As the college football season continues to roll on, so does this column! Plus, what a weekend it was, the first dramatic weekend of the season, truly, with all the upsets and all the changes impacting Mizzou football. I hope you enjoy this week's edition, and as always, I welcome all feedback and comments!
1. I'm happy! Wow, 6-0 with a win over Georgia is not something anyone of us expected to start the year. 5-1 seemed like the limit and we were just hoping to be competitive against the Bulldogs. Well, a combination of our own quality play and Georgia's injury bug changed that perception entirely, as prior to the game it seemed like every commentator was predicting Missouri to upset Georgia. And, upset we did -- though the third quarter was tense for quite a while (I admit, I was quite frustrated with some of the play-calling during that period of time and felt we would lose when it got to 28-26), the Tigers emerged victorious with one of the best wins in recent memory. Due to Georgia's injuries, it wasn't quite as good as Oklahoma in 2010 nor Nebraska in 2003, but it was certainly up there. It was a road win at Georgia!! And, of course, we dealt with our own injuries, both to Gaines and Franklin, which leads me to my next thought...
2. I'm sad. Very sad, in fact, because as I've written about in previous posts, I think James Franklin is an excellent quarterback and finally he was starting to get the recognition and respect he had earned, both from fans as well as the press, and I frankly think he was on the verge of entering the Heisman discussion. I also think (and still think) he's a pro prospect. So, to see him get hurt was difficult to take and definitely puts a damper on the win and on the season, even at 6-0. I would normally be doing cartwheels after such a huge win, but knowing James is likely out til at least the A&M game makes me bummed. I hope he can play in our bowl game at the very least and I'm going to hold out hope he heals faster than people are predicting and pray we see him back after the bye week for Ole Miss. Not banking on it, but one can hope, right? I think Franklin is a huge loss that can't be overstated, but...
3. Don't "Mauk" our victory OR our chances going forward. I know some are saying, "well, Georgia was banged up". True. But, the fact is we lost our starting QB when we were only up 2 after giving up 16 straight points. We lost Gaines. I had jitters at that point and wondered if it was all going to fall apart before us. After that, however, Mauk did what he had to do, in a hostile environment. He ran for a critical first down, delivered a crisp pass to Sasser for the pass that made it 8 (darn you, Baggett!) points and then held the lead. Going forward, though I do think the loss of Franklin hurts a great deal, the fact is Mauk was a well regarded recruit and going forward the coaches will design a plan around him that allows us a good chance to win. Trial by fire, yes, but that's why you recruit QB's and we still do have all our weapons for him to throw to. So, I think the sky is still the limit for us, even though we need to be honest in saying the path got more difficult.
4. Florida Forecast. I predicted last week that the Florida Gators would end up 6-6, losing to LSU, Missouri, Georgia, South Carolina and Florida State. I still feel that way. The Gators do have a great defense, but on the flip side, they also don't score that many points as they are also playing with a backup QB and that will kill them against good competition, Missouri included. In fact, that is exactly why I think this is actually good timing to play them -- as I wouldn't want to get in a shootout with anyone in Mauk's first full week and playing Florida is more like old fashioned SEC football -- if you're going to beat them, it is going to be something in the 20's or even less. We are obviously going to have to run the ball well -- but Florida's run D means that Mauk will have to throw the ball in order for us to win. I think he gets it done and I'm saying Missouri wins, 24-21.
5. We can win the East. We will know how likely it is in the next two weeks. Of course, we currently control our own destiny. However, even considering the injury to Franklin and a possible loss or two, I think the SEC East is well within our grasp to win as long as we defeat South Carolina. Just look at the schedule of the teams -- it may only require a 6-2 record to win the division. (Big 12 North, anyone?)
Let's set aside Tennessee, Kentucky, and Vanderbilt for a moment as I think we all agree they're not going to be there. That puts us in at least 4th, competing with Georgia, Florida and South Carolina for the division. A key thing to remember is that each of those teams has already played half their league schedule, and each stands at 3-1. We own the tiebreaker with Georgia, of course. Here's a summary of the schedules:
In the case of Florida, they play at Missouri, Georgia in Jacksonville, Vanderbilt, and at South Carolina. I still think they lose all but Vandy and end up 4-4 in conference, as I noted above.
In the case of Georgia, they play at Vanderbilt, Florida, at Auburn, and Kentucky. I think they lose at Auburn but win the rest to go 6-2. Remember, we own the tiebreaker.
In the case of South Carolina, I think they represent the biggest problem for Missouri, as they play at Tennessee (next week) along with home games vs. Mississippi State and Florida along with their road game at Mizzou.
If the Gamecocks lose to Missouri, then they are no better than 6-2.. If that occurs, that would mean that as long as Missouri beats Florida and Georgia drops one game, the Tigers could lose two other games (presumably Ole Miss and A&M) and still win the East due to tiebreakers.
If the Gamecocks beat Missouri, then SC would be in the the driver's seat and it would be hard for the Tigers to win the East. We would most likely have to sweep the remaining schedule and hope for an SC loss to Tennessee, Mississippi State or Florida.
So, the key game to winning the East is, as I said, the South Carolina game. Lose it and you're probably fighting for 2nd. Win it and lose to Florida and it's still possible. Win both the next two, the division is all likelihood yours and you're talking about how far you can go nationally.
My gut says 9-3 or 10-2 and a loss to South Carolina (due to the Franklin injury) but I want to see how we play versus Florida. Regardless, it is ALL still out there for us, and don't let you anyone tell you otherwise. We can beat anyone on the schedule...A&M being the toughest, followed by South Carolina, at Ole Miss, Florida, Tennessee, and at Kentucky. I think we definitely win the last two, probably beat Florida, with the rest as 50/50 games. Regardless, it's going to be fun!
Now on to college football as a whole...
6. Upsets! (Kind of!) It started with Missouri beating Georgia, but it's also Oklahoma, Stanford, and Michigan losing. Interestingly, I predicted all four to at least be contained within the spread in the Yahoo Pick Em contest I'm a part of, but regardless, I'm glad to see a shakeup finally occur. Really, though, I only consider the Utah win to be the only "shocker" among those games. We were better than Georgia without their weapons, Texas was playing for its coach plus Oklahoma hadn't impressed anyone, and Michigan had been skirting by against terrible teams.
7. Chaos Can Still Occur. What if Alabama loses to LSU AND Auburn, if LSU loses to Ole Miss and Texas A&M loses to LSU and Missouri? What if then Oregon loses to Stanford and UCLA, and then Clemson beats FSU and then loses to South Carolina and Miami in the ACC title game? What if then Ohio State, who has an easy schedule the rest of the regular season, loses to someone like Nebraska in the Big 10 title? My point in raising this is that I don't see a completely dominant club that I think can't lose. It could get really interesting.
8. Speaking of chaos, take a look at the Big 12. Last week I said Baylor would win out and the Bears nearly made me look like a total fool in their game at K-State. So much for them being world beaters, even though I still think they win the league and have the talent to run the table. Texas, whose coach is on the hot seat, sits at 3-0 after beating Oklahoma. Texas Tech nearly lost to ISU. Oklahoma State already did to West Virginia. So this isn't an example of chaos due to great teams beating other great teams. Even if you put Baylor in the "above average" category, the league is full of average or worse teams -- and the fact only Baylor is in the Top 15 demonstrates that.
9. Perhaps the Big 12 should invite Fresno State and Northern Illinois. The Big 12 is so bad that they may trigger the "Top 16 rule", which says that if a non-AQ champ finishes above an AQ champ, they only have to finish in the Top 16 (not the Top 12) to qualify for the BCS. That's how Northern Illinois got in last year. And, lingering just behind Baylor (13), Texas Tech (15), Oklahoma State (17) and Oklahoma (18) in the Coaches' Poll is Fresno State (19) and Northern Illinois (23). I still think Baylor will continue to win enough so they are not passed by either, but it's also possible they lose two or three games and the highest ranked of Fresno/NIU qualifies.
10. Louisville isn't getting the style points, and could also lose to UCF. Fresno and NIU are also paying attention to Louisville, who is not exactly thrasing teams in their wins. People were speculating what would happen if Louisville ran the table. They may still go 12-0, but the talk of challenging the elite has now diminished and I think rightfully so -- they have a terrible schedule but they aren't doing themselves any favors with the lack of style points in their wins against said schedule. 24-10 vs. Rutgers and 30-7 vs. Temple and 27-13 vs. Kentucky aren't enough. Furthermore, they play UCF this Friday and I think that will be a very, very interesting game to watch.
TiK's Top Ten: 1. Oregon; 2 Alabama; 3. Clemson; 4. Florida State; 5. LSU; 6. Ohio State; 7. Texas A&M.; 8. Miami; 9. UCLA; 10. South Carolina
Missouri? I put them at 12, right behind the above 10 and Stanford, who I would put at 11.
That's it for this week!!