Wed, Dec 11, 2019

The game of Week 11 … of the season … of “the century” as it is sometimes described, certainly lived up to the hype. LSU-Alabama was superb in just about every way (except for the tackling, but this is what football is now for them). It was a game with serious weight and somehow it punched up beyond its expectations. But it wasn’t the only battle between ranked teams that went down to the wire. Minnesota and Penn State was every bit as entertaining. In all, Week 11 produced some outstanding results — and lessons to be learned. 

Weeks like these always lead to overreactions, and that’s OK. We are creatures of the moment. Overreactions are just as much a part of the game as touchdowns. So with Saturday’s action mostly in the books, let’s look at the biggest overreactions from the action and how absurd — or completely warranted — they might be.  

College football‘s best have caught up to Alabama: It’s dangerous territory declaring Bama’s dynasty over — and to be clear, that’s not what’s happening here. However, there’s something to No. 3 Alabama’s 46-41 home loss to No. 2 LSU. Go back one year to the Tide roasting the Tigers 29-0. In one offseason, LSU coach Ed Orgeron made the necessary tweaks to not only compete with the Crimson Tide at their own game, but beat them on their own turf in Tuscaloosa. If that’s how it’s going to be long-term, game on in the SEC West. Nick Saban has lost games at Alabama before, but dating back to last year’s College Football Playoff National Championship loss to Clemson, the Tide have looked more and more mortal. Getting blown on the biggest stage never used to happen to Bama under Saban. Getting 46 put on them at home never used to happen, either. These aren’t the old losses to Ole Miss or Texas A&M; Clemson and LSU are legit title contenders. This isn’t to say Alabama will never make another playoff or win another title. They surely will. But the aura of invincibility has been removed (for now). 

Ed Orgeron is an elite college football coach: That still sounds wild rolling off the tongue, but at the very least, a lot of people (myself included) should be asking how they like their crow prepared. His hire was not universally (or even remotely) lauded, and he wasn’t the up-and-coming guy like Tom Herman. Yet, Orgeron is 28-7 since taking over as LSU’s coach at the end of the 2016 season. He’s 8-1 against top-10 opponents and 4-0 in such games this season following the win at Alabama. While Orgeron’s success is a feel-good story, USC has to be beside itself right now for letting Orgeron go in 2013 and hiring Steve Sarkisian, who is now Alabama’s offensive coordinator, instead.  

Clemson can’t afford a single loss: That’s tough to definitively say right now, but here’s the concern: the fifth-ranked Tigers cruised to a big 55-10 win over NC State and clinched their spot in the ACC title game. However, with No. 19 Wake Forest losing 36-17 to Virginia Tech, it’s possible — nay, likely — Clemson goes wire-to-wire without beating a team that will finish in the top 25. Granted “top-25 wins” isn’t the be-all, end-all for strength of schedule arguments, but it underscores a larger point of Clemson’s lack of margin for error. That’s not Clemson’s fault, mind you. The Tigers didn’t schedule Texas A&M thinking the Aggies would be average. It’s certainly not Clemson’s responsibility for the rest of the ACC to pull its weight. But consider the following: Schedule-wise, Clemson was in a similar position as Alabama heading into Week 11. Sagarin, for example, had Alabama’s strength of schedule ranked 59th while Clemson’s was 64th. Starting today, Alabama’s schedule got harder. Clemson’s … not so much. Could the Tigers afford a loss between now and Selection Sunday? Let’s just say they should make life easier and not find out. 

Minnesota should be ranked in the top six: The significance with being in the top six of the College Football Playoff hunt is the committee gives its top four and then its first two out. Put another way, you’re in the immediate discussion, and No. 17 (for now) Minnesota absolutely should be after besting No. 4 Penn State 31-26. Is Minnesota actually a playoff-caliber team? You can argue amongst yourselves about that, but consider the resume. It’s not amazing, but the Gophers are undefeated — which, as Georgia, Utah and others have demonstrated, is never a given — and have a better win than Oregon, Utah, Oklahoma and pretty much any of the one-loss teams still in contention. Chances are Minny will see the top 10 and that’s it. We’ll see if the Gophers can finish the year strong, but if you’re going to release the rankings this early, at least reward the teams that do everything right. 

Baylor is playing with fire: You have to give No. 12 Baylor credit for finding ways to win. The Bears’ 29-23 triple overtime win over TCU was a wild finish and their fifth victory this season by one possession or less. While there’s no denying Baylor’s toughness, Saturday was not this team’s finest performance. Neither was the Halloween night game against West Virginia. The rest of November is tough. No. 9 Oklahoma is up next, and Texas and Kansas could be tricky, too. Think Baylor drops one, maybe two games over the next few weeks. 

This is the worst way for Chad Morris to go out at Arkansas: Whether Morris is fired Sunday or later, a 45-19 loss to Western Kentucky ought to do it. Losing to San Jose State and the Hilltoppers in one season is bad enough — it also cost the program $3 million — but this death knell is a real gem: 

Mark Dantonio is cooked at Michigan State: Looks like it, don’t it? Blowing a 25-point lead at home to Illinois to lose 37-34 in the final moments is the type of stuff that John L. Smith used to do. Dantonio is a good coach, but this program is 24-23 since making the playoff in 2015. He kept on his offensive staff after an abysmal 2018 and the results this year aren’t any better. Would Dantonio consider calling it a career? There’s his $4.3 million bonus if he stays through Jan. 15, 2020 to consider, but it’s apparent he’s not getting the job done like he used to. 

Appalachian State is going to kick itself: The Mountaineers beat South Carolina 20-15. That’s good. In fact, App. State has wins over North and South Carolina, becoming the first Sun Belt team to knock off two Power Five teams in one year. Which is to say this: the Mountaineers have to be kicking themselves for losing to Georgia Southern 24-21 on Halloween night. The Group of Five’s Cotton Bowl bid is probably going to someone from the AAC or Boise State, but App State absolutely would have had a case if any of those teams slipped. That may prove to be a devastating loss. 

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