Tag Archives: Jarrett Stidham

Not Another List of Big Games: Week 1 (Pt. 1)

The powers that be must have read my complaint about last year’s Week 1 schedule because there are a lot of big games kicking off the 2018 campaign.  Here’s what you should know about each one going in:

Continue reading Not Another List of Big Games: Week 1 (Pt. 1)

SEC Champions? Oh Lord, Won’t You Take Me to Mercedes-Benz Stadium

Rejoice! Kickoff is one week from tomorrow! Actually, the Arkansas Razorbacks will tee it up on Thursday. Their “competition?” The mighty Rattlers of Florida A&M. And then on Saturday, some of the other SEC related games include Missouri playing Missouri State, Georgia hosting Appalachian State,  Charleston Southern will play at Mississippi State… ad nauseum.

But! There are some big games on the slate for opening weekend with the monster clash between Alabama and Florida State headlining them all.

Now it’s time for me to summon my crystal ball and look into the future. I hope gazing at the eclipse didn’t blur my powers of prognostication.

Onward!

SEC EAST 

Florida (8-4, 6-2) I like the Gators’ big uglies, their defense, and their skill position players. But, just like everybody else, the quarterback position is the key. They will plug in someone who is more than capable to put them at the top of the East.

Tennessee (9-3, 5-3) The Vols will have more total wins than anyone else in the division but they will also have more conference losses than the Gators. That head to head matchup will decide which team makes the trek to Atlanta.

Georgia (8-4, 5-3) You gotta love the Dawgs’ running backs and their overall talent, but it will be their inconsistent play at quarterback and in the trenches that will cause the East title to elude them.

Kentucky (8-4, 5-3) I like the Cats as the sleeper to win this division. There is talent in Lexington but probably not enough SEC quality depth to carry them to Hotlanta. I’d love to see it though!

South Carolina (6-6, 3-5) Will Muschamp’s second year in Columbia will find an improved team, but the record will not reflect that. They’re in good shape at quarterback with Jake Bentley.

Vanderbilt (3-9, 1-7) Derek Mason has the Commodores playing pretty well. I like Kyle Shurmur as their signal-caller. But do not expect Vandy to rise any higher than sixth in the division.

Missouri (4-8, 0-8) The upside is the offensive potential, and QB Drew Lock, in Columbia. Overall, though, Barry Odom’s second year might not turn out any better than his first.

SEC West

Auburn (11-1, 7-1) Talent, depth, experience, and coaching will combine to make this one of those highly memorable seasons down on the Plains. Jarrett Stidham will, indeed, turn out to be the straw that stirs the drink. And the home finale with Alabama will finally go Auburn’s way again.

Alabama (10-2, 7-1)  Loaded. Every year. But the season will begin and end with losses which will keep the Crimson Tide from their fourth straight College Football Playoff appearance.

Texas A&M (9-3, 6-2) Kevin Sumlin steps down off the hot seat with a very good season in College Station. And the Aggies pick up some big wins on the way to a solid 9-3 campaign.

LSU (9-3, 5-3) Coach O won’t be able to bring home a ring in his first full season in Red Stick. I still have my doubts about the Tigers’ long term prospects, as well, in spite of their talent level.

Arkansas (7-5, 4-4) Bret Bielema and his Hawgs continue to battle the mediocrity that has beset them in Fayetteville. This year will bring no relief. Austin Allen provides great talent, tenacity, and leadership behind center, but the West is too strong to allow for a climb up the ladder.

And then… the Mississippis. The six and seven slots in the division are interchangeable.

Mississippi State (5-7, 1-7) I’ll go with State, Dan Mullen, and Nick Fitzgerald to keep the Bulldogs out of the cellar. And, they will probably notch more than the one conference win I have allowed them.

Ole Miss (4-8, 1-7) Two words. Dumpster fire.

So there you have it! According to my mighty powers of perception, note that I never use the term “reality” in my fearless forecast, the Auburn Tigers will meet the aforementioned Florida Gators in Atlanta, GA on December 2nd for the championship of the Southeastern Conference.

Who will win that contest? Yes, it will be my Tigers! And they will go on to make the College Football Playoff, along with the Florida State Seminoles, the Ohio State Buckeyes, and the Washington Huskies.

You may now wipe those tears away, whether they be tears of joy or of sadness. My guess is you might have sprayed your morning coffee or evening cocktail all over your phone or computer screen at the sheer hilarity of such humorous predictions! That’s ok.

For again I say, rejoice!

College football is upon us!

Comment on this story in our free forum.

E-mail Bird at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @Autull.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Auburn: No Need to Curb Your Enthusiasm

I just completed reading an article written by my friend, and co-host of the SEC 411 podcast, Seth Merenbloom. Seth is also an editor here at Campus Pressbox. I have a great deal of respect for his opinions on sports, in general, and on the SEC, in particular.

But I am going to have to part ways with my colleague on this one. He is of the opinion that Auburn is overrated. This piece from SEC Country deals with the Sports Illustrated prediction of Auburn as the number 10 team in the country. The column also mentions the Tigers as CBS Sports’ pick as number nine in the preseason.

The only poll we have at this point belongs to the coaches. Auburn ranks 13th there.

Let’s pause for a moment and reconsider the fact that all of this is merely talk, opinion, conjecture. Teams have begun practice all across the land but no one has played a single game just yet.

But talk is what we rabid fans do this time of year in the dog days of summer. The actual games begin on August 26th and the first game in the SEC, Florida A&M at Arkansas, follows on August 31st.

Back to Auburn and my take on the matter. I am with CBS Sports. I would put Auburn in the number nine slot. Also, I would precede my Tigers with 1. Clemson (I am of the old school opinion that the number one team from the previous year remains numero uno until/if they are defeated during the upcoming campaign. See September 9, Auburn at Clemson) 2. Alabama 3. Ohio State 4. Washington 5. Florida State 6. Penn State 7. Oklahoma 8. Southern Cal.

I would put Michigan at 10.

And I do my rankings based on how strong I foresee teams. I don’t take into account schedules, conferences, etc. I ask myself, “How good is this team in relation to the other teams in the FBS? How strong are they overall? What if this team played ‘X’ on a neutral field?”

Now, here is my reasoning on Auburn’s ranking as a top ten team.

Auburn returns seven starters on the defensive side of the ball, including its three top tacklers. Carl Lawson and Montravius Adams must be replaced but there is a ton of talent to go around on this surly defense.

Marlon Davidson is a beast and with help from the likes of Dontavius Russell, Derrick Brown, Tre Williams, Darrell Williams, DeShaun Davis, Carlton Davis and Tray Matthews, to name just a few, the D is stacked with top line SEC talent. There is also enough quality depth to make this unit as good or better than the 2016 group. And Kevin Steele is back as the coordinator. That’s big.

The offense should be lethal. We all know about Jarrett Stidham but the Tigers are three deep at quarterback with Sean White and Malik Willis. Running back? Loaded. Kamryn Pettway, Kerryon Johnson, Kam Martin, Malik Miller, and C.J Tolbert give Auburn a stable of horses second to none in the conference.

The offensive line is more talented and deep than it has been in years. Pat Dye thinks they have the potential to be as good as any since he began coaching at Auburn in 1981.

Wide receivers? Eli Stove, Darius Slayton, Nate Craig, Kyle Davis, Will Hastings, Ryan Davis, Marquis McClain and, now, John Franklin, will give Auburn very good talent and depth here.

Also, the tight end position should be much improved with Jalen Harris returning and transfer Sal Cannella, and his excellent hands, making this a position of strength.

Oh! Auburn has the best placekicker in the country in Daniel Carlson, as well.

The talent, experience, and depth is all in place down on the Plains. And, I think, Gus Malzahn has put together the complete and cohesive staff he has been looking for since he took over in 2013.

When you mix all of these ingredients together along with a great team chemistry and a hunger to win, I think you might be looking at a very special season down in the Loveliest Village.

I don’t think I can “Curb My Enthusiasm.”

Auburn – Tiger Bites: Spring Has Sprung

Spring has sprung here in the Deep South, at least by temperatures and pollen counts, but I would certainly expect another cold snap or two before she gets here full throttle.

But spring is definitely here to stay by one standard that those of us who follow college football depend on. Spring practice.

Down on the Plains of East Alabama the Auburn Tigers have taken to the practice field. Tuesday, February 28th was the Tigers’ first day on the gridiron to begin preparations for the upcoming 2017 season.

Of note on that first day of practice, Sean White is not ready to practice yet due to the injury he suffered in the Sugar Bowl, a broken arm.

Head coach Gus Malzahn has turned over the reigns of the offense to new coordinator Chip Lindsey. I am of the opinion, and I am not alone on this, that Gus must follow through completely on that plan for Auburn to achieve its maximum potential. SEC Country’s Justin Ferguson reports on the matter.

That brings us to the player who will be the front and center of attention during spring drills, Jarrett Stidham. There will be enormous pressure on the signal caller to perform at a high level, a really high level, for the Tigers. As I stated on a recent SEC 411 podcast, harkening back to an old Reggie Jackson quote, “He will be the straw that stirs the drink.”

Here is what Kevin Scarbinsky, of AL.com had to say about that matter.

Scarbo is on point with that one. Sridham’s upside is tremendous and he has all-star potential, but… we shall see.

Yes, having a standout quarterback is the key to turning the engine of an offense but he has to have other skill players to which to distribute the ball.

Injuries have thrown a bit of a crimp into the talented young corps of wide receivers, this spring, and these young players will be needed in order for the passing game to hit on all eight. More form AL.com.

Talented players abound at the running back position. Brandon Marcello, of 247sports, gives us a quick preview of this position. What he does not mention, in this snippet, is the two very talented running backs Auburn signed in its 2017 class.

Both Devan Barrett and Alaric Williams are very talented and highly versatile athletes who could be a huge boost to the Tigers future fortunes.

Barrett played both ways for Tampa Catholic High School but will most likely shine, ultimately, as a running back. He’s a burner who can take it to the house in a heartbeat. Barrett averaged over 10 yards per carry and can take it both inside and outside.

Williams hails from Southside-Gadsden in Alabama. He is more of a bruiser and complements Barrett’s ability to pop the home run. Running back coach, Tim Horton, thinks he might be the strongest guy in auburn’s 2017 class.

The trenches and the defense? There’ll be time aplenty to talk about all of this throughout the spring, into the summer, and during the final countdown to fall camp.

Let’s shift gears.

As many Auburn fans know, the new oaks that were planted in February of 2015 have, unfortunately, had to be replaced again due to a fire set to one of them last fall after the LSU game. The official word from Auburn.

Another small bite. A-Day will take place on April 8th and the Tiger faithful will have an opportunity to get a look at the 2017 newcomers, the veterans, and yes, the new oaks.

Like I said in my last installment of Tiger Bites, “The future’s so bright, I gotta wear shades.”

E-mail Bird at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @Autull.

SEC’s First Spring Practices Headlined by Quarterback Questions

For each of the first five SEC football teams to start spring practice, one of the most interesting storylines is at quarterback. Maybe it’s a wide-open battle for the starting position or maybe it’s seeing how one player has progressed since last season.

In an attempt to finally truly embrace spring practice for the drama it can bring, I’m going to discuss the SEC quarterbacks we’ve already got our eyes on in spring practices. SEC quarterbacks haven’t been known to impress much lately (Dak Prescott aside). Hopefully this spring will help get our SEC quarterbacks off to a much better start for the 2017 season.

And let me be clear: These are not the only five SEC schools with intriguing quarterback predicaments. But all of these five schools that started practice before the beginning of March definitely do have this much in common.

South Carolina was the first team to commence its spring practices. To most, the question of who will start at quarterback had already been answered. Brandon McIlwain may have started the first few games last season, but Jake Bentley took over soon after. Bentley finished the season on a high note with his Birmingham Bowl performance.

Bentley’s hard work in the offseason has impressed head coach Will Muschamp. But in true Muschamp fashion, the coach had been saying Brandon McIlwain was still battling with Bentley for that starting position. As of March 1st, though, McIlwain has decided to transfer from South Carolina. That means that, barring injury or suspension, Bentley will be the starting quarterback for the Gamecocks. Bentley’s progression will still be something to watch this spring, though.

Vanderbilt was the next team to begin its spring practices. Vanderbilt, like South Carolina, doesn’t have a true quarterback battle. In fact, one of Vanderbilt’s quarterbacks won’t even be returning this season. Wade Freebeck, who occasionally started for the Commodores, has chosen to pursue the option to transfer to another school.

The starting job is then almost definitely left to Kyle Shurmur. To say the least, Shurmur was inconsistent last season. He’ll have a lot of work to do to cement his starting role with a few other quarterbacks waiting in the wings, especially freshman Deuce Wallace. Head coach Derek Mason seemed very excited about signing Wallace, and that may not bode well in the long run for Shurmur.

Auburn began its spring practice on the last day of February. Baylor transfer Jarrett Stidham took reps with the first-team offense, which is an early indication that Auburn coaches have really opened up the quarterback competition. Sean White, the incumbent starter, had to sit out due to injury. Redshirt freshman Woody Barrett led the second-team offense. Last season’s backup, John Franklin III split reps between special teams and quarterback.

The biggest question remaining seems to be where Sean White will fit into this competition when he returns from his injury. Will he bump Jarrett Stidham to the second-team offense and retake his starting job? Or will Jarrett Stidham impress enough in spring practices to keep the starting job for now? And what about Barrett and Franklin? Will all four guys stick around for the season with so much competition for that starting position? This will easily be one of the most interesting quarterback races to watch this offseason.

Florida also began its spring practices on the 28th of February. And once again, the Gators are looking for someone to step up and claim the starting quarterback job. This seems to be a common theme for Florida lately. And heading into spring practice, the theme looks to be holding strong for yet another season.

The starting quarterback from the beginning of last season, Luke Del Rio, is sidelined after a shoulder surgery. That means redshirt freshmen Feleipe Franks and Kyle Trask have a great opportunity to take the lead in the quarterback competition this spring. On Tuesday, Franks took snaps as the first-team quarterback. Many of those present commented on how improved his throwing motion was. Kyle Trask also took snaps at quarterback along with early enrollee “athlete” Kadarius Toney. Even after his injury is healed, I definitely don’t see Del Rio beating out all three players to regain his starting position. But Gator fans will undoubtedly be watching the quarterback competition closely this spring.

Ole Miss began its spring practices on Tuesday as well. The Rebels have their starting quarterback all but chosen for next season already. But there are still questions that Ole Miss fans will have about their quarterback this spring. Shea Patterson was originally going to observe Chad Kelly in all his glory last season but got thrown into the mix when Kelly tore his ACL. Patterson debuted well but the offense was inconsistent under his lead and the season went down the drain.

Patterson had taken very limited reps before being thrown into the game so the inconsistency is somewhat understandable. But will he become more consistent as he takes more reps with the team? And better yet, how will he respond to Coach Longo’s fast-paced offense? Patterson already had a lot to learn but will learning a new coach’s system prove to be too much? I don’t have the answers to any of these questions yet, but I suspect Ole Miss fans will be watching Patterson very closely through spring practices. After all, how can he live up to THE “Swag” Kelly?

E-mail Kristen at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter @KristenBotica.

Featured photo courtesy of Gainesville Apartments.

Jarrett Stidham, Welcome to Auburn

I was in Tampa, Florida when I got the news that Cam Newton had chosen Auburn as the school where he would take his formidable football skills. My wife and I were in town for the 2010 Outback Bowl which would pit my Auburn Tigers against the Northwestern Wildcats.

Typically, I don’t follow recruiting with the passion and fervor that many college football fans do. I do keep a close eye on it, but I don’t have time to worry about a high school player’s stats, 40 time, strength numbers, film clips, etc. Cam Newton was an exception.

I was bug-eyed at all of the info I was getting on Newton. He was 6’6”, 250, with a cannon for an arm and he could run like a deer. Then I watched his video highlights. I watched them again. It was very difficult to contain myself.

And, with the offensive line, skill players, and a defense that would feature Nick Fairley, amongst many others, coming back at Auburn, my expectations soared.

11-1! That was one of the first things that popped into my mind. I thought going undefeated was a possibility, but accomplishing a task of that order is tough, indeed, in the SEC West.

Later, in the spring of 2010, we were attending the Wanee Music Festival at the Spirit of the South Music Park in Live Oak, FL. I was strolling across the field where the main stage was set up. A voice, out of nowhere, shouted, “War Eagle!” I must have had on something with an interlocking AU on it or another form of Auburn identification.

I quickly looked around, and seated in lawn chairs near me, were two male Auburn students. We exchanged further greetings and began to discuss the high hopes for the Tigers in the upcoming 2010 season.

One of the young men worked in the banquet facilities at the Auburn Hotel and Convention Center and he told me about a conversation he had with Gus Malzahn, who was then the offensive coordinator on the Plains, when Gus was a guest at a holiday season fête at the hotel just before Cam signed with Auburn.

They were chatting about the upcoming 2010 football campaign and the possibilities of this Auburn team. During the course of the conversation the young man asked Gus, “What if we get Cam Newton?” Gus replied without hesitation, “We go to Atlanta.”

You know the rest of the story.

When JUCO quarterbacks wind up at Auburn, good things happen. Championships happen.

Gus also inherited a JUCO quarterback, in his first year at Auburn under Gene Chizik, from the Tommy Tuberville era. That was Chris Todd.

Todd was a Kentucky native who was recruited from Hutchinson Community College in Kansas. All he did in 2009 was set the Auburn single season-record with 28 touchdown passes and wound up with 2,612 yards, a 60.4 completion percentage, and a QB rating of 145.7. He threw only six interceptions.

Malzahn was named the head coach at Auburn in December of 2012 and soon added another JUCO quarterback to his roster. That was Nick Marshall, a Georgia native, who was then playing for Garden City Community College which is also in Kansas.

Marshall led Auburn to within 13 seconds of a BCS National Championship in his first year, 2013. In two seasons he passed for 4,508 yards and rushed for 1,866. He was voted team MVP in 2013. Here is the complete skinny on his time with the Tigers.

John Franklin III was next in the succession of JUCO signal callers. A Florida native, Franklin played at East Mississippi Community College and enrolled at Auburn in January of this year. He is on the current roster. Find his data here.

And that brings us to… Jarrett Stidham, the 5 star Baylor transfer. He could very well be a game-changer. I expect him to be, just like Newton and Marshall before him.

If you are an Auburn fan, or even follow college football at all, you are familiar with Stidham’s route to becoming an Auburn Tiger. He was enrolled at McLennan Community College, in Texas, but did not play football this year.

Stidham is the type of dual-threat quarterback that thrives so well in Malzahn’s system. The sky should be the limit with him behind center. His info.

Now, if you are a fan of Auburn, don’t run out and make reservations for Atlanta just yet…ohhhhh,  on second thought, go right ahead and do just that.

Auburn and JUCO transfer quarterbacks are a matches made in football heaven.

Five You Must See: Week 11

#2 Alababma (8-1) at #17 Mississippi State (7-2) Saturday 3:30pm on CBS

Alabama made a loud statement last week by shutting down LSU completely.  Mississippi State, who’s lost to those Tigers and the Aggies of A&M, has since rattled off four straight wins during the midseason lull in their schedule.  Winning here would give them, Ole Miss and LSU new life in the crowded SEC West race.

This game features two of my favorite offensive players in the country.  Alabama running back Derrick Henry, fresh off a 210-yard, three-touchdown performance, is finally getting some Heisman hype of his own.  Most everyone was focused on Leo Fournette this time last week, but by out-rushing the former frontrunner by 179 yards, Henry has shifted the attention to him.  It’s time for him to follow it up with another stellar game on the ground to let everyone know he’s for real.

On the other side, watch out for (who else) quarterback Dak Prescott.  He’s really the only hope the Bulldogs have in this game.  The senior leads his team in passing and rushing yards, and I’m sure he would lead in receiving too if they had someone who could throw it to him consistently.  He’s also been responsible for 25 touchdowns this season.  For his team to have a chance in this one, Prescott has to go off.

This is the best chance all you Alabama haters have to see the Tide slip up again.  Tune in to hear Verne Lundquist and Gary Danielson on the call.

#21 Memphis (8-1) at #24 Houston (9-0) Saturday 7:00pm on ESPN 2

Memphis ruined any shot they had at the playoff by losing to Navy last week.  Meanwhile, Houston’s 20-point win over SMU was much closer than the score suggests.  This matchup will likely be a battle of two great junior quarterbacks.

Memphis’ Paxton Lynch is getting some mention as a top QB in this year’s draft class if he decides to declare.  It’s hard to argue that based on his body of work.  He’s one of eight guys in the country who’ve thrown for more than 3000 yards.  He’s ninth in completion percentage at 68.9.  And with 19 touchdowns on just two interceptions he takes care of the ball too.  A signature game in front of a national audience would validate his high draft stock.

Greg Ward Jr. is just as prolific, though his game is much different.  Ward is that dual-threat that we’ve seen open up the NFL to new possibilities.  At 70.4 percent, he ranks second in completion rate.  He’s the top rushing quarterback in the nation outside of Navy’s Keenan Reynolds who has an unfair advantage, running the triple option.  To average 92 yards per game on the ground as a QB is just sick.  The Tiger defense is going to have to keep a spy on Ward all night if they hope to hold him in check.

All of a sudden Memphis finds itself third in the division, needing a win here and a Navy loss to have a shot at the AAC West crown.  Houston, on the other hand, still has dreams of an undefeated season and a playoff spot.  This is easily the biggest game in the AAC’s brief history.

Oregon (6-3) at #7 Stanford (8-1) Saturday 7:30pm on Fox

Oregon is finally playing well.  They’ve won three in a row, but a fourth will be difficult.  Stanford is really good.

The Cardinal calling card has always been a stout defense.  Now that they’ve added offensive firepower to their arsenal they’re an absolute nightmare of an opponent.  They can, and will, pound you between the tackles with Christian McCaffrey who averages 134 yards per game.  That’s made life so much easier for Kevin Hogan who’s completing 66 percent of his passes now that most of them come off a play action fake.

The Ducks are finally getting the production they need from Vernon Adams, which is good news because they’re going to have to outscore the Cardinal to win this one.  In the last three games he’s thrown 10 touchdown passes and just three interceptions.  Like McCaffrey does for Hogan, Royce Freeman opens up opposing defenses for Adams.  The sophomore standout has rushed for at least 100 yards in seven of nine games this fall, with a pair of touchdowns in four of those seven.

It’s been a disappointing season for the Ducks but they’ve still got a chance to spoil Stanford’s playoff party plans.  There should be a fair amount of bad blood in Palo Alto.

#12 Oklahoma (8-1) at #6 Baylor (8-0) Saturday 8:00pm on ABC

The Baylor Bears have been waiting to prove themselves all season, but the Sooners have needed to prove themselves since taking a terrible loss to Texas.

This is the first of three gauntlet games that round out Oklahoma’s schedule.   They’ve got TCU coming to town next week and they’re headed to Stillwater for Bedlam against Oklahoma State in two weeks.  All three are huge obviously, but a loss here would significantly detract from the next two.  A quick note on quarterback Baker Mayfield: he’s completing 70 percent of his passes and averaging 10 yards per attempt.  That combination is astounding and needless to say, no one else is even close to that sort of production.

Baylor’s offensive machine is now operating with a backup quarterback.  Freshman Jarrett Stidham has the keys now after Seth Russell was injured two weeks ago.  He exceeded expectations last week against a formidable Kansas State defense.  He’ll need to be even better against hands down the best defense the Bears have seen all season.

Baylor also has a bumpy road ahead with trips to Oklahoma State and TCU, and a game against Texas on conference championship weekend that looks like the perfect opportunity to trip them up if they’re somehow still standing.  The odds are stacked against them, but that’s pretty much what they asked for.  Let’s see how they handle it.

Washington State (6-3) at #19 UCLA (7-2) Saturday 10:45pm on ESPN

Don’t pass out early.  The nightcap should be fun too.

Washington State has been entertaining this year.  At an astronomical 56.9 attempts and 417.3 yards a game, nobody throws it around the lot like the Cougars.  What else would you expect from a Mike Leach offense?  Luke Falk is another one of those guys completing passes at a 70 percent clip, but when you air it out 56 times a game it brings a whole new meaning to the stat.  UCLA’s defense has been banged up all season.  Falk and company will be aiming to take advantage.

UCLA is still alive despite back-to-back losses to Arizona State and Stanford.  They still control their own destiny with games at Utah and at USC after Wazoo.  Sure it’s tough to ask them to go out and win those last two, but that’s what championship teams do.

Josh Rosen has become a must-watch player for me.  He can make all the throws.  It’s clear he’s got the talent.  Now it’s a matter of him progressing as a quarterback, not just a thrower.  He has to learn how to diagnose defensive schemes and figure out how to consistently move his team down the field in order to take that next step.  I’m excited to see if he can do it.

Do the Bruins come out flat and fall on their faces again, or have they gotten their act together?  Stay up late to find out.

Week 8 Rundown: What a Time to be Alive

So you thought Auburn’s “Kick Six” a couple years ago was a once in a generation finish? You thought last week’s Michigan punting failure was a once-in-a-decade type of loss? So did I. And inexplicably, college football fans were treated to incredible, improbable finishes in back to back weeks. The Florida State-Georgia Tech matchup itself was much less meaningful than the Auburn-Alabama game from a few years back and even than last week’s Michigan-Michigan State game. But the Seminoles did have playoff hopes and a lengthy regular season winning streak.

They saw that streak come to an end with arguably the best kicker in the nation Roberto Aguayo having a last second field goal attempt blocked and returned for the game-winning touchdown. It’s not a total shock when a field goal gets blocked behind the line of scrimmage and gets taken to the house, but the best part about this one was that the ball landed past the line of scrimmage and the Yellow Jackets were still able to weave their way around and through the Seminoles for the score. That ending was the lone bright spot on an awful day for Hurricanes fans. That and fans can go back to spending their money on night club bottle service and beach days instead of banners to fly over the stadium now that Al Golden’s been fired.

Perhaps the biggest loss of the day however is one that won’t show up in a team’s Win-Loss record. Baylor QB and potential Heisman finalist Seth Russell sustained a neck injury and is now out for the year. Art Briles’ offensive system has been good for pretty much any quarterback that has lined up behind center for the Bears, but for a team that is known just for its offense, this obviously isn’t ideal. Baylor’s hopes now rest on the shoulders of talented freshman QB Jarrett Stidham, who at least has some game action this year, albeit in the 4th quarters of blowouts. Stidham’s Passer Rating in limited time is 255.7. In other words, college football’s passer rating system could use an overhaul.

Florida State wasn’t the only undefeated playoff contender to go down. Utah saw their first loss come at the hands of the USC Trojans 42-24 on Saturday, though I’m a little surprised the score wasn’t more lopsided considering the Utes lost the turnover battle 4-0. Regardless of this loss, I still have Utah as a Top 10 team and playoff contender. It seems I’m on a pretty lonely island with that though.

Utah dropped out of the Top 10 rankings and in the Campus Pressbox Mock Playoff Committee (which comes out every Monday) I was one of only two people out of eleven who still has Utah a Top 10 team. My thinking: Utah still has a really good defense, good special teams, and a pretty good offense. QB Travis Wilson had a bad day but has been playing pretty well overall. Everyone knows USC has Top 5/Top 10 talent, they just can’t put it together for a whole season. If they happen to play to their potential on one particular Saturday? I don’t look at that as a bad loss. There are plenty of other teams around the Top 10 with one loss, so I’m not going to drop Utah out just because their loss was the most recent.

Utah is still on track to play for a potential playoff spot against Stanford in the Pac-12 title game. Stanford cruised to a 31-14 victory over the Washington Huskies. Christian McCaffrey continues to do Christian McCaffrey things, rushing for over 100 yards as well as receiving for over 100, adding a touchdown on the ground and through the air as well. If he keeps this up, he may find himself at the Heisman ceremony. A fellow running back who is almost certain to be there is Leonard Fournette, but not if he keeps up performances like this past week. Less than 6 yards per carry against Western Kentucky? Only 150 yards and one touchdown? What is that? He must be hurt…All kidding aside, Fournette’s Tigers pulled away from the Hilltoppers in the second half and get a week off before their showdown with Alabama.

The Crimson Tide may have been ready for the bye week after recent big wins against Georgia and Texas A&M, because they looked uninspiring in their contest against the Volunteers on Saturday. A late defensive stop allowed them to sneak away with a 19-14 home win. The Tide also have the week off before their matchup with LSU. And while everyone likely assumes the winner of that game will be a heavy favorite to win the SEC and make the playoff, we shouldn’t put the final nail in the Ole Miss coffin just yet. The Rebels dominated Texas A&M in a 23-3 win and still only have one conference loss. A win over LSU next month would give them the tiebreaker over both LSU and Alabama. That is of course if the Rebels don’t lay another egg like they did against Memphis.

That brings me to my favorite hypothetical of this college football season. If Ole Miss runs the table (they only have 4 games left and get LSU at home) and wins the SEC Championship game, they would be an 11-2 SEC champ. A guaranteed playoff spot right? But what if Memphis also wins out and goes 12-0 with wins over currently ranked Temple and Houston on top of that Ole Miss win? Memphis is thought to have basically no shot to make the playoff even with an undefeated season but this would be an impossible spot for the playoff committee. They couldn’t possibly leave out an 11-2 SEC champ, but could they put that team in over an undefeated Group of 5 team that beat them? I think America needs to root for this scenario.

That Memphis team continues to look good, at least on offense, after winning 66-42 over Tulsa with QB Paxton Lynch having another outstanding day putting up 447 yards and four touchdowns. Normally this type of team would be a shoo-in for the Group of 5 spot in a New Year’s Six bowl, but not this year. The American Conference still has three undefeated teams, with all ranked in the Top 25. Houston continues to dominate opponents in Tom Herman’s first year as head coach. Temple is the third undefeated, and they’ll get their chance to make a statement this week with a home game against Notre Dame. That matchup is the only game between ranked teams this week. Needless to say, it’s not a great slate. This would be the Saturday to spend some time with the significant other and get in his/her’s good graces.

The playoff committee continues to look at a potential nightmare. The Ohio State/Michigan State winner would be an easy selection if undefeated, but the only other likely undefeated teams are Clemson (in a bad ACC) or TCU/Baylor (if their defenses can hold up against each other and Oklahoma). But unlike last year where the final two playoff spots came down to three or four real candidates, there may be six or seven this year with a solid case. I’m guessing there’s just a slight chance the talk about the need for an eight-team playoff isn’t going to get quieter.

Top 4

Baylor

Clemson

Ohio State

TCU