No. 6 Georgia's 34-31 win at unranked Tennessee needed overtime, assistance from the replay crew and another showcase of late-game heroics from quarterback Aaron Murray, giving the senior another highlight to add to his Heisman Trophy résumé.
On a bigger scale, perhaps, the game was proof one of one of three themes, depending on your team and conference allegiance:
BOX SCORE: Bulldogs 34, Volunteers 31 (OT)
HIGHLIGHTS: How the top 25 fared in Week 6
It was illustrative of the Volunteers' in-season growth under new coach Butch Jones, who is now 3-3 at the midway point of his first season. Tennessee has clearly progressed, using its increased experience and comfort level in Jones' system to go from last Saturday, when it needed a late interception to survive South Alabama, to an overtime loss against the second-best team in the SEC, according to the national polls.
It was a byproduct of Georgia's ever-growing list of injured offensive skill players. The Bulldogs lost wide receiver Malcolm Mitchell in late August and star running back Todd Gurley to an ankle injury during last week's win against LSU; the disabled list added three names Saturday: running back Keith Marshall and receivers Michael Bennett and Justin Scott-Wesley.
It was further evidence that Oregon is the best team in college football. Tennessee tripped to Oregon on Sept. 14, mere weeks ago – and lost 59-14. This was no ordinary loss; this was an historic loss, with the 45-point margin of defeat UT's largest since a 48-0 loss to Mississippi State in 1910.
Option four: All of the above.
There's no doubt UT has made strides under Jones and his staff, even if the Volunteers sit at .500 in advance of games against South Carolina and Alabama. There was one-week growth from the win against South Alabama to the loss to Georgia, and clear and substantial improvement during the three weeks following the loss to Oregon.
It's also clear that Georgia has depth-chart woes. At least the defense remains upright, to a degree: The Bulldogs are young on defense, but they're largely healthy. The offense, already without Mitchell for the year and Gurley for at least another game, will need help from the second tier of the two-deep to survive at wide receiver without Bennett and Scott-Wesley.
The running game continues to flourish even without Gurley and Marshall, with the latter leaving Saturday's game in the first quarter after taking a hit to his right knee. With the two all-conference contenders sidelined, Georgia freshman J.J. Green gained 129 yards on 17 carries; fellow freshman Brendan Douglas scored once and gained 25 yards on 10 carries.
Georgia's defense was better, though not markedly improved: UT still gained 404 yards, 189 on the ground, and converted 10-of-20 third- and fourth-down conversions. The Bulldogs inserted another pair of freshmen into the lineup in the secondary: Quincy Mauger started at free safety in place of Tray Matthews, another freshman, while Shaq Wiggins got the start as a fifth defensive back.
For Oregon, meanwhile, a 45-point win against Tennessee is the win that keeps on giving – once on Sept. 14, again on Oct. 5. The question for voters, media and coaches alike: What does Georgia's near-loss say about the Ducks?
The rivalry between the SEC and the Pac-12 is one fought primarily in the polls, off the field, and each league – and its supporters – looks for toeholds in the narrowest nooks and crannies. What does Georgia's overtime win mean for the SEC? What does it say about the Pac-12? What can it say about the Pac-12 as it compares to the SEC? The bicoastal comparison continues.
ALL THE COLLEGE FOOTBALL ACTION IN WEEK 6