A few thoughts to jump start your Sunday morning:
ALL IS QUIET ON THE FLORIDA FRONT
It seems odd that here it is bowl selection Sunday and the Florida Gators aren’t going anywhere. It’s been 23 years since that happened and the only reason the 9-2 Gators didn’t go in 1990 was the Gators were serving time in the NCAA jail. As painful as it is missing the 15 added practices that you get with a bowl game and seeing the bowl streak and non-losing streaks come to an end, this could turn into a blessing in disguise because it has forced Will Muschamp to re-evaluate everything in the football program including his own offensive philosophy. Losing stinks and being humbled is never easy, but if it results in the kind of changes that right the Florida ship and set the program off on another run like the one we had from 1990-2009, then we might look back on this year as a painful, but fortunate turn of events.
THE SEC STREAK COULD LIVE ON
Gus Malzahn and the Auburn Tigers should send Urban and Shelley Meyer on a vacation to Hawaii. Now Auburn certainly is the hottest team in the country, but the Tigers couldn’t have made it to the BCS national championship game without some help from a rather inept Ohio State defense and Braxton Miller, who couldn’t have hit the ocean standing on the end of a pier with his passing against a Michigan State defense that is good, but certainly not great. Had Ohio State won the Big Ten Championship Game, the Buckeyes would be playing Florida State for the national championship, even though Auburn is the nation’s hottest and best team right now. There is no way that the computers and voters would have jumped once-beaten Auburn over an Ohio State team that had won 25 in a row, but thanks to the Buckeyes, there will be no controversy and the SEC will have a chance to win its eighth consecutive national championship.
AUBURN TRAMPLED MISSOURI
Missouri came into the SEC Championship Game with the second best defense in the league – 119.X yards per game and only 11 rushing touchdowns. The Tigers hadn’t allowed any team to run for more than 184 yards in the 12-game regular season. Auburn had that many yards by the end of the first quarter and finished the game with 594 yards and seven rushing touchdowns led by Tre Mason with an SEC Championship Game record 304. What makes Auburn’s running game so amazing is that everybody in the country knows the Tigers are going to run and what they’re going to run. It’s not like they’re really fooling anyone. Try to stop them, however. Next up is a Florida State defense that gave up 182 rushing yards to Clemson, 200 to Boston College and 188 to North Carolina State. Auburn’s running game is vastly superior.
SEMINOLES ARE IMPRESSIVE BUT …
While it is impressive that Florida State beat every team on its schedule by at least 14 points, the Seminoles’ 13-0 record is against a schedule that included three convents, two orphanages and a senior citizens shuffleboard team. It’s the 61st toughest schedule in the country. The two best wins are over a Clemson (10-2) team that got hosed by South Carolina and Duke (10-3), which went down, 45-7, in the ACC championship team. It would take a miracle of changing water into wine proportions for either Clemson or Duke to come anywhere close to 10 wins against an SEC schedule. The Seminoles are the nation’s only unbeaten team, but are they one of the two best? Are they better than one-loss Alabama? Or Pac-12 champ Stanford? Or one-loss Baylor? Maybe not, but they’ve beaten every team they’ve played and even if the schedule is bad, the Seminoles are the only unbeaten team standing. That has to count for something.
UNBEATEN IS NOT ALWAYS THE BEST
If you go back to 1984 you see the origins of this unbeaten must be best precedent. BYU finished that season 13-0 but it played a 6-5 Michigan team in the Holiday Bowl on December 21 and didn’t have to play one of the nation’s better teams on January 1. The best team in the country that year was Florida, but the Gators couldn’t go to a bowl game because of NCAA transgressions. Since BYU was the only unbeaten standing, the Cougars were voted national champions. Since then, the last unbeaten team standing has always been given a pass and has either won the national title by a vote or has been given a shot at the BCS title. In 1994, Auburn was the only unbeaten team but the Tigers weren’t allowed to go to a bowl game because of NCAA violations. In 2004, Auburn finished unbeaten but Southern Cal and Oklahoma went unbeaten in the regular season, also, and they played for the national title. In 2006, Boise State went unbeaten but Ohio State was unbeaten and ranked #1 prior to losing to once-beaten Florida in the BCS title game. Because Boise played in the WAC at the time, the Broncos weren’t given national championship consideration. In 2008, Utah finished unbeaten but Oklahoma went unbeaten in the regular season and faced once-beaten Florida in the national championship game. Utah wasn’t given national championship consideration because it came out of the Mountain West Conference. Ohio State went unbeaten in 2012 but couldn’t go to a bowl because it was in the NCAA jailhouse. Just because you’re the only unbeaten team standing at the end doesn’t make you the best team in the country.
MACK BROWN’S LAST STAND?
Mack Brown and Texas didn’t get Baylored Saturday night although the Longhorns took a 30-10 hosing. Baylored is when you give up five touchdowns and more than 350 yards by halftime. At the half Saturday night, Baylor and Texas were locked into a 3-3 tie but Baylor stepped on the gas, outscored the Longhorns 27-7 in the second half and finished with a very pedestrian 508 yards. Had Brown and Texas been Baylored, there is no doubt that Brown would be getting his walking papers this morning. But what will happen? The Longhorns went 8-4 this year and were in the hunt for the Big 12 championship until the very last game. Even though Texas is only 30-20 since playing Alabama for the 2009 national championship, Brown has accomplished plenty in his years in Austin. If he chose to retire, everyone would breathe a huge sigh of relief, but if he wants to coach another year, it might be very difficult to say no to a coach who, from 2001-09 won at least 10 games every season.
THE TEXAS DILEMMA
There is nothing easy about this decision for Texas president Bill Powers and athletic director Steve Patterson. Brown is 158-47 at Texas and he’s won the Longhorns’ only national championship (2005) since 1970 so it won’t be easy to tell a coach who went 8-4 and has done so much to hit the road. If Brown is gone, perhaps Texas could make an offer that Nick Saban couldn’t refuse, but would the odds be better to land Saban after next season? After all, Alabama will be breaking in a brand new quarterback next year so would Saban be bored with Bama if he went two years without a title? What about Art Briles at Baylor? He’s got the Bears in a BCS bowl, won the Big 12 and gets a brand new state of the art stadium next year? Could Texas convince him to leave? What other big time coach is out there that Texas could get this year? Jimbo Fisher has FSU in the national championship game and will have a better team next year. Gus Malzahn of Auburn just got a huge raise and a six-year contract extension. Those two aren’t going anywhere. If Texas waits another year, then Patterson would be free to negotiate with Todd Graham at Arizona State, something he can’t do this year per an agreement when he left ASU back in November. And what if Texas gambles, gives Brown another year and he goes 11-1 but doesn’t win a championship? This is a dilemma for which there are no easy answers.
MUSIC FOR TODAY
For about four years, The Box Tops were the poster children for blue-eyed soul. They hit the charts in 1967 with “The Letter” and for the next four years they were regular contributors to the top 40. The Box Tops were just a bunch of kids from Memphis who entrusted their lives to lawyers and managers who stole all the money, which had everything to do with the band breaking up in 1970. The founding member of the bad, Alex Chilton, had the great voice. He got the band back together in 2005 for a successful reunion tour and they did regular gigs until Chilton died of a heart attack in 2010. Today’s song is “Soul Deep” which was one of my favorites in 1969.