Welcome to the tenth edition of the sophomore season of The Hangover, where I recap the previous weekend in college football. This week, The Hangover comes to you from Knoxville, Tennessee, where I witnessed Drew Lock and Missouri blast the Tennessee Volunteers into oblivion. On Survive Saturday, most every top team stayed above the upset fray heading into Rivalry Weekend. Let’s dissect what went down in Week 12…
For months, I’ve said UCF doesn’t belong in the playoff conversation. I’ve pointed to strength of schedule, defensive struggles, all of the usual talking points. I’ve watched their games and come away unimpressed.
Then, I saw the Knights play Cincinnati.
What unfolded before me was a masterpiece in all three phases of the game. UCF looked the part, they answered the questions (particularly on defense), and they played about as well as possible on the national stage. Still, I’m not expecting a big bump in the rankings. Best case scenario might be ninth. Why?
Because people are tired of UCF.
Here’s my theory. It may be way off-base, but it’s the best I can figure. When people watch UCF, they don’t see a lightning-quick offense and an improving defense. They don’t see the schedule question marks or the statistical conversations. They see a “national championship” banner and an arrogance hanging in the air.
When UCF claimed a national championship and held a parade at Disney World (which I still consider ridiculous…I don’t know how much that cost, but surely those funds could’ve been better allocated elsewhere), they made some enemies. People from Power Five conferences were immediately turned off. Heck I was and, in a way, still am by those actions. Who were these little guys from Orlando saying they won a championship just because they went undefeated? Plenty of teams have done it, and they never called attention to themselves. Why does this program deserve this extra extravagance? Basically, I’m saying that the claiming of the national championship has turned off those in power and those in the media. And I understand that. There’s a strict order to college football; there are rules, and UCF flashed those rules a big middle finger after last year’s Peach Bowl victory. I think that made people upset, and I think that’s why folks are having a tough time moving the Knights up in the polls. Had UCF just gone into the offseason quietly, happy with an undefeated record, maybe things would be different. Maybe the staunch animosity towards that team would still exist, but maybe it wouldn’t. Who’s to say?
Is this too much of a conspiracy theory? Probably. As I type this, I feel like one of those political bloggers trying to dig up some dirt, any dirt, to make a story stick. Still, you have to wonder how the national perception of UCF has impacted the current standing for the Knights. You can’t blame eye test anymore, that was proven moot on Saturday. Schedule? Pittsburgh is going to the ACC Championship and Memphis is a win away from the AAC Championship Game. So what’s keeping UCF from moving further up the rankings? For now, I’ll work with this theory.
Gray’s Top 10
- Notre Dame
- Washington State
- Ohio State
The top five remain the same as we gear up for rivalry weekend. Then, things shift a bit. First off, I’ve moved Washington State up to the six spot. While I don’t think their resume matches up with Oklahoma or Ohio State, I think the Cougars would wax both of those teams if they played right now. Gardner Minshew is wheeling and dealing, and the defense is playing with a boatload of confidence. After that, I slide UCF up to seven. Again, it’s because I think the Knights would beat everybody I have below them. Oklahoma’s defense is awful but Kyler Murray is spectacular, and he’s the only reason the Sooners are up at eight. LSU sits at nine and Ohio State remains at ten. At this point, I’m not sure Ohio State has a shot at the playoff as it stands now, even if they beat Michigan and win the Big Ten Championship. There’s just too much ground to make up if everybody wins out. Either way, I think this will all be a moot point because I’m expecting Michigan to blow out the Buckeyes on Saturday. Ohio State just isn’t very good, and it’s honestly amazing that they’re sitting at 10-1 right now.
Coach of the Week
If an award was ever created for consistently beating expectations in a career, the nod would go to Pat Fitzgerald from Northwestern for sure. The Wildcats have been underdogs in their last three Big Ten conference games (4.5 against Wisconsin, 10 against Iowa, and 3 against Minnesota), and Fitzgerald’s squad won all of those contests to secure a spot in the Big Ten Championship game. At a school without much of a history of victory, Fitzgerald, a former Wildcat linebacker, has brought in stability that has led to fantastic new facilities and, now, a conference championship opportunity. I’d say that’s pretty solid.
Idiot of the Week
We’ve seen some schools make moves already, and it appears the next one will be USC after a shocking collapse against UCLA on Saturday night. It’s apparent now that Clay Helton‘s days as the head coach of the Trojans are numbered after losing four of the last five in an epically weak Pac-12 South, and at this point I’m nor sure that even a shocking upset over Notre Dame to close the year would save his job. So, how have things gone so wrong? Didn’t this team make it to the New Year’s Six the last two seasons? Yes, and they did so with the help of Sam Darnold. This year, with no Darnold to lean on and a defense that can’t stop the run, USC has been a disaster. The Trojans lost to previously 2-8 UCLA 34-27 and allowed Bruins running back Joshua Kelley to scamper for 289 yards on the ground. The week before, Helton’s squad lost 15-14 at home to a California team that previously hadn’t won a game in the series since 2003 and hadn’t won in Los Angeles since 2000. The Trojans have given up 130+ yards to an opposing running back five times this season, while only reaching that milestone twice with Aca’Cedric Ware. By all accounts, Clay Helton is a great guy. Everybody in the sports world seems to like him. Still, it appears as if we’re in a situation similar to what Auburn dealt with when Gene Chizik held the head coaching job–sure he had success with a star quarterback (Chizik with Cam Newton, Helton with Darnold), but every other year has been a disappointment. I’ll be shocked if the USC job isn’t open in the next week or so.
Before we get to this week’s Random Rankings, we here at Random Rankings HQ want to say thanks to frequent meeting attendee and loyal reader Scott Pittman for the Stan Lee suggestion last week. While we like to think that we’re all geniuses here at HQ, sometimes we need a little push to come up with our topics. Scott gave us that last week, and we thank him for his contributions. Also, as many of you know, a good number of us at HQ are cinephiles. Last year, we published our Oscar Movie Rankings in The Buzzer-Beater, the basketball equivalent of The Hangover. Well, that list will be coming in 2019, so be prepared. We’ve been watching awards-caliber movies all fall, and that list will only get bigger once December rolls around. We know y’all can’t wait, so stay tuned.
Now, on to this week’s Random Rankings. As the holiday season nears, it’s time to count our many blessings. For one, we’re all thankful that Les Miles is back coaching college football, even if it’s at Kansas. Why? Because he’s just so much fun. Everything the Mad Hatter does is GIF-able, and we’re excited to see him back. So, in honor of Coach Miles, here are our Top Five favorite Les Moments. *Disclaimer*: per usual, once Random Rankings are posted, they aren’t changing. If you have issues with any of the choices, comment or reach out on Twitter.
1. “Spectacular Group of Men”
2. Les Eats Grass
3. “Have a Great Day”
4. Kansas Introductory Press Conference
Sure it’s recent, but this circulated around all weekend and is utterly spectacular. Peak Les Miles.
5. Les the Thespian
SEC Power Rankings
I’m an SEC guy through and through, so I have to include my SEC Power Rankings. Lots of chances for change in rivalry weekend. Here’s where things stand now:
- Alabama (1)
- Georgia (2)
- LSU (3)
- Florida (4)
- Kentucky (5)
- Mississippi State (6)
- Texas A&M (7)
- Missouri (10)
- South Carolina (9)
- Auburn (8)
- Vanderbilt (13)
- Tennessee (11)
- Ole Miss (12)
- Arkansas (14)
So Who’s Ready for Week 13?
It’s RIVALRY WEEK! It’s going to be electric. Here’s what’s on tap:
#21 Mississippi State at Ole Miss (Thursday)
#15 Texas at Kansas (Friday)
#11 UCF at South Florida (Friday)
#6 Oklahoma at #9 West Virginia (Friday)
#18 Washington at #8 Washington State (Friday)
Auburn at #1 Alabama
#7 LSU at Texas A&M
#4 Michigan at #10 Ohio State
Georgia Tech at #5 Georgia
#13 Florida at Florida State
South Carolina at #2 Clemson
#3 Notre Dame at USC
#23 Utah State at #25 Boise State
That’s it from your friends at The Hangover. I’ll be at the Iron Bowl this weekend, with a close eye on all of the action. See you next week!