Big Ten not done in CFP, but margin of error is gone

A crazy second weekend to be sure. But what did we learn?

1) The Big Ten is not done in the College Football Playoff, but its margin for error is gone: There are bad days and then there is what the Big Ten has experienced the past two weeks.  All of their standard bearers for the CFP already have a loss: Ohio State (to Virginia Tech), Michigan State (at Oregon), Wisconsin (to LSU), Michigan (to Notre Dame). So does that mean that the Big Ten has no shot at making the first CFP?

You can’t really  say that because Michigan State could still run the table, finish 12-1, and have the game at Oregon, where the Spartans led 27-22 going into the fourth quarter, as their only loss. There will be at least two one-loss teams and probably three in the playoffs. But the margin for error for the Big Ten is totally gone. Michigan State hosts Ohio State on Nov. 8. If you are a Big Ten fan you want Sparty to win that game.

2) There is no quarterback controversy at Alabama: There may continue to be a competition because that’s the way coach Nick Saban wants it to be. But based on what I’ve seen in two games, Blake Sims is the guy. He was 11 of 13 for 214 yards in the 41-0 win over Florida Atlantic. Jacob Coker, the transfer from Florida State, got into the game and completed 15 of 24 for 202 yards. Those are respectable numbers. But I was watching the game at the SEC Network studios with guys who know a lot more football than me. In terms of having command of the offense, it really isn’t that close. Now, can Blake Sims take Alabama where they want to go? That is what we’re going to find out over the next 10 weeks.

3) The injury bug bites Florida again: A big part of Florida’s 4-8 disaster in 2013 was that it had 15 season-ending injuries. The Gators were impressive in their first game in the new offense of Kurt Roper, rolling up 655 yards in a 65-0 win over Eastern Michigan. But Florida also lost tight end Jake McGee (broken leg) a transfer from Virginia who figured to play a big role. But there were a lot of positive takeaways in Florida’s first game: QB Jeff Driskel completed 31 of 45 passes and was not sacked; wide receiver Demarcus Robinson caught six passes for 123 yards; Florida ended a seven-game losing streak dating to last season.

4) Tennessee is much, much better as a team than it was a year ago: The Volunteers have been efficient in their two wins over Utah State and Arkansas State. In Saturday’s 34-19 win over the defending Sun Belt champs, the Volunteers converted nine of their first 14 third downs.  In two games Tennessee has scored on 13 of its 14 trips into the opponents’ red zone. Quarterback Justin Worley looks confident and in command of the offense. In two games he has completed 64.5 percent of his passes for 520 yards and five touchdowns. Does that mean the Vols can get to six wins? It’s going to be close. Let’s talk again after Saturday’s trip to No. 4 Oklahoma.

5) Vanderbilt is in deep, deep trouble: I hate to say this because I like Derek Mason, the Commodores’ new coach.  But Vanderbilt looks like a team in complete disarray after losses to Temple (37-7) and Ole Miss (41-3). Ole Miss outgained Vandy 331-76 in the first half while recording 34 first downs.  The Commodores have winnable non-conference games with UMass, Charleston Southern and Old Dominion but I don’t see an SEC win on the schedule. After three consecutive bowl games and back-to-back nine-win seasons under James Franklin this, unfortunately, looks like the old Vanderbilt.


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