Starting 11: Alabama and Georgia vs. the world edition

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Starting 11: Alabama and Georgia vs. the world edition

Welp, I was wrong.

I thought Alabama and Georgia were wildly overvalued for their games Ole Miss and Arkansas, respectively. I thought Ole Miss and Arkansas would both show up on the road in Tuscaloosa and Athens and demonstrate the Crimson Tide and the Bulldogs were good, but not great, talented teams, but not head and shoulders above the rest of the conference.

On Saturday both teams were great.


Georgia running back Zamir White (3) gets past Arkansas defensive back Jalen Catalon (1) to score a touchdown during the first half of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Oct. 2, 2021, in Athens, Ga..
(AP Photo/John Bazemore)

Let’s start with Georgia, whose defensive stats are starting to get freakish. The Bulldogs allowed only 162 yards of offense to Arkansas, holding the Razorbacks to 75 yards rushing on 29 carries. As if that weren’t enough, Georgia held the Arkansas passing offense to 87 total yards. How often do you ever see a college defense hold a team to under 100 yards passing or rushing? Especially in a blowout like this when late yardage typically stacks up? It almost never happens.

So far this season Georgia has allowed one offensive touchdown.


And we’re almost halfway through the season. That’s black and white highlight reels level dominant. I’m not sure we’ve ever seen a defense play nearly half a season without allowing two touchdowns from the opposing offense. As a result, Georgia has started off the SEC with two straight wins, beating Vanderbilt and Arkansas by a combined score of 99-0.

The Bulldogs have this left on their schedule: at Auburn, Kentucky, Florida in the cocktail party, and then they close with Missouri, at Tennessee, Charleston Southern and Georgia Tech. It’s increasingly hard to see any of these teams having a real shot to upset Georgia, especially if, as I expect to happen, Georgia handles Auburn with relative ease on the Plains this coming weekend.

Meanwhile Alabama came out and destroyed Ole Miss and Lane Kiffin, scoring early in the third quarter to make it 35-0 Tide. Compared to last year the Tide defense completely stifled the Ole Miss offense, especially on the line of scrimmage, where Ole Miss found no room to run all day.

Alabama running back Brian Robinson Jr. (4) runs by Mississippi linebacker Lakia Henry (0) during the first half of an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Oct. 2, 2021, in Tuscaloosa, Ala.

Alabama running back Brian Robinson Jr. (4) runs by Mississippi linebacker Lakia Henry (0) during the first half of an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Oct. 2, 2021, in Tuscaloosa, Ala.
(AP Photo/Vasha Hunt)

The end result? Alabama doesn’t appear to have any real challengers in the SEC West either. What once seemed like a massive game against Texas A&M next weekend — a game we’ll be attending with the Outkick bus crew — now looks relatively unthreatening after the Aggies back to back losses to Arkansas and Mississippi State.


It feels increasingly likely that the SEC title game will be a match up of 12-0 teams and that Alabama and Georgia may end up playing again in the college football title game to decide the 2021 championship.

Because right now no one else comes close to matching up with Alabama and Georgia at all.

By the way, we had a tremendous time in Tuscaloosa for Ole Miss-Bama on Saturday. Here are just a few of the pictures. Thanks to Eli Gold for letting my son try on his headset at halftime.

And to everyone at Bama who made my 11 year old’s year.

Plus, my radio show co-host Buck Sexton had a pretty awesome time at his first ever college football game too.

Okay, let’s roll with the Starting 11.

1. So who is the better team? Alabama or Georgia? I asked all of you to vote and here were the results.

Nearly sixty percent of you took Alabama, but I’m taking the Bulldogs right now.

I think the Bulldog defense is better than any other unit on Alabama or Georgia and I think it will be the determining factor when these two teams meet up.

By the way, how electric is the SEC title game going to be? And how expensive are these seats going to be? It’s going to be wild.

So what does Fan Duel think of the national title race? Alabama and Georgia remain co-favorites to win the title at +175 followed by Ohio State at 10-1, Oklahoma at 14-1, Michigan at 30-1 and Iowa, Texas, Penn State and Cincinnati at 40-1.

2. Oregon lost to Stanford in overtime and then UCLA lost to Arizona State after most of you were in bed.

The practical significance is it means all Pac 12 teams now have at least one loss and we’re just barely into October.

What are the chances of Oregon, Arizona State or Oregon State, the only three teams with just one loss, running the table and finishing 12-1? I think very low. (And I doubt 12-1 Arizona State or 12-1 Oregon State would make the playoff anyway.)

Which would mean that the Pac 12’s playoff hopes are close to being extinguished already.

Stanfords' Jaden Slocum (36) and Jacob Mangum-Farrar (14) celebrate after defeating Oregon in an NCAA college football game in Stanford, Calif., Saturday, Oct. 2, 2021.

Stanfords’ Jaden Slocum (36) and Jacob Mangum-Farrar (14) celebrate after defeating Oregon in an NCAA college football game in Stanford, Calif., Saturday, Oct. 2, 2021.
(AP Photo/Jed Jacobsohn)

This is why the Pac 12 needs to stop posturing against playoff expansion and sign up for a 12 team playoff. The Pac 12 has one win in the college football playoff era, when Marcus Mariota’s Oregon Ducks beat Jameis Winston’s Florida State Seminoles in the first year of the playoff, back in 2014. That feels like ages ago.

Worse than that, the Pac 12 only has two total playoff appearances. If the Pac 12 wants to matter on a national level, it has to get teams in the playoff on a consistent basis. Without the playoff expanding to 12 teams, I don’t think that will happen very often.

(By the way, I get a ton wrong, but I did call Stanford’s upset of Oregon last week in the Starting 11. You could totally see this coming.)

3. Cincinnati got the biggest win, potentially, in program history at Notre Dame.

So do the Bearcats have a path to the playoff? Maybe.

First, let’s look at the schedule. Cincinnati. Right now the Bearcats only play two teams with a winning record, Temple on Friday and SMU on November 20th. So the Bearcats should be a major favorite the rest of the way.

But is a schedule where they only beat two power five FBS opponents — Indiana and (I’m counting) Notre Dame, really worthy of a playoff berth? I just don’t see it.

Especially not when BYU may well beat Arizona, Utah, Arizona State, Baylor, Washington State, Virginia, and USC this year.

For me, BYU has the far better potential resume of the non-power five conference teams if the Cougars were able to run the table. Now I don’t necessarily think BYU will pull this off, but beating seven power five conference opponents from three different conferences, including five in the Pac 12, would be a resume we’ve never seen before from a team outside a power five conference.

So if I had to pick BYU or Cincinnati right now, I’d go with BYU, which is why I have them ranked higher than I do Cincinnati.

4. Kentucky beat Florida, running the Wildcats to 5-0 and making them Georgia’s only “competition” in the SEC East.

There are now only three undefeated teams in the SEC: Georgia, Alabama and Kentucky. Just like we all expected.

Having said that, this Kentucky team’s offense is not good enough to play at a high level. At least not so far.

The Wildcats play LSU this weekend — how about Ed Orgeron having to beat an undefeated Kentucky team to avoid falling to 3-3 on the year? — at Georgia, at Mississippi State, Tennessee — how about Josh Heupel hanging 62 on Mizzou and scoring on nine straight possessions?! — at Vanderbilt, and at Louisville left on the schedule in the power five. The Wildcats have no chance of winning at Georgia and are only guaranteed to win at Vanderbilt. I’d still make LSU, at Mississippi State, Tennessee and at Louisville toss up games where I see the Wildcats going 2-2 or 3-1.

That still means the Wildcats have a shot at 9-3 or 10-2, but they aren’t a legit contender in the SEC. (If you disagree with me about Kentucky, the Wildcats are presently 200-1 to win the national title. Their odds didn’t even change after the Florida win. )

What does all this mean for Georgia?

Effectively the Gators loss to Kentucky handed the SEC East to Georgia no matter what happens in the Cocktail Party. (Which I think Georgia will win comfortably as well, by the way).

This also means Dan Mullen’s Gators squad, meanwhile, will likely finish 9-3 or 8-4 depending on what happens at LSU in two weeks. That Florida-LSU game will loom massive for Coach Ed Orgeron too. If LSU were to lose to Auburn, Kentucky and Florida in three straight weeks, two of those at home, how hot would Coach O’s seat be with at Ole Miss, at Alabama, and Arkansas all still to come? If LSU loses to Kentucky, it’s possible the Tigers could lose six straight SEC games. And even if all goes well 3-3 in these six feels like the best case scenario right now. Yikes.)

By the way, I know I’m getting old when I was watching Auburn-LSU last night and thinking, “Why in the world did they kick this game off at 9 eastern? Don’t they know some of us have to sleep?!” Congrats to Auburn on the first win on the bayou since 1999.

5. Who wins the Big Ten East?

I’ve been arguing for years that college football divisions are insanely stupid. That’s especially the case in the Big Ten where the Big Ten East and the Big Ten West are absurdly lopsided. In the Big Ten East you have Michigan, Ohio State, Michigan State and Penn State all still undefeated in conference. All of these teams will be playing each other and the odds of one team emerging undefeated in conference feels low to me.

That means the Big Ten East, in some fashion, is likely to be decided by a tiebreak.

If Penn State goes into Iowa and wins on Saturday, this makes the fact that two Big Ten East teams can’t play in the Big Ten title game even more ridiculous.

Looking at all four of these undefeated Big Ten East teams, Ohio State still feels like they have to be the favorite. And given Oregon’s loss to Stanford, the Buckeyes are close to dodging a bullet with the Oregon defeat and not even having that game matter if they can run the table and finish 12-1 with a Big Ten title.

6. Iowa has a default playoff play in game against Penn State on Saturday.

Seriously, they do.

Iowa, who stomped Maryland on Friday, is sitting at 5-0 with 5-0 Penn State coming to town. If Iowa wins that game, the Hawkeyes would be 6-0 with the following six games remaining: Purdue, at Wisconsin, at Northwestern, Minnesota, Illinois, and at Nebraska. And what’s wild about this, if Iowa can beat Penn State this weekend then they could lose one of those six games and still effectively be in a playoff play-in game with the Big Ten title game.

That is, Iowa, if the Hawkeyes can get to 6-0, could lose one of those remaining six games in which they will be big favorites and it won’t matter at all. Because Iowa will be in the Big Ten title game and need to win that game to punch their ticket to the four team playoff.

So effectively Iowa, with a win over Penn State, has a playoff game in the Big Ten.

(It’s also possible that if the Hawkeyes were to finish 12-0 they could be in the playoff even with a loss in the Big Ten title game, particularly if it were a loss to an undefeated Big Ten game. Yes, it’s early, but it’s possible with the ACC and the Pac 12 unlikely to get playoff teams that we could get two Big Ten teams and two SEC teams in the playoff this year. The Big 12, clearly, is the wild card here as they have several teams that could still find themselves in the mix.)

7. So what happens in the Big 12?

Your guess is as good as mine.

Oklahoma continues to look pedestrian and we’ve got five real contenders, it seems to me: OU, Oklahoma State, Texas and, maybe, Baylor and TCU.

I feel like Texas is going to beat Oklahoma this weekend and really throw things into an even bigger uproar.

Ultimately, if I had to predict right now, I don’t think the Big 12 gets a playoff team. I’d bet on two from the SEC and two from the Big Ten.

8. Texas A&M has fallen from top five in the nation to 10th in the Outkick SEC power rankings in one year.

Yes, the Haynes King injury is significant, but the Aggies shouldn’t get dominated by Arkansas and lose at home to Mississippi State in back to back weeks even without their starting quarterback. Not in year four of his tenure at A&M, anyway. Now you’ve got Alabama coming to town, which feels like a third straight SEC loss for Jimbo and Auburn, at Ole Miss, and (maybe) at LSU feel like losses right now too.

So you’re talking about a very real chance of A&M finishing 7-5 or 6-6 on the season. That’s staggering considering the preseason expectations. (And also presumes wins at Missouri and over South Carolina, which I think the Aggies will get.)

This was supposed to be the year that A&M challenged Alabama for SEC West superiority. Aggie fans have had October 9th circled on their calendars since the SEC released this schedule.

And now they’ve gone from hoping to win the game to just hoping to not get embarrassed under the lights.

9. What’s the wildest thing that could happen in the SEC now that we’re almost halfway through the season?

First, the reason I love SEC football is because it’s completely insane.

So here’s an idea for you: if LSU were to fire Ed Orgeron because the Tigers lose five or six SEC games in a row a year after bumbling through 2020, who would they hire? I think it would be one of two guys: Lane Kiffin or Hugh Freeze. (The “safe” and way too smart hire for LSU would be to bring Joe Brady back, which would further cement the Coach O as Gene Chizik analogy.)

Can you imagine Lane leaving Ole Miss for LSU? Or Freeze back in the SEC? How about the rapidity of a guy going 15-0 two years ago and being fired less than two years later? The SEC is a whirlwind, man.

And it’s also incredible how quickly fan perception can swing from week to week. Last week Auburn fans were terrified about the Harsin hire, now they love him.


Meanwhile it seemed like Coach O. had righted the ship with three straight wins after the opening week loss to UCLA. Now here we are again with LSU fans ready to kick Coach O. into the bayou.

10. Outkick’s National Top Ten

1. Georgia
2. Alabama
3. Penn State
4. Iowa
5. BYU
6. Michigan
7. Michigan State
8. Cincinnati
9. Kentucky
10. Ole Miss

11. SEC power rankings 1-14

1. Georgia
2. Alabama
3. Kentucky
4. Ole Miss
5. Arkansas
6. Auburn
7. Florida
8. LSU
9. Mississippi State
10. Texas A&M
11. Tennessee
12. South Carolina
13. Missouri
14. Vanderbilt