Domination & Humiliation
When you think about sports, you normally don’t think about the intangibles especially emotion, determination and heart. This week embodied the intangibles in almost every single game that mattered. What we witnessed this weekend reaffirmed my belief in College Football while delivering exciting games that featured domination of some and the humiliation of others.
What the Crimson Tide are doing is unprecedented. It isn’t that the Tide have held their past two opponents to a combined three points, it’s that the offense is finally destroying defenses. Against Vanderbilt and Ole Miss, Alabama has scored 125 points (59 & 66 respectively). The Tide have a 122-point differential against their last two Power 5 opponents. Since 2010, only one other time has Alabama beaten back-to-back Power 5 opponents by 90+ points. That was back in 2013 against Kentucky (+41) and Arkansas (+52). Alabama is currently #8 in scoring offense, #4 in rushing offense and #14 in total offense. A wise man once told me about a stat you never hear about and this is where I believe it makes complete sense. The Tide are averaging 1 point for every 11 yards gained. Out of every team ranked in the AP Top 10, Alabama is third in that category (Washington 10.1 yards and TCU 10.4 yards).
What makes that stat even more amazing is that the Tide are only allowing 1 point for every 29 yards gained. Penn State is the only defense from the AP Top 10 to allow less at a rate of one point for every 30.8 yards. What does this mean for the rest of the season? If your team is playing Alabama, look out! The Tide face 6 FBS opponents the rest of the way (A&M, Arkansas, Tennessee, LSU, MSST and Auburn). Alabama is averaging 508.6 yards per game on offense. If you take the average of Total Offense for Alabama and Total Defense for their remaining teams, Alabama could score the following against: Texas A&M 40.72, Arkansas 38.9, Tennessee 40.5, LSU 37.2, Mississippi State 37.1 and Auburn 36.5.
How many of those teams can outscore the Crimson Tide? Honestly, by the numbers, none. However, recent history suggests that Alabama struggles with mobile quarterbacks. Auburn seems like the best equipped team to beat Alabama but history suggests that Nick Fitzgerald and MSST are the most problematic team remaining on the Tide’s schedule. I am in no way saying the Bulldogs from the West are going to beat the Crimson Tide but history says it could be trouble. I still hold true saying that Auburn is the biggest threat to Bama until the SEC Championship Game against (presumably) UGA.
If we see Alabama versus Georgia in the SEC Championship Game, we could see history in the making. Using a scoring formula based on the current defensive and offensive rankings, Alabama would beat UGA by an average score of 20.07 – 15.63.
Don’t write off the best team from the SEC East just yet. The Bulldogs have played, by far, a tougher schedule than the Crimson Tide. According to the current ESPN FPI, UGA has played three Top 50 teams so far and their average opponent ranking is 37.25 (55.8 if you give Samford a rating of 130). However, the Crimson Tide have only face one team in the Top 50 (FSU) and average an opponent ranking of 53.6.
The Bulldogs have also been dominant on both sides of the football. The defense is allowing just one point for every 26.5 yards (third out of top ten teams) and the offense is scoring a point every 11.7 yards (seven tenths of a yard less than Alabama). Jake Fromm is doing exactly what Hurts did last season as a first-year starter. Fromm has managed the Bulldogs offense to near perfection over the last 4 weeks. Fromm has thrown only 2 interceptions through the first 5 games of the season and has a QBR of 159.6. His counterpart from Alabama has a QBR of 156.8.
Jake Fromm, while being very efficient, isn’t the only reason this offense has been effective. The offensive line has become a solid unit, allowing only 5 sacks this season. Of the AP Top 10, UGA ranks T-2 in that category. They are giving Fromm the time to make the right decisions but they are also opening holes for the running backs. All three of Georgia’s running backs with over 100 yards from scrimmage are averaging 5.4 yards per carry or more. Nick Chubb is averaging 6.4 and newcomer Herrien is averaging 7.3. While Bama has a two-headed monster there, Georgia is working with three very good backs.
UGA faces a tougher slate than Alabama as well. With no one other than Auburn (who UGA faces as well) ranked in the Top 25, Alabama’s path is much easier. UGA will face Vandy, Mizzou, Florida, South Carolina, Auburn, Kentucky and Georgia Tech. According to the formula, UGA would score 27.6 against Auburn and 27.7 against Georgia Tech. It is quite possible for those two teams to score 4 touchdowns in a game but we have seen Auburn against Clemson’s Defense and the Tigers from the West scored only 6 points. Against all other opponents, UGA averages a score of 33.1 points. No one will be able to outscore Georgia through the rest of the regular season.
I am going on record saying, please hold me to this, “UGA will be the ONLY undefeated team in the SEC after the regular season and will win the SEC Championship Game.”
I am only going to spend a few seconds on this one because I have been saying this for 5 weeks now. Surprise, Surprise! University of Southern California were the biggest pretenders in the Preseason Top 10. I didn’t think WSU could beat USC but FORMER Heisman Front-Runner Sam Darnold is now longer in the conversation and the Trojans are gone from the playoffs as well. Thank you, Washington State and thank you Nick Falk. Good game!
While I was slightly wrong when I stated, Clemson would be the clear-cut number one team in the nation after beating Virginia Tech, the Tigers are not very far from that. I believe that Clemson will be the number one team in the country after Alabama plays Auburn (and loses) and would hold that spot regardless of who Georgia beats in the SEC Championship Game. How in the world can I come to this conclusion based on the previous stats from Georgia and Alabama? Simple. Competition!
Clemson beat three Top 15 teams in the month of September. No one has done that in the history of College Football. While Dabo Swinney played down the Feat a bit, “I don’t think a lot of teams have had the opportunity to play three Top 15 teams this early in the season, but we’ll take it.”, it is a remarkable achievement. How does Clemson’s FPI rankings matchup to UGA and Bama? Clemson has played three teams from the FPI Top 25. Georgia has played two and Alabama just one. While the average of Clemson’s five opponents is only slightly better than Alabama’s at 50.6, if you take the average of the toughest three opponents, it isn’t even close. Clemson’s toughest three opponents have an average FPI position of 17th, while UGA would average 25.7 and Alabama 41.3.
When the game matters, Clemson puts its best foot forward. Now this could be a bit concerning as much as is it exciting. Last season, Clemson lost focus a bit in the middle of the season. That lack of focus lead to a defeat at the hands of Pittsburgh and a near defeat by NCST. This isn’t last year’s team. Both Kirk Herbstreit and Booger McFarland have gone on record saying that Clemson is a better team this year overall. I would have to agree with their assessments.
The Tigers are averaging one point for every 13 yards while playing an average defense of 52.6. UGA and Alabama have played an average defense of 62.8 & 62.2. On offense, the three team’s opponents stack up like this: Clemson 64.6, Bama 71.4, and UGA 77.6. There is no doubt left that the schedule that Clemson has played is much tougher than both UGA and Alabama. The Bulldogs and the Tide have the toughest game left (Auburn) but Clemson has already played that game. UGA does have Florida left on their schedule as the only other current Top 25 team but the Tigers have an opportunity to play their 4th Top 15 team if NCST was to beat Louisville, Pittsburgh and Notre Dame. The Wolfpack will be favored in the first two games and probably end up as a pick’em for the matchup against Notre Dame.
Clemson will also play Miami or Virginia Tech in the ACC Championship Game and either of those teams could come into the game with only one loss. Clemson will join UGA as the ONLY teams in the College Football Playoffs undefeated.
Big 12’s Mess
So, the powers that be thought having a Big 12 Championship Game with the two best teams in the league regardless of a division would be a great idea. Because those powers thought it would be Oklahoma State and Oklahoma, they moved the regular season matchup away from the end of the season. Now they are facing an issue of Oklahoma playing OKST, TCU and WVU in a four-week span. While Oklahoma is the most complete team in the Big12, managing that brutal stretch will put Lincoln Riley in the spotlight. How will he handle that? At least Dabo Swinney and Clemson had 5 weeks to play their three Top 15 opponents and had a cupcake to start the 5-week test. Being later in the season will also mean the players bodies have gone through a lot of wear and tear. The committee’s decision could loom to doom. If Oklahoma makes it through the stretch unscathed, Oklahoma would then face one of those three opponents again, the week after the WVU matchup. I don’t seem the Sooners escaping four games against Top 25 opponents without at least one loss and if they lose the Big12 Championship Game, the Big12 will not be represented in the playoffs (unless TCU goes undefeated).
It looks like Washington is primed for another Pac12 Title. Unlike last season, the Huskies will have to go undefeated to guarantee them a spot in the playoffs. Washington State is the only game they have on the schedule that matters, Utah will not be ranked by the time they play Washington. At this point the Pac12 Championship Game is a moot point with USC and Stanford struggling. The FPI has Washington ranked 5th right now but their average opponents rank 89.4. The Huskies haven’t been tested and the rest of their schedule doesn’t help as their remaining opponents rank 35.6. That is much improved but a loss to any opponent would then bring into the question, do you take a one-loss Alabama, Wisconsin, Penn State or Miami over a one-loss Washington? Washington must win out and I just don’t see it happening.
I am going on record now saying “The Pac12 will NOT be represented in the 2017 College Football Playoffs.”
B1G and Who’s In
Penn State is in the driver’s seat, we can all agree on that. However, just like Oklahoma, Penn State faces a brutal stretch that could potentially harm the representation of the B1G in the playoffs. I don’t think that will be the case. Saquon Barkley is the best player in College Football but Penn State is also the most complete team in the Big Ten. The Nittany Lions defense has been phenomenal this season ranking 1st in points per yard (1/30.8). The offense is tracking right behind Alabama as well in offense by ranking 5th in points per yard (1/11.4).
As I stated before, the biggest hurdle is going to be the back-to-back games against Michigan and Ohio State. I would include the game against Northwestern but the Lions have a bye-week between NW and Michigan. Penn State is by far a better team than Michigan and the final score in that game will prove it. PSU should beat Michigan by 14 or more. However, the looming trip to OSU will be a much different story. I believe the Nittany Lions will come out on top but the margin for error in that game is very slim. Even if PSU loses one of those two games but makes the Championship Game, the B1G will be fine. However, if OSU or Michigan reach the Big Ten Championship Game with one loss, the playoff spot could be in jeopardy. I think PSU will lose a game before the B1GCG but will beat an undefeated Wisconsin team (who will make a New Year’s 6).
You Had One Job…
You had one job Ed Orgeron. You were tasked with reviving the LSU Tigers. Instead, you have embarrassed yourself, the University and the SEC. You brought in Matt Canada to provide a spark to the offense while you continued the defensive dominance that the Bayou Bengals are known for. I’m not sure if you’re familiar with Troy University or not, but you paid them $985,000 to come in for Homecoming. The University left Les Miles go because he couldn’t win the “big” games. However, Les Miles only lost two non-conference games to unranked opponents while coaching the Tigers. One of those came against Notre Dame in a Bowl and the other was last season against Wisconsin who ended the year ranked #9. With the early-signing period now available to schools, LSU must decide how to move forward. LSU, you now have just one job.
Mike Patrick & Tommy Tuberville, you had one job. First, you Mr. Patrick. I understand that you are a veteran of the booth. I understand that the times have changed and with that, names have changed and become more challenging. There was a publication on Thursday announcing your involvement in the FSU / Wake Forest game. This means that you had 48 hours prior notice and were provided with everything you would need to call the game in a correct manner. Unfortunately, you either refused to prepare for the game or you just can’t cut it anymore. Watching the game on television was confusing after your myriad of pronunciation blunders and other mistakes. Either retire or prepare properly but please do not subject us to that again. As for you Mr. Tuberville, we are all now aware of why you are no longer in the coaching game. With just under four minutes left in the fourth quarter (just after FSU tied the game at 19), you said “Wake Forest has 2 timeouts and 3:58, they should use this to try and go down field and at least get a field goal or touchdown out of it.” Thank you Mr. Obvious. I wasn’t aware that Wake Forest came into the game trying not to score points. I realize the President’s Cup is this weekend but this isn’t golf.
First Four In
Clemson, UGA, PSU, TCU
First Four Out
Alabama, Miami, Oklahoma, Wisconsin
My Top 25
- Penn State
- Ohio State
- Oklahoma State
- Washington State
- Virginia Tech
- Notre Dame
- North Carolina State
- West Virginia
- Georgia Tech
New Section Coming Soon!
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