The Penn State story renders the rest of the weekend trivial. We examined that here.
The “matchup of the century” was what we expected, an incendiary defensive clash played at SEC speed and soon-to-be NFL ferocity. It was brutish and nasty. Like Christians entering the Forum pit, the offenses were woefully overmatched. Sixty minutes. One round of overtime starting at the opposition 25. Zero touchdowns. Alabama vs. LSU was a spectacle. It was both impressive and intense. The trouble was that it a stalemate. Relentless futility, even in the SEC, just isn’t that entertaining. This game resembled watching a movie about a resistance movement, doomed from the start.
Our two key figures before the game were Trent Richardson and Jarrett Lee. Richardson proved himself, with 28 touches for 169 total yards. He burst into space. He dealt as much punishment as he received. He put Alabama in position to win, had they made field goals. Lee burst his efficiency bubble, was an absolute disaster and lost his job mid-game with two consecutive interceptions.
The result was inconclusive. Alabama and LSU are, almost undoubtedly, the two best teams in the country. Should they have a rematch? Each side of the debate has a logical inconsistency. On merit, Alabama probably deserves one. However, knowing what was coming, it’s doubtful so many would tune in to watch it again.
As the B1G Turns: This season has been depressing for the Big Ten. But, the results have been exciting and unpredictable. It has that going for it. It was a weekend of wackiness as Michigan State and Ohio State labored against Minnesota and Indiana respectively. Iowa upset Michigan at home. Northwestern, without Dan Persa, upset Nebraska on the road. The Cornhuskers won the turnover battle. The passing game was fairly decent. They were just beat.
The division now look very interesting, with seven teams still alive to get into the title game and win it. Michigan State has a one-game lead in the Legends division, but has Michigan, Nebraska and Iowa breathing heavily behind. Given its recent struggles on the road, trips to Iowa and Northwestern suddenly appear more imposing. Wisconsin, victim of two last gasp defeats, may be the best team in either division but need help to get to the title game. Penn State is 5-0, but with three rough games and certain distractions. Resurgent Ohio State may have the inside track.
Besides the conference championship, there are BCS implications. Big Ten teams, with fans that travel, are desirable. Would a second Big Ten team get in over a two-loss Oregon or a one-loss Oklahoma State? If so, is that second team the loser of the B1G title game or one of the two to three unscathed teams that missed? The stakes are spicy, even if many of the games decidedly aren’t.
SEC Bound: The world’s most well-known secret was finally revealed. Missouri will join the Southeastern Conference. It will play football in the SEC East. This is neither a cultural nor a competitive fit. It’s definitively a naked grab for television markets and a marriage of convenience, unless you believe the SEC had a pressing need for mediocre football, an AAU member in its ranks or to accept a program the Big Ten had no intention of adding.
That said, we’re with Andy Staples, it’s not a bad move for Missouri. Stability is the key. Conference realignment is musical chairs. Missouri now has an assigned seat, nailed to the ground at the head table. The Big 12, despite solid additions, remains subject to an uneasy detente between Texas and Oklahoma. They won’t win the SEC in football? They haven’t won a conference championship in football since 1969. They conference they are violating the sanctity of, was an entity formed by realignment itself in the mid-1990s. Facing a hostage situation and a potential Big East application process mere weeks ago, the SEC is not a bad place to be.
Malaise Prolonged: Two self-destructive coaching forces met. Despite their best efforts, one of them had to emerge victorious. UCLA lost two fumbles and allowed ASU to drive 47 yards in less than a minute to set themselves up for the game-winning field goal. The kicker missed. Pistol Rick escaped with a 29-28 win. The Bruins, now 5-4 (4-2 in Pac 12), improbably control their finish in the Pac 12 South, placing them at the unfounded hope point of the cycle. A seven-point underdog to Utah, expect the Neuheisel Renaissance to be short-lived.
Simple Rating System: The gents at Smart Football are publishing their Simple Rating System (SRS). We like it, because it is exactly what it claims, it accounts for margin of victory and it does not factor in the Harris Poll and steaming piles of mathematical manure. It factors in two variables: adjust MOV (explained here) and strength of schedule. It’s predictive, projecting how teams will perform not how they have performed. The SRS points differential corresponds roughly to what the expected point differential would be between the two teams.
For discussion’s sake, their top ten: LSU (68.7), Alabama (67.2), Oklahoma (66.4), Oklahoma State (66.1), Stanford (64.9), Oregon (62.1), Boise State (60.8), Wisconsin (60.3), Texas A&M (55.5) and Michigan (55.2). Some teams that are better than their record: Texas A&M (5-4), Notre Dame (6-3), Missouri (4-5). Some teams that are worse than their record: Penn State (8-1), Cincinnati (7-1) and Virginia Tech (8-1).
[Photo via Getty]