It’s Bama, then Everybody Else; Other Observations

Lyn Scarbrough

November 15, 2016 at 10:28 am.

Nov 12, 2016; Tuscaloosa, AL, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide head coach Nick Saban brings his team onto the field prior to the playing Mississippi State Bulldogs at Bryant-Denny Stadium. Photo Credit: Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports

Nov 12, 2016; Tuscaloosa, AL, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide head coach Nick Saban brings his team onto the field prior to the playing Mississippi State Bulldogs at Bryant-Denny Stadium. Photo Credit: Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports

With just two weeks remaining in the college football regular season (unless, of course, you follow the Big 12), some things have become clear.

**There’s Alabama, then everybody else. You suspected that was the case for a while now, since the logjam of undefeated teams started crumbling several weeks ago. But, it was cemented last Saturday when five of the nation’s top nine teams were upset on the same day. Four of those – Clemson, Washington, Auburn and Texas A&M – were double digit favorites, while Michigan was a nine-point favorite at four-loss Iowa. It will be an upset of monumental proportion if the Crimson Tide doesn’t repeat as national champion with a win in Tampa in early January.

**There are a good many reasons why Alabama sits on that perch, but a couple stand out. First, they have more good players than other teams. That happens when you sign the nation’s highest rated recruiting class most every season. Second, the Crimson Tide has been lucky regarding injuries. They did lose defensive back/return specialist Eddie Jackson, which was a significant loss. But, most of the key players have been available and healthy. Just within the SEC, efficient, experienced quarterbacks have been injured for several teams, including Texas A&M, Ole Miss, Auburn and Florida, while the league’s leading running backs have missed games due to injury for LSU and Auburn, among others.

**Except for Alabama, there is more parity than ever. Need proof? There are still 13 SEC teams that could qualify for postseason bowl games. Nine teams in the Pac-12 could still earn bowl bids, while 10 of 14 Big Ten teams could win at least six games. Like the SEC, only one ACC team (Virginia) is already eliminated from postseason consideration, while eight of 10 Big 12 teams could still make it. Of course, all of those teams won’t qualify since several still have to play each other. But, the fact that 53 of 64 Power 5 conference teams still have bowl hopes makes the point.

**The SEC Eastern Division title may finally be decided on Saturday. During a season when it seemed that nobody wanted to take control of that division, Florida can end the suspense with a win in Baton Rouge in a game that should have been played in Gainesville last month. But, the Gators are a two-touchdown underdog. If Florida loses, Tennessee can end a disappointing season by playing in the SEC Championship Game if it defeats Missouri and Vanderbilt, each of which has only one SEC win. If that happens, don’t expect a much different outcome than when Alabama visited Knoxville four weeks ago.

**It’s dangerous to use comparative scores to predict games, especially this season. Case in point … North Carolina A&T of the MEAC beat Kent State, which beat Central Michigan, which beat Oklahoma State, which beat Pittsburgh, which this past Saturday went into Death Valley as 21-point underdogs and beat No. 2 Clemson. How many people really think North Carolina A&T is better than Clemson?

**In a year when so much was said about the lack of top quarterbacks in the SEC, freshman surprises have helped remove some of those concerns. Jalen Hurts (Alabama), Jacob Eason (Georgia), Jake Bentley (South Carolina) and now Shea Patterson (Ole Miss) are among the best crop of first-year signal callers in recent years. When coupled with several other highly-touted freshmen who are redshirting at other schools, the future for SEC quarterbacks looks unexpectedly bright.

**This has been a gigantically disappointing season for more traditionally powerful programs than perhaps ever before. Take Lindy’s preseason Top 25 (which wasn’t much different from the other preseason rankings). Baylor (No. 5) lost its head coach, its athletic director, its national ranking, its good name, and its three most recent games. Now, it has lost its starting quarterback for the season and still has three losable games on the schedule. Tennessee (No. 6), the prohibitive favorite for the SEC East title and a Final Four dark horse, has three conference losses and countless thousands of frustrated, disgusted fans. Stanford (No. 10), the Pac-12 favorite, lost three consecutive league games and hasn’t been a factor. Notre Dame (No. 11) has lost six games, including to Duke and Navy, and will almost for sure miss the postseason. Then, there is Ole Miss (No. 13) with five losses and not yet bowl eligible; Georgia (No. 18) with four losses and not an SEC factor; Michigan State (No. 22), a Final Four team last season, has seven losses and wins over only Rutgers, Notre Dame and Furman; and Oregon (No. 24) matches the Spartans with seven losses, including four in which the Ducks gave up over 50 points.

It’s been a surprising season in many ways, and with two weeks left, don’t be shocked if there are still a few more surprises before the regular season is in the books.