Oct. 15, 2016
The Obstructed NCAA Top 5: Week 13
It's the end of the season my friend,
Yes, save for a few Big 12 games including the one that decides the conference and Sun Belt games, the 2016 college football regular season is over. We can probably say 7 teams are left in the running for the playoff. But it gets shaky there. What also is big news is that the coaching carousel has begun. LSU takes the interim tag off of Orgeron (thank God because he deserved it), Texas canned Strong and hired Tom Herman (which I have a feeling that might be an epic disaster by year 3 too) and rumors of PJ Fleck going to Purdue, Brian Kelly leaving Notre Dame, and Mark Helfrich getting canned by Oregon is running rampant.
And we'll get to that. But for now, here are is the top 5 for the final time in 2016.
TOP 5 WINNERS
1. THE BIG TEN: You have not one, two, three, but four teams finished at 10-2 (or better in Ohio State's case) and a 5th one at 9-3. And you had your two heavyweights go to double overtime today. Spare the questionable refereeing because Michigan had plenty of chances to win that today and blew it, but anyway, you have a Big Ten championship that doesn't involve neither Michigan or Ohio State, and Ohio State could end up being the first playoff team NOT to win a conference championship. It is possible and I hate to admit it, but they are one of the top 4 teams in the nation.
2. ALABAMA: Win or lose next week, many have penned Bama to go to the playoff. And they stoned Auburn on the ground and in the air. Had it not been for a few turnovers/big plays, Alabama could have shut out Auburn instead of kicking 4 FG's. Right now given how all the other teams have been this year, it is hard NOT to think Alabama won't repeat.
3. COLORADO: This was their big test game. Could they beat a legit team in Utah. And they succeeded. Now with the help of Virginia Tech next week and a win, it is very possible the Buffs sneak into the 4th spot in the playoff. And if anybody had Colorado still with a fighting chance to make the playoff before 2016 started, you're a giant liar.
4. WASHINGTON: Given how the Huskies had slipped a bit, they needed a decisive win at Washington State to really have a great chance at a playoff. And they did. Only blip right now though is there might be a question if they beat Colorado they didn't exact a measure of revenge on USC and if they did, the Huskies could have put out a Big Ten squad.
5. LSU: They did the smartest thing possible and kept Orgeron. Of course running up & down the field on the Aggies helped. Now it sounds like Orgeron will try to pluck his friend Lane Kiffin away from Alabama. Given how the Bama offense has been a tad stagnant the last two games, Alabama might be ready for Steve Sarkisian to take over.
TOP 5 LOSERS:
1. MICHIGAN: Fans and Harbaugh can scream all they want about the officiating, but the Wolverines had a 10 point lead in the 3rd quarter and choked it away. Dumb penalties, Harbaugh imploding on the sideline, and playing not to lose ended Michigan's chance for a championship. Sad too because until midway through the 4th quarter, they dominated that game. Don't lose the ball at the 1 yard line and this doesn't get talked about.
2. FLORIDA: Well, had the Gators did the unthinkable and beat the Noles and Alabama, they would have had a GREAT argument. But how the rest of the SEC (L)east was average, Florida won by default. The offense is beyond stagnant and while the defensive numbers look good, they are streaky at times. Getting slammed by Florida State is one thing, but going against the top defense in the nation is another. Good luck.
3. LOUISVILLE: 2 weeks ago we were screaming the Cardinals were probably the #2 ranked team behind Alabama and would have put up a dogfight with the Tide. And now you lose to Kentucky................at home. Lemme put it this way: Louisville lost to a team who lost to Bama by 24 earlier this year. And while I've ripped Sumlin for his 2nd half collapses, Todd Grantham gets the nod as the Kevin Sumlin half-season collapse coordinator of the year as Louisville forgot how to play defense. And now, a New Year's Six is probably out the window.
4. THE BEDLAM BOYS: With Ohio State, Penn State, Wisconsin, Utah, and Colorado winning, I don't see any viable path for Oklahoma or Oklahoma State to make it to the playoff. Ohio State by account of being 11-1 and beating the Sooners in Norman did that in and even if Alabama falls asleep next Saturday in Florida, it is hard to see either the Sooners or Cowboys jump ahead of them. The Nittany Lions and Badgers would hold the 13th game card over them as would Washington and Colorado.
5. TENNESSEE: Butch Jones proclaimed his team as the "Champions of Life" this week. Okay, great. But 8-4 after expecting to go 10-2 or 11-1, nobody in Knoxville gives a flip about that title. And you do have to think Butch leads the way of SEC coaches on the hot seat in 2017 (after this year, you might see 6 or 7 being gone if the SEC performs the way they were this year)
TOP 5 QUESTIONS NOBODY WANTS TO ASK:
1. Did Tom Herman mess himself up in the sense of how he handled things with LSU and Texas? Yes. I mentioned it before in my Orgeron post that Orgeron is a far better fit in LSU than Herman would have been. And it sounds like Herman wanted the money. Texas will give him every buck he wanted. But if he is a money coach, you do have to wonder if the Longhorns, despite all the talent Strong recruited, will take a step backwards. I'm not sure if Herman handled this right at all, with Houston, LSU or Texas. And also, Herman might recruit well in the Houston area, but can he do that for the entire state of Texas? Not sure.
2. With PJ Fleck rumored to go to Purdue and that was Les Miles spot to likely land, where are other places that Miles might end up? Not a clue at this point. I thought Miles to the Boilermakers was all but a done deal. He would be back in the Big Ten and playing a style that fits the conference. But while it is a rumor that Fleck is going to Purdue, nothing is set in stone. And honestly, in a mini-rant I am doing, but some of these "sources" need to shut up or at least not pick up from the major media outlets. Fleck still has to coach in the MAC Championship. At least give him a week to prepare and not deal with the nonsense. Anyways, back to my point, I think Miles will end up in a Purdue-like school, meaning a school where they have a supportive program, but not high expectations, so that will eliminate Oregon and Notre Dame. IF Texas A&M cans Sumlin and chases for either Larry Fedora or Dan Mullen, Miles could be either at Mississippi State or North Carolina.
3. How much is the SEC down? VERY down. The Big Ten is better and the ACC is probably better (at the very worst top-heavy). The SEC went 1-3 in their ACC rivalry games (Georgia Tech over Georgia, Florida State over Florida, and Clemson drubbing South Carolina while it was Louisville dropping it to Kentucky) and went 6-8 against power 5 teams this year. If Florida loses in the SEC Championship, every team in the SEC not named Alabama will have 4 or more losses. So what is the case? Poor coaching hires in Georgia, Missouri, and South Carolina right now, programs in disarray (LSU, Ole Miss Texas A&M), teams looking more for skill spots than line help (Auburn, Florida, Arkansas), and just some of the nonsense you see, celebrating with the fans even after blowout wins against crummy teams and it just seems the conference in a nutshell is too happy with themselves. Add in the fact the Big Ten is taking the SEC's old formula of winning trench battles and having coaches who can recruit like mad and now seeing that with the ACC, the SEC might be third of the power 5 teams. But it felt like the conference after Alabama was a house of cards since 2013.
4. Despite not even playing the Big Ten Championship, how certain are you Ohio State is in the playoff? Not 100% certain. In fact, I'd say 50/50. The selection committee wants those conference champions. It is really how the whole thing started to avoid the whole bit of what we saw in 2011 where LSU and Alabama faced off for the title. BUT....................I think they are the 2nd or 3rd best team in the nation. Do you put a team like Wisconsin who lost to Ohio State in Madison ahead of them with one extra loss? I wouldn't. But will it come down to conference titles? If that is the case, then Ohio State is out. And before we go well 1 loss beats two losses, last year's rankings for the playoff had Stanford actually AHEAD of Ohio State and Stanford had an extra loss but won the PAC-12 title whereas Ohio State didn't.
5. Can anybody give Alabama a run for the money the rest of the way? Definitely not Florida. I don't think Ohio State would be able to take down Bama given the offense has been stagnant at best. Wisconsin is a bit too one-dimensional and would have difficulty moving the ball. Penn State might hang for two quarters or three. I don't think Colorado or Washington puts a dent into Alabama. So the default method goes back to Clemson. But Clemson hasn't really played 4 quarters of football all season outside of Syracuse and South Carolina. If they pull that stunt in January against the Tide, then Alabama gets 5th title in 7 years.
That's it for this season. Will do a preview of the championship games later this week.
-Fan in the Obstructed Seat