What We’ve Learned From An Insane Week in College Football

Simply stunning.

There’s no other way to describe a weekend of college football where a remarkable 12 of the top 20 teams lost. Granted, five of these games featured top-20 match-ups, but even factoring that in, we still witnessed one of the most remarkable college football weekends in recent memory. With the smoke having cleared, and the AP and USA Today having released their latest polls, we can now take a look at the real winners and losers of an epic college football weekend.

Winners

1.  The state of Mississippi

If you had stated at the beginning of the season that two of the top four teams in the country five games into the season would be Ole Miss and Mississippi State, then I would of called you guys a bunch of liars. However, today you would have been truly vindicated. Believe it or not, the current center of the college football universe is, in fact, the state of Mississippi. This past weekend, #11 Ole Miss knocked off #3 Alabama 23-17 and #12 Mississippi State knocked off #6 Texas A&M 48-31. This has now set up for a wide open SEC West race where Ole Miss, Mississippi State, and Auburn now all sit at 2-0. With both Texas A&M and Alabama lurking a game behind, expect this conference to go down to the season’s final weekend to determine the league’s representative in the SEC Championship Game.

2.  Last year’s title game contenders

Both Florida State and Auburn won on Saturday, thereby avoiding the damage that wreaked havoc on the other top teams. Top-ranked Florida State went out and handled business on Saturday, sounding defeating an over-matched Wake Forest team by a score of 41-3.  FSU went back to basics and their defense held Wake Forest to 40 rushing yards on 39 carries while their offense held its own by scoring the last 43 points of the game after spotting Wake Forest a 3-0 lead after one quarter. For fifth-ranked Auburn, it appeared that they would be involved in a tight battle against #15 LSU. However, Auburn quarterback Nick Marshall wanted nothing to do with that. Marshall went out and accounted for four scores, two through the air and two on the ground, in the first half to lead Auburn to a 31-7 lead  and essentially ending the game after only thirty minutes of play.  With these two results, both FSU and Auburn and now #1 and #2 in the latest polls and have their destiny in their own hands as they play out the season.

3.  The College Football Playoff

What this past weekend has shown is that there is little to no separation between the top teams in college football this year. This bodes especially well for the inaugural season of having a four-team college football playoff.  Right now, behind FSU the #2, #3, and #4 teams in the country are all in the SEC West meaning that more likely only one of them will be able to make the playoff. However, lurking behind them are high-quality teams that also seem poised to place themselves in contention for the national championship. Baylor has proven itself to be the class of the Big 12, Notre Dame has bounced back from a sub-par year last year, and Michigan State has recovered nicely from an early season loss to Oregon. By having four slots available for the national championship this season instead of two, every game matters between now and the playoff, as this past weekend clearly showed us.

 

Losers 

1.  The Pac-12

Going into this past weekend, the Pac-12 had four teams in the top sixteen. This past weekend, all four of them lost leaving the league a long-shot and producing a team capable of qualifying for the playoff. Going into the weekend, Oregon had the best shot at emerging from the conference and many people felt they were the best team in the country. However, the Ducks lost to an upstart Arizona team by the score of 34-29 on their home turf on Thursday night, effectively eliminating them from national title contention. The Ducks would have still had a chance if other top teams in the conference had won; however, that didn’t happen. Eighth-ranked UCLA lost to unranked Utah 30-28, fourteenth-ranked Stanford lost to #9 Notre Dame 17-14 and #16 USC lost to unranked Arizona State on a last second Hail Mary to lose 38-34. When all is said and done, Arizona of all teams now controls its destiny in the Pac-12 but it seems like even if they win out, the conference’s strength of schedule might not be enough to get the Wildcats into title contention.

2.  Non-BCS Schools

With so many upsets, you would think that it would pave the way for some of the smaller, non-BCS conference schools to take advantage and to maybe creep into the top-15. However, that simply hasn’t been the case this year, and Saturday’s results verify this fact.  On Saturday the only school that had a chance to make some noise was #18 BYU out of the Mountain West Conference. Unfortunately, BYU lost at home to unranked Utah State 35-20 and now has dropped out of the top-25. With BYU’s loss the only non-BCS conference school in the top-20 is East Carolina at #19. However, ECU already has one loss and even if they win out they won’t be able to crack the top-4 to make the year-end playoff.

3.  The University of Michigan

Lastly, no coach this season has been under more criticism that Brady Hoke at the University of Michigan. The Wolverines have been struggling all season despite Hoke’s claims that the team still has a chance to be a national championship contender. Last weekend, after the team lost its third game of the season and students began to chanting “Fire Hoke”, Hoke and the entire Michigan staff faced criticism for putting in starting quarterback Shane Morris, despite the fact that Morris was exhibiting symptoms of a concussion. This past weekend, Michigan lost to Rutgers 26-24 to start 0-2 in the Big-10 Conference for the first time since 1967. With each passing week, the murmurs of both students and alumni are starting to get louder and louder in calls for Hoke to be removed as head coach of the Michigan Wolverines.  At this pace, there is a strong chance that Hoke won’t be able around to finish out the season on the Michigan sidelines.

We are still three weeks away from the first playoff poll coming out for the 2014 college football season. The only thing we know for sure is that this year is wide open as Saturday showcased. With the conference season coming into full swing, expect more shocking upsets as teams vie for a spot in their conference championship games and, ultimately, to become one of the first four teams in college football’s inaugural playoff season.

Oregon Ducks Prove Legitimacy in Comeback Win Over Michigan State

With just a handful of minutes left in the third quarter of the Saturday night game between the Oregon Ducks and Michigan State, it appeared that the Ducks would have a tough time coming back to battle for the win. The Spartans defense had not shut down the Ducks over the first two and a half quarters but they certainly had contained them enough to allow their team the lead. The Ducks pulled off a huge come-from-behind win that turned a nail-biter into a laugher.

You would have never known that the Spartans were about to get blown out when they were up 27 – 18. For whatever reason the Ducks broke through and scored four unanswered touchdowns to set themselves up as a powerhouse among the best of the best in college football. Although the game was closer than it seemed and anyone just glancing at the final score might think that the Spartans looked worse than they did, the Ducks clearly came out the better team.

Though the stats are not that far apart, in the end it came down to who played better. The fact of the matter is that the Ducks offense looks extremely strong and difficult to stop and they played better overall than the Spartans did. Quarterback Marcus Mariota looked plenty comfortable, picking up 318 passing yards against the Spartans’ “No Fly Zone” secondary.

This really sets up the Ducks to move up in the rankings, especially after Florida State‘s less than impressive win over Citadel. An offense that was known to be tough now looks impossible to keep down after they exploded over a quarter plus against a Spartan team that saw an 11-game winning streak snapped.

The strength shown by the Ducks on both sides of the ball over the last several minutes should mean something to all of college football.

2014 College Football Week One Predictions

The wait is over my friends: college football is back. With the explosive Abilene Christian-Georgia State matchup on Wednesday night, the 2014 FBS season will be underway and the run to the College Football Playoff will be on (check out my predictions here). There are some high-profile non-conference showdowns in the opening week, who will open their campaign the right way? Here are my picks for week one.

How Braxton Miller’s Injury Will Cause College Football Playoff Madness

http://bleacherreport.com/articles/2167825-how-braxton-millers-injury-will-cause-college-football-playoff-madness

The Ohio State Buckeyes have taken a huge hit with Braxton Miller re-injuring his right shoulder, as he will reportedly miss the entire 2014-15 season due to the injury, according to Brett McMurphy of ESPN. Bleacher Report College Football Analysts Michael Felder and Barrett Sallee discuss how Miller’s injury will affect the Big Ten and the College Football Playoff.

Which four teams do you think will end up in the College Football Playoff?

Chuck Hagel Allows Military Academies to Play Sports Through October; Won’t Commit Beyond That

Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel has announced that the service academies will be able to participate in football games and other sports through the end of October. After the federal government was shut down on Oct. 1st, there were concerns that the military service academies (Air Force, Army, Navy) would have to cancel or postpone their scheduled football games. Last week, the Department of Defense decided to allow all three schools to participate in their games on October 5th.

Hagel’s reasoning behind allowing the schools to participate in sports even though there is a shutdown is twofold. One point he has made is that the majority of the funding for these sports, specifically football, comes from outside sources and not necessarily allocated from funds approved by Congress. Basically, ticket sales, alumni support and other revenue (such as television and radio) help to provide funds to run the teams.

Another reason behind allowing the teams to participate is that the academies could be subjected to fines if the games were canceled. While they might be affected somewhat by the government shutdown, the schools they are scheduled with are not. These schedules were made months in advance and there is usually little wiggle room for change, especially on short notice. This is especially true with college football.

Now, Hagel has only committed to allowing the academies to play out their schedules through the end of October. At that point, if the government is still shutdown (Uggghhh!!!), he will then have to reanalyze and see if the academies need to make any changes. It should be noted that basketball (women’s and men’s) starts up around that time, so that puts an extra wrench in the cogs. That throws in additional scheduled games and the potential need for government funds may then be greater.

Obviously, the hope is that Congress will get its shit together, as I don’t think anyone can imagine a month-plus long shutdown. But then again, we are talking about a group with a 5% approval rating. Once again, a 5% approval rating. 5%!!! At this point, anything is possible.