Welcome to the sixth edition of the sophomore season of The Hangover, where I recap the previous weekend in college football. This week, The Hangover comes from Tuscaloosa, Alabama, where “Dixieland Delight” made its triumphant return in Bryant-Denny Stadium. I’ll be talking about that experience on my show this Wednesday, but here’s a video of the moment.
It was great to have another week off of work so that I could take in all of the college football carnage from week seven. A LOT happened that cleared up some questions, so let’s dive in to the college football landscape.
Since the beginning of time, college football has taught us that we can never jump to conclusions about the postseason. Any time we fans or media members think we know something for sure, college football proves us wrong. Something always goes haywire.
The more I look at the current landscape, the clearer the picture appears. Alabama, Ohio State, Clemson, and Notre Dame are each in the driver’s seat for a playoff spot. The Pac-12 is, by all accounts, out of the race. The Big 12 is hanging on by a thread, thanks to the resurgence of Texas and the slim possibility of West Virginia and Oklahoma running the table and having a resume worthy of inclusion. UCF doesn’t have much of a prayer even if they finish the season unscathed, as Rachel Baribeau highlighted in “The Student Section” on Wednesday night (SELF PROMO: https://soundcloud.com/grayrobertson15/the-student-section-on-907-fm-tuscaloosa-10102018). Georgia losing at LSU puts a dent in SEC hopes for a second straight year with two bids. So, could we already know our four? Right now, in mid-October? It seems ridiculous, but totally not out of the question.
Alabama looks unstoppable.
“Sluggish” efforts against Missouri and Texas A&M have led to victories by 29 and 22 points, respectively. Questions about the defense were answered with a dominant performance against Drew Lock on Saturday. Tua’s knee? Stop trying to make this interesting. Alabama is the best team in the country, and I don’t see them losing anytime soon.
Ohio State is in control of things.
I still have some reservations about the Buckeyes, particularly when it comes to the big plays they give up defensively. Games at Michigan State and at Purdue could be tricky. Michigan no longer looks like a cakewalk. Still, would you feel confident picking any of those upsets? I wouldn’t. Ohio State’s got everything set up, and the schedule only has a few minor landmines. I’d genuinely be surprised if the Buckeyes falter anywhere down the stretch and, even if they do, a one-loss Big Ten Champion would get in over a potential one-loss Big 12 Champion.
Clemson is dominating on the ground, and the schedule sets up for a coast to the finish.
The biggest remaining pitfall appears to be the upcoming home contest with undefeated NC State, a team whose best victory is…AJ Dillon-less Boston College? I don’t see any teams remaining on this schedule that could beat the Tigers. Now, Clemson has fallen prey in the past to that weird, totally unforeseen upset near the end of the year. Even still, just like Ohio State, I see a one-loss, ACC Champion Clemson getting over, say, a one-loss, Big 12 Champion Oklahoma or Texas (Even if Oregon finishes with one-loss, I don’t think the Ducks would be in the discussion). The road victory at Texas A&M looks better and better each week and, barring a loss to someone horrible like Louisville at home, I think Clemson would have the scheduling mustard to squeak in even if they fall at some point.
Notre Dame just can’t “Notre Dame” this up.
The final five games are: Navy at a neutral site, at Northwestern, Florida State, Syracuse at a neutral site, and at USC. USC looked good against Colorado this past weekend, and Syracuse has a solid signal-caller in Eric Dungey. Still, the Fighting Irish should be at least a touchdown favorite in all of these remaining games. Ian Book struggled in the first half against Pittsburgh, but got it together in time to lead the comeback. If Notre Dame finishes undefeated, they’re obviously in. If not, the door opens. I’m not sure one-loss Notre Dame gets in over the above mentioned potential one-loss teams, but we’ll cross that bridge when we get to it. For now, I’m still thinking this Fighting Irish team has the juice to make the CFP.
Do I expect things to be squeaky clean and for all four of these squads to roll in unbeaten? Of course not. Like I said, it’s college football. Things are going to get messy. I do, however, think that these teams would still be in a better position than other one-loss teams should they fall down the stretch. The only team that wouldn’t (resume-wise) is Alabama, especially if the Crimson Tide loses to LSU. I’m not sure 11-1 would do the job this year considering the stacked field. Again, I don’t think it’ll be this easy. Something will happen. Still, the blueprint is there for the CFP Committee to have four pretty obvious selections for the playoff.
Gray’s Top 10
- Ohio State
- Notre Dame
The Top Ten looks way different from two weeks ago…well, except at the top. Alabama continues to dominate, although this week’s game against Tennessee got slightly (and I mean ever-so-slightly) more interesting with the Vols’ win over Auburn. Ohio State moves up with Georgia’s loss. As I said earlier, I have some issues with the Buckeyes’ defense. They’re giving up too many big plays, and somebody will burn them and take it to the wire before the season ends. Clemson moves up to three, with a big game coming up this weekend. Notre Dame sits at four after barely getting past Pittsburgh. If the Irish can find a way to not “Notre Dame” this up, they’re on the way to the playoff. LSU is back in the top five after a dominating win over Georgia at home. 275 rushing yards against that defense is impressive, and Joe Burrow continues to be a game manager who doesn’t make mistakes (despite the Florida game). Texas is up at six after the Oklahoma upset and the win over Baylor. Things will get tough for the Longhorns, with games at Oklahoma State, at home against West Virginia, at Texas Tech, and at home against Iowa State coming up (surely, Kansas won’t be an issue). Is Michigan back? Who knows, but they’re still winning while other teams fall by the wayside. We’ll know more about this team (especially their capabilities away from Ann Arbor) this weekend against Michigan State. Oklahoma stays at eight, while Oregon moves into the top ten after beating Washington. Imagine if they’d beaten Stanford; the Ducks would be top five. Finally, we have Florida. The Gators look like a different team from the one I saw lose to Kentucky. Dan Mullen and his squad will have a chance to knock off Georgia (who I have at twelve in my poll) in two weeks.
Coach of the Week
What a job by LSU’s head man Ed Orgeron. Do you remember in the preseason when he was on the “hot seat?” Do you remember when people thought he’d be run out of Baton Rouge by this point in the year? Well, to that Coach O says, “Get outta heuh. Go Tiguhs.” LSU shellacked Georgia in Death Valley over the weekend in what may be the most impressive win by any team this year. The Tigers controlled the line of scrimmage and did a great job making sure that any hope the Bulldogs had in the second half was snuffed each time Georgia tried to rally. Coach O’s team is now squarely in the playoff mix, and his job is certainly safe for a few more seasons. Orgeron must also be front-runner for SEC Coach of the Year, despite what Nick Saban has done this season in Tuscaloosa.
Idiot of the Week
On the flip side, I can point to a moment that helped LSU gain complete control of momentum in the first half of the game, and it came because of a stupid call by Kirby Smart. Trailing 3-0 in the First Quarter facing a 4th and 9 at the LSU 14, Smart called a fake field goal. It was sniffed out easily by the LSU defense, getting Tiger Stadium even more fired up. LSU would follow this with an 84-yard touchdown drive, proving that Smart’s fake failure completely changed the complexion of the game.
Would Georgia have won if they’d just taken the points? Who knows. Still, an easy shot at three was wiped away by Kirby Smart trying to be a bit too smart.
Over at Random Rankings HQ, a debate has emerged thanks to a previous ranking. A few weeks ago, we put out our top five college football color commentators. Well, what about the sideline guys and gals? Being the sideline reporter is a tricky, tricky job. You have to constantly be on the move, ready to report a story. You also have to talk to coaches who can say just about anything, depending on the mood. It isn’t the easiest job. All five of these people are fantastic at what they do, but here’s my attempt at putting them in order. *Disclaimer*: per usual, once Random Rankings are posted, they aren’t changing. Again, I’m a big fan of all of these folks. They’re just ranked 1-5 because this section calls for that.
1. Tom Luginbill, ESPN
Few people know the game like Tom Luginbill. His X’s and O’s insight is unmatched, and he also provides good in-game commentary from his position on the field.
2. Jamie Erdahl, CBS
New to the SEC on CBS, Jamie Erdahl has stepped in and done a fantastic job. She’s also a pretty fantastic person as well. When I talked to her about interviewing Nick Saban, she pointed out that it’s no big deal because she’d already done one with Bill Belichick. She’s great at her job, and we’re all happy she’s with us in college football.
3. Maria Taylor, ESPN
Maria knows how to work the sidelines. Her question to Nick Saban earlier this year was one that needed to be asked, and her response to Saban’s answer just shows her talent. She’s excellent. There’s a reason she’s the sideline reporter on the biggest stage each weekend.
4. Holly Rowe, ESPN
Another one of the nicest players in the business, Holly Rowe does it the right way. She’s great on the football field, and is also fantastic the softball games she covers (including a few in Tuscaloosa). She asks the right questions, and she’s always done to tell a few fun stories in every broadcast.
5. Molly McGrath, ESPN
Molly takes the five spot because of her entrances. She’s commonly seen riding in with mascots or making some kind of elaborate ride in to broadcasts. While I haven’t met Molly, I’d like to one day. She’s one of the best in the business.
SEC Power Rankings
I’m an SEC guy through and through, so I have to include my SEC Power Rankings. Since I missed last week, these are listed with the previous ranking coming from two weeks ago. Auburn is a really bad football team now, as evidenced by a home loss to Tennessee. LSU moves up, and Kentucky continues to hang around.
- Alabama (1)
- LSU (2)
- Florida (7)
- Georgia (2)
- Kentucky (4)
- Texas A&M (6)
- Mississippi State (10)
- South Carolina (8)
- Ole Miss (11)
- Missouri (9)
- Tennessee (12)
- Auburn (5)
- Vanderbilt (13)
- Arkansas (14)
So Who’s Ready for Week Eight?
Next week looks a little downtrodden. That’s exactly what the college football gods want. Expect some more chaos. Here’s what’s coming in week eight:
#6 Michigan at #24 Michigan State
#9 Oklahoma at TCU
#20 Cincinnati at Temple
Auburn at Ole Miss
#16 NC State at #3 Clemson
#1 Alabama at Tennessee
Colorado at #15 Washington
#22 Mississippi State at #5 LSU
#2 Ohio State at Purdue
#12 Oregon at #25 Washington State
Vanderbilt at #14 Kentucky
USC at Utah
That’s it from your friends at The Hangover. I’m headed up to Knoxville for the rare weekend when my work intertwines with Alabama’s schedule. Should be a blowout, but you never know. Tennessee has been a thorn many times before. See you next week!