Starting 11: What Happens Now For Alabama Edition?

Let’s start here: I’m not sure anyone other than Georgia is really good in college football this year.

I just wrote my column on last night’s epic Aggie win over Alabama. I’d encourage you to read that right now. But in the meantime the question most have is, what does this mean for Alabama going forward?

The answer is pretty simple, if Alabama wins out the Tide will be in the playoff. But if they don’t win out, they probably won’t be in the playoff.

Alabama has played six games right now and they’ve played two pretty bad halves — on the road against Florida in the second half and the first half against Texas A&M last night. The question is are those outlier performances that can be corrected or will they continue going forward? If they continue Alabama will lose at least one more game, maybe two more games. If they get corrected then the Tide will beat Mississippi State, Tennessee, LSU, New Mexico State, Arkansas and Auburn and enter the SEC title game at 11-1 likely needing a win over Georgia to guarantee their spot in the playoff.

Even after the loss oddsmakers have Alabama as +250 to win the national title, behind Georgia’s +125, but above Ohio State’s 8-1, Oklahoma’s 20-1, Cincinnati’s 30-1, and Michigan and Iowa’s 40-1.

Put simply, I’ve seen Nick Saban win too many games to believe Alabama won’t be in the playoff or that this admittedly poor performance will define them going forward.

But Texas A&M surely interjected some excitement into the season and gave a ton of teams a lot of hope.

Okay, let’s dive in to the other lessons from Saturday with the Outkick Starting 11.

1. Iowa will be in the Big Ten title game.

The Hawkeyes got a monster win over Penn State on Saturday afternoon and effectively punched their ticket for the Big Ten title game in the process.

With Purdue, at Wisconsin, at Northwestern, Minnesota, Illinois and at Nebraska left on the schedule, Iowa figures to be a favorite in all of these games to lock up the Big Ten West. What’s more, the Hawkeyes don’t even have to win all six of these games to make the playoff. They just have to go 5-1 in these six and if they win the Big Ten title game they will be in the playoff. (Heck 4-2 and a Big Ten title game win might get them in too.)

But, interestingly, if Iowa enters the Big Ten title game at 12-0, could the Hawkeyes be playoff contenders even with a Big Ten title game loss?

I think so.

So you can’t underrate how massive this win was.

Having said all this, does anyone doubt Penn State wins this game, potentially comfortably, if Sean Clifford isn’t injured? After taking a 17-3 lead with Clifford, Penn State only put up three points and 94 total yards of offense in the final 42 points of the game once Clifford went out with an injury.

2. LSU’s in serious trouble after a loss at Kentucky.

The Bayou Bengals were wrecked in Lexington on Saturday to fall to 3-3 on the year. Now Ed Orgeron’s team has this slate upcoming: Florida, at Ole Miss, at Alabama, and Arkansas before a final SEC game against Texas A&M. It’s possible LSU could lose all five of these games and 2-3 feels the absolute best case scenario.

Right now Florida feels like an absolute must win game if Orgeron is going to keep his job. Because I don’t see road wins at either Ole Miss or Alabama as being very likely at all.

I know it’s shocking to believe that less than two years after he went 15-0 and won a national title that Ed Orgeron could be fired, but the same thing happened to Gene Chizik at Auburn.

And it increasingly feels like it’s going to happen to Coach O at LSU.

So who would LSU hire? I’d put James Franklin, Lane Kiffin and, maybe, Hugh Freeze on the list if both Franklin and Kiffin said no. Toss in Joe Brady as well. And maybe even Jimbo Fisher also.

And buckle up for some deep fried Louisiana coaching insanity because that’s where we are headed. (By the way, props to LSU for rescinding its absurd covid vaccine or negative test requirement to attend football games.)

3. Kentucky is a great story, but I think they run into reality on Saturday in Athens.

Yes, the Wildcats played their best game of the season against LSU, but I don’t think even the best game of the season will cut it against Georgia.

The Bulldogs have only allowed two offensive touchdowns all season. And we’re halfway through the year! This is one of the most remarkable stats I’ve seen in a long time.

Just because I don’t think they can hang with Georgia doesn’t mean, I think the Wildcats are bad, by the way. Kentucky has at Georgia, at Mississippi State, and Tennessee in the next three games. Put Georgia on the board as a loss, but if the Wildcats can beat Mississippi State, Tennessee and Louisville, an 11 win season is a possibility. (Vanderbilt and New Mexico State are guaranteed wins.)

If Mark Stoops goes 11-1 at Kentucky, does one of the bigger jobs come calling for him? I don’t see how you don’t consider him.

Eleven wins at Kentucky — heck even ten — would be a truly remarkable achievement for Mark Stoops.

4. The Big Ten East is a monster.

Even with Penn State’s loss — assuming Sean Clifford is able to return — we’ve got Ohio State, Michigan and Michigan State all undefeated in the division.

I keep waiting for Michigan to stumble, but it keeps not happening. The Wolverines should be 7-0 when Michigan State comes to town and still have Indiana and Maryland on the schedule meaning Harbaugh, at worst, is going 9-3 this year, which should stave off any hot seat talk.

It definitely feels like the Big Ten East will come down to Ohio State at the Big House on the final week of the season.

Meanwhile my national coach of the year, Mel Tucker, has Penn State and Michigan both at home before going on the road at Ohio State.

October 30th will go a long way towards settling things as Penn State goes to Ohio State and Michigan goes to Michigan State on this day.

5. Oklahoma survived against Texas, but still feels like a team that will lose in the regular season.

And come on Texas, are you kidding me? You blew a late 41-23 lead? (And killed the cover for those of us with +3.5 points on you?)


The Longhorns are still not back.

As for the Big 12, it feels like it may well come down to Bedlam to decide who is in the title game.

6. Arkansas made the right call to go for two against Ole Miss.

The play didn’t work, but Arkansas hadn’t stopped Ole Miss’s offense all day. Heck, nobody could stop anybody. Arkansas posted 676 yards of offense and Ole Miss posted 611.

That’s pure insanity.

Going for two here was the right call on the road.

After starting 4-0 with two huge wins over Texas and Texas A&M, the Razorbacks are now 4-2 at the midway point. What comes next? I have no idea. The SEC West feels more wide open than in has in years. Anybody could end up in second place.

As for Ole Miss, how fantastic is Lane Kiffin going back to Tennessee going to be this coming Saturday night?

It’s going to be the biggest, most fun, game in Knoxville in a long time.

7. Speaking of the Vols, Josh Heupel’s offense has been pretty fantastic in year one at Tennessee.

Count me as a Heupel skeptic on his hire at Tennessee, primarily because I didn’t know, and still don’t know, if he can recruit at an elite level, but the first quarters he’s put up in the past two weeks against Missouri and South Carolina are positively Steve Spurrier-like. I know, I know, it’s Missouri and South Carolina, but neither of these teams have been beaten like Tennessee beat them, especially in the first quarter when the Vols scored 28 on both teams and virtually put the games away.

It’s been a long time since Tennessee has beaten someone by 25 and I still didn’t feel like the Vols played that well. Which is what happened against South Carolina yesterday.

With these two SEC wins Heupel has guaranteed himself a 6-6 season in year one — the Vols aren’t losing to South Alabama or Vanderbilt — and splitting with Ole Miss and Kentucky feels like a realistic goal. That puts 7-5 or 8-4 in play in year one which would give Heuepel the best first year head coaching record at Tennessee since Phil Fulmer in 1993.

My only advice on Ole Miss-Vols?

Take the over.

I don’t see how this one stays under 85.

8. BYU’s playoff run ended on Saturday against Boise State.

If I had to predict my playoff four right now it would be Georgia, Alabama, Ohio State and Iowa.

Yep, I think there’s a decent chance the SEC and the Big Ten each get two schools in the playoff.

That also means I think Cincinnati will end up getting left out of the playoff.

9. Thanks for all the hospitality in Aggieland.

10. Outkick’s National Top Ten:

1. Georgia
2. Iowa
3. Penn State
4. Michigan State
5. Kentucky
6. Alabama
7. Ohio State
8. Ole Miss
9. Michigan
10. Cincinnati

11. SEC power ratings:

1. Georgia
2. Kentucky
3. Alabama
4. Ole Miss
5. Florida
6. Arkansas
7. Texas A&M
8. Auburn
9. Mississippi State
10. Tennessee
11. LSU
12. South Carolina
13. Mizzou
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.

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