I was talking to some friends yesterday, and we all were in unanimity that, at least to the extent of top teams or exciting football, Week 12 didn’t have much to offer.
The good games, the really good games, were found in lower ranked or unranked contests. There was a really fun old-school snow game in East Lansing (that was my jam, TBH.) Mississippi State got to taste some of that Alabama magic by falling flat early on the road and then spending the next three quarters slowly breaking Arkansas’ heart. A game of huge coaching import was the SEC’s nightcap; as we expected, Ole Miss and TAMU played a highly entertaining one in Oxford. Virginia Tech and Kansas State and Penn State tried their damnedest to give away late leads.
But, for the Top 10, it was business as usual. And, despite the annual hue and cry about teams like Clemson and Alabama having FCS games late, that’s exactly what we really want, exactly what conferences want, and exactly what sports writers want, if they’re being honest.
We want the Iron Bowl to be meaningful. We need this year’s Apple Cup to be high stakes. We hope that after a week of alleged creampuffs we get a good Georgia (Kentucky) - Georgia Tech (Duke) game. The Palmetto Classic is so much better when Clemson (Citadel) and South Carolina (Wofford) are healthy. We want a fresh Ohio State when they hit the road. (Just like, last year, the Big 10 wanted a healthy Michigan (Indiana) when they went to the ‘Shoe.) One of the fiercest in-state rivalries has always scheduled accordingly: Florida (UAB) and Florida State (Delaware State) aren’t going to be bloodied by their own commissioners. Wazzu has a bye by design. The B12 put Kansas on Oklahoma’s schedule this late for a reason. Ohio State didn’t draw Illinois by accident.
Real life scheduling is not like generating a jaw-dropping slate in your XBox dynasty: Schools want the 8th home game; the communities need the money; younger players need the development; starters need a rest; rivalries need the prep time. And, since these need never change, so too will the rationale for late-season scheduling remain.
Late creampuffs for contenders are the norm across this country. The Michigan-Wisconsin game is an outlier. Why do you think there were so few ranked match-ups this week...in any conference? The only difference is that the SEC and ACC, unlike other conferences, 1. simply don’t care what you think; 2. don’t generate early buzz against patsies and save heavy-lifting for the end; and, 3. don’t pretend to hide that fact by scheduling conference games against the worst teams in America in the penultimate weekend.
But, we’ll be rehashing this same nonsense in a year. It never ends.
Here’s this week’s Blogpoll. We have to give a special shout-out to Lane Kiffin’s FAU Owls. After a miserable 3-win campaign in 2016, Lane was brought in to generate buzz and win some games. Boy, has he. The Owls have gotten increasingly better each week, and the offense is as dangerous as any in America. The 8-3 FAU Owls are head and shoulders the best team in CUSA, and at least as good as 9-2 Toledo and maybe even USF (maybe).
|1||Alabama Crimson Tide||1|
|8||Notre Dame Fighting Irish||8|
|9||Washington State Cougars||9|
|12||TCU Horned Frogs||12|
|14||MIssissippi State Bulldogs||15|
|17||Ohio State Buckeyes||20|
|18||Iowa State Cyclones||22|
|19||San Diego State Aztecs||18|
|20||Michigan State Spartans||22|
|21||Penn State Nittany Lions||24|
|22||Boise State Broncos||25|
|23||Oklahoma Strate Cowboys||13|
|25||FAU Owls / USF Bulls / Toledo Rockets||--|
|West Virginia Mountaineers|