Bo Pelini is Gone and Other Big Stories from Week 14 in College Football
Rivalry week lived up to its name as several big games came down to the wire and knocked some powerhouses out of playoff contention. Here are the top stories from this week in college football.
Mississippi State Ran Out of Cowbell
A week ago, Ole Miss was getting shut out, 30-0, by an Arkansas team struggling to reach its first .500 season in three years. But all that was forgotten this week as the Rebels ended Mississippi State’s title hopes with a 31-17 win in the Egg Bowl.
Ole Miss overcame a slow first half to score 17 unanswered points in the third quarter to take a lead they would never give back. The Rebels top-ranked scoring defense also stepped up to the challenge, holding the Bulldogs’ potent rushing offense to just 163 yards (84 less than their season average) and just 8-of-21 on third-down conversions. Ole Miss did its part to bring about football chaos by knocking their in-state rivals out of playoff contention. Read on to see how Missouri can cause complete anarchy.
The SEC is One Win From Oblivion
OK, that headline might be a bit strong. But all season long, most have thought it was a foregone conclusion that the SEC West would get two teams into the playoff. Now, we’re one Missouri upset away from possibly having zero. If the Tigers can upset Alabama in the SEC title game, there is a chance that a two-loss Crimson Tide could drop out of the top four. Yes, a lot would have to happen—the teams ahead of them all win out, plus the committee decides to put either two Big 12 teams or a Big Ten champion Ohio State with a third-string quarterback in ahead of Bama. But it could happen. And if you think this season has already been crazy, imagine it ending with no SEC teams in the title game and an SEC champion who previously lost to Indiana.
Chaos Reigns in the PAC-12
All of No. 8 UCLA’s dreams were there in front of it—just knock off a struggling Stanford squad that had lost three of its last five and you’re off to the PAC-12 title game, a possible Rose Bowl bid and, with some upsets, maybe even a back door into the playoffs. But apparently the Cardinal defense didn’t get the memo that they were just supposed to roll over, holding Brett Hundley and the Bruins offense to just 262 total yards and scoreless for the final 41 minutes of the game.
The upset handed the PAC-12 West title to No. 11 Arizona, who held off a late rally from archrival Arizona State to capture the division. The Wildcats already beat Oregon once, 31-24, back in early October. Knocking them off twice will be quite a feat that the playoff committee would have to look upon favorably if a door opens for a two-loss team.
Yes, Michigan fans, you read that right—Rich Rodriguez and playoff in the same sentence.
Bo Pelini Gets the Axe
It’s not often you see a coach who has won at least nine games every year in his career get fired. But Nebraska pulled the trigger on Sunday, firing Bo Pelini after the Cornhuskers capped off a 9-3 regular season. Pelini was 67-27 in his seven years with the Cornhuskers, but fell flat in the games that mattered most. He went 40-2 against opponents who finished .500 or worse, but just 26-25 against those with winning records. Most tellingly, he was 8-17 against ranked opponents (3-9 on the road) with no conference championships or BCS bowl appearances.
I always liked Pelini and the energy he brought to the Nebraska sidelines after the Bill Callahan debacle. But this was probably the right move for the Cornhuskers, long-term. Losing to Top Ten Michigan State or Ohio State programs is one thing. But Nebraska has been lapped by the likes of Wisconsin and Minnesota in the Big Ten. That 9 or 10 win mark seemed to be the plateau and it was looking less and less likely that the Huskers would ever make the jump to the next level under Pelini. Most schools would love to have a coach who would win nine games consistently every year. But, with five national titles and a long history of excellence, Nebraska has earned the right to expect more. Yes, the days of perennial dominance under Tom Osborne are long gone, but Nebraska should at least be able to compete for a conference title, something they haven’t won since 1999.
Florida State is Never Going to Lose Again
I don’t know what kind of magic charm the Seminoles have or to whom Jimbo Fisher has sold his soul. But at this point there is really no other explanation for Florida State’s winning streak. For the sixth time this year, the defending champs needed a second half comeback to get the win over archrival Florida, but they got it done. This time, they overcame even bigger problems, with four Jameis Winston interceptions. But the football gods continued to press FSU’s lucky streak to an ACC-record 28 straight games when the Gators missed not one but two field goals that would have given them a fourth quarter lead.
Florida State still has to face a surprisingly tough Georgia Tech team in the ACC championship game and obviously two other teams in the playoff. But, at this point, is there absolutely any scenario under which you would head to Vegas and put a significant amount on the money line of any team playing the Seminoles? Me neither.