Every week I’m going to begin the Starting 11 with my four playoff teams if I were sitting on the committee and trying to pick the four best teams in college football at this exact moment.
So right now here’s how I would seed the four top teams:
First team left out: Penn State
All season long, the Starting 11 is brought to you by Krystal. Grab a sackful of hot-off-the-grill Krystal burgers for only 79 cents, all day, every day. Krystal also knows every tailgate needs wings, and they got you covered there too. Every Saturday and Sunday, all wings – boneless or traditional – are 49 cents. Krystal is hooking up the Outkick family this football season – text OUTKICK to ‘37793’ right now for some free Krystals and a Coke.
Okay, on to the Starting 11.
1. Baker Mayfield was extraordinary and J.T. Barrett was average at best.
Mayfield carried Oklahoma to a massive road win over Ohio State and J.T. Barrett was simply average. In fact, I think you can make a decent argument that J.T. Barrett is the single most overrated quarterback in college football history. Yes, he’s won a ton of football games and racked up a bevy of offensive stats, but I think that’s more a function of Ohio State’s overall talent and Urban Meyer’s great coaching than it is Barrett’s signal calling skills.
Put simply, Barrett can’t throw the ball down the field with consistent accuracy. And good teams have realized that. They now commit all of their defenders to holding him in check running the football and force him to beat them with his arm. And he can’t do it.
Consider: in last night’s game Baker Mayfield was 27-35 for 386 yards passing and three touchdowns while J.T. Barrett was 19-35 for 183 yards and an interception. And many of those Ohio State passing yards came after Oklahoma had ended this game.
And that was your game. If you flip quarterbacks Ohio State wins by three touchdowns.
I didn’t pick Ohio State to win the Big Ten and advance to the playoff because of J.T. Barrett. The Buckeye schedule still isn’t that tough and Ohio State is immensely talented at other positions, but ultimately the outcome was as simple as it can possibly be — Oklahoma had a top quarterback playing a fabulous game and Ohio State had an average quarterback playing an average game.
And, no, I don’t have an issue with Baker Mayfield stabbing the Oklahoma flag at midfield after the game. If you don’t want that to happen then stop him on the field.
2. College football has to do something about poor scheduling.
There is absolutely no excuse for why Auburn at Clemson, Oklahoma at Ohio State, Georgia at Notre Dame and Stanford at USC should have all kicked off at roughly the same time after a bad slate of early games all day Saturday.
I would have watched all four of these games in their entirety if they’d been slotted better.
Why couldn’t we have started one game at noon eastern, another at 3:30 eastern, a third at 6:30 eastern and a fourth at nine eastern?
Pretend I was the scheduling czar and I put Georgia-Notre Dame at noon eastern, Auburn at Clemson at 3:30 eastern, Oklahoma at Ohio State at 6:00 eastern and Stanford at USC at 9 eastern, tell me why that wouldn’t have been doable and infinitely preferred to the way the schedule went on Saturday.
As is you have three different companies — ESPN/ABC, Fox, and NBC all trying to take advantage of the primetime window to maximize their audience even though the product as a whole was hurt. This decision’s especially galling with ESPN/ABC which put its two best games on at the same time on two different channels.
I don’t know what the solution is because there is no scheduling czar and each league has its own TV contract with at least three different major companies, but days like today shouldn’t happen. No other sport in America would put its four top games all on at the exact same time after a full day of mediocre games.
3. Let’s talk about the playoff picture.
I know it’s only week two, but already the playoff picture is rounding into early shape.
Alabama and USC will both be favored in every game for the rest of the year. That certainly doesn’t mean these teams will win every game, but given that they probably only have to each go 12-1 to advance to the playoff it certainly gives each team a mulligan on the rest of the season.
Oklahoma will be favored in every game with the possible exception of the game at Oklahoma State and Clemson may well be favored in every game although I think this weekend’s game at Louisville may end up close to a pick’em or Louisville may be favored by a point or two.
Meanwhile, the Big Ten is already a bit of a mess.
I picked Wisconsin to win the Big Ten because their Big Ten West schedule is so much easier than everyone else.
So which team is the best in the Big Ten East? Right now I’d vote that Penn State has looked the best of all and certainly the Nittany Lions have the best quarterback of these three teams.
You want to know a messy situation? What if we end up with another three way tie between Ohio State, Michigan, and Penn State? Ohio State wins out — including a revenge win over Penn State — but loses to Michigan on the final week of the season. Michigan wins out, but loses at Penn State.
Who goes to the Big Ten title game then?
I think it would go to tiebreak 5 and would be determined based on non-divisional opponent records.
So that’s a mess, but here’s the messiest situation of all, what if Ohio State wins out but for a loss to Michigan and Michigan ends up losing two games — at Penn State and at Wisconsin. Meanwhile Penn State wins out but for a loss at Ohio State.
Then Ohio State would win the tiebreak over Penn State and would go to the Big Ten title game with two losses to Penn State’s one. And if Ohio State won the conference with a 11-2 record, they’d probably go to the playoff over 11-1 Penn State, right? So Penn State would get left out again despite having one less loss than Ohio State this year. Basically Penn State would be trying to do everything possible to get screwed by Ohio State.
4. USC served notice they are the class of the Pac 12.
That was a dominant performance over Stanford. The Trojans racked up over 600 yards of offense, showed off two stud running backs behind maybe the best quarterback in college football — although Lamar Jackson and Baker Mayfield both have a strong claim for that title as well — and trounced a team that had physically dominated them for three straight years.
Right now USC has just one top 25 team left on its schedule, at Washington State on a Friday in Pullman.
That game has landmine written all over it, but, again, USC doesn’t have to be perfect, 12-1 gets them into the playoff.
Win that game in Pullman and I just don’t see USC losing in the regular season.
5. Georgia and Kirby Smart with a massive road win for the young Bulldog program.
Look, I know Notre Dame is perpetually overrated and isn’t a great team, but for Georgia to take a true freshman quarterback on the road to South Bend, fill the football stadium with Bulldog fans, and gut out a road victory was massive on all fronts.
I don’t know how good Georgia is, but I do know they should be 4-0 when they head to Knoxville on the final Saturday of September.
If Georgia can split the at Tennessee and at Auburn games and beat Florida, the Bulldogs should win the SEC East in Kirby Smart’s second year.
So that’s great for Georgia, but what does Notre Dame do? The Irish schedule isn’t that tough so 8-4 is probably still doable, but is that good enough to come back for another year with Brian Kelly? Will anyone at Notre Dame be fired up for 2018 with an 8-4 season featuring losses to Georgia, USC, Stanford and Miami?
6. Are Lamar Jackson and Louisville for real?
As much fun as I have watching Lamar Jackson run up massive numbers, 2017 looks eerily similar to the start of last season, when Louisville was unstoppable.
My problem with Lamar and Louisville so far? Eventually Louisville got exposed as the season continued. The Cardinals were awful against Houston, Kentucky and LSU to finish off last season.
Through two games this Louisville team looks good enough to go 12-0 and win the ACC.
I’m even picking them to win this coming weekend against Clemson.
But I’d be lying if I said that I wasn’t still nervous over last season’s collapse.
7. South Carolina with a big win over Mizzou and look out for Vanderbilt.
The biggest surprises so far in the SEC have been South Carolina and Vanderbilt.
Will Muschamp’s team has won a neutral game and a road conference game and there is a pretty decent chance that South Carolina is 5-1 or better, yes, 6-0 is even possible, when the Gamecocks head to Knoxville in mid-October. Given the over/under in wins for the Gamecocks was 5.5 that’s a hell of a start to the season.
Meanwhile Vanderbilt has yet to give up a touchdown through two games and boasts a quarterback in Kyle Shurmur who has been virtually perfect through two games, tossing seven touchdowns and no interceptions.
Vanderbilt’s always had a good defense under Derek Mason, but if their offense is now going to be good too, look out, the Commodores could make a run at eight wins if the season breaks right for them. Vandy has four straight games against top 25 opponents starting this weekend: Kansas State, Alabama, at Florida and Georgia. Three of those games are at home, but it still seems unlikely the Dores can go better than 1-3 in these four. But the final five games of the season are all very winnable.
I’ve been critical of Derek Mason, but he deserves props so far — his team is the best since James Franklin prowled the West End sidelines.
8. Texas A&M and Arkansas are set up for a massive game in Jerry World in two weeks.
The Aggies sleep walked through a performance against Nichols State a week after blowing a 34 point second half lead against UCLA.
As if that wasn’t enough, there was also an alleged racist letter mailed to Kevin Sumlin’s home. Sumlin responded to the racist letter his family received as follows:
“I get criticism, which is part of the job. I get suggestions, and that’s part of the job. In this situation, for that to come to my home and for her to open it and read that, that is completely different. My wife and kids have never called a play. My wife and kids have never done anything football-wise that led to us losing a game or winning a game.
The racial [aspect] is one part of it, but the open-ended threat at the end, [sent] to my house…I’ve got to draw the line there.”
Props to Sumlin for handling this about as well as you could.
As I said on Friday, a threat arriving at your home is unacceptable and the sender should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.
Having said that, in the wake of A&M’s loss at UCLA and Arkansas’s disastrous performance against TCU, it’s not too early to call this one a must win game for both coaches.
Arkansas looked atrocious in getting dominated at home by TCU and A&M absolutely has to have this game as well. Is it too early to call it a losing coach goes home game? Maybe. Especially for Bielema. Because if Bielema falls to 1-2 then it’s hard to see Arkansas going much better than 4-8 or 5-7 in his fifth year.
While everyone has focused on Sumlin’s job status, there’s no comparison between the success levels here. Sumlin has gone 45-22 and 21-19 in the SEC while Beliema has gone 26-27 and 10-22 in the SEC.
If Sumlin’s on the hot seat shouldn’t Bielema be sitting on an actual burning fire?
9. As bad as your team may have played, at least they didn’t face a 3rd and 93.
Unless, that is, you’re a Louisiana Tech fan.
3rd and 93 is laugh out loud funny pic.twitter.com/cmHThnyDPR
— Marina Molnar (@mkmolnar) September 10, 2017
I would have given anything to be calling this game and deadpanned, “Not a whole lot of plays in the playbook for 3rd and 93.
10. My Heisman top 5:
1. Baker Mayfield
2. Lamar Jackson
3. Sam Darnold
4. Josh Rosen
5. Mason Rudolph
11. SEC power rankings 1-14 presented by Krystal.
All season long, the SEC power rankings are brought to you by Krystal. Grab a sackful of hot-off-the-grill Krystal burgers for only 79 cents, all day, every day. Krystal also knows every tailgate needs wings, and they got you covered there too. Every Saturday and Sunday, all wings – boneless or traditional – are 49 cents. Krystal is hooking up the Outkick family this football season – text OUTKICK to ‘37793’ right now for some free Krystals and a Coke.
My SEC power rankings are based entirely on the games that have been actually played, not on who I think is better. Again, these are based on actual games played.
2. South Carolina
8. Mississippi State
10. Texas A&M
11. Ole Miss