With a weekend full of huge games and another methodical win by Mizzou, the college football season rolls along, and we are learning a lot more about who teams truly are and we're seeing some real separation from the contenders and pretenders. All three huge games -- Baylor vs. Oklahoma, LSU-Bama and Oregon-Stanford -- ended up pretty well decided by the 4th quarter, although Stanford tried to give their game away. That said, all three wins were quite impressive and we certainly learned a lot. Finally, I will note that writing these weekly columns has made the football season even more enjoyable, and I appreciate those of you who take time to read and comment.
1. Takin' care of business. It's amazing to actually go into a road contest and just know you're going to roll, and that's how exactly how I felt as the Tigers took the field against Kentucky on Saturday morning. While the game was a tad sloppy in the turnover department, we nonetheless took control of the game pretty quickly and were able to roll without any threat. I get the feeling that some commentators and some fans alike are almost waiting for the "game that we always lose", and that's not without due cause. But, folks, the main thing to take out of this game is it means such a game ISN'T going to happen this year. Of the games we were "supposed to win", we not only won, but rolled -- Murray State, Toledo, Ark State, at Indiana, Tennessee, and Kentucky. Nice job, Tigers.
2. DGB, DGB, DGB! I had commented in a previous column how Dorial Green-Beckham needed to emerge, and boy, did he ever! I think all Tigers fans were very excited to see this happen, not only for what it means for this year, but what it means for NEXT year, when we lose Lucas and Washington. DGB is a huge talent, of course, and perhaps some of the whispers of criticism and doubt motivated him, or perhaps a coach got to him. Either way, the one thing I will perhaps remember most about this game is the day DGB declared his absolute presence in our receiving corps.
3. Perfect timing, James. Back after the Georgia game when Franklin got hurt, I commented in my column I hoped we could have Franklin back for the Ole Miss game. Sounds like that's going to be the case now, given his mop up duty today, presumably to knock off the cob webs. This is perfect timing too, because as much as think Mauk's performance has been incredible, I do think this is still James' team and I think we're going to be very glad he's back for what are the two biggest games in recent memory for Mizzou. I'm happy for James, too, as I was worried, as we all were, about whether we'd see him again . Now we will, and we're on the biggest stage we could have possibly imagined.
4. Perfect timing, schedulers. I'm really glad we have a bye week, as I think there is something to have a two week break not just for one game, but before what will possibly the most exciting three weeks in Mizzou history. After going 9-1 to get here, I think the extra week will give the Tigers time to rest a bit, heal up, and then just take "mental note" of where they are and what's in front of them -- a very important thing for a team on a mission, like this one. I'm also glad the road game at Ole Miss is first, as I really wouldn't it to be after a home win vs. the fighting Johnny Manziels. I also think the Tigers understand this road game, even including Georgia, will be the most difficult of the season - interestingly, though, I feel very confident about our chances in Oxford. I just simply think we're a better team and the margin could be surprisingly large.
5. Don't fret the BCS Standings tomorrow. If you're a Tiger fan, there is a little suspense going into tomorrow -- do we pass Oregon, and does Auburn pass Mizzou? Regardless of what happens -- don't fret the results! Reason being is the schedule I just wrote about. Auburn will take care of itself via a loss to Alabama, Georgia, or if need be, Mizzou, and I think the difficulty of our schedule will allow us to easily pass Oregon by year''s end, even if they are still a bit in front of us tomorrow night. Outside of Stanford, I don't think any of the 1 loss teams are a factor -- our biggest obstacles standings-wise remain Florida State, Ohio State, and Baylor.
On to college football as a whole...
6. Alabama's still Alabama. I know that the country has Alabama fatigue. The SEC has Alabama fatigue. But they've proven that they are not going away anytime soon. Their win against LSU was quite decisive and with a margin I did not expect. Alabama, however, does still have obstacles in its way -- at Auburn and yes, Mizzou.
7. Pencil in Florida State for the National Title. Unlike Alabama which still has major opposition, Florida State doesn't have anything more than a speed bump. Syracuse, Idaho and Florida close out their regular season, followed by what could very well be the Duke Blue Devils should they beat Miami next week. I think they win every game by at least 20 points, if not more. However, I'm not sure their schedule should lend them to such a direct path, as no one forced them to play Idaho, Bethune Cookman and Nevada. In all candor, if this was next year, you wonder what the selection committee would do. I do, however, consider them the second best team in the country.
8. Pencil in Fresno State and UCF for the BCS. With their win vs. Houston, Central Florida is basically assured of a trip to the BCS (assuming they do not get upset in their final four games) and they will be joined by Fresno State, who barring a loss to Boise in the Mountain West Championship game will likely earn a bid as well, either by finishing in the Top 12 (quite possible now) or the Top 16 and in front of UCF.
9. Ore-gone. So, I rode Oregon nearly all year as #1, and their performance vs. Stanford was a huge disappointment. I know the Cardinal are a great team, but at some point, I'd like to actually see the Ducks live up to the hype. Guess that will have to wait til next year...until they choke again.
10. The National Title race is down to 8 teams: Alabama, Florida State, Ohio State, Baylor, Stanford, Missouri, Clemson and Auburn. I can write out a scenario for any of those teams but no others, barring something crazy happening. Clemson's scenario is the most far out, and I barely included them, but the other pathways are actually quite plausible.
My Top Ten:
1) Alabama. 2) Florida State. 3) Baylor. 4) Auburn. 5) Missouri. 6) Stanford. 7) Ohio State 8) Clemson 9) Oregon. 10) South Carolina
That's it for this week!