College Football May Be Down A Little

It is popular for reporters to provide what they call "complete disclosure," and to that end I confess that I attend the college football games of only one team. What I know about the other teams I glean from reading or watching television, but almost never watching the entire game outside of the one I am covering in person.

No wonder, then, I think Alabama is the best team in the nation.

That, however, is only peripherally on my mind. My wonder as the midpoint of the college football season nears is whether this is a down year. The Crimson Tide of Coach Nick Saban may be the best team in the nation, may win a third consecutive national championship (and fourth in five years), but is this Bama as good as those other Saban national championship teams?

On the plus side, the Alabama accomplishments of wins over Virginia Tech and Texas A&M look a little better each week as both are undefeated except for the losses to Bama. Nothing much was revealed by wins over very weak Colorado State and very, very, very weak Georgia State. Ole Miss seemed like a good test until actually seeing the Rebels. They've recruited some good players, but don't have much to show for it yet.

So does Alabama have easy sailing until Nov. 9 when LSU comes to town? (For now we'll leave the question, ‘What makes anyone think LSU will be a big test?') Over the next four weeks the Tide is at Kentucky, home to Arkansas, home to Tennessee, and open. Of those, the open week may be the toughest.

This week it is Alabama at Kentucky. We thought they were the Mildcats, but what about that effort against South Carolina? A one-touchdown game must have been sobering to the self-proclaimed Ball Coach.

And this is to our point. It appears from what we have been able to see that Southeastern Conference football is down a bit this year. Yes, Georgia can score like crazy, but can't stop a good offense; or even a fair offense, based on the game at Tennessee. Ditto for Texas A&M, of course.

True, LSU can put it on Mississippi State, but think about it: Mississippi State. I heard some speculation that the Bulldogs might be better than expected, but from what I've seen it is exactly the Mississippi State I expect every year, which isn't much.

Florida's defense may be for real, but what about the offense?

Missouri is one of 17 major college undefeated teams (and the only SEC team other than Bama), but no one is putting those Tigers into a championship picture. A team that is 5-0 with its best win over Vanderbilt doesn't get much respect.

There are those who think LSU will beat Alabama and that any SEC Eastern Division champion will beat Alabama, but those are pretty much the same ones that picked Texas A&M to beat the Tide and picked LSU, Georgia, and Notre Dame to beat Bama at the end of last year.

It is very hard to go undefeated. Only one of Saban's four national championship teams – the 2009 Crimson Tide – has managed the feat. As of now, though, one suspects Bama would be favored to make it to the BCS National Championship Game in Pasadena. Even if the Tide has some slippage in the Associated Press and Coaches polls each week, if Bama remains undefeated it will be in the title game.

With some justification, the schedules of several contenders have been called into question. The expansion of the SEC to 14 teams didn't do anything to help Bama since the Tide has not had the opportunity to plays the heavy hitters from the SEC East. Alabama has taken on some good names in the likes of Michigan and Virginia Tech

How many of those 17 current undefeated teams will still be undefeated at the end of the year? It would not be a surprise if there are six. The winner of the Oregon-Stanford game will likely finish undefeated in the Pac 12. The same goes for Clemson vs. Florida State in the ACC. Ohio State has just passed its last tough test, against a Northwestern team that looked a lot like a mid-level SEC team. Oklahoma appears to be by far the cream of the Big 12 crop in what has to be considered a down year with Texas so woeful. Louisville may lose a game (and may lose it this week), but not likely against a pathetic schedule.

So if Alabama doesn't go undefeated, the SEC will likely be out of the BCS National Championship picture...although we probably thought that in 2011 and 2012 after late season losses. As Johnny Manziel said (no charge) after losing to Bama, "Anything can happen in college football."

What seems to have happened this year is that the quality of play is down both in the SEC and across the nation. Fortunately, Alabama seems to be much above average, even if not as strong as in recent seasons.

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