BUCKEYES BEING OVERLOOKED TO WIN BIG TEN TITLE AND MAKE INAUGURAL PLAYOFF
While Ohio State seems to be improving each week, setting a school record with its fourth consecutive 50-plus-points game, the Buckeyes remain ranked 13th in the Associated Press poll and are rarely mentioned as a playoff contender by most of the nation’s analysts.
On the other hand, it seems it’s almost a foregone conclusion by most “experts” that Michigan State will be the Big Ten’s lone chance to make the playoff. The Spartans’ lone loss – at Oregon – is deemed a “good loss” in the eyes of most pundits, as opposed to the 35-21 loss the Buckeyes sustained to Virginia Tech at home.
However, I believe the Buckeyes, whose loss looks worse by the week with each Hokies’ loss, are sitting in a perfect position. Nobody is giving them a chance to win in East Lansing Nov. 8. They will likely enter the game as a five-to-seven point underdog.
Both teams are coming off 56-17 wins over Big Ten opponents, but the games could not have been more different. The Spartans, who have struggled at Purdue and barely hung on to beat Nebraska at home, trailed Indiana 17-13 midway through the second quarter and scored the game’s final 43 points.
Ohio State led Rutgers 56-7 and did not score a point in the fourth quarter.
What the Nov. 8 game will come down to will be how Ohio State’s offensive line handles Michigan’s blitzing front, whether the receivers can beat man coverage and whether J.T. Barrett continues his hot hand. The Spartans surely will play a defense similar to what the Hokies showed in Columbus on Sept. 6.
But none of this matters much if Michigan State and Ohio State don’t win their other remaining games. What Ohio State truly needs, in addition to upsetting the Spartans and running the table to get to 11-1, is for Nebraska to win out, win the Big Ten's West division and arrive in Indianapolis for the Big Ten Championship Game with an identical 11-1 record.
That would give the Buckeyes a chance for another impressive win – the day before the playoff committee announces its four teams.
What also needs to happen is one-loss teams such as Notre Dame, the Big 12’s Baylor, TCU, Kansas State and the SEC’s Auburn, Alabama and Georgia to lose again. And all of those mentioned above have several tough games remaining, mostly by playing each other in conference. I believe No. 3 Ole Miss (7-0) still will lose two games. Only Florida State, because of a weak schedule remaining, remains a good bet to finish undefeated.
But since it is guaranteed that there will be at least one one-loss team in the playoff (and likely three), a 12-1 Big Ten champ Ohio State would be in a pretty good position to claim one of those spots – which seemed nearly impossible after the Hokies left Columbus.
“We’re getting better, but we’re just worried about Penn State right now,” Urban Meyer said.
Should the Buckeyes put up 50 or more points on the Nittany Lions, they will become the first Big Ten team since 1903 to record five consecutive games with at least 50 points.
The picture will be a bit clearer Tuesday when the playoff committee releases its first rankings.
FOLEY TAKES DIFFERENT STANCE THAN IN 2004
After seven games in 2004, Ron Zook’s third season, Florida Athletic Director Jeremy Foley had seen enough. Following a loss at Mississippi State, he pulled the plug on Zook after a 4-3 start in his third season.
“What must be done eventually should be done immediately,” he said then.
He let the Zooker coach out the season while he got a head start on the coaching search, which gave him a jump on Notre Dame and ended with the landing of Urban Meyer. That led to two national titles.
Monday, Foley released a statement that he continues to evaluate the coaching staff, which has the administration’s “full support” heading into the Georgia game Nov. 1 in Jacksonville.
For some reason this time around, after a 3-3 start and a hapless home loss to a Missouri team that was coming off a 34-0 loss to Georgia, he is letting Muschamp remain. You have to wonder if the Gators lose to UGA, which they haven’t beaten under Muschamp, if he fires him or waits it out to the week of the season-finale or even after what surely will be a loss at Florida State on Nov. 29.
Recruits are beginning to de-commit from Florida already, anticipating a coaching change: Jerome Baker, the No. 1 linebacker in Ohio, flipped from the Gators to Ohio State on Tuesday.
At that time, Mississippi State’s Dan Mullen will be coaching the biggest game of his life – the Egg Bowl against rival Ole Miss. By then, the Bulldogs and Rebels may not each be top-five teams. But Mullen, the Gators’ offensive coordinator during the two titles under Meyer, surely would be near the top of the Gators’ list of targets for their next head coach. Should the Bulldogs win the Egg Bowl, the SEC Championship and make the playoff, it would hamper the Gators from hiring Mullen.
Charlie Strong would not leave Texas for Florida; and Oklahoma’s Bob Stoops has turned down the job already at least twice. So I am not sure whom Foley would turn to this time around. One thing is for certain: He has a top-secret file locked in his desk right now with the resumes’ of several targets, of which only he knows.
Which brings us to the latest….
… MISERY METER
1. Florida – Not even close this week. No major college town is more down in the dumps than Gainesville and Gator Nation.
2. Oklahoma – The Sooners, after being trumped as a prime candidate to make the inaugural playoff, dropped out after a sickening 31-30 loss at home to Kansas State. OU missed two short field goals and had a game-tying extra point blocked in the fourth quarter.
3. Texas A&M – A month ago, many ESPN pundits had the Aggies as the best team in the country and a sure bet for the playoff. Now they have three losses – the latest a 59-0 loss at Alabama. There is no sign in sight that Kevin Sumlin can turn this around this season, either.
4. Stanford – The Cardinal have lost three close ones – to USC, Notre Dame and Arizona State – and sit at 4-3.
5. (tie) Notre Dame – When is a loss really a win? When you are thisclose to winning in Tallahassee. The Irish are still very much in the playoff hunt after the nation saw them play toe-to-toe with the Seminoles. …and Virginia Tech – The Hokies (4-3) were flying high after win in Columbus but have now lost to East Carolina, Georgia Tech and Pittsburgh (which had lost to Akron).
SURE TO BE BACK ON THE LIST NEXT WEEK: Michigan – the Wolverines beat Penn State two weeks ago and then had an off week to get ready for their upcoming pounding at Michigan State.
GAMES OF THE WEEK: Ole Miss 24, LSU 20 – I wanted to pick the upset but don’t think the Tigers can throw consistently against the Rebels’ defense; Michigan State 31, Michigan 13 – The Wolverines can’t compete against “little brother.”
UPSET OF THE WEEK: Kentucky (+14) over No. 1 Mississippi State – I just have a feeling the Wildcats get their biggest football win in history.
BLOWOUT OF THE WEEK: East Carolina 59, UConn 6 – The Pirates are due for a big offensive day.
BEST BETS: Memphis (-23) at SMU; South Carolina (+17.5) at Auburn; Ohio State (-13.5) at Penn State.
Minnesota 31, Illinois 20 – The Illini by far the Big Ten’s worst team.
Alabama 44, Tennessee 16 – The Tide rolls on.
TCU 49, Texas Tech 22 – The Horned Frogs remain in the mix of playoff hunt.
Miami 21, Virginia Tech 20 (Thursday) - The Hokies are beat up physically.
Nebraska 38, Rutgers 24 – The Knights put up a little better showing this week.
Utah 34, USC 29 – The Trojans continue to slide.
Last Updated (Wednesday, 22 October 2014 16:07)