For the last decade, the SEC has been the best conference in college football. But as things stand right now, today, three weeks into the 2016 season, the SEC is no longer top dog.
That honor belongs to the Big Ten.
Consider: Ohio State, Michigan, Michigan State and Wisconsin are all undefeated and ranked in the top 11 in the AP Poll. The Buckeyes blasted Oklahoma on the road this past Saturday, while Michigan State held on for a wild win in South Bend. Wisconsin, of course, opened the season with a win over LSU, and Michigan put away Colorado after some early struggles.
Alabama may still be the best team in the country, but the best conference? The Big Ten reigns supreme.
“They’re probably at the top right now,” CBS college football analyst Houston Nutt said on CBS Sports Radio’s Tiki and Tierney. “The SEC is a little down, but it’s still early. But Ohio State, when you lose that many players and you go to Norman, Oklahoma, and you go dominate a game like that – to me, that says a lot. And here comes Michigan State. (Nobody) says anything about them all summer. Nobody’s talking about them. And what do they do? They just go play ball. They’re tough, they’re physical, they know how to win. And Michigan looks like they’re (going to be) pretty smooth sailing for the next two or three weeks. So they’re rolling right now.”
No. 4 Michigan was a popular playoff pick entering the season, but one must wonder if the Wolverines can beat Michigan State and Ohio State on the road later this season. Can Michigan actually win a national title this year, or is the program still a year away from being truly dangerous?
“On paper, you’d probably say they’re a year away,” Nutt said, “But here’s what happens: They’re gaining ground each and every week. The schedule is laid out for them. They’re going to be 7-0. If you go down that schedule the next few weeks, I really feel like they’ll get to 6-0 or 7-0, and then you never know (what can happen) as they gain confidence. Things are laid out for them pretty good schedule-wise. So watch out. You never know. You may say it’s a year away because they’re missing a couple athletes, but we all know that ball bounces funny.”
Elsewhere in college football, No. 3 Louisville looks like a legitimate threat to Alabama, Ohio State and every other program in America. That’s what happens when you beat Florida State by 43 points.
“I don’t think anybody saw that coming,” Nutt said of Louisville’s 63-20 win this past Saturday. “Everybody, I think, expected Florida State to win. Lamar Jackson, oh my goodness, this guy is just out of sight. He can make things happen. We all knew he could run, but the thing that’s improved so much is his throwing. So now you have this dual-threat that is up and down the field. Nobody can stop him. And then oh, by the way, on defense they’re getting you three-and-out. So this is a good football team. I don’t think anybody really saw this thing coming.”
Chad Kelly, meanwhile, must regroup after falling just shy in his comeback bid against Alabama. Ole Miss led 24-3, then trailed 48-30, and then scored twice in eight seconds to pull within 48-43 with just under three minutes to play. The Rebels, however, couldn’t get over the hump.
Kelly finished 26-of-41 for 421 yards, three touchdowns, one interception and a fumble.
“He throws some pretty balls,” Nutt said. “When you look at the fourth-quarter ball that he threw on the fade route, he had to put that ball in a perfect place where just his receiver could get the ball. He can make those throws. He’s going to get an opportunity. I’m anxious to see how he finishes out, but he has the toughness, and we know this: He has an attitude of confidence. He done told everybody at media day I’m the best. So he’s got real confidence.”