Starting 11: Alabama and Oregon Are the Best In the Land

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I watched 16 straight hours of college football on Saturday.

That seems impossible, but I got to Fox Studios at 5 am pacific and didn’t leave until 9 pacific. That was sixteen hours of television time. I then stayed up to watch the end of Wisconsin at Arizona State back in my hotel room. By the time the day was over I thought the Louisville at Kentucky game had started a week beforehand.

As a result, I feel comfortable telling y’all this — Ohio State isn’t a top five team. In fact, the Buckeyes aren’t even a top five team in the SEC. I think Ohio State would be the eighth best team in the SEC this year. To be fair, Ohio State would be in one top five, the Buckeyes would be the fifth best team in the SEC West.  

We also found out that Louisville is a pretender to the top ten. Kentucky, indisputably the worst team in the SEC, didn’t even play very well and kept it fairly even against the Cardinals. Louisville is a paper Cardinal, a fun team to watch because of Teddy Bridgewater, but there’s no way on earth they’re a legit national title contender.


Let’s dive into the rest of the Starting 11. 

1. Alabama has two games that it could lose for the remainder of the regular season.

I believe Bama will be favored by ten points or more in both of these home games — Ole Miss and LSU.  

Then the Tide will probably draw Georgia in the BCS title game.

Remember all those complaints about Alabama’s schedule being weak? It’s likely the Tide will play three top ten teams. Plus, Ole Miss is playing like a top ten team right now and could end up there before the season is done. If Ole Miss cracks the top ten that would get the Tide to four top ten teams.

But even if Bama only plays three top ten teams that will be three more than Ohio State is likely to play. That will also be more top ten teams than Louisville, Oklahoma State, Michigan, or Miami will play. The list can go on and on, by the way. If you aren’t in the SEC or the Pac 12, the chances of you playing three top ten teams is virtually zero. (Clemson is the exception here, but only because it’s playing two top ten SEC teams). 

By the way, can we start talking about Nick Saban’s hair plugs now?

Johnny Manziel didn’t just destroy the Alabama defense, the College Station humidity also destroyed Saban’s hair process. 

2. Oregon disemboweled Tennessee. 

That’s why I’ve been arguing for over a year that Tennessee should have bought out the game at Autzen. 

59 unanswered? The worst beating in over 100 years of Volunteer football?

Tennessee gained absolutely nothing by going on the road to play at Oregon. Zero. The Vols could have stayed home and beaten a cream puff. Sure, they’d be an inflated 3-0, but an inflated 3-0 with games at Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, and at Alabama all before Halloween? That seems like a pretty fair trade.

The Vols would have likely been 4-4 if they’d bought out Oregon with a season defining finish at Missouri, Auburn, Vanderbilt, and at Kentucky. Split those four and the Vols would be going bowling in Butch Jones’s first season. Now? Now the Vols are going to need three of those final four to qualify for a bowl game. And that looks pretty damn daunting. 

Because based on what we saw Saturday it’s possible the Vols are underdogs in three of these final four games. I’d take Mizzou, Auburn, and Vandy all against Tennessee on neutral sites right now. And that’s even before the toll of playing four of the next five opponents sets in.

The Vols aren’t deep and they’re going to lose some starters in those games.   

Meanwhile, Oregon is brilliant. 

The Duck game at Washingon October 12th will be the first real test for Oregon. Then comes UCLA and at Stanford. Those are three pretty good tests for one of the nation’s top two teams. I think the Ducks will go undefeated.   

3. Ohio State might play just one top 25 team all season.

And that top 25 team could be Northwestern. 

It was a really bad weekend for the Big Ten.

The Pac 12 knocked off two of the top 25 teams in the conference, Nebraska and Wisconsin, and Washington also went on the road and took down Illinois.

Combine this awful schedule with the fact that Ohio State’s defense has looked horrendous against three bad teams and I’m already to the point where a one-loss SEC or Pac 12 team deserves to be in the BCS title game over an undefeated Ohio State.

The Buckeyes just aren’t going to have the bona fides to justify a title game appearance.

Ask Vegas how many SEC teams would be favored over Ohio State on a neutral site right now? Six or seven is the answer. I think Ohio State would be the fifth best team in the SEC West this year.  

4. The Pac 12 is the second best conference in America.

At this point there is solid evidence that Oregon, Stanford, UCLA, and Washington are very good teams.

You can make a case that all four should be ranked in the top ten right now. (I don’t have Stanford ranked in my on-field top ten because the Cardinal still haven’t played anyone decent, but I think it’s pretty clear that Stanford is very good).

Plus, how good are the two Arizona teams?

Half the Pac 12 could be ranked in the top 25 soon.  

5. Wisconsin lost at Arizona State and Jen Bielema tweeted, “#karma.”

I still have no idea what happened at the end of this game. 

If you haven’t seen the YouTube footage yet, here it is. 

If this had happened earlier in the day, it would have been the lead story in college football. 

But instead it happened late at night and then the NFL storylines took over the next morning. 

Meaning that lots of y’all are just seeing this ending for the first time right now. 

Confession: now that I’m on the west coast every weekend, there really is an east coast bias. But that bias is just because no one can stay awake long enough to watch all these Pac 12 games. 

Jen Bielema, wife of former Wisconsin coach Bret, immediately tweeted out “karma,” evidently forgetting that the man who won this game was former Pittsburgh turncoat Todd Graham. 

6. Mississippi State is officially staring 4-8 in the face.

And that’s giving State wins over Troy and Kentucky.

I’m not really sure they get those both done.

If State goes 4-8, 1-7 in the SEC, that would mean that after all the Dan Mullen hysteria in Starkville, after five seasons Mullen’s SEC record would be 14-26. That’s just four SEC wins better than Sylvester Croom did in his five years at State. So Mullen would be averaging .8 wins a year better than Croom.

Is that good enough?

The trajectory is certainly pointing down.  

7. This Auburn tattoo exists. 

And AJ McCarron thinks this tattoo is bad ass. 

8. Could a one-loss Texas A&M get a BCS title game rematch against Alabama?

It’s unlikely, but it’s certainly possible. After all, Alabama has lost home games each of the past two years and still ended up winning the BCS title. 

Guys, the SEC could end up a real mess this year if LSU beat Alabama, but lost to Texas A&M in Baton Rouge. 

Then you’ve got very good odds of a three-way 11-1 tie in the SEC West. (Ole Miss, by the way, could also manage a three-way tie if it beat Alabama or LSU and won every other game.)

All three of these teams would likely be in the top five in the nation with a round-robin three way loss.

Then it would go all the way to the 8th SEC tiebreak.


That tiebreak reads. 

“The tied team with the highest ranking in the Bowl Championship Series Standings following the last weekend of regular-season games shall be the divisional representative in the SEC Championship Game, unless the second of the tied teams is ranked within five-or-fewer places of the highest ranked tied team. In this case, the head-to-head results of the top two ranked tied teams shall determine the representative in the SEC Championship Game.”

Good luck with that. 

So there’s a decent chance the second highest ranked BCS team would be the SEC’s representative in the SEC title game. But the highest ranked team would get to sit out the SEC title game and potentially default into the game itself.  

How the hell do you resolve that for both the SEC title and the BCS title?

You want the ultimate complicating factor, how do you resolve things if five SEC teams are all ranked in the top ten with one loss at the end of the season? Don’t laugh, it’s possible that Alabama, Texas A&M, Ole Miss, Georgia, and South Carolina could all finish the regular season 11-1.  

9. How good is LSU?

Really damn good. 

So good that I’m already considering the implications of a three-way SEC West tie.

Zach Mettenberger has nine touchdowns and no interceptions so far this year.

If you’ve been sleeping on the Tigers thus far, you’d better wake up.  

That game in Athens in two weeks is going to be epic and LSU is a legit national title contender. 

10. My national top ten based on the games that have currently been played:

1. Oregon

2. Alabama

3. LSU

4. Clemson

5. Georgia


7. Washington

8. Oklahoma State

9. Texas A&M

10. Ole Miss

11. Here are my SEC power rankings based entirely on the games that have been played thus far. (From this point on I will also be including Ohio State in my SEC rankings).

1. Alabama

2. LSU

3. Georgia

4. Texas A&M

5. Ole Miss

6. South Carolina

7. Florida

8. Ohio State

9. Auburn

10. Vanderbilt

11. Missouri

12. Arkansas

13. Tennessee

14. Mississippi State

15. Kentucky 

Written by Clay Travis

Clay Travis is the founder of the fastest growing national multimedia platform, OutKick, that produces and distributes engaging content across sports and pop culture to millions of fans across the country. OutKick was created by Travis in 2011 and sold to the Fox Corporation in 2021.

One of the most electrifying and outspoken personalities in the industry, Travis hosts OutKick The Show where he provides his unfiltered opinion on the most compelling headlines throughout sports, culture, and politics. He also makes regular appearances on FOX News Media as a contributor providing analysis on a variety of subjects ranging from sports news to the cultural landscape. Throughout the college football season, Travis is on Big Noon Kickoff for Fox Sports breaking down the game and the latest storylines.

Additionally, Travis serves as a co-host of The Clay Travis and Buck Sexton Show, a three-hour conservative radio talk program syndicated across Premiere Networks radio stations nationwide.

Previously, he launched OutKick The Coverage on Fox Sports Radio that included interviews and listener interactions and was on Fox Sports Bet for four years. Additionally, Travis started an iHeartRadio Original Podcast called Wins & Losses that featured in-depth conversations with the biggest names in sports.

Travis is a graduate of George Washington University as well as Vanderbilt Law School. Based in Nashville, he is the author of Dixieland Delight, On Rocky Top, and Republicans Buy Sneakers Too.