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The way that Ole Miss lost to Auburn was among the toughest losses I can ever remember seeing. In fact, I can’t think of a tougher one right now. Sure, there have been incredibly difficult losses before — the kick six, fifth down at Mizzou, Clint Stoerner’s fumble, Derek Dooley’s double losses against LSU and North Carolina after the clock had run out, half a dozen inexplicable Les Miles wins — but to lose a game as your best offensive player prepares to go into the end zone for a winning score only to be felled by a devastating injury? Against a top five opponent as well? That’s as brutal of an end of game situation as it gets.
It was hard to feel anything but sick to your stomach at the end of that game. Which was so unfortunate, because up until that injury it had been an incredibly entertaining game. Best wishes to Laquon Treadwell and the Ole Miss family. And while his performance was lost in the ending, Bo Wallace played about as well as he could.
On to the Starting 11:
1. With Auburn’s win over Ole Miss, what’s going to happen now in the SEC West?
I’m going to give you three scenarios: a. what I think happens, b. the best case for the SEC in the playoff and c. the worst case in the playoff.
a. What I think happens:
Alabama beats LSU, Mississippi State, and Auburn to finish 11-1. Mississippi State loses to Alabama, but beats Ole Miss to finish 11-1. Auburn beats Texas A&M and Georgia and then loses to Alabama to finish 10-2. In this scenario Alabama would win the SEC West and Mississippi State would probably make the playoff assuming they were competitive against the Tide. Believe it or not a 10-2 Auburn team could also sneak in the playoff depending on what happens to the other one-loss teams.
b. the best case for the SEC
The SEC would 100% get two teams in the playoff if Mississippi State finished 13-0 and Auburn finished 11-1. The Tigers would have the best resume of any one-loss team in college football.
c. the worst case for the SEC
Mississippi State loses to Alabama and Ole Miss, Alabama loses to Auburn, and Auburn loses to Georgia. That way every team in the SEC has at least two losses. Auburn would win the SEC West tiebreak and if Missouri won out in the SEC East then they would play Mizzou. Then Mizzou upsets Auburn in the SEC title game. I think that’s probably the only possible scenario where the SEC doesn’t get a team in the playoff.
2. Florida destroyed Georgia.
I’ve seen enough Georgia collapses in the Cocktail Party not to be surprised that Georgia lost, but did anyone think Florida would rush for 445 yards and only attempt six passes? When is the last time in a passing era that an SEC team won a game by 18 points and had less than thirty yards passing? Ever? (Update, Mizzou did it aginst Florida).
Because now I fully expect that Florida will not pass the ball the rest of the season. (Which is honestly Will Muschamp’s dream come true. He’s the only coach under the age of 45 in America today who wishes the passing game didn’t exist). The Gators can probably beat Vandy, South Carolina, and Eastern Kentucky without passing the ball. That would make Muschamp’s Gators 7-3 going to FSU. (Remember that Florida never rescheduled their opener, which probably would have been an additional win.) So if the Gators are competitive against FSU, does Muschamp keep his job for another year? I think the answer may well be yes. What an upset that is. So do you think Florida or Georgia fans were more upset after this game?
3. We all know Oregon’s alive for the playoff, but don’t sleep on Arizona State.
The Sun Devils have Notre Dame this weekend. Win that game and they should be able to handle at Oregon State and Washington State before an end of the year game at Arizona.
Meanwhile, Oregon has its last real challenge of the year at Utah on Saturday. Win that game and Colorado and at Oregon State don’t figure to be that tough of games.
That means there’s a decent chance the Pac 12 title game is a default playoff game between Arizona State and Oregon.
4. If TCU beats Kansas State the Horned Frogs are going to finish 11-1.
TCU’s Big 12 schedule was front-loaded. As a result the Horned Frogs final three games after Kansas State are at Kansas, at Texas, and Iowa State. TCU will be massive favorites in all three of these games. So beat Kansas State and the Horned Frogs are going to finish 11-1. Given that they have one-three point loss at Baylor, it would be really hard to keep an 11-1 TCU out of the playoff.
But here’s the deal — Baylor still has a decent chance to go 11-1 as well and would win the tiebreak over TCU. Baylor is a small underdog at Oklahoma and would be favored in the rest of the games. Of course, Kansas State is still the only unbeaten team in the Big 12 and if KSU pulls off the TCU upset then the Big 12 title might not be decided until the final week of the season against Baylor.
Presumably Baylor would be the playoff committee’s pick over TCU if both teams finish 11-1 since the conference title would be the determining factor. But that raises an interesting dilemma — we may have a true glut of one loss teams. Check out the next point.
5. We could have a mountain of one-loss teams with strong resumes for the playoff.
Figure that FSU is going to be the only unbeaten team. That would leave three spots for one-loss teams.
We could very easily end up with two one loss teams in the Big 12 — Baylor and TCU, two one loss teams in the SEC — Alabama, Mississippi State or Auburn, a one-loss team in the Pac 12 — Oregon or Arizona State, a one-loss team in the Big Ten, either Michigan State, Ohio State or, stop laughing, Nebraska, and a one-loss Notre Dame.
So you’d have three spots for seven one loss teams.
Let’s say those seven one-loss teams are the teams with the best resumes: 12-1 Alabama, 11-1 Mississippi State, 12-1 Oregon, 12-1 Michigan State, 11-1 Baylor, 11-1 TCU, and 11-1 Notre Dame.
Four of these teams get left behind.
Good luck with that, selection committee.
(FYI, my four in this scenario would be FSU, Alabama, Mississippi State and Oregon).
6. Notre Dame gave up 39 points to Navy.
For those asking why the Fighting Irish are not in my top ten, this is yet another reason why. Notre Dame has barely beaten a team with a winning record all season. (Rice and Stanford have lost seven games between them.) Does any team benefit more from close losses than Notre Dame? Charlie Weis got paid $40 million because he almost beat USC. Brian Kelly’s going to end up making $100 million off almost beating FSU.
I’ll make a promise to the Notre Dame fans — if you beat Arizona State, I’ll make you Outkick’s tenth best team in the country.
(Note: you’re losing this game).
7. Josh Dobbs has been a revelation at quarterback for Tennessee.
Dobbs put up 467 yards of total offense on the road at South Carolina — 301 yards passing and 166 yards rushing.
That’s an incredible performance. Following up a very good performance against Alabama, I think the Tennessee coaching staff is every bit as stunned as we are by how good Dobbs has been. Otherwise there’s no way they wouldn’t have started him at the beginning of the season. Comparing Dobbs last year to this season is like night and day. He’s nothing like the quarterback he was last season. He looks like a completely different player. His arm looks stronger, he looks faster, I mean it’s incredible.
Last week it looked like Tennessee was going to stumble to a 5-7 record and would be breaking in a new quarterback next season. Now Dobbs looks like he could be the best returning quarterback in the league next season. (If Dak leaves) Having stolen a game at South Carolina — down 14 with less than seven minutes to go things did not look good — the Vols now have a decent chance to beat Kentucky and Missouri in Knoxville and then win at Vandy.
That would mean a 7-5 season, which given how bad Tennessee football has been for the past six years, would feel like an SEC title.
Butch Jones is now 2-0 against Steve Spurrier, which, for any Tennessee fan who grew up taking beatings from Spurrier’s Gators, feels pretty sweet.
The Ole Ball Coach wasn’t even willing to talk to the media after this one.
8. Arkansas has now lost 17 straight SEC games.
Bret Bielema has to be wondering what in the world he was thinking leaving Wisconsin for Arkansas. If he stays at Wisconsin one more year then Penn State, Texas, and the USC jobs all come open. Is it crazy to think he couldn’t have gotten one of those jobs instead? I don’t think so. Instead he bails on Wisconsin, where he would have won at least nine games each of the past two years, for disaster in Arkansas. How long ago does it seem like when Bielema was bragging about having a better Big Ten record than Nick Saban?
In seven years in the Big Ten Bielema lost 19 conference games. In less than two years he’s lost 13 straight SEC games. The Razorbacks have LSU and Ole Miss at home and then finish at Missouri. Arkansas could certainly lose all three of these games. No SEC coach has ever started 0-16 in conference. Surely, he can win at least one game, right?
I know the schedule has been brutal, but if Bielema could go back in time, there’s no way he ever leaves Wisconsin, right?
9. Here’s Gus Malzahn dancing to “You Can’t Touch This.”
That is some strong jean short game.
10. Playing a tough out of conference game makes zero sense.
If you go undefeated in a major conference there is a 100% chance you’re going to make the playoff.
Even at 12-1 Michigan State has a very small chance of making the playoff this year. If the Spartans had played an easy home game instead of traveling to Oregon, they’d be in the playoff at 13-0. So tell me what Michigan State gained by playing the Oregon game.
Mississippi State played no challenging teams out of conference, neither did Baylor. If both teams go undefeated they’re into the playoff easily. I haven’t heard a single person question Mississippi State’s schedule.
A 13-0 Michigan State team with four easy out-of-conference wins is definitely in the playoff. Until that changes, and I don’t think it will, beware of being told that schedule matters. It only matters if you lose. If you go undefeated in a power five conference, you’re going to be in the playoff.
11. SEC power rankings 1-14:
1. Mississippi State
4. Ole Miss
8. Texas A&M
12. South Carolina
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