College Football Recap: Elimination Saturday Zaps Baylor
College football is great. We all love college football. (At least, I'm assuming you do if you clicked on this story.)
The tradition, the pageantry -- college football is the best.
The only bad thing about college football is how subjective and arbitrary the process of crowning a champion is compared to other sports. In virtually every other team sport, people's opinions on who is the best matter not at all; it's all played out on the field. Now, this will improve to some degree for college football next season when the number of opinions that matter is greatly reduced (from two massive polls down to a 13-person committee) and the number of teams in the playoff increases (from two to four), but the determination process is still going to be largely (hell, entirely?) subjective.
So perhaps it's appropriate that as we transition from one flawed, subjective system to another slightly less flawed, more inclusive system, the ultimate off-field subjectivity is hanging over our final BCS Title Game. For it is not on a field of play where ultimately the matchup may be determined, but likely in a state's attorney's office in Florida.
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"What's going to happen with Jameis Winston?" hangs over everything right now. The matchups, the dominoes that will fall, the Heisman. Everything that matters in college football. It'd be fascinating it it weren't so sad and potentially -- POTENTIALLY -- sickening. (Innocent until proven guilty, keep it in mind.)
Okay, let's do this....
BCS Update So here are the latest BCS standings, all the way down to the lowest ranked one loss BCS conference team, after the games this past weekend:
1. ALABAMA (11-0) Remaining schedule: 11/30 at #4 Auburn, possibly 12/7 SEC Title Game (#5 Missouri or #10 South Carolina) Alabama makes the BCS Title Game if....: They win both of their games. They might be able to survive a close loss in the SEC Title Game if it were a close loss to two-loss South Carolina and there was total carnage everywhere else (FSU or Ohio State would have to lose in that scenario). For now, just win and they're in. Status: Looking really good.
2. FLORIDA STATE (11-0) Remaining schedule: 11/30 at Florida, 12/7 ACC Title Game (likely #24 Duke) FSU makes the BCS Title Game if....: On paper, if they just win, they would be in. But this Jameis Winston sexual assault investigation is hanging over the Florida State season like the sword of Damocles. If a decision comes down from the state's attorney before the BCS title game is determined, pollsters could bump up Ohio State or a one-loss SEC Champion. Weird twist to a weird season. Status: On the field, in the catbird's seat. Off the field, who the hell knows?
3. OHIO STATE (11-0) Remaining schedule: 11/30 at Michigan, 12/7 Big Ten Title Game vs #11 Michigan State Ohio State makes the BCS Title Game if....: Win out and hope for a loss by Alabama or Florida State, or (and God, this is an unsavory way to get into a BCS Title Game) have Jameis Winston get suspended and have the pollsters adjust their ballots accordingly. Again, weird season. Status: As good as could be expected given its weak schedule. But how do you process your place in the college football world? You can't root for Jameis Winston to be guilty and look yourself in the mirror, can you? (Sadly, I think I know the answer.)
4. AUBURN (10-1) Remaining schedule: 11/30 vs #1 Alabama, 12/7 possibly SEC Title Game (#4 Missouri or #10 South Carolina) Auburn makes the BCS Title Game if....: Beat Alabama, win the SEC Title Game, hope for an Ohio State or FSU loss. The big question could be how would pollsters treat a one-loss SEC Champion versus a Winston-less FSU team. This would be a legit argument if the season played out that way. Status: Hey, they were 3-9 last season. HOUSE MONEY, BABY.
5. MISSOURI (10-1) Remaining schedule: 11/30 vs #21 Texas A&M, possibly SEC Title Game (#1 Alabama or #4 Auburn) Missouri makes the BCS Title Game if....: Same as Auburn, really. Beat Texas A&M and then beat the Alabama/Auburn winner in the SEC Title game and hope for the same clutter removal that Auburn is hoping for. Status: Same as Auburn, substitute "5-7" for "3-9."
6. CLEMSON (10-1) Remaining schedule: 11/30 at #10 South Carolina Clemson makes the BCS Title Game if....: Look who's back in our lives! Okay, let's start with the obvious -- the Tigers must beat South Carolina. Also, they're going to always be behind a one-loss Florida State (unless FSU lost to Florida and in the ACC Title Game, even without Jameis Winston, that ain't happening) because they lost 51-14 to the Noles at home.
Then they probably need SEC Armageddon, which means:
1. A&M beating Missouri 2. Alabama beating Auburn 3. South Carolina beating Alabama in the title game
This would give Clemson the same number of losses as Alabama and an argument that they beat South Carolina in Columbia. Also, they would need Ohio State to lose to either Michigan or Michigan State.
And even with all of this, Oklahoma State is close enough to where they'd probably get a manual reward from pollsters for winning the Big 12 if they beat Oklahoma. Clemson can't even win their own conference! Status: Yeah, the Tigers are screwed. Don't lose 51-14 and we don't have to break this news to you.
7. OKLAHOMA STATE (10-1) Remaining schedule: 12/7 vs #18 Oklahoma Oklahoma State makes the BCS Title Game if....: Missouri beating A&M makes it a functional lock that there will be, worst case, a one-loss SEC champion rated ahead of all the teams outside the top 5. This means that an Ohio State loss to either Michigan or Michigan State, or a Florida State loss and probably a Jameis Winston suspension are needed for Oklahoma State to have a prayer. Like Clemson, they probably don't have a prayer. Status: You lost on to West f'ing Virginia. Enjoy Phoenix. 8. STANFORD (9-2) Remaining schedule: 11/30 vs #25 Notre Dame Stanford makes the BCS Title Game if....: Beat Notre Dame, goes without saying. SEC Implosion with 2-loss South Carolina winning the SEC and beating Clemson, Ohio State losing twice, Minnesota beating Michigan State, Oklahoma beating Oklahoma State, and a Florida State loss or two. Yeah, Stanford's screwed, too. (Some of this is a litmus test, BCS verbalizing to arrive at a conclusion.) Status: You lost to Utah. Enjoy Pasadena.
9. BAYLOR (9-1) Remaining schedule: 11/30 at TCU, 12/7 vs Texas Baylor makes the BCS Title Game if....: Beat TCU, beat Texas. Hope Oklahoma beats Oklahoma State. Then they need A&M to trigger the SEC Aramgeddon scenario (2-loss South Carolina winning the conference), hope for Michigan State to beat Ohio State (a loss to Minnesota before that would help), maybe even Florida State to lose a game and/or their quarterback and hope that a bunch of 70 point thrashings play better than losing 42-17 in a BCS beauty contest. Status: Losing 42-17 plays poorly in a beauty contest.
10. SOUTH CAROLINA (9-2) Remaining schedule: 11/30 vs Clemson, 12/7 possibly SEC Title Game (#1 Alabama or #4 Auburn) South Carolina makes the BCS Title Game if....: Win out and then root for everything from Notre Dame beating Stanford to Florida State losing to Florida and Duke to Michigan State losing to Minnesota. Yeah, enjoy the Capital One Bowl. Status: Hey, you were lucky just to be in this spot with that Missouri field goal kicker missing a chippy.
11. MICHIGAN STATE (10-1) Remaining schedule: 11/30 vs Minnesota, 12/7 Big Ten Title Game (vs #3 Ohio State) Michigan State makes the BCS Title Game if....: Okay, pretend Michigan State wins out, beating Minnesota and Ohio State. Would first probably need to both handily just to be safe. Now, how do they get teams out of the way in front of them? Let's see:
1. #3 Ohio State would be removed thanks to Michigan State beating them head to head. 2. SEC Armageddon Scenario would put them ahead of 2-loss Mizzou, 2-loss Auburn, and into a beauty contest with 2-loss South Carolina and 1-loss Alabama. 3. I don't think the winner of South Carolina-Clemson matters, as an argument vs a 2-loss South Carolina as SEC Champ and a 1-loss Clemson with no conference title are both winnable arguments for Michigan State. (Also, losable arguments, yes.) 4. Florida State losing a game and losing Jameis Winston is advisable. 5. Oklahoma beating #7 Oklahoma State, and #9 Baylor losing to TCU or Texas, also may be necessary.
Michigan State, you're not screwed per se...well.... Status: ...yes you are.
Okay, so this thing is basically a five team race, and is certainly a five team race if Missouri beats Texas A&M to clinch a one-loss regular season and a spot opposite the Alabama/Auburn winner in the SEC Title Game.
Okay, now these next two bullet points show you just how fast things can change. In the blink of an eye (or in one weekend of college football) fortunes and legacies can be changed, for the good or the bad. Let's start with the good...
Heisman upheaval In last week's College Recap, I put to bed A.J. McCarron's 2013 Heisman campaign, and left him to go enjoy his consolation prize (girlfriend Katherine Webb, who quite frankly, all of the other candidates would probably melt down the trophy on television just to spend one night with). Well, in the oddest fashion possible, McCarron individually had one of those weekend's for the Heisman that teams like Clemson and Oklahoma State are hoping for as a team in the BCS race -- total clutter removal. Winston (sex assault allegations), Johnny Manziel (horrific in a loss versus LSU), and Marcus Mariota (bad loss versus unranked Arizona) all fall by the wayside, and who's left standing? McCarron, there to collect a lifetime achievement Heisman and walk away with Miss Alabama. As if his chest tattoo weren't reason enough to hate him....
Then there was the bad from last week's post...
Georgia tiki statue All season long, the story with Georgia has been how the season has been one constant battle with injuries with quarterback Aaron Murray being the glue trying to hold the whole thing together. Hell, at one point, in a game in Knoxville in October, Georgia was closing regulation with a running back who looked more like a kicker and with their top three receivers shelved. Well, unfortunately, it was just a matter of time before the Georgia tiki statue got Murray, as he tore his ACL in a win over Kentucky. A meaningless, nondescript blowout of Kentucky. Now, Murray's whole offseason and future go into upheaval, as instead of focusing on trying to improve his draft stock (likely around a third round pick before the injury), he has to focus on merely getting healthy. All because of an injury suffered in a win over...Kentucky...to bring Georgia's record to 7-4. Honestly, in retrospect, Murray should have faked a hamstring injury once they sustained their third loss.
Play like a Muschamp-ion today (i.e., poorly) One more circle back to last week's column, where I tried to give Texas fans some perspective on what many of them see as an overextension of the Mack Brown Era. I tried to explain that a truncated Mack Brown Era three years ago would have just meant being knee deep in the Will Muschamp Era now. And that was before Florida lost this weekend to FCS foe Georgia Southern at home! You want to see the signs of a coach in over his head and cracking a little bit? Watch Muschamp's press conference, and in particular pay attention to the 8:20 mark after a report asks "Did you feel like Georgia Southern was close to you in terms of talent, or at least talent available to you today?" (a perfectly acceptable question, by the way):
Muschamp (after several seconds of meandering): "Run a midline, you know what a midline is?" Reporter (off mic): "No." Muschamp: "Didn't think so."
Ooooohh burn, reporter! A go-to defense mechanism for sensitive coaches -- the "you reporters don't know what you're talking about" defense. Muschamp should have plenty of time to explain midlines to everyone when he's a defensive coordinator somewhere in the SEC next season.
What tho' the odds be...odd By the time next weekend is over, Brian Kelly's fourth season at Notre Dame might wind up with one of the strangest final ledgers in all of college football. If the Irish go out to Palo Alto this weekend and pull off the upset (a tall order, since the Irish are 14-point underdogs), they'll wind up 9-3 on the season. Not just 9-3, but based on the most recent BCS standings, they would be 9-3 with wins over possibly three top-15 teams (Michigan State, Arizona State, Stanford). Moreover, their three losses would be to Michigan, Oklahoma and Pitt, three teams that, if Oklahoma State hammers OU, could all be outside the top 25. We will let it play out, but at a minimum Kelly's squad has at least two wins (maybe three if you count USC) where people will look at their ledger on December 7 and say, "What the hell?!?"
BCS Nightmare Slate We close with the latest in the BCS Nightmare Slate, my own personal slightly feasible scenario of BCS bowl matchups that would make TV executives and Bill Hancock himself cringe in a cold sweat:
BCS Title Game: Missouri (SEC champion) vs Florida State (ACC champion, without Jameis Winston)
Orange Bowl: Clemson (at-large) vs UCF (AAC champion) Sugar Bowl: Auburn (at-large, SEC runner up) vs Wisconsin Fiesta Bowl: Oklahoma State (Big 12 champion) vs Northern Illinois Rose Bowl: Michigan State (Big Ten champion) vs Arizona State (Pac-12 champion)
PROCESS: 1. Missouri wins SEC title and Florida State the ACC title. 2. Slot the Big 12, Big Ten, and Pac-12 champs in their bowls. 3. Sugar and Orange pick first to fill slots because they lose their conference champion tie-ins to the BCS Title Game, and take next highest ranked teams from the SEC and ACC. 4. Orange takes UCF because of geography, Sugar takes 10-2 Wisconsin because they will travel, and Fiesta takes NIU because they have to.
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 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. CST. Also, follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/SeanCablinasian.
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