I'm new here, so don't bite, but I was invited to start posting over here since I've been writing a moderately popular weekly blog on one of the more popular Bama message boards. FWIW, I'm also currently winning RBR's pickem (though this statement all but assures my inevitable loss). Please let me know if you like my work, or if you have any comments.
Also, my apologies for Glen55 to the overlap this week's post has to his own viewing guide. This is just what I'd already written for this week, so I figured I might as well post it over here.
-- So, Without further ado:
In honor of our bye week, and for the benefit of everyone out there with a nervous twitch due to the absence of Bama football, I present the:
Bye Week Viewing Guide
(All times Central)
LSU, Oregon, Bama, and Baylor are all off, so it's hard to find something interesting to watch this weekend. Here is my list of notable games to help you sort the wheat from the chaff this weekend, with interesting points on the teams involved and things to look for in each game.
Thursday night - Arizona State v. Washington State - ESPN - 9:30 (Recap)
- ASU is, in my humble opinion, the most inconsistent team in football over the last few years. They blasted Washington and USC, lost handily to Stanford, and had very close games in a ref-assisted Wisconsin win and Notre Dame loss. Washington State has regressed as the season has gone on, playing well against Auburn and USC early before being demolished by Stanford, OSU, and Oregon. WSU's quarterback, Halliday, is 1:1 in TDs:Ints, which is far worse when you realize they are in a short-throw offense. His poor decision cost them the Auburn game, and quite possibly the Oregon game as well (WSU should have been leading Oregon at the half). ASU's win here means that the ASU-UCLA game will more than likely be the Pac-12 South semifinal. Also, at this point I might go ahead and argue that ASU is the 2nd best team in the Pac-12, as they have been trending up while Stanford (who is inexplicably high for a one-loss team) is trending down. I look for ASU to win the South and be Oregon's biggest obstacle to the BCSCG. Still... inconsistency may strike at any moment.
Friday night - USC at Oregon St. - ESPN2 - 8 PM
- One team (USC) has been making strides under a new coach, while the other is having an excellent season outside an opening day FCS disaster (OSU). But here's the rub... USC's past two wins under Orgeron have both come against teams that are likely to finish with 6 wins (USC's best win to date may well be Utah State). Interestingly, they've played a combined 2 currently ranked teams and lost both (OSU's 12-20 loss to Stanford and USC losing 14-10 to Notre Dame). OSU's 6-2 mark is marred by the fact they have not played any team outside Stanford with a winning record. This is the Pac-12, ladies and Gentleman, where USC is 5-3, OSU is 6-2, and they have a collective 1 win over a team with a winning record. The thing to watch here is that OSU has had a potent offense (outside the Stanford meltdown), but a very porous defense. USC has been the exact opposite. USC also has no scholarship tight ends available, and with Lee injured had to use 3 walk-on receivers in the game. They are likely to play walk-ons on the offensive line, running back, safety, and who knows where else. Tre Madden is the real key to USC's team, he's their best offensive player (better than the overrated Lee) and their improvement under Orgeron is mainly due to a willigness to commit to running him (they lost to Notre Dame when he sat out with an injury). This game will probably see OSU struggle offensively against a very Stanford-like defense, so it will probably come down to if the USC offense can be productive enough to score a few points and keep their defense from wearing out.
Saturday Morning - Virginia Tech at Boston College - ABC - 11AM
- In one corner, a 3-4 Boston College with wins over Villanova, Wake Forest, and Army, but two good losses to FSU and Clemson. It's often overlooked that Kiffin-led USC killed Boston College, as did North Carolina. I still maintain that's a huge red-flag about both Clemson and FSU's legitimacy (more on that later). In the other corner is a VT team that just did the unacceptable in losing to Duke. If VT is going to finish the year well, they have to win this game. A loss here, and they are two games down to Miami in conference play, meaning they have to pray for an FSU win later for a shot at the division crown. If VT wins this, the Miami game is the ACC semifinal.
Saturday Morning - Miss St. at USCe - SEC Network - 11:21 AM
- Mississippi State (4-3) just isn't very good. They finish with five straight SEC opponents, of which 4 may be ranked, and must find a way to win 2 of those. They are probably going to need to upset a ranked team to go to a bowl, and to my knowledge Mullen has never beaten a ranked SEC West team, so this may be their only chance. Lucky for them, USC isn't that good, and has managed to drunkenly stumble to a 6-2 record in a very weak SEC East. Outside the 52-7 drubbing of Arkansas, who just flat gave up in that game, USC has failed to win convincingly in any other game this season, with most of their games being decided by 10 points or less. USC is clearly the better team (the MSU-UK game last week was no fluke), but a very emotional win last week means USC needs to be careful or they may well give Mizzou the division crown right after they put it in doubt.
Saturday Afternoon - Georgia (basically at) Florida - CBS - 2:30PM
- The game formally known as a cocktail party has since merely been a BYOB sort of affair. The key to this game in my mind is Todd Gurley, who should finally be back. While Georgia has been healing up, Florida has been getting dinged up. Florida will be without stars Easley and Humphries on the DL, and is hoping to get back Ronald Powell of an ankle sprain. The net result is that Georgia may have gotten a 2-3 TD swing from the running game versus what would have happened a month ago. I've said for a while that UGA is a totally different game with Gurley. Unless Murphy (and more notably, the OL giving him time) wakes up, I think Georgia probably ends this one early. A Florida loss here puts them in serious danger of being 4-4 and ending 6-6 since they have two ranked games remaining (USCe and FSU). More on this at the bottom of the post, but the winner of this game likely still doesn't have a shot at the title because at best they get stuck in a wierd tie with USC and Mizzou that makes Mizzou very likely to win.
Saturday Afternoon - Arizona at Cal - P12 Network- 2:30PM
- Arizona's 5-2 record is an abberation, they haven't beaten anyone with a winning record, and are likely to drop the last 4 games on their schedule and finish 6-6. Cal, on the opposite end of the spectrum, has played 4 ranked teams, and the only team with a losing record was Portland State (which they struggled to win). Though no one will be watching (who the heck actually gets the Pac-12 network?) this game will be interesting just to see if Arizona is any good. If you haven't picked up on the implication, this game may very quietly determine if Rich Rod lasts the year because a loss here means they'll probably finish 5-7.
Saturday Afternoon - Michigan at Michigan State - ABC - 2:30 PM
- This game will likely to determine who gets to play Nebraska for the Legends crown, and the right to play tOSU in the Big 10 title game. I expect an ugly game, as neither team is very consistent offensively, but Michigan State has been winning more convincingly of the two. Both have played Notre Dame, with the winner being the home team in a close game each time. It shouldn't surprise you that ND-Mich was high scoring, and ND-MSU was low scoring. IM), Michigan is too prone to turnovers in games with good defenses this year, so MSU probably wins it.
Saturday Evening - Auburn at Arkansas - ESPN2 - 5PM
- Shhh... not many are paying attention to this one. Arkansas is a bad football team, of that there is no question. But they are bad because they don't throw it well, and they don't defend the throw well. But Auburn has relied on stopping the pass and running the ball. AU is clearly the better team, and should win. But Arkansas will be able to do things that can make this interesting. First, Arkansas will run the ball with a power offense, negating the young "fast twitch" defenders that have given Auburn an edge. AU has only faced one big, power offense in LSU, and got absolutely run over by Hill. Arkansas should be able to run the ball pretty effectively. The second thing Arkansas will do is create disruption on the edge. Arky might have the best edge rushers in the conference, and that's exactly the kind of players that give Malzahn's offense fits. The game will all come down to whether Auburn can get to the edges, if they can, they'll outrun Arky and win by a good margin. If they are forced to play inside the box and throw, AU will be well outside their comfort zone and will struggle to win here. Just like how AU beat TAM, this is a really bad match-up for the top 10 team, which is why AU is only favored by 8 over a team that lost by 40+ points two games in a row.
Saturday Evening - Tennessee at Missouri - ESPN - 6PM
- I don't expect this to be too competitive, but we'll see. UT has serious issues with their secondary... they are really really freaking slow. Jones has them playing well enough that they hung with East teams in USC and a depleted UGA that lack speed at WR. But they got run by Bama, and there's no reason to think Mizzou won't be able to do the same thing. I don't totally buy that Missouri has a great defense, so UT will probably put up some points, especially if Dobbs comes in and plays like he did the second half against us. He was a huge upgrade from Worley, who's just flat out bad. I said earlier in the year that this was the worst UT team in 50 years. Athletically, that may still be true, however as a "team" the improvements in their quality of play are really showing up. Missouri needs to be able UT at the LOS, and needs Mauk to have a merely average day. If they manage that, they win.
Saturday Night - Boise State at Colorado State - CBSSN - 7PM
- I hate Boise. I'm fully convinced that they cheat. I think they practice more than you're allowed, and I frankly think there really is some substance abuse going on. Too many 2* players go in and come out head-case freaks. This sounds ridiculous, but they've been in a lot of NCAA trouble for things like that lately, so it's at least partially confirmed. I really don't have much to say, other than that I hate them and hope McElwain kills them. May Fort Collins run blue with smurf blood.
Saturday Night - Miami at Florida State - ABC - 7PM
- Playoff committee pop quiz quick question, anwer quickly: Which team is undefeated? The correct answer is both, and I bet a large number of people don't realize that. FSU's schedule to date is arguably the worst of all the undefeateds outside of their drubbing of Clemson. That's sounds like a dumb statement, but with Georgia not being very good at all we have to wonder now if Clemson was actually that good, either. Miami has two chances to beat FSU, either today, or by winning out and playing FSU in their conference title. The big concern for Miami is that they have allowed 21 points or more against every opponent with a pulse, and FSU's offense is humming. The concern for FSU is that Miami actually has some people that resemble athletes on both sides of the ball, meaning this is the first game where their opponents have the capability of making FSU work(again, outside Clemson, who has a tendency to choke in big games. I'd keep a close eye on this one, as FSU has been keyed up two straight weeks against Clemson and the NC State revenge game, and Miami's performance against Wake tells me they had this game circled. I'd give the edge to FSU, since they are the better team and at home, but Miami could really give them trouble. Here's your stat to watch: the top rated passing defense FSU has faced is Pitt at 44th. You have to realize this is a down year, and that's really bad (Arkansas manages 40th). Most of FSU's opponents have been in the bottom half of the country in Pass D. Miami, on the other hand, is 17th. Miami is 12th nationally in interceptions. Even their "bad" run defense will be the 2nd best FSU has faced. In other words, this is statistically far and away the toughest test for Winston to date, and a drop in offensive production is quite likely. The question, then, is if FSU gets frustrated on offense, and if Miami can generate points by leaning on Duke Johnson against an FSU team that's #1 against the pass and only #29 against the run. I think this may well be the game of the week.
Other Thoughts, Musings, and Tidbits I hid in threads throughout the week:
Fumbling Trough the Endzone:
I don't like the fumble through the endzone rule. Any other place on the field, a forward fumble out of bounds spots the ball -at the place of the fumble-. I think this is the most overlooked part of the whole thing, if you fumble on the 2 and it goes backwards to the 5, you get it at the 5. If you fumble and it goes out at the 1, it's still only at the 2. But if you fumble at it goes out in the endzone, it's the other team's ball at the 20? There's no reason why the ball shouldn't just be spotted back at the spot of the fumble like any other play. I think it makes a little sense if it rolls out the back of the endzone, thus depriving the defense of a chance to recover, but there is nothing special about the side of the endzone that demands a special rule. It's way too much of a "gotcha" for something that often has to be reviewed.
Jameis Winston, Saban's Loss or Chizik's?
I've heard people on the radio talking about Winston was a big loss for Saban. Let me flip that around: Winston was a huge loss for Auburn. Considering the state of Auburn's passing game, Winston would have been the starting quarterback the past two years, and may very well might have saved Chizik's job. If he were on Auburn's team this year, I think AU may well be undefeated (LSU's secondary is pretty poor, but AU couldn't throw well enough to exploit it). And if you are sitting there going, "yeah, he'd make a much bigger difference at Auburn than Bama," that's a good indicator that deep down you realize our offense is already a lot better than their's.
Mizzou's Huge Lead in the East:
There is a serious "nightmare tie" situation looming in the SEC East. First, either Georgia or Florida win out in conference play. Second, Mizzou has to drop one of their remaining games (betwee, UT, UK, Ole Miss, and TAM). Third, USC must beat Mississippi State. All of these are likely to occur. If this happens, the SEC East becomes a 3-way tie beatween Mizzou, USC, and [UF/UGA winner]. The first step of the tiebreaker is to eliminate one team based off division record. If you have the Mizzou-USC-UGA tie, USC and UGA are both screwed , because they have two East losses and Mizzou will likely only lose to a West team. Thus, Mizzou wins. If you have the Mizzou-USC-UF tie, UF and Mizzou only have one division loss and USC two, so USC is eliminated. Now they look at head-to-head betweeen the two teams, and Mizzou wins.
So, basically, the "nightmare tie" means that Mizzou will win the SEC East crown if UGA or UF wins out unless Mizzou 1) loses to UT or UK, or 2) loses 2 SEC games. A Mizzou loss to Ole Miss or TAM mathematically wouldn't matter.
USCe needs UF to win. That's because UGA gets three losses, and USC still has a chance to give UF 3 losses. All of a sudden, a 2-loss Mizzou would be tied solely with a 2-loss USC. In this scenario, head-head is the first tiebreaker, and USC goes to the East title.
If you haven't picked up on it, UF and UGA can't make the SEC title without a tremendous amount of help. They're in a really bad position in the tiebreakers.
This is why, when SBNation's Bill Connelly (who's my hero, btw) did some statistical projections on the East title race, they came out like this:
South Carolina 27.8%
As I said above, they corroborate that USCe needs UF to win bad. If UGA wins, Mizzou is 70% likely to go to the title, and everyone else falls to 20% or less. If Florida wins, it's suddenly a 50/50 guess on if it's Mizzou or USC.
For all the talk, I don't think people realize that UGA and UF are in such a huge tiebreaker hole. Tennessee is actually still in it mathematically, but it's so unlikely that it's statistically irrelevant (less than 0.1%).
The ACC Still Kinda Sucks:
Fun Fact: Who are the two leaders of each division in the ACC? That's right, it's FSU and Clemson in the Atlantic, Miami and VT in the Coastal. But here's the problem for the ACC, being overlooked because there's actually four "good-great" teams: Who is third in each division? That would be Wake Forest and Georgia Tech, both bad teams. The ACC, which expanded to 14 teams, may have 4 teams supposedly SEC caliber, but the other 10 might not finish in the top half of any other major conference. This gives FSU a 3-game schedule: Clemson, Miami, and the ACCCG. It gets even wierder: since Miami has a 1 game lead in the Coastal, there is a good chance that FSU could play Clemson once and Miami twice. That's a really terrible resume. If they drop any of those, there is virtually no scenario where they can make the BCSCG, no matter who else loses.