Wow, what a weekend! I thought Mizzou would beat Florida, but I did not envision the cascade of other results that have now resulted in our Tigers being ranked 5th and 7th in the AP and Coaches polls, respectively. Now, sooner than I thought would occur, we literally do have everything in front of us and the sky is absolutely the limit, particularly given what we're learning about some of the teams we face soon on the schedule. Let me add that what a fun season it's been to write these thoughts every week -- it would be much more depressing if we were losing games!
With that in mind, here are this week's ten thoughts -- and this week, we rope back in a basketball thought, given the season is fast approaching.
1. A dominant performance. I had predicted 24-21, largely because while I thought we would win, I had bought into the hype about Florida's great defense. This is hype that was largely backed up by facts. However, Mizzou truly dominated Florida in every aspect of the game, with the only difference between a blowout and a total annihilation being the fact the Gators held us to field goals rather than touchdowns on five occasions. Mauk, while not perfect (no one expected he would be), played great. Our running backs played great. Our receivers played great. And while Florida certainly is pretty inept on the offensive side of the ball, the fact they were only able to manage one real drive (the other 10 points were 3 points gift, 7 points kickoff return) is a testament to how far our defense has come. And Baggett, who had frustrated some of us in previous weeks, kicked five field goals! We are truly clicking in al phases. This all means that...
2. The college football world has taken notice. I see a little whining about the fact we're #5 in the AP poll and #7 in the Coaches, with Ohio State, Baylor and Miami still in front of us. Whatever. Fact is that we jumped 7 and 9 spots, respectively, and while that is largely due to the fact a number of teams lost, the fact is that the college football world is noticing what we're doing. Every show I watch mentions our Tigers and it's great to see.
3. Let's not get cocky. Yes, we're number 5. Yes, we're 7-0 with a two game lead in the SEC East with our opponents having just three to play. But, much is left to be done with several difficult games ahead of us. Not only South Carolina, of course, but Tennessee (who is improving week to week), Kentucky (still a road game), Ole Miss (who may be the toughest game left on our schedule and just upset LSU) and of course, Texas A&M. We could, if we don't keep our focus, lose 4 of 5. I know the coaches and players understand this, but even as fans, who are allowed to "dream" several games ahead, I am trying to temper my "wow, look at us" mindset with remembering we represent the Show Me State -- which means being humble in our wins.
4. Let's go get Cocky! (The South Carolina mascot, that is.) Make no mistake about it, the game against the South Carolina Gamecocks is the SEC East Championship Game, barring something weird happening. At the very least, it is for us. If we win, we will have a three game lead on everyone who has a chance in the division, given we would have the tiebreaker with SC, GA, and FLA. It would literally require being swept out to lose the lead and I think we all agree that's unlikely. If we lose, we still hold a one game lead over South Carolina but would be forced to run the table given they would have the tiebreaker and have home games against Florida and Mississippi State, both which they are likely to win. So, even though all the games before this one have been big, this is truly the biggest. And, what a perfect setting too, with homecoming and a night game on ESPN. I think we get it done, too -- 41-24. If we do get it done, then everything else opens up -- SEC Title, BCS, National Championship...but I'll reserve talking about those surreal possibilities until next week..
5. Hoops is here! This thought is more three thoughts, with the season just around the corner:
- I'm very excited about the Hearnes Center event. As someone who loves Hearnes and prefers the ambiance of older arenas and also has a strong nostalgic sense, Friday night will be incredible. In fact, for 'friends in town' and other reasons, I'll actually be driving back and forth from my home in the Kansas suburbs of KC on Friday, only to return on Saturday for the football game. It will be incredible and again, props to Alden and company for making it free!
- Feeling good about Booker. I read the reports about his visit and all seems solid as far as that goes. I know his commitment day approaches and all I can say is what I said before -- let's bring him in. I feel good about our chances, I really do. While Haith is largely doing a great job, this would be just a tremendous get and really energize the fans.
- We're underranked. My reaction to the first polls, which of course, are meaningless in hoops, was that we were underranked. However, while I do understand the reasoning, I don't think that lasts more than a few weeks. I think we have every possibility of sweeping the non-con and I think over time people will take notice of our team in the same way they are with football. Many of our more marquee games are towards the back end of our non-con, so perhaps it takes some time, but I suspect we'll be in the Top 25 by the time the conference season starts, and perhaps sooner.
Now, for college football as a whole...
6. The SEC is still the best conference. I know some will point to the losses by Florida, LSU, Texas A&M and South Carolina as proof that the SEC is dropping. In fact, I see it as quite the opposite, as I think if there were any criticisms of the SEC that had merit is that it was very top heavy -- 4 or 5 really great teams and then a bunch of others. Now that's gone away, but I don't see the reason as being a lack of quality -- I just think Missouri, Tennessee, Mississippi, and Auburn as on their way up, creating a true super conference. Only Florida, who is truly bad on offense, might have issues related to quality. I just think the league is deeper than perhaps most thought. And while I do think the Pac 12 is the second best, as I've talked about a few times this year, I think 5-7 teams in the SEC beat everyone but Oregon in the Pac 12.
7. Right now, there are three clear elite teams. Alabama, Oregon, Florida State. Florida State declared itself with its complete destruction of Clemson, who I was a fan of early on, and still may do good things. Alabama and Oregon speak for themselves. Note, I didn't include Ohio State, who though may go undefeated, is not providing the style points to show me that it belongs in the class with the first three. In fact, I actually think Missouri should be 4th given who we've played and how we've played them, but given Florida's offensive woes and Georgia's injuries, I don't think we've done enough yet to be considered in the same club as those top three. Among the other teams beyond the Tigers, Baylor stands out as the most dangerous.
8. Say goodbye to Louisville, say hello to the Knights of Central Florida. For years, many described Missouri as a sleeping giant in college football. As the Tigers emerge and seek to bring credence to that claim, I think another potential sleeping giant is Central Florida. UCF is a large school playing in a large city in state which produces a lot of football talent. Granted, the history of student support is not there (yet), but is it really there for Miami, either? I think UCF has every ability to compete, much as USF did for a while but who has since fallen on hard times. This year, they are poised to now win the American after their win vs. Louisville and get a BCS berth, as I do think they end up 11-1. They nearly beat South Carolina. They may be our toughest non-con next year, in fact, and I think will be seen year in and year out as one of the 2 or 3 teams that excel among the "Group of Five" conference as we transition to the new playoff system. Frankly, if I was the Big 12 and I was looking at expanding to 12, I'd take a long hard look at Central Florida.
9. Texas Tech and Baylor aren't frauds. The Big 12 is certainly a mess but I'm not going to go as far as saying Baylor and Texas Tech are frauds. Baylor, who I have indicated is the class of the Big 12, is pulling 70 on nearly everyone aside from the 35 they scored in a road win at K-State. Texas Tech, who though hasn't been as dominating as the Bears in their wins, is nonetheless winning and I think shouldn't be set aside.. We still have more to learn about both, of course, and we will soon -- the Red Raiders play at Oklahoma this next week and after Baylor destroys Kansas, they have a three game stretch which will show us if they're for real. As I've said before, I think the Bears run the table and will present a bit of a conundrum for pollsters if they truly end up 12-0. If Alabama is 13-0, Oregon 12-0, Florida State 13-0, and Baylor 12-0, you surely rank the Bears 4th, but what if two of those teams take a loss? What then? Something to ponder as we get into the second half of the year..
10. Here come the Beavers! It's hard to imagine posting this given their loss to Eastern Washington in Week 1, but the Oregon State Beavers are certainly worth watching, and are currently lurking just outside the Top 25 but probably deserve to be ranked given how they are playing. After two narrow escapes vs Utah (who remember, beat Stanford) and San Diego State (who has now won 3 in a row and may poise a danger to Fresno, next week), they have now dominated their recent competition. However, caution is worthy here as they were from the bottom part of the Pac 12. Now they enter a phase of five difficult games, starting with Stanford. Much l thought last week's Louisville-UCF game would be intriguing, I have the same feeling about this contest. Oregon State, will at the very least, make it very, very interesting.
TiK's Top Ten: 1. Oregon; 2. Alabama; 3. Florida State; 4. Missouri; 5. Ohio State; 6. Baylor; 7. Miami; 8. Auburn; 9. Texas Tech; 10. Stanford
That's it for this week!