Starting 11: College Football Chaos Edition

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Aug 28, 2014; Atlanta, GA, USA; Mississippi Rebels head coach Hugh Freeze gets a victory dunk by his players following their win over the Boise State Broncos in the 2014 Chick-fil-a Kickoff Game at the Georgia Dome. The Rebels defeated the Broncos 35-13. Mandatory Credit: Paul Abell-USA TODAY Sports Paul Abell USA TODAY Sports

Eleven of the top 18 teams in college football lost on Saturday. Thank God I didn’t pick that weekend to bet mostly on the favorites. Wait… All of these losses piling up means that we’re heading towards a repeat of 2007, when two loss LSU found a way to win the title. Look out, we ain’t seen nothing yet. 

1. Congrats to the state of Mississippi.

Ole Miss last won an SEC title in 1962. Mississippi State won its only SEC title in 1941. So the odds of the Magnolia State becoming the center of the college football universe were low coming into the season. The odds of both teams being ranked inside the top five? Virtually nonexistent. The rise of Ole Miss and Mississippi State is a perfect example of the rising tide of SEC dominance. While critics like Bob Stoops have derided the conference for being “top heavy,” the reality is actually quite the contrary.

With the exception of Tennessee, an erstwhile power that is now the most incompetent program in the conference, every SEC team has achieved historic levels of success during the past decade. Sure, Florida, LSU, Alabama, and Auburn all won national titles, but look at what the other teams accomplished. Vandy posted three straight bowl seasons, including back-to-back nine win campaigns, Arkansas went to the BCS, Kentucky had an unprecedented run of bowl trips and is presently 4-1, a blown call in overtime away from being 5-0, South Carolina, a program that didn’t win its first bowl game until 1995, entered this year coming off three straight eleven win seasons, and Texas A&M and Mizzou have both had two of the top seasons in program history since joining the conference.

Even prior to this season Ole Miss won back-to-back Cotton Bowls and Mississippi State won nine games and hung fifty on Michigan in a New Year’s Day bowl game, but this year is the state of Mississippi’s turn to rise.

Again, other than the Vols, the most remarkable thing about the SEC’s dominant run in college football has been how balanced the dominance has been. Every program but Tennessee has achieved levels of winning far above its historical average. Unless you happen to be a Vol fan, things have never been better for every SEC program.   

2. Alabama’s dynasty is over. 

The Tide may still end up making the playoff this year, but Nick Saban’s dynasty is over. That’s what happens when you lose your third straight game against a ranked opponent. Bama didn’t just lose either, they crumbled. Nick Saban’s teams used to never give up late leads. The kick six was an unprecedented cavalcade of plays so maybe we could forgive that collapse. Except, it just happened again. With a touchdown lead late in the game against Ole Miss, the Tide buckled, allowing two rapid fire touchdowns and turning the ball over twice.

Every dynasty comes to a close, you can now shut the door on Saban’s. 

The way they looked against Ole Miss, it wouldn’t shock me if Alabama lost three games this year.  

3. The Pac 12 is in trouble for putting a team in the playoff.

Every Pac 12 team but Arizona has a loss now. Stanford and USC have two losses, eliminating them from contention before the second week of October. Arizona, the only Pac 12 team ranked in the top ten, is a three point home underdog against unranked USC. Right now Oregon is probably the only team in the conference that has any real chance of making the playoff. And do you feel good about Oregon winning the next eight games in a row, including the Pac 12 title game.

I sure as hell don’t.  

There was a ton of carnage to go around this past Saturday, but the biggest victim of all was the Pac 12. 

4. Baylor is the best team in the Big 12.

Baylor is the only team in college football to win every game by 21 points. Every other undefeated team in the country has won a game by less than a touchdown. That’s why I feel very comfortable having Baylor as the second best team in the country in Outkick’s poll. In the wake of Oklahoma’s loss to TCU, the Bears are the unquestioned best team in the Big 12.

Now, Oklahoma’s loss to TCU wasn’t devastating since the Sooners could still advance to the playoff by winning out. But it eliminated all margin of error. I still think the November 8th Baylor at Oklahoma game is a default playoff game. Right now Vegas would favor Baylor in that game. But those of you who haven’t watched Baylor play will get a good read on the Bears this weekend with their game at TCU.  

5. What did Michigan State gain by playing Oregon?

It’s become a truism that schedule strength will matter a great deal in a new playoff era, but I’m one of the hold outs who doesn’t believe that’s necessarily true. In fact, I think teams will often hurt themselves by playing a challenging opponent out of conference. Michigan State is a perfect example this season. If the Spartans don’t play Oregon, they’re cruising towards a playoff spot. MSU is favored to go 12-0 and will be a touchdown or so favorite over whomever they play in the Big Ten title game. 

A 13-0 Michigan State team would definitely make the four team college football playoff even if the Spartans had played a MAC team at home instead of Oregon on the road. But a 12-1 Michigan State team won’t make the playoff by virtue of that loss to Oregon. So tell me this, what in the world did Michigan State gain by playing a challenging out of conference opponent? Hell, Virginia Tech isn’t even a challenging opponent, but if Ohio State had played a MAC school instead of Virginia Tech, wouldn’t a 13-0 Ohio State be guaranteed a spot in the playoff too? 


Sure, winning a tough out of conference game might boost your seeding, but so what? No one gets a home game in the playoff. Put simply, playing a tough out of conference game makes no sense. 

6. Tennessee’s performance against Florida was Dooley-esque.

Is there anyone reading this right now who would have bet on Florida to win the game if I’d told you that Jeff Driskel was going to throw for 59 yards and three interceptions? What about if I’d told you that two of those interceptions set up Tennessee inside the red zone? What if I further said that Tennessee would be leading 9-0 and have the ball near midfield as the third quarter came to a close?

It’s one thing to lose a home game because the other team plays well. It’s another thing entirely to collapse. Let’s not sugarcoat things, this was an epic, Dooley-esque collapse by Butch Jones and his Volunteer football team. The second year is when coaches demonstrate whether or not they are going to be really good at their jobs. In fact, every SEC football coach that has won a league title since division play began has won nine games in his first or second season. Generally, it’s the second year when it becomes clear that a coach has changed the culture and will win big.

I thought we’d see clear signs of this in Butch Jones’s second year. But the loss to Florida was alarming — and not just because I lost all of your homes gambling on the outcome — a competent Tennessee coaching staff doesn’t lose that game to Florida. Maybe this was just an aberration, a thousand year flood of football misfortune — but Jones only has four guaranteed wins on this schedule — Chattanooga and Vandy. Does anyone feel that confident about that Kentucky game now?

I don’t.

And with Justin Worley graduating, based on what we saw this weekend it’s hard to believe that the Vols are going to make a massive leap in 2015. The recruiting has been great, but there’s still no answer at quarterback.

In short, I get how this Vol fan feels. Again, it’s not just that Tennessee has blown for the past decade, it’s that every other SEC team has achieved success above historical levels. Tennessee, the all-time second most winning program in the SEC, is like the guy who owned land when oil was struck and somehow drowned in the oil eruption.   

7. Florida State will probably be the only undefeated team in the playoff this year. 

One reason why I’m already a strong advocate for an eight team playoff is because of a team like FSU. The Seminoles haven’t been impressive this year — they’re 0-6 against the spread in their last six games — and Notre Dame is likely to be the only team they play that finishes the year in the top 25. (And even that’s not certain. It’s possible FSU will finish the year without beating a single team ranked in the final top 25). Rather than argue about relative conference strength, wouldn’t it make more sense to just give all five major conference teams a place in the playoff and then select three additional wild card teams?

Sure, some years you’d end up with a conference champ that might not be in the top eight, but you have three at-large spots to make up for it. In many years I think the SEC would take two of these three spots. And in some years the SEC would take all three of the wild card spots. This year the SEC West alone might get four teams in an eight team playoff.

Anyway, I don’t think the SEC champ will be undefeated and if Oklahoma beats Baylor, the Big 12 champ won’t be undefeated. Every team in the Big Ten has already lost and every team in the Pac 12 has lost except for Arizona, which may well lose to USC this weekend.

If I had to predict right now I’d say that the four team playoff would be FSU, the winner or Baylor-Oklahoma, and two teams from the SEC.  

8. Notre Dame is ranked sixth in the country.

Which is ironic because Notre Dame would be the 7th best team in the SEC West.

I’m not even kidding about this, every SEC West team but LSU — and the Tigers might — would beat Notre Dame on a neutral field.    

9. Looks like Katy Perry had a good time in Oxford. 

10. Kentucky stormed the field after beating a three loss South Carolina team. 

Just when I want to praise Mark Stoops and the job he’s done, y’all have to go and do something that stupid. There was zero reason to storm the field here. 

I’m giving Rutgers a pass for doing the same thing because it was their first ever Big Ten football win. Given how bad Michigan is, I’m not even sure Cranbrook should storm the field if they beat the Wolverines. 

11. Here goes with the SEC power rankings. Despite all the chaos, I actually feel fairly confident in these rankings. 

1. Auburn

2. Ole Miss

3. Mississippi State

4. Alabama

5. Georgia

6. Texas A&M

7. Mizzou

8. Arkansas

9. Florida

10. Kentucky

11. South Carolina

12. LSU

13. Tennessee

14. Vandy

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.