Five things we learned on the first Saturday in November:
1—The Big Ten’s bad day could turn out to be a good day for the SEC: The Big Ten took a couple of serious body shots on Saturday as Ohio State (7-2) got taken to the woodshed by Iowa (55-24) and Penn State (7-2) got beat at the buzzer by Michigan State (27-24). So Michigan State (7-2, 5-1 Big Ten) actually controls its Fate in the Big Ten East with a trip to Ohio State (7-2, 5-1) coming up on Saturday.
Bottom line: The Big Ten East champ will have two losses and will be favored to beat Wisconsin (9-0, 6-0), which can clinch the Big Ten West with a win at home against Iowa, in the Big Ten championship game.
That strengthens the SEC’s argument that if No. 1 Georgia and No. 2 Alabama are both 12-0 if they meet in the conference championship game, the loser of that game, if close, also deserves to get into the college football playoffs. [membership level="0"] The rest of this article is available to subscribers only - to become a subscriber click here.[/membership] [membership]
2—For the first time, Alabama looked (almost) human: During the first eight weeks of the season Alabama has looked like an unstoppable force of nature. The Crimson Tide has been bigger, stronger, faster, and deeper—by a lot—against every team they have played.
But Saturday night against LSU, Alabama was held to only 116 yards rushing on 36 carries by the Tigers, who looked determined not to get steamrolled by the surging Crimson Tide.
To Alabama’s credit, it overcame a bunch of injuries and, quite honestly, was never in danger of losing the game. The Tide just wasn’t as dominant as they have been.
So what does that mean? Does it mean that Alabama just might be vulnerable to a team with a good run defense like Auburn or Georgia, both of which have considerably better offenses than LSU?
I don’t know. But we’re going to find out in the next three weeks.
3—I felt embarrassed for Florida: I don’t know David Reese, Florida’s sophomore linebacker. But I sure do respect him. That’s because Reese stood up and said what had to be said after the Gators failed to show a pulse in a 45-16 loss at Missouri.
Yes, I know it’s been a tough stretch for the Florida players. Their head coach was suddenly fired on Oct. 29. It has been a lousy season based on expectations. Players in their position can go one of two ways. They can fight or they can go in the tank.
Interim coach Randy Shannon, one of the most respected people in the game, challenged his players to represent themselves and their school with some energy. They failed to meet that challenge.
“I hate that we represented our coaches like that today with this game,” Reese said.
Florida (3-5, 3-4) still has three games left South Carolina (6-3), UAB (6-3), and Florida State (3-5).
4—Matt Luke is doing a very good job of coaching Ole Miss: There is no way that Ole Miss should have had enough left in the tank to come back and beat Kentucky 37-34 on Saturday. But they did.
The week before the Rebels blew a 31-7 lead against Arkansas and got beat at the buzzer 38-37. They could have mailed it in after that. But they didn’t.
Ole Miss was trailing Kentucky 27-17 in the third quarter and was still trailing 34-30 when the Wildcats scored with only 2:14 left in the game. But backup quarterback Jordan Ta’amu drove the team 71 yards on 14 plays and threw a perfect pass that D.K. Metcalf caught and got a toe down in the corner of the end zone with only five seconds left.
This Ole Miss (4-5, 2-4) cannot go to a bowl. The Rebels lost their starting quarterback, Shea Patterson, two weeks ago. This team had a bunch of really good reasons to quit. But it hasn’t. That’s coaching.
Matt Luke is probably not going to get the Ole Miss job. But this guy needs to be a head coach for somebody next season.
5—Don’t look now but Missouri could go 7-5: Just three weeks ago Missouri was clearly the worst team in the SEC. And it wasn’t really close. The Tigers had lost five straight FBS games and only one (40-34 to Kentucky) was even competitive. Things were so frustrating for Coach Barry Odom that after a 51-14 loss to Auburn on Sept. 23 he took to the podium to plead his case that he was the guy who could get this thing turned around.
In a motivational move, Odom literally set fire to negative articles and game plans that didn’t work after the first half of the season.
Three weeks later the Tigers (4-5, 1-5) have won three straight. Two of those were against overmatched non-conference opponents—68-20 over Idaho and 52-12 over UConn. But Saturday Missouri put together its most complete game of the season in beating Florida 45-16.
“You’re never as good as you think and never as bad as you think,” said Odom, in his second year after replacing the retired Gary Pinkel. “I’ll take the positive momentum and we’ll use it.”
Missouri now has three games left with Tennessee (4-5, 0-5) at home, Vanderbilt (4-5, 0-5) on the road, and Arkansas (4-5, 1-4) on the road. Missouri could absolutely win all three.