Starting 11: Bad Bo Wallace Edition
The best thing about the college football playoff is this -- your team is no longer eliminated by a single loss. So while Ole Miss fans were understandably crushed by the awful game management of Bo Wallace and Hugh Freeze, it wasn't a season-ending loss. (I'm not letting Hugh Freeze off the hook here. He sent his unreliable quarterback back out onto the field to run a play before attempting a field goal). There will be at least three one-loss teams in the playoff this year. And there may even be a two loss SEC team. Plus, if Florida State were to lose at Louisville then we'd be pretty much assured that every major conference team would lose at least one game. So smile, all isn't lost. Unless, that is, you're a Tennessee fan.
1. How long will Bad Bo Wallace stay around?
Wallace was atrocious on the road at LSU. I'm willing to forgive that performance because every quarterback has at least one bad game on the road in conference. The question is, how long will this loss linger?
Ole Miss has three SEC games remaining, beginning with Auburn this weekend. After an FCS school and a bye week comes a tough game at Arkansas and then Ole Miss finishes with Mississippi State at home. All three of these games are very loseable. Meaning that Ole Miss could go from dreaming of the SEC title game and the college football playoff to a second-straight trip to the Music City Bowl.
2. Lane Kiffin returned to Knoxville and peed all over the Tennessee Volunteer dumpster fire.
I could write a bunch of words about Kiffin, but instead I'm going to post these two Vines. I love both of these clips because they sum up Kiffin perfectly.
3. LSU is now 24-23 in games that Les Miles's team has trailed in the fourth quarter.
That's a remarkable stat that no other team can come close to equaling. But it's also crazy that LSU has played this many close games. Miles has coached 128 games at LSU. This means that nearly 37% of the games that he's coached at LSU, the Tigers have trailed in the fourth quarter.
Crazier still, of these 24 come from behind victories, 16 have come against Top 25 teams.
LSU is also the only team in the past five years to beat a top ten opponent while scoring ten or fewer points.
4. The officiating in the Ohio State at Penn State game was epically bad.
Ohio State scored ten points off totally blown calls. Considering the game went to overtime, that was kind of a big deal.
I don't understand how college officiating is so bad. At a minimum, I think it's time that each conference takes the instant replay system outside of the individual stadiums and gives every replay to a group watching in a remote location. That way you at least get your best officials involved in replay situations.
I say this because I'm fortunate enough to work alongside Mike Pereira every weekend. Pereira gets every call right. I mean, he's incredibly good at his job. So if we can have him in the Fox studio watching every college and NFL game and getting every call correct, why can't the college leagues put their best official in charge of making every instant replay ruling too?
5. Look out for Arizona State, Arizona and Utah, all one loss teams, in the Pac 12 South.
Arizona State and Utah play this weekend while Arizona travels to UCLA. While everyone, myself included, has focused on Oregon's road to the Pac 12 title, it's possible that Arizona State, Arizona or Utah could crash the college football playoff party as well.
Arizona State has the easiest Pac 12 schedule remaining, but they also have Notre Dame still to come.
If any of these teams finish with one loss, they're in.
6. Kansas State, TCU, Baylor, and West Virginia look to be the class of the Big 12.
Good luck trying to figure out what's going to happen in this league. We'll know a bit more after TCU travels to West Virginia. If the Horned Frogs can win that game -- which won't be easy -- then we're talking about Kansas State traveling to TCU in a game that would probably determine whether or not TCU finishes 11-1.
And while Kansas State fans have a great deal of optimism, it's worth noting that the Wildcats still have road games at TCU, West Virginia, and Baylor. The odds of them winning all three of these road games are minuscule.
If I had to bet on a favorite to win the Big 12 right now, I'd take Baylor.
By the way, how high does the over/under need to be for TCU at West Virginia. 90? Is that high enough?
7. How many SEC teams are still alive for the college football playoff?
Five teams for sure.
More importantly, how many will actually make the playoff? The answer, who the hell knows? LSU's upset of Ole Miss really shook up the league. The best case scenario for the SEC would be to get three teams in the playoff, the worst case would be to get one.
So how does the best case scenario end up happening? Mississippi State runs the table to finish 12-0. Auburn also runs the table to finish 11-1, with its only loss being on the road at Mississippi State. An 11-1 Auburn team would be virtually assured of making the playoff since it would have road wins at Kansas State, Ole Miss, Georgia, and Alabama. Then Mississippi State loses a close game to 10-2 Georgia in the SEC title game. A 12-1 Mississippi State team would probably still be in the playoff and there's a good chance an 11-2 SEC champion Georgia team would as well. Auburn would still get in as well. At this point that's probably the best route for the SEC to get three teams into the playoff. (All of this assumes that either FSU loses or the Pac 12 and Big 12 champs have two losses).
But there's also the potential the SEC could only get one team in the playoff. How so?
Crazily enough, what if there were a five-way SEC West tie between Alabama, Auburn, Mississippi State, Ole Miss and LSU at 6-2? (A couple of you have emailed me about this, which proves that all of you reading this spend way too much of your free time thinking about college football.) In the wake of LSU's win over Ole Miss, it's not all that unbelievable that a five-team tie could happen. Here's what would need to happen: Auburn beats Ole Miss this weekend, LSU wins out, beating Alabama in the process, Alabama beats Auburn in the Iron Bowl, Mississippi State loses at Alabama and at Ole Miss. If every team wins every other game, you'd have a five-way 6-2 tie in the SEC West.
So who would win the tiebreak? Auburn, by virtue of the next to last tiebreak, the Tigers SEC East opponents, Georgia and South Carolina, would have better records than any other team's SEC East opponents.
In this scenario every single team in the SEC would also have at least two losses since Auburn would win on the road at Georgia. That means you'd have six 10-2 teams in the SEC. As a result, the only team to advance to the playoff might well be the SEC champ.
8. Michigan should try and hire Les Miles.
I know Jim Harbaugh is the dream candidate, but as much as it would pain me to see him leave, Michigan really needs Les Miles. The Wolverines need a tough, no-nonsense, physical coach. Miles's teams aren't fancy, they just bludgeon you to death with physicality. Did you watch that 95 yard drive where LSU ran the ball on 12 straight plays against the top defense in college football? Then on the 13th play they went play action for a touchdown pass? It was a thing of beauty. There was nothing fancy about the drive, it was just physical football.
With all of the infatuation with spread offenses and read option attacks and the like, a lot of teams have trouble lining up man on man and just going to work. The best thing Michigan could do in the Big Ten is get Miles to bring his brand of physical football back to the conference.
Would Miles be willing to leave? I have no idea. But I think he'd be the answer for Michigan's problems.
9. Vandy has started four quarterbacks in its first eight games of the season.
If you combine that with the Tennessee Titans, who have started three, and the Tennessee Vols, who may well start Josh Dobbs this weekend meaning they will have started three as well, the state of Tennessee's three biggest football teams will have started ten quarterbacks in 25 combined football games this season. Not surprisingly, the teams are a combined 7-17 so far.
None of these ten quarterbacks are very good either. I mean, we're not talking about a situation where three stud quarterbacks got injured and the resulting mess is a function of those injuries. We're talking about ten guys who are really, really mediocre at the position.
Anyway, this raises the question -- has any state ever had worse quarterback play from more quarterbacks than the state Tennessee in 2014?
I don't think so.
If you live in Tennessee and you feel like this is the most depressing football season of all-time, that's probably because it is.
10. What will Tennessee do in its final four games of the season?
While Butch Jones has instilled a lot of optimism in Tennessee with his "brick by brick" tagline and his aggressive recruiting, tangible results are lacking. (Seriously, the dumber the tagline the more the rednecks eat it up as the gospel truth. Screaming VFL is the Viagra of East Tennessee. If I ever run for Senate in Tennessee -- and good Lord would that be fun -- my entire campaign is just going to be the slogan: "Clay: He Good.")
Tennessee closes out the season with these four games -- at South Carolina, Kentucky, Missouri, at Vandy. If Tennessee loses to Derek Mason and Vandy, Butch Jones and his entire staff deserve to be fired on the spot. So I'm giving the Vols that win. The Vols are eight point underdogs at South Carolina and my guess is that Mizzou and Kentucky in Knoxville will both be relatively tight games. Tennessee has to win three of these final four games to go to a bowl. What's more, the Vols have to win at least two of these games to avoid the worst season in the history of Tennessee football.
I'm thinking a split is probably the most likely scenario. That would leave the Vols at 5-7 for a second straight season, missing out on bowl games both years because the university was too dumb to buy out road games at Oregon and at Oklahoma. This would also mean that entering his third season Butch Jones would have a worse record than Derek Dooley did after two seasons at Tennessee. Yeah, you read that right -- Butch is in danger of underperforming Dooley.
My point is this -- while Butch has done a better job of selling the rednecks that things are changing at Tennessee, nothing will have really changed in terms of on-field results. Now you can make the argument that's because Derek Dooley did such a bad job and Butch has to rebuild, but Dooley took over a program that was in pretty awful shape too. Remember the third year was supposed to be the charm for Dooley. Instead, he hired Sal Sunseri to run the defense and the wheels came off that side of the ball. But entering Dooley's third year you can also argue that Tennessee was more talented than it will be entering Butch's third year. Think about the talent Dooley had on the offensive side of the ball -- three NFL wide receivers, a proven offensive line, and an NFL quarterback in Tyler Bray. Every offensive starter on the Vols 2012 team is now playing in the NFL. Sure, the defense was weak, but it's not like Butch Jones is going to be returning the Steel Curtain on defense in 2015. And the Vol offense will undoubtedly be weaker than Dooley's team in 2012. So is Butch's team really going to be a ton better in 2015? These final four games will give us a good indication.
I didn't drink the Dool-Aid, but I'm not buying into the brick by brick theme either. (Interestingly, the same people who drank the Dool-Aid are the same people angry that anyone would criticize Butch now.) I want results, not slogans. Unless Butch Jones's Vols close on a hot streak, it's likely his first two years are going to be worse than Derek Dooley's.
11. Here's Outkick's SEC power rankings:
1. Mississippi State
4. Ole Miss
7. Texas A&M
9. South Carolina
To forestall the angry Tweets from Kentucky fans, yes, I know Kentucky beat South Carolina. But South Carolina's resume is better than Kentucky's. The Gamecocks beat two top 20 teams, Georgia and ECU, and took Auburn to the absolute wire at Auburn.