Tag Archives: Mississippi State

Overcoming Our Fear of College Baseball

Super Regionals are this weekend.  More of us should be tuning in than will be and I think that’s because we don’t know what we’re watching.  We don’t know what to be looking for.  Essentially, we don’t know how to enjoy college baseball.

Taking a look at our relationship with college basketball helps to illustrate my point.  Many people’s biggest beef with March Madness is that no one really knows who most of the teams are because we don’t watch the regular season.  Well, baseball has many more games and much less, almost no coverage on ESPN for you to stumble upon.

Generally speaking, we have zero idea what’s going on in the college baseball world until mid-June.  Then, all of a sudden, we’re supposed to care deeply about the eight teams that have made it to the College World Series?

Which is hosted in Omaha, Nebraska, by the way.  Not that it’s not a nice place.  I’ve never been there myself actually, but I have heard nice things.  It’s just not what you’d exactly call a vacation destination.  That fact, however driven by perception it may be, exists all the same and does the CWS no favors with potential casual fans.

How It Works

So what exactly are we watching?  How does this tournament work?  Here’s a look:

Regionals are the first round, which happened last week.  64 teams are broken into 16 groups of four.  Those groups play a double elimination tournament until one team is left standing in each region.

That brings us to where we are now, the super regionals.  16 teams remain.  They’re broken up into eight pairs and now it’s a best of three series, starting this Friday.  Win twice and you’ve made it to Omaha and the College World Series.

Once there, the eight teams play another double elimination tournament until two are left.  Those two then play a best of three championship series.

Who We’re Watching

Oregon State is the prohibitive favorite, carrying with it an astounding 52-4 record this season.  Vanderbilt is the unlucky team that will face the Beavers.  The Commodores beat #21 Clemson twice at its own field to win the regional last week.  OSU’s lefty Luke Heimlich has a chance at being selected in the first round of this summer’s MLB draft.

The only team hosting a super regional that did not host a regional is Texas A&M.  To earn that distinction, the Aggies triumphed over that Baptist School in Waco, Texas, Iowa, and the host, Houston.  College Station will host because Davidson took down the number two team in the nation, North Carolina, twice last week to get here.  If you’re looking for a Cinderella, you’ve find her.  It’s Davidson.

#9 Long Beach State and #20 Cal State Fullerton square off to determine which school will represent the state of California in Omaha.  Fullerton beat their host #8 Stanford twice to advance from regionals.  The team affectionately known as the Dirtbags holds a 5-1 record in two series against Fullerton this season.

Louisville hosts Kentucky in an even bigger rivalry matchup.  With #7 and #11 in the latest D1Baseball.com Top 25, this is the most intriguing series, on paper, heading into the weekend.  The Cards and the Cats split a pair of separate meetings during the regular season.  Louisville lefty Brendan McKay is the consensus #2 draft prospect.

Sam Houston State took the long route to the super regionals, having played five games in the previous round.  With their backs against the wall, the Bearkats won three straight games in two days, including two over host Texas Tech, to earn this spot.  Their reward is a shot at #16 Florida State, which rebounded from losing the first game in its regional last week.

#6 TCU really had no trouble sweeping through its regional.  The Horned Frogs will play host to the #22 Bears of Missouri State, who snuck by Arkansas, winning two of three one-run games between the two sides last weekend.  Missouri State third baseman Jake Burger has scouts excited about his future.

It’s an SEC affair with #17 Mississippi State traveling to #3 LSU.  The Tigers won their three games by a combined 18 runs, while the Bulldogs beat their in-state rival, #10 Southern Miss, twice on Monday to advance.  LSU’s Alex Lange is another top prospect to look out for.

If you pay attention to such things, you’ll notice that six of the 16 teams left are members of the SEC.  It must mean more down there or something.  That sixth SEC representative is Florida.  The #4 Gators welcome in #14 Wake Forest.  Florida’s 6’5” pitcher Alex Faedo has been getting a lot of mention as a potential top ten pick.

So, there’s a bit of info that will hopefully spark your interest and get you to check some of these games out.  The best part is there are games on all weekend long.  With start times of noon, three, six, and nine, you’ll have at least one game to watch basically all day long for three days straight.  Saturday is even better, with two games in each of those four time slots.  And if any of these series are tied after two games, we get even more games on Sunday and Monday.

Join me in flipping on the ESPNs this weekend as we get ready for the College World Series.  Doing so will help us all with our apparent fear of college baseball.

E-mail Mitch at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @GreatGatzke.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Ranking the SEC Bowl Games of Importance

The satisfaction of reaching a bowl game varies among programs across the SEC and college football. Having the luxury to virtually prepare for next season with a postseason game to foreshadow is how some teams may approach the bowl season as in Auburn, LSU and Tennessee returning its starting quarterbacks for next season with a talented enough roster to make an impact. Other teams like Arkansas and Mississippi State look to provide a proper send off to two of the nation’s most efficient passers along with a couple of other all-conference performers.

The once dominant SEC, yes I used that in the past tense, has taken a step down this season with underperformance and the lack of big quarterback play. The conference usually hangs its hat on its successful bowl showing and looks to capitalize on some favorable matchups heading into the new year. Making the conference look good is one thing, but individually some teams need a good showing to help boost the program’s image or to continue to ride its success. Here is the breakdown of which games I view are most important to the programs and teams individually regarding the current status of the team.

#10. Tax Slayer Bowl: Georgia vs. Penn State

With the departure of Mark Richt and the absence of eventual head coach Kirby Smart, this game is really just something to enjoy on your New Year’s Day hangover. The Bulldogs still without all-conference runner Nick Chubb can reach the 10-win mark for the fourth time in five seasons. But yet, Bulldog fans wanted Richt out and the demands were met. Welcome to college football, folks!

Game Details: Jan. 2 at Noon EST on ESPN // Jacksonville, FL // EverBank Field

#9. Citrus Bowl: Florida vs. Michigan

Frankly, just getting to a mid-tier bowl in his first season as head coach, Jim McElwain has already had a successful inaugural season in Gainesville. With quarterback issues and an inconsistent offense, not much is expected from this Gator squad on New Year’s Day. Amazingly making it to the SEC Championship Game with 10 wins, the Gators have already reached its peak this season and getting to 11 wins is just a luxury. Having that opportunity alone tells you what a fine job McElwain has done this season or the lack of a strong East division or a little bit of both.

Game Details: Jan. 1 at 1 p.m. EST on ABC // Orlando, FL // Orlando Citrus Bowl

#8. Sugar Bowl: Ole Miss vs. Oklahoma State

A pseudo fumble play essentially eliminated them from going to Atlanta for its first ever SEC title game appearance and the Rebels will settle for second place in the SEC with a Sugar Bowl berth. The game is important to many in the game but from an outsiders’ perspective the game will just be entertaining to watch as we know the program is in good hands with or without a win here. One thing is for certain though: NFL scouts will be aplenty.Screen Shot 2015-12-17 at 5.14.13 PM

Game Details: Jan. 1 at 8:30 p.m. EST on ESPN // New Orleans, LA // Mercedes Benz Super Dome

#7. Liberty Bowl: Arkansas vs. Kansas State

Having won its past two bowl games versus the Big 12, the Razorbacks are prone to having hot finishes as of late. The key to ending this game with a win is to carry the victory over to next season. Arkansas dominated a declining Texas squad a season ago, but failed to keep the momentum into the 2015 season. The importance of this game is to win, but to also deliver a bright spot to the 2016 season without Brandon Allen.

Game Details: Jan. 2 at 3:20 p.m. EST on ESPN // Memphis, TN // Liberty Bowl

#6. Belk Bowl: Mississippi State vs. NC State

Mississippi State was picked to finish last in the always highly competitive West division in the preseason and managed to come away with eight wins. Finding a way to get to eight wins was huge for this program and compliments Dan Mullen’s ability to hang in there with some of the top teams in the division. With Mullen’s name being tossed around for some coaching jobs it’s unsure to note how comfortable Mullen is staying in Starkville for a longer period of time. I’m guessing a win here sure would help. Oh, and we’ll miss you Dak!

Game Details: Dec. 30 at 3:30 p.m. EST on ESPN // Charlotte, NC // Bank of America Stadium

#5. Texas Bowl: LSU vs. Texas Tech

Pretty much having to “rehire” Les Miles as its head coach, LSU has the opportunity to get to nine wins in what has been a very interesting and lopsided season. With a win here, it gives LSU officials that doubted the direction of the program the chance to not say, “I told you so,” with a loss here motivating that comment. Regardless, LSU has the opportunity to capitalize on its impressive amount of bowl victories in its history currently at 23 wins.

Game Details: Dec. 29 at 9 p.m. EST on ESPN // Houston, TX // NRG Stadium

#4. Outback Bowl: Tennessee vs. Northwestern

What more positive things can we say about this Tennessee program with Butch Jones? We’ve tried to embrace the new culture but the wins and intensity has yet to stick. Jones isn’t on his way out, but if an unattractive loss came to the Big Ten’s Vanderbilt, there will be some heavy heat on the program heading into 2016, but I don’t have to warn you about that happening.

Game Details: Jan. 1 at Noon EST on ESPN 2 // Tampa, FL // Raymond James Stadium

#3. Music City Bowl: Texas A&M vs. Louisville

Screen Shot 2015-12-17 at 5.29.28 PMThe offensive schemes in this matchup of Kevin Sumlin and Bobby Petrino are intriguing enough without whatever is going on in College Station at the moment. First off, the Aggies are going to have to find a quarterback to start the game and Sumlin will need to find a way to distract viewers and followers from the dark cloud looming over the campus. A win would of course help the rumors and exaggerations from spreading even further.

Game Details: Dec. 30 at 7 p.m. EST on ESPN // Nashville, TN // Nissan Stadium

#2. Birmingham Bowl: Auburn vs. Memphis

The punishment of finishing with an underwhelming 6-6 record is a bus ride two hours up the road to take on the number one rated NFL draft quarterback Paxton Lynch (good luck with that). Gus Malzahn is 0-2 in bowl games at Auburn and both losses have come when failing to hold fourth quarter leads. Malzahn’s seat is getting warm and another bowl loss, even without much of a defensive staff, would be an extremely disappointing outcome and would create some murmurs throughout the fan base.

Game Details: Dec. 30 at Noon EST on ESPN // Birmingham, AL // Legion Field

#1. Cotton Bowl: Alabama vs. Michigan State

We knew Alabama would get here somehow to be the lone team to represent the SEC. The importance of this game falls on the shoulders of the SEC and the Alabama program itself. The SEC’s stance on this game is hoping to at least have Alabama win for a chance to win another national championship for the conference. As for Alabama, the loss to the later national champion Ohio State did not settle well in Tuscaloosa and if the Tide were going to drop another, I imagine there would be some uncomfortable feelings toward the football program.

Game Details: Dec. 31 at 8 p.m. EST on ESPN // Dallas/Arlington, TX // AT&T Stadium

Started From the…and Now We’re Here

Disappointing and surprise seasons come due to the rankings the teams are knighted with in the preseason. Fair or not fair that’s how college sports roll. The season is almost half over and many fans have already started the “next year’s team” talks. On the other hand, hopes and aspirations are still alive for some of the higher caliber programs along with some of the surprise teams that have suddenly came out of their shell; at least for now they have. Comparing the preseason expectations and how they have performed this season I break down each SEC team to see how they have stacked up against their preseason accolades or premature dismissals.

Alabama Crimson Tide (Preseason Rank: #3; Current Rank: #8)

The preseason buzz that surrounded the Tide this preseason focused on the quarterback competition and not only who was going to be awarded the job but if that quarterback can sustain the always high-caliber Crimson Tide. Though the team already has one loss on its playoff résumé, the Tide look to be in good hands from here on out finding consistent play at quarterback with both sides of the ball looking sharp in Athens last weekend.

 Arkansas Razorbacks (Preseason Rank: NR; Current Rank: NR)

Arkansas came into the 2015 season similar to last season’s billing as looking the part but not showing its improvement on its record. Opposed to last season, this season’s version has not looked improved dropping some key non-conference games to Toledo and Arkansas and not looking good in either showdown. Bret Bielema has been a big talk guy but when is it time to walk the walk instead of just talk the talk? Time is running out.

Auburn Tigers (Preseason Rank: #6; Current Rank: NR)

One of the biggest letdowns in college football this season is the Auburn Tiger football team. Jeremy Johnson was in line to be the next big thing but has slipped out of the spotlight to find himself on the bench. The season has almost started anew with new quarterback Sean White and many defensive adjustments as the Tigers look to renew their once hyped 2015 season.

Florida Gators (Preseason Rank: NR; Current Rank: #11)

Photo Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports
Photo Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

Within the past ten years or so, first year head coaches have made immediate impacts at their respected school. With that said, the expectations for the Gators this season were not high as they were breaking in potentially a new starting quarterback with many personnel changes. Finding Florida ranked just outside the top ten is big for a program needing a spark and now are in the driver’s seat in a semi-weak eastern division.

Georgia Bulldogs (Preseason Rank: #9; Current Rank: #19)

It’s become a status quo for Georgia football starting the season as one the SEC and national favorites but find a way to slip up along the road in disappointing fashion. It’s not that Georgia was supposed to defeat Alabama – Georgia was favored to win – but losing by three touchdowns at home to a team that is still in the growing process on offense has left the Dogs in a weird but kind of expected season. The Mark Richt hot seat rumors have been ignited and it could be SEC championship or bust for the Bulldogs. What do you think?

Kentucky Wildcats (Preseason Rank: NR; Current Rank: NR)

Similar to Arkansas’ 2014 season outlook the record should not reflect the overall improvement from this Kentucky football team. Kentucky has improved mightily since Mark Stoops took over and each year we have seen the strides of getting better. Unfortunately the record has yet to be completely rejuvenated but with addition of new SEC talent the Wildcats are in good position for the future. The question is does the future begin next week or next year?

LSU Tigers (Preseason Rank: #14; Current Rank: #7)

Another SEC team that was flooded with quarterback questions before week one, LSU answered its problem without really addressing the issue directly not having to yet with a stud running back in Leonard Fournette. Doing exactly what is expected of them, the Tigers have grounded and pounded through the schedule so far and now jump into the heart of the SEC portion part of it.

Ole Miss Rebels (Preseason Rank: #17; Current Rank: #14)

Chad Kelly

The star-studded recruiting class became draft eligible week one and has hit on all cylinders for the most part. Going into Tuscaloosa and coming out with a win giving Hotty Toddy consecutive wins over the Tide set the tone for what could have been an unblemished season. Not coming away with a win from Gainesville is tough but having been completely shut down on offense is why I am currently cool on the Rebels.

Mississippi State Bulldogs (Preseason Rank: NR; Current Rank: NR)

Having a historical season a year ago it was hard to predict how the Bulldogs would fare this season based on returning only nine starters from last year. State has performed right on par in where they were expected to be riding Dak Prescott’s back with key plays from the secondary. Seemingly being out of the conference race State can play spoiler throughout the rest of the season still claiming to be a solid all-around team.

Missouri Tigers (Preseason Rank: #24; Current Rank: NR)

There was a point of good, bad, and ugly the first few weeks of the Tigers’ season and hopefully it’s back to good now. Oddly enough benching Maty Mauk, with the suspension, may have been the best thing to happen for the Tigers after struggling to score points on offense on many occasions yet still sneaking by. Though still an impressive 4-1 the season has not looked as peachy as expected, but the Tigers look to be headed into the right direction with Drew Lock taking snaps from center.

South Carolina Gamecocks (Preseason Rank: NR, Current Rank: NR)

Yuck. That pretty much sums up what has been a rough year for the Gamecock fan base. Not having consistent quarterback play, heck, any consistent play has put Steve Spurrier and the Gamecocks in a really sticky situation heading forward with not much positives to throw out there right now.

Tennessee Volunteers (Preseason Rank: #24; Current Rank: NR)

After writing a column titled “Put Up or Shut Up” for Tennessee two weeks ago, I am disappointed and a little surprised in what Tennessee has put out in the past two weeks. Having the youthful roster still doesn’t suffice an excuse of underachieving some lofty preseason expectations. Tennessee has blown three games when being up by at least 13 points, which has unfortunately set the tone for the season. A big win over Georgia this weekend could really turn things around.

Texas A&M Aggies (Preseason Rank: NR; Current Rank: #9)

Getty Images from Washington Post
Getty Images from Washington Post

Struggling on the defensive side of the ball since its inaugural year in the SEC, Texas A&M seems to finally have some identity on defense complementing its always high-scoring offense. Meshing these two together have given the Aggies a 5-0 record heading into Tuscaloosa next weekend off a bye.

Vanderbilt Commodores (Preseason Rank: NR; Current Rank: NR)

It’s a luxury if the football program is relevant in Nashville in any given season and just the norm when the team fails to reach bowl eligibility. This season hasn’t been a luxury, but it also hasn’t been a letdown either. Though to the naked eye the 2-3 record looks bad but holding their own versus conference foes Georgia and Ole Miss showing improvement slowly but surely.

Problems with the Playoff

I can’t pretend like the College Football Playoff didn’t make this season even more intriguing than normal. With the excitement building in the last few weeks of the regular season and culminating in the three playoff games themselves, it’s fair to say the long-awaited experiment was a success. However, that doesn’t mean I haven’t found some design flaws. There is certainly room for improvement and that’s what I’m here to do.

Irrelevant weekly updates
First off, as Damien Bowman said a year ago, the actual College Football Playoff Rankings should not come out until after the final week of the season when everything is decided. What’s the point of releasing them weekly? Talking points. We’re going to tirelessly discuss the teams vying for the top spots regardless. Plenty of polls and opinions already exist. Leave it to them until you’re sure.

TCU went from five to three all the way down to six in the final three weeks of the season. All they did was win the ballgames on their schedule (I’ll address this separate issue later on). In turn, they were given false hope and punished. Eliminating the Playoff Rankings until the regular season is over will rid us of that ever happening again.

The role of conference championships
This is more of a conference alignment thing but my next point is that the Big 12 got screwed because it lacks a championship game. I do think a round robin approach is ideal, but if every other conference has a title game then you’re hurting yourself by not having one too. I think ultimately the committee couldn’t decide between Baylor and TCU, so they didn’t. Instead they chose Ohio State to be the fourth team in.

Now, some people will say Baylor is clearly the better team because they won the head-to-head matchup. Others will argue that was a dramatic comeback win on a last-second field goal in Baylor’s own stadium that happened half a season ago. The point is that a rematch would’ve settled the score, and the Big 12 wouldn’t have gotten shutout of the playoff.

The fix is simple. Either, add two (or more) teams (Boise State, BYU, Houston, Louisiana Tech?) or make sure your proposal to change NCAA rules gets through so you can keep your cute, little 10-team league.

The SEC showed exactly what’s wrong with the divisional approach to conference play. The West was ridiculously more difficult to navigate than the East was this season. Missouri won the East and earned their rightful spot in the championship game, but they got lucky by drawing Arkansas and Texas A&M as their inter-divisional opponents for this season. They avoided Alabama, Mississippi State, Ole Miss, Auburn, and LSU. It would be gracious of you to write them down for more than one win out of those five.

This is why the divisional format is troubling. The two best teams in the conference don’t always meet up at the end. Unfortunately, in a 14-team conference not every team can play one another, unless you expand the regular season by a couple weeks (good luck with that). So, in the meantime let’s get rid of the fourth non-conference game that many SEC teams use as a glorified bye week midway through their tough schedule. Make them play one more conference foe to further sort out what the standings should look like come season’s end.

What about the little guys?
Remember the few seasons where it seemed like everyone became a Boise State fan just so we could see someone break the BCS and squeak into the national championship game as a little guy? Well, that never happened and now that we’ve got a four team playoff I really don’t see how it ever could.

Florida State had a hard enough time getting into the top four as an undefeated member of the ACC, and the defending national champs. How is Marshall supposed to have a chance at the playoff when the “Power 5” is halfway to autonomy? Boise State, at 20, was the one and only team from a “Group of 5” conference to be included in the committee’s final playoff rankings. Though they showed they definitely deserved it, they should consider themselves blessed to have gotten the opportunity to play in the Fiesta Bowl.

8 > 4
This is a slippery slope but I think an eight team playoff would be far superior to the four team format we have now. Immediately some will complain about these kids playing in too many games and there not being enough time to play them all. Don’t even. All those players would love to suit up one more time. And surely we could eliminate the three week hiatus between the playoff announcement and the bowls.

An eight team playoff would look like this: the SEC, Big 12, Pac-12, Big Ten, and ACC champions each receive an automatic bid. Even though I’m a little leery to do that, it’s almost certainly what would happen anyway. The remaining three spots would be at-large bids reserved for the next three most-deserving teams (smaller conference champs, big conference runner-ups, or teams in situations like Mississippi State, who didn’t get a shot).

The Peach, Orange, Fiesta, and Cotton Bowls would be your quarterfinals. The Rose and Sugar Bowls would be your semis. Then you could have your National Championship Game. You could still rotate between the six of them to spread the revenues around.

Wrap-up
In conclusion, I’m sure there’s something I’ve forgotten or overlooked. Please, add your own ideas. Praise me, call me an idiot and offer your own fix, anything. Getting a dialogue going is the only way to arrive at the best possible solution.

Think nobody’s listening and it’s pointless? Well, we finally got our playoff. Now that we’ve taken that daunting first step it’s time to take another.

Week 14’s Six Best Teams for College Football

The College Football Playoff is almost here. It is hard to believe that another college football season is almost gone. If this season plays out like most of the BCS seasons, then the rule will be that whatever we think about who is going to play in the Championship entering rivalry week will be wrong by the time the last conference championship game is played. This week I was asked to give my Top 6 teams. I wanted to give more than rankings but give the reasons behind my rankings. Below is my Top 6 and the reasons why I ranked them the way that I did. I do have two SEC West teams in my Top 4. The SEC West just completed a 28-0 run against non-conference opponents and with little exception trounced their Eastern equivalents.

1. Alabama — I’m not completely convinced the Tide can run the tables or even beat Auburn but out of the top teams, they do seem to be the most complete. The offense is a bit Jekyll and Hyde with their best showings coming at home but the defense, after a shaky start, is starting to look reminiscent of Saban’s national championship defenses. If Alabama advances, their defense will be put to the test as many of the top teams can score and score quickly.

2. Oregon — Mariotta is man among boys in terms of his quarterbacking ability. It’s hard to believe that we entered this season with mumblings about Mark Helfrich and his ability to keep Oregon up to Chip Kelly standards. Oregon’s early October loss to Arizona, their second loss to Arizona in two seasons, seem to validate those concerns. Since that game the closest anyone has come to beating Oregon is UCLA and they lost by twelve. Now if Helfrich can avoid one Kelly trait and that is Oregon shooting itself in the foot in November, Oregon could be the team to beat in the playoffs.

3. FSU — it’s amazing how the college football playoff changes perceptions. If this were last year, most of us would be ranking Florida State number one. They are the last undefeated Power 5 team left, yet the Committee raises points that we notice but have typically ignored in the past. This is a team that seems to be flirting with disaster. Each week Florida State finds a way to escape the executioner. Last week was a narrow victory over Boston College. Off field issues aside, there is no quarterback in the nation I would rather have in quarters three and four than Jameis Winston. FSU will have a much harder time surviving the next two weeks than they should for an undefeated Power 5 team. Florida upsetting Fllorida State with a lame duck Will Muschamp would be repeating history when Ron Zook did so in his last regular season game as the head man of the Gators. If Winston can survive the Gators, surprising Georgia Tech awaits them in the ACC Championship game.

4. Mississippi State — Of course this is where it gets tricky. I can pretty much swap Mississippi State, TCU and Baylor. All three teams are so similar in their resumes. Here is why State gets the nod at #4. They lost to #1 by five points in #1’s home stadium. Baylor lost to an unranked West Virginia. TCU lost to Baylor which is at best, the #5 ranked team and in the Committee’s eyes, the #7 ranked team. I’m left with a logic puzzle. In terms of losses Mississippi State’s was the best and their schedules with TCU and Baylor are all roughly equivalent in terms of overall strength. As for Mississippi State, Alabama poked some holes in what had been an otherwise great looking team. In shutting down the running game, including Dak Prescott’s, Mississippi State becomes average and they have little ability to come back. In Mississippi State’s final drive against Alabama, they took over three minutes to get down the field because they were forced to rely on the run. However, not many teams have the ability to put the Bulldogs in a hole.

5. Baylor — I have a harder time punishing the Bears for their week schedule when they beat TCU. Yes I believe that TCU has a better resume than Baylor and all of that would count if Baylor hadn’t beaten TCU in a head to head matchup. To say that TCU has played a tougher schedule and that somehow equates to wiping away the Bears’ win over the Horned Frogs is not something that I can do. Let the Committee make the statement in the rankings. Baylor made their statement on the field. As for Baylor, it is the #1 scoring offense in the country. Baylor is #4 in overall passing yards. Baylor can score and score quickly. The knock on Baylor is their defense but their points allowed defense actually ranks in the Top 25 and they have held five opponents to less than fourteen points. Secondary units beware!

6. TCU — First, why TCU and not Ohio State. I have been very impressed with Ohio State since the loss against Virginia Tech and yes, I think Ohio State can be forgiven for their loss as there were extenuatiing circumstances in breaking in a new quarterback in J. T. Barrett. However, Ohio State also struggled to beat Penn State, they do have victories over two Top 25 teams in Michigan State and Minnesota, however TCU has wins over three Top 25 teams including a much more impressive win over that same Minnesota. This is why TCU grabs #6 away from Meyer’s Buckeyes. As for TCU, they have shown that they can beat big teams and beat them on a big stage. They can also light up the scoreboard with the best of them as poor Texas Tech found out when TCU dropped 82 points on them. Their work isn’t done though as TCU has to visit the much improved Longhorns this week.

The Seminoles need to begin games the way they’re ending them

Earth to Florida State… If you play with fire, you will eventually get burned. The Florida State Seminoles have trailed at halftime in 5 of their previous 8 games, with a few of them being a couple of possession games. While it is encouraging that this team has repeatedly been able to overcome these deficits, this is not a formula that consistently gets you victories. Nor is it a formula that will impress the playoff committee, proven by the #3 ranking that the Seminoles currently hold.

This season for Florida State, other than their record, has been the polar opposite of last season. Last season, the Seminoles won by an average of 41 points, with Jameis Winston coming off the field in the 3rd quarter in most games. This season, there have been four games that have been decided by one possession. This isn’t a damning thing to the Seminoles, just not ideal. The reality is that it doesn’t matter how the Seminoles win, they just need to continue to win, which I don’t believe will be a problem until the playoffs begin. However, once the playoffs begin, if the Seminoles continue their season long trend of surrendering halftime leads to the opponent, the Seminoles will get burned.

I won’t sugarcoat it, the Seminoles haven’t had a particularly tough schedule this season, so while these comeback wins show an impressive unity and character with this team, it’s not like these comeback wins have been against impressive teams. If the Seminoles are losing to a team like Alabama, Oregon, Mississippi State, or the other playoff contenders, the Seminoles won’t be able to simply flip the “Play Good” switch as easily as they have been able to against teams like Louisville, NC State and Miami. However, like a said earlier, this is not all negative. Last season the Seminoles never had a game up to the National Championship game where their backs were up against the wall like this season. When the Seminoles went down early to Auburn in that game, Seminoles fans weren’t sure how the Noles were going to respond, specifically because the Noles had no experience in games like these last year. This year, we know how Florida State will respond to adversity, but once again, if they keep playing with fire, they will eventually get burned.

To this point we know how the Seminoles will play in the second half of games, Jameis Winston will show up to play, their defense won’t consistently miss assignments and the overall team will play more aggressive, the Seminoles just need to get their act together in the first half of games. So, Earth to Florida State… Stop playing with fire!

Hail State or Roll Tide?

 

Now that there are no undefeated teams in the SEC, the battle to win the West has become even tighter. With Alabama knocking off number one ranked Mississippi State, it leaves both teams at the top of the SEC West standings with only one loss. Although there are many different scenarios as to what could happen, it looks as if Alabama and Mississippi State are fighting for a chance to represent the West in the SEC Championship.

There’s no question that Alabama is playing the best football in the country. After their 17-23 loss to Ole Miss in week five, Alabama seems to have worked out their kinks and are now playing the same smash mouth football that we are all used to seeing. The Crimson Tide battled their way back to an overtime win against LSU in Baton Rouge, now they’ve beaten a Mississippi State team that has been holding on to the number one spot for over half the season. Alabama has moved up to take the number one national ranking, and rightfully so. At the beginning of the season, many were skeptical about this year’s Alabama team. With a new quarterback and a new offensive coordinator, people weren’t too sure what the Tide was going to bring to the table. But when Bama started off rocky and lost to Ole Miss, everyone hopped off the Bama bandwagon. You started hearing people say that Alabama is going downhill and their best days are behind them, but now that Bama knocked off the number one team in the land and claimed the number one national ranking, everyone is jumping back on the wagon. Typical Alabama fans, right?

Although Alabama is playing great, I think people need to realize that this football season isn’t over. If there’s one thing we’ve learned from the past, it’s that the fate of the post season comes on the last week of the season, rivalry week. More teams have had their dreams of making it to the national championship torn apart by the hand of their most hated opponent. We all remember what happened last year when number one ranked Alabama fell to Auburn in one of the most dramatic finishes in history. With two minutes left in the ball game Auburn tied the game, 28-28. Alabama got the ball and drove down the field and attempted a 57 yard field goal with one second left on the clock, only to kick the ball short, allowing Auburn’s Chris Davis to catch the short kick and return it 109 yards for the winning touchdown. With the win over Bama and a little help from some other teams, Auburn won the SEC Championship and played for the national title. For the last five years the winner of the Iron Bowl has went on to play in the national championship, and let’s face it, when it comes to Alabama, history tends to repeat itself. So just like in years past, all eyes are on the Alabama and Auburn game to decide the fate of the SEC West.

Now many are already counting Mississippi State out of the picture. It’s as if their loss to Alabama removed them from contention. Dak Prescott throws three interceptions and now it’s like they don’t have a chance. I feel Mississippi State hasn’t gotten the credit they’ve deserved all season. Just look at who they’ve played. What people don’t seem to realize is that it’s almost impossible to go undefeated in the SEC. The strength of schedule is too tough to make it through the whole season without at least one loss. Many look at the better teams Mississippi State has played and think, “Well, they’ve all got three losses”, but what they don’t understand is those three loss SEC teams will definitely compete with any one loss team from the Big Ten or Pac Twelve. After all, the resume’ that the Bulldogs have doesn’t even compare to the teams Florida State has played, and still they are ranked ahead of Mississippi State. But all of that doesn’t matter, what does matter is what the rankings are going to be after the final week of the regular season.

In the midst of the talk about rankings and playoffs, the one thing Mississippi State has stayed focused on is winning the rest of their games. If they do that, then I believe they’re in the playoffs regardless of playing in the SEC title game or not. With that being, said the road to the playoffs for Mississippi State will go through Oxford, where Ole Miss will host Mississippi State for one of the most heated rivalry games in college football, the Egg Bowl. Ole Miss is having a great season of their own, with a dominating defense and an offense that can put up points quick. The Bulldogs will have their hands full this year as they try to win the matchup for a second straight year.

As both Alabama and Mississippi State are in control of their own destiny, can Bama win out to clinch a spot in the SEC Championship, or will the Iron Bowl claim another victim and send Mississippi State to represent the West…

Three Weeks Remain

With the newest set of rankings released today, it is easy for a lot of teams to panic and for a lot of teams to look ahead.

Alabama, Oregon, Florida State and Mississippi State consist of the newest Top 4 while TCU, Ohio State, Baylor and Ole Miss are the First 4 out.

However, three weeks remain and anything can happen. For all we know, all four of these teams can lose and all four of these teams could be one of the first 4 out any week, just as TCU went from number 4 last week to being the first team out this week.

Alabama was selected as the number 1 team for this week’s set of rankings after a huge win against Mississippi State in Tuscaloosa. The Crimson Tide sill have to play the SEC East champion, either Missouri or Georgia,  to finish out the season. In order to do so they need to win out, with home games against Western Carolina and an Iron Bowl rematch with last year’s loss to the Tigers still stinging the Crimson Tide.

Oregon has to play Colorado and then has a road game against Oregon State as well as a potential trip to the PAC 12 Championship game. The Ducks path is simple: Win and you’re in. Albeit that is the message for all the teams, but Oregon has a somewhat easy path until the conference championship game. Marcus Mariota has looked like a Heisman contender as of late and if he can continue they will make a deep run.

Florida State is at number 3 although they remain undefeated. The Seminoles clearly have the easiest path and schedule of all the teams fighting for the Playoff, so Winston and his crew just need to keep winning, regardless of how they get it done. Close game or not, an undefeated defending champion Florida State has to be in the playoff should they win out. The Seminoles toughest test is going to be the ACC championship game, where they will either play Georgia tech or Duke.

Nick Saban has his Crimson Tide in the first spot in the newest rankings.
Nick Saban has his Crimson Tide in the first spot in the newest rankings.

Mississippi State suffered their first loss of the season and slid to number 4, and they have a tough test in two weeks against Ole Miss. If they beat the Rebels and win out they will be tough to vote against for the Top 4 with their lone loss being to the Crimson Tide, in Tuscaloosa nonetheless.  Dak Prescott and his team have their hands full now.

The biggest question this week was who was going to be the first and the fourth team. We kind of figured it would be Oregon at number two especially after Florida State fell behind big again, just to come back and win in incredible fashion against Miami. Florida State finds ways to win and until they lose they should remain in the Top 4. The first team, however, was Alabama. The Crimson Tide’s only loss was to Ole Miss on the road. They defeated Mississippi State to give them their sole loss this year and they defeated the LSU Tigers in Death Valley in a hard-fought game.

Meanwhile, the first four teams out shouldn’t be a surprise to many. Mississippi State should be ahead of TCU, but should Ohio State be ahead of Baylor? Urban Meyer and the Buckeyes moved all the way up to 6 after an impressive win against Minnesota. Ohio State still has a tough match-up in the Big Ten championship game which would definitely help their case.

Remember, the criteria is focused on three key things: Strength of schedule, conference championships, and head-to-head match-ups. Ole Miss can help their case with a win to end the regular season against Mississippi State, and UCLA and Georgia shouldn’t be counted out either. If UCLA and Georgia run the table, win the conference championship game, they are just as much in the conversation as anybody.

Three weeks remain, and anything can happen.

SEC: Who Wants It?

SEC

 

Another college football season has lived up to the fun and crazy expectations highlighted with a pinch of criticism, a dash of chaos and a big bowl of excitement. However, these ingredients could either dissolve or overpower the dish in these remaining weeks of the regular season – starting in the SEC.

A little bit of chaos is usually not a bad thing in the conference and that is mostly expected with the talent and coaches this conference possesses, but I will be the first to admit that the overall expectation of the SEC faltered just a little bit in 2014 so far.

To go into detail, the East has been a disaster this season and the storm even trickled into out of conference play with Missouri’s loss to Indiana and Vanderbilt’s loss to Temple. Making the matters worse there hasn’t been much consistency in power with the media favorite South Carolina getting blown out at home by Texas A&M in the first week of the season, Missouri’s random loss to Indiana (many didn’t even know the two were playing until Mizzou lost), South Carolina’s expected “win the big ones lose the small ones” versus Georgia, and then Florida’s revolutionary (not really) win over Georgia with 418 rushing yards.

And yet we still have no idea who will be in Atlanta, but this weekend could clear the air for a better picture of who may reign “supreme”.

The West, on the other hand, followed the mold of recent years with highly competitive games with four to five contenders battling each weekend. One would think that breaking down the 2014 West division is less complicated and has a simpler method in configuring a winner, but weirdly enough there is still a chance for four teams to make a case and win the division.

 

SEC

This weekend is crucial for the SEC.

ESPN’s College Gameday is headed to Tuscaloosa for the marquee game of the week as the Bulldogs roll in to possibly blow their unblemished season or at least that is ALL I am hearing… Alabama’s season is on the line as well. An Alabama loss gives the Tide two losses and therefore playing for “just” state bragging rights on November 29th.

An Auburn-Georgia matchup has become more of a chippy rivalry as of late and has done away with the traditional friendly brother versus brother matchup with countless personal foul penalties, more fan disputes, and crazy and creative shenanigans. Why not add in that the loser is eliminated from SEC postseason play? What more emotions can come from that?

Remember this:

The crunch time moments are here and the special plays await us. Time to sit back and watch some fun SEC football games. Get ready.

FSU’s Season Far From Over

After knocking off every opponent that was deemed able to beat the Seminoles before the season started, most people believe that an undefeated season for the Noles is inevitable. While it is true that the opponents left on the Noles schedule are relatively weak, the Seminoles can’t afford to take their foot off of the gas pedal.

The Noles, in multiple games this season, have had some very poor starts to games, have allowed lesser teams to take games to the finish, and at times haven’t looked like a team that has beat Notre Dame, Clemson and Louisville.

If the Seminoles take an approach to these upcoming games in which they believe they will win no matter what, the Seminoles could be in trouble, especially with two in-state rivals remaining on their schedule.

The Seminoles remain unbeaten at 8-0, with only four games remaining, not including the ACC Championship. In the ACC Championship, it looks as if the Noles will play either Duke, or Georgia Tech, neither of which would be a statement win for the Seminoles.

Long story short, the Seminoles absolutely can’t lose.

At this point in the season, if the Seminoles were to lose, they would probably drop significantly due to their relatively weak schedule and wouldn’t have any games left on their schedule that could make them jump in the rankings. Of course, rivalry games against Miami and Florida mean a little bit more in terms of having a quality win, but no one looks at either team and considers them a particularly good team.

Consider Mississippi State’s position. They are also 8-0 and sit one spot ahead of the Noles at #1. However, Mississippi State has two top 12 teams remaining on their schedule, not including an SEC Championship. If they were to lose a game to a cupcake team or even against Alabama in two weeks, they would still have a couple of chances to make a statement and potentially stay amongst the top four teams.

Florida State doesn’t have that luxury. Florida State’s time to lose (if there ever is a time to lose) would have been at the beginning of the season in similar fashion to Oregon.

Oregon doesn’t have a particularly hard schedule either, but lost at the beginning of the season, and thus have had enough time to climb back into the top four.

Florida State needs to just win out, that’s all that they need to do. It doesn’t matter if they win each game by 1 point, they just need to win out and they are in the playoffs. I just hope that this team doesn’t consider their season over, because it’s not.

The Seminoles next game is this Saturday at 6:30 versus the Virginia Cavaliers.