The stars of the Half Season


No pithy comments. No opening remarks. After all, nobody likes an awards ceremony that drags past dessert being served.

Player of the Half Season

Nominees: Oregon's Marcus Mariota, Georgia's Todd Gurley, Mississippi State's Dak Prescott, Florida State's Jameis Winston, Wisconsin's Melvin Gordon, East Carolina's Shane Carden, Washington State's Connor Halliday, Florida State's Roberto Aguayo.

Come and get your trophy: Prescott.

I'm not sure he's the most talented player in the country, but Mississippi State wouldn't be No. 1 without him.

Coach of the Half Season

Nominees: Notre Dame's Brian Kelly, Florida State's Jimbo Fisher, Ole Miss's Hugh Freeze, Mississippi State's Dan Mullen, Baylor's Art Briles, Kentucky's Mark Stoops, USC's Steve Sarkisian, Arizona's Rich Rodriguez, Oklahoma State's Mike Gundy.

Come and get your trophy: Mullen and Freeze.

It's only fitting they share it, right?

Flop of the Half Season

Nominees: South Carolina, Florida, Michigan, North Carolina, Northwestern, Washington State, Texas, UCLA, Notre Dame's student judicial process, the offensive lines of too many teams to list, Penn State, SMU.

Come and get your trophy: Michigan.

The Wolverines barely edge out the Tar Heels for the award nobody wants.

Surprise of the Half Season

Nominees: The state of Mississippi, Notre Dame, Ohio State's J.T. Barrett, Rutgers, Maryland, Kentucky.

Come and get your trophy: the Magnolia State.

Division of the Half Season

Nominees: Pac-12 South, SEC West, ACC Atlantic, whatever you want to call the top half of the Big 12.

Come and get your trophy: Seriously? The SEC West is the group of death.

Upset of the Half Season

Nominees: TCU blowing a 21-point fourth-quarter lead to Baylor, Arizona over Oregon at Autzen, Ole Miss over Alabama, East Carolina over Virginia Tech at Blacksburg, Boston College over USC, Indiana over Missouri at Columbia.

Come and get your trophy: TCU collapse.

Arizona over Oregon a close second.

Worst Prediction of the Half Season

Nominees: me.

I had Cincinnati winning the American. That's not looking good.

I had Bama winning the SEC. Uh-oh.

I had UCLA winning the Pac-12. That one needs a prediction transplant.

I had North Carolina as the team best positioned to win the ACC if FSU faltered. (Insert laugh track.)

I had LSU as the surprise team in the SEC.

My four playoff teams: FSU, Georgia, UCLA and Bama. My national championship game: FSU vs. Bama. I'm not completely dead on those, but you can forget about UCLA getting there.

And in my defense, I was sweet on Mississippi State back in August and said Baylor could figure out a way to win the Big 12 if Oklahoma didn't.


In: Hail State and Hotty Toddy, Notre Dame's first true road game of the season, Baylor-TCU rivalry, USC's depleted scholarship roster, Oregon optimism, Georgia's Nick Chubb, special teams, Duke, Stanford defense, group counseling at UCLA (coach Jim Mora and defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich need to explore their emotional space), Iowa offense, Baylor's Bryce Petty, Miami's Duke Johnson, Michigan, Notre Dame's Tarean Folston, comebacks (Baylor, West Virginia, East Carolina, LSU), East Carolina's Justin Hardy, Georgia controlling its SEC East destiny, compliance directors and coaches talking to their players about signing autographs, cowbells, Michigan State's Jeremy Langford, Arkansas' SEC losing streak (15 and counting).

Out: The number of undefeated teams (only six remain -- Ole Miss, Mississippi State, Marshall, Notre Dame, Florida State and Baylor -- and ND plays FSU this week and the two Mississippis play each other in the Egg Bowl on Nov. 29), Gurley, TCU's defense, Texas A&M mojo, Mizzou quarterback Maty Mauk (9-of-21, five turnovers vs. Georgia), Arizona unbeaten record, Ole Miss' losing streak to A&M, Clemson's Deshaun Watson.


Numbers that matter (thank you, ESPN Stats & Information):

The Hatter won his 100th game at LSU with the comeback victory at Florida. … Oklahoma was 1-of-11 on third downs but still beat Texas. … Bama had seven three-and-out drives (the most ever by a Nick Saban-coached team) but still beat Arkansas. … Until Michigan's win over an equally mediocre Penn State team, the Wolverines hadn't beaten a Power 5 opponent since Nov. 16, 2013 (Northwestern). … Notre Dame plays FSU in Tally Town on Saturday. The Irish haven't beaten a defending AP national champion since 1998. ND is 2-5 against FSU. … Notre Dame is now 2-35 when giving up 40 points or more. North Carolina made that second win possible Saturday. … Hey, it happens, but Mauk's 0.9 Total QBR vs. Georgia was the lowest of any FBS player this season. A 50.0 Total QBR is considered average.


Is it just me, or has the first half of the season been a disappointment? Like many of you, I was hoping for a little more drama.

Instead, all we get is this:

• Lane Kiffin returns to the SEC.

• A playoff system is introduced.

• Florida State's Jameis Winston is suspended for a game after shouting vulgar and sexually explicit comments (and just for fun, he misled school officials about the specifics of his latest transgression).

• Georgia's Gurley, the leading Heisman candidate after Winston's free fall, is suspended indefinitely after allegedly signing memorabilia for money -- an NCAA no-no. The original SharpieGate president, Johnny Manziel, rushes to Gurley's aid on Twitter (#FreeGurley) and someone creates a pompom tribute to the suspended running back just outside UGA's Sanford Stadium. (Of course, here's another possible hashtag: #DontTake$ForAutographs.)

• Two days later, the Gurley-less Bulldogs win on the road at then-No. 23 Mizzou 34-0.

(And now presenting the special Florida Gators edition…)

• Florida pays Idaho $975,000 after its Aug. 30 game in Gainesville, Florida, is rained/lightning'd out, declared a "no contest" and not rescheduled for the 2014 season.

• In a loss to Alabama, former Florida great Emmitt Smith tweets that it's time to bench quarterback Jeff Driskel. He later apologizes to Gators coach Will Muschamp for the tweet.

• Two Florida players, Skyler Mornhinweg and Gerald Willis, go "Sons of Anarchy" on each other over a pair of cleats.

• Another Florida player, Treon Harris, is accused of sexual battery.

• Muschamp cancels his regularly scheduled weekly news conference.

• The complaint against Harris is withdrawn, and he is reinstated but declared unavailable for the LSU game.

• A day later, Florida loses in the final seconds to LSU at The Swamp.

(And now back to the rest of college football…)

• Four Kentucky players are charged with disorderly conduct after air pistol shots result in a campuswide lockdown for hours.

• Less than a week later, a Kentucky player is charged with first-degree rape and suspended indefinitely by the school.

• Michigan's Brady Hoke needs space shuttle heat tiles to protect his bottom from the coaching hot seat.

• Muschamp is surrounded by rumors that (fill-in-the-blank) will replace him in 2015.

• Former Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron takes time from his busy schedule as a Cincinnati Bengals reserve list player to question the leadership of his former team, as well as question coach Nick Saban's commitment to a more state-of-the-art offense.

• Five Notre Dame players are suspended for alleged academic misconduct. The so-called "Frozen Five" (five players … more than five weeks for Notre Dame to conduct hearings on the cases) have been barred from practices and games since Aug. 15. So far, only cornerback KeiVarae Russell has publicly disclosed that he'll miss the entire 2014 season.

• Notre Dame remains undefeated.

• Ole Miss fans tear down the goalposts after an upset win against Alabama, and the school is fined $50,000 by the SEC. In less than four hours, Ole Miss fans then peel off enough cash from their money clips to pay the full fine.

• TCU coach Gary Patterson says he was threatened by a Baylor player after the Frogs' fourth-quarter collapse.

You can't make this stuff up. That's why college football is the greatest sport in the solar system.


And the Heisman Trophy goes to (Non-Suspension or Injury Division) … Mississippi State's Prescott.

Compare his numbers through six games with those of Manziel and Cam Newton when they won Heismans. Prescott's stats are in the same team photo.

Also in attendance for the presentation ceremony: Oregon's Mariota, Wisconsin's Gordon, Marshall's Rakeem Cato.

And the Heisman Trophy goes to (Suspension or Injury Division) … Georgia's Gurley.

Also in attendance for the presentation ceremony: FSU's Winston, Baylor's Petty.

In a parallel universe where all the other Heisman candidates are co-authors of the compromised second draft of the Port Huron Statement: Texas A&M defensive end Myles Garrett.


Top 10

1. Mississippi State

More cowbell … more poll votes … more big wins! The Bulldogs have beaten three top-10 teams in a row and are ranked No. 1 for the first time since, well, ever. A much-needed bye week gives them a chance to exhale, enjoy and regroup before a trip to Kentucky.

2. Ole Miss

The Landsharks are knocking on the door, and they're delivering more than candygrams or posing as plumbers. If defense wins championships, Ole Miss is positioned nicely for a playoff spot. The Rebels are counting the minutes until they face Tennessee and that Vols O (as in, holes) line.

3. Florida State

The Seminoles yawned their way through an 18-point win at Syracuse. Here's guessing they'll get interested fast in Saturday's home game against unbeaten Notre Dame.

4. Baylor

This is mind-boggling: Baylor gave up 58 points against TCU … and won! Now the Bears go to Couch Town and face a West Virginia team that averages nearly 40 points per game.

5. Notre Dame

Quarterback Everett Golson needs a remedial lesson on ball protection and interception prevention. He committed three turnovers against North Carolina. But because it was North Carolina, the Irish were able to recover for the win. That won't be the case if it happens at FSU.

6. Georgia

The sky is falling! The sky is falling! Wait, it isn't? The Bulldogs calm the panicked UGA masses with a shutout road win against Mizzou. Got to give coach Mark Richt credit for keeping things together after the Gurley suspension. And we won't mention that Mizzou is the same team that lost at home to Indiana. Oops.

7. TCU

Up by 21 with less than 12 minutes left to play at Baylor. Yeah, that one is going to leave a mark. And now the Frogs play Oklahoma State.

8. Auburn

Against anybody else and in any other stadium, the Tigers might have been able to overcome a 21-0 early deficit. But it wasn't going to happen at the Cowbell House of Ear Pain. Too many turnovers, penalties and mistakes. Auburn is being treated for hearing loss and a regular-game loss after the visit to Starkville, Mississippi. It gets a week to recover before playing South Carolina.

9. Alabama

Any road win is a good win -- that's what Nick Saban and I say these days. Arkansas pulled out all the motivational stops to beat Bama, and it almost worked. What didn't work was Bama's offense, which produced just 227 total yards (66 rushing yards). The Tide next face a Texas A&M team that is also trying to rediscover its swagger.

10. Oklahoma State

The Cowboys beat Kansas by only seven in Lawrence, Kansas, which is a tiny bit troubling. But they could have been looking ahead to Saturday's game at TCU. Oklahoma State's only loss this season: a six-point neutral-field defeat to Florida State.

Waiting list: Arizona, Oregon, Oklahoma, Michigan State, Ohio State.


Who's In:

No. 1 Mississippi State vs. No. 4 Baylor

It sort of sounds like a Liberty Bowl matchup from the 1970s. But I'd pay cash money to watch this one.

No. 2 Ole Miss vs. No. 3 FSU

If you think two teams from the same division can't somehow end up in the Playoff, you haven't been paying attention to the SEC West.