Conference play is in full swing, lets take a look at this week’s teams that are trending upward as well as some teams that seem to be fading from the national title picture.
Florida State Seminoles (#12 – AP / #11 – USA Today Polls)
The Seminoles carried the flag of the ACC into the national title picture only to drop it once again. Not surprisingly they lost to a team they should have beaten, North Carolina State. While the Wolfpack were thought to have an outside chance at the ACC’s Atlantic Division, the same one that includes the Seminoles and Clemson Tigers, many, including myself figured it was really a two-team race. Once Florida State put away Clemson, it was supposed to be clear sailing toward a national title argument. Well, something happened on their way to Miami, Fl (site of BCS National Championship Game), the Wolfpack showed up to the party as an uninvited guest. And, like a jilted lover, they made sure the Seminoles were sure to regret it.
Multiple times Florida State could have put away the game, not to mention that they were ahead 16-0 at halftime. No, it took a monumental 4th quarter collapse for this team that had looked like they had turned the corner and were ready to return to national prominence to return to the “form” that has plagued them for the better part of a decade.
No doubt this defeat will sting for quite some time in Tallahassee. Florida State is now out of the national title picture barring a collapse of significant proportion by many other teams seeing as their schedule does not pit them against another top-25 team until November 24th when they host the annual “Battle for Florida” game with the Gators of Florida. The game with Virginia Tech, once thought to be a battle of top-10 teams, has lost much of its luster not only because of Florida State’s loss, but the unbelievable collapse of the Hokies (3-3 record).
Sure, if Florida State wins the remaining games on its schedule (very do-able, BTW) the Seminoles will likely finish with a top-10 ranking, but its not the ranking they were hoping to achieve. The Seminoles still have the ACC title to play for which they should be favored to win. The ACC champs automatically get an invite to play in the Orange Bowl in Miami, but unfortunately for Florida State, its about a week earlier than they were hoping to be there!
Georgia Bulldogs (#14 – AP / #12 – USA Today Polls)
Georgia entered its game last weekend in Columbia, South Carolina with the opportunity to erase last year’s hard fought loss to South Carolina and position themselves for the possibility not only at the SEC East crown, but also the SEC title and a chance at the national title. They left the “Cock Pit” with nothing more than bruised egos, and football team left to answer questions of what happened.
From the get-go, the Gamecocks were a spirited group that beat Georgia in all facets of the game. Before most of the rabid Gamecock fans could get in their seats, South Carolina sprinted out to a 7-0 lead. As if that weren’t enough to stagger the Bulldogs, like a prize fighter getting pinned against the ropes, the knockout punches were delivered about 6 game-minutes later when South Carolina scored again and then returned the punt from Georgia’s ensuing possession for another score. By the time the first quarter was over, Georgia trailed 21-0 and their spirits were crushed.
Unlike Florida State, Georgia still has a sliver of hope of playing for the national title. The SEC, the nation’s premier conference, has so many good teams that if any one of them slips, another good team will be there to pick up the slack. Of course Georgia will need some help to make it to Miami on January 7th.
They need to win the rest of their games starting with the Kentucky Wildcats on Oct 20 (Georgia is on a bye this week). They must root for Florida to then beat South Carolina the same day, and they need defeat the Gators the following weekend (Oct. 27) in a game formerly billed as the “Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party”. If those pieces line up, they may have a shot at the SEC East title where they would likely face either the Alabama Crimson Tide or the LSU Tigers in the SEC title game. More than likely the winner of that game will make up one half of the national title contest.
While its a long shot for Georgia to reach its ultimate goal, a national title in 2012, they can still put together a very good record followed by a bowl of significant means, perhaps a BCS Bowl, but they are going to need to win the remainder of their games, and that starts with beating Kentucky next weekend.
TCU Horned Frogs (NR – AP / #23 – USA Today Polls)
Do you hear that giant sucking sound…no its not Ross Perot’s jobs going to Mexico, its the BCS Bowl hopes of TCU going down the drain! Perhaps I’m being slightly hard on Gary Patterson’s bunch, but after their veteran signal-caller Casey Pachall was suspended last weekend, their subsequent loss to Iowa State, and the revelation that Pachall would voluntarily leave campus to receive treatment for substance abuse thereby ending his 2012 campaign premature, I don’t see how this group rebounds to make it anywhere close to a BCS Bowl game. Not in the uber-difficult Big 12 where every contest is a mini playoff game.
The Horned Frogs don’t have time to sulk and lick their wounds because they are just hitting the true “meat” of their schedule. This week they travel to Baylor and face one of the most prolific offenses in the country. The following week they take on Texas Tech, a team with the nations #2 defense. As an entree to that appetizer, the Horned Frogs end their regular season with the following schedule: at West Virginia (Nov. 3), home with Kansas State (Nov. 10), Bye week, at Texas (Nov. 22), home with Oklahoma (Dec. 1). Yikes!!
While head coach Gary Patterson will put on a brave face for the media, the public, and his team, internally he has to know that the loss of Casey Pachall to his team is devastating. They currently sport a record of 4-1, but they may need a Herculean effort just to make it to the 6 wins necessary to make it to a bowl game. That would be real shame for a team that was excited to leave the Mountain West Conference and their non-AQ status to move to the Big 12 and rub elbows with some of the nation’s elite and most storied teams.
Oregon State, Stanford, Kansas State, Mississippi State