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Sports Then and Now

College Football Week Six Review: Style or Substance?

Posted on October 11, 2009 by Dean Hybl
Florida v LSU

It may not have been flashy, but the Florida Gators won a hard-fought game at LSU to remain undefeated.

After weeks of positioning, this was the week where the real contenders and pretenders started to weed themselves out. With a number of big games between contenders over the next few weeks, you can see the national championship picture starting to clear itself up as we head toward November.

Is it about Style or Substance, or Both?
It was very interesting to watch the different ways the top three teams in the college football rankings earned their victories this weekend.

The top ranked and defending champion Florida Gators were very methodical and workmanlike in their victory at LSU. Even though we all know that LSU is a dangerous team and playing a night game in Baton Rouge is usually a huge advantage for the home team, the Gators seemed to never really be in danger of losing the


However, their 13-3 victory may be perfectly fine in the NFL where it is all about wins and losses and moving on towards the playoffs and Super Bowl. But, in college football many take such a low scoring win as a sign of weakness.

If you want to be considered the best team in college football you can’t just defeat a top 5 team on the road while holding them to just a field goal, you have to win with style. You have to score a bunch of points and make it clear that you aren’t simply better than the other team; you have to show that you are dominant over them.

For that reason, many are now saying that Alabama, which won 22-3 at one-time top 5 Mississippi, may be the best team in the SEC.

To be fair, I would argue that so far this season, Alabama’s resume is a little more impressive than that of Florida. They soundly defeated a top-10 Virginia Tech team in the season opener and then have won each of their next five games by at least 18 points.

Mark Ingram and Alabama have looked good so far in 2009.

Mark Ingram and Alabama have looked good so far in 2009.

Florida, on the other hand, had not faced a ranked team before the win over LSU. They were also less than dominating in their other marquee matchup so far this season when they defeated Tennessee 23-13 in a game that many had expected them to “teach a lesson” to upstart coach Lane Kiffin.

However, because Florida is the defending champion and overwhelming preseason number one team, there is some legitimacy to the argument that they deserve to keep their top ranking until someone takes it from them on the field. Especially considering that quarterback Tim Tebow played the LSU game just hours after being medically cleared following a concussion, you have to expect that the Gators will get back to their old dominant selves soon.

What could hurt Florida is that with Georgia and Florida State now out of the top 25, Florida has only one game remaining against a team in the top 25. And, given that they play at Alabama, Tennessee and Arkansas before hosting the Gators, it is possible that South Carolina won’t be ranked when they play on November 14.

Conversely, Alabama not only hosts South Carolina, but they also still have games against Tennessee, LSU and Auburn. If they are able to run the table, it will be hard to argue against them as the top team in the nation come the end of November.

Fortunately for Florida, even if they do fall behind Alabama in the polls, they will still get a chance to show their stuff head-to-head in the SEC title game where the only thing that will really matter is which team scores the most points.

Last season, winning a head-to-head matchup against their top rivals didn’t ensure a trip to the national title game (or even the conference title game) for Texas, but this time around they seem positioned to earn a spot if they are able to finish without a blemish.

Like with Florida, there have been some critics who argue that the Longhorns have not looked dominant so far this season. They have yet to face a top 25 opponent and had a tougher time than many expected against Texas Tech and Colorado.

Colt McCoy and the Longhorns can show their stuff over the next three weeks against top 25 opponents.

Colt McCoy and the Longhorns can show their stuff over the next three weeks against top 25 opponents.

However, with their next three games against top 25 opponents, including their traditional Red River rivalry game with Oklahoma next Saturday, they can quickly prove to critics that they belong.

So, while style remains a big part of the conversation at this time of the year and will certainly shape the polls in the coming weeks. When it comes to the end of the season, what will ultimately matter is whether you won the games, not necessarily how you looked doing it.

Weekend of Big Games
It is hard not to look ahead with great expectation to the schedule of games coming up next Saturday (October 17). There are a plethora of exciting matchups between classic rivals and teams vying for a place in the national title game.

Though the Red River Shootout has lost a little luster due to the losses by Oklahoma, you can still guarantee that both the Sooners and Longhorns will be ready for a battle.

I usually have a hard time getting excited about the ESPN Thursday night game, but this week that game could be a very good one. The matchup in Tampa between a pair of undefeated squads, Cincinnati and South Florida, will help shape the course of the season for the Big East.

If Tony Pike and the Cincinnati Bearcats can get past South Florida, they could be ready to run the table in the Big East.

If Tony Pike and the Cincinnati Bearcats can get past South Florida, they could be ready to run the table in the Big East.

Cincinnati is ranked in the top 10 and appears destined to repeat as Big East Champions, but South Florida has “trapped” more than one previous top Big East team at home on a Thursday night. The Bearcats will still have to defeat West Virginia, Louisville, Illinois and Pittsburgh, but if they can get past the Bulls, they could be on their way to a spot in a BCS Bowl.

USC has been the poster child for “style over substance” in recent years as they annually run up big victories, but inevitably suffer one loss that keeps them out of the national championship game.

They have already suffered that loss for this season, so now they must re-build their reputation with some big victories. Traveling to South Bend and taking out an improved Notre Dame team might help USC position themselves for a shot at the national title if the current top teams falter.

On the other hand, Notre Dame is looking toward this game as a chance to regain some national luster. Quarterback Jimmy Clausen has been outstanding so far, but it has been a long time since Notre Dame was able to legitimately compete against a national championship caliber opponent and the rest of the Fighting Irish must prove that they are up to the task.

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