McGraw on college football: Prime Time in Boulder has been even better than expected

Four weeks into college football season, a few things have become obvious:

1. Breaking up the Pac-12 was a horrible idea.

2. Coach Prime in Colorado was bound to be interesting, but few thought it would happen quite like this.

Before Saturday, Colorado vs. Colorado State might have been a contender for "Most bitter rivalry no one outside the state pays attention to." This time, the Buffs and Rams provided an oversized share of late-night drama as Colorado rallied to win in overtime and stay undefeated.

In many ways, Deion Sanders' arrival in Boulder has been refreshing. He's shown that coaches can be open, available, play an entertaining style and have fun. He brought the Colorado program back into the national spotlight after it finished 1-11 last year. College coaches don't need to treat the entire outside world as an enemy after all.

There's a downside too. Sanders didn't exactly chase all of last year's players into the transfer portal. A quick review of Colorado's depth chart last week revealed six players who returned from last year's squad out of 29 starters or regulars. Everyone else is a transfer, outside of one true freshman, RB Dylan Edwards.

No doubt others will try to emulate Sanders' strategy and threaten to create even more transfer portal chaos. This could easily be solved by the NCAA - if it still exists - setting a firm rule: Everyone gets one free transfer. After that, you have to sit out a year, no exceptions. Stop with the "maybe we'll give you a waiver to play right away, maybe we won't."

The other problem last week was the trash talk got out of hand, and Colorado State is mostly to blame. What should have gone down as a gritty underdog performance ended up an embarrassment.

Colorado's two-way star Travis Hunter was knocked out of the game by a very late hit, one of Colorado State's best defenders was ejected for another late hit and the Rams wiped out their tying TD in the second OT when someone went headhunting and got called for a blindside block.

Coaches, don't ruin a great game by letting your players lose control.

Be bigger:

How long has it been since the last major Big Ten scandal? Few weeks? OK.

Last week, the conference saw Michigan State coach Mel Tucker suspended and accused of inappropriate behavior with a woman who spoke to the team about sexual assault awareness. On Monday, news broke that MSU plans to fire Tucker with cause.

This situation was even more awkward, because many suspected the school would be happy to escape whatever's left on the 10-year, $95-million extension Tucker signed in 2021. Instead of releasing a letter signed by the ENTIRE football team, the Spartans showed their support by losing to Washington 41-7.

There's a hidden problem in all this: MSU brought back former coach Mark Dantonio to assist interim boss Harlon Barnett on the sideline last week. Dantonio was involved in another dark Big Ten moment from 2016-17, when he recruited defensive lineman Auston Robertson, despite a number of accusations of sexual misconduct in his past. During his freshman year, Robertson was one of four players removed from the team after being charged with sexual assault. Robertson was sentenced to 10 years in prison.

Here's a goal for every college that fields a football team: When wondering if it's OK to "take a chance on a talented player," think about the lives that could be and have been ruined by inviting a dangerous person onto campus. How many programs address the issue by hiring a police liaison to try to sweep bad behavior under the rug?

Downstate drama:

Southern Illinois was unranked at the start of the season, but is already up to No. 13 in the FCS coaches poll after starting 3-0.

It was a great atmosphere in Cape Girardeau, Missouri, on Saturday when the Salukis knocked off rival Southeast Missouri in dramatic fashion 26-25. The winning touchdown came on fourth down with 11 seconds left on a 9-yard pass from Nic Baker to Izaiah Hartrup.

The weekend's in-state FCS rivalry featured a low-action first half, but a dramatic finish as Eastern Illinois edged Illinois State 14-13. The Redbirds scored a touchdown with 4:04 left to break a 7-7 tie, but missed the extra point. ISU seemed to be in good shape after intercepting an EIU pass on the next possession.

But the host Panthers got a stop, used their timeouts and drove 93 yards for the winning touchdown. QB Pierce Holley tossed a 25-yard pass to Justin Thomas for the game-winner with 30 seconds left.

Eastern snapped a five-game losing streak in the Mid-America Classic.

Results-based Top 5:

1. Texas, 2. Florida State, 3. Duke, 4. Colorado, 5. Washington State.

Interesting game of the week:

Colorado at Oregon will get more attention, but Oregon State and Washington State meet in Pullman with the championship of the Pac-2 at stake. Also Ohio State at Notre Dame.

Twitter: @McGrawDHSports

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