It’s so easy to throw around the accusation of “bias,” which is what’s happened recently in regards to coverage of the SEC.
ESPN (unfairly) and the SEC Network (well, duh) have been targeted with silly talk about preferring the College Football Playoff this year be loaded with SEC teams, as if a national network doesn’t want massive audiences from other parts of the country involved.
This isn’t new, of course. Lots of people have screamed about an “SEC bias” before. But Nebraska coach Bo Pelini raised the game a little recently by saying ESPN’s business relationship with the SEC isn’t good for college football, apparently giving license for everyone to jump on board.
The best answer to senseless bias talk, though? That comes from the great Brent Musburger, who works for the SEC Network. During his call of the Auburn-South Carolina game on Saturday, he coyly slipped in a blunt message to critics in between plays.
“Somebody said we’ve got SEC bias,” Musburger said. “Deal with it. They’re the best.”
Leave it to Musberger to have the best response of all and not get caught up in the back-and-forth of a debate that’s going nowhere. Here’s audio if you’d like to listen to Musburger’s sage words over and over (make sure there’s no ‘X’ over the sound icon):
THREE THINGS YOU NEED TO KNOW
1. Whenever we look at a week on a paper and think it’s going to be boring, something awesome is guaranteed to happen. That something in Week 9 came at night in Tiger Stadium, as No. 24 LSU upset No. 3 Ole Miss to hand the Rebels their first loss of the season. It wasn’t an aesthetically-pleasing game at all. LSU ran the ball 55 times for 4.8 yards per pop, threw only 16 passes and somehow had enough of Les Miles’ pixie dust to survive four turnovers to Ole Miss’ one. If there’s one visual that represents this game for LSU, it’s probably this:
Everything was ugly for LSU, unless you like watching Leonard Fournette and the rest of the Tigers maul people on the ground (yes, please). Fournette got 23 carries and churned out 113 hard yards. QB Anthony Jennings didn’t play well, going 8-of-16 for 142 yards with one TD and two picks, but that one TD came with just over five minutes to play to put the Tigers up 10-7. Here is what proved to be the game-winning score, a pass to Logan Stokes:
LSU never should have had that opportunity, with its turnovers and all, but the Rebels couldn’t capitalize offensively. QB Bo Wallace had been sensational in October – until Saturday night. “Bad Bo” came back and went 14-of-33 for 176 yards with one TD and one pick, including a last-second heave to the end zone that came instead of a 47-yard game-tying field goal attempt. Stewart Mandel breaks down the situation more in the Week 9 takeaways post, but that kind of risk couldn’t have been what Hugh Freeze wanted when he sent the QB back on the field. The more reasonable play would have been picking up a first down, or getting out of bounds, and making the field goal attempt more manageable.
The good news for Ole Miss is if it beats Auburn at home next week and wins the Egg Bowl in Oxford to end the regular season, and doesn’t lose at Arkansas in between, it will still win the SEC West and go to the league title game with a playoff berth on the line. But coming out of Saturday night, this sums up the Rebels’ fan base.
2. The second-biggest story of Week 9 was Lane Kiffin’s return to Knoxville simply because it was such a spectacle. The Alabama OC and former Tennessee head coach bailed on the Vols in ugly fasion a few years back, Tennessee fans have been so bitter Kiffin’s mother said she feared for her son’s safety this week. Here’s Kiffin arriving at Neyland Stadium surrounded by cops:
Looking ahead for Alabama, the Tide will want to run the ball better than they did against the Vols – Derrick Henry had 78 yards on 16 carries, and T.J. Yeldon had 52 yards on 14 attempts – and finish the game stronger, as the Vols scored 20 of the game’s last 27 points. But Bama is right where it wants to be with one loss in the SEC and heading to LSU on Nov. 8 after a bye. It then gets Mississippi State at home and ends the year by hosting the Iron Bowl. It won’t be easy to win all three of those games, but the Tide can and would then be off to the SEC title game.
3. No. 19 Utah against No. 20 USC was the game I was most looking forward to this week other than Ole Miss-LSU, and it turned out to be a fun one. Utah beat the Trojans, 24-21, by scoring a TD in the final seconds. USC had some impressive individual nights – Nelson Agholor had 10 catches for 110 yards, Cody Kessler went 24-of-32 for 264 yards and two TDs (one pick) – but collectively they weren’t that explosive against the Utes D. Their best play of the night was Adoree Jackson’s 100-yard kickoff return for a TD that was basically unchallenged.
The Pac-12 South is now a three-team race between Utah, Arizona and Arizona State. USC went down the same dark road in the loss to Utes, writes Bill Plaschke.
THREE THINGS YOU SHOULD KNOW
1. The No. 1 team in the nation survived a tricky road test, as top-ranked Mississippi State beat Kentucky, 45-31. It wasn’t the Bulldogs’ best game at all, and for that I think we need to credit Kentucky more than discredit MSU. The Wildcats kept QB Dak Prescott relatively contained, as he went 18-of-33 for 216 yards and one TD with one pick, but it’s just so difficult to shut him down on the ground even when he’s not as sharp in the pass game. Prescott has such a combination of physicality and agility that these type of runs are routine:
Prescott had 18 carries for 88 yards and two TDs. The real star, though, was bowling ball running back Josh Robinson, who had 23 carries for 198 yards and two TDs. Want to be mesmerized? Watch this video of Robinson breaking tackles in fast-forward:
There was one funny moment as the clock was running out and after most people had already flipped the channel. Miss. State was lining up to kneel, and Robinson was looking over to the sideline and giving Dan Mullen grief because he was only a couple yards short of 200. Mullen did the right thing, of course, by saving his invaluable RB from more hits. But it was funny, and after the game Robinson got Mullen back by videobombing his postgame TV interview:
We have to give Kentucky QB Patrick Towles some love before moving on. He went 24-of-43 for 390 yards and two TDs with no picks, as well as 76 yards and two TDs on the ground. He was very impressive and a sign of why Kentucky is an improved football team.
2. No. 13 Ohio State needed double overtime to beat Penn State on the road, 31-24. We’ve heard a lot about the resurgence of Ohio State in recent weeks and it’s fair to wonder how much of that apparent improvement was real or a product of playing weak competition. The Buckeyes weren’t great in State College on Saturday night, but I give them credit for grinding out a win rather than knock them because it wasn’t flawless. J.T. Barrett had a poor night as a passer – 12-of-19 for 74 yards, one TD and two picks – but he had 75 yards rushing with two TDs, and those TDs both came in the overtime periods. Ohio State’s defensive line pressured Christian Hackenberg all night and largely kept the white-out crowd silent.
The Buckeyes kept their playoff hopes alive, and everything now points to Nov. 8 at Michigan State. In other news, before the game, Penn State fans held a rally to get Joe Paterno’s 409 wins restored, which included signing a huge “409” with the intent of taking that to the NCAA headquarters in Indianapolis and presenting it to president Mark Emmert. Yep, I’m sure all of this will be received quite well.
3. For a game that was every bit of the ass kicking we expected it to be, Michigan-Michigan State created a lot of buzz. The Spartans won, 35-11, and there was never any real competition. Michigan State handed the ball to running back Jeremy Langford 35 times, and he churned out 177 yards and three TDs. Meanwhile, Michigan QB Devin Gardner was awful, going 13-of-28 for 121 yards, zero TDs and two interceptions. This pretty much sums up Gardner’s season and the 2014 Michigan team at large:
The most interesting subplot was Michigan State tacking on a touchdown late in the game apparently because the Spartans were pissed about the Wolverines planting a stake in their field prior to the game. It was actually the least intimidating spear-plant of all-time. Look at this:
What is that? A steak knife, maybe?
If Max Bullough was still around East Lansing, he would have picked that out of the turf, stabbed it into his own arm and then challenge the whole Michigan team to a fight. And they would have backed down, because they aren’t a tough football team.
Instead of these silly antics, Michigan should focus on two facts: 1) Your rival fans flew a banner over the stadium pleading for you to keep your struggling head coach; 2) this game was so lopsided that even your student newspaper decided to stop live-tweeting it because it thought it was too graphic for the fan base. Yeah, I don’t think you’re in any position to talk crap to Michigan State.
THREE THINGS YOU MAY WANT TO KNOW
1. Two thoughts about No. 10 TCU’s 82-27 win over Texas Tech:
* What in God’s name did new co-OCs Sonny Cumbie and Doug Meacham inject into this TCU offense, how much did it cost and where can I get a few vials? It used to take the old TCU a month (or longer) to score 82 points. On Saturday, they could have scored 100 but somewhere in the fourth quarter decided Trevone Boykin’s 433 yards and seven TDs passing was enough. The Horned Frogs finished with 785 yards and looked like a complete juggernaut. Nice performance from their defense, too, after 17 points in the first quarter.
* What’s happened to the Red Raiders? Kliff Kingsbury signed a new contract before this season and was one of the business’ hottest rising names, but Tech is now 3-5 (1-4 Big 12) and appears to have taken significant steps back from the bowl team that beat Arizona State last year. I think Kingsbury is a good coach and a masterful recruiter, but someday he’ll have to get Tech to pony up and bring in a top-notch defensive coordinator, because that side of the ball is an utter mess.
Elsewhere in the Big 12: No. 11 Kansas State shut out Texas, 23-0, and there wasn’t anything that special about it. Just typical Bill Snyder football – few penalties (three for 25 yards), no turnovers, a clean kicking performance (3-for-3 in FGs) and tough defense. The best part of the game was K-State fans chanting “We own Texas.” Very strong.
The Horns beat them last year, of course, but the Wildcats have won four of the last five meetings. More importantly, at 6-1 (4-0 Big 12), K-State takes another step toward a league title and a potential playoff berth. They’re at TCU in two weeks, which will be an incredible game, and also have to go to West Virginia and Baylor after that. It’s a hell of a stretch and probably enough reason to pick someone else to win the Big 12. But Snyder has surprised us all before, so we’ll just sit back and see.
Elsewhere in the SEC. No. 5 Auburn survived a strong fight from South Carolina, beating the Gamecocks at home 42-35. Nick Marshall completed 12-of-14 passes for 139 yards and one TD (no picks) and added 89 yards and three TDs on the ground, while Cameron Artis-Payne rushed 25 times for 167 yards and a TD.
There are still a lot of big games left on Auburn’s schedule before it can start thinking about an SEC title shot. The Tigers are at Ole Miss next week and also have to go to Georgia and Alabama before the season is over. Brutal stretch.
3. The ACC had a quiet day on Saturday, without a single game generating any interest among the crowded field of SEC, Big Ten and Pac-12 games. Well, unless it was Pitt-George Tech, which created interest for all the wrong reasons. Pitt fumbled five times – in the first quarter. Do the Panthers give us the worst five minutes of football every played? This will shock you, but GT won 56-28.