And So It Is Written ...
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The ten most important things to happen in the history of our great planet – at least this weekend. How will Week 8 of your college football season be remembered in the history books? And so it is written …
1. Now what, Notre Dame?
If it’s possible to win without actually winning, Notre Dame might have done it Saturday night in the 31-27 loss to Florida State.
Of course, had the Irish actually won the game, they’d have been on the fast track to one of the four College Football Playoff spots, but now, if this turns out to be their one loss, going down in the final seconds to the undefeated defending national champs in their house is about as acceptable as it gets.
Of course it was an illegal pick by the Irish on the controversial touchdown pass from Everett Golson to Corey Robinson that got called back, but that also meant they were one flag away from pulling off the victory. If Florida State goes 13-0 and wins the ACC title, Notre Dame now has an easy sell to the playoff types if it can close out with road wins at Navy, Arizona State and USC and home victories against Northwestern and Louisville on the resume. Style points will count, but at the very least, the Irish might have thrown their hat in the ring, even with the loss. They proved they can play.
2. Don’t poke the Bear. Or, poke The Bear, just don’t make Nick Saban mad
The truly great always need an extra boost or motivation to kick themselves to a higher level, and Saban found it last week when the media started questioning Alabama for a mediocre performance in a 14-13 win over Arkansas, bristling at the idea that margin of victory matters. Of course it doesn’t matter to Saban, which was why his Crimson Tide came out and knocked the holy Manziel out of Texas A&M in a 59-0 slaughter that was about as complete and as dominant an effort as any Saban team has ever put together against a top opponent.
It was the type of win everyone was waiting for out of the most talented team in college football – or at least one of the top three – after the loss to Ole Miss and the Arkansas game. Now the spotlight is on for the upcoming theoretical discussions about whether or not two SEC West teams belong in the playoff. Alabama doesn’t control its own destiny – Ole Miss is in the SEC title game by winning out – but with LSU, Mississippi State and Auburn still to play, and a road game at Tennessee coming up next week, more wins like the one against the Aggies will make it hard to argue against a growing sentiment that this really might be the best team in the country over the second half of the year.
3. Lucy has put the ball down for Georgia to come kick it
Georgia’s 45-32 win over Arkansas is a misleading final score – it wasn’t as one-sided as the Alabama win over Texas A&M, but it wasn’t far off until late. Now the Bulldogs hold an impressive distinction that they’ve come up with the lone win so far this year against an SEC West team by anyone outside of the SEC West.
Nick Chubb has picked up the Todd Gurley slack without missing a beat, and the team has reeled off five straight wins since the loss at South Carolina, looking better and better over the last three games. Beating Arkansas hardly puts Georgia in exclusive company, but with Florida reeling, and the Auburn game at home, and the only true road game remaining at Kentucky, it’s time to start thinking about 11-1. If that happens, it’s on to Atlanta with the puck on the team’s stick for a shot at a playoff spot. With the way the defense is playing, the improvement of QB Hutson Mason, and the offensive efficiency and power, head coach Mark Richt just might be able to do it.
4. Florida joins Michigan for the really big job opening story
If I were to tell you before the game that Missouri would finish with a grand total of 119 yards of total offense against Florida, average 1.1 yards per pass attempt, throw for 20 yards, commit 11 penalties for 74 yards, come up with just seven first downs, generate just 13 offensive points for the game, and it would be a 42-0 blowout midway through the third quarter, you’d have probably taken your mortgage, sold the wife and kids, and would’ve taken all the money you’ve stashed away under some rock that has no business being there in a Buxton field and invested in the Gators.
Instead, Missouri got a kickoff return for a score, a punt return for a touchdown – both from Marcus Murphy – a fumble return for a touchdown, and an interception return for a score on the way to one of the most bizarre and dysfunctional wins ever. And now, it’s all but over for the Will Muschamp era at Florida. Not that 6-6 would’ve kept his gig, but now playing Idaho to open the season is now a killer, with the Gators sitting at 3-3 with just five games left, playing Georgia, at Vanderbilt, South Carolina, Eastern Kentucky, and at Florida State and needing three victories to become bowl eligible. The obvious choice at the moment to replace Muschamp – eventually - is Mississippi State’s Dan Mullen, after he helped make Tebow into TEEEE-BOWWWW, but this is going to be a huge, huge opening that’s going to receive A-list attention – assuming Bill from Gainesville doesn’t do something crazy like beat Georgia, South Carolina and FSU.
5. Big Ten collision course coming
Michigan State hasn’t played all that well lately, but it was able to rip apart an Indiana team without its starting quarterback, Nate Sudfeld, 56-17. Meanwhile, J.T. Barrett has completely and totally made the world forget about Braxton Miller, coming up with a brilliant day in the blowout win over a one-loss Rutgers team. All of this sets up perfectly for a showdown on November 8th when Ohio State has to make the trip to East Lansing. Each team might have a blemish on the resume, but the winner will be all but assured of a spot in the Big Ten title game against either Nebraska, or if it figures out some semblance of a passing game, Wisconsin. Win that, go 12-1, get into the playoff – maybe.
6. Big 12 collision course coming
Meanwhile, on the same day as OSU-MSU in the Big Ten, there’s a chance the Kansas State game at TCU on the same day will have massive playoff implications and a huge impact on the Big 12 championship. The Horned Frogs overcame their stunning gag against Baylor – let’s just start calling it what that was – to throttle a decent Oklahoma State team 42-9. Kansas State lost to Auburn because of kicking, and the karma gods let Bill Snyder cash his make-good as Oklahoma kept screwing up on special teams in the Wildcats’ 31-30 win. It’s not going to be easy for both teams to get there with just one loss – Kansas State has to play Texas and Oklahoma State and TCU gets Texas Tech and a nasty shootout at West Virginia before hosting the Fightin’ Snyders – but the winner could and should take the Big 12 title. At 11-1 with a championship, if one of the two can get there – at least it’ll be a discussion. However …
7. The Big 12 might be pulling into the slow lane
Out of the five power conferences, as long as Florida State owns the ACC, after this weekend and without a conference title game, the Big 12 is going to need the most help. There’s still a long, long, long way to go, and there are certain to be about 19 different twists and turns, but at the moment, the Big 12 might be on the outside of the playoff fun looking in, even if its champion goes 11-1. This was an okay conference to begin with – a bit top-heavy and way too soft – and now Baylor’s loss at West Virginia, Oklahoma bowing out, and Texas not being a traditional power doesn’t help. TCU’s one big non-conference win came against Minnesota, and Kansas State’s one massive claim is that it didn’t get its doors blown off by Auburn.
8. It’s Oregon’s North, and everyone else is taking up Pac-12 Network space – if you can find it
There’s still time for Oregon to get screwed up on a national scale, but in terms of winning the Pac-12 title, two impressive wins over UCLA and Washington removed from the loss to Arizona, this is looking like a real deal playoff team again. Can the road games at Utah and Oregon State be a stumbling block, and will it take a fight to beat Stanford and Cal? Yeah, but with the Cardinal losing – and looking awful – against Arizona State this weekend, and with Cal losing to UCLA, and with the Washington game out of the way in a 45-20 win that was more dominant than it might seem by the score, Oregon might have to really, really gag to blow a shot at playing for the Pac-12 title against …
9. Who’s South is it?
So, after this weekend, do you want to try to figure out this screwy division? The Pac-12 South might not have Oregon, but it established itself as the far stronger of the two divisions. Now, along with Arizona’s win over Oregon a few weeks ago, the South has UCLA over Cal at Cal, Arizona State over Stanford, and Utah over Oregon State at Oregon State. USC appears to have blown off the strange loss to Boston College and the Hail Mary to Arizona State with the win over Arizona and Cody Kessler’s seven-touchdown day against Colorado, but it’s still shaky.
Utah has been terrific, and it has the win at UCLA under its belt, but the rest of the schedule is brutal with road games at ASU and Stanford and home games against Oregon and Arizona to deal with. UCLA is just, plain weird, Arizona State is inconsistent, and Arizona has some big battles to face. No matter how it turns out, even after a great weekend, and with three one-loss teams – Arizona, Arizona State and Utah – all alive in the playoff race, it appears obvious that any hope for the Pac-12 getting a spot in the big four is going to come from Oregon.
10. Three really cool things that you missed because you were doing something else with your life that you think were slightly more important than watching college football on a Saturday you silly, silly person
- As if the MAC didn’t get bizarre enough with Northern Illinois getting dropped by Central Michigan two weeks ago like third period French, the league just took another massive turn. CMU got shocked by a mediocre Ball State team, putting Toledo up top as the West’s only unbeaten team in conference play. Bowling Green has been strange all season long, but least it was rolling along as the East’s top dog – and then it got whacked by Western Michigan from the West. Akron beat Pitt earlier in the year and seemed ready to make a big move, and then it lost to a ho-hum Ohio team on Saturday. Meanwhile, the only winless team in conference play – Kent State – blew out Army 39-17.
- Colorado State is the best team in the Mountain West, but it’s not going to win the conference because of an earlier loss to Boise State. No player in America is hotter than WR Rashard Higgins, who came up with his fifth 100-yard game of the year, his third in a row, his sixth game in a row of 98 yards or more, and his fifth with 143 yards or more catching ten passes for 187 yards in the 16-13 win over Utah State.
- Marshall QB Rakeem Cato set the NCAA record with a touchdown pass in his 39th straight game, helping his Herd blowout FIU 45-13. Nevermind that you and ten friends would currently be 7-0 against Marshall’s 2014 schedule, and blowing off Cato’s mediocre 58% completion rate, he’s bombing away for a team that’s going to be 13-0 unless there’s a massive team-wide braincramp coming.