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College Football Thursday: Doomsday Scenario
By Matt Horkman

The college football season will not end without controversy. Three teams from major conferences could finish undefeated, and the Heisman trophy frontrunner is in the midst of a serious off-field allegation. And those are just the circumstances we’re facing right now. What happens if there’s an upset? What happens if Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston is suspended?

The latter question is a legitimate possibility if Winston is charged with sexual assault. Florida State (or the NCAA) will have to take action under that circumstance. Because of the delicacy of the situation, you don’t want to assume anything, but it’s hard to imagine the NCAA allowing Winston to play during the course of the legal process.

Winston’s future is directly intertwined with both the Heisman and the BCS championship race.  Florida State’s a good team even without Winston. Maybe they’re good enough to win the ACC, but they aren’t the second best team in college football without him. He’s what makes them great. If he’s not there, then there No. 2 ranking is in jeopardy.

Under this scenario, voters could vote Ohio State in as the No. 2 ranked team. Humans control most of the BCS, so the pressure will be on voters to give college football fans a game they want to see. A coaching matchup between Nick Saban and Urban Meyer sells better than a game between Alabama and a Winston-less Florida State.

Winston’s cloudy future also opens the Heisman door for Alabama quarterback A.J. McCarron, who many are deeming the safe pick because of his clean reputation.

However, what happens if Alabama loses to Auburn?

Led by a great running game, the Tigers have one of college football’s best offenses. In addition, they’re playing in front of their hometown, so the hostile crowd could make a difference. Bigger upsets have certainly happened.

A month ago, Alabama losing wasn’t the worst thing for the BCS. They could’ve then settled on a Florida State and Ohio State national championship game. But the combination of Alabama losing and Winston facing suspension would create one of the most bizarre (and unfortunate) late-season shakeups in recent memory.

I call it the doomsday scenario. It’s a path without a good ending.

Who wins the Heisman? Johnny Manziel

This week, many on-air personalities were quick to eliminate Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel from Heisman contention, but he could still go off against Missouri. His stats compare favorably with his Heisman-winning campaign of 2012. Yes, his rushing numbers have decreased, but his passing yardage is up. Under the doomsday scenario, he’s your best bet to win the award.

Of course, Texas A&M could also lose, opening the door for Northern Illinois quarterback Jordan Lynch, who rushed for 321 yards and three touchdowns on Tuesday night.

The BCS situation isn’t much better. Would Florida State deserve to play in the championship game ahead of a one-loss SEC champion?

As one of two unbeaten teams from a major conference, Florida State probably would still play for the national title, but the backlash within the college football community would be significant.

Just a month ago, everybody would’ve been content with some combination of Alabama, Florida State, and Ohio State in the national championship. In addition, nobody would’ve hesitated to reward Winston the Heisman.

Things change fast, but right now, there’s a black cloud hovering over college football. What becomes of it remains unknown. It could turn out to be nothing or it could ruin the season of one prestigious program.

There’s still football to play, though. The games will go on, and in the end, things may yet sort itself out on the field.

Still on Saturday, Alabama could lose and Johnny Manziel could struggle for the second consecutive week. A week later, Winston could be suspended indefinitely.

While not likely, the doomsday scenario is possible. 

Draft Watch
Gary Nova, QB, Rutgers
Outlook: If he played well in 2013, Nova could’ve emerged as a potential first-round prospect, but he’s struggled so it’s unlikely the junior quarterback would even declare early. Nova has a strong arm. He’s incredibly confident that he can fit the ball into any tight window. Sometimes that backfires, though, as he ends up forcing throws. He also needs to work on his footwork. Still, he’s a good athlete with a big arm. He’s had an uneven junior season, but another year to hone his skills, and Nova could re-emerge in 2014.

Stock: Down

No. 1 Alabama at No. 4 Auburn
Time/TV: 3:30 PM EST, CBS
Prediction: An Auburn win and the Tigers go to Atlanta and play for the SEC championship. That’s one of the unreported stories of the season. Alabama hasn’t clinched the SEC West, yet. This is a huge moment for McCarron, who’s in the midst of the Heisman race. If he’s able to lead Alabama to back-to-back victories over top SEC teams, then voters are going to look his way. The Tigers don’t have a great defense, so McCarron’s biggest concern will be the crowd noise. How will he handle a road environment? Defensively, Alabama is playing amazing. They’ve allowed just one team (Texas A&M) to score 20 points on them. The Tigers are certainly capable of score 20-plus points, but Nick Saban does a great job of taking away a team’s biggest strength. He’s going to load up against the run by stacking the box. This’ll force Auburn quarterback Neil Marshall to make crucial throws. He made a big one against Georgia two weeks ago, but that was more luck than skill. Lightening doesn’t strike in the same place twice.

Alabama 34 Auburn 20

No. 6 Clemson at No. 10 South Carolina
Time/TV: 7:00 PM EST, ESPN2
Prediction: The spotlight is on Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd, who has never defeated South Carolina before. In fact, Clemson has lost four consecutive games to South Carolina, so they come into this one hungry for victory. In terms of the BCS, it’s probably a must-win game for South Carolina. If Auburn and Missouri lose one more game, then South Carolina’s in excellent position to play in the Sugar Bowl. Clemson, regardless, is a good bet to play in the Orange Bowl so long as Florida State remains in the BCS championship game. The Tigers have won two consecutive games in a row versus SEC opponents, but one was a bowl game against LSU last year, and the other was a home game versus Georgia in this season‘s first week. Playing on the road is a different animal, especially against a team with great physicality along their offensive and defensive lines.

South Carolina 28 Clemson 21

No. 21 Texas A&M at No. 5 Missouri
Time/TV: 7:45 PM EST, ESPN
Prediction: Missouri controls its destiny. If they win, they’ll play Alabama or Auburn in Atlanta for the SEC championship. If they lose, then South Carolina will have the honor of representing the SEC East. LSU humbled Texas A&M last week. The Aggies looked overwhelm and Manziel played his worst game of the year. Missouri, meanwhile, got quarterback James Franklin back from injury. Franklin did not play great in his return, but this team is better with him at the helm. He should have little problems exploiting one of the worst defenses -- if not worse -- in the SEC. That’s why it’s all on Manziel. He’ll need to put up 40-plus for Texas A&M to win. Missouri’s defense isn’t quite on Alabama’s level, but they do a good job of pressuring the quarterback. They also force turnovers. Manziel has the athleticism to avoid sacks, but he’s been prone to throw an interception or two. He must protect the ball. The matchups favor Missouri, but good players respond well after humiliating defeats. This could be Manziel’s last stand.

Texas A&M 45 Missouri 41

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