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Starting 11: My Ohio State stance

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Clay Travis

Clay Travis has been a columnist for CBSSports.com, FanHouse, and an editor/writer for Deadspin. He's written two books, Dixieland Delight and On Rocky Top, hosts a daily radio show in Nashville and appears on FS1's "FOX College Saturday."

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Let's be honest, it was really hard to draw very many conclusions from this weekend in college football.

You had complete domination from the teams that Vegas favored on Saturday -- favorites went 57-2 straight up -- and many of these games were over by the end of the first quarter.

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So what did we learn?

Not much.

Nevertheless, the Starting 11 never takes a Monday morning off, let's dive in. 

1. Las Vegas would favor five SEC teams over Ohio State

Some people believe that I'm ranking Ohio State as an SEC team just to anger Ohio State fans. That's not true at all.

I'm making the same point that I did last year about Notre Dame, namely that just because a team is highly ranked doesn't mean it actually deserves that ranking.

For some reason, paying attention to what Las Vegas thinks is anathema to poll voters and other college football prognosticators.

I feel differently.

Would I rather trust the opinion of an efficient market like Las Vegas -- they're not making billions of dollars a year by accident out there -- or a fat sportswriter from Toledo?

This should be a no-brainer, right?

Well, on a neutral field Vegas would favor Alabama, Georgia, LSU, Texas A&M and South Carolina over Ohio State. Florida and Ole Miss would be slight -- less than a field goal -- underdogs.

Last week I favored both of those teams over Ohio State in my SEC power rankings. That's hardly a ridiculous proposition.

This week, in the wake of the Jeff Driskel injury, I'm bumping Ohio State up to seventh in the SEC.

Congrats, Buckeyes.

Put plainly, if the goal of the BCS is to match the top two teams in the country, then Ohio State is not a true national title contender. Oregon, Stanford, Florida State and Clemson would all be favored over Ohio State as well.

Given that Vegas isn't a believer in Ohio State and that the Buckeyes play in the weak Big Ten, even a one-loss SEC or Pac 12 champion should get in over Ohio State.  

2. Every year it seems LSU has college football's most brutal schedule

The Bayou Bengals were under the radar this year, ranked the sixth-best team in the SEC. But LSU has been the most impressive team in the conference so far this year.

LSU dismissed Auburn early -- running up a 21-0 first half lead that Auburn never got to single digits -- and cruised home to start 4-0.

Now we find out how good LSU really is.

The Tigers have eight games left on their schedule, five of which are against top-25 teams.

LSU plays at Georgia, Florida, at Ole Miss, at Alabama and Texas A&M.

Whew.

Every season's a new gauntlet for LSU.

3. Missouri got a massive road win at Indiana 

Yes, it was a road win over Indiana and it was in football, not basketball, but this was huge for Gary Pinkel's program, which came into the game as either a small favorite or a small underdog depending on when you bet.

Dorial Green-Beckham is a beast, coming into his own with a healthy James Franklin getting him the ball.

Mizzou ran up 623 total yards, the most ever given up at home in the history of Indiana football, and posted a 17-point win.

The Tigers should be 4-0 when they roll into Vanderbilt for a big swing game for both teams. Win that game and Mizzou will be 5-0, equaling last year's win total. Lose and Vandy would be 4-2, poised to strike as the second half of the season rolls on.

Either way, I'm calling it now: Mizzou will upset either Florida or South Carolina in Columbia. (Not both, stop with those tweets Mizzou fans).

The Tigers have a real chance to finish third in the SEC East this year, which would be a tremendous bounce-back performance for Pinkel's crew after a really disappointing SEC debut.  

4. Tennessee started Nathan Peterman at QB, and he produced one of the worst first halves in college football history

Peterman's first half stat line: 4-11 for five yards passing, two interceptions and one fumble. 

I've never seen a worst half of football at the quarterback position.

If Tennessee had just run the ball on every play in the first half, the Vols would have had a certain lead at halftime. Instead, making an awful decision in the wake of the Driskel injury, Tennessee continued to attempt passses and turned the ball over again and again.

Florida wasn't much better in the first half, but at least the Gators had lost their starting quarterback. By the second half, as Tyler Murphy calmed down, the Gators demonstrated that the Vols were a long way off from being a decent football team.

In fact, the Vols may be an underdog in every game remaining except for South Alabama and at Kentucky. Certainly Tennessee will be substantial underdogs against Alabama, Georgia and South Carolina. But I also believe the Vols will be underdogs at Missouri and home against Vandy and Auburn.

Why does this matter?

Getting to a bowl game is going to be really, really tough for the Vols this year because, barring a substantial upset, UT will have to win three of four against Missouri, Vandy, Auburn and Kentucky. Right now I think it's probable the Vols will be favored in only one of those SEC games.

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5. Wisconsin and Big Ten fans deluged Jen Bielema with #karma tweets after Arkansas' loss to future Big Ten member Rutgers

Last week Bielema tweeted out "#karma" after Wisconsin was robbed of a victory at Arizona State.

This week her husband's team lost a toss-up game at Rutgers. That loss probably means Arkansas won't make a bowl game for the second straight year. 

I'd say four SEC teams are unlikely to make bowls this year -- Kentucky, Arkansas, Mississippi State and Tennessee.

6. Emmy interlude -- you need to be watching Veep

It's the funniest show on television.

Just trust me on this.

7. Stanford looked dominant early against Arizona State

And then the Cardinal withstood a late rally to lock in a 3-0 start.

Stanford's schedule is pretty brutal this year as well. Still to come are top-25 games against Washington, UCLA, Oregon and Notre Dame.

The one bonus? All of these games are at home.

Plus, if Stanford wins the Pac 12 North then the Cardinal would draw another game against whoever manages to win the South division.

Oregon's schedule, honestly, is much easier.

8. How good are Florida State and Clemson?

It's really hard to tell, even as the massive game between the two teams at Clemson moves closer.

Florida State might have played the weakest schedule in the country for a top-25 team so far. Meanwhile, Clemson got a nice win over Georgia to begin the season and since that time has really played no one.

But what's coming for the future?

One of these teams should be undefeated on the final week of the regular season when Florida State travels to Florida and Clemson heads to South Carolina. Will it be Clemson or Florida State? I have no idea.

9. The Pac-12 is clearly the second-best conference in college football

If the top team in the Pac-12 isn't playing the top team in the SEC in the championship game, then we've probably been cheated by the BCS.

One thing I'd like for y'all to consider: Why don't we treat college football more like we do college basketball?

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In college basketball, the top teams play tough schedules and sometimes lose road games. That doesn't stop them from being a top seed in the NCAA tournament. We should be paying more attention to the quality of the conference schedule as a whole.

Again, an undefeated Ohio State against its schedule is nowhere near the same as a one-loss Stanford or a one-loss LSU.

It just isn't.

10. My top 10 teams based on games that have actually been played

1. Oregon

2. Alabama

3. LSU

4. Clemson

5. Georgia

6. Washington

7. UCLA

8. Baylor

9. Texas A&M

10. Stanford

11. My SEC power rankings -- including Ohio State -- for games that have actually been played

1. Alabama

2. LSU

3. Georgia

4. Texas A&M

5. South Carolina

6. Ole Miss

7. Ohio State

8. Florida

9. Missouri

10. Vanderbilt

11. Auburn

12. Tennessee

13. Arkansas

14. Mississippi State

15. Kentucky 

Tagged: Clemson, Florida State, Ohio State, Indiana, Ohio, Stanford, Oregon, Florida, Kentucky, Tennessee, Alabama, LSU, Auburn, Arkansas, South Carolina, Georgia, Texas A&M, Missouri, Texas

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