Rich Rants: Week 11: The Rise Of Barrett

Week 11 thoughts, musings and ramblings about the weekend.

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The Heisman people need Marcus Mariota to win its award next month. Obviously, Mariota isn’t the only candidate with the right qualifications. But he’s the best one. Beyond what he brings to the field and to the Oregon program, he has impeccable character, an athlete who can be an ambassador for the award for many years to come. And at a time when the reigning Heisman winner is having allegations lobbed in his direction with increasing regularity, the award needs Mariota more than Mariota needs the award.

Great win, Alabama. It’s never easy getting out of Baton Rouge alive. But this was more of an LSU loss than a ‘Bama victory. In a tie game, the Tigers had the ball on the Tide six with a little over a minute left … and lost in overtime. LSU did everything it could at the end of regulation and in OT to blow this game, another sign that Les Miles’ kids are a year away from being contenders. Take nothing away from ‘Bama, which was clutch when it mattered. But the Tide is fortunate that this isn’t the usual LSU team, or else the playoff quest might have ended last night.

The final playoff spot is going to come down to the best of the Big Ten vs. the best of the Big 12 after all, isn’t it? Conventional wisdom in the offseason had these two leagues going head-to-head behind the SEC winner, the Pac-12 winner and Florida State, and that still seems to be the case right now. A lot can happen between now and the first Sunday in December, but in the unlikely event that the script is followed, some champion from the Big Ten or the Big 12 or both is going to feel as if it got royally jobbed a month from now.

For those in the non-SEC-speaking world, a close Mississippi State loss in Tuscaloosa this Saturday will be their terrifying version of playoff Armageddon. It’s the worst case scenario for the faction convinced that two playoff-bound teams from the conference ought to be labelled a hate crime. If ‘Bama wins the SEC, and the Bulldogs go 11-1, with their only loss coming at Bryant-Denny Stadium, just how far can you drop MSU? It’s a looming debate with which the committee might have to grapple in a few weeks.

It doesn’t matter much where TCU and Baylor rank right now. If both teams are 11-1 at the end of the regular season, though, the Bears must finish ahead of the Horned Frogs based on their head-to-head win on Oct. 11. Suggestions to the contrary are ludicrous. Yeah, TCU played a slightly tougher non-conference schedule, but it’s not as if the Frogs faced three Power Five teams. They played one, Minnesota. Does beating the unranked Golden Gophers trump what happened in Waco a month ago, when the Bears stockpiled 782 total yards? The committee cannot and will not allow this to happen if Baylor is able to run the table.

Don’t sleep on UCLA just yet. Yeah, the Bruins have been a disappointment on some level, but they’re beginning to rally at just the right time. And a 10-2 regular season remains in play, with a much-needed break preceding visits from USC and Stanford within the span of six days. It’s a longshot that’ll require an Arizona State loss in one of its final three games. But if UCLA can capture the Pac-12 South, it could face Oregon at Levi’s Stadium with a chance to leap all the way up to playoff contention. Not likely, but still possible, thanks in part to the Sun Devils’ win over Notre Dame on Saturday.

The fact that Ohio State QB J.T. Barrett is blowing up Michigan State in East Lansing just nine games into his career is a credit to that staff in Columbus, especially Urban Meyer and offensive coordinator Tom Herman. Barrett endured some predictably erratic moments in the early going, just weeks after learning he’d be taking over for Braxton Miller. But the rookie is a completely different player right now, poised, confident and precise in the way he’s leading the Buckeyes. Miller has suggested he’ll be back on campus next year. He might need to change positions if he plans on getting reps, because Barrett is evolving at time-lapse video speed.

How long before the announcement comes down that Kenny Hill is transferring from Texas A&M? Hill has too much talent, and just enough of an ego, to want no part of trying to chase Kyle Allen for the next few seasons. Hill’s ceiling is high, and with little prior experience, he flashed tremendous upside in the early stages of the year. But Allen is a cut above, which is why he had countless offers back in February. And why he looked the part in Saturday’s stunning upset of Auburn at Jordan-Hare, tossing four touchdown passes.

Brady Hoke may not be employed at this time next year. But Greg Mattison should be. It’s not the defense’s fault that the Wolverines are 5-5 and likely needing to beat Maryland in two weeks to bowl. With LB Jake Ryan and DE Frank Clark leading the charge, Michigan is No. 7 nationally in total D and No.6 in tackles for minus yards. The Wolverines have a nine-win defense and a three-win offense, which summarizes why the program has had to claw back to the .500 mark over the last two weeks.

It might be time for Bob Stoops to shake up his career and move on to a new gig in 2015. Organizations, both college and pro, would be lining to add him to the payroll. Stoops is still one of the best in the industry, but coaches sometimes get stale when they’re in the same place for too long, and their message doesn’t resonate with the same impact that it did five, six or seven years ago. Maybe that’s the case with Stoops, because the product has slipped in Norman in recent seasons, including again this year. After 16 seasons of stability, he’s still in his coaching prime, but will he spend that prime at Oklahoma or looking to scale new mountains in a different town?

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