Conference Wars 1.6

Submitted by Alex Cook on October 16th, 2015 at 2:49 PM

If you're looking for the MSU preview, scroll down or click here.

Last week was busy, so I’ll wrap in the results from the past two weeks into one column. Hard to believe that many teams have already played half their games, but time flies when you’re having fun.

alabama georgia


In the last two weeks:

  • Florida pulled off a signature home upset win over Ole Miss – not only did the Gators notch a win over a top 5 opponent, it was a commanding victory devoid of much suspense: UF led 25-0 at halftime and the rest of the game was effectively garbage time.
  • They also managed to avoid a letdown the next week on the road against Missouri and now hold a two-game lead over the rest of the SEC East. Unfortunately their starting quarterback was suspended for a year by the NCAA and they have to go to Death Valley to face LSU this weekend.
  • Meanwhile Georgia, the pre-season favorite in the SEC East, has had a disappointing past two weeks: the Dawgs welcomed Alabama to Athens for the first time since the now-infamous blackout game and, once again, were overly gracious hosts as the Tide dominated in a 38-10 win.
  • Alabama notched a generally non-descript win over Arkansas – even after the win over Tennessee, the Razorbacks have four losses already with trips to Ole Miss and LSU coming in November, it’s hard to see a path to a better season than last, which isn’t ideal in what was supposed to be a breakout year.
  • Georgia followed their big loss to Bama with a trip to Tennessee (who were coming off a tough loss to Arkansas themselves) and the Vols flipped the script – instead of suffering a brutal comeback defeat, UT responded to an early deficit and won due to their best offensive performance this season – Josh Dobbs, Tennessee’s QB, was seriously unleashed in the running game for the first time.
  • In a game that sort of flew under the national radar two weeks ago, Texas A&M defeated Mississippi State to remain undefeated – the Aggies are surprisingly 3-0 in conference play (the only other undefeated SEC West team is LSU) and the John Chavis hire looks like one of the best off-season coaching moves in the league this past spring.
  • Steve Spurrier retired – truly one of college football’s most iconic coaches. We’re gonna miss him.

[Hit the JUMP for more on the CFB landscape]

stanford ucla


In the last two weeks:

  • Predictably, UCLA’s injuries on defense caught up with them in a 38-23 home loss to Arizona State. For the first time all season, the Sun Devils showed why they were considered a top 25 team; conversely, the Bruins suffered the unexpected and decisive home loss that’s now become somewhat normal for the Jim Mora regime.
  • Last night, any lingering playoff hopes were effectively eliminated in a blowout loss to Stanford. Christian McCaffery ran the ball 25 times at almost ten yards per carry and scored four touchdowns for the Cardinal offense, who scored 56 points and have looked completely different from the lackadaisical unit that was shut down by Northwestern.
  • Like their cross-town rivals, USC has faced some serious adversity of their own: the Trojans were upset by Washington at home in a 17-12 slog eerily reminiscent of the ugly loss to Washington State that doomed the Lane Kiffin era. In a much bigger story, USC allowed Steve Sarkisian, who’s battling alcoholism, to take a leave of absence before firing him within a week. Best wishes to Coach Sark in his recovery.
  • Stanford’s primary competition in the Pac-12 North looks to be Cal, who had an eventful past two weeks: the Bears won a hard-fought (and surprisingly low-scoring) game at home against Washington State in a tune-up for the much-hyped showdown in Salt Lake City against Utah.
  • If the Utes are presumed to be a legitimate playoff contender – which their resume would suggest, though the computer metrics may disagree – they need to take advantage of the type of mistakes Cal made (5 INT from Jared Goff) and win close games, though it might be concerning that a home game from such an error-prone opponent wound up being a one-score game.
  • In a sign of the Oregon football program’s presumed demise, the Ducks suffered an unthinkable home loss to Washington State and are pretty much out of the division race halfway through the season. The dominant UO teams of years past feel like a distant memory when juxtaposed with the current iteration, which has greatly disappointed relative to expectation.

charlie strong texas

Big 12

In the last two weeks:

  • It’s been a very rough year thus far for Texas – blowout losses to TCU and Notre Dame, special teams costing wins against Oklahoma State and Cal, the turmoil of an AD search, etc. – but a win over Oklahoma should buy Charlie Strong some goodwill moving forward. As for the Sooners, it was one of the worst losses in the Stoops era – a sure signal that any playoff talk for the Sooners was misguided.
  • Kansas State has faced incredibly bad injury luck at the quarterback position, but still took TCU to the ropes in Manhattan before allowing a late Boykin-to-Doctson touchdown that proved to be the final margin in a 52-45 shootout. The Frogs are clearly not a playoff caliber team right now – they’ve also conceded 52 points to Texas Tech and 37 to SMU – but they still have a month before more serious tests in conference play.
  • The week before that devastating home loss to TCU, Kansas State suffered a road defeat at the hands of Oklahoma State, who’s still quietly undefeated, if untested. KSU had a 94-yard scoring drive in the fourth quarter to go up a point before losing on a field goal in the last minute. It’s unbelievable that Bill Snyder can keep the Wildcats competitive with all the QB injuries, but they have been really luckless this year.
  • Oklahoma State followed that narrow win with another, going on the road to beat West Virginia in overtime, 33-26. The Cowboys have been juggling quarterbacks all season, but it’s worked: they decided to go for it on fourth-and-goal from the two on the first overtime possession and had backup QB J.W. Walsh carry the ball off-tackle for the game-winning touchdown.
  • It’s been a disappointing downturn for West Virginia, who, after a fast start to the season, have now lost consecutive games to each of the Oklahoma schools: the week before the OSU loss, the Mountaineers went to Norman and lost to OU – it was easily the best performance that the Sooners had put forth all year, which makes the Red River Rivalry loss to Texas all the more inexplicable.



Big Ten

In the last two weeks:

  • The biggest story is Michigan’s commanding shutout win over Northwestern in the first matchup between two ranked Big Ten foes. There’s really no telling exactly how good the Wolverines really are (though we’ll get another data point this weekend) but that there seems to be a glass ceiling on this team’s potential is equally awesome and lowkey nerve-wracking. Northwestern’s not an elite team by any measure, but they’re a solid Top 25 team and crushing them so thoroughly definitely raised a lot of eyebrows.
  • As well as Michigan’s looked heading into the colossal showdown against Michigan State, the Spartans have looked about as bad as they possibly could without actually losing a game. First it was the narrow home win over Purdue after blowing a huge lead, then it was an unexpected dogfight against Rutgers. Ttwo one-score wins over two of the Big Ten’s lowliest teams doesn’t engender much confidence.
  • Ohio State hasn’t exactly been setting the world on fire in Big Ten play either: the Buckeyes escaped with a win over an Indiana team that saw its starting QB and RB go down to injury and OSU let Maryland – who’d just been shutout at home by Michigan – hang around for about a half before turning on the jets.
  • It’s been a rough season in Lincoln, and Nebraska suffered its third and fourth heartbreaking losses of the season in the past two weeks: first, they inexplicably threw an incomplete pass that led to enough time on the clock for a game-winning touchdown drive by Illinois, then they failed to convert a first down that would have ended the game against Wisconsin before conceding a last-second, game-winning field goal.
  • Iowa’s now the front-runner for the Big Ten West: in consecutive weeks, they’ve beaten Wisconsin and Illinois; the Hawkeyes are dealing with some injuries and might be the country’s least impressive undefeated team, but they’ve definitely exceeded expectations and can put themselves into a sizable lead for the division with a win over Northwestern this weekend.



In the last two weeks:

  • Despite allowing a furious comeback from Notre Dame late in the game, Clemson managed to hang on after recovering an onside kick. They followed that up with a comfortable win over Georgia Tech. This is likely Dabo Swinney’s best team at Clemson; the Tigers have a plethora of talent surrounding sophomore star QB Deshaun Watson and a relatively easy schedule from here on out.
  • Their main competition – and the only other undefeated team in the ACC – is Florida State, who hasn’t been talked about much despite not having lost a regular season game in two and a half years. They’ve been plenty non-descript so far this season, as evidenced by unimpressive wins over Wake Forest and Miami in the past two weeks, but the game against Clemson will likely be a de facto bid to the ACC Championship game.
  • Wake Forest beat Boston College 3-0 in a real live football game that was somehow more beautiful and horrible than the final score suggests.
  • Pittsburgh is out to a 2-0 start to conference play in its first year under Pat Narduzzi, though narrow wins over Virginia and Virginia Tech aren’t exactly the type of impressive wins befitting a conference title contender; similarly, Duke and North Carolina are undefeated in the ACC Coastal, but without marquee wins.

Top Games of the Week

In chronological order:

  • Iowa @ Northwestern, 12, ABC
  • Ole Miss @ Memphis, 12, ESPN2
  • Alabama @ Texas A&M, 3:30, CBS
  • Michigan State @ Michigan, 3:30, ESPN
  • Oklahoma @ Kansas State, 3:30, ABC
  • Florida @ LSU, 7, ESPN
  • USC @ Notre Dame, 7:30, NBC
  • Arizona State @ Utah, 10, ESPN


Wolverine In Exile

October 16th, 2015 at 3:02 PM ^

* If Utah & Stanford continue, the Pac-12 CG will be a playoff play-in game

* As long as MSU/OSU/Michigan don't shit the bed, a 0 or 1 loss B1G champ is in the playoff

* Baylor / TCU will probably be a play-in game as long as the winner doesn't gack a game like last year

* This means that we are left with a real probability that with Operation: SECCHAOS in full effect, a 2-loss (or even 1-loss???) SEC champion is well within possibility and will not get in the playoff if the ACC produces an undefeated champ in Florida St or Clemson.

Please dear God be true.


October 16th, 2015 at 5:52 PM ^

are essentially their season, since they'd clinch the east with a win in either week. Interestingly, both they and Georgia complete their conference schedule on Nov. 14. Georgia, if they win out in conference (not crazy as the other big game would be Auburn) and Florida loses Saturday, could still win the division.

One other point on Stanford, the game before ND would be Cal, who'll probably still be a top 25 team by that point

MI Expat NY

October 16th, 2015 at 3:15 PM ^

Wouldn't an undefeated Clemson (or Florida State, for that matter) stand a pretty good shot at nudging out a 1-loss Big Ten or Pac 12 champ?  I don't believe a 1-loss SEC champ from the west gets left out, absent four undefeated P5 conference champions.  

A 2-loss SEC champ, you're right, they'll need some other chaos to find their way in.  But how do A&M, LSU and Alabama all get to two loses?  I feel one of them has to slide through the weaker than expected SEC west with only one loss on the season.  


October 16th, 2015 at 5:23 PM ^

They all still have to play each other so there's 3 losses that will get spread around.  LSU and A&M still have Ole Miss.  Florida's had a darn good defense the last few years and this year is no diffrent.  LSU's offense isn't very dynamic.  Even with the back up QB, I think Florida gives LSU a very good game tomorrow.



October 16th, 2015 at 3:26 PM ^

There's a very real possibility that each Power Five conference champ will have a legit argument for a playoff birth.  Throw in ND maybe too (gawd).  Time to start arguing for more games!!!

Assuming UM wins out, there's a good chance it gets snubbed.  Utah needs to continue winning and an undefeated Iowa in the championship game would be nice too.  FWIW I think an undefeated OSU or MSU would be a shoo-in for a playoff spot.


October 16th, 2015 at 4:02 PM ^

If UM goes 12-1, I don't think there's any way they're out.  First, that assumption means UM's last 2 games are a win over OSU (which could be on a 24(25?)-game winnning streak by that point,  and a win in the conference championship game.  At that point, the narrative would be that the lone loss was "in the first game of the season, the first game Harbaugh ever coached at UM, that game would be different if it was played today...." and so on.  Unless the PAC12 champ, ACC champ, and Big12 champ are all undefeated, Michigan gets in.


October 16th, 2015 at 3:07 PM ^

... on local sports talk radio I listened to the first questioning of Rodriguez I've heard since he arrived.  Not "fire the bum" talk, just some serious questioning about why the team has some of the shortcomings it has this deep (4th year) into the Rodriguez tenure.

I simply report what I heard.  I offer no commentary other than what I heard.


October 16th, 2015 at 4:58 PM ^

Duke is legit. Their only loss is to Northwestern and they impressively shut down Georgia Tech's triple option. They're going to win the Coastal again and challenge Clemson/FSU in the Championship game. I really like that defense and Jeremy Cash is a monster.

Sent from MGoBlog HD for iPhone & iPad


October 17th, 2015 at 3:18 AM ^

* If Utah & Stanford continue, the Pac-12 CG will be a playoff play-in game

* As long as MSU/OSU/Michigan don't shit the bed, a 0 or 1 loss B1G champ is in the playoff

* Baylor / TCU will probably be a play-in game as long as the winner doesn't gack a game like last year

* This means that we are left with a real probability that with Operation: SECCHAOS in full effect, a 2-loss (or even 1-loss???) SEC champion is well within possibility and will not get in the playoff if the ACC produces an undefeated champ in Florida St or Clemson.

Please dear God be true.

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