Starting 11: SEC Is “Top Heavy” Edition

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Oct 11, 2014; Fayetteville, AR, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide head coach Nick Saban looks on during the first quarter against the Arkansas Razorbacks at Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports Nelson Chenault USA TODAY Sports

Remember how Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops said the SEC was “top heavy,” like it was an insult? Stoops’s point was that the SEC was overrated and that really it was only the same teams winning games. The comment got a lot of attention and it helped to galvanize a certain segment of the college football universe which was upset with the amount of attention and praise the SEC received. But, boy oh boy, the rise of the Mississippi schools has crushed any point Stoops might have been making.

In fact, here’s a crazy stat for you — since November of 2011 11 of the 14 SEC teams have been ranked in the top six in the country. Eleven! In less than three years time. The only SEC schools that haven’t been ranked in the top six in the past three years are Tennessee, Vanderbilt, and Kentucky. Top heavy, my ass. The SEC is just heavy. (That’s what fried foods will do to you).

Now let’s dive into the Starting 11:

1. The Egg Bowl is the new Iron Bowl.

In the wake of Mississippi State and Ole Miss’s dominant wins over Auburn and Texas A&M, it’s hard to believe that the Egg Bowl won’t be for at least one spot in the college football playoff. Indeed, here’s a crazy thought for you, what if both Ole Miss and Mississippi State are 11-0 entering the Egg Bowl this year? Aside from the state of Mississippi going bat shit crazy, could you find yourself in an interesting position where the team that loses is in just as good of shape as the team that wins?

The team that wins the Egg Bowl would advance to play for the SEC title in Atlanta. That’s a great opportunity, but it requires you to play another game. If both teams are undefeated the team that loses the Egg Bowl is probably going to the playoff too. Now, if the team that wins the Egg Bowl lost to, say, 11-1 Georgia in the SEC title game than the team that lost the Egg Bowl could be left behind, but if the Egg Bowl winner wins the SEC title or doesn’t lose to another playoff contending SEC team, it’s likely that both teams from Mississippi would make the playoff.

Yep, the Egg Bowl is the new Iron Bowl.

And, by the way, if you’re already thinking about a three-way 7-1 SEC West tie between Ole Miss, Mississippi State and Auburn — that would require Auburn beating Ole Miss and Ole Miss beating State — Auburn would win that tiebreak and go to Atlanta.  

2. Will Nick Saban have a heart attack on the sideline this year?

Alabama looked like an average football team against Arkansas. The Tide looked undisciplined, poorly coached, and out of sorts. All of this drove Nick Saban insane. Indeed, Saban looked like he was going to collapse on the sideline. Which raises an interesting question, while I don’t believe Nick Saban will ever die — vampires never do — don’t you think Saban has already practiced his coaching staff’s response if he had a heart attack on the sideline?

I assume this is just part of the process. 

“Okay, guys,” Saban said on day eight of the team’s fall practice, “we’re going to pretend that I have a heart attack. I DO NOT WANT ANY OF YOU TO WORRY ABOUT ME. IF I FIND OUT THAT ANY OF YOU WORRIED ABOUT ME YOU WILL SPEND ALL DAY SUNDAY RUNNING STAIRS. GOT THAT?”

Saban’s probably got a flow chart already organized in the event multiple coaches have heart attacks on the same day. “Okay, and if Lane has a heart attack too, then we…”

Remember when Tony Soprano nearly died and he got all nice and cuddly for a while? What if Saban had a heart attack and it totally changed his personality? Like he was always smiling and never got mad on the sideline any more? He showed up on local Birmingham news doing the weather, started golfing on game weeks, sounded like Steve Spurrier whenever his team lost? This would be incredible to see. 

How long would it take the 85% to turn on him? Hell, if Bama had lost to Arkansas, I think Saban would have felt the full wrath of the 85%. Remember, we’ve never actually experienced the 85% on social media with Bama bad. Can you imagine how much fun that’s going to be? The self-esteem of the state of Alabama will deflate faster than a kid’s inflatable when the birthday party ends. 

3. Oregon is the Pac 12’s only chance for a playoff team.

UCLA gave up the playoff ghost on Saturday. Arizona lost at home to USC. That means there’s no undefeated team left in the Pac 12 and the number of one loss teams will dwindle pretty fast. Oregon is the conference’s only hope to make the playoff. The Ducks need to go undefeated from now through the Pac 12 title game. The Ducks have tough games against Stanford, at Utah, and at Oregon State plus the Pac 12 title game.

I just don’t think Oregon will run the table.

If they don’t then the Pac 12 won’t get a team in the playoff. (I don’t think any other Pac 12 team is capable of going 12-1 either). Oregon losing also, unfortunately, hurts Michigan State. It’s hard to believe that a one-loss Michigan State team would have a better case than a two-loss Oregon team that beat them by 18.   

4. What happens in a three-way Big 12 tie?

If Oklahoma beats Baylor there’s a pretty decent chance that Baylor, Oklahoma, and TCU are all tied at 11-1, each with one loss and one win against the other tied teams. 

So how does the Big 12 pick their champion?

They don’t, the college football playoff committee does. 

Oh, boy. 

That means no one will know who won the Big 12 until the poll comes out. And even then that might not ease the confusion. If two teams finish within one spot of each other then head-to-head governs. Confused yet? It gets wilder. That means we could end up in a situation where the college football committee ranks one Big 12 team fourth and the other fifth. The team that finishes fourth would advance to the playoff, but the team that finishes fifth would win the Big 12 if it beat the team ranked fourth head-to-head.

My point: The Big 12 really needs Baylor to go undefeated. Or it at least needs for there to be only two teams with one loss. This three-way tiebreak is a huge mess that complicates the committee’s job even more.  

5. Notre Dame is not a good football team.

The Fighting Irish are going to get crushed this weekend at FSU. Which means we will finally be able to stop talking about them.

The Irish gave up 43 points to North Carolina on Saturday. They were lucky to beat Stanford. 

Put it this way, in addition to being the 7th or 8th best team in the SEC, I’m not sure that Notre Dame could beat any of the top 15 teams in the country on a neutral field. Not one. 

6. LSU and Les Miles have now won 23 games they’ve trailed in the 4th quarter. 

And while Jeff Driskel’s late interception was a bad throw, the story line should have been how great Driskel was. Instead, the Gators dropped a definite touchdown pass that 95% of the guys playing intramural flag football on campus would have caught and LSU escaped with a win that probably sealed Muschamp’s fate. 

Unless Muschamp beats either Georgia or FSU, I think it’s fair to say he’s not coming back next season.

7. No one wins on the road against good teams in college football.

I think we should spend more time talking about how difficult it is to win on the road in college football than we do. Especially now that we’re officially in a playoff era. We spend a ton of time talking about this in college basketball, but almost none talking about in college football. 

Where you play matters. Especially given how amazing some of these home field environments are.  

So let’s put this into perspective — do you know how many current top 25 teams have road wins against other current top 25 teams? Just four — Auburn beat Kansas State, Ole Miss beat Texas A&M, USC beat Stanford and Arizona, and Arizona beat Oregon.

It’s incredibly hard to beat good teams on the road.  

8. Baylor’s comeback was extraordinary to watch.

On just about any championship run every team wins a game they have no business winning. Baylor’s came Saturday. Down 21 points with 11 minutes to play, Baylor stormed back to score 24 points and snag the win.

TCU has to just be sick. The Horned Frogs were close to taking a commanding lead in the Big 12 race. Instead, as noted above, the Big 12 has to be praying that a three-way tie doesn’t happen.

By the way, how wobbly has Oklahoma looked the past two weeks? The Sooners were fortunate to beat Texas.   

9. Georgia finally looked like a playoff contending team. 

The Bulldogs destroyed Mizzou at Mizzou. If Georgia can get past Arkansas next week then its chances for a playoff berth come down to an elimination game against Auburn between the hedges.

Whew, can you imagine how wild that one is going to be?

Remember when the BCS people used to argue that a college football playoff would detract from interest in the regular season? Yeah, that was a total lie.

By the way, I think Todd Gurley will be back on the field by the Florida game. Just a hunch on my part. Gurley’s got a top lawyer and I expect he’ll negotiate a time-served deal with the NCAA.  

10. My playoff final four if I was on the committee. 

You can see Outkick’s entire top ten here.

1. Mississippi State

2. Ole Miss 

3. Baylor

4. Florida State

11. Here are Outkick’s SEC power ratings. I’m feeling pretty good about the top five in the conference now:

1. Mississippi State

2. Ole Miss

3. Auburn

4. Alabama

5. Georgia

6. Texas A&M

7. LSU

8. Arkansas

9. Florida

10. Kentucky

11. Missouri

12. South Carolina

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.


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