Posted 11/10/2011 at 11:11 AM
Field goals, rather missed field goals, proved critical in several college games last week none bigger than in the LSU/Alabama clash. The Crimson Tide combined to miss four field goals from two kickers, ultimately losing in overtime 9-6 in a game where the scoring came solely in the kicking game. The missed kicks took some of the attention off of a critical call on the LSU interception near the goal line that certainly could have been ruled simultaneous possession and stayed with the offense. While it was a sloppy game without flash, the defenses were very impressive and it seemed clear that these are the top teams in country though not necessarily worthy of a rematch for the title game.
Several other games were decided on missed kicks, including a few chip shots. On Friday night Central Michigan missed an easy field goal in the closing second that would have sent its game into overtime. South Florida and Arizona State also botched kicks at the end of regulation that would have made them winners. It is easy to overlook the kicking game and special teams but those mistakes have cost Alabama a championship season, and also cost Wisconsin a shot at an undefeated year in the previous three weeks.
Oklahoma State is in the driver’s seat for the #2 spot with Stanford closely behind. It seems clear that if either goes undefeated they will hold the top spot, with Oklahoma State likely having the edge if both make it through. A lot needs to happen but should Arkansas beat LSU in two weeks and leave a three-way tie in the SEC West there will be some interesting votes to make as the tiebreaker would run down to the BCS rankings. Generally speaking the more recent loss will be penalized more but it would be tough to put Alabama ahead of LSU since the Tigers won in Tuscaloosa. Arkansas lost early in the season but no one has the Razorbacks confused with a championship team and the loss to Alabama came by a significant margin, so they will be out of luck. It will also be interesting to try to figure out how many losses Boise State needs from other top teams to get a crack at it. Boise State likely needs a scenario where the SEC East champion wins the SEC title game to create true chaos as well as having both Stanford and Oklahoma State lose in the coming weeks. That scenario might be a dream for the anti-BCS crowd as there would be no good solutions.
At the midway point of the NFL season there are three-team races in three of the four AFC divisions. The AFC has generally been considered the stronger conference in recent years but there is not a standout team at this point. Cincinnati and Baltimore are the only teams with just two losses and they will face each other in two weeks while also both facing some tough games ahead. The team in the best position to earn the top seed in the AFC is Houston, a team left for dead with serious injuries a few weeks into the season. The Texans have looked like the clear top team in the South division and this team will likely be favored in every remaining game, potentially cruising to a great overall record.
There has been some separation in NFC as three divisions are led by at least two games. The NFC South race will get some clarity this week with New Orleans and Atlanta meeting for the first time and the wild card race figures to be very interesting down the stretch. While the Giants look comfortable for the moment on top of the NFC East this is not a team with a good late season track record and New York could be underdogs in each of the next five games as the home games are with Philadelphia and Green Bay. The Giants have just two losses right now but this is a team that should finish much closer to 8-8 than to 14-2.
In the coming weeks the undefeated and winless talk will grow. Indianapolis likely has its best remaining chance for a win this week facing low output Jacksonville at home before a tough December schedule. The Packers have certainly looked vulnerable but there are not that many tough match-ups remaining, passing a big test wining out west last week. Both games with the Lions are still ahead however. Best of luck, on to this week’s slate…