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Southeastern Conference has a nightmare of a day

Kentrell Brothers, Dorian Baker
Missouri linebacker Kentrell Brothers wraps up Kentucky receiver Dorian Baker for no gain during the fourth quarter of the Tigers’ 20-10 victory in Columbia, Mo.
(Shane Keyser / MCT)

The Southeastern Conference had a bad day … wait, is it even legal to type those words?

The nation’s loudest football congregation was riding high Tuesday when it put three schools in the top four of the first College Football Playoff rankings.

The SEC, however, may have peaked a bit early.

The league likely lost two playoff contenders Saturday:

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One was expected, as two one-loss teams, No. 3 Auburn and No. 4 Mississippi, played a probable elimination game in Oxford, Miss.

Auburn held on to win a 35-31 thriller.

The other was not, as unranked Florida stunned No. 11 Georgia, 38-20, in an SEC East showdown in Jacksonville, Fla.

That loss vaulted two-loss Missouri, a Saturday winner over Kentucky, into first place in the SEC East.

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This was not good news for the conference, as Missouri is unranked and has two embarrassing home defeats on its ledger.

The first was to Indiana, which fell to 3-5 after Saturday’s loss at Michigan.

Indiana has more victories against the SEC this year than in the Big Ten Conference, where the Hoosiers are 0-4.

Missouri’s other defeat was 34-0 against Georgia.

The SEC’s nightmare scenario is Missouri running the table and winning the conference.

Narrow victories for Florida State and Texas Christian also weakened the chances of the SEC putting two teams in the playoffs.

No. 2 Florida State’s come-from-behind victory at Louisville on Thursday moved the Seminoles one step closer to winning the Atlantic Coast Conference, the weakest of the five major leagues.

Then, on Saturday, No. 7 Texas Christian strengthened its hold on the Big 12 Conference with a last-second victory at West Virginia.

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The SEC West will still likely produce one of the four playoff teams, although its winner will now face no better than a two-loss SEC East champion.

No. 1 Mississippi State, however, needed two late defensive stops to hold off Arkansas, which suffered its 17th consecutive SEC defeat.

The SEC could really get stressed if Missouri ends up winning the title.

Those chances must still be considered long shot.

How good could Missouri be if it lost at home to Indiana?

Marshall plan

A “missing program report” was issued early last week for Marshall, one of three unbeaten teams left in major college football.

The Thundering Herd was conspicuously absent from the first CFP rankings.

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Marshall ranks No. 23 in the Associated Press and USA Today coaches’ polls, but the selection committee seemed to be making a clear strength-of-schedule statement.

Marshall, a member of Conference USA, is 8-0 but does not play a school from a Power 5 conference.

The selection committee did rank one-loss East Carolina at No. 23, with the Pirates’ only defeat coming at South Carolina.

OK, though, what now?

East Carolina suffered a stunning defeat Saturday in a rain-soaked American Athletic Conference game at Temple.

The selection committee is mandated to award a major bowl bid to the highest ranking “Group of Five” champion.

Will it now elevate Marshall, after an open week, into its top 25?

The committee is limited in its choices because of its decision to award its bowl bid to a conference “champion.”

The best one-loss team may be Colorado State (8-1).

The Rams, however, can’t win the Mountain West Conference unless Boise State loses another league game. Boise State handed Colorado State its only defeat. Boise State, though, has a conference loss at Air Force and a nonconference defeat to Mississippi.

Will the selection committee dare rank Colorado State, a team it might not be able to choose, ahead of undefeated Marshall?

Or, will the committee ultimately opt for two-loss Boise State if the Broncos win the Mountain West?

The race for the playoffs has no “championship” stipulation. A nondivision winner from a Power 5 league is extremely eligible.

Remember, in 2011, Alabama won the Bowl Championship Series title without winning the SEC West.

How stunning was it?

Temple’s 20-10 victory over East Carolina was the Owls’ first over a ranked opponent since 1998.

But we may have gotten carried away with the word “stunning.”

This Temple team is the Green Bay Packers compared to the one in 1998 that shocked Virginia Tech.

Temple is 5-3, including a victory over Vanderbilt in Nashville.

Temple in 1998 was one of college football’s worst teams. The Owls began the game at Blacksburg, Va., winless in 26 Big East road games.

Virginia Tech was a 35 1/2-point favorite at home. Because of injuries, Temple played 10 players who were making their first start.

The 28-24 victory remains one of the biggest upsets in college football.

“I’ve never been more embarrassed in my life,” Virginia Tech linebacker Corey Moore said at the time. “We are the laughingstock of college football right now and deservedly so.”

That embarrassment was later surpassed only, perhaps, by Stanford over USC in 2007 and, the next year, Appalachian State over Michigan.


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