Ten Things - Week Twelve
Posted By:Wes Mewbourne - Birmingham, AL
It doesn’t feel like the season is running down. Sure there’s only (gasp!) three weeks left in the season, but there’s just something about the way this season is playing out that hasn’t had the normal ups and downs. It’s a perpetual up. Along with the playoff intrigue, there are a host of questions we want answered that don’t seem to be answered. Will Florida State dig a hole so deep that it can’t get out? Will there be legitimate Heisman competition for Marcus Mariota? Will the SEC get two teams in the playoff? Wait, the Big Twelve. No, the SEC again. Will Ohio State overcome its loss to Virginia Tech? Conference races are turned upside down with some key losses. And to top it off, the first major domino in the annual coaching carousel has fallen (though, surely there are more to come). Since no one knows what the future holds, let’s look back at the week that was in this week’s Ten Things.
1. One Loss Wonders – At this point in the season, having just one loss is becoming more and more rare. Three more teams (Arizona State, Nebraska, and Duke) picked up their second loss and likely their ticket out of playoff consideration. At this point, just seven teams have one loss or fewer. All of them play losable games between now and December 7th, when the final rankings are announced. Will they make it easy on the committee and thin out just enough to neatly fit four teams in, will they all win out, or will enough lose to make room for a two loss team?
2. Bama Restores Order – The Alabama that Tide fans have been waiting to see since the 59-0 shellacking of Texas A&M showed back up again, even if in spurts. Mississippi State had a nice run at the top of the rankings but were overcome by a suffocating Bama defense that corralled quarterback Dak Prescott and running back Josh Robinson, holding them to a combined 119 yards on the ground. The red zone play that had been a strength for the Bulldogs became a weakness, throwing two interceptions inside the Bama 20-yard line and allowing three touchdowns (a season high). While potentially still in the playoff hunt, Mississippi State lost a chance for a strong road win while the Tide grabbed its biggest win of the season.
3. FSU Escapes…Again – It’s really getting difficult to take a deficit seriously in a Seminoles game. They have trailed by 21 points and won (at Louisville). They have trailed by 17 points and won (at NC State). They have been down a touchdown in the fourth quarter without their starting quarterback and won (Clemson). Most recently, they were down 16-0 at one point and won at Miami. There is a tendency to compare this year’s Seminoles team with last year’s Auburn. The key difference is that Florida State is winning with endurance and determination, not miracles. They finish games better than anyone else. And they won’t be an easy out in the playoffs.
4. Playoff Four – If the committee knows what they’re doing, the ranking will look like this...
Oregon – With Mississippi State’s loss, the Ducks ascend to the top seed. Even with the loss to Arizona earlier in the season, Oregon still looks to be the best team right now – and they are still getting healthier on the offensive line. If they can avoid the injury bug up front, they are the favorite moving forward.
Florida State – Even though they are the only undefeated team left (sorry Marshall), inconsistent and slow play are holding the Seminoles back from their potential. They are very much a wild card right now, but there isn’t a scarier team in the fourth quarter.
Alabama – The Tide finally find their way into the top four this week. After a solid defensive performance, they hope to get healthy during their scrimmage this week with Western Carolina. With a healthy TJ Yeldon, they’ll get some much needed depth at the running back position. Having that strength will mean Blake Sims could be even more dangerous for opposing defenses.
Baylor – The Bears really deserve this spot. Not because TCU narrowly escaped against a three win Kansas team, but because they beat the Horned Frogs head to head. While Baylor doesn’t have the best nonconference schedule (let’s face it….it’s horrible), their talent is undeniable. Slipping up to the fourth spot during a bye week is the right move for the committee.
5. The Next Four – At this point, probably the only other teams with a realistic shot at getting in.
TCU – The Horned Frogs barely got past Kansas, but everyone has an off day. They still have the best loss of any one loss team outside the state of Mississippi. The Horned Frogs have a chance to make a statement against Texas this week, and if they can finish 11-1 could make a late run at the last spot in the final rankings.
Mississippi State – After the loss, the Bulldogs drop out. That’s due primarily to the loss being so fresh along with several deserving teams waiting in the wings. If the Bulldogs finish 11-1 and don’t play in the SEC Championship game, they might have the best chance to sneak in – either with a Bama loss in the SEC Championship or as a one loss team in a loaded* SEC West.
Ohio State – Don’t look now, but the Big Ten isn’t dead yet. Even with Michigan State and Nebraska excusing themselves from contention in consecutive weeks, the Buckeyes are one of the trendiest picks right now. JT Barrett has subbed in at quarterback for a preseason Heisman hopeful and performed just as good if not better than Braxton Miller. A Big Ten title could punch their ticket to the selection committee’s top four.
Georgia – It’s still a long shot, especially after that beatdown at the hands of Florida on November 1st. But holding Auburn and the Gus Bus to just seven points and 292 total yards is enough to give the Bulldogs a second look. If the cards fall right and Georgia manages to make it to Atlanta to win the SEC.
6. Trending Up: Playoff Anticipation – With the BCS, this would’ve been a whole lot of Florida State and the Oregon/Alabama dilemma right now. With the playoff (and the committee’s still strange decision to release weekly rankings), the field is relatively wide open. The SEC and Big Twelve could each have two teams in (and maybe two in the national title game?). Undefeated Florida State may find itself a #4 seed when it’s all said and done. And that’s without the drama of two loss teams like Georgia or UCLA that could make a late surge.
7. Trending Down: SEC West – Remember way back two entries ago when I referred to the SEC West as loaded? Yeah this is the asterisk. After dominant showings during the first two-thirds of the season, LSU has dropped out of the rankings completely after dropping two straight, Auburn has also dropped two straight (in embarrassing fashion). The once vaunted division now has just Mississippi State and Alabama. The only other two teams ranked – Ole Miss and Auburn – aren’t exactly inspiring a lot of confidence at the moment.
8. History Is Made – In what looked strikingly similar to the 2012 Big Ten Championship Game, Wisconsin bulldozed Nebraska 59-24. Along the way, Badger running back Melvin Gordon reset the NCAA single game record at 408 yards. In the third quarter. Yeah, just let that sink in a moment. In an era of the sport where running backs are often overlooked, Gordon has virtually punched his ticket to New York for the Heisman ceremony. The previous record holder was LaDainian Tomlinson with 406 yards in 1999 with TCU.
9. SEC Rundown – Welcome to the win column, Arkansas. With a 17-0 win over LSU, the Razorbacks secured their first conference win since October 2012 (a 17 game drought). South Carolina signed Will Muschamp’s pink slip with a 23-20 win over the Gators. The much needed win for the Gamecocks means a likely bowl game, but six wins was hardly the goal for a preseason top ten Gamecock team. Missouri knocked off Texas A&M, maintaining the last vestige of suspense in the SEC East race. And Tennessee won their second game in a row, needing a win over Missouri this week or Vanderbilt next week to become bowl eligible for the first time since 2010.
10. Three To See – Going to watch some more football this weekend? Of course you are. Start here…
#25 Minnesota at #16 Nebraska – The Gophers have a chance to secure the West division with wins these next two weeks over Nebraska and Wisconsin. Meanwhile, Nebraska fans are hoping to finally finish a season with less than four losses. A loss to Minnesota means a bowl win is required. Lots of drama, but the Gophers dig out a win on the road, 28-24.
#10 Ole Miss at Arkansas – The Rebels are playing for respect (and an outside shot at the SEC West Title). The Razorbacks are playing for a bowl berth, something that seemed impossible until the win over LSU last week. With the way Arkansas is playing and Ole Miss looking for a new go-to guy after losing Laquon Treadwell for the season, Arkansas punches its ticket to the postseason with a 20-17 win.
#14 Arizona at #23 Utah – The second of just two games involving two ranked teams, this will help clear the picture up in the heavily convoluted PAC-12 South. Both teams can win the division (with help), so expect both to come out swinging. It’s going to be a tough one, but home field advantage and a balanced offense give the Utes a win, 28-23.
Marshall at UAB – UAB, at 5-5, has a chance to become bowl eligible for just the second time ever. In a season where there are talks of shutting the program down, not much could be bigger for the team than a huge win against the Thundering Herd. Yes, the Blazers were most recently seen losing 40-24 to Louisiana Tech. But with the way coach Bill Clark has been able to motivate his players and two weeks to prepare, this is a perfect time pull the upset. Marshall is caught sleeping and loses 40-38.