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November 3, 2010

Powered Up: We know we don't know

The easiest thing for Missouri fans to do right now is to chalk up an 11-and-1 season. The Tigers will be favored in their final four games. It would be a sizeable upset for Missouri to lose any of them.

Based on the last few weeks, it would also be the most pointless thing in the world for Missouri fans to start figuring out which bowl game an 11-and-1 Tiger team will play in.

Consider this: Missouri lost to Nebraska, which lost to Texas, which lost to Baylor, which lost to Texas Tech, which lost to Texas A&M, which Missouri beat by 21 on the road.

In other words, one Saturday means absolutely NOTHING by the next Saturday. In baseball, there is a saying that "Momentum is good as tomorrow's starting pitcher." In college football, momentum is as good as a pile of trash. There IS no momentum.

Let's go the six degrees of separation theory again: North Dakota State beat Kansas which beat Georgia Tech, which beat Miami, which beat Clemson, which came within a field goal of Auburn. So, let's send the national title trophy to North Dakota.

The point is, the term "on any given day," has never been more true. There is not a game left on Missouri's schedule the Tigers can't win. There is also not a game left they can't lose.

Let's look at both the most positive and most negative ways the rest of the season could go:

On the plus side, let's say Missouri wins out. Oregon trips up against Oregon State, Auburn loses to Alabama which falls to LSU and the Tigers and South Carolina lose to Arkansas, but the Gamecocks beat the Tide in the SEC title game. TCU loses to Utah, which turns around and loses to San Diego State while Hawaii upsets Boise State. Nebraska trips up at Texas A&M, Oklahoma wins out but loses the Big XII title game to Missouri. Wisconsin falls at Michigan and Ohio State loses at Iowa. Not one of those things is a completely out of left field impossibility. If it all happens, Missouri is playing for the national title.

On the flip side, let's say Texas Tech plays the best game of its season and beats Missouri. Daniel Thomas runs for 250 yards and Alexander Robinson does the same. Missouri has mailed it in, Kansas replicates its effort against the Yellow Jackets and Missouri packs its 7-and-5 bags for the inaugural Pinstripe Bowl, accompanied by six Tiger fans.

I don't think either scenario is likely. But then again, how the hell do I know? What IS likely? I mean, who saw South Carolina over Alabama or Iowa State and Baylor over Texas or James Madison over Virginia Tech or any of the rest of the wild turns the 2010 season has taken?

The point is, every week is like starting all over in college football. The team that wins the national title is going to be the team that comes the closest to playing its best game every week of the season. Nebraska and Alabama would easily be the top two teams in college football today, except each had one bad day. Missouri had one bad quarter and is all but out of the chase. Same with Ohio State.

Everybody wants a playoff. And a playoff would be cool. But the entire college football season is like a 14-game NCAA Tournament. Every year, I fill out my bracket by saying, "If every team plays its best game every night, who wins?" That's the team I pick to win the national title (unless it is Kansas, then I simply refuse and root for upsets).

The college football season has become the same way. We like to think about the best teams. There is no doubt at the start of the season it was Alabama. But then upsets happen. And then we start to rationalize by claiming "There just aren't any great teams."

Maybe that's true. Or maybe there are a whole bunch of really good teams. And on any given Saturday, one team that is okay can be really good and beat a really good team that was just okay on that day.

The greatest regular season in sports gets a little bit better every single Saturday. Pick a week this season and I can find a game that proves we have absolutely no idea what is going to happen.

The predictions and forecasts won't stop. But they also won't begin to mean anything. The only thing we know right now is that we don't know anything. Buckle up, college football fans. The next upset is right around the corner. Just hope your team isn't the victim.


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