Mark McLeod, ESPN Radio
After Oklahoma State demolished Oklahoma 44-10 in the Dust Bowl, the Oklahoma State Sports Information Department wasted little time firing off an e-mail to many of us in the media campaigning for a spot in the BCS National Championship Game over the Alabama Crimson Tide.
The Cowboys make the argument that they defeated five ranked teams (Oklahoma, Kansas State, Baylor, Texas, and Missouri) and that they have more wins over bowl-bound teams. They point out that they were on the road, while ‘Bama was at home when they lost.
I’ll provide the defense for Alabama.
The Oklahoma State Sports Information Department didn’t point out that the Cowboys got rolled by Iowa State- an unranked team. They didn’t mention that Iowa State isn’t going bowling. And they certainly didn’t mention that the Cyclones rank 99th nationally in total defense.
How many years do we have to point out that the Big 12 is an over-hyped offensive, fall on your face defensive conference? I’ll make the same argument for Alabama that was in play before Florida faced Oklahoma in the 2008 BCS National Championship Game.
They don’t play defense in the Big 12. They play a style more suited for the Arena Football League.
Sure, Texas and Oklahoma are usually strong defensively, but the rest of the league seemingly plays with colanders for helmets. Alabama played three of the top 10 teams ranked nationally in total defense and five of the top 21. Meanwhile, Oklahoma State faced five teams ranked 99th or worse in total defense, including the Kansas Jayhawks, who ranked dead last at 120. The Cowboys have played just one team (Texas) ranked in the top 60 in total defense.
Want an exclamation point on this argument, defensively speaking?
Alabama has the top-ranked total defense in the country, while Oklahoma State ranks 107th. This isn’t Cowboy down, it’s Cowboy down and out.
Championship game Saturday turned to blowout Saturday in college football. It didn’t matter if you are an ardent supporter of the Pac-12, Conference USA, or SEC…it was big blowout. The Big-10 battle between Michigan State and Wisconsin provided the challenge of the day.
The first half was nothing more than a false sense of security for Georgia. Head coach Mark Richt and offensive coordinator Mike Bobo put the football in the arms of quarterback Aaron Murray, going off of their typical conservative script. The Georgia Dome was cranked with ‘Dawgs fans who smelled blood. But seriously folks, reality reared its’ ugly head when LSU stopped hitting the snooze button and answered the buzzer. The Tigers destruction of Georgia proved what we knew last spring. The Western Division would rule with an iron fist. The three best teams in the league were LSU, Alabama, and Arkansas. It was a reversal of the college baseball season last spring when Eastern Division powerhouses South Carolina, Florida, and Vanderbilt were the kings of the conference. What a conference.
It’s a two-man race for the Heisman Trophy. I was stunned when the CFB talking heads reversed field with Oklahoma State quarterback Brandon Weeden as the man to beat after Alabama lost to LSU on November 5th and Stanford lost to Oregon 53-30 on November 12th.Weeden is a terrific quarterback and worthy of consideration, but give a stellar defense that he’s put up numbers against? One week later, Oklahoma State was knocked off by Iowa State 37-31 triple overtime and the Weeden for Heisman campaign was over.
The “men to beat” have been Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck and Alabama running back Trent Richardson all along. I don’t have a vote, but if I did, it Richardson would sit atop my ballot. Richardson scored nine of his 20 touchdowns against those five teams ranking in the top 21 in total defense. Weeden threw for just one touchdown against Texas. The competition does matter, folks.
One guy that I’ll be sure to strongly consider on my 2012 Pre-Season All-Southeastern Conference Team Ballot will be LSU running back Kenny Hilliard. The 5’11, 240-pound freshman didn’t record a start for the Tigers this season, but has accumulated 320 rushing yards and eight touchdowns, while averaging 5.6 yards per carry. He caught just three passes for 13 yards, but turned one of those into six points. He’s a big back who runs strong with quickness and speed. Opponents don’t seem to get a shot on him. Very impressive.
Mark McLeod is the host of “The Mark McLeod Show” and covers Gators football, recruiting, and baseball for ESPN Radio (Gainesville/Ocala). Mark is a member of the Football Writers Association of America. You can follow him on Twitter at @McLeodLive. E-mail Mark at email@example.com.