The Curse of No. 1!
No one can deny that this season has been one of those that's throwing us curveballs seemingly every week and giving us, as fans, plenty to talk about. There's not shortage of chaos and debate about the chaos, and nothing adds more to the weekend than the feeling that something crazy is about to happen. So, why can't we just leave it at that?
There is no curse associated with being the No. 1 team in the nation -- this week, that honor would apparently fall to Auburn, though we will see in a moment that this depends on how you want to define No. 1 -- unless you're talking about a trend that stopped at two this past weekend.
The first No. 1 to fall this year, of course, was Alabama in its game at South Carolina. At that point, Alabama was ranked No. 1 in the AP poll and the coaches poll and the mock BCS standings of SB Nation's BCS Evolution.
The next No. 1 to fall was Ohio State, this time in a game at Wisconsin. We should note here that the mock BCS standings had Boise State at No. 1, and the Broncos did just fine, flattening San Jose State 48-0.
So everything was set up for Thursday night. No, I said Thursday night. You see, the No. 1 team in the nation according to the AP poll and coaches poll was Oregon. The Ducks, you might recall, won that game by a 60-13 count. The string of losses by the AP and coaches No. 1 was broken.
But we had a meme to follow, and BCS No. 1 Oklahoma did lose Saturday night. And it was exciting to watch and enjoy an upset of a team that was by one measure the highest-ranked in the land, but a BCS No. 1 hadn't fallen the weekend before, so there was no curse associated with being BCS No. 1 to break. That's not even a trend.
I'm not trying to be curmudgeonly here, and I hope it's not coming across that way. I'm more bemused about the staying power of a meme that was probably never alive in the first place, and is certainly dead now. And it probably has something to do with my erring on the side of believing that what determines the outcome of a football game has more to do with what happens on a football field than anything else.
And it's not to say that Auburn and Oregon have nothing to fear; this season has already had several twists and turns, and my guess is it will have several more. Both teams have several games to play that could end up in losses. So why do we need to invent a storyline in an effort to bring manufactured drama to a season that already has plenty of the organic kind?
Chain of Doom?
A less-noticed chain reaction has taken place in the SEC -- and if you limit the impact of SEC games, it has so far been unbroken.
Back in Week 4 of the season, Kentucky lost its SEC opener at Florida, 48-14. No one thought much of it at the time, because Kentucky almost always loses to Florida by a pretty solid margin. In fact, the few people who remarked on it generally said it was just more evidence that this was the same Kentucky we've always seen.
The following week, Florida traveled to Tuscaloosa to take on Alabama. We all know what happened in that much-hyped game, with Alabama winning 31-6, setting the Tide up for all that talk of a No. 1 ranking and the idea that this was just the same Alabama team we've seen the last two years.
Alabama then traveled to Columbia to play South Carolina. Of course, you all know what happened in that game. The Tide was upset by two touchdowns, sparking much talk about how this might not be the same old South Carolina.
South Carolina's next game was a visit to Lexington to play the Wildcats. And you've probably heard what happened in the game. South Carolina lost, 31-28, which brought about talk about how this might indeed be the same South Carolina team but it might also be a different Kentucky team.
Here, the narrative changes slightly. Kentucky's next game was at home against Georgia. As most of you know, the Wildcats lost that game, 44-31, prompting the idea that this might be a different Georgia team than the one we've seen all year long.
Georgia now travels to a neutral site in Jacksonville to play Florida. Just saying.
(And, no, you can't carry the string backward from Kentucky into non-conference play. Kentucky defeated Akron in Week 3, and Akron lost to Gardner-Webb in double overtime the week before that. However, winless Akron has come nowhere closer to a win than the one point defeat against that FCS team, and Gardner-Webb had won the week before that, though it has won only one game since then.)
Ryan Mallett Watch
It's been a few weeks since we've update our Ryan Mallett Watch, and that includes two weeks in which Mallett was injured for a substantial portions of his game and as a result turned in passing performances of 96 and 196 yards. That puts Mallett at 2,040 yards, and pretty far behind the pace to match Tim Couch's single-season passing record of 4,275 yards.
Mallett is now on pace to pass for about 3,497 yards in regular season and about 3,789 (rounded up) counting a bowl game. He would need 447 yards a game to match the record in the regular season, 372.5 a game when you factor in a bowl game.
Arkansas' remaining opponents: Vanderbilt (50th passing yardage defense in the NCAA, at 211.0 ypg); South Carolina (104, 252.4); UTEP (61, 213.4); Mississippi State (70, 217.0); and LSU (7, 149.5). So Mallett will have some opportunities to ring up the yardage if he's healthy, but probably not enough yardage to help his pass Couch.
Coincidentally, Mallett's injuries have allowed a player from Couch's alma mater to pass the Arkansas quarterback in yardage this season: Mike Hartline now ranks No. 13 in the nation with 2,144 yards, though he's had one more game than Mallett even if you don't count the time Mallett has lost to injury. Mallett is currently ranked No. 27.
No other SEC quarterback is in the Top 40.