Starting 11: The calm before the college football storm

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It was a great weekend of college football even though there was only one game featuring two teams ranked in the top 25. This week coming up is going to be a total blockbuster.

So without further ado, let’s dive into the Starting 11.  

1. Brady Hoke is done at Michigan.

There’s a great deal of controversy right now over Michigan playing a quarterback who looked woozy, but that doesn’t even need to turn into a major story for Hoke’s tenure to be over. He’s done with the Wolverines.

I gave you my top two for this job: Jim Harbaugh and Les Miles. But what if both guys say no? Is there any chance that Butch Jones, a Michigan native and former Central Michigan coach, could end up on Michigan’s list? Sure there is. The roster of proven coaches isn’t that long and Tennessee’s coach has done a great job stabilizing the Derek Dooley disaster. While he still needs to find his quarterback of the future, Jones has things rolling at Tennessee. I don’t think he would leave, but his coaching staff is stacked with guys who have spent a lot of time in Michigan.

If Jones left for Michigan, this would be a huge kick in the Vols. Just when Tennessee finally gets things rolling, the coach bails again? That would be crushing. Again, I don’t think it happens because Jones has done the hard work to build the program back up, but it’s worth putting on the radar.    

2. Florida State being ranked No. 1 proves how worthless the AP poll is. 

One of the great flaws of all polls is the unwillingness of voters to believe that their opinions might be wrong. I try to avoid this with Outkick’s poll by reacting on a week-to-week basis to what we’ve actually seen on the field. It doesn’t just take a loss for me to be willing to drop a team in my rankings either. Every week is a new data point. If you don’t react to what happens in any given week, what’s the point of a poll at all?

With that in mind, every poll voter who has Florida State No. 1 should lose their poll vote. Right now that’s nearly half of the poll. Seriously, how can 27 of the 61 AP voters believe that FSU is the best team in the nation based on what they’ve seen so far this year? FSU has been a borderline top 10 team on the field this year.

If the committee were picking teams today, FSU shouldn’t be in the playoff.


3. Tennessee would win the SEC East next year if Justin Worley were coming back.

You’ll recall that Derek Dooley blew Justin Worley’s redshirt season in late October when he brought in Worley to hand off with the Vols trailing by 31 points in Tuscaloosa. That was despite the fact that Matt Sims was perfectly willing and able to play the remainder of the 2011 season. Here’s the play-by-play of that disaster. Since that disatrous decision, Worley has developed into a solid SEC quarterback. If he was coming back next year, I think he’d be one of the top three or four guys in the league. Add in the fact that Tennessee is the youngest team in college football and has an offensive line that is woefully inexperienced, and Worley’s performance is even more stellar.

So let’s think about this for a minute. Next season South Carolina, Georgia and Florida will all have new quarterbacks (Florida will probably have a new coach as well). Missouri’s Maty Mauk will return so the Tigers probably will be solid in the East. Kentucky and Vandy will not threaten for the division title. The Vols get Georgia and South Carolina in Neyland. They also draw Arkansas in Knoxville as their rotating SEC West opponent. So you tell me why the Vols couldn’t go 6-2 and win the SEC East next year with Justin Worley at quarterback?

Hell, Tennessee might well have beaten Georgia this year if Worley didn’t get knocked out of the game in the second half. I’ve seen enough to believe that Worley and the Vols will win seven games this year. Kentucky, Vandy and Chattanooga are definite wins. I think the Vols beat Florida and win at least one of Missouri, at Ole Miss and at South Carolina. And it wouldn’t shock me if Tennessee won two of these three games.

Absent Dooley’s decision to blow Worley’s redshirt, I really think the Vols would win the East next year. Now, the difficult thing for Butch Jones is that Tennessee’s going to be much-improved everywhere in 2015 except for at quarterback. Unless, that is, one of Tennessee’s freshman quarterbacks turns out to be a stud.       

4. Baylor’s defense is much improved.

It’s easy to get dazzled by the Baylor offense, but the defense is much-improved this season. Of course we haven’t been able to see Baylor play anyone very good yet. Indeed, Baylor’s out-of-conference schedule is just awful. The Bears have to go undefeated to make the playoff. Any single loss and they’re eliminated from contention.

Let’s think about this for a minute. What if Oregon beats UCLA — which will be discusssed more below — but then UCLA comes back to beat Oregon in the Pac-12 title game? Does a 12-1 Oregon, with that win over Michigan State, not look better than a 12-0 Baylor?

In essence, does the committee really mean it when it says that the schedule matters? 

5. Ole Miss is going to get destroyed by Alabama unless Bo Wallace plays the game of his life. 

The dueling personalities of good Bo Wallace and bad Bo Wallace showed up once again on Saturday night against Memphis. So far Ole Miss hasn’t played anyone good enough to turn a half of bad Bo Wallace into a deficit they can’t overcome, but I think that will change against Alabama on Saturday night.

Ole Miss has a very good defense, but the Alabama offense will score points. And you’re telling me Nick Saban has two weeks to prepare a scheme for Bo Wallace? That should be unfair.

This line opened at Bama minus-4 and I’m telling you that’s the steal of the century. Get on it now.  

6. Mizzou followed up the second-worst loss in the SEC this year by eliminating South Carolina from the SEC East race.

I’d like to pretend that I can forecast the SEC East, but I really can’t. There are five teams that still have a hope of winning the division (Kentucky and Vanderbilt have no chance). If Georgia wins at Missouri on Oct. 11 then the race probably isn’t going to be that complicated — the Dawgs would have a tiebreak and Mizzou would still face tough road games at Florida, Texas A&Mand Tennessee. But if Mizzou wins and hangs a second loss on Georgia? Oh, boy.

Then we’re talking about Georgia, South Carolina and Florida — because I think Tennessee beats the Gators this weekend — all with at least two losses by Oct. 11.

Then we could be looking at a situation like 2010, when a three-loss South Carolina team won the SEC East.

Basically, look out.

(Speaking of the SEC East, it’s possible that Vanderbilt scores more special teams and defensive touchdowns this season in conference than they do offensive touchdowns. This can’t have ever happened before. After three league games Vandy has three touchdowns on defense and special teams and two touchdowns on offense. The Commodores put up 134 total yards of offense against Kentucky. Georgia’s favored by 33 points, and I took the Dawgs).   

7. Auburn plays the Nos. 15, 12, 11, 6, 13 and 3 teams in the country over the next two months.

Texas A&M plays the Nos. 12, 11, 3, 5, 15 and 23 teams in the country over the remainder of the season.

Florida State plays No. 9 Notre Dame. You want to know how much strength of schedule plays into the commitee’s mind, here’s your test. The SEC West is a tougher division standing alone than the entire ACC, Big Ten and Big 12 are combined. In fact, if you combine the number of ranked teams from the ACC, Big Ten and Big 12, the SEC West has more teams in the top 15 (six) than those three conferences do combined (four).

So does strength of schedule really matter or not? Because FSU has looked awful and won’t play anyone all season. Indeed, it’s downright possible that FSU finishes the entire season without playing an opponent ranked in the final top 25.   

8. Arkansas would win the Big Ten.  

Right now I have them as the sixth-best team in the SEC West. LSU, the team I have as the seventh-best team in the SEC West, would also probably stand a good shot at winning the Big Ten. How do we know this? Because LSU already beat Wisconsin, the team that is probably going to win the Big Ten West.

Notre Dame is presently ranked in the top 10. The Irish would be the eigth-best team in the SEC West this season.

By the way, anyone else expect for Johnny Manziel to somehow get flagged on Texas A&M’s sideline on Saturday? I totally did.  

9. Ohio State’s strength coach made the play of the year for the Buckeyes. 

How many times do you think this strength coach will watch this tackle? Over/under is set at 1,046.  

10. I still think UCLA will in the Pac-12 South and Oregon will win the Pac-12 North. 

That’s not a revolutionary prediction, and it was my prediction coming into the season, but these teams play on Oct. 11 at UCLA. And here’s the deal: The outcome probably won’t matter since the two teams are likely to rematch in the Pac-12 title game. So how will the committee analyze it?

Let’s say that UCLA goes 12-0, beats Oregon by 10 and then loses to a 12-1 Oregon team by a field goal in the Pac-12 title game. Why should one game count more than the other? Unless we’re willing to call conference title games default playoff games as well. Essentially the outcome of this Oct. 11 game isn’t going to matter at all. 

By the way, Arizona plays at Oregon on Thursday night. This is going to be a great game featuring two undefeated teams (Yeah, Arizona hasn’t lost yet either). Do you know what time this game kicks off? 10:30 eastern! That game isn’t going to end until 2:30 eastern time. I spend a decent amount of time on the West Coast now so I feel compelled to point out that West Coast people can’t complain about East Coast bias when your games end shortly before dawn on the East Coast. You know what the real East Coast bias is? People want sleep.   

11. Here are our SEC power ratings.

The first six aren’t that hard — nor are the final two; anyone who watched that Kentucky-Vandy game is well aware that UK and Vandy are the worst teams in the SEC — but what a mess we’ve got in the 7-12 range. This should get ironed out this week with one of the best slate’s in SEC history. We’ve got five undefeated teams playing, a grudge match between Florida and Tennessee and a somewhat interesting South Carolina at Kentucky game. 

1. Alabama

2. Texas A&M

3. Auburn

4. Mississippi State

5. Ole Miss

6. Georgia

7. Missouri

8. South Carolina

9. Arkansas

10. LSU

11. Tennessee 

12. Florida

13. Kentucky

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.