Sunday, November 24, 2013

Thirteen Weeks In

And then there were...
...three. And I will repeat what I said two weeks ago: There was never any logic behind everyone hyperventilating about what if X, Y, and Z all finish undefeated? Because it almost never ends that way after a season plays out.

Baylor's loss to Oklahoma State last night was very predictable, even if the 32-point margin of defeat was not.

There is a strong chance Ohio State will lose to Michigan State in the Big Ten Championship Game, and in fact, I expect them to.

Alabama should win their final two against Auburn and then against either Missouri or South Carolina in the SEC Championship Game, but it will not be a huge surprise if they don't. After all, much bigger upsets have occurred in the Iron Bowl than would be the case if Auburn prevails on Saturday (see 12/2/89 for an example), and right now Missouri is playing like a team of destiny.

I think there is a much bigger chance that only one of today's three unbeaten teams will still be unbeaten two weeks from today, than there is of all of them remaining unbeaten.

And yes...
...I know there are two other undefeated teams out there, but Northern Illinois and Fresno State don't belong in the conversation about who might get undeservedly locked out of the national championship game.

NIU is very strong and very deserving of their spot in the national rankings, but they would have at least three losses if they played in the SEC or Pac-12. The same would probably be true if they were in the Big 12 or Big Ten, and there are even odds it would be true if they were in the ACC.

I suspect that Fresno State would be hovering around .500 if they played in any of the top four power conferences. They are definitely exciting to watch, and I give them credit for standing out from their competition and improving throughout the season, but I don't think they belong in the Top Twenty-five, much less the Top Two.

Famous Jameis
I have not been wanting to touch the story about Jameis Winston being accused of rape, because 1) based on what we know, it is a he said-she said, and 2) when it first broke, there were enough head-scratching elements to it that it felt like opining would be a disservice to the truth. However, given the way the allegations broadened and the tenor intensified last week, not mentioning it would make anyone talking about college football look like an ostrich.

I mention the story now for two reasons, the first of which is to point out that the whole hullabaloo over the time lapse and the email from the city manager do nothing to change the fact that it is a he said-she said. The other reason is to refer you to this story. It casts Winston as innocent and his accuser in a bad light, and I am aware that linking to it runs counter to my desire to remain neutral. But it raises a possibility that no one in the national press has raised, and my gut tells me it is probably accurate. If it is not, I will be the first to openly apologize for giving it credence.

How the mighty fall
Every college football season features some teams that surprise the nation by far exceeding expectations, plus some that surprise it by falling far short of expectations. This season the Florida Gators are easily the winner (which is to say, loser) in the latter category. Their fall from last year's Sugar Bowl campaign and 11-1 regular season has been so precipitous, their implosion so dreadful, that even avowed "Gator Haters" such as myself stopped experiencing schadenfreude a few weeks ago.

Yesterday's loss to Division I-AA Georgia Southern was not merely a low point, but an unthinkable one. GSU is no run of the mill I-AA program, having won six national championships in the last 28 years, but they entered yesterday's game with four losses and 19 players out with injury. Since Florida had only nine players out with injury (from a roster that had 22 more scholarship players to begin with), the "depleted by injuries" excuse some have used to justify earlier Florida losses will not even begin to fly any more.

The Eagles ran for more yards than anyone has managed against Florida in 18 years. They beat them despite not completing a single pass, and despite missing two extra points in a close game. The Swamp -- once one of the most feared places in America for a visiting team to play -- seemed no more intimidating than a high school stadium. The players sounded lifeless in their post-game comments, and Will Muschamp sounded clueless about how to correct course. That vote of confidence he received from the AD and university president a few days before the game has surely been revoked in its wake.

Outstanding Players Who Lack Publicity
Most years, Auburn RB Tre Mason would be getting some mention as a Heisman contender. He leads the SEC in rushing with 1,153 yards. He has 17 touchdowns and is averaging 5.5 yards per carry. His team is  in the Top Five, and could win the nation's toughest conference, and has already pulled off what is arguably the biggest one-year turnaround in the history of the sport, having gone from a pathetic 3-9 campaign last year (when there was only one game in which they scored 20 points) to a 10-win campaign this year during which they have averaged exactly 39 per game.

But of course I am biased, so I will also point out Boston College RB Andre Williams. With a game still left to play, he has already surpassed 2,000 yards rushing. Getting to that number is a rarity and there was a time when it equaled automatic Heisman. It is an absolute shame that Williams never gets mentioned and his highlights never get played on national shows.

Offensive linemen never get publicity, but they should. Football is always won at the point of attack, because if there is no blocking it simply doesn't matter how good the running backs and quarterbacks and receivers are. And Missouri's Max Copeland is everything you should love in a lineman. The Montana native is big (6'3", 300 pounds) and nimble all at once. He sports a lumberjack's beard and radical's long hair. He blows his foes off the line with authority while opening holes for the running game, and he pushes away any opposing defender who dares to try to get to his quarterback. Failing to appreciate him would be un-American.

And without further ado... is the Stanton's Space Top Twenty based on what has happened this season:

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

No comments: