From Mandel on SI:

http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/201...sec/index.html

-Only the most staunch SEC apologist (and there are millions of them) would argue that the league isn't "down" this year. In recent years one could legitimately argue that the conference's eighth- or ninth-place team would finish third in a league like the Big Ten, but this year the SEC sports at least five mediocre-to-bad teams (Georgia, Kentucky, Tennessee, Vanderbilt and Ole Miss). The Pac-10, which has seven teams ranked in the top 40 of CollegeBCS.com's simulated BCS standings, is a deeper league.

-Oregon's 43-23 win at Washington State wasn't all rosy. Punt returner Kenjon Barner was knocked unconscious and hospitalized (thankfully, he was released Sunday) following a vicious helmet-on-helmet hit. Meanwhile, quarterback Darron Thomas went out with a sprained shoulder. Veteran backup Nate Costa didn't miss a beat, completing 13-of-15 passes and running for 84 yards. Thomas has a bye week to recover, but the Ducks' offense may be fine with either quarterback.

-Oregon State's win at Arizona came with a price, too. Star receiver James Rodgers went down with a gruesome knee injury in the second quarter and spent the second half on crutches. Those covering the game surmised he's probably out for the year, pending an MRI result. Amazingly, the senior (who could still qualify for a medical redshirt) caught seven balls for 102 yards in 18 minutes of game action before the injury (which came on a touchdown that was nullified).

-To those who wondered whether Lane Kiffin would be able to keep bowl-banned USC motivated once its season started to sour -- we're about to find out. Stanford dealt the Trojans their second straight loss on a last-second field goal, 37-35, laying waste to huge performances by quarterback Matt Barkley (28-of-45, 385 yards, three TDs) and freshman receiver Robert Woods (12 catches, 219 yards, three TDs). "We're at the lowest of the lows," said Barkley. I don't know about that.

-UCLA continues to be the nation's most baffling team. After averaging 322 rushing yards in consecutive wins over Houston, Texas and Washington State, the Bruins (3-3) went to Berkeley and ran for ... 26 yards in a 35-7 loss to Cal.