This has actually turned into a really great college football season, and that is not just because of the vastly superior system this season is using to name a title (even as it still needs improvement). It is quite clear that there is some decent parity in college football, and basic principles of all other sports are being forced to bear out in college football (“I know Florida State won but I just plain don’t think they’re REALLY one of the best teams”). That statement would not be embraced or mocked in any other sport, because everyone would just know that we will find out eventually. If FSU is lucky to have beaten Miami, Notre Dame, etc., surely they would be exposed in the postseason against Alabama, Oregon, etc., and it wouldn’t matter what our subjective opinions might be (and I do believe both Alabama and Oregon can and likely will beat Florida State, but I’m just using them as an example right now). If we think a team is better than they have played, the postseason solves it objectively. The inverse is equally true. This year we have one, though it doesn’t have enough teams. Eight is the number, not four. But I’ll take four over that old BCS system which forced us to endure inane comments from people who should have known better.
With that said, the top four teams are going to be tough to define. The wheels are off Auburn’s bus and LSU’s bus in a big way. Mississippi State will need to win out to stay in top four consideration. Frankly, they looked okay, but not really top four (certainly not #1) against Alabama. I do believe Alabama MIGHT prove to be the best in the pack, but I understand the skepticism around their barely having survived LSU and Arkansas (and that loss to Ole Miss). Ohio State is trying to make an argument, but everyone knows their conference is a laughingstock. Ohio State might want to count it a blessing that they’re probably going to be spared a game against Oregon in the postseason, if you know what I mean. I like this parity. I like the teams all in consideration. And I think this will be a very interesting 3 weeks of football.
The biggest flops of the year have to include Stanford and Auburn and now Notre Dame. I would’ve had Arizona State in the biggest upside surprises of the year until that devastating (and fantastic) loss to Oregon State the other night. UCLA cannot be called a flop this year because not a single person in their fan base ever thought they were really a top 5 team, nor did they ever care about anything other than the game coming up this Saturday. More on that below. It’s just been a surprising season in a lot of ways and an awesome one at that.
Sark and my beloved Trojans have a chance to really redeem what has had some extremely disappointing moments this season by running the table against their two rivals, possibly putting them in the Pac-12 championship game (would need Arizona to beat ASU), and ending at 9-3 with two losses coming from freak end of game tragedies (I recognize there are also two wins you could argue got handed to us as well, so it is what it is). I do not know if we will sweep UCLA and Notre Dame, but I know we can. UCLA barely beat Cal (it never should have happened), went double OT with Colorado, the worst team in football, and has struggled all year with bad football teams. On the other hand they have a good running QB, beat USC confidently last year, and play Troy in the Rose Bowl. UCLA never cares about anything but beating USC, the school which provides them all existential meaning. I believe they will have a tough time stopping the USC passing game, especially if USC successfully gets Buck Allen running. I also think our Defensive line has a chance to put a lot of pressure on Hundley as a ball thrower. Our linebackers, though, are vulnerable with Hundley as a ball runner, and our secondary is just plain vulnerable period. Sark needs this win to silence his critics (though his critics are being increasingly marginalized every week by the woeful performance of the other people they said were the saviors of the program). The jury is out on Sark, but nothing stacks votes like a win over your rivals.
I will not talk about the Notre Dame game until the UCLA game is behind us. I don’t look ahead.
Speaking of which, the Cal game was a lot of fun. Eleven wins in a row over a legitimate program is hard to do. Cal is not good, but they are not basement dwelling bad either. Nelson Agholar put in a beastly clinic in the Coliseum Thursday night, and I believe Adoree Jackson is really coming into his own as well. I believe Cody and the offense become categorically different when we see Buck Allen running downhill (bold claim, eh?), and if we can punch UCLA in the mouth on the line of scrimmage we will win this game. We cannot turn the ball over. AND, we MUST, MUST, MUST limit the turnovers. The referees will be good for a minimum of 10 points (net) for UCLA. We need to win by 11.
It is going to be a war in the Rose Bowl. May the best team win. And may the men and women of Troy dig deep into the Fight On spirit that frankly leaves Bruins not knowing what to do. They have never seen anything like it. Fight on, indeed.