This Week In College Football: Arkansas’ ‘Cupcake Game’ Karma & The State Of The SEC

By Ryan Mayer, CBS Local Sports

“It’s wonderful. I love it. I say that with a smile, as it’s a major statement to the nation. Ohio State has one game on the schedule against a ranked team, we have eight left on the schedule. To get through this conference, it’s unprecedented. Any argument (against the strength of the SEC) is complete nonsense.” 
-Bret Bielema, Head Coach Arkansas

Whoops. That quote from Bielema in response to being asked about the SEC having 10 teams in the Top 25 came a mere 3 days prior to his team getting beat on their home turf by MAC powerhouse Toledo. The implication made by Bielema was assumed to be that Ohio State is playing too many what we call “cupcake” teams in its out of conference and in conference schedule this season.

After the game to open the season against the Hokies, (unranked but still a Power 5 school) the Buckeyes played Hawaii (picked last in Mountain West), Northern Illinois (picked 3rd in MAC West, but have won the conference two years in a row), and Western Michigan (picked by some to win MAC this year).

Meanwhile, Arkansas plays UTEP (picked last in C-USA), Toledo (picked to win MAC West), Texas Tech (picked 5th in Big 12), and UT-Martin (FCS) out of conference this year. So it would seem to me that the out of conference schedules are very similar.  Each team plays a bad team (Hawaii & UTEP), a solid non Power 5 (Toledo & Western Michigan), and a lower level Power 5 school (Virginia Tech & Texas Tech).

The reality of Bielema’s statement focuses on the perceived strength of the SEC. The conference for years has been considered the dominant power in college football.  Teams and head coaches in the conference puff their chest out (rightfully to some extent) about how tough it is to make it through their conference slate.

From early results this season though, I’d hold off on the beating your chest this year, SEC coaches and fans.  Aside from the Arkansas loss to Toledo, Auburn nearly lost to FCS Jacksonville State at home, and later in the day Florida barely squeaked by East Carolina. Those games came one week after Western Kentucky beat Vanderbilt, Bowling Green rolled up 600 yards on Tennessee, and Louisiana Lafayette came close against Kentucky.  These are all games that the vaunted SEC should be, based on reputation, be blowing teams out of.

Overall, the SEC had earned its reputation as the best during an unprecedented run of dominance from (2006-2012) when they won 7 consecutive national titles. Now, however, it’s time to just quiet down and prove it on the field. The media is partially to blame for still riding the wave that came with that streak of national titles and there are still some very good teams in the conference. But, 10 teams being ranked in the Top 25 was an overreaction to Week 1 and the conference’s reputation.

That’s not meant to slam the SEC or its opponents.  Nor am I claiming the SEC to be dead and not worthy of Top 25 spots. Rather, it’s past time for us to re-calibrate our expectations of the conference.  Just because a team plays in the SEC doesn’t automatically qualify it for a Top 25 spot.

As for Bielema and the Razorbacks, they got their karmic due when they lost to Toledo.  The loss reinforced the age old adage: “Don’t worry about what others are doing, worry about yourself.”

Injuries Kill Playoff Hopeful Irish

Prior to the season, Notre Dame was seen by many to have a shot at making a run to the College Football Playoff if things fell their way.  So far, through two weeks, that has decidedly not been the case. Before the season even began, defensive tackle Jarron Jones (torn MCL) and nickel corner Shaun Crawford (torn ACL) were out for the year. Then in Week 1 against Texas, starting running back Tarean Folston tore his ACL.  Last weekend against Virginia redshirt sophomore QB Malik Zaire fractured his ankle and TE Durham Smythe tore his MCL.

That makes 5 starters now gone from the Irish line-up that entered the season with those high expectations. The luck of the Irish is nowhere to be found this season on the injury front. Injuries are always a large part of the adversity that a team will face during the course of a season, but it’s tough to see how the Irish handle these to still have the 0 or 1 loss most likely necessary to get into the Playoff.

Must Watch Games

#14 Georgia Tech at #8 Notre Dame- NBC 3:30 pm
Deshone Kizer steps into the QB spot for the Irish as they go up against a Yellow Jackets team that is averaging 67 points per game through the first two weeks. Granted those games came against Alcorn State and Tulane, not exactly world beaters. This will be fun to see how the Irish run defense (93.5 YPG 24th in NCAA) does against the Jackets triple option attack that is number 1 in the nation at 457.5 YPG.

#15 Ole Miss at #2 Alabama- ESPN 9:15 pm
The Rebels like Georgia Tech have lit up the scoreboard in their first two games against inferior competition (76 & 73 points against UT-Martin and Fresno State respectively).  Meanwhile, Alabama beat up on Wisconsin on opening weekend before thrashing Middle Tennessee St in Week 2. Revenge is on the mind of the Tide following a 6 point loss to the Rebels at Vaught-Hemingway last season.  This year’s contest takes place in Tuscaloosa, where Saban and company haven’t lost since Johnny Manziel did this in 2012.

#19 BYU at #10 UCLA- Fox Sports 1 10:30pm
If you haven’t watched either of BYU’s first two games you’ve missed two last minute game-winning TD passes from Mitch Mangum who can seem to do no wrong since replacing Taysom Hill at QB following Hill’s injury. Meanwhile, the Bruins have their own QB prodigy in freshman Josh Rosen who’s thrown for 574 yards and 4 TD’s with only 1 pick in UCLA’s two wins. If you have the ability to be a bit of a night owl, this one is worth staying up for.

Ryan Mayer is an Associate Producer for CBS Local Sports. Ryan lives in NY but comes from Philly and life as a Philly sports fan has made him cynical. Anywhere sports are being discussed, that’s where you’ll find him. Agree/Disagree? Thoughts, comments, complaints? Email or tweet him. 

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