At the beginning of October, Penn State, Iowa and Arkansas were each undefeated and ranked in the top 10 of the AP poll. Florida had pushed Alabama to the brink of defeat, so could the Gators be a contender in the SEC East? Heck, even Clemson, then 2-2 on the season, was still ranked in the AP poll at No. 25.
But with five college football Saturdays in October, lots of things changed and with the month in the rear-view mirror, we took stock of where the season stands entering Week 10.
Here are five of the biggest surprises in FBS college football from October.
Illinois, Penn State set record for most overtime periods in a game
Entering the 2021 college football season, the record for the most overtime periods in a game was seven, which had occurred five times — most recently in a 74-72 game won by Texas A&M over LSU in 2018. That was 146 combined points in a game that helped prompt overtime rule changes from the NCAA Playing Rules Oversight Panel. Now teams are required to attempt a 2-point conversion after scoring a touchdown in the second overtime, then in the third overtime period, each team gets one 2-point conversion attempt.
All things considered, it didn't take long for college football fans to get a taste of the application of the new rules as Illinois went to Happy Valley and upset No. 7 Penn State 20-18 in nine overtimes in a game whose box score resembled that of a baseball game. The game was tied at 10 at the end of regulation and from the third overtime period (the first in which both teams got one 2-point conversion attempt) through the seventh overtime period, each team held the other scoreless.
Finally, each team converted a 2-point attempt in the eighth overtime, before Illinois backup quarterback Brandon Peters found Casey Washington in the ninth overtime period to give the Illini a two-point win.
Jimbo Fisher becomes the first former Nick Saban assistant to beat Saban
For years, we heard about that stat. "Former Nick Saban assistants are 0-for-forever against their old boss."
Over the years, the record increased in favor of Saban, from 0-22, to 0-23, to 0-24. Then Texas A&M hosted Alabama in Week 6 and that all changed. Texas A&M coach Jimbo Fisher finally got one for Saban's coaching tree as the Aggies won 41-38 in College Station on a last-second field goal.
To add some confusing layers to the historic win, if someone told you in the preseason that Texas A&M would beat Alabama at home this season, it wouldn't necessarily have been a surprise. After finishing at No. 5 in the CFP rankings on selection day last season and at No. 5 in the postseason AP poll, the Aggies started this season at No. 6 in the preseason AP poll.
But they entered their matchup with the Crimson Tide unranked, with a 3-2 record and on a two-game losing streak. The only Power Five opponent they had beaten was Colorado, by three, and the Buffaloes are now 1-6 against FBS competition this season.
Texas A&M debuted at No. 14 in the first CFP rankings of the season and if the Aggies keep winning, and if Alabama loses again, then they could have an advantage in a potentially important tiebreaker in the SEC West.
Georgia's defense allowed one (1) offensive touchdown in the first half
We're hoping you read that subheadline in the tongue-in-cheek tone in which it was intended.
We're grading No. 1 Georgia on a curve here because the Bulldogs' defense is allowing a national-best 6.6 points per game through Week 9. There hasn't been an FBS team that has held its opponents to an average of less than 10 points per game since Alabama in 2011, when its points allowed average was 8.2.
In September, Georgia shut out one of its four opponents (Vanderbilt), kept another out of the end zone entirely (Clemson), and it didn't allow the other two (UAB and South Carolina) to score a touchdown until the fourth quarter.
October was much of the same. Another shutout (Arkansas) and two more opponents (Auburn and Florida) that each scored one touchdown, but not until the second half.
However, Kentucky, then undefeated and ranked No. 11 in the country, became the first team to score a first-half touchdown against Georgia, when the Wildcats assembled a 13-play, 75-yard, nearly seven-minute drive in the second quarter to cut the Bulldogs' 14-0 lead in half.
Kentucky later scored again, but only after taking a timeout with seven seconds left in the game, so that it could finish off a 22-play drive that took more than 11 minutes of game time and cut the final margin from 23 points to 17.
Anyone — yes, even you — could've gotten into an FBS game for free
Granted, the game had already started, but free is free, right?
In Week 8, Kansas hosted No. 3 Oklahoma, which was 7-0 on the season and 4-0 in the Big 12, yet it was the one-win Jayhawks who took a 10-0 lead into halftime after marching down the field on the game's opening possession and taking a 7-0 lead on a 14-play, 80-yard drive.
So Kansas opened the gates to the stadium and invited its fan base to attend the game for free, in hopes that an improved crowd could help prompt a massive upset. Unfortunately for the home team, Oklahoma's sensational new starting quarterback Caleb Williams woke the Sooners up from a sleepy start and he had three total touchdowns in the second half, including a 40-yard touchdown run to beak open a four-point game.
The gates are open on the east and west sides of David Booth Kansas Memorial Stadium, no ticket required.— Kansas Jayhawks (@KUAthletics) October 23, 2021
Show up. Be loud. Rock Chalk.
Army was involved in a game with 126 total points
You wouldn't expect for a triple-option offense — one of that favors long, grueling, methodical drives — to be involved in a shootout but that's what happened in Week 8, when Army hosted No. 16 Wake Forest. The two teams combined to score touchdowns on seven of the nine drives in the first half, excluding the final possession before the end of the half, as Wake Forest took a 28-21 lead into halftime.
The two sides proceeded to score touchdowns on the first nine drives of the second half, but the problem for Army is that one of those drives was a pick-6 for Wake Forest, as the Demon Deacons broke the back-and-forth scoring.
Ultimately, Wake Forest won 70-56 for a game that featured 126 total points — 15 more than the previous record for a game involving Army, which came when Army defeated Louisville 59-52 in double overtime in 1999.