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Andy Wittry | | November 3, 2021

These 7 wins from October will shape the 2021 college football season

College Football Playoff rankings: Georgia, Alabama head first release

We're in the final month of college football's regular season, as it's now Week 10, which means the first CFP rankings have been released and #MACtion is officially back. There were five Saturdays' worth of college football games last month, which completely changed the landscape of the season.

Here are seven wins from October that shaped the 2021 college football season.

Stan Szeto | USA TODAY Sports Images Stanford beat Oregon 31-24 in overtime in Week 5.

Stanford 31, Oregon 24 (OT) | Week 5

Oregon debuted at No. 4 in the initial College Football Playoff rankings for the 2021 season and the Ducks could have been ranked even higher — No. 2? No. 3? — if they hadn't lost on the road to the Stanford Cardinal just three weeks after they went to Columbus and beat the Buckeyes. Oregon, then ranked No. 3 in the AP poll, found itself in a 10-0 hole after the first quarter and the Ducks faced the same deficit at halftime after starting the game with a fumble, an interception and a punt on their first three offensive possessions.

The Ducks scored on three of their five possessions in the second half to take a 24-17 lead, but Stanford marched down the field with an 11-play, 86-yard drive to force overtime. In OT, Stanford scored a touchdown on the opening possession on a 14-yard touchdown pass from Tanner McKee to John Humphreys on 3rd-and-11 and Oregon was unable to match Stanford's score, which gave the Ducks their first loss of the season.

No two-loss team has ever made the College Football Playoff, so with recent history as a guide, Oregon will need to win the rest of its games this season to feel confident that it could earn a playoff bid. And that's all because of Stanford.

Albert Cesare | USA Today Sports Images Cincinnati won at Notre Dame in Week 5.

Cincinnati 24, Notre Dame 13 | Week 5

While Cincinnati was ranked four spots lower in the initial CFP rankings (No. 6) compared to the Bearcats' positioning in the latest AP poll (No. 2), they're the highest-ranked team from a conference outside of the ACC, Big 12, Big Ten, Pac-12 and SEC, and excluding Notre Dame, in the CFP era.

Their road win over Notre Dame, which made its 2021 debut in the CFP rankings at No. 10, is the reason why.

"I can tell you that Cincinnati has tremendous respect from the committee," selection committee chair Gary Barta said Tuesday night. "They're 8-0. The win at Notre Dame, probably everybody on this call saw that game. It was a heck of a performance. It was a great win."

Cincinnati shut out Notre Dame in the first half after the Bearcats forced two interceptions and five punts, while quarterback Desmond Ridder was responsible for three total touchdowns and more than 300 yards of total offense.

RELATED: Georgia, Alabama, Michigan State, Oregon headline first CFP rankings

Thomas Shea | USA TODAY Sports Images Texas A&M upset Alabama in Week 6.

Texas A&M 41, Alabama 38 | Week 6

In Week 5, Alabama rolled then-No. 12 Ole Miss 42-21 after taking a 28-0 lead into halftime and the Crimson Tide appeared like it might make a run at another undefeated regular season. Then in Week 6, Alabama met its match in College Station, where Texas A&M upset Alabama on kicker Seth Small's 28-yard field goal as time expired.

The Aggies jumped out to a 17-7 lead through the first quarter and they led by 14 at halftime, but the Crimson Tide scored 21 unanswered points in the second half to go ahead 38-31. Texas A&M tied the game on Zach Calzada's touchdown pass to Ainias Smith, the Aggies' defense forced a three-and-out for Alabama's offense and then Texas A&M drove down the field for the final score.

The loss didn't impact Alabama's playoff hopes — at least not yet — as the Crimson Tide debuted at No. 2 in the CFP rankings, but once again, a two-loss team has never made the playoff, so the Crimson Tide might have to run the table, which would require a win over No. 1 Georgia, in order to compete for another national title.

Bryan Terry | Special to USA TODAY Sports Images Oklahoma rallied to beat Texas 55-48 in Week 6.

Oklahoma 55, Texas 48 | Week 6

Entering Week 10, Oklahoma is 9-0 with five one-possession victories and this game was one of them. Texas took a 28-7 lead into the second quarter and the Longhorns scored two touchdowns of at least 40 yards, including a 75-yard touchdown on the first offensive play of the game, but Oklahoma wasn't out of the game. Fueled by a switch at quarterback to Caleb Williams, the Sooners scored 48 points the rest of the way, including 25 points in the fourth quarter as they beat the Longhorns on Kennedy Brooks' 33-yard touchdown run in the closing seconds.

Despite not starting the game, Williams finished with 212  passing yards, two passing touchdowns, 88 rushing yards and a rushing touchdown, which paved the way for him to become the team's starting quarterback going forward.

Jeffrey Becker | USA TODAY Sports Images Purdue upset No. 2 Iowa in Iowa City.

Purdue 24, Iowa 7 | Week 7

Iowa hosted Penn State for a top-four matchup in Week 6 and the Hawkeyes emerged victorious, 23-20, and they climbed to No. 2 in the AP poll as a result, which made Iowa an early season playoff contender. Then Purdue came to town.

Purdue wide receiver David Bell torched the Hawkeyes' defense for 11 catches for 240 yards and a touchdown, while the Boilermakers held the Hawkeyes to a lone touchdown. After a 27-7 drubbing at the hands of Wisconsin, Iowa has suffered back-to-back defeats and fallen from No. 2 in the AP poll to a three-way tie in the Big Ten West.


Kirthmon F. Dozier | USA TODAY Sports Images Michigan State is 8-0 after beating rival Michigan.

Michigan State 37, Michigan 33  | Week 9

In a massive, top-10 showdown between undefeated, in-state rivals, Michigan State rallied from a 16-point deficit late in the third quarter thanks to a pair of touchdowns from running back Kenneth Walker III — he had five on the day — and the Spartans successfully converted 2-point conversions after each score. Then, Walker scored again in the closing minutes to put the Spartans ahead for good.

The win improved Michigan State's record to 8-0 (5-0 Big Ten), which allowed the Spartans to debut at No. 3 in the CFP rankings and sets up a massive conference game when Michigan State visits Ohio State in Week 12. Both schools are undefeated in conference play and the winner could be in position to compete for a playoff berth.

Troy Taormina | USA TODAY Sports Images Houston is in first place in the AAC through Week 9.

Houston 44, SMU 37 | Week 9

No. 6 Cincinnati is the only team from the American Athletic Conference that was ranked in the first CFP rankings of the season, but it's Houston (7-1, 5-0 AAC) that sits alone in first place in the conference entering Week 10. SMU was previously undefeated, but that came to an end on Marcus Jones' 100-yard kickoff return for a touchdown with 17 seconds left, and since Houston doesn't face Cincinnati in the regular season, the Cougars are in prime position to earn a spot in the AAC title game.

There, Houston could potentially compete for a conference championship and a 12-1 record entering bowl season, and if the Cougars are able to break into the CFP rankings, they could also provide Cincinnati the chance to add another notable win to its resume.

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