downward spiral. But there was a glimpse of promise last week during a 49-7 win against Kentucky. Arkansas finally looked like the team everyone expected to see at the beginning of the year. A national title, BCS bowl and even conference title are out of reach at this point, but finishing the season strongly would do a lot for the psyche of the fan base.
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