Clear Your Schedule 2021, Week 12 | SEASON FINALE: We answer your questions and more!

By Brian Wilmer -

“A season is a lifetime.”

College basketball coaching legend Skip Prosser once said this about the hoops season, but it’s the same with college football. We spend a little over a quarter of a year each spin around the sun on this crazy sport — this is my tenth one as part of FBSchedules — and it feels both like 13 years and 13 seconds. We’ve reached the end of another season for this humble, ever-changing little feature. The best way to end the season is with your questions, so let’s do that!

TRIVIA (answer at the end of the column):  Kennesaw State and Monmouth face off for the Big South title this weekend. Who won the league title the last time one of these two did not win the crown, and what was their playoff outcome?

You see, friends, I must pull back the curtain on my good friend Harrison — he is a Charleston Southern alum who is a former student-athlete and employee of this fine university. Therefore, forgive his bias.

That said, let’s break down the top five this week:

  • Georgia:  Much to Harrison’s dismay, the 4-5 Bucs are in for a long day Saturday.
  • Alabama:  More on them in a minute.
  • Oregon:  The Ducks are actually a three-point dog at Utah. The Utes have been much more dangerous on offense under Cam Rising, but this is almost assuredly the biggest threat to keep Oregon out of the playoff. The Civil War whatever they’re calling Oregon-Oregon State now and the Pac-12 championship game would likely find Oregon as a significant favorite.
  • Ohio State:  Ohio State is a 19-point favorite over Michigan State this weekend, which seems like a huge number (again, not offering betting advice, don’t bet a dollar based on anything I tell you — you’re liable for your own cash). If the Buckeyes can keep gap and edge contain — compelling MSU to throw — they should nicely set themselves up for Michigan next week.
  • Cincinnati:  The Bearcats are giving 11-and-a-hook to SMU, but the somewhat sluggish efforts from Cincinnati of late — and the success of Tanner Mordecai — create worry. Cincy should win — I think — but this may be where Luke Fickell’s troops trip.

I think it poses several challenges.

Alabama can defend — it allows a third-best 18.2 points per game among SEC teams. That said, the Razorbacks allow just 4.7 more points per contest. Along with that set of numbers, I’m really curious to see what Kendal Briles can draw up to put the Tide defense on its heels. Arkansas averages 82 fewer yards per game away from home and has managed just shy of five yards per play in two November outings. Alabama, conversely, has surrendered exactly 4.04 yards per play to two of its last three SEC foes. The Hogs need to stay ahead of the sticks. Third-and-long is not a desirable outcome anywhere — especially in Tuscaloosa. Arkansas has converted just shy of 37 percent of its third-down attempts, which is 11th in the SEC.

The Arkansas defense has largely kept opposing passers in check — except Will Rogers, of course, but few have done that with him — and will face a significant challenge in Bryce Young. However, the run defense will be the big point of focus here. The Razorbacks allowed a staggering 597 combined rushing yards against Ole Miss and Georgia earlier this season. The Georgia and LSU games — while admittedly outliers, in that they were the only two games in which Alabama was held under 100 rushing yards — provide the template to slow the Crimson Tide’s rush game. Alabama rushed for 97 combined yards in those two outings.

A lot will need to go right — if not nearly perfect — for Arkansas to win, but there’s a path.

Briles. There is (understandably) a little bit of trepidation in associating oneself with that name, but there seems to be much less of a problem with Kendal. This becomes even less of a problem as time goes on. He’s been a transformational figure with that Arkansas offense, he’s young, and he’ll get a lot of run this offseason.

Lanning is also going to get a lot of looks, but I’m not quite sure it’s his time yet. Were Kirby to go anywhere — again, I don’t see that, either — I’d put him in the top two or three of Georgia’s list of candidates. His defense has been otherworldly this season.

Cincinnati’s Gino Guidugli — he’s a passing game coordinator, but still — is another name that will likely come up this offseason. Among others, I think Tony Elliott will still get a lot of calls, despite his star diminishing with Clemson’s pedestrian performance in 2021. Ole Miss’ Jeff Lebby will be a hot name. Zach Kittley from Western Kentucky is an under-the-radar name with a strong pedigree that could bring life to any offense. SMU’s Garrett Riley is another offensive innovator.

Defensively, Houston’s Doug Belk is a guy I would target. The Cougars’ significant turnaround owes largely to the defense, and Belk has keyed that unit. Liberty’s Scott Symons may also merit a look at one of the “domino” jobs.

You’ve pretty much nailed it. I want to be peeved about Cincinnati’s continually being left out of the top four, but I have to think it will eventually iron itself out.

Let’s break down each of those scenarios:

  • Cincinnati winning out:  To put a fine point on it, if Cincinnati wins out, it should be in the playoff. Beating SMU, winning at East Carolina, and taking a victory over Houston in the conference title game should be more than enough. However, we’re entrusting this decision to people who clearly don’t watch games.
  • Notre Dame winning out:  This seems the most likely — and, the Irish could also join Cincy in the playoff if multiples of these possibilities happen. That would be the true chaos scenario.
  • Oregon losing:  If Oregon gets clipped by Utah, they’re probably done. If either of the other two remaining opponents gets them, they’re definitely done.
  • Alabama losing:  This is the second-most likely, I think. Arkansas, Auburn (despite the lack of Nix), and Georgia is not a desirable list of remaining opponents.

That’s a wrap for my first decade here at FBSchedules. We’ve been through hurricanes, pandemics, the end of the BCS, and so many other weird things. Best of all, you’ve continued to support us through it all. I’m not sure where the feature will start 2021-22 — ideas are always welcome! — but the answering of your questions each week is my favorite iteration yet. Thank you for your questions — and for everything else you continue to bring.

Also, given my advocacy for FCS football, let’s not leave out Mercer and ETSU battling for the SoCon title this week. Good luck to the Bears and Bucs in what should be a classic.

Let’s close this out with a shoutout to my good buddy Andy Masur of WGN Radio in Chicago. If this is a fitting way to close for him, I’ll gladly follow suit. In the immortal words of Billy Joel in “Say Goodbye to Hollywood”:

So many faces in and out of my life

Some will last, some will just be now and then

Life is a series of hellos and goodbyes

I’m afraid it’s time for goodbye again

Until we meet again, y’all.

TRIVIA ANSWER:  I asked earlier:  Kennesaw State and Monmouth face off for the Big South title this weekend. Who won the league title the last time one of these two did not win the crown, and what was their playoff outcome?

Charleston Southern (hi again, Harrison!) won the 2016 Big South title on the strength of a 48-26 victory over Liberty in Lynchburg. The Bucs fell, 15-14, at Wofford in their first-round playoff matchup at Gibbs Stadium in Spartanburg, S.C.

Comment (1)

@sportsmatters, @BrianWilmer,

I have mixed feelings on your positions.

IMO, 90 % of Your evaluations of 1A FB Teams shelter under the Autonomous 5 Conferences Umbrella Orthodoxy of FPI, social & legal preferential privileges of CFP Administration, LLC’s Trust Status steering it’s Sidekick, the NCAA through Bill Hancock & His 21 Member Administration’s Shadow Management.

Are You Not doing your Feature next Week, Week 13, with all Conferences Playing Games the 27th because This weekend is the de facto (albeit unofficial yet) determiner of the C ollusive F ive P rivilege, Administration LLC’s 4 Team Choices?

?Why no Week 13, Clear Your schedule 2021?