Week 10 is loaded. Here are 5 things I can't wait to watch today
The Playoff rankings are out. Now the real fun begins.
Week 10 is loaded, arguably the most impactful of the season. Seven games featuring two ranked teams. Several others that are anything but gimmes.
No need to wait. Here are the 5 things I can’t wait to watch today in and around the SEC.
5. Bedlam, baby
Oklahoma opened in front of three Big Ten teams, including Ohio State, which it beat by 15 in Columbus. Want to stay there? Want to put some distance between you and the pursuers?
Knock off Oklahoma State today … on the road.
If that happens, what Playoff contender would have two better road wins than the Sooners?
This B1G vs. Big 12 debate isn’t going away. The Sooners hold the ultimate trump card, but that’s only good if they continue to win.
4. B1G trouble? Perhaps …
Penn State cannot lose today. A loss not only would end the Nittany Lions’ slim Playoff hopes once and for all, but also would be disastrous for the Big Ten’s chances, too.
Remember, Penn State hadn’t played anybody of note all season. Yet it almost beat Ohio State in Columbus (perhaps should have considering it led from the opening kick until 2 minutes left). That game was exciting … as long as you consider Penn State a contender. That game loses a ton of steam if the Lions fall again today.
The B1G has a Playoff chance, but it’s not a great one. Two of its three contenders didn’t play anybody in non-conference, and Ohio State lost by double digits at home to the only notable non-conference opponent it played.
Clearly (and surprisingly) the Playoff committee took note.
Frankly, I’d love to see the No. 4 seed come down to Notre Dame and an undefeated Wisconsin (with zero quality regular season wins, unless you count a 16-point win over Lane Kiffin’s FAU Owls) or a 1-loss Ohio State team.
Wisconsin? The Badgers beat Northwestern by 9 and Purdue by 8, both games at home. They beat Illinois 24-10; USF scored 43 on the Illini. The Badgers’ season looks a lot like Miami’s, except the Canes have two huge games against Top 15 teams to jump into the Playoff race. Speaking of which …
3. It’s go time, Mark Richt
Richt’s tenure at Georgia was very good but never quite good enough, especially in big games such as this. That’s why he’s in Coral Gables and Kirby Smart is in Athens, coaching the team Richt built.
Today is a chance for the Canes to put the U in huge. Beating FSU was an important psychological hurdle, but No. 13 Virginia Tech is the best team these Canes have faced.
Miami, No. 10, has plenty of time and, more important, opportunities to climb into the Final Four. It starts tonight. It could also end tonight.
2. Georgia vs. burden of expectation
Kirby Smart spent the better part of a decade in this position, of waking up every Saturday the hunted.
The last time Georgia woke up No. 1? Its season opener in 2008.
Georgia wakes up today No. 1 in the Playoff poll.
Smart is the perfect guy for this moment. The burden of expectation is new to Georgia, but not to him. There is zero chance these Dawgs get caught looking ahead to next week’s trip to Auburn. And if Smart senses for one series they are, he has 5-stars and 4-stars standing ready beside him on the sideline.
If or when the Bulldogs lose this season, it won’t be because they lacked focus, motivation or purpose. Somebody will have to outplay them.
1. Matt Canada vs. Nick Saban, Round 1
Alabama debuted at No. 2 in the Playoff poll. Everybody said it doesn’t matter. Oh, but it does. Or at least it will. Alabama wants to be No. 1 and play its semifinal game closer to home, in New Orleans, rather than flying across the country to Los Angeles.
There are a couple of hurdles even before the Tide get to Atlanta to face Georgia.
Starting with tonight’s game against LSU.
LSU hired Matt Canada to solve Alabama’s defense.
Just like Matt Canada solved Clemson’s defense last year. His Pitt Panthers hung 43 on Clemson at Death Valley, handing the Tigers their only loss.
Canada now is on the road again, hoping for a similar offensive-led upset.
LSU has scored 53 points — total — in its past six losses to Alabama.
What the Tigers tried for years hasn’t worked and it won’t tonight, either. But Canada’s not interested in playing smash-mouth against Nick Saban’s immovable front four.
Since Alabama won the 2011 BCS title in the rematch against LSU, the Tide have lost seven games. Each time, the winner scored at least 23 points, and five times it scored 34 or more.
In other words, 9-6 was the outlier, a relic no longer reliable.
LSU’s offense has been strangely non-explosive this season. It ranks in the bottom half of the SEC in scoring (11th) and 10-yard plays from scrimmage (8th).
If the Tigers have any hope tonight of creating total chaos in college football, it’ll be because the offense made more big plays than it has, well, in a long time.
Canada has had two weeks to draw up a winner. He was hired for this game. We’ll see tonight whether he was worth the price.