Rich Rants: Week 10: Why the MW Matters

Week 10 thoughts, musings and ramblings about the weekend.

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Good teams win games in September and early October. Champions survive in the second half of the year, when the stakes are highest. Ole Miss, it turns out, does not have the qualities of a champion. In each of the last two weeks, the Rebels could only reach the lip of the cup in make-or-break games with LSU and Auburn, losing both in excruciating fashion. The Auburn loss was a heartbreaker of epic proportions.

Everyone will remember the devastating injury to Laquon Treadwell that resulted in a goal line fumble. But just a few minutes earlier, Bo Wallace had the ball stripped deep in Auburn territory, typifying Ole Miss’ penchant for warning track power in 2014.

The Mountain West divisional races are relevant again. An East Carolina loss to Temple not only opened the Group of Five door for Marshall, but also those schools competing for the Mountain West crown. Sure, the Thundering Herd is undefeated, but will the committee award a New Year’s Day bowl game to a team that’s yet to face, let alone defeat, a Power Five program. Or will it support, say Boise State, Colorado State, Utah State or Nevada, who’ve suffered losses, but have played much tougher schedules than the Conference USA favorite?

Oregon may not lose another game this season … or postseason. No one is playing better than the Ducks, whose head of steam reached a new level of prominence with this weekend’s domination of Stanford. Everything is clicking in Eugene, as well as the confidence and intangibles that come with exorcising old demons. Right now, Oregon would be favored by at least a field against anyone in the country, including SEC West powerbrokers Mississippi State, Alabama and Auburn.

Strike Notre Dame from the list of contenders for a playoff berth. It’s been a nice season for the Irish, which are improbably 7-1, with a heartbreaking loss to Florida State. But ND has had one too many lackluster efforts versus middling opponents to be considered any better than top 10 timber. The defense, in particular, has gotten exposed as somewhat overrated in recent weeks, allowing 113 points to North Carolina, the Seminoles and Navy, which actually led the Irish at the start of Saturday night’s fourth quarter.

It’s been a very long time since the gap between Stanford and Cal was as narrow as it is right now. Oh, the Cardinal is still the better team, but the Bears are gaining ground. Sonny Dykes has done a remarkable job in his second season, clearing the air of the stench that existed in Strawberry Canyon in 2013. Cal is a win away from reaching bowl-eligibility, amazing considering it lost every game against FBS competition last fall. Maybe the Bears can get the clincher when Stanford visits in three weeks, a fitting indicator of the current direction of the Bay Area’s teams.

If your high school kid is an overlooked West Coast quarterback, beg, borrow and steal to get him in the Utah State program. Matt Wells, along with co-coordinators Luke Wells and Kevin McGiven, are magicians with young hurlers. For the second straight year, injuries have forced the Aggies to dig deep on the roster. And for the second straight year, the offense is surviving. Undersized third-string true freshman Kent Myers got the call in Week 10, and completed 17-of-20 for 231 yards and three touchdowns on cue to lead Utah State to a 35-14 win at Hawaii.


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