Wednesday, September 4, 2013

2013 College Football Week 1 Impressions - Will the SEC Win the BCS Championship Again ?

I'm sure many of you are as glad as I am that the 2013 football season is here. One reason I'm ready is because NASCAR has laid another egg this year, but that's a sermon for another day. Maybe. At this point, I think I am about done with those guys. I'm tired of the same ol' same ol' every week - Jimmie and Kyle. Blah.

English: Logo of the Southeastern Conference (...
English: Logo of the Southeastern Conference (SEC). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Many of the college football pundits are already prepared to present Alabama with its third straight BCS national championship. Most think its a no-brainer. Others say the champ will be either them or another team from the SEC. After all, the last seven in a row and 8 of the last 10 have gone to an SEC team. So, the SEC is by far the best football conference, right?

One of the guys in my fantasy football league even went as far as saying that "the SEC is where real football is played." That's a bit over the top, in my opinion. There are good teams all over the country. Plus, the better you get, the bigger the target is on your back. The harder others work and try to knock you off the top rung.

The Sheepdog is not quite ready to crown Alabama or any other SEC team as king in 2013 just yet. To the folks who are, I would ask did you actually watch any football over the weekend? The final score in Alabama's game with Virginia Tech was not at all reflective of how each team played. I would also argue that the other teams usually considered as part of the upper echelon of the SEC were not overly impressive, either.

For instance, consider the following :
  1. #1 Alabama beat Virginia Tech in the Georgia Dome 35-10 - However, 3 of Alabama's touchdowns, accounting for 21 of their points, were from kick returns (2) and an interception that were returned for touchdowns. If you take those 21 points off the board, Alabama's margin of victory is only 14-10. With a score that close, second half play calling and strategy for each team changes, particularly in the fourth quarter. Virginia Tech finds themselves with a chance to beat #1 late in the game. Anything can happen. Additionally, Virginia Tech's defense shut the Alabama offense down all day. 'Bama only had a little over 200 yards of total offense with only 96 yards rushing. 'Bama looked sluggish and Virginia Tech does not have one of the best defenses or teams in the ACC. The Tide looked vulnerable.
  2. Florida beat Toledo in The Swamp by a score of 24-6 - At first glance, the score looks like a whoopin'. However, just like with 'Bama / Virginia Tech, it's misleading. Florida was only up 17-6 late in the 3rd quarter when they intercepted a pass deep in Toledo territory and then punched it in for a easy touchdown to go up 24-6. Only then did the Gators really put Toledo away. Toledo? Really? The Gators look a little weak, too.
  3. Texas A and M beat Rice at home 52-31 - I suspect this game made Aggie fans nervous. Johnny Manziel was suspended for the first half, and the Aggies only led 28-21 at halftime. After Manziel came into the game to start the third quarter, the Aggies did stretch the lead out. However, they didn't put Rice away until about midway through the fourth quarter. In my opinion, the really sorry part of the Aggies performance on Saturday was its defense. The Aggie defense gave up 31 points to Rice. Can't help but wonder how many points LSU will hang on them when the Aggie's visit Death Valley in November. That could get ugly. 
  4. LSU beat TCU in Cowboys Stadium 37-27 - Speaking of LSU, their offense put some yardage and points on the board against TCU, but as a team they never put TCU away on Saturday. Never. TCU was in this game the entire 60 minutes. Yo LSU ... it's TCU!! What are you doing? If TCU could have forced one more opportune turnover at some point during the game, this could have quickly become the upset of the week, Probably shouldn't be making any trophies with LSU's name on them, either.
  5. South Carolina beat North Carolina at home 27-10 - Man oh man - I think the Tarheels let one get away from them in this one. I watched some of this game, and North Carolina's hurry up offense had the Gamecocks defense sucking wind badly in the first quarter. However, NC let up on the throttle, allowed SC to catch their breath, and made some mistakes allowing the Gamecocks to get it going and win the game. I think North Carolina could have done a lot more in this game. South Carolina's got some work to do on their conditioning.
  6. Georgia lost on the road in Death Valley to Clemson 38-35 - If you didn't watch this ballgame Saturday night, you missed the best one of the weekend. It was a back and forth shootout down to the wire. Georgia scored a TD late to get within a field goal and then failed to recover the onside kick. Both of these teams looked pretty good to me, although both have got some serious holes in their defenses that they better get sorted out quickly. Overall, Clemson looked a little better on both sides of the ball and the final margin should probably have been a little greater. Georgia has South Carolina coming to visit this weekend. Based upon what I saw them not do against Clemson, they're 0-2 after the Gamecocks get through with them. The 'Dawgs should probably go ahead and get a head start planning for next year. They're done.
I go through all that to say this - SEC, don't count your chickens before they hatch in 2013. Based upon what I saw out of your Big 6, Alabama, Florida, Texas A and M, LSU, South Carolina, and Georgia, in Week 1, I wouldn't count on keeping the crystal trophy this year. There's a lot of football to be played.

English: Photo of 2007 BCS Championship Trophy...
English: Photo of 2007 BCS Championship Trophy awarded to Louisiana State University (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
So, by now you're asking, "O.k. Mr. Prognosticator Sheepdog, who do you like for this year's national champion?" The simple answer is, at this point it's a toss up. It's early, but I think there's a few teams in particular to keep your eye on that are currently ranked in the top 10. There's also a few you can go ahead and write-off. For instance :
  1. Alabama - 'Bama doesn't 3-peat. In fact, they won't even win the SEC. A loss at home to LSU in November will eliminate them.
  2. Ohio State - Ohio State loses twice. Once when they travel to Michigan and again due to an upset at the hands of one of their lesser conference foes. Bye Bye Buckeyes.
  3. Oregon - Oregon lit the scoreboard up Saturday, so they've had no dropoff with Chip Kelly's departure for the NFL's Eagles. I think they may run the table. If they fall, it will be at Stanford.
  4. Stanford - The only team I see beating them might be Oregon.
  5. Clemson - Absolutely, positively do not overlook Clemson, if they can tighten up their defense, they can make a run. Their toughest games will be Florida State at home and road games at Maryland and South Carolina. If they win those and go undefeated, it will be hard to argue against them deserving a shot at the title.
  6. Louisville - Louisville's schedule is softer than my pillow. If they don't go undefeated in the regular season, they should just shut their football program down. They get hurt badly by lack of strength of schedule in the BCS rankings.
  7. LSU - The Tigers stumble and fall at Georgia but win the SEC West and play for the SEC Championship due to having the tiebreaker over 'Bama.
  8. South Carolina - Their only loss is to Clemson at home before defeating LSU for the SEC title. However, the late season loss to Clemson keeps them out of the BCS title game.
  9. Texas A and M - Sorry Aggie fans, but your boys lose to both 'Bama and LSU. So ... fuhgeddaboudit.
So, to answer the question within the title of this post - the answer is "No". The SEC will not take the crystal trophy home again this year. The only SEC team I see possibly sneaking into the mix is South Carolina. However, they will have to beat Clemson to finish out the regular season in order to do so.

I think there are four potential BCS Title contenders to watch - Oregon, Stanford, Louisville, and Clemson. I do think that 1 of the 2 teams in the national championship game will be the winner of Oregon / Stanford. The other one is Clemson or Louisville. Louisville's wussy schedule might allow them to steal a spot in the title game, but they would get smoked by Oregon or Stanford.

The question for me is, have I done any better job of prognostication here than I've done in regards to the NFL playoffs the last two years? The important thing is to for everyone to enjoy the season. I will.

And ..... Go 'Noles !!
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