Over the next two weeks, during college football’s Last Judgement, the Southeastern Conference, sitting pretty with the football gods, should beware. The four horsemen of the College Football Apocalypse are standing in wait to create havoc upon the league for the postseason.
The Biblical text details four horses, all of different colors, mounted by different agents of destruction – war, famine, pestilence and death – that will eventually unleash chaos during the end of days. In the religion that is college football in the South, a scenario in which an SEC team is not in a position to even play for a national championship would constitute sacrilege, blasphemy and regional blight all in one.
Let’s take a look at how that plot could unfold, horse by horse, color by color.
The white horse of the Apocalypse signifies pestilence, but in this case, it’s in the form of the Auburn football team, as they’ll be dressed in all white when riding into Tuscaloosa to play the Iron Bowl. Their opponents, the Alabama Crimson Tide, are still No. 1 in the College Football Playoff, and just have to avoid an upset bid from War Eagle to head to Atlanta for a chance to lock up a playoff spot with a win in the SEC Championship Game. With Auburn being relegated to the spoiler role after a couple of losses earlier this month took them out of the title picture, there’s nothing the Tigers would want more than to drag their rivals into the same fate. And with Nick Marshall at the controls and Cameron Artis-Payne, the SEC’s leading rusher, in the backfield with Marshall, Alabama’s defense should be put to a severe test. Do I even mention what happened in the Iron Bowl last year to highlight the fact that anything can happen in this game?
A few miles to the northwest, the red horse of war might descend upon Oxford, Miss., and the Ole Miss Rebels, possibly dressed in red, will take on No. 4 Mississippi State in the Egg Bowl to end all Egg Bowls. Just like Auburn, Ole Miss had a high-flying start to the season only to crash and burn towards the end of the year. Mississippi State, on the other hand, is having its best season since, um, maybe ever. A win by the Bulldogs, along with an Alabama win, will send MSU into the clubhouse at 11-1 and probably a spot in the playoff. (A win and an Alabama loss sends the Bulldogs to the SEC Championship Game.) But an Ole Miss win in the rivalry would also knock Stark Vegas out of contention, causing more “SEC in the College Football Playoff” angst. And wouldn’t everyone outside of the Southeast love that?
What they would also love is the black horse of famine, dressed in the black (and gold) of Missouri, to win out. The newest edition to the conference might turn out to be a thorn in the side of those who want to see an SEC team in the Playoff in 2014, especially if the Tigers defeat Arkansas and clinch the SEC East Division title for a second consecutive year at the expense of Georgia. A Missouri loss would send Georgia to Atlanta, and a win by the Dawgs in that game, to go along with a possible win over Georgia Tech this week, could see Georgia slip into the top four of the Playoff. It’s hard to imagine Missouri winning out and making the playoff, even if they win the SEC Championship Game against an Alabama or Mississippi State. Can Missouri win in the SEC title game if they were to play the Tide or the Bulldogs? Stranger things have happened, right?
To round out the equine quartet, there’s the pale horse of death, and, quite frankly, you can make that whatever one-loss team you can think of: Oregon, TCU, Baylor or Ohio State. Assuming Florida State goes undefeated, how could a two-loss SEC team finish ahead of at least two of those teams if all of them finish the year with just that one loss? Even if Florida State were to take a tumble, a two-loss SEC team would have to finish ahead of at least one of those one-loss teams, if our SEC Doomsday scenario happens to unfold.
To be honest, this writer doesn’t think all of those elements will occur. But wouldn’t it be fun to see the end of the (college football) world as we know it? Cue R.E.M.!
The A Lot of Sports Talk‘s College Football Top 25 panel is ready for any and all Doomsday scenarios. We’re back to a sextet of pollsters this week, and here is our group of six: T.J. Basalla (super fan, marketing professional, WJPZ Alumni Association President), Pavan Sandhu Eckhart (Texas A&M graduate, Sales Rep at Ferring Pharmaceuticals in Dallas), Basil Mitchell (former TCU and Green Bay Packers RB), Sandy Weintraub (super fan, Director of Student Conduct and Community Standards at the University of Oregon), Adesina Koiki (Football Writers Association of America member/voter, A Lot Of Sports Talk editor-in-chief) and an anonymous assistant coach who once coached at a Division I-FBS school. If you have any comments and/or complaints, write them below on the Facebook window or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We’d love to hear from you, as always.
Can I take Jimbo Fisher to Las Vegas with me and let him roll the dice every time? (T.J. Basalla)
Jesus, girls, and Marcus Mariota. If you don’t get the reference, look it up. (Sandy Weintraub)
Although it’s gone (shockingly) unnoticed, Blake Sims might be having the best season statistically by a quarterback in Alabama’s footballing history! Not bad for someone most people thought would be the team’s backup signal caller going into the campaign. (Adesina Koiki)
Welcome again to the Thanksgiving tradition with Texas, Horned Frogs. No pressure, right? Just stuff the improving Longhorns like a turkey on national television and you’ll be just fine. (Adesina)
Win the Egg Bowl and the debate begins for Mississippi State. (T.J.)
If TCU was able to score 82 points on Texas Tech’s defense this season, how much could the Baylor Bears put up when they square off against the Red Raiders on Saturday? (Adesina)
Ohio State did themselves no favors with an uneven performance at home against Indiana. Virginia Tech losing didn’t help, either. (T.J.)
This is a dangerous team that the national media forgot about after its two-game losing streak in October. If the Bruins can get by Stanford this weekend, their rematch against Oregon should be must-see TV. (Sandy)
A win on Saturday at Penn State would clinch the Spartans’ fourth double-digit win season in the last five years. Prior to 2010, MSU had only recorded two seasons of 10 or more wins in school history. (Adesina)
It may not be a conference game, but UGA’s game with rival Georgia Tech is just as big as any SEC tilt, especially with the Bulldogs still harboring an outside chance at a playoff appearance. (Adesina)
This team beat Oregon at Autzen and, most recently, destroyed a very good Utah team in Salt Lake City. Just sayin’… (Sandy)
After an impressive win in Morgantown last Thursday, the Wildcats hope to avoid a letdown against rival Kansas, especially given the fact that Baylor is on the horizon the week after. (Adesina)
Most important Axe game in history? I’d say yes. (T.J.)
Ignore the job-hopping baggage: Todd Graham is a good coach. (T.J.)
How is Georgia Tech the ultimate outsider at the College Football Playoff? Let’s assume that Clemson defeats South Carolina to start. If Georgia Tech was to then run the table, including in the ACC Championship Game, it will have beaten three ranked teams – and two Top 10 teams – in a three-week span (Clemson, Georgia, Florida State). It probably won’t happen, but just a thought. (Adesina)
The Tigers are one win away from playing in their second consecutive SEC Championship Game. When you think about that, the grand scheme of Missouri football and its history, that is incredible. (T.J.)
Marshall finally cracked the College Football Playoff Top 25 poll, coming in at No. 24 this week. Alas, another non Power Five team, Boise State, checked in at No. 23 in the same poll. One step forward, two steps back. (Adesina)
It might as well be the Super Bowl instead of the Iron Bowl this week for Auburn, as they look to spoil Alabama’s national championship plans…again. (Adesina)
They got the jug (Little Brown Jug, Michigan) and the pig (Floyd of Rosedale, Iowa) already this season. Can the Gophers complete the triple play of rivalry trophies by defeating Wisconsin for Paul Bunyan’s Axe and head to the Big Ten Football Championship Game? (Adesina)
Only seven days after Wisconsin’s Melvin Gordon broke the single-game rushing record vs. Nebraska, OU freshman Samaje Perine did him one better, rushing for 427 yards – a new FBS single-game record – last week vs. Kansas. (Adesina)
It doesn’t look good for Colorado State to make the New Year’s Six, as they need a Boise loss to Utah State to help them reach the Mountain West Championship Game, a must if they’re going to be considered for the Playoff. (Adesina)
Thought not as big a win as it would have been in past seasons, congratulations to Louisville for a program-defining win in South Bend. (Adesina)
Remember when we were talking about Ole Miss as a top seed in the Playoff? Yeah, that was fun. (T.J.)
Can Clemson finally break the hex that Steve Spurrier has put on the Tigers the past five years? The Gamecocks are as down as never before under Spurrier, so this should be the perfect opportunity. (Adesina)
Theeyyyyy’re baaaaack! (Adesina)
Others receiving votes:
LSU (13 points), Utah (3), Duke (2), Texas (2), Memphis (1)
* – To break ties, we used a three-step criteria; 1) higher number of first-place votes, 2) higher number of ballots (out of six) the teams appeared in, 3) highest single ranking by an individual pollster (e.g. if Team A and Team B are tied cumulatively and appeared in all six polls, but Team A’s highest ranking by an individual pollster was No. 7 and Team B’s highest ranking by an individual pollster was No. 9, Team A wins tiebreaker)
[Cover photo (Nick Saban) courtesy of Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images]