Nov 27

Ten Things - Week Thirteen

Posted By:Wes Mewbourne - Birmingham, AL  Tags:

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It’s only fitting that what seemed like the weakest weekend of the season turned out some of the most unexpected results.  A record that had lasted fifteen years before being broken last week was broken just seven days later.  A top ten program was blanked 30-0. Some coaches continued their climb to prestige while others fanned the flames that warmed their seats. Several teams dining on cupcakes found them difficult to swallow, which could come in to play as soon as the playoff selection committee administers another eye-test.  But what else is new?  As we prepare to indulge in turkey, holiday sales, and (hopefully) the tears of our rivals, Let’s remember the week that was in this week’s Ten Things… 
1. Clinging To Hope – Several teams across the country kept their playoff hopes and championship dreams alive. Most notably in the PAC-12, where three teams (Arizona, Arizona State, and UCLA) are still alive in the division race and might find their way in the top four with an upset of Oregon in the PAC-12 Championship Game. Georgia breezed by Georgia Southern and is rooting hard for the Razorbacks to knock Missouri out of the way. After an underwhelming win over Indiana and another Virginia Tech loss, Ohio State seems to be left dangling in the wind.  All of these teams will likely need to win their conference to even merit consideration for the playoff.
2. A New Record – Last week, Wisconsin’s Melvin Gordon ran to the top of the mountain for single game rushing yards with a 408 yard output against Nebraska. Just one week later, Oklahoma’s Samaje Perine went for 427 yards against Kansas. The freshman Sooner now has 1,428 yards on the season (good for tenth nationally and second among freshmen to Western Michigan’s Jarvion Franklin), even though he’s only had seven games with more than 13 carries.  Don’t be surprised if this young man finds himself on some Heisman watch lists in the 2015 preseason.
3. Much Ado About Nothing – There was a bit of a fuss on the ol’ message boards regarding a certain Florida State quarterback and his exchange with an official.  While some have rightly said that such contact with an official warranted a flag as well as an ejection, others have astutely pointed out that the ref who was shoved was the one who was in the position to make that call.  Given the trend of favoritism towards everyone’s favorite player to love and the fact that the one official at the center of the exchange opted to not throw the flag, no one should be surprised.
4. Playoff Four – The committee’s rankings stayed the same for the first time all season, but should it?
Alabama – After an underwhelming start, the Tide did what most #1 teams would do to an FCS program.  All the grumbling about SEC teams playing these cupcake so late in the year (or any time, really) need look no further than the committee’s top four teams.  Until it starts to hurt their standings, the SEC has no reason to fix what ain’t broke.
Oregon – The Ducks (in my mind) are looking like the best overall team in college football right now. Even with the injuries suffered on the offensive line, they shredded Colorado 44-10. With a dangerous team, a Heisman future Heisman trophy winning quarterback (barring a meltdown in the next two games), and a solid resume, it may be that the second ranked team in the country is actually underrated.
Florida State – Another week, another win by the skin of their teeth.  This time, the Seminoles needed a field goal in the waning seconds against Boston College. It’s safe to say this team is simply a more boring version of last year’s Auburn team.  It may not be flashy, but they continue to win.
Mississippi State – This is the wild card pick.  If the Bulldogs win this week but don’t play for the SEC championship and are compared to one loss conference champion Ohio State and TCU/Baylor, this will be the most scrutinized selection.  Jeff Long’s comments that Mississippi State “has wins over teams that were previously in the top 25” fuels critics (including this guy) that these weekly rankings serve as a tool of bias for the final selection.
5. The Next Four – Should one of the above team falter to their rival, here are the vultures circling…
Baylor – I see Baylor listed as seventh on the current rankings, but assuming the Bears finish with a win over Kansas State next week that head-to-head win over TCU will be better than anything on Ohio State’s resume and will be the tiebreaker against TCU. That said…
TCU - There’s a decent chance Kansas State upsets Baylor, which will open the door for the Horned Frogs.  TCU would have a head to head win over their conference “co-champion” and an already quality standing (read: bias) among the playoff committee.
Ohio State – There’s still a chance the Buckeyes can nudge their way into the field, but the fairly weak win against Indiana did nothing to wash away the ever darkening stain of losing to Virginia Tech (who is 5-6, by the way).
UCLA – The Bruins got bumped up this week over Georgia simply because they have the best chance of the two loss teams to win their conference.  The Bruins earn a rematch with Oregon with a win this week, while Georgia has to hope the team it beat by two touchdowns (Arkansas) can beat a Missouri team the Bulldogs crushed 34-0.
6. Trending Up: SEC Hype – The propaganda machine is in full force.  With the Arkansas win last week, the SEC West became the first division to have all seven teams become bowl eligible.  All total, 13 could be bowl eligible by this time next week.  And it’s likely that after this week, just four teams (Alabama, Mississippi State, Georgia, and Missouri) will finish with winning conference records.
7. Trending Down: Confidence in the Playoff – Maybe it’s just a snap judgment. Maybe it’ll all work out. But it seems that the focus on the fourth team (Should the SEC get two teams?  Is OSU really deserving? What of the Big Twelve teams?) is overshadowing what is setting up to be a fantastic season finale.  Just imagine if things were just as they are….but there was no clue who was in the playoff picture.  Ironically, though the weekly rankings were provided to enhance transparency, it seems more and more like the result is a BCS-like deck stacked against the teams that are just on the outside looking in.
8. Coach Of The Year Candidates – At this point, the picture starts to come in more clearly just how good a job some coaches have performed. Recent years have pointed to a coach who has a shot at the national title, but fallen short (just ask Gus Malzahn, Brian Kelly, Les Miles, and Chip Kelly). So while recent history points to Dan Mullen, the short list should include Justin Fuente (Memphis) and Jerry Kill (Minnesota). Fuente has taken an annual doormat and brought them from 3-9 last year to 8-3 and the top of the American Athletic Conference.  Meanwhile Kill, who had a rather public bout with epilepsy several years ago, has epitomized endurance.  His Gophers team plays Wisconsin this week for the division title – no small feat for a program that hasn’t sniffed even a share a title since 1967.
9. SEC Rundown – Since the rest of the article was rather SEC heavy, this will be brief. Quite simply, Tennessee (at Vanderbilt) and Kentucky (at Louisville) look to put a positive end on rebuilding seasons.  Both look to become bowl eligible.  Kentucky has the more difficult task, though Tennessee may be playing for nothing more than a return visit to Nashville in a few weeks.
10. Three To See:
#13 Arizona State at #11 Arizona – Should UCLA beat Stanford, this game is for little more than bragging rights.  Should the Bruins lose, this is for a chance to square off with Oregon for the conference crown.  So watch this one with anticipation, because it will go to overtime with the Wildcats pulling off a thriller for the home crowd, 44-41.
#18 Minnesota at #14 Wisconsin – The Gophers handled the Cornhuskers and their rushing attack, but Melvin Gordon might be angry that his rushing record only lasted a week.  Either way, this will be a typical, grind-it-out-on-the-ground slugfest.  Gordon proves to be just a bit too much as the Gophers fall 38-30.
#15 Auburn at #1 Alabama – It’s the Iron Bowl.  The winner of this game has played for the nation championship the past five years.  There will be no shortage of excitement as Malzahn will likely pull out all the stops to upset Alabama two years in a row.  The Tide will roll, though, 34-24.

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