Before I go into this week's ten thoughts, I think this will likely be my second to last installment of this column during football season. I will probably do a post bowl one, as well. It's been really fun doing this all year, and I really appreciate the recommendations and comments folks have offered. Not sure if I'll keep it up during hoops season but we'll see.
Anyway here goes..
1. One win away. Much like 2007, this year's Tigers will be remembered, in my mind, as being one win away from both a conference championship and the National Championship. Michigan State's win confirmed that. And, folks, that's a heck of an accomplishment. At the end of the day, the South Carolina loss, while a heartbreaker, wouldn't have mattered other than a ranking (though in next year's format, it would have) -- we'd just be 12-1 instead of 11-2, but would have still had to face -- and presumably lost - to Auburn. And Alabama would still get picked over us for the Sugar. :)
2. Tre Mason just scored again. Good heavens, that was ridiculous. I have never felt more hopeless watching our team than with the Auburn rushing attack today. Torture is the only way to describe it. Whether that's a defensive scheme screw up, Auburn's greatness or a combination of both, it was the most agonizing thing to watch, particularly given how well our defense had played all season.
3. I'm glad Auburn is playing for the title if we're not. They earned it. They're a lot better than Ohio State and represent the best threat to Florida State for the title. I will also be cheering for them -- conference mates, I don't really like FSU, and just as a fan, I want to say "we lost to the team that won the title." I also like the fact a team is so dominant in the running game and hardly ever pass. I find that intriguing as a college football fan, period.
4. Give me the Cotton Bowl. It appears the opponent for this game is going to be Oklahoma State. To me, this game and this matchup is ideal for us, and for the life of me, I do not understand the desire some have to play Iowa in the Outback or even Wisconsin in the Capital One, though the latter I get a little. We are 5th, Oklahoma State is 6th. We both just lost. One is 10-2, one is 11-2. We're better but not leaps and bounds better. Dallas is driveable for fans and we have a good alumni base there too. Why we'd want to play a really bad Big Ten team in Tampa, other than for weather, I don't really understand. Plus, the Cotton Bowl is going to be one of the big six playoff rotating bowls starting next year. So, I say this is great choice for us.
5. 11-2 is 11-2, and we won the East. Frustrating as the loss to Auburn was, this was still a year to be proud of. We put up nearly 50 points on Auburn but just couldn't stop them. We were an OT away from going 12-0 in the regular season. Franklin, Josey, DGB, Washington, etc, all superb. So, a very good year. I wouldn't call it "great" as I think that's reserved for conference championships or BCS-le el bowls or above in this era (now ending, mind you), but whatever "level" is a notch below "great" is where we were. The program is righted and I think the future is bright again.
6. We will be back next year. The schedule sets up nicely next year and I honestly think we'll be a favorite to win the East. It's never easy, of course, but anywhere between 10-2 and 12-0 is quite possible for us. We should sweep the non con, and I think we beat Vandy, Kentucky and Arkansas at home without question. At Tennessee, at Florida, at South Carolina, at Texas A&M and Georgia are all beatable, too, but tough, of course -- but we have every chance to win at least 3 of those, if not 4 or 5 and get right back where we are.
Bonus Basketball Thought: Now that our football season takes a few weeks off, I really hope people start paying attention to the basketball team, which is now 9-0 after their great win vs. UCLA. This week's crowds were pathetic and I really hope this finally gets Mike Alden to take a look at how his department approaches basketball, everything from ticket prices to marketing to parking to student seating. I think the entire thing needs to be reevaluated, because it's clear to me that the interest is simply not there and only comes late in the year when the tournament is close. That all aside, this is a very good basketball team with three lethal scorers in Clarkson, Brown and Ross and emerging talents in both JW III and Clark.
Bonus Volleyball Thought: I don't really know much about the individual players, but I will say I'm so disappointed their run ended tonight, way too early. Very sad. But, great season and a wonderful SEC Championship.
On to college football as a whole...just four thoughts...
7. The playoff system is going to be confusing for people. I don't think folks are realizing how confusing that system is going to be. It's not just as simple as "pick four teams" -- that part of it is hard enough. It's also the fact that a different two bowls host the semifinals every year, which impacts the other four bowls that are in the rotation, and those bowls then effect the other 35-40 bowls that aren't part of the rotation. For example, some people don't realize that the selection committee not only selects the four playoff teams, but the teams and matchups for the non-contract bowls, too that aren't in the playoff. But, in years where the contract bowls are NOT in the playoff, they will have limited options as those spots will be filled. However, next year, when the Sugar and Rose (both contract bowls) ARE part of the playoff, they will have more flexibility to pick at large teams for the other four bowls. Then you add in the quirky rules for the Orange Bowl, it's really crazy. For instance, I think this year that four SEC teams (Auburn, Alabama, Missouri and South Carolina) could all get into one of the six rotation bowls, with Auburn and Alabama in the playoff), which means the Capital One could get the 5th SEC team in LSU! And, finally, Central Florida would be in next year too -- because the Group of Five gets one team. Confused yet?
8. So, who would the selection committee pick this year? If I were on it, I'd go with Florida State, Auburn, Alabama and Michigan State. Michigan State gets the nod over Stanford because of their consistent defense and the fact their loss was a 4 point loss to Notre Dame, who is going bowling, while Stanford has two losses, one of which was to Utah, who isn't bowling. I would actually make Missouri 5th, just ahead of Stanford and South Carolina, as I think our resume is the best after those four teams in terms of who we lost to and how we lost. Sadly, though, I think we end up behind both in the BCS standings.
9. Conference Rankings. I know Florida State is great, and they legitimately crushed everyone, but the ACC ended up being the worst conference, in my mind.. It's really Florida State and then everyone else -- sorry, Clemson. I believed in you early on and you're 2nd best, but a distant second. On the flip side, the SEC proved again it's the best but the Pac 12 is emerging -- not one dominant team, but Stanford, Oregon, Arizona State, USC and UCLA all demonstrated they belong and I think even towards the bottom it's better than the bottom of other conferences save the SEC. I'd rank the conferences as follows: 1) SEC; 2) Pac 12; 3) Big Ten 4) Big 12; 5) ACC; 6) American; 7) Mountain West; 8) Mid American; 9) CUSA; 10) Sun Belt
10. Fire Gary Danielson. Seriously, CBS -- you need to hire some of the better talent away from ESPN because Danielson is a joke. I'm usually the last fan to start whining about announcing, but he was painful. I think CBS should make a run at one of ESPN's better duos -- why not Nessler and Blackledge? I am actually glad, in some ways, we weren't on CBS more. Good heavens that really was bad.
That's it for this week...MIZ...ZOU.
TiK's Top Ten: 1) Auburn; 2) Florida State; 3) Alabama; 4) Michigan State; 5) MIssouri; 6) Stanford; 7) South Carolina; 8) Baylor; 9) Ohio State; 10) Arizona State