Jim McElwain is a Wizard. In the waning years of the Will Muschamp era Florida was known as much for its dysfunctional offense as it was for its dominating defense. The offense was so bad that it was assumed it would take multiple years to get it back on track. McElwain had the Gator offense humming in a few games. The emergence of quarterback Will Grier put Florida in a position to compete for the SEC East.
Last week Grier was suspended and it seemed the Florida offense would return to its recent doldrums. Treon Harris, a quarterback who had plenty of experience during the Muschamp era, stepped into the starting role. Having seen Harris play there was little hope that Florida would be scoring much on LSU in Death Valley. Florida put up four touchdowns and looks more than competent again.
This Florida Gators team is going to win the SEC East, and they will still be in the conversation for the playoff in December. They are going to beat Georgia in the Cocktail party, possibly badly and then cruise until they play Florida State. There’s no reason to think they cannot win that game; then anything can happen in Atlanta. Jim McElwain isn’t just good; he’s a wizard.
Ohio State is back. The Buckeyes have been the incumbent number one team all season based on the way they finished last year. If they were being judged solely on their accomplishments from this season, they would be a Top 10 team, but not a Top 5 team. More than anything Ohio State has looked like a very talented team playing a bunch of teams who aren’t very talented. They’ve won, but it hasn’t always been pretty, and it’s rarely been impressive.
Finally, this week Ohio State started to look like the team that steamrolled their last three games last year. 38 points against Penn State is what we’ve been expecting from OSU all season. We finally got it. The Buckeyes are rounding into form and just in time, too. With upcoming games against two very good teams from Michigan, they couldn’t afford to be less than their best any longer.
Last year Ohio State peaked at the perfect time. They played their best football for three games at the end of the year. What about this year’s team? Have they put it all together earlier? Will they be able to maintain this high level of play for the entire season, or are they peaking for three or four games? Time will tell.
Alabama’s is not winning the national title. Nick Saban has put together another incredibly talented, incredibly deep Alabama team. In the Top 10 with one loss, the Crimson Tide control their destiny and should end up in the playoff. They are a very good team, but they are not like the great Alabama teams we remember. They don’t have the spark on offense, and the defense doesn’t dominate like those teams from 3-4 years ago. They are still very good, but don’t make the mistake of thinking they are truly great, even after big wins.
Those great Alabama teams from years past had a way of making their wins inevitable. The longer the game went on, the more apparent it became that the Crimson Tide was more talented and deeper. They were running a punishing scheme and as the game continued, their defense looked tougher, their offense made bigger plays. For all the difference makers in crimson, there still seems to be something missing. Those transcendent players that made the Tide unstoppable aren’t there.
Baylor won’t be challenged until TCU. Oregon set the standard for what hurry up, no huddle teams could do to people. For years the Ducks destroyed their competition. Even in big games the score would remain close for a quarter or a half, then in the span of a few minutes Oregon would be up 20 and pulling away. Baylor is doing the same thing, but bigger.
The Bears occasionally toy with teams in the first half before the greater weight of their offensive talent and scheme take over. The more the Bears play, the bigger the gap between them and their competition becomes. In the first half of the season Baylor is averaging 64 points; they haven’t scored less than 56 in a game and won’t be slowed down soon. TCU is the only obstacle to a Baylor playoff berth, and it remains to be seen if even they can stay with the mighty Bears.
Every Saturday for Three Months. Michigan State’s unexpected defeat of Michigan encapsulates everything that is wonderful about college football. It was a competitive rivalry game between an unexpected success and a pre-season favorite. Before the season this game wasn’t supposed to be competitive. Such is the unexpected nature of the college game that so much can change in 5 weeks.
Michigan fans will be forgiven for failing to see the beauty in the end of their game Saturday, but exciting finishes like that make college football great. You don’t see those things very often in the NFL, where every player is great, from the snapper to the punter. In college this type of thing happens every week: a sudden swing, a game-changing mistake, a season altering play, a sublime victory and a soul crushing defeat. All of that was in this game; in fact, it was all in the last play.
Why hello Memphis. Quality is relative. This is about the time of the season when we find out that most of the undefeated teams are undefeated by virtue of a soft schedule, not merit. This is especially true of the mid-major teams. They don’t typically have the schedule to justify themselves or their ranking. Memphis was in that boat. They’d won; they looked good, but who had they played? What did we really know?
We know now. The Tigers beat a good Ole Miss team by double digits. The game wasn’t a fluke; there weren’t 8 turnovers (Boise); they didn’t build a lead on gimmicks or surprise and hold on. Memphis beat the Rebels because they are the better team. Memphis had to win this game to be taken seriously, and they did. You can move them to the proven list.
Clemson and Florida State need help. Speaking of being only as good as your schedule, the ACC is not doing itself any favors. Clemson and Florida State look to be playoff quality teams, but they could really use some help from the rest of their conference. North Carolina and Duke could be the next best teams in the conference. The Tarheels may win 10 games, but nobody is confusing those teams with the contenders from the rest of the Power Five conferences.
When the Tigers and Seminoles play it would be really beneficial for one of those teams to blow out the other. With the lack of quality depth in the conference, FSU and Clemson have so few chances to make a splash, they must take advantage of the few opportunities they have. They have to separate themselves from the rest of their conference brethren. If not, the ACC could be this year’s Big 12: a conference with two playoff contenders who both get left out.