What We Learned
Ohio State & LSU Should Play for the National Title Right Now
I don’t agree with the numbers that suggest Ohio State has played one of the nation’s five-toughest schedules, but you can’t argue that the Buckeyes have been more consistently dominant week-in and week-out than any other team in college football.
Good teams don’t take weeks off, regardless of the opponent. All of us here are well aware of that.
Yes, Ohio State’s two sternest tests lie ahead, but the Buckeyes have now outscored conference opponents 245-41 following Saturday’s 73-14 pasting of Maryland, an average margin of victory of 39 points. The numbers – and common sense – indicate that neither Penn State nor Michigan has much of a chance.
And whomever Ohio State faces in the Big Ten Championship — Minnesota or Wisconsin — I’m sure awaits a similar fate.
Statistically, Ohio State has faced a harder slate, but LSU has undoubtedly become the nation’s most hardened team, particularly over the last four weeks. Starting with a 14-point win over then No. 10 Florida on October 12, the Tigers have excelled impressively against three Top 10 opponents – which also included then No. 9 Auburn – culminating in Saturday’s 46-41 win over No. 2 Alabama.
LSU made the Tide look pedestrian at times on both sides of the ball, and no other team on Alabama’s schedule has come remotely close to doing that. And no other team in college football – outside of Ohio State and maybe 1 or 2 others – has the skillset to do that.
And like Ohio State, LSU would be favored in its conference championship game, albeit over Georgia, who would prove to be a much more formidable task than anything the Big Ten West can throw at the Buckeyes.
Come Tuesday, when the new CFB Playoff polls is released, Ohio State and LSU will be ranked atop the rankings. LSU will be No. 1, although Ohio State would be justified in griping about losing its spot after a 59-point win.
Either way, it shouldn’t matter. If all holds true, it won’t matter. Ohio State and LSU will play for the National Championship.
What We’d Still Like to Know
Could Baylor & Minnesota Both Have Their Hearts Ripped Out?
Neither program possesses blue-blood status. So when a season like the one both the Bears and Golden Gophers are experiencing comes along, it’s lightning in a bottle.
It’s doesn’t (and won’t) happen very often, so you have to capitalize. Fail to do so, and the traditional powers will be quick to pounce.
As a fan of a team in a position that it’s seldom not in, you keep waiting for the other shoe to drop. And through 11 weeks, fans in Waco and Minneapolis have been sighing over and over with relief.
Minnesota was suspect the first three weeks, beating South Dakota State, Fresno State, and Georgia Southern by a combined 13 points, making its conference run all the more peculiar. The Golden Gophers started Big Ten play with a slim touchdown win over Purdue, but have since beaten conference opponents by an average of nearly 25 points per game, including Saturday’s win over No. 4 Penn State.
The win was historic for P.J. Fleck’s program, which won its first game against a ranked opponent in 14 tries and its first game against a top-five team since 1999, when Minnesota beat (yep) No. 2 Penn State.
Everything is in front of Minnesota now, which is exactly why it could be so disheartening.
Which team is more likely to lose first?
This poll is closed
Wait, they’re both undefeated?
I don’t care ... just want kU to lose in everything
Fleck and his team escaped disaster early on and have pummeled Big Ten bottom-feeders, but the Penn State win is only one third of a late season gauntlet. The win Saturday may be the feather in the Golden Gopher’s cap, but Iowa awaits next week and Wisconsin two weeks later— both ranked and both perfectly suited to ruin dreams.
The Badgers won the match-up between the two Saturday, which relegates the Hawkeyes to the role of spoiler. If the Golden Gophers fall victim at Iowa, where they haven’t won in 20 years, it could lead to a winner-takes-all scenario in the season finale with the Badgers, which would own the tiebreaker over Minnesota with a win— officially (and excruciatingly) ending the Golden Gophers’ dream of a Big Ten Championship and Rose Bowl bid.
Much like Fleck, Baylor head coach Matt Rhule has been a magician with the smoke and mirrors this season. The Bears are undefeated, but it almost doesn’t seem real, especially for a program that floundered to a 1-11 finish in Rhule’s first season, which was mostly known for an investigation that revealed the failure of the staff that preceded Rhule to report cases of sexual assault involving former players.
Save for a few obligatory blowouts of FCS opponents, Baylor has been living on the edge all season, winning Big 12 games by an average of just over eight points, and things almost came to a head Saturday against TCU.
You know you’re having a special season when you win despite gaining only 294 yards in a triple overtime game – including just over 200 in regulation – and do so only 10 days after winning another game (West Virginia) with fewer than 20 points for the first time in 13 years.
Unlike the Bears we saw under former head coach Art Briles, Rhule’s version is not flashy, but they’re solid, ranking 27th or better in total offense and total defense, and they find ways to win.
Baylor is arguably more battle-tested than Minnesota, but it’s just as vulnerable. The Golden Gophers got the first of what could be a string of signature wins on Saturday. The Bears are still waiting, but they won’t have to wait long.
With a win over Oklahoma next week, Baylor is guaranteed a spot in the Big 12 title game — where they’d likely face OU again — and could be in a position to threaten for the fourth and final spot in the CFB Playoff.
But the Sooners, despite some obvious flaws, are still the Sooners. And Texas, also despite some obvious flaws, is still Texas. The Bears will face off against them on November 30 to end a mini two-game stretch that will determine whether 2019 is a season for the ages or one asterisked by “What might have been?”
Minnesota and Baylor are on magical runs. We’ll find out very soon just how magical.
What We’d Like to Forget
Gabe DeArmond’s Tweet
We end this week’s recap in uncommon fashion by discussing Mizzou— more specifically a tweet by PowerMizzou head man Gabe DeArmond.
Replying to his colleague, PM (and ex-RMN) writer Pete Scantlebury, DeArmond reiterated what he initially surmised the Monday following the Kentucky loss – and which I had initially surmised the day following that game. Which is that something we do not yet know took place between the win over Ole Miss and the loss to Vandy.
I remain convinced SOMETHING we don’t know about happened after that Ole Miss game. Eventually the story will come out, whether it’s after the season or down the road. But I just can’t believe this team did a complete nosedive for no reason at all. https://t.co/8OJYP8TlEJ— Gabe DeArmond (@GabeDeArmond) November 10, 2019
DeArmond and I agree that something amiss is the only explanation for the Tigers’ collapse over the last month.
Though I do not necessarily count Saturday’s loss to Georgia in that equation, because if the teams play that game 99 more times, Mizzou wins maybe twice, even with a healthy Kelly Bryant. That’s a matter of being outclassed in terms of talent across the board.
What does not involve talent is the lethargy and listlessness that seems to have enveloped this team. There’s no identity, no excitement, and certainly no energy.
When I wrote what I wrote two weeks ago, I felt weird about it, but I thought it was worth exploring. In that same breath, I also accused Mizzou of quitting, which I realize was unfair to the players and for which I will accept ridicule.
I like to think heart and pride are the only two things that kept the margin of defeat to a somewhat respectable level last night.
DeArmond is obviously much more plugged into the program and its day-to-day inner workings than I, which is why it’s a little unsettling that he feels the same.
He also seems to think the truth will come out at some point, whether it’s once the season ends or sometime thereafter.
I certainly hope it does. Because I’d hate to resign forever to the idea that this team really is this bad.