Forty names, games, teams and minutiae making news in college football (white flags sold separately at Kansas, where the Jayhawks produced 21 yards of total offense against TCU on Saturday):
DOMINATION: AN APPRECIATION
When Nick Saban (11) wound up laughing at himself during his halftime interview of yet another Alabama blowout Saturday, it was abundantly clear: Even America’s most nitpicking perfectionist is running out of things to criticize in his team’s performance.
That’s right, Nick just might take a sip of that media rat poison.
After beating Tennessee senseless, the Crimson Tide now has won 22 straight Southeastern Conference games (including three straight SEC championship games). The streak dates back to a fluky night in 2015 in Tuscaloosa, when Alabama turned the ball over four times and lost to Mississippi. Since then: pure domination.
The Dash takes a look inside the streak.
• Average margin of victory: 25.3 points (16.6 in 2015, 24.9 in ’16, 40 thus far this year)
• Average margin against SEC West opponents: 22.0
• Average margin against SEC East opponents: 30.1
• Average home margin of victory: 27.0
• Average road margin of victory: 25.2
• Average neutral site margin of victory: 26.0
(Home-road-neutral, it clearly doesn’t matter where the Tide plays in the SEC. The results are nearly identical.)
• Record against the spread: 15-7
• Last time Alabama was an underdog against an SEC opponent: Oct. 3, 2015, at Georgia (‘Bama won 38-10.)
• Closest games: five points against Mississippi (12) in ’16 and Tennessee (13) in ’15
• Number of times during the streak that Alabama has trailed at halftime: two (Ole Miss ’16 and Arkansas ’15)
• Number of opponents who were ranked at the time: 12 (none so far this year)
• Current SEC coaches who have beaten Nick Saban: 2 (Gus Malzahn (14) in 2013 and Kevin Sumlin (15) in 2012)
• Saban’s Alabama record against current SEC coaches: 37-2
• Punching bag: Saban is 8-0 against Mississippi State’s Dan Mullen (16)
DASH STAT OF THE WEEK
Arkansas (17) and Houston (18) are battling for the title of Worst Second Half Team in the History of the Universe.
The Razorbacks were outscored 35-14 in the second half Saturday by Auburn, turning a close game into a rout. It was the ninth straight game against power-five conference competition that the Hogs were outscored in the second half – many of them badly. Arkansas was minus-19 against South Carolina, minus-14 against TCU, minus-21 against a bad Missouri team last year and minus-35 in the infamous bowl collapse against Virginia Tech. During this nine-game sequence against comparable competition, the second-half (plus overtime) score is Opponents 231, Arkansas 80.
“The second half is a mental barrier,” embattled Hogs coach Bret Bielema acknowledged after the collapse against Auburn. “There are certain things we do during the course of practice to try and emphasize it. It definitely gets talked about, but I think it just comes down to being able to have guys make plays.
“Obviously as coaches we have to put them in a better position, but guys have to make plays and be able to move the chains on offense, score in the red zone, and on defense we have to make tackles.”
Houston is trying doggedly to keep pace in the Kings of Collapse race. The Cougars gave up a staggering 42 second-half points last week to blow a big lead against Memphis, and that was a week after being outscored 38-7 after halftime by a bad Tulsa team.
Just once in Houston’s last eight games – spanning two coaching staffs – have the Cougs scored more in the second half than the opposition. Combined score in those eight games: Opponents 154, Houston 65.
LAST INTERCEPTION POOL – WE HAVE A WINNER
Two weeks ago, we were down to four quarterbacks vying for the coveted Last Interception Pool prize from The Dash. But then Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield threw a pick Oct. 14 against Texas, and Alabama’s Jalen Hurts did the same thing on the same day against Arkansas. And then this past Saturday, Louisiana-Monroe’s Caleb Evans removed himself from consideration with an oskie against South Alabama.
And just like that, we have a champion. Congratulations, Ryan Finley (19) of North Carolina State. You’ve now reached 248 passes and made it to late October without an interception, while leading a 6-1 team. But next up is a date with a Notre Dame team that has 17 takeaways on the season, including seven interceptions. Handle the ball with care.
DASH TIP: DON’T BRING YOUR BIRDS TO THE STADIUM
These are testy times in college football. Conference play is in full swing, which means the stakes are rising and home crowds are heaping extra helpings of abuse on visiting teams. Saturday, that led to some very public middle-finger salutes (20) from a couple of visiting players.
Saturday afternoon, Tennessee’s Rashaan Gaulden gave the double-bird to Bryant-Denny Stadium after a teammate returned an interception for a touchdown. In addition to being impolite, it was probably not the time for any kind of sass from the Volunteers. The score at the time was 28-7 ‘Bama. Gaulden apologized after the game.
Saturday night, Michigan’s Lavert Hill went to the same eff-you playbook, but at least waited until the Wolverines had finished being hammered by Penn State. (It was less obvious than doing it while standing in the end zone after your team’s only touchdown of the day, which Gaulden did.) Michigan sent out an apology statement from Hill on Monday.
College students don’t tend to have fully developed impulse control, and an adverse and pressurized situation can exacerbate that issue. But, guys, keep your fingers down on the road. Someone with a camera will see you, your coach will get very angry and you will end up having to issue a sheepish (and perhaps sincere) apology. Think before you flip.
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