Wow. In what was easily the greatest day of football in the state of Mississippi since the 1950s, both Ole Miss and Mississippi State pulled off upsets over top 10 teams at home. The day began with ESPN’s College Gameday in Oxford, with the Grove providing one of the best atmospheres in Gameday history. Dak Prescott led the Bulldogs to a convincing win over Texas A&M, further establishing himself as the best quarterback in the SEC. Ole Miss then overcame an 11-point halftime deficit to pull off a shocking upset over Alabama.
The most impressive aspect of Ole Miss’s win was the play of their defense. The Rebels limited the Tide offense to only 10 points, just two weeks after they put up 42 points against Florida. Quarterback Blake Sims, who threw for 445 passing yards against the Gators, only managed 228 passing yards against Ole Miss. Through five games, the Rebels’ defense has only allowed three offensive touchdowns, and ranks second in scoring defense, only giving up an average of 10.2 points per game. Based on these numbers, it’s hard to argue that Ole Miss doesn’t have the best defense, not only in the SEC, but in the entire country. Teams with elite defenses are ultimately the ones that win national championships, and I seriously believe Ole Miss has the talent on that side of the ball to go up against any team, and any high-powered offense in the country.
Whether they are undefeated or not, both teams are headed toward a collision course at the end of the season when they square off in the Egg Bowl. I think that this game could ultimately decide who wins the SEC West. Ole Miss has not won an SEC Championship since 1963, and Mississippi State hasn’t won a conference title since 1941, so a game with those implications would be incredibly huge. Both teams also offer a stark contrast. One team has arguably the best defense in the country, the other has a legitimate Heisman frontrunner.
Here come the Irish (again). Notre Dame is a legitimate playoff contender.
While the state of Mississippi had the majority of the country’s attention on Saturday, another matchup between two top-15 teams took place as well between Stanford and Notre Dame in a huge game for both teams. Trailing 14-10 with a little over a minute left to play and facing a 4th and 11, Everett Golson found tight end Ben Koyack in the back of the end zone for a game-winning 23 yard touchdown pass to beat Stanford 17-14. With this win, the Irish have moved up to 6th in the AP poll, and have very quietly established themselves as contenders for the college football playoff.
So far this season has looked very similar to Notre Dame’s 2012 season in which they started 6-0 after beating Stanford. The Irish would go on to finish the regular season undefeated and reach the BCS National Championship game. The biggest difference in this year’s team from 2012 is an improved offense, particularly in the play of quarterback Everett Golson who is currently ranked 6th in ESPN’s Heisman Watch. Through six games Golson has already eclipsed his 2012 total of 12 touchdown passes with 13 after the Stanford win. Two years ago Notre Dame won in spite of its offense, which often struggled and forced the team to rely on its defense to grind out low-scoring wins. This season however, the much-improved Irish offense has helped them start out 5-0. The past two home games against Stanford are perfect examples of this. In 2012, Notre Dame’s defense kept Stanford’s offense from scoring a touchdown, and the Irish needed a goal line stand from its defense in overtime to preserve a 20-13 lead. This season, Notre Dame relied on Golson and its offense to make a game winning touchdown drive late in the fourth quarter.
After five games it’s pretty clear that Everett Golson has improved enough to be a major factor on this team, even after sitting out the 2013 season due to academic reasons. In 2012 he was just breaking in as a true freshman, and many times head coach Brian Kelly had to insert backup quarterback Tommy Reese into the game to provide a spark in the offense. Now it’s evident that Golson has become one of the best quarterbacks in the country and is the clear leader of this team. It’s worth pointing out that Golson is 15-1 as a starting quarterback, with his lone loss against Alabama in the BCS title game. That 93.8 percent winning percentage is the best in Notre Dame school history, something that simply can’t be ignored.
Brent Musburger joining the SEC Network is terrible for college football.
Time to go on a much needed rant. Ever since college football commentator Keith Jackson retired following the 2006 BCS Championship game between USC and Texas, Brent Musburger stepped in as the country’s premier TV commentator, usually filling the primetime “Game of the Week” slot on ABC. Musburger also called several major bowl games, including the Rose Bowl, and along with Kirk Herbstreit they formed one of the best duos on television.
However, with the addition of the newly formed SEC network, things have quickly changed. Whether he signed on himself, or ESPN made the decision themselves, they moved Musburger from his primetime ABC slot to the SEC Network. Now don’t get me wrong. The game’s best commentator in the game’s best conference seems like a perfect marriage. But in my opinion, it only would’ve made sense if Musburger called the best SEC game each week. And that’s the problem. The best SEC game is always featured on CBS. In fact, just about every other marquee SEC game is featured on either ESPN, ESPN2, or ABC. The SEC Network gets to pick from what’s left over, often showing the worst SEC teams in some of the least desirable games. So in a sense, the game’s best commentator has gone from getting a king’s feast to table scraps.
Take Week 4 for example, which featured Florida State take on Clemson in a battle between two ranked teams. We also saw the emergence of Dak Prescott as Mississippi State defeated LSU, and Oklahoma went on the road against West Virginia and came away with a huge win. Where was Brent Musburger on this day? In Nashville, calling the best game the SEC Network had to offer, Vanderbilt-South Carolina. Two teams where one began the season with a blowout loss to Texas A&M, and the other began the season with a blowout loss to Temple. At this point in the season, both teams have a combined record of 4-8 and are completely irrelevant in the SEC East race.
Last Saturday was just as bad, if not worse. While the day featured six games with ranked opponents, four of those games with two top-15 teams, where was Musburger? In Knoxville for Florida-Tennessee, a once exciting rivalry that has lost its luster in recent years. While the state of Mississippi shocked the country, Auburn steamrolled LSU, and Michigan State held on for a close win against Nebraska, Musburger had the unfortunate task of calling an ugly game where both offenses struggled to a final score of 10-9.
Have you ever wondered why Jim Nantz and Phil Simms always call so many Broncos and Patriots games? The answer is simple. CBS’s premier commentating duo always calls the best games featuring the best teams. Would it make any sense for CBS to send Nantz and Simms to the Jaguars-Titans game in Nashville this Sunday? Obviously not, but this is the equivalent to what ESPN is doing with Musburger by moving him to the SEC Network. It’s bad for both sides. ESPN lost an iconic name for their marquee games, and one of the best in the business is forced to call bad and irrelevant games each week. Not only is it bad for both sides. It’s bad for fans of college football across the country as well.
Saturday’s TV Schedule
This week features more tough contests between both Mississippi schools, as Ole Miss travels to College Station to take on Texas A&M. College Gameday will remain in the state, as they head down to Starkville for a clash between two top-5 teams in Auburn and Mississippi State. Other intriguing matchups to watch include a clash between two top-10 Big 12 schools, TCU and Baylor. The Horned Frogs upset Oklahoma last week, and will look to take down Baylor as well.
All times Eastern
12:00- #1 Florida State at Syracuse, ESPN
12:00- Texas vs. #11 Oklahoma, ABC
12:00- #13 Georgia at #23 Missouri, CBS
12:00- Illinois at Wisconsin, ESPN
12:00- Louisiana-Monroe at Kentucky, SEC Network
3:30- #3 Auburn at #2 Mississippi State, CBS
3:30- #9 TCU at #5 Baylor, ABC/ESPN2 (regional)
3:30- North Carolina at #6 Notre Dame, NBC
3:30- #8 Michigan State at Purdue, ABC/ESPN2 (regional)
3:30- #12 Oregon at #18 UCLA, FOX
3:30- Louisville at Clemson, ESPNU
4:00- Chattanooga at Tennessee, SEC Network
6:00- #7 Alabama at Arkansas, ESPN
7:00- Penn State at Michigan, ESPN2
7:30- LSU at Florida, SEC Network
9:00- #3 Ole Miss at #14 Texas A&M, ESPN
10:30- USC at #10 Arizona, ESPN2