How fragile is a college football season?
Well, let's ask the University of Missouri.
Heading into Saturday night's home game against the 21st ranked South Carolina Gamecocks, the fifth-ranked Tigers were one of three teams that theoretically controlled their own destiny in getting to the BCS National Championship, Alabama and Oregon being the other two.
Win out, including a victory (improbable as it might have been) over Alabama in the SEC Title Game, and the Tigers become the ultimate Cinderella story, playing for the national championship just one season after going 5-7 in their inaugural year in the SEC.
Beat the 'Cocks (sophomoric double entendre alert!), and at the very least Mizzou would hold the head-to-head tie breaker and at least a two game lead over every other team in the SEC East. Coming off a 2-6 season in the SEC in 2012, head coach Gary Pinkel's redemption story would have been an all-timer!
It's fun to think about, and unfortunately for Mizzou, after Saturday night, that's all the Tigers' dreams are now -- just unfulfilled, empty thoughts.
Up 17-0 early in the fourth quarter, Missouri appeared to be on their way to finishing up their business for the night. Burn some clock, get some stops, and it's on to the next one.
Then South Carolina scores a touchdown to make it 17-7, Missouri misses a field goal (file that away), South Carolina responds with a field goal of their own, and eventually they tie the game up 17-17 with under a minute to go in regulation. In overtime, Missouri still had a chance to close the game out and go home with a 24-17 win if they stop a South Carolina 4th and 15.
Nope. Touchdown, South Carolina. 24-24.
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In the second overtime, South Carolina took a 27-24 lead, and with a chance to send it to a third overtime, the state of Missouri crashed and burned when this sports tragedy struck...
Damn. When he finished up botching that kick, Baggett should have just gone over and kicked every Missouri fan square in the junk.
Three things here:
1. This footage reinforces my theory that "college football kicker" is the least trustworthy on-field entity in the sports universe. Take the reliability of Ben Tate's ball security, Brandon Weeden's decision making, and Ndamukong Suh's composure, blend them into one neat, little, abstract package and pour them into a five-foot-ten Caucasian soccer player, and you have the reliability of the standard college football kicker. If a college coach ever willingly relies on a kicker to decide his team's fate, he should be arrested under the same rules that CPS apprehends negligent parents.
2. Joe Tessitore's proclaiming "LACES RIGHT INTO THE SHOE!" like the holder just hit the kicker over the head with a chair to end Monday Night RAW is so awesome. Tessitore has always had that "things are WAY MORE URGENT than they actually are" look on his face, but when it plays out in his commentary, that's magical.
3. The opposite of magical? Matt Millen. "If you're a South Carolina fan, game over!" Pretty sure it was over both teams, dude.
Back to the larger point in all of this -- Missouri, in one colossal failure, goes from national championship dark horse to something like the Chick-fil-A Bowl on New Year's Eve. They go from a two-game lead and owning the tiebreaker over everyone who matters in the SEC East (would've been wins over South Carolina, Florida, and Georgia) to a tenuous one game lead in the loss column over the Gamecocks and South Carolina now holding the tiebreaker.
Those Mizzou games against Ole Miss and Texas A&M went from meaning virtually nothing in the SEC East race to one or both of them likely handing that side of the conference over to the Gamecocks. Missouri is not totally eliminated from the national championship hunt, no one loss SEC team ever is, but let's be real. It's over.
College football is crazy.
So with October now in the books, and the calendar flipping over to November, let's assess where we are with a month and change to go in the college football season:
BCS CHEAT SHEET
Control Their Own Destiny If these teams just win their remaining games, they will play in the BCS Title game in Pasadena on January 6:
1. ALABAMA (8-0, 5-0) Key games: 11/9 vs LSU, 11/30 @ Auburn, 12/7 SEC Championship Game (possible) 2. OREGON (5-0, 8-0) Key games: 11/7 @ Stanford, 11/29 vs Oregon State, 12/7 Pac-12 Championship Game (possible)
Undefeated Wait List These undefeated teams are waiting for screw ups from either of the top two and then hoping to win a beauty contest. If undefeated, these teams would stand a pretty good chance of trumping all of the one loss teams, too.
3. FLORIDA STATE (5-0, 7-0) Key games: 11/2 vs Miami, 11/30 @ Florida, 12/7 ACC Championship Game (possible) 4. OHIO STATE (4-0, 8-0) Key games: 11/30 @ Michigan, 12/7 Big Ten Championship Game (possible) 6. BAYLOR (4-0, 7-0) Key games: 11/7 vs Oklahoma, 11/16 vs Texas Tech, 11/23 @ Oklahoma State, 12/7 vs Texas 7. MIAMI, FL (3-0, 7-0) Key games: 11/2 @ Florida State, 11/9, vs Virginia Tech, 11/16 @ Duke, 12/7 ACC Championship Game (possible)
Best One Loss Team This is like being at the top of the stand-by list for a totally sold flight. You feel pretty desperate, but there's a sliver of hope.
5. STANFORD (5-1, 7-1) Key games: 11/7 vs Oregon, 11/16 @ USC, 11/30 vs Notre Dame, 12/7 Pac-12 Champiosnhip Game (possible)
Dangerous Lurker Crazy to think this, but with losses both likely and unavoidable (because of head to head match ups) in front of them in the BCS standings, Auburn would almost assuredly find itself in the top five if it heads into the 11/30 game against Alabama at 10-1. They'll be favored in every game between now and then. This is why I have Gus Malzahn as my Bear Bryant Coach of the Year right now. Also, at the ceremony that night, they should retroactively go back and give Malzahn Gene Chizik's Bear Bryant Award from 2010, just saying.
11. AUBURN (3-1, 7-1) Key games: 11/16 vs Georgia, 11/30 vs Alabama, 12/7 SEC Championship Game (possible)
BCS Shit Show Lineup Each week (or whenever I do one of these updates), I'll track the potential, mathematically-still-possible lineup of BCS Bowl teams that would make bowl officials, television executives, and fans everywhere (aside from fans and alums of these schools) cringe, based on the selection criteria:
Here is this week's version of the most hideous, slightly feasible simulation of the rest of the regular season and conference title games:
BCS TITLE GAME, January 6 BCS #1 vs BCS #2, Pasadena, CA MISSOURI (12-1) vs OKLAHOMA STATE (11-1)
ORANGE BOWL, January 3 ACC Champ/BCS vs BCS, Miami, FL VIRGINIA TECH (11-2) vs OHIO STATE (12-1)
SUGAR BOWL, January 2 SEC Champ/BCS vs BCS, New Orleans, LA ALABAMA (11-2) vs CENTRAL FLORIDA (11-1)
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FIESTA BOWL, January 1 Big 12 Champ/BCS vs BCS, Glendale, CA OREGON (12-1) vs NORTHERN ILLINOIS (13-0)
ROSE BOWL, January 1 Big Ten Champ/BCS vs Pac-12 Champ, Pasadena, CA MICHIGAN STATE (11-2) vs ARIZONA STATE (10-3)
This lineup would indubitably blow. Happy New Year!
Listen to Sean Pendergast on 1560 Yahoo! Sports Radio from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. weekdays and nationally on the Yahoo! Sports Radio network Saturdays from 10 a.m. to noon CST. Also, follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/SeanCablinasian.