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Downs & Distance

Missouri isn’t out of place in the SEC

Jim McBride’s four items of interest on this week’s college football landscape:

Not out of place

Looks as if the folks at Missouri knew what they were doing after all. Count me among the doubters back in 2011 when officials in Columbia announced they were defecting from the Big 12 and joining the SEC. Why leave a conference in which you were a contender most seasons to play in a heavyweight league where some established members (Vanderbilt, Kentucky) have a hard time winning? I doubted the Tigers again this season when they ran off to a 5-0 start by beating the likes of Murray State and Arkansas State. Well, after convincing back-to-back wins at Georgia and vs. Florida, I’m a believer. There are some bumps (South Carolina, Texas A&M) but it’s conceivable that Gary Pinkel’s club could go 12-0 and face a 12-0 Alabama team in the SEC title game.

Looks like a Duck

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Johnny Manziel remains the most exciting player in the land. He is must-see TV, and if he didn’t miss that one series last Saturday, Texas A&M and Auburn might have gone 20 overtimes. But all of that still won’t be enough to win him a second straight Heisman. Leftover bitterness from the autograph scandal will take care of that. This year’s Heisman will go to Oregon QB Marcus Mariota (though Florida State’s Jameis Winston is a strong dark horse). Mariota, a Honolulu native, has the No. 2 Ducks at 7-0 and is putting up ridiculous numbers. To wit, the Flyin’ Hawaiian (apologies, Mr. Victorino) has thrown for 2,051 yards and 19 TDs (with zero INTs) to go along with 493 rushing yards and 9 more TDs for an Oregon squad that has rung up at least 55 points six times.

We salute them

My rooting interests Saturday (well, other than hoping Malden can beat Everett for the first time in forever) will be with the Mariners of the Merchant Marine Academy when they visit WPI. The Mariners will be taking the field for the first time since Sept. 28 after having to postpone or cancel dates with Rensselaer, Rochester, and Springfield because of the government shutdown. Army, Navy, Air Force, and Coast Guard got to play. But the Mariners of Kings Point had to sit and wait. That’s just wrong. Adding to coach Mike Toop’s scheduling woes is that MMA is the lone service academy that has undergrads (sometimes players) serving in war zones, which can make game-planning a challenge (thanks to Tom “Moose” Hoffman for that nugget). So, go Mariners!

Lost cause

And now a bizarre story from the high school ranks. Aledo (Texas) High coach Tom Buchanan has been under fire after his Bearcats pasted Western Hills, 91-0, last week. Normally, it’s the opposing coach whose nose is out of joint in these cases, but he had no problems. According to reports, Buchanan yanked his starters after a measly 21 plays and endorsed running time in the second half. The person who had the problem was a Western Hills parent, who filed a bullying report with the Aledo administration. The complaint said Buchanan and his staff should have instructed his players to stop playing hard and to ease up. Here’s betting the son of the Western Hills complainant was far more embarrassed by the bullying report than by anything that happened on the field.

Jim McBride can be reached at j_mcbride@globe.com.

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