College football notes: Saban’s statements, conference title games, and playoffs

Mike Huguenin is the epitome of a Gamedayr. He has spent over 28 years in sports journalism, with notable stints at Yahoo! Sports/, NY Times, The Sporting News, and Orlando Sentinel.  On Gamedayr, Mike provides expert analysis on Heisman updates, weekly game news, bowl projections and college basketball.


Alabama coach Nick Saban isn’t too happy that the SEC championship game loser seems likely to fall out of the mix for a BCS bid.

“It’s not really a great scenario [for the loser],” Saban said during a teleconference Sunday. “You play your way into the [SEC] championship game, which means you’re the best team in your division. … It doesn’t seem quite right, but it is what it is. I don’t really know what me commenting about it is going to do to change it. But I don’t feel good about it.”

Considering his team won the national title last season despite not winning its division, Alabama coach Nick Saban is a hypocrite for some remarks about the BCS this week. (Marvin Gentry-US PRESSWIRE)

Hmmm. Wonder if he felt good about playing for the national title last season, when Alabama didn’t even win its division, yet was able to play for the crystal football?

In addition, shouldn’t one of his players tell the coach to focus on the SEC title game and not worry about potentially losing the contest? Because you can be sure that if one of the Tide players said what Saban said, the coach would be all over the player.

[Expert Analysis: College football bowl projections, could Kent State be in the BCS?]

But Saban’s point is interesting for what it could mean in 2014, when the FBS playoffs will start. Under the playoff scenario, the SEC title game loser could fall out of the fop four. And falling out of the top four when a playoff is involved is a lot bigger deal than falling out of an also-ran BCS bowl under the current system.

Why, exactly, are the conference title games going to stay around? Yes, we know they are big money-makers for the leagues. (Though the bottom line certainly is helped when fans buy tickets, which isn’t going to be the case for Saturday’s not-so-epic ACC title game between Florida State and six-loss Georgia Tech.) But you would think coaches would be dreading a conference title game even more than they do now. Quite simply, why risk a late-season loss that would knock you out of a four-team playoff? Alabama and Georgia would face that scenario if the playoff already were in place.

And what about Oregon? The Ducks almost certainly will be in the top four of the final BCS standings (Alabama or Georgia will drop below the Ducks, currently fifth in the BCS). How would the Ducks be handled in a playoff system? Oregon didn’t win the Pac-12 – heck, they didn’t even win their division – but still will be in the top four.

Will there be specifics spelled out about conference titlists in the new order? If not …


Staying with conference title games, there are six this weekend, with five (all but Conference USA’s) having a bearing on the BCS. Here’s a quick look at each of the half-dozen.

ACC: Florida State vs. Georgia Tech
When/where: 8 p.m. Saturday/Charlotte
Details: Man, there is zero buzz about this contest. The winner gets a BCS bid and heads to the Orange Bowl. Tech is 6-6 and will need a waiver from the NCAA to play in a bowl if it loses to FSU.
Projected winner: Florida State.

Big Ten: Nebraska vs. Wisconsin
When/where: 8 p.m. Saturday/Indianapolis
Details: The winner goes to the Rose Bowl, while the loser falls to a Jan. 1 bowl in Florida. This is the second meeting of the season; the Huskers won 30-27 in Lincoln on Sept. 29. Nebraska comes in on a six-game winning streak. The Badgers have lost three of their past four (all in overtime) and are 7-5 overall. Wisconsin has beaten just one team with a winning record (WAC champ Utah State). But the Badgers’ five losses have come by a combined 19 points, with the biggest by seven to Ohio State in OT. No five-loss team ever has appeared in the Rose Bowl.
Projected winner: Wisconsin

Conference USA: UCF at Tulsa
When/where: Noon Saturday/Tulsa, Okla.
Details: The winner heads to Memphis to play in the Liberty Bowl. If UCF loses, it plays in the Beef ‘O’Brady’s Bowl. If Tulsa loses, it would go to the Armed Forces Bowl for the second season in a row and the third time since 2006. These teams met Nov. 17 in Tulsa, with the Golden Hurricane prevailing 23-21. These are the two best defensive teams in the league. Tulsa is 6-0 at home this season.
Projected winner: Tulsa

Mid-American: Kent State vs. Northern Illinois
When/where: 7 p.m. Friday/Detroit
Details: Both are 11-1. Kent State’s status makes this extra interesting. BCS rules stipulate that if a team from a non-automatic qualifying conference (C-USA, MAC, Mountain West, Sun Belt and WAC) finishes in the top 16 of the final BCS standings and is ranked ahead of a league champ from an AQ conference, the non-AQ team is guaranteed a spot. Kent State is 17th this week – one spot behind UCLA, four spots behind FSU and five spots behind Nebraska. Given that Northern Illinois is 21st this week, it seems a reasonable assumption that if Kent State beats NIU and UCLA loses to Stanford, Kent State would move into the top 16. And given that no Big East team is even in the top 25, it also seems a reasonable assumption that Kent State would be ahead of any Big East team. That would mean Kent State heads to the BCS. Kent State’s only loss? By 33 to Kentucky, which finished 2-10 overall and 0-8 in the SEC.
Projected winner: Northern Illinois

Pac-12: UCLA at Stanford
When/where: 8 p.m. Friday/Palo Alto, Calif.
Details: There’s a Rose Bowl bid on the line; the loser falls out of the BCS hunt. These teams meet for the second week in a row, as Stanford cruised to a 35-17 win at UCLA last weekend. Stanford has won six in a row since its most recent loss, an overtime setback at Notre Dame. That was one of three OT games for the Cardinal this season. Stanford hasn’t appeared in the Rose Bowl since the 1999 season, UCLA since the 1998 season.
Projected winner: Stanford

SEC: Alabama vs. Georgia
When/where: 4 p.m. Saturday/Atlanta
Details: The winner moves on to the national title game against Notre Dame; the loser will head to a non-BCS bowl, most likely one in Florida. This is Alabama’s ninth appearance in the contest, second-most (to Florida’s 10) in the league. Georgia is in the game for the second consecutive season and the sixth time overall (third-most in the league). But the teams never have met in this game. Alabama has won three times, the Bulldogs twice. The SEC West champ has won three titles in a row, four of five and six of nine. This is the fourth time in the history of the game, which began in 1992, that two top-five teams have squared off; the others occurred in 2003, ’08 and ’09.
Projected winner: Georgia


If Texas loses Saturday night at Kansas State – K-State is an 11-point favorite – the Longhorns will drop to 8-4. That would give them 16 losses over the past three seasons, and would be the worst three-year mark since they lost 16 from 1991-93 under David McWilliams (fired after the ’91 season) and John Mackovic.

If Texas indeed loses to Kansas State, you wonder about the future of Mack Brown. No, he’s not going to be fired, but expect a ton of calls for him to “retire” if the Longhorns lose again. All four losses would have come in conference play, and let’s get serious: The Big 12 this season is good but not great. Texas has fallen into a pattern of underachieving under Brown, whose team has lost at least three games in five of the seven seasons since it won the national title with Vince Young in 2005.


  • The Big East added East Carolina and Tulane this week, with ECU coming aboard for only football and Tulane moving on for all sports. If anyone needed further proof that the Big East was dead as a “major” conference, this should do it.
  • In the 14 seasons of the BCS, the teams ranked Nos. 1 and 2 in the next-to-last week standings have met for the national title seven times, including each of the past two seasons. This week, No. 1 is Notre Dame and No. 2 is Alabama.
  • Utah State and San Jose State are in the BCS top 25 this week, the first time either school has made the standings. That brings to 90 teams (of the 124 in the FBS ranks) who have been in the standings since they debuted midway through the 1998 season.
  • Auburn’s fall from grace – 14-0 in 2010, 3-9 this season – was shocking but not necessarily historic. Michigan State won the national title in 1965 and was 3-7 in 1967. TCU won the national title in 1937 and was 3-7 in 1939.
  • What was historic was Southern Miss’ fall: 12-2 last season to 0-12 this season. That led to the school firing coach Ellis Johnson after just one season.
  • The ACC went 0-4 against the SEC last weekend and it wasn’t pretty: The SEC teams outscored their ACC counterparts 161-74. And the ACC teams participating included the conference’s two best teams (Clemson and Florida State) and the two title game participants (FSU and Georgia Tech). The ACC went 6-13 this season in games against the other “Big Six” conferences and Notre Dame. But other than Virginia’s win over Penn State, the league’s teams beat no one worth a darn. The ACC’s other “Big Six” victims: Auburn, Connecticut, Temple and USF (twice).
  • There are 11 leagues in the FBS ranks. The only league title that has been decided is the WAC (Utah State).
  • Oklahoma QB Landry Jones threw for 500 yards last week as the Sooners outdueled rival Oklahoma State 51-48 in overtime; that was one of nine 500-yard games this season (Jones is the only player with two). Earlier this season, Jones became only the fifth quarterback in FBS history with 15,000 career passing yards, and last week he became just the third with 16,000 yards. He is at 16,124 yards and trails only Houston’s Case Keenum (19,217 yards/2007-11) and Hawaii’s Timmy Chang (17,072/2000-04) on the all-time list.
  • Northern Illinois QB Jordan Lynch has an outside shot at setting an NCAA single-season record in the MAC title game. Lynch, a junior who is a first-year starter, has rushed for 1,504 yards; the NCAA single-season rushing record by a quarterback is 1,702, by Michigan’s Denard Robinson in 2010. Lynch has two games left: the MAC title game and a bowl.

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  • pjmaxx

    Why you people insist on trying to twist every word someone says into something out of nothing more than a comment because stupid reporters ask stupid questions..

    • Jeremy Taco Patterson

      My EXACT thoughts. He was asked about his thoughts on the fact that the loser of the SEC Championship would likely get dropped out of BCS Bowl consideration, while Florida may be able to sneak its way into a BCS Bowl despite not winning its division. I suppose he should have just “no-commented” on that one…

      And in WHAT universe is UGA projected to win the SEC Championship? Obviously, in Hugeunin’s own little world…

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