Welcome back for your WEEK 10 dose of AWESOMENESS, my friends.
It was a big week for the SEC and in particular the SEC West as two of their three contributions to the College Football Playoff (CFP) Top 4 met on the field of battle. The #1 team in the nation (and third component of the SEC West CFP trifecta) also traveled north to see how they would fare against the last place team in their division. Expectations for their dominance as the country’s BEST team were tempered, of course, so that the table could be set for a delicious serving of mediocrity disguised as epic awesomeness. Let’s EAT!
DISCLAIMER: Remember, folks – we’re not here to hate on the SEC. The SEC packs a powerful brand of college football, has some of the greatest rivalries and traditions in the game and will forever dominate the BCS-era National Title trophy case. The “SEC is AWESOME Theory” is centered around the statistical advantage the SEC has gained and continues to gain via a financially-driven media machine that produces biased polls, rankings and marketing.
The AWESOME Games
(1) Mississippi State 17 / (NR) Arkansas 10 – the #1 team in the country didn’t lead in this game until the 13 minute mark in the final quarter. With less than 900 total yards between the two squads, this was an anemic game for the SEC. Quarterback of the nation’s best team, Heisman candidate Dak Prescott, eclipsed 300 yards in the air but threw two interceptions and only one touchdown. The SEC West leading Bulldogs committed three turnovers in all and only controlled the ball for a total of 21 minutes. Trying to avoid their 13th straight SEC loss, the hapless Hogs were 16 yards away from pay dirt with 15 seconds on the clock when Brandon Allen underthrew his receiver to preserve State’s salvation. An exciting game for sure, but would the CFP Committee expect more from their top team? Is a 7-point, last second turnover squeaker enough?
(3) Auburn 35 / (4) Ole Miss – SEC nation was salivating over this Top 5 match-up and it truly delivered. Bad Bo Wallace refrained from having conversations with fans during the game (unlike last week) and instead focused on throwing for nearly 350 yards and two touchdowns while dashing for about 50 with one rushing touchdown. Auburn’s QB, Nick Marshall, mirrored this effort with three total scores of his own and the only interception of the game. It appeared as though the Rebels had taken the lead with a couple minutes left when WR Laquon Treadwell was ‘jersey-collared’ backwards as he tried to cross the threshold. In a gruesome twist of fate, Treadwell’s feet and upper body were halted while his torso continued forward – this caused his arms to flail back and his left ankle to bend at a horrible angle, leading to his season-ending injury and a fumble of the ball before he crossed the plane. It was the worst injury-replay in some time, right up there with Marcus Lattimore and Bama’s Prothrow. Southern Irish’s thoughts and prayers are certainly with Treadwell as he recovers and ascertains his future.
So, the Rebels suffer their second defeat in as many weeks. Are they in a tail-spin? Are they simply unlucky? Are they being exposed? I believe the Auburn game was a true test and they should be very proud of their effort. But I feel it also serves as a reminder that this team zoomed up the rankings on victories over Alabama (untested) and Texas A&M (exposed). Much to their advantage, these two teams were ranked at #3 and #14, respectively, when they played. They remain as two Quality Wins for the CFP committee to consider if Ole Miss finishes the season undefeated. Ole Miss has also now lost to the Jekyll & Hyde show that is LSU along with this great loss to Auburn. You can bet that each of these will be viewed as Quality Losses.
All four of those QUALITY games also happen to be against SEC-west teams. Remember, when you are all AWESOME and only play each other – that statistics can easily go your way. Let’s assume that the Rebels can scrape by Presbyterian this weekend. If they can then overcome the mighty Razorbacks and then somehow pull off a miracle in the Egg Bowl, you can be certain that their two-losses will be viewed as being on-par or BETTER than numerous one-loss, non-Sec-west teams. Mark it down.
(11) Georgia 20 / (NR) Florida 38 – as we suspected, the Alachua County Lizards showed up on Saturday and invoked the spirit of Spurrier to once again ruin a perfectly good season for the Bulldogs. I can’t even figure out if Georgia’s bus ever crossed the state line. Sure, Gurley the Entrepreneur was not on said bus – but this was an awful game by the Dawgs who had been looking really tough heading into this week’s rivalry game. Florida executed fairly well and confirmed that they were playing to win with their successful Little Giants maneuver nearly seven minutes into the 2nd quarter. That evened the score and the Gators never looked back. THIRTY ONE unanswered points by a team whose only victory this year before Saturday that was by more than ONE point (Tennessee) and DIDN’T require overtime (Kentucky) was a 65-0 thumping of Eastern Michigan University. I don’t believe there were enough cocktails in Jacksonville to cool off the seats of Mike Bobo and Mark Richt after that game.
(NR) Texas A&M 21 / (NR) University of Louisiana-Monroe 16 – just wanted to keep everybody updated on the success of the team who gave Alabama their ONLY win against a ranked opponent! Oh, yeah…Bama DID beat West Virginia in Week 1. West Virginia, who peaked in the CFP rankings at #20 last week before losing a hard fought game against TCU. It was a great game, but after suffering their 3rd loss of the season, the Mountaineers dropped out of the….Top 22?
Yep. West Virginia dropped three spots. They’re now the only team in the CFP Top 25 that have
two three losses. Surely, the Theory isn’t actually benefiting the Big-12 4th place team just because they’re now Alabama’s best Quality Game? Is it weird that Ole Miss drops seven spots after losing to #3 Auburn (for their second loss) while the Mountaineers drop three after losing their third game to #7? It’s not as if West Virginia might be one of the Top 5 headline stories for The Network on their NCAAF homepage heading into Week 11? Just to benefit Alabama? Nah…
The AWESOME Results
So, it goes a little something like this. The Theory has clearly documented the polling results for teams Ohio State, Notre Dame, Florida State and UCLA when those teams faced unranked teams and emerged victorious. The theory has also documented the same scenario for SEC-west teams and here is a comparison:
SEC West – after 6 games where ranked SEC teams beat unranked teams by an average margin of 8.83 points, they GAINED an average of .1667 spots in the rankings
Non-SEC West – after 5 games where ranked non-SEC West teams beat unranked teams by an average margin of 15.2 points, they LOST an average of 2.2 spots in the rankings
That about sums it up for me.
The Theory clearly dictates that “close” victories are valued quite differently for SEC teams than they are for teams from other conferences or independents. They gain more spots when they win and they fall fewer spots when they lose. We’re also reaching the point where it’s not even mentioned or brought up for discussion. Shouldn’t we be able to assume that the best team in the country can play the last team in their division and produce a convincing victory? Perhaps not. I will always champion the belief that “any team can win on any given Saturday.” Look no further than the Georgia/Florida game on Saturday, Virginia Tech’s upset of the Buckeyes or the Hoosier’s victory over MIZZOU. It happens and it’s a beautiful phenomena that makes college football the glorious spectacle that we love so very much. My problem is that the ‘any given Saturday’ concept is not being applied equitably across the college football landscape and this discrepancy is a huge contributor to the Theory.
I must give props to reader Auburn Elvis for pointing out that Ole Miss did NOT remain in the Top 10 rankings following their hard-fought loss to Auburn. This was not a result that I anticipated, as the rebels have settled cozily behind the Irish, just outside of the Top 10 at #11. Ole Miss has their two losses and is currently situated ahead of three one-loss teams such as Ohio State, Baylor and Nebraska. They also hold a four spots advantage over the next two-loss team, Oklahoma. Is this fair? Surely the Huskers, Buckeyes and Bears are miffed on a pure win-loss basis, but I would say their argument is tepid at best until any of them can add a Quality Win to their body of work for comparison with the Rebels’ two-loss record, however you may feel about that.
Baylor, Ohio State and even Oklahoma will have their shots this week as the Bears face off with the Sooners in Norman while Urban Meyer leads his crew against Sparty for what will probably be the biggest game of the year for the Big 10. As we already pointed out, the Rebels will be facing Presbyterian on Saturday so it will be interesting to see where the teams stand after the dust settles. Nebraska has the weakest schedule in front of them with a bye this week and their only chance (barring a Top 25 entry for UPSTART Minnesota in a weak Big 10 this year) for a Quality Win against a currently ranked Wisconsin team the following week. Congratulations on your team’s win, Auburn Elvis – now please remember to give Saban & Co. the reality check we’d all love to see in a few weeks!
Here’s an update on the SEC presence in the rankings. The Theory hereby officially makes the transition from AP to CFP Playoff rankings, albeit begrudgingly. Why, you might ask? Well, the preseason rankings from the AP determine the value and “quality” of wins and losses as we begin each season. Until the entire system adopts the approach that the BCS and now CFP Playoff committees now take – delaying initial ranking until a few weeks of games have actually taken place – we will continue to see over ranked teams provide incredible springboards for other teams, both deserving and not so much. This flaw CAN apply to the entire field, but when the preseason rankings stack an SEC-favored deck…well, the Theory takes over.
Here’s where we stand:
#1 – #5: 1 SEC Team
#6 – #10: 2 SEC Teams
#11 – #15: 2 SEC Teams
#16 – #20: 1 SEC Team
#21 – #25: 2 SEC Teams
#1 – #5: 3 SEC Teams (-1)
#6 – #10: 2 SEC Teams (+1)
#11 – #15: 0 SEC Teams (-)
#16 – #20: 1 SEC Team (+1)
#21 – #25: 0 SEC Teams (-1)
#1 – #5: 3 SEC Teams (-)
#6 – #10: 0 SEC Teams (-2)
#11 – #15: 1 SEC Team (+1)
#16 – #20: 2 SEC Teams (+1)
#21 – #25: 0 SEC Teams (-)
AWESOME Games to Watch This Week
(#1) Mississippi State / (NR) University of Tennessee-Martin – Never mind. Next…
(#11) Ole Miss / (NR) Presbyterian – Sorry, try again…
(#3) Auburn / (NR) Texas A&M – the Aggies will try to avoid their 4th loss in the SEC and for the season on Saturday as they face the Tigers AT Auburn. Auburn will coming down off of their emotional win against Mississippi and this game really has all of the makings of a “trap” game. That is, if you can stomach the reality of referring to the former AP #6 team of former Week 1 Heisman shoe-in Kenny “Trill-spension” Hill as a lowly “trap game” opponent. I expect Auburn to roll on Saturday but don’t expect them to suffer ANY consequences should they struggle with the same team that struggled last week against The University of Louisiana-Monroe. We now know that this is just how the Theory works! But what if A&M pulls the upset? It will be interesting to see just how high they can jump as a Bama victim with three losses. It’s working with West Virginia – can Alabama save Texas A&M in the rankings, too?
(#5) Alabama / (#16) LSU – the media will have itself in a tizzy over this amazing SEC West match up. LSU will be welcoming Saban and his Padawan into Death Valley a mere two weeks of dispatching Bad Bo Wallace and the Rebels. This one of those games where we really start to sort stuff out. Alabama’s only claim to greatness this year in the SEC is a drubbing of the free-falling Aggies. The Aggies were falsely ranked too high JUST long enough to serve as the springboard for Mississippi State (Week 6) and the aforementioned Rebels (Week 7). LSU is now only relevant because they managed to upset Ole Miss last week. Therefore…we now essentially have Alabama’s chicken coming home to roost in the form of the Mad Hatter-led squad who also escaped the Swamp on a last-second field goal. If Alabama wins, it will be an amazing victory over the powerful LSU Tigers who stripped Ole Miss from the undefeated ranks – even though LSU themselves were in the unranked ranks themselves until they were rewarded fro beating Kentucky. Should Bama be exposed and fall to LSU, which I think is quite possible, then I’ll make the same prediction that I did for the AUB v Miss loser. That’s right, Auburn Elvis – I’m doubling down and be sure to keep me honest! Should Bama lose, it is very likely that they will remain in the Top 10 to fill the void of the Notre Dame/Arizona State loser while LSU will most assuredly skyrocket into the Top 10. Ole Miss might very well JOIN them despite their cream-puff match up against Presbyterian if Ohio State is able to knock off Michigan State.
Mississippi State wins, Ole Miss rolls, Auburn handles A&M, LSU beats Alabama in a close game while Florida State only beats Virginia by 18 points, Ohio State barely ousts Michigan State, Notre Dame defeats Arizona State, Oklahoma beats Baylor and there’s a large margin of victory in the Kansas State/TCU game:
#1 Mississippi State
#3 Florida State
#5 TCU/Kansas State winner
#7 Notre Dame
#8 Ole Miss
#10 Ohio State
75% of the Top 4 and 60% of the Top 10. Not too shabby.
See you next week!