Saban no fan of only division games deciding SEC divisional champs

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Somewhat surprisingly, an idea on determining the East and West division champions of the SEC by counting only divisional games, first pushed by Steve Spurrier and later supported by Les Miles, has seemingly gained some level of traction and could at least be up for discussion at the conference meetings later this month in Florida.

Just don’t hold your breath for the best head coach in college football to throw his support behind such a proposal.

Ahead of a Crimson Caravan stop Tuesday, Nick Saban was asked about an idea that, in essence, would relegate cross-division games to a level of importance akin to non-conference games.  While acknowledging the thinking that’s behind it, the Alabama head coach intimated that minimizing the importance of cross-divisional games could end up damaging the conference in the long run.

“I just think that’s one of those things that’s not always going to be controlled,” Saban said. “It’s not manipulated with who you play. We have a rotation, we have to go through it.

“I think the other division games you play on the other side are important to our fans and there’s a lot of tradition involved in some of those games. I think if you minimize the importance of those games, that wouldn’t be in the best interest of our league.”

Division-only games already do play a role in deciding divisional champions, albeit only in the case of a tie.  In a two-way tie, the first tiebreaker is head-to-head, obviously, but the second is the two team’s record in divisional play.  Lather, rinse, repeat when it comes to a three-team tiebreaker.

The combination of new members Missouri and Texas A&M coming into the conference this year plus the West’s domination over the East the past few years has led to this division-only push by two of the SEC’s most recognizable coaches, although it’s likely the latter that’s led to the chatter from the Ol’ Ball Coach.  As Saban may have hinted at when he said “that’s one of the things that’s not always going to be controlled”, however, these things run in cycles.

The record bear out the West’s dominance the past three years, with the East going just 15-39 in non-division games.  The three years prior to that?  The East owned a 39-33 advantage over the West from 2006-08.  From 2002-04, it was 30 wins for West schools, 24 wins for schools from the East.

Again, cycles, although this current one is a definite low point for the East relative to others in recent years.

Would Spurrier’s proposal, though, really make a difference as to who in the past would’ve represented the East and West in the SEC championship game?  Not much research needs to be undertaken to see that it would’ve just this past year, and guess which school that would’ve benefited?

In 2011, Georgia won the East at 7-1 while South Carolina, which beat the Bulldogs the second week of the season, finished behind UGA at 6-2.  Take out the three games against the West, however — UGA was 3-0 (Ole Miss, Mississippi State, Auburn) while USC was 1-2 (losses to Auburn and Arkansas, win over Mississippi State) — the former would’ve been 4-1 and the latter 5-0.  In other words, the Gamecocks, not the Bulldogs, would’ve served as the sacrificial lamb faced LSU in the SEC title game last December.

I love the OBC as much as anyone, but c’mon.  Do what’s best for the conference, not what would’ve been best for your school a year ago.  And, sorry coach, turning non-divisional games into the equivalent of non-conference games is not, as Saban said, what’s best for the SEC.

Having games against Florida Atlantic, Alabama-Birmingham, Georgia State and Louisiana-Monroe carry the same level of importance in the SEC standings as games against Florida, Alabama, Georgia and LSU?  That’s an indefensible — and laughable — proposition.  Or, as commissioner Mike Slive put it last month…

“We certainly can discuss it, but an SEC football game is an SEC football game,” Slive said. “Sitting here first blush without a lot of thought, it would be very hard to decide some games are more valuable than other games.”

No. 5 Wisconsin remains perfect after win against Maryland

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You can probably pencil in No. 5 Wisconsin (7-0, 4-0 Big Ten) to be representing the Big Ten West Division in the Big Ten championship game if you have not already. After taking care of Maryland (3-4, 1-3 Big Ten) today in Madison, the Badgers are well on their way to Indianapolis for a second straight season with a 38-13 victory giving the Badgers a two-game cushion in the loss column. The chances anybody catches them are getting slimmer by the week. The question is quickly becoming whether or not Wisconsin will be 12-0 when they get to Indy.

Freshman sensation Jonathan Taylor continues to roll up the rushing yardage with another 100-yard afternoon (126 yards, 1 TD). Alex Hornibrook also passed for 225 yards and a pair of touchdowns to help the Badgers offense pull away. Wisconsin may have had a couple of turnovers in the first half that didn’t hurt them (Maryland managed just one short field goal after taking over at the Wisconsin five-yard line), but the Badgers were efficient on third downs (6-of-10). Maryland struggled on third downs against one of the top defense sin the Big Ten, which was to be expected, but Maryland did convert two fourth-down opportunities to keep drives alive.

Maryland just could not manage to play a clean enough game, could not take advantage of any opportunities presented to them by Wisconsin, or avoid costly penalties. In the end, Maryland was just outmatched against the heavy favorites in the West Division, and Maryland is once again sent home with a rough loss on the road against one of the Big Ten’s top programs.  Since joining the Big Ten, Maryland is 0-3 against the Badgers, and 0-2 in Madison.

Wisconsin has now won 13 consecutive regular season games dating back to last season (Wisconsin lost the Big Ten championship game against Penn State, which should be considered a postseason game.

Wisconsin will play their next two games in Big Ten play on the road. Next week the Badgers head to Illinois (2-4 coming into today) and then Wisconsin makes a trip to Indiana (entering today 3-3, but 0-3 in Big Ten play with losses to Ohio State, Penn State, and Michigan). If Wisconsin avoids an upset on the road, then the fate of a potential undefeated regular season is put on the line with home games against Iowa and Michigan. The Badgers already have a two-game lead in the loss column in the Big Ten West Division and appear ready to make a return trip to Indianapolis. What the stakes will be beyond a Big Ten title remain to be seen, but the Badgers are not fading out of the College Football Playoff picture anytime soon.

For Maryland, the chance to become bowl eligible is becoming more of a challenge that may require the Terrapins to pull an upset at home against either Michigan or Penn State in November. Maryland still needs three wins and must win their next two in order to keep the dream alive before the final three games of the season against the Wolverines, at Michigan State, and home against the Nittany Lions. Maryland hosts Indiana next week and travels to Rutgers after that.

In upending Texas Tech, Iowa State off to best start since 2002

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Very quietly, Matt Campbell is doing some high-quality work in Ames.

Thanks in large part to quarterback Kyle Kempt and an opportunistic, oft-times stifling defense, Iowa State went to Texas Tech Saturday afternoon and stole a 31-13 Homecoming Game win off the Red Raiders.  The Cyclones jumped out to a 24-6 halftime lead, and weren’t really challenged in the last two quarters in winning for just the second time ever in Lubbock.

After an early interception practically handed Tech its first touchdown, Kempt righted the passing ship by throwing three touchdown passes — all in the first half — in the win.  Defensively, the Cyclones held a Red Raiders offense that came in seventh nationally in yards per game at 543.7 to 336 yards.  The 13 points were a season-low for Tech, surpassing the 27 scored in the Week 3 win over Houston.

With the win, ISU improved to 5-2 on the season.  It’s their best start to a campaign since Dan McCarney‘s Cyclones started 2002 6-1 en route to a 7-7 season.

Taking over a program that won just eight games combined the previous three seasons, the Cyclones went 3-9 in Campbell’s first season last year.  In addition to beating a Tech team that was 4-2 coming in, ISU knocked off then-No. 3 Oklahoma in Norman a couple of weeks ago for the football program’s biggest win in years.

With one more win, Campbell will have the Cyclones bowl-eligible for the first time since 2012.

WATCH: Tim Tebow gives 36.5-point underdog Tennessee passionate pep talk ahead of Alabama game

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You know it’s bad when a former rival of yours feels the need to pump you up.

To say this has been a rough start to the season for Butch Jones and Tennessee would be a massive understatement.  In Week 3, they stole defeat from the jaws of victory in a rivalry loss to Florida.  A week later at home, they barely (17-13) got past a UMass team that enters this weekend winless.  The following week, they were embarrassed and humiliated in a 41-0 woodshedding by Georgia.  Week 7 brought a stinging loss to South Carolina.

At 3-3 overall and an unacceptable 0-3 in SEC play, Jones’ coaching seat is fully engulfed in flames, with nary a fireman in sight.  Enter one-time Volunteers nemesis Tim Tebow — record vs. Vols: 4-0 — with the former Florida quarterback-turned SEC Network analyst offering up a passionate message directed at UT ahead of its showdown with rival Alabama.

‘Bama opened as a 35-point favorite; with kickoff a little over an hour away, that number is up to 36.5.

Bovada.lv told CFT earlier this week that, over the last 31 years, the Vols have never been as large of an underdog as they are right now. Prior to a 23-13 loss, they were 30- point underdogs to Tebow-quarterbacked Florida in 2009. In 2011 and 2013, they were 29- and 28-point underdogs, respectively, to Alabama. They ended up losing both contests, 37-6 in the former and 45-10 in the latter.

In the previous 99 meetings between the rival programs, the Vols have lost by 35 or more points exactly four times. The first came in 1906 (51-0), the second in 1963 (35-0). The last two times? The 2013 game mentioned above and 2016 (49-10).

Big 12 upset brewing in Austin? Longhorns tied 7-7 with Oklahoma State at half

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Don’t hit the upset alarm just yet, but No. 10 Oklahoma State is in a bit of a defensive battle on the road against the Texas Longhorns. After one half of play, the Cowboys and Longhorns are knotted at seven points apiece to set the stage for an interesting second half of play in Austin.

J.D. King gave Oklahoma State a 7-0 lead in the first quarter on a seven-yard touchdown run. It came on Oklahoma State’s third possession of the game and at the end of a 96-yard drive. The next time the Cowboys had the football, another long drive for points was stalled when Justice Hill lost a fumble at the Texas 14-yard line. The Longhorns capitalized on the turnover by orchestrating a quick three-play 86-yard touchdown drive. Sam Ehlinger completed a 90-yard pass to John Burt on a 2nd and 16 and then Ehlinger took it in himself from two yards out on the next play to tie the game at 7-7.