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Northwestern up, Ohio State down (sort of) and other early surprises

Northwestern has to be on any list of the biggest September surprises in college football. (AP/Matt Marton)

I’m a little embarrassed to admit this, but I had a dream Saturday night that Oregon lost a game on its home field by six touchdowns. I know, weird, right?

September was full of surprises in college football, some good, some bad.

Good: the top 10. Ole Miss, Notre Dame, UCLA, LSU and Utah all have played their way in and brought a strong sense of anything-can-happen to the season. Ohio State isn’t nearly as dominant a No. 1 as it was heading into September.

Bad: the state of Alabama. The Crimson Tide have quarterback issues and already don’t feel like a top contender in the SEC. Auburn’s offense is the dumpster fire of college football. These were the Nos. 3 and 6 teams in the preseason AP poll.

Good: Big Ten defenses. Four of them — Northwestern’s, Michigan’s, Wisconsin’s and Ohio State’s — are in the top 10 nationally in fewest points allowed per game. The Wildcats and Wolverines look like the league’s most-improved teams.

Bad: Ohio State’s offense. With Cardale Jones or J.T. Barrett at quarterback and Ezekeil Elliott running the ball behind what was considered the best offensive line in the land, the Buckeyes should be close to unstoppable. Not yet, though. Not even close. They rank 51st in yardage and 46th in scoring.

Good: the Big Ten West. With apologies to Pat Fitzgerald and company, there still isn’t a playoff contender in this group. But Minnesota and Nebraska don’t look as strong as they did last year, and Northwestern and Iowa are playing much better ball. The result is a fun division with five teams — Wisconsin being the other — in realistic contention to finish at the top.

Bad: the Pac-12 North. The picture wasn’t pretty even before Oregon was humiliated 62-20 Saturday by Utah. Stanford was dominated at Northwestern in the season opener. Mike Leach has completely bombed at Washington State, and the early results under Chris Petersen at Washington have been uninspiring. Only California is clearly on the uptick.

Good: Leonard Fournette vs. Nick Chubb. The Buckeyes’ Elliott was supposed to be the running back with the best shot to win the Heisman Trophy, but the leaders in that race are LSU monster Fournette and Georgia 100-yard machine Chubb — and they’re out in front of all quarterbacks, too, a real rarity.

Bad: Season-ending injuries. Ask TCU, UCLA and Notre Dame, to name a few, about the high-wire act of trying to remain unbeaten despite key losses. If all three teams lose their opportunity for a special season, it’ll start with the guys who aren’t on the field.

Good: Temple and Navy. They haven’t lost yet. It’s pretty cool.

Bad: Tennessee and Arkansas. Two teams a lot of people liked to sneak up on the rest of the SEC have been hugely disappointing. The Volunteers have choked late in games. The Razorbacks have made coach Bret Bielema a target for ridicule.

Follow me on Twitter @slgreenberg

Email: sgreenberg@suntimes.com