Welcome to the seventh edition of the sophomore season of The Hangover, where I recap the previous weekend in college football. This week, The Hangover comes from Knoxville, Tennessee, where Tua Tagovailoa and the vaunted Alabama offense continued to produce video game numbers. Watching Alabama work on the road was impressive, because Neyland Stadium was on fire before kickoff. This weekend of college football was certifiably nuts, so let’s break everything down.
Last week, I wrote that the playoff picture appeared clear. I wrote out my reasoning for why this was the best chance ever for the mid-October top four to remain the same going into the playoff. I described the scenarios, but added a warning at the end: 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.
I didn’t realize things would be uprooted so quickly (was it because I wrote about the top four? I also spent a column talking about Kentucky’s success…and then the Wildcats lost the next week to Texas A&M, clearly showing that I am, in fact, bad luck).
On Saturday night in West Lafayette, Indiana, Purdue beat Ohio State 49-20. Wait, no, let me rephrase that…Purdue crushed Ohio State. The Boilermakers dominated from the first snap, providing the gutsy play-calling and the epic execution that it takes to knock off the number two team in the country. Last week, I wrote that I still had reservations about Ohio State because of the amount of big plays the defense allows. Purdue spotted that weakness and exploited it to the tune of 539 total yards of offense and six plays of twenty yards or more. David Blough looked like an All-American, throwing for 378 yards and three touchdowns on 25/43 passing, and Rondale Moore was electric, snagging 12 catches for 170 yards and two scores, including one that showed just how disinterested the Buckeyes’ defense looked late in the game.
So what does this mean for Ohio State? What does this mean for the Big Ten? First, let’s break things down for the folks in Columbus, Ohio.
There’s a Clear Pattern Developing at Ohio State under Urban Meyer
At this point, it’s been well-documented: when Urban Meyer’s teams lose, they lose badly. For a coach who’s 77-9 at Ohio State, the losses are head-scratching and slowly becoming a trend. In 2017, the Buckeyes were dominated by Iowa 55-24 in a game that eventually kept Ohio State out of the playoff. That was the second loss of the season; the first was a home 15-point defeat to Oklahoma in a game that was never within reach in the fourth quarter. In 2016, it was an embarrassing scoreless effort against Clemson in the CFP semifinals. In Meyer’s nine losses at Ohio State, the average margin of defeat has been 15.7 points. Since Urban Meyer is widely considered the second-best active coach behind Nick Saban, I’ll ask this question: can you imagine a Nick Saban-coached Alabama team losing one game by 15 or more, let alone multiple in a three year span? No way.
The point of this is that when Ohio State appears disinterested, it gets ugly. But where does that problem come from? Is it because Urban Meyer looks like he’s going to throw up on the sideline every game? Is it because of a lack of commitment by the players? After all, Nick Bosa did quit a previously undefeated team that at the time looked poised for a playoff run. I highly doubt Ohio State’s athletic department doesn’t have the facilities to help him adequately prepare for the NFL Draft. So, what does this move say about team unity?
Whether Ohio State fans want to admit it or not, there’s something rotten in Columbus. For whatever reason, there’s a fundamental issue of some kind in that locker room, and I think it’s the attitude of the head coach. That’s the only explanation I can create for the completely befuddling results that seemingly come at a yearly clip for Ohio State. After an off-season of drama and extremely justified turbulence, Urban Meyer looks tired. Despite his overall record and all of the success, it may be time for another break from coaching.
Where Does the Big Ten stand in the College Football Playoff Race?
Obviously, the conference isn’t currently in danger of getting shut out of the playoff; however, a few realistic results here and there could change that perception. Based on the “one-loss” criteria that has proven true so far with the College Football Playoff, the only eligible teams right now are Michigan, Ohio State, and Iowa. We know one of Michigan or Ohio State will have two losses, and I’m not convinced Iowa can run the table and make the Big Ten Championship game (two straight road contests with Penn State and Purdue will probably will result in a loss somewhere). So right now, I’d give the edge to Michigan, since they’ve looked the best the last few weeks (but a home game against Penn State cannot be overlooked). However, if the final spots come down to a one-loss Big 12 champion (Oklahoma or Texas), a one-loss Big Ten Big Ten champion (Michigan, in this scenario), and an undefeated or one-loss Notre Dame, who would the committee pick? It’d be difficult, especially because I’m not sure you can put Michigan in over undefeated or one-loss Notre Dame because of the Wolverines’ head-to-head loss. Either way, things just got a lot more interesting for the Big Ten. I expect someone from that league to make the playoff at this point, but it isn’t a done deal anymore.
Gray’s Top 10
- Notre Dame
As many have written, it’s Alabama and everybody else at this point. Clemson finally looked like the team we’ve been waiting for, and the Tigers fill my vacant number two spot. I’m almost completely sold on Trevor Lawrence, I just need to see him perform well in a tough road environment before I completely buy in to the “this team can play with Alabama” narrative. Notre Dame is third because of the quality wins, and LSU rounds out the top four after an impressive defensive performance against Mississippi State. Michigan takes the five spot after two straight dominating wins over Top 25 competition. Oklahoma and Florida are at seven and eight, with key contests coming up (Oklahoma in two weeks at Texas Tech and Florida this weekend against Georgia). There’s UCF at nine, still winning and biding time. I doubt they have a shot at the playoff, but the window is cracked open. Finally, there’s Georgia at ten. The loser of Georgia-Florida this weekend will be eliminated from playoff consideration.
Coach of the Week
On the flip side of the Ohio State loss is Jeff Brohm and Purdue pulling off a huge upset. Brohm went out of his mind with aggressive play-calling starting with a second quarter fake field goal that eventually gave the Boilermakers a 14-3 lead.
It didn’t stop there. Even with Purdue leading 28-13 with ten minutes left in the game, Brohm kept the pedal to the metal, mixing in creative calls that showed the Boilermakers weren’t going to play conservatively in the final quarter. After an 0-3 start that included a loss to Eastern Michigan, it would’ve been easy for this team to consider this season lost. Instead, Brohm got his boys off the mat and has led Purdue to four straight wins. Crazily enough, the Boilermakers are still in contention for a Big Ten Championship game berth.
Sidenote: Special shout-out to Bill Clark and UAB after beating North Texas 29-21 on Saturday and improving to 6-1 this year. Sitting at 4-0 in Conference USA with wins over divisional foes Louisiana Tech and the aforementioned Mean Green, the Blazers have the inside track to the conference championship game just two years after they didn’t even exist. Victories over a terrible UTEP and an average UTSA could set up a home game against Southern Miss, the only other squad currently in striking distance, for all the marbles. And UAB hasn’t lost a home game since the revival of the program.
Idiot of the Week
No coaches to pick that jumped out at me this week, so I’ll just present you with the ending of Western Kentucky and Old Dominion. Because, seriously, the final seconds were wild.
Halloween is coming up, which means it’s time to consider where it stands in the Holiday pecking order. The folks here at Random Rankings HQ spent hours debating this list a la TMZ, and this is the final product. Things considered–sporting events associated, level of fun during said holidays, quality of food at parties for said holidays, and more. *Disclaimer*: per usual, once Random Rankings are posted, they aren’t changing. Don’t worry, Columbus Day isn’t included. No explanation this week.
- New Year’s Eve/New Year’s Day
- 4th of July
- Labor Day
SEC Power Rankings
I’m an SEC guy through and through, so I have to include my SEC Power Rankings. Auburn looked better against Ole Miss, but I’m not convinced their offensive problems have been solved. To be honest, 1-6 are easy. 7-14 are completely up in the air.
- Alabama (1)
- LSU (2)
- Florida (3)
- Georgia (4)
- Kentucky (5)
- Texas A&M (6)
- Mississippi State (7)
- South Carolina (8)
- Auburn (12)
- Missouri (10)
- Ole Miss (9)
- Tennessee (11)
- Vanderbilt (13)
- Arkansas (14)
So Who’s Ready for Week Nine?
It’s not a terribly strong slate in week nine, which means something wacky is bound to happen. Who will be the next giant to fall? Here’s what we have to look forward to this upcoming weekend.
#25 Appalachian State at Georgia Southern–Thursday (seriously, watch this game)
Miami at Boston College–Friday
#23 Utah at UCLA–Friday
#2 Clemson at Florida State
#20 Wisconsin at Northwestern
Texas Tech at Iowa State
Purdue at Michigan State
#9 Florida vs. #7 Georgia
#18 Iowa at #17 Penn State
#12 Kentucky at Missouri
#15 Washington at California
#14 Washington State at #24 Stanford
#22 NC State at Syracuse
#16 Texas A&M at Mississippi State
#6 Texas at Oklahoma State
#19 Oregon at Arizona
That’s it from your friends at The Hangover. I’m headed over to Jacksonville for Florida-Georgia this weekend, and I’m super excited to see the atmosphere at this game. See you next week!