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jones Top Ten - Week Fourteen - 2011

Well. Now that all the air has been sucked out of the room, I’d point out that a few football games not involving Alabama were actually played. Want to hear about them? Great!

Enter the Honey Badger.

Here’s a holiday tip for Nick Saban. Coach, during the busy Christmas party season always have the standard distilled spirits on hand (Bourbon, Scotch, rum, vodka, gin), a selection of beers, some red wine and keep a crisp sauvignon blanc or Italian prosecco in the fridge for guests who would like something a little lighter on the palate. Oh, and if your team completely dominates LSU on defense for a half…DON’T PUNT THE BALL TO TYRANN MATHIEU. Yours, Martha Stewart.

LSU finds offense passé at this point in the season. Georgia opened the first half of the SEC championship with a 10-0 lead and held the Tigers to zero first downs with seven three-and-outs and 12 total yards. When Georgia was stuck in their own end, trying to get to halftime, they punted (a reasonable decision on its face). The Arkansas players watching at home likely went apoplectic as Mathieu returned it 62 yards for LSU’s first score. He then went to the locker room, had some Gatorade, returned for the second half, recovered a fumble (setting up LSU 14, Georgia 10), returned another punt more impressively than the first one to set up LSU 21, Georgia 10 and then, from what I could tell, rode 30 or 40 miles on a exercise bike on the sideline because he has more energy than a sugar-addicted four-year-old. LSU’s power running game took over. Morris Claiborne added a pick six. Insult, meet injury. LSU 42, Georgia 10.

I’m not sure what else LSU needs to prove, but apparently the BCS needs them to beat Alabama on a neutral field. Then I suppose Les Miles will be required to bring Bill Hancock a shrubbery and then cut down a large oak with a herring.

What would be more fun is for LSU to play an 11-1 Big 12 champion starting an elite outside receiver with similar athletic talent to Tyrann Mathieu, a better quarterback than anyone in the SEC and a defense, statistically anyway, more opportunistic than LSU’s own. Oklahoma State did all they could do in a total 44-10 annihilation of Oklahoma in the bedlam game.

State has better wins than Alabama, but they have a worse loss. On such considerations does the BCS turn. Not consistently, mind you, if Oklahoma had the same resume as Oklahoma State, the Sooners would likely have taken Alabama’s slot. Old money matters in college football. Oklahoma State’s not part of that club. There are some things that Boone Pickens’ checkbook can’t fix.

My Heisman vote (which I don’t have but humor me) would go to Robert Griffin, III. Behind Griffin, the Baylor Bears doubled up Texas 48-24. Six Longhorn turnovers helped; the rumors of competent quarterbacking at UT are highly exaggerated. But back to Griffin, who does more for his team than any single player in the game. He’s clearly, in my mind, “the outstanding college football player whose performance best exhibits the pursuit of excellence with integrity.” The first part strikes me as odd because it makes no mention of “best” or “most valuable” and it almost begs a voter to give out a lifetime achievement award (paging Andrew Luck). The second part suggests that what happens off the field counts; not that anyone pays attention to it, but Trent Richardson’s autograph sales and Tyrann Mathieu’s love of synthetic chemicals (allegedly) should result in points off. I’ll take Griffin.

Wisconsin had to overcome Michigan State, 42-39, in a re-match strikingly similar to the original 37-31 Michigan State victory. Wisconsin started fast, took their foot off the gas (and played awful defense to close out the half), turned it back on and, this time, hung on to win. Michigan State did close with yet another miracle play—a punt return inside the Wisconsin ten. This one was nullified by a roughing the punter penalty that could have gone either way.

Wisconsin wins the Big Ten title and will travel to the Rose Bowl to play Oregon. The Ducks beat UCLA 49-31 on Friday night and looked bored doing it. To be fair, the opponent had something to do with it. Gamblers everywhere lost big betting on Oregon to name the score.

Cincinnati beat UConn, which, naturally, sent West Virginia to the Orange Bowl as the Big East champ. That’s a better result then Louisville going to the Orange Bowl, but a lesser result than giving the Big East’s automatic bid to someone else entirely. Boise State will play in the MAACO Bowl, which I assume used to be the Las Vegas Bowl. How’s that #7 BCS ranking working out for you?

Clemson dialed back the seasonal clock, shed their late season Clemsonness, and obliterated Virginia Tech, 38-10, in the ACC championship. Apparently nothing has changed since October 1, when Clemson beat Virginia Tech (at Blacksburg) by 20. Welcome back.

Southern Mississippi cost Conference USA some serious cash by taking down Houston, 49-28. It was not Case Keenum’s finest hour, but the two opposing coaches provided a better storyline. Practically every school in the country wants Larry Fedora or Kevin Sumlin to coach their football team. Sumlin knocked down rumors all week. Fedora has yet to throw his hat in the ring (I couldn’t resist; it was just sitting there).

Kansas State continues to be the Rodney Dangerfield of top ten football teams. The Wildcats edged Iowa State 30-23. Not that K-State asked for this, but their Cotton Bowl game against Arkansas will become a referendum on Big 12 versus SEC for the 2011 season. It is the only match-up between the two pre-eminent leagues in college football and the best we are going to get absent the two conference champs playing each other.

TCU dismantled UNLV, 56-9, to lock up their Poinsettia Bowl slot. At least the comic irony of them being matched up against Boise State is absent this season.

And that is that.

Impressive Showing of the Week: Tyrann Mathieu and the official who didn’t flinch when Mathieu tossed him the ball before he actually crossed the goal line.

1. LSU

2. Oklahoma State: Not that it matters now, but I do think Oklahoma State matches up better than Alabama against LSU.

3. Alabama: Sorry, Bama fans, but I don’t think this re-match is going to be close.

4. Oregon

4. USC

4. Stanford

Let’s pause and note here what a shame it is that the rest of the Pac 12 reeks.

7. Wisconsin

8. Kansas State

9. (and 10). Baylor and Clemson: The question is: Would I take either of these teams to beat Arkansas? Assuming we are playing tomorrow? Yes.

If I might take a rare moment of personal privilege, today’s piece is late because I dragged all 44 years of me through the cold and rain in the Dallas White Rock Marathon relay yesterday and drove back last night. I loved every minute of it because I was not running for me, but for my nephew, a great kid named Sam Florence, who has myotonic dystrophy.

You can read about him here: Sam’s Squad

Happy Holidays.