Starting 11: Gators in big bowl trouble

Welcome to the first November edition of the Starting 11.

1. Florida is in real trouble

Two crazy stats: Ron Zook is now guaranteed to have a better SEC record than Will Muschamp after three years as coach.

Muschamp is now 0-7 in Cocktail Parties — 0-4 as a Georgia player and 0-3 as a Florida coach.

The Gators have been to 22 straight bowl games, but a 23rd is not a foregone conclusion. 

The Gators close with likely losses at South Carolina and at home against Florida State. That’s six losses. Even this Gator offense can’t lose to Georgia Southern, so that’s the fifth win.

That means the Vanderbilt game this weekend will determine whether the Gators get to six wins to qualify for a bowl game. 

2. Why, again, can’t we start the playoff now?

I’ve been on this kick for a year now and wrote about it last week.

It never made sense to me that college football finally did the right thing — created a playoff — but held back from starting it for a year.

Why do this? It left open the possibility for BCS disaster in one last year, and BCS chaos looms.

Big time.

Right now if you seeded a playoff based on the BCS standings, No. 1 Alabama would play No. 4 Ohio State and No. 2  Florida STate would play No. 3 Oregon.

Would anyone — aside from Baylor fans, who would still have a chance to make their case to be included in the playoff before the season is over — have any problem at all with that?

You could play the games on campus on Dec. 21 — that’s two weeks after the conference title games — and still have two weeks to get ready for the BCS title game.

TV isn’t even an obstacle here since ESPN is already paying for the playoff. Don’t you think ESPN would be willing to extend the playoff agreement an extra year and pay for two semifinal games a year early? Particularly when, as here, we’re talking about four major TV draws that would produce massive ratings?

Not to mention, eternal goodwill among college football fans.

So why can’t this happen? I’m going to keep banging this drum as long as the BCS mess continues to grow. 

3. Florida State waxed Miami

This managed to surprise only the people who pay no attention to college football and hence didn’t know that the Seminoles were a 21-point favorite — namely, the computers, which now have Florida State ranked as a unanimous No. 1.

Newsflash: Miami is not that good.

Some voters were impressed by the FSU win, but most maintained their top two rankings.

4. Oregon-Stanford and Oklahoma-Baylor is the best Thursday night slate we’ve ever seen

But here’s the deal — Oregon and Baylor are both double-digit favorites.

If we don’t get an upset in these games, then you’re talking about true BCS issues down the stretch.

Oregon will be more than a two-touchdown favorite over every other team it plays. Given that FSU and Ohio State are also massive favorites, at least three undefeated teams becomes very likely.

5. The two most inexplicable losses this year: South Carolina at Tennessee and Oklahoma State at West Virginia

Oklahoma State losing at West Virginia as a 19-point favorite is the biggest upset of the year. But I’d argue that South Carolina losing at Tennessee, while not as substantial of an upset on the number, is the second biggest. When you look at every other game South Carolina and Tennessee have played, it’s hard to fathom how the Gamecocks lost to the Vols.

As an honorable mention, I’d toss in LSU losing on the road at Ole Miss, which is one of the worst defeats of the Les Miles era.

All three of these games are hard to reconcile with the rest of the college football games we’ve seen.

6. Ohio State needs Michigan State to win out so it can finally play a top-15 team 

Unfortunately for the Buckeyes, I think Michigan State will lose at Nebraska in two weeks.

State could also lose at woeful Northwestern.

It’s almost as if the Big Ten has adopted a counterintuitive strategy to beat Urban Meyer — not by actually beating him on the field, but by sucking so bad as a conference that Meyer can’t win anything beyond a Big Ten title.

7. God bless you Homeland

Last night’s episode was truly spectacular.

I’m praying they’ve finally written Dana Brody off the show.

And if Saul doesn’t win an Emmy this year, then there is no justice in the TV world.

8. Alabama is the only team that will play four top-15 teams in current BCS standings

So can we stop with the "Alabama hasn’t played anyone" griping?

This week the Tide plays No. 13 LSU, the last week of the season Bama plays at No. 9 Auburn and in the SEC title game Bama will likely play either No. 8 Missouri or No. 12 South Carolina. Already Bama beat No. 15 Texas A&M on the road in College Station.

The other undefeated teams against top 15 competition:

Florida State will play two — Clemson and Miami.

Oregon will play one — Stanford.

Baylor will play two — Oklahoma and Oklahoma State.

Ohio State still hasn’t played a top-15 team under Urban Meyer in two years. I don’t believe that will change this year, but Michigan State would finally be in the top 15 if they ran the table.  

9. Here are the SEC East tiebreak scenarios

Mizzou wins the SEC if it wins out and goes 7-1.

Mizzou also wins a three-team SEC 6-2 tiebreak between Georgia, Mizzou and South Carolina provided it beats Kentucky. (Mizzou would be 5-1 against the SEC East while the other two teams would be 4-2).

Mizzou loses a two-way 6-2 tiebreak with South Carolina.

South Carolina wins a two-way 6-2 tiebreak with Mizzou, so the Gamecocks need Georgia to lose to Auburn and Mizzou to lose at least one game as well.

If Georgia beats Kentucky and Auburn and Mizzou beats Kentucky and Ole Miss, then Mizzou’s final game against Texas A&M wouldn’t matter — the Tigers would clinch with a win at Ole Miss.

Georgia wins the SEC East if the Bulldogs win out and if Mizzou loses two of its final three games.  

10. My national top 10

(For analysis of this week’s national and SEC rankings, click here.)

1. Alabama

2. Oregon

3. Florida State

4. Baylor

5. Stanford

6. Ohio State

7. Missouri

8. Auburn

9. South Carolina

10. Texas A&M

11. My SEC power rankings

1. Alabama

2. Mizzou

3. Auburn

4. South Carolina

5. Texas A&M

6. LSU

7. Georgia

8. Ole Miss

9. Florida

10. Vanderbilt

11. Tennessee

12. Mississippi State

13. Kentucky

14. Arkansas