Starting 11: LSU Finally Beats Bama Edition

What. A. Day.

It’s after midnight in my Birmingham-area hotel room and I should be asleep, but I’m so fired up after an incredible day of college football that I can’t even go to sleep so I’m going to write the Starting 11 now.

My nine year old is asleep in bed beside me, but we had an absolutely phenomenal day in Tuscaloosa for LSU-Alabama. I mean, the weather was perfect, the game was incredible, all of you we met, both LSU and Bama fans, were incredibly kind to my son and me. Seriously, it was an absolutely perfect day of college football.

Now let’s dive into the nitty gritty of what we learned.

Because the playoff race has suddenly gotten really fascinating.

1. What an incredible win for LSU.  

I have watched college football my entire life and I’ve never seen a better quarterback performance than what I saw from Joe Burrow today, particularly in the first half.

He was absolutely scintillating.

Barring two losses in their final four games LSU punched its ticket to the college football playoff.

The Tigers finish with at Ole Miss, Arkansas and Texas A&M.

As long as they don’t go 1-2 or worse they will play Georgia in the SEC title game.

Beat Ole Miss, Arkansas and Texas A&M and the SEC title game won’t even matter for LSU, it will just be about playoff seeding.

I don’t know that I’ve ever been more wrong than about the hiring of Ed Orgeron at LSU. I never believed the day would come when he would beat Alabama.

I was wrong.

So he deserves every second of this locker room celebration, even though I’m sure LSU isn’t happy this got out. Teams are going to have to start confiscating cell phones before these locker room speeches go viral.

But even Alabama fans have to respect this good old fashioned hate.

I love it and I love Coach O.

He’s truly great for college football.

2. Alabama isn’t dead in the playoff, far from it. 

Here are your 11 playoff contenders: LSU, Ohio State, Clemson, 12-1 SEC champ Georgia, 11-1 Alabama, 13-0 or 12-1 Big 12 champ Baylor, 12-1 Big 12 champ Oklahoma, 12-1 Pac 12 champ Oregon, 12-1 Pac 12 champ Utah, 12-1 Big Ten champ Penn State, and 13-0 or 12-1 Big Ten champ Minnesota.

This means there are 11 teams alive for four playoff spots as we come down the final four weeks of the college football season.

Now many of these teams will play each other and the number of contenders will dwindle, but right now these are all the title contenders left.

Go ahead and start your arguments.

I’ll rank these teams a little bit later below.

3. The Big Ten still has three teams alive for the playoff after Minnesota’s win over Penn State. 

Believe it or not Penn State’s loss to Minnesota really isn’t even that impactful to the Nittany Lions Big Ten title chances.

Why not?

Because whether Penn State beat Minnesota or not their Big Ten title quest was still going to come down to what happened on the road against Ohio State.

Win that game — as well as beating Indiana and Rutgers — and even with the loss to Minnesota Penn State wins the Big Ten East and will play for the Big Ten title.

As for Ohio State, the end of the year game against Michigan looks like it probably won’t matter that much. Beat Rutgers and Penn State the next two weeks and the Big Ten East is clinched even before the Michigan game is played. Then what happens in that game won’t matter so long as Ohio State wins the Big Ten title the next week.

As for Minnesota, the Golden Gophers got a massive win, their first over a top five team since 1999, and inched closer to clinching the Big Ten West. If Minnesota beats either Iowa or Wisconsin — and avoids choking at Northwestern — then the Golden Gophers will be in Indianapolis playing for the Big Ten title.

What an incredible run for P.J. Fleck.

Row the damn boat, indeed!

4. Clemson continues to round into form as they play the longest preseason schedule in football history. 

This week’s beat down was delivered to N.C. State.

But the Tigers have no margin for error since they will have not played a single top 25 team when the college football playoff committee’s rankings come out next week.

Clemson’s final two regular season opponents are Wake Forest and at South Carolina.

Then it looks like Clemson would play Virginia in the ACC title game.

5. Oregon and Utah continue to root for each other to win every game and set up a Pac 12 title game between two 11-1 teams. 

But here’s the deal — how could the college football playoff committee put Oregon in the playoff over 11-1 Alabama if the Tide beats Auburn to end the season and Oregon couldn’t beat Auburn?

Oregon needs for Auburn to beat Georgia and Alabama and completely clean up the SEC’s one loss teams.

Otherwise I think that Auburn loss is going to be a strong weight on the Ducks playoff chances.

Put it this way, how can the playoff committee justify putting an Oregon team in the playoff if they couldn’t beat an 8-4 SEC team and the team they are being compared against, Alabama, could?

As for Utah, I just don’t see the wins right now that make me believe the Utes are anywhere near the team Alabama is.

Remember, the Tide will be judged for losing to the number one team in the country by five points. It’s pretty much impossible to have a better loss than this.

6. Oklahoma and Baylor both survived in the Big 12.

The two teams play this upcoming weekend, potentially before they play again in the Big 12 title game at the end of the year.

But does anyone really think either of these teams are the nation’s fourth best team?

I’m not sure either of these teams is worthy of being ranked in the top ten, honestly.

I think the Big 12 is well behind the Pac 12, the SEC, and the Big Ten right now in terms of conference strength and barring Baylor going 13-0 I don’t think the Big 12’s in very good shape to snag a playoff spot over the other one loss team contenders.

7. So if LSU, Ohio State, and Clemson all go 13-0, how would you rank the fourth playoff team chances?

If all three of these teams win out that would mean your potential one loss playoff contenders are: 11-1 Alabama, 12-1 Oklahoma or 13-0 or 12-1 Baylor, 12-1 Oregon or 12-1 Utah.

These are your five contenders.

So how would I rank them?

13-0 Baylor

11-1 Alabama

12-1 Oregon

12-1 Utah

12-1 Oklahoma

12-1 Baylor

I really do believe as long as Baylor doesn’t go 13-0 that 11-1 Alabama would be the fourth playoff team. The Tide would have the best loss in this group by far and while you can argue Bama doesn’t have any great wins, what great wins do any of these teams have?

Meanwhile unlike Alabama, whose loss would be to the number one team in the country by five points, these other teams would all have losses to teams ranked outside the top 25.

Now, to be fair, I’m not sure Alabama beats Auburn on the road, but I’m also not that confident that any of these other four teams keep winning either.

But this is how I think the playoff committee would rank these teams if this is the final decision they have to make.

8. Deion Sanders is working on putting together a top staff to potentially coach at Florida State.

I’m rooting for Deion to FSU to happen just because it would be an incredible story. (I’m told Deion graduates from FSU in December, by the way).

Meanwhile, is Arkansas the worst team in SEC history? They’re up there.

I don’t see how Chad Morris finishes the season, honestly. The team has quit on him and it’s an unmitigated disaster in Fayetteville now.

Western Kentucky came into town and absolutely destroyed the Razorbacks today.

He has to be gone.

9. How about Jeremy Pruitt and Tennessee?!

The Tennessee Volunteers were left for dead at 0-2 and 1-4.

No one, myself included, thought there was any way they’d get hot like this.

But credit to Jeremy Pruitt, his coaching staff, and this team because the Vols have found a way to go 4-1 in their past five games with the only loss on the road at Alabama.

Now sitting at 5-5 Tennessee has a decent chance to get to 7-5 and make a bowl game, potentially even a decent bowl game in Florida. And given how much Vanderbilt has collapsed a bowl game seems highly likely at this point.

What a goal line stand against Kentucky and what a play call by Jim Chaney to end the game on third down.

Here’s my immediate reaction after the win.

10. Joe Burrow won the Heisman trophy today so we no longer need to rank Heisman trophy contenders here. 

In fact, not only did Joe Burrow win the Heisman trophy he may have also made himself the favorite to be the overall first pick in the NFL Draft.

He was simply incredible.

And I bet as a result he had himself a pretty fun night in Baton Rouge.

11. Outkick’s national top ten

1. LSU

2. Ohio State

3. Alabama

4. Clemson

5. Minnesota

6. Georgia

7. Penn State

8. Oregon

9. Utah

10. Baylor

The SEC power rankings 1-14

Okay, these teams are really tough to rank from 8-12. I know Missouri beat South Carolina, but that feels like ages ago. And Mizzou has since lost to Vanderbilt and Kentucky.

So I’m not sure that my 8-12 rankings are 100% accurate, but this is my best guess.

I continue to rank South Carolina the highest of this group because they have by far the best win over Georgia.

1. LSU

2. Alabama

3. Georgia

4. Florida

5. Auburn

6. Texas A&M

7. Tennessee

8. South Carolina

9. Mississippi State

10. Kentucky

11. Missouri

12. Ole Miss

13. Vanderbilt

764. Arkansas

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