CHRIS DUFRESNE / ON COLLEGE FOOTBALL

What we know now about college football isn't exactly what we knew then

Improved Pac-12 might be the deepest conference in the country (Colorado is unbeaten?), but someone still has to knock off two-time champion Alabama.

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Put away the running clocks. Silly season should be over — at least until Alabama hosts Chattanooga in late November.

It is ridiculous to think Ohio State could play a team so overmatched that the Buckeyes' backup quarterback could throw six touchdown passes in the first half, earn national player of the week, then be benched for the Big Ten opener.

It just proves that very little is proved until conference play starts, so let's get started:

Pac-12

The league has a sterling 29-4 record in nonconference games, but the race for the Rose Bowl, and beyond, starts this weekend with five league games.

What we thought we knew: Oregon and Stanford were the class of the north and watch out for UCLA in the south.

What we know: Oregon and Stanford are the class of the north and watch out for UCLA in the south.

It also goes deeper than that. The Pac-12 may now be, top to bottom, the best conference in America.

Emerging: Washington has gone from gum on your Seattle shoe to top 25 and owns an impressive 38-6 thrashing of Boise State. The Huskies are No. 16 in the Associated Press poll after starting unranked, and UCLA is No. 13 — up eight rungs from its preseason standing.

You could have won $100 in a bar bet on Labor Day by predicting Colorado, one of the worst top-level programs, would still be undefeated on Sept. 26.

Of course, Colorado (2-0) has not played since Sept. 7 because of an open date and a flood. Washington State has already taken Auburn to the limit and upset USC at the Coliseum:

This week: USC at Arizona State sets the parameters for the Pac-12 South race. UCLA, which has Saturday off, watches as it awaits its conference opener at Utah on Oct. 3.

Southeastern

This is still the best Bowl Championship Series outfit until a team from a different conference wins the national championship.

What we thought we knew: Alabama was invincible in the SEC West and the SEC East was tougher than jerky.

What we know: Alabama is still No. 1 but clearly not as good (yet) as the teams that won the last two national titles. The Crimson Tide offense struggled in wins against Virginia Tech and Colorado State, and the defense gave up a school-record 628 yards in a shootout win at Texas A&M.

In the SEC East, defending champ Georgia has already lost to Clemson and sputtered last week against North Texas. Florida has lost to Miami and must now rebound from the season-ending injury to quarterback Jeff Driskel. A team built on defense may also be without superstar lineman Dominique Easley, who has an injured knee.

Emerging: It's a huge week for Mississippi (3-0) as it heads to Alabama as the fabulous "Book of Manning" documentary was aired on ESPN. The Rebels' celebrated top-five recruiting class is already paying dividends and an upset of Alabama would instantly put Ole Miss in the national title race.

Mississippi runs the type of up-tempo offense that keeps Alabama Coach Nick Saban up at night. The Rebels are averaging 79.3 plays per game and snapping a play every 21.3 seconds. Alabama averages 64 plays a game with a play every 30.8 seconds.

Mississippi Coach Hugh Freeze on Saturday's game plan: "You're going to see us go as fast as we can."

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