November 10, 2012; Tuscaloosa, AL, USA; Texas A
The king has fallen! The king of college football has fallen! But wait was this really a surprise to anyone? That is anyone outside of Tuscaloosa?
On Saturday two undefeated teams joined the ranks of a handful of teams that no longer control their own destiny. The college football world is a buzz with the 29-24 loss of Alabama to Texas A&M.
On a smaller scale but equally important to Louisville and Big East fans was the 45-26 beat down Syracuse gave the Cardinals abruptly ending any title hopes for a forgotten Big East conference.
Aggie fans, congratulations on the big win but this is not about you, at least not right now. This win could be looked upon in the future as a pivotal change for your program but for now this is about the former No. 1 team in the country losing and how that affects the rest of the 2012 college football season.
The college football landscape going forward
Alabama might be the most fundamentally sound teams in college football this year but they lack the true playmakers on offense and defense that peppered the 2011 roster. Gone are guys like Mark Baron, Don’t’a Hightower, and Courtney Upshaw on defense and Trent Richardson on offense with no one to take their place.
Yes, Alabama has a great offensive line but who is the one guy on the team that stands out from the rest in their skill position packages? This year lacks that go-to guy to make the big play when needed making their loss less shocking for some than for others.
An outside shot looking in
Bama did lose one game last year, at home, and still managed an invite to the BCS National Championship without having to play in the SEC Championship.
Alabama will play in the SEC Championship game sans an unforeseen loss to Auburn, which will not happen. The extra game should pad their computer rankings.
The extra game could also influence voters to push a one-loss SEC team past an undefeated team that does not play in a conference championship game and may have a weaker schedule than Alabama… the between the lines reference is to Notre Dame.
Of the three undefeated teams that will be ranked ahead of Bama, Oregon has the toughest road to the national championship game. The Ducks have Stanford and Oregon State left to play with a Pac-12 title game against a South Division winner that appears to be either UCLA or USC. That uncertainty of the South Division winner will play itself out next weekend in the Rose Bowl when the Bruins host the Trojans (Nov. 17).
Oregon has too much team speed to truly be slowed down against either Stanford or Oregon State but a turnover here and a punt blocked there, coupled with a methodical time eating running game could find the Ducks in for a tight game or two before the regular season is over.
Plus Oregon is not known for their defense.
Kansas State’s defense will get a test against Baylor and Texas. Conventional wisdom has the Wildcats getting the opportunity to sneak into the national championship game without having to play a Big 12 title game… does not seem fair. Same notion applies to Notre Dame.
If Oregon, Alabama, and Georgia all have to play one extra game that could hurt their national championship hopes why should Kansas State and Notre Dame be the beneficiary of this set up? Playoffs cannot get here fast enough!
With Wake Forest and Southern California left to play, the Irish only have one game left to get up for during the 2012 college footballs season and that is USC. All ND has to do is sit back and hope Oregon, Kansas State, Alabama, and Georgia all lose, but mainly KSU and/or Oregon.
Notre Dame has big money following the program. A conspiracy theorist at heart makes this sports writer think the Irish will somehow end up in the BCS title game if undefeated come season’s end.
Oregon is now No. 1 in the AP Top 25 Poll (Week 12) followed by Kansas State at No. 2, Notre Dame ranked No. 3, Alabama mercifully was only dropped to No. 4 with Georgia, their SEC Championship Game opponent, sitting at No. 5.
Georgia is the dark horse in the race. Their final two regular season games are against Georgia Southern and Georgia Tech, both games should see the Bulldogs as double digit favorites going in.
If Georgia can beat Alabama in the SEC Championship game the Tide is definitely out but what happens to the Bulldogs?
The Bulldogs would have only two quality wins, both against Top 10 teams; then No. 2 Florida (17-9) and currently No. 4 Alabama. Their lone loss was a 35-7 road thrashing at then No. 6 South Carolina.
Notre Dame has some “then” ranked opponents to brag about but by and large what do we make of their resume?
Here are the quality wins for Notre Dame:
No. 10 Michigan State, no longer ranked
Then No. 18 Michigan recently back in the Top 25 at No. 23
Then No. 4 Stanford, a generous ranking at the time but now ranked No. 14
A win over then No. 8 Oklahoma, now No. 13
Notre Dame’s stingy defense will get perhaps their biggest test of the season when they travel to USC on Nov. 24. USC does not play defense well but their offense is as good as any, outside of the Ducks, in college football.
Can the Irish keep up with the Trojans offense or will their BCS title hopes be dashed in Los Angeles?
Through the final three weeks of the college football season, including championship week, all Alabama can do is hope and pray. Hope that Oregon is tripped up by UCLA or USC in the Pac-12 Championship Game, and pray that Stanford and Oregon State can pull of a major upset.
Kansas State’s biggest challenge more than likely will be Texas. Texas has not defended the pass well at all this year but that is not the Wildcat’s forte making this game an intriguing match-up.
If the Longhorns can stop the run and Collin Klein, as everyone has tried to do thus far against KSU this season to no avail, another dream season could come crashing down placing Bama back in the championship game with a win over Georgia in Atlanta.
So many working pieces need to happen for the Tide to win their second straight national championship game but stranger things have happened.
The strangest oddity of the whole conversation is a potential national championship game without an SEC team!