College football can be inexplicable at times, doing things that are absolutely fascinating and beyond our comprehension. Wondrous times are approaching, as evident by Thursday night’s primetime game that saw the first giant of the season fall flat on its face.
Arizona, now 5-0, shocked No. 2 Oregon for the second straight year (in Eugene this time), and forced all-world quarterback Marcus Mariota to have his worst game since — you guessed it — the last time he played Arizona.
Leading into the game, the Wildcats had beaten UNLV 58-13, UTSA 26-23, Nevada 35-28, and California 49-45 on a last-second Hail Mary.
There are no words to describe how or why there was any kind of inkling of hope that they’d be able to take out the Ducks—though now it is hunting season. Nevertheless, football tends to get weird once conference play starts, and there’s a lot of that going on this weekend.
That’s why it’s not out of the realm of possibility to say that with a win over Alabama on Saturday, Ole Miss has the chance to shoot up the rankings into the Top 4 and be an immediate favorite to land a spot in the first College Football Playoff.
The Grove at 10 am on the Friday before Alabama/OleMiss https://t.co/6HdasrtLjI
— Patrick Ochs (@PatrickOchs) October 3, 2014
I’m crazy? No, you’re crazy! Have you seen the Week 6 slate, and have you been watching the way the “top” teams are performing lately?
The list is as follows: Wake Forest at No. 1 Florida State, No. 3 Alabama at No. 11 Ole Miss, No. 4 Oklahoma at No. 25 TCU, No. 15 LSU at No. 5 Auburn, No. 6 Texas A&M at No. 12 Mississippi State, No. 7 Baylor at Texas, Utah at No. 8 UCLA, No. 14 Stanford at No. 9 Notre Dame, No. 19 Nebraska at No. 10 Michigan State.
Is this real life?
Please excuse any potential run-on sentences, but the scenario in which Ole Miss jumps from No. 11 to No. 2-4 isn’t impossible, and though I’d be dumbfounded if it played out this way, there wouldn’t be an inch of my body that didn’t enjoy every second of it.
We’ll start with the defending national champions. Florida State hasn’t been the team we thought we were going to see this season, and it’s quite upsetting to see it perform at an average level (or at least compared to what we’re used to seeing).
Still, the Seminoles are still undefeated and retain their status as No. 1, but unless they fix the issues on the offensive line and interior defensive line—among other problematic deficiencies—that won’t last much longer.
Through four games in 2013, Florida State was winning by an average of 36.3 points. Right now the Noles are beating opponents by 13.0 points, and though Wake Forest is, well, Wake Forest, we can’t discount anything (especially after watching NC State take a 24-7 lead in the first quarter against FSU last week). I wholeheartedly expect Florida State to win this game, so this doesn’t have much of an affect on Ole Miss.
Then we have Oklahoma, which has been the most impressive team to date with strong wins against a talented Tennessee team on the rise and a revitalized West Virginia offense. This might be the best Sooners squad since the 2000 national championship team.
But then again, we’ve seen this story before where Oklahoma starts off hot and loses a head-scratcher. TCU doesn’t provide us with a large sample size, but the defense has dominated inferior competition through three games and quarterback Trevone Boykin seems to be thriving in the new up-tempo offense.
Auburn looked incredibly shaky against Kansas State and if the ball lands one or two different ways, the Tigers would have lost by a significant margin. Gus Malzahn’s offense hasn’t been as effective without Tre Mason in the backfield and Nick Marshall is still one-dimensional as a lacking passer.
Of course, it was LSU that beat Auburn in Week 4 of last season’s battle of the Tigers, and the Mad Hatter undoubtedly has something up his sleeve to move his Bayou Bengals back into playoff contention.
Mississippi State is making it easy on me, holding a 2.5-point advantage at home over Texas A&M, according to Las Vegas Lines. Dak Prescott put together a Heisman-worthy performance against LSU in Death Valley the other week, combining for 373 yards and three touchdowns.
Coming off a bye week, the Bulldogs should be well-rested and well-prepared to take on Texas A&M, which needed overtime to beat Arkansas in Week 5. Kenny Hill has done a phenomenal job taking the torch from Johnny Manziel thus far, but he might need to suit up on defense if the Aggies want to salvage their Top-10 reputation at Davis Wade Stadium.
Baylor at Texas and Utah at UCLA aren’t nearly as captivating, but I’ve seen crazier things happen. I’m not convinced that the Longhorns can’t turn things around and compete for the Big 12—it will start in the trenches with that massive defensive line—and Utah has the capability to vie for the Pac-12 South when clicking on all cylinders.
Stanford, another favorite to knock off a Top-10 team this weekend, has a knack for going under the radar and winning closely competitive games against premier opponents; the Cardinal are 4-2 against teams inside the Top 10 since 2012, and if it weren’t for a blown call at the goal line, would have beaten Notre Dame during its national title run.
I’m not sold on the Irish as one of the best in the nation, and Stanford looks to be the kind of team that will get better and better as the weeks go by.
I’ve included Michigan State because it currently ranks one spot ahead of Ole Miss in the AP Top 25 Poll, but with a loss under its belt (to none other than Oregon, which hurts even more after last night), the Rebels would jump over Sparty regardless if it beat Nebraska or not.
So there you have it—an unlikely, yet conceivable scenario where Ole Miss hops into big-time playoff contention after a dramatic sequence of ground-shaking events that would change the college football landscape.
But the most important factor in all of this that needs more emphasis: Before they can worry about any of the above, the Rebels need to beat ‘Bama.