With Mizzou having the week off, I pondered having my own week off, but with the number of exciting games that took place this weekend, I have a number of thoughts, including a couple that are basketball-related, with the hoops season now underway. As always, I enjoy your feedback.
1. The Devil Went Down to Georgia, apparently. Because I can't imagine the college football gods were looking favorably upon the Bulldogs given their allowance of that 73-yard crazy tip play touchdown. I do feel bad for Murray, who had led the stunning drive just a moment before. The Bulldogs' 4-loss season, thus far, is not his fault, and the reaction I saw of his in highlights later (I was at the Hawaii game) reminded me of John Elway's after the Cal-Stanford "the band is on the field" play in 1982. At the time, thoughts that we might be able to sustain a loss and still win the East seemed to have washed away in one moment...until..
2. Almost, Florida. For a while there, it seemed like we might actually be able to drop both games, the way South Carolina-Florida was going. However, the reason I predicted a few weeks ago that Florida would go 6-6 (now it appears they are headed to 5-7) reared its head again -- their offense and the fact if anyone scores more than a couple touchdowns against them, they are sunk. And they were sunk yesterday, completely clearing up the SEC picture, which means..
3. Time to win two, Tigers. Though I would have very much liked a fall back option to an SEC title, there is something appropriate about the way things ended up yesterday. For a second year school like Mizzou, this forces us to prove it on the field and not give anyone -- not our fellow SEC schools, not the media, not even our own fans -- any excuses or reasons to question us. We have to win it on the field against two very solid opponents in Ole Miss and Texas A&M. Though I understand the difficulty of the task head of us, I sense the Tigers are ready for the challenge. I think we will handle Ole Miss by a margin that surprises people, 42-17, which will lead to the atmosphere of atmospheres the following week...perhaps the most surreal since 2007.
4. And yes, everything is still on the table. I am not one of those who thinks that the national title is out of reach for us or is even all that unrealistic. Probable? No, but the least probable of those is actually what we control - our own games. I think Ohio State WILL lose to the Spartans. I think Baylor could very well lose to Oklahoma State, and then if we take care of business, then I think we are in the game against Florida State. The question is, can we run the table? The answer to that question is yes. And I actually don't even think that's all that unrealistic, either. I think we have every capability of being in that conversation.
Now for a couple hoops thoughts....
5. Basketball has me quietly unconcerned. I know there was some uncertainty about the basketball team this year due to the new faces and not quite knowing how they will gel, but my reaction after the first three games is actually one of not being all that concerned. Both Southern Illinois and Hawaii did give us a little game, but we responded in both instances and I was pleased with the result. Our defense has question marks as does our free throw shooting, and I still sense this team needs to figure itself out -- but the components are there. We have two 20+ scorers in Clarkson and Brown. We have a talented new point guard in Clark. We have some post guys who can score. It's not all perfect, but I do think this team has every ability to be in the tournament and certainly be in the Top 4 of what , early on (if you look at the results) a very poor SEC.
A quick side thought on the Hawaii game: I got a little flack for this opinion on PowerMizzou, but I did not care for the videos from KC officials "welcoming us back" to Kansas City. I didn't mind the "welcome" itself, but it was the "welcome back" part that bothered me. We never left. We played a game there 18 months ago. Kansas City is IN Missouri. So to just give credence to the Big 12-driven talking point that we somehow abandoned Kansas City (and I say this as someone who actually was skeptical of the move) seemed a little misplaced to me. Oh well.
Another side thought, this time a thank you: Props to Mike Alden for moving the time of the Gardner-Webb game to 2:30 p.m. to give KC/StL fans the chance to go to the game and actually make it back for the start of the Ole Miss game and for making the price of upper deck tickets $5. I already have tickets, so the latter doesn't impact me, but I've long complained about the price structure for our home games and the game time would have forced KC/StL fans to make a choice, if they didn't want to get a hotel or sit in a sports bar for 3 hours in Columbia. This action combats both and it shows the AD is quite conscious of these issues.
6. In some ways, college basketball is depressing. I know on one hand it was entertaining, but I really am not a fan of the big showcases like was in Chicago this past week, as to me it was a showcase to everything that is wrong with college basketball. The beauty of the game, to me, is not the couple teams that are stacked with one and dones, but the fact we do have 350 teams; the uniqueness of things like early season tournaments; the fact schools like Butler and VCU can compete for a title, etc. So, in a way, Tuesday was evident of a part of college hoops that is depressing to me, a part that I hope it can steer away from.
And four thoughts on the weekend in college football...
7. Baylor is for real. The Big 12 is not very good, as seen by the fact the Beaks beat West Virginia who somehow beat Oklahoma State, who supposedly is the one team that could upset Baylor this year. That said, I do think Baylor is for real, as evidenced by the fact they are unrelenting in the amount of points they put up, week to week. I think they deserve their ranking, though certainly their contest vs. Oklahoma State will be interesting. I do not think they lose at TCU or against Texas, so I am sticking by my 12-0 prediction. So what happens if Florida State is 13-0, Baylor is 12-0, and Missouri is 12-1? What then?
8. Michigan State is also for real. I said earlier and I'll say it again -- I think the Spartans beat Ohio State in the Big 10 Championship and play Oregon or Arizona State in the Rose Bowl. They've quietly improved throughout the season on the offensive side of the ball, and though Nebraska quite literally handed them that game yesterday, they have shown they can win in different environments. Plus, their defense is quite good. I think it's time to put them in the Top Ten.
9. USC is back. I was not surprised at all by the fact USC beat Stanford, as they have played quite well ever since Kiffin was sent packing. I think Ed Orgeron deserves to be hired full time. I know his track record at Ole Miss was not great, but that doesn't mean he's not a good coach. If USC doesn't hire him, I believe someone else will. I've got an idea...
10. West Virginia should fire Dana Holgorsen. Next to Lane Kiffin, this guy is quite hard to take and they lost to the Kansas Jayhawks, whose last Big 12 win was to a team not in the Big 12 -- Colorado. West Virginia has a solid tradition and there is no reason they should not be able to compete in the Big 12 of today. The fact they are where they are is an absolute failure, not to mention the shady circumstances which led to the hiring of Holgorsen in the first place. It seems to me the well is pretty poisoned in Morgantown....
TiK's Top Ten: 1. Alabama; 2. Florida State; 3. Baylor; 4. Auburn; 5. Missouri; 6. Ohio State; 7. Michigan State; 8. Clemson; 9. Oregon; 10. Texas A&M.
That's it for this week.