10 things I'm absolutely overreacting to after Rivalry Week in the SEC
I’m beyond thankful. For a lot of things, but certainly in the top 5 is the fact we are thisclose to never, ever having to hear another word about why the Big Ten deserves 2 spots in a 4-team Playoff field.
Listening to the same thing, on repeat, from the same voices, for the past 10 years has been utterly exhausting.
Almost as exhausting as trying to understand Texas A&M coaching hires (allegedly), why records don’t matter to rivals, or how Jalen Milroe just became the Jordan-Hare Slayer.
Those are just some of the 10 things I’m absolutely overreacting to after the wildest Rivalry Week ever in and around the SEC.
10. The Jordan-Hare Slayer …
One week after its most embarrassing loss in a long time, Auburn was 1 play from delivering the biggest, most consequential upset of the 2023 season.
Kick-6 … meet 4th-and-31.
Alabama super hero Jalen Milroe, the QB who refused to quit when even his coaches quit on him, delivered one of the greatest passes in Iron Bowl history, a 31-yard strike to Isaiah Bond in the back corner of the end zone in the final 30 seconds to save Alabama’s season and revive its Playoff hopes in the most riveting manner ever.
MILLY BOND ?
— Alabama Football (@AlabamaFTBL) November 25, 2023
Nick Saban said after the dramatic 27-24 win that, sure, the Tide practice that play. Then he conceded, c’mon, man, it’s a basically a hope and a prayer, a’ight?
Weird stuff happens at Jordan-Hare, Saban said.
"There's been some weird stuff to happen here. And this is the first time I can remember it going in our favor."@AlabamaFTBL's Nick Saban and Jalen Milroe react to a breathtaking comeback win against their rival Auburn
— CBS Sports College Football ? (@CBSSportsCFB) November 26, 2023
Nick’s not wrong, but crazy stuff was happening everywhere in Week 13.
9. Trust your players!
I absolutely loved Washington coach Kalen DeBoer’s decision to go for it on 4th-and-1 at his own 29-yard line in the final minute of a tied game in a heated Apple Cup vs. Washington State.
If Washington fails, the Cougars take over with a chance to kick a walk-off field goal.
DeBoer has 2 of the best players in America … and he put the Huskies’ perfect season and Playoff hopes in their hands on the biggest play of the season.
And what a play call it was.
this call with your undefeated season on the line is 100% balls https://t.co/3Lk04THJ6q
— Matt Hinton (@MattRHinton) November 26, 2023
Michael Penix faked a handoff and pitched a reverse to stud WR Rome Odunze, who found the edge and ran 23 yards.
Not long after — but after yet another terrible call on a day full of impactful ones — Washington was in position to kick the walk-off field goal.
We already knew we were getting Washington vs. Oregon in the Pac-12 title game, a rematch of their regular-season thriller.
But had Washington lost, that would have given the Playoff committee wiggle room to not reward the Pac-12 champion.
There’s no chance of that happening now.
Washington will either sweep Oregon and finish 13-0, or Oregon will gain revenge in the rematch and advance as a 12-1 Pac-12 champ with 4 wins over ranked teams. (The correct answer is Oregon, by the way.)
Either way, the Pac-12 wins … all because Kalen DeBoer trusted his players in a moment far too many other coaches wouldn’t have.
8. Hail! Michigan
If you read Overreactions every Sunday, first, thank you. Second, you know I’ve never wavered in my belief that Michigan was better than Ohio State and would end the Buckeyes’ propped-up Playoff hopes.
To do it without their head coach and their best big man? And to overcome those losses by running it down Ohio State’s throat with a message-sending, game-ending 13-play, 56-yard drive that ate 7 minutes off the clock?
Ryan Day called it “crushing.” I’d call it the ultimate, ahem, sign that the rivalry has turned.
The Wolverines are America’s team if for no other reason than they saved us from another undeserving Ohio State team making the Playoff — after the Buckeyes played a key role in the ridiculous Michigan sign swiping investigation.
For those who still will insist that Ohio State has a Playoff path, here’s the reason I never believed in the Buckeyes this season: Their quarterback isn’t good enough. Among the top 8 teams in the country, OSU’s Kyle McCord ranks a distant 8th.
Against the only 3 competent teams they played, the Buckeyes scored 17 points against Notre Dame, 20 points against Penn State and 24 against Michigan. McCord threw 3 TD passes — total — in those 3 games despite having the best wide receiver in America on his side.
At least Buckeyes fans are handling their 3rd consecutive loss to Michigan well. They’re calling for Day to be fired.
Ryan Day remains the most embattled coach in history with an .889 career winning percentage
— Matt Hinton (@MattRHinton) November 25, 2023
7. Did Mark Stoops just get Schiano-ed? Seriously, Aggies?
First, the requisite caveat: Mark Stoops is an outstanding football coach.
But that’s the guy you want after spending close to $100M to get rid of the previous staff?
That was my reaction to reading a report late Saturday night that Texas A&M is/was set to hire Stoops. (Subsequent reports late Saturday night said the search was still very much TBA. Then Kentucky insider Matt Jones said Stoops is staying at Kentucky. My guess: The Aggies got Schiano-ed after testing the waters by leaking a deal to gauge public reaction, saw it and thought, ehhh, not so fast.)
As for A&M’s initial interest in Stoops? Why?
I believe certain guys are perfect fits in certain situations, and that same guy is an average or worse fit in other situations.
In Stoops’ case, I believe he’s a perfect fit for a scrappy overachiever, a perennial underdog who embraces the opportunity to take on the world.
He recruits that way, too.
Sure, Texas A&M offers a better recruiting footprint than Kentucky, but you have to actually land those kids. That’s never been Stoops’ strong suit. He gets the kids Ohio State doesn’t want, develops them for 3 years and together they grind out 8-10 wins.
It’s a mid-major approach that works perfectly at a place like Kentucky, where he’s the winningest coach in program history … with a .530 winning percentage.
Texas A&M doesn’t need an alternate approach to out-recruit anybody and win big.
I’m not saying they should hire Urban Meyer. But I am saying if the Aggies did hire Urban Meyer, they’d be in the Playoff within 2 years. Maybe sooner.
Maybe Dabo Swinney and Ryan Day said no. Maybe others did, too. But the list of nos would have to be long and distinguished before I’d gamble $100M on Stoops — who belongs at Kentucky.
6. Bo Nix’s rise is the best story in college football
We’ve seen transfers change places and fortunes.
Heck, just in the past 6 years, we’ve seen 4 transfers win the Heisman Trophy. We likely will get a 5th this year, unless Marvin Harrison somehow one-hands the award away from Jayden Daniels, Michael Penix or Bo Nix.
Daniels and Penix, much like the recent 4 transfers who won the award, deserve a lot of credit.
But their journey isn’t nearly as remarkable as Nix’s.
Few, if any, in college football history can match Nix’s career arc. How in the world he recovered from the physical, verbal and viral beating he took for 3 years as an “underachiever” at Auburn to become a potential Playoff QB/Heisman winner at Oregon is beyond me.
But it’s been fun to watch.
His journey isn’t over, either. Nix added 367 yards and 2 TDs in a route over No. 16 Oregon State, pushing his season totals to 3,906 yards and 37 TD passes. He’s still only thrown 2 interceptions.
More important, he has Oregon in position to beat Washington in the Pac-12 Championship Game and earn a Playoff berth.
I’m not taking anything from Jayden Daniels and the season he’s had, but Bo Nix deserves to win the 2023 Heisman Trophy.
5. 5 hills to die on about the 2023 college football season
1. Nick Saban absolutely should have gone all-in on Jalen Milroe in the offseason instead of waiting until after a disastrous performance from the backups in Week 3 at USF. Milroe saved Alabama long before he slayed Auburn.
2. The Pac-12 is the best conference in America. I don’t think it’s particularly close, either. I expect many more Pac-12 draft picks than usual in April. Some mocks have as many as 7 Pac-12 players projected to go in the first round. They deserve — and will get — a seat at the Playoff table.
3. The Big Ten, top to bottom, is the worst among the Power 5. And this year’s version of the B1G West might be the worst division in Power 5 history. Michigan 48, Iowa 6.
4. Jayden Daniels is the most electric college football player in America, but wins matter, too. You’ve heard some of the numbers, but here’s the only that truly amazes me: He needs just 188 more passing yards to join Deshaun Watson and Kyler Murray as the only members of the 4,000-yard passing/1,000-yard rushing club. Will that be enough incentive to play in a bowl game?
5. Billy Napier is not the guy. I understand the desire to be patient. But the No. 1 job requirement for every head coach is to give your team an advantage on game day. Napier might do a lot of things well, but he doesn’t do that.
4. The 4 Playoff teams are …
1. Michigan, 2. Georgia, 3. Oregon, 4. Alabama
Those are the 4 best teams this season (but they won’t be the final 4 teams to make the field because no league deserves 2 bids this year). Week 13 merely served to officially eliminate Ohio State. The SEC title game will do the same to Georgia or Alabama.
I’ve been on Alabama’s bandwagon for several weeks, but it’s impossible to deny the growth of Carson Beck. His rise has been a game-changer — well, until the relative dud at Georgia Tech. But this is the first time in 6 weeks that I think Georgia will beat Alabama en route to its 3rd consecutive national title, 2nd consecutive perfect season.
It will be close, Georgia by 1 score — which would be different considering 8 of the past 10 SEC title games have been relative blowouts.
We’re witnessing history, unrepeatable history, so instead of trying too hard to find a reason it can’t happen, I’m going to switch gears and enjoy watching it unfold. Until Wednesday, anyway, when I convince myself (again) that Jalen Milroe really is that dude.
After next week’s conference championship games, we’ll end up with these 4 conference kings in the Playoff:
1. Michigan, 2. Alabama or Georgia/Georgia or Alabama, 3. Oregon, 4. FSU.
3. What the Kanell? FSU over Texas?
Narratives are funny: All season, we’ve been told Texas has the best win of the regular season — a 10-point win at Alabama in Week 2. No doubt, it was as impressive as it was surprising.
Also … what about FSU’s season-opening 21-point beatdown against LSU? Did that not count? LSU just put the finishing touches on a 9-3 regular season. FSU beat the Tigers worse than Alabama or Ole Miss did.
As long as the 12-0 Noles handle business next week in the ACC title game against Louisville, they’re going to make the Playoff as a 13-0, Power 5 champion with impressive nonconference wins. Don’t downplay the Noles’ gritty win at Florida, either, unless you’re going to take every other top-10 team to task for struggling during Rivalry Week.
Many already are dismissing the ACC title game as irrelevant after Louisville’s shocking loss the Kentucky that dropped the Cardinals to 10-2.
OK, but you also realize that Texas’ opponent in the Big 12 title game, Oklahoma State, has 3 losses?
Sorry, Texas, but the Playoff committee is about to give you the Horns Down sign.
2. Mizzou showed us something, all right
Part of Mizzou’s charm is its relentless pursuit to grab our attention, no matter how long we ignore them.
It’s time — past time, actually — to start paying attention.
The Tigers just completed a remarkable 10-2 regular season, easily their best since winning back-to-back SEC East crowns in 2013 and 2014.
And while some — ahem, Tennessee fans — already are dismissing this as a 1-year blip, it certainly doesn’t feel that way.
You can make the argument that Mizzou will enter 2024 closer to catching Georgia, relatively speaking, than the rest of the East is to catching Mizzou.
Is that an overreaction? Maybe, but they’ll return one of the most dangerous QB/WR combos in the league in Brady Cook and Luther Burden from a team that is poised to play in a New Year’s 6 bowl, and that’s always a great place to start.
1. All’s fair in love and Egg Bowls …
— Ole Miss Football (@OleMissFB) November 24, 2023
Fake dog pee celebrations to snap screen shots, this rivalry never disappoints.
Long live rivalries … and shooting your shot.