Starting 11: Down Goes Oregon

September’s not even over yet and already this college football season is a bit of a mess. 

So let’s dive into the Starting 11, why don’t we?

1. Are Oregon’s days as a consistent top ten team finished?

Utah’s evisceration of Oregon late Saturday night qualifies as one of the most shocking results of this season. Hell, it qualifies as a shocking result for any season. Rarely does a team favored by 10.5 points at home lose by 42, that’s a 52.5 point swing against the spread, something that probably won’t be equaled all season long. 

It wasn’t just that Oregon lost, it was how Oregon lost, raising some alarming questions for Duck fans, paramount among them: are the days of Oregon dominance at an end? Chip Kelly has now been gone three seasons, and Mark Helfrich seemed to withstand that departure okay the first two seasons. 

But with how spectacular Marcus Mariota has begun his NFL career, it’s fair to wonder how much of Oregon’s staying power had to do with Mariota being there. Recall that much of the criticism of Mariota entering this year’s draft was that he was a “system quarterback.” After three weeks in the NFL, it’s fair to say that Mariota is just a damn good quarterback, regardless of system.

Now that Mariota isn’t there, is Helfrich being exposed a bit? That’s certainly an easy story to buy. Time will tell, but these kind of losses are often pivot points, lines of demarcation that fans point to as clearly marking a change for the worse.  

2. Arkansas, poor Arkansas. 

Did you see Bret Bielema on the sideline Saturday night against Texas A&M? He looked like death with a side of bourbon. The man hasn’t slept this season. Arkansas football is killing him. Bielema’s like the anti-Urban Meyer. Meyer left the SEC so the conference wouldn’t kill him and went to the Big Ten where the games are much easier and he’s become much healthier. Bielema left the Big Ten for the SEC and the conference is slowly killing him.

Bielema went 37-19 in the Big Ten. He’s now 2-15 in SEC conference games. As if that wasn’t enough, Arkansas is now 0-10 in one score games in Bielema’s tenure. What the hell will happen when he and Butch Jones enter the fourth quarter? It’s like a coaching twilight zone.

Instead of Tennessee and Arkansas fans going to to the game, fans of both programs should go to counseling instead.

As for Texas A&M, this game looked just like last season. The Aggies are 4-0, but couldn’t run the ball or stop the run against Arkansas, that bodes poorly for the next two games, Mississippi State and Alabama. They need to get that fixed in a hurry.

Also, just like last year when they beat South Carolina and the Gamecocks subsequently collapsed, it looks like Arizona State isn’t very good this year. So how good are the Aggies? We’ll have a good sense over the next three weeks.  

3. Here’s my column on Tennessee in the wake of the Florida loss. Read it if you’re still trying to figure out how Butch Jones lost this game.

I’ll add a few more things here: Tennessee is two fourth down stops away — Vol opponents have gone a remarkable 9 for 10 on 4th down conversions this season — from being 4-0 and ranked around 12th or 13th in the country. 

If Butch Jones beats Arkansas and Georgia, then the anger will subside a great deal. But if he lost to Arkansas, Georgia, and then Alabama and the Vols started this year with top 15 talent and a 2-5 record…look out.

I think it’s likely that Tennessee begins 3-4.  

The absurd thing is if Tennessee beats Arkansas even with losses to Georgia and Alabama and a 3-4 start South Carolina, Kentucky, Missouri and Vandy — four SEC teams that have nowhere near the same talent as them — are easily beatable. That means Butch could finish the year 8-4 without a single win that fans are happy with. And Butch will have gone 0-9 against the three teams you really measure Tennessee against — Florida, Alabama, and Georgia.

Finally, what the hell is going on in Tennessee’s passing game? Wide receivers caught three passes against Florida. Tennessee is loaded at the position with Marquez North, Von Pearson, Pig Howard, Josh Malone, and Preston Williams. At least four of these guys will play in the NFL.

So…

LET JOSH DOBBS THROW THE DAMN FOOTBALL.

Oh, and how did the UT-Florida game end? With Butch Jones celebrating a missed 55 yard field goal. This is perfect.   

4. Auburn’s awful.

I tried to avoid this conclusion because I have total faith in Gus Malzahn, but there’s nothing else to say right now. The Tigers are an awful team.   

Coming into this season we would have thought that Malzahn, Butch Jones, and Bret Bielema were all three going to be big successes at their respective schools. Now all three look pretty rough. How bad have Malzahn and Bielema’s teams looked? Butch Jones has been the best of the three so far. At least his team has been capable of winning big games. 

Great stat from our guy Hadley, who does incredible research work, if Alabama loses to Georgia it will mark the first time in SEC history that both Alabama and Auburn have started 0-2 in conference. 

Pray for the state. 

5. Leonard Fournette, so long as he stays healthy, wins the Heisman in a walk off.

After three games — remember the McNeese State game was canceled — Fournette is averaging 210.3 yards a game. If he kept up that pace all season — which probably isn’t fair, but still, let’s say he did — Fournette would run for 2313 yards in just 11 games. That would shatter Herschel Walker’s SEC record of 1891 rushing yards in a season.

Want an even more impressive stat? In his 1891 yard season Walker averaged just 4.9 yards per carry.

Right now Fournette is averaging 8.6 yards per carry.

Oh, and Fournette also had an 88 yard touchdown run called back against Syracuse because an LSU wide receiver — in typical LSU fashion — wasn’t lined up correctly 

6. How in the world is Utah ranked below Michigan State?

The polls infuriate me because so many poll voters refuse to acknowledge that their opinions might have been incorrect. Preseason polls are fine, but using them as anything other than a fun exercise is insane. Once the games start the polls should readjust in a hurry. That’s because you have actual games to judge teams on as opposed to your opinion.

Look, I’m wrong all the time. It’s impossible to predict everything in sports. So you have to readjust your expectations with each bit of data you get. We’re a third of the way through the season now, that’s a large sample size.  

I’m not going to focus on the coaches poll because it’s always a joke, but let’s just use the AP poll. Here’s the most glaring flaw: Michigan State is presently ranked second in the country and Utah is tenth. Michigan State owes its high ranking to the fact that it beat Oregon at home by three points. Utah just beat Oregon by 42 on the road. Oh, and Utah also beat Michigan, a team that is now ranked 22nd in the country. Michigan State has beaten Western Michigan, Air Force, and Central Michigan, none of those teams in a dominant fashion.

So how in the world could any reasonable voter using even half of his brain faculties have Michigan State ranked above Utah?

Similarly, what has Ohio State done for 45 voters to rank them number one? The Buckeyes have been awful this year. Put it this way, if Iowa had played the exact same four teams and won by the exact same four scores, are they even ranked in the top 20 right now? Hell, Northwestern has by far the best resume in the Big Ten — infinitely better than Ohio State and Michigan State’s — and they aren’t even ranked in the top 15. 

Here’s how the top ten would look if voters actually had a brain and paid attention to results instead of what they thought the results would be.

7. TCU survives against Texas Tech, but will lose at least two games this year.

There’s no way that TCU should be ranked in the top ten either. Have people not watched the game or paid attention to the injuries?

It was a miracle ending for Gary Patterson’s Horned Frogs, but the simple fact of the matter is TCU isn’t that good. I think TCU will lose at Oklahoma State, at Oklahoma, to Baylor, and has a decent chance of losing to West Virginia and at Kansas State as well.

I think we’ll finish the season without TCU in the top 25.

My preseason playoff picks were: Ohio State, TCU, Georgia and Clemson. I still feel pretty good about my other three picks, but right now I would replace TCU with UCLA. I think the Bruins are the best team in the Pac 12.  

8. Game of Thrones spoiler:

I feel like so many many of you are coming off tough losses already this season that we need some good news in this week’s Starting 11. 

So I’ve got it for you, but SPOILER ALERT, SKIP NUMBER 8 IF YOU AREN’T CAUGHT UP IN GAME OF THRONES. 

Jon Snow was secretly photographed filming scenes with Melisandre.   

Now it’s always possible this is a dream sequence or the “Game of Thrones” directors are screwing with our hearts, but given that many of us believe Melisandre and her perfect boobs will bring Snow back to life, this is at least some encouraging news. HBO hasn’t officially announced when season six will debut, but it usually starts in April.

Your team may suck, but at least Jon Snow lives.  

9. Poor Texas.

Last week the Longhorns lost when they missed an extra point, this week they lost when their punter mishandled the snap and then punted it only ten yards.

Just watch this on loop if you’re a Texas A&M fan.

By the way, I took Texas +17.5 against TCU. I know, I know.   

10. How about Michigan’s destruction of BYU coupled with the 49ers collapse?

Turns out this Jim Harbaugh guy is a pretty good coach. 

Harbaugh’s team has now outscored opponents 94-14 in their last three weeks. Toss in a win over Maryland — goodbye, Randy Edsall — and the Wolverines have a decent shot at taking on an undefeated Northwestern and Michigan State in back-to-back games in the Big House. 

11. Here’s Outkick’s SEC power rankings. Remember, I judge entirely based on the games that we’ve seen played, not on preseason expectations.

1. Ole Miss

2. Georgia

3. LSU

4. Texas A&M

5. Alabama

6. Florida

7. Tennessee

8. Mississippi State

9. Kentucky

10. Missouri

11. South Carolina 

12. Arkansas

13. Auburn

14. Vanderbilt

Written by Clay Travis

OutKick founder, host and author. He's presently banned from appearing on both CNN and ESPN because he’s too honest for both.