Sunday, November 10, 2013

Eleven Weeks In

And then there were...
...three? four? how many undefeated teams are there again? and why was everyone hyperventilating to begin with?

Oregon lost on Thursday night, removing them from the ranks of the unbeaten and presumably from the ranks of national title contenders. That would seem to make the national title picture much clearer, but of course everyone has simply shifted to putting most of their what if focus on Ohio State -- and if/when those Buckeyes lose, or Alabama or Florida State loses, that focus will just get shifted to Baylor (unless they too lose by then, which the odds say they will).

Every single season, large swaths of the media and even larger swaths of America's fandom gets swept up wondering what will happen if X number of teams finish undefeated. The teams in question are always identified and just about everybody getting swept up is sure -- sure! -- that a surplus of teams will end the season without a loss and thus at least one of them will be screwed by those damn computers and goddamn pollsters. But their certainty is not backed up by facts, because it is exceedingly rare for more than two teams to end the season undefeated, especially if you eliminate minor conferences like the MAC and WAC from consideration. And only three of the last ten national champions had undefeated seasons.

All I am saying is this: Everyone stop yapping and stop counting unhatched chickens. Just enjoy the ride because it usually works itself out, and usually works itself out fairly. Which is, after all, the reason they play the games. And remember that I say this as someone whose alma mater (Auburn) can make a legitimate case for having been screwed by "the system" twice since I graduated (1993 and 2004) and once when I was in middle school (1983).

Speaking of Auburn
I gotta praise my team when they deserve it. Sure, this year's Tennessee squad is nowhere near as good as the ones that usually took the field when the Vols were coached by the likes of Neyland, Majors, and Fulmer. But when you throw only 7 passes and still score 55 points, that is freaking awesome even if Reggie White and Carl Pickens aren't lined up on the other side.

Throw in the fact that those 55 points are the most ever scored against the Vols in Knoxville...and that Auburn rolled up 444 yards rushing while its offensive line had zero holding penalties...and that Auburn's special teams accounted for 312 return yards and two touchdowns, one of which came on the school's longest punt return in 43 years...well, you gotta admit Saturday's win was a significant one for my Tigers!

Speaking of Baylor
Count me guilty. I am one of those who had the Bears highly ranked based on how the season was playing out, but who suspected they were not good enough to sustain their success through season's end. Interestingly, the main reason for my suspicion was that they were scoring so many points. When I see a team routinely put 60 to 70 points on the board, I instinctively believe they are one of those high-falutin' zipadee-doo-dah squads that performs well against weak competition but has no clue how to play defense and is sure to wilt as soon as they face an opponent who punches back.

Well, Baylor proved me wrong in their 41-12 pasting of Oklahoma. Their offense was inept for most of the first half and Oklahoma was in position to open a huge lead -- but Baylor's defense slammed the door on Oklahoma in masculine fashion, so that it was all she wrote when their offense finally started scoring.

That got me to looking at statistics, and I learned that Baylor is surrendering less than 16 points per game despite playing with the kind of huge leads that often result in opponents racking up garbage points late in games. Turns out we shouldn't have forgotten that defensive studs like Mike Singletary and Santana Dotson accounted for most of the school's noteworthy football products up until RGIII won the Heisman in 2011.

And without further ado... is the Stanton's Space Top Twenty:

1.    Alabama
2.    Florida State
3.    Ohio State
4.    Baylor
5.    Stanford
6.    Auburn
7.    Missouri
8.    Oregon
9.    UCLA
10.  Clemson
11.  South Carolina
12.  Wisconsin
13.  Oklahoma State
14.  LSU
15.  Texas A&M
16.  Central Florida
17.  Northern Illinois
18.  Ole Miss
19.  Louisville
20.  Georgia

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