Monday, December 9, 2019

The Week In Football: The Playoff Is Set, Lane Kiffin Returns To The SEC, And The Vols Go To Jacksonville

It was another great weekend of college football. Utah blew their chance to make the playoff, Baylor took Oklahoma to overtime using three quarterbacks, Ohio State erased a 14 point halftime deficit against Wisconsin, and Ed Orgeron continued to struggle with the English language.
Let’s start with our playoff…
LSU Jumped Ohio State To Become The Number 1 Seed In The Playoff
“Anybody, anytime, anywhere” said Orgeron on the field after their demolition of Georgia (at least I think that’s what he said, because again, whenever Orgeron speaks it sounds like a bag of rocks going down a garbage disposal). Turns out the anybody will be Oklahoma, the time will be December 28th at 4:00, and the where will be back in Atlanta at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. The Tigers open as a ten point favorite against OU, and the general consensus is that they lucked out by getting to avoid Clemson in the semifinals.
Should LSU have supplanted Ohio State as the one seed? I don’t think the committee could've made the wrong choice. LSU finished the year with four wins against teams ranked inside the Top 12; Ohio State probably has the best roster in the country, and they won all 13 of their games by double digits. The Buckeyes finished inside the Top 5 in the country in offensive yards and defensive yards allowed; LSU has the Heisman Trophy winner in Joe Burrow. I’ve had them both ranked number 1 for multiple weeks during the season. Hopefully they’ll get to meet in New Orleans on January 13 (though Clemson and Oklahoma will have something to say about that).
Does Oklahoma Have A Shot?
Sure they do because they’re getting off the bus for the game, but they’ll get run off the field if they don’t bring the defensive intensity that they had against Baylor on Saturday. And even that might not be enough. Jalen Hurts will have to be almost perfect (meaning he can’t be loose with the football like he has been this year) for them to win, and even that might not be enough. OU is 0-3 in the playoff all time, and they've given up 37, 54, and 45 points in those three defeats. The bad news for them is that this LSU offense is the best one they’ve faced in the playoff.
How About Ohio State-Clemson?
The Tigers opened as a slight favorite, but I’d chalk that up to them having much more experience in these kinds of games. Clemson has played in four playoff games and won two national titles since  Ohio State’s last playoff game, a 31-0 shellacking at the hands of... Clemson.
We don’t really know how good the Tigers are because they’ve played by far the softest schedule of any of the playoff teams. Like sure, they don’t suck, but how many teams in college football could’ve run the table against Clemson’s schedule this year? How many would’ve done it more impressively?
Dabo has been trying to play up the disrespect card the last few weeks. It makes sense, because there’s not a more disrespected team than the one that’s won two of the last three national titles. Or one that’s been in the playoff five years in a row. Yes, everyone is taking Clemson VERY LIGHTLY. Ohio State would’ve rather played Clemson than Oklahoma. They were THRILLED to get the #2 seed.
Does anyone believe any of that garbage? Clemson very well may win, and you know what, no one will be shocked! Is Trevor Lawrence dumb enough to believe that no one in the country believes in his football team? If he does, then he should immediately be removed from every NFL team’s 2021 draft board. Dabo better find a way to keep his players from seeing the Vegas odds!
Dabo is a great coach, maybe even the king of college football at this point, but he’s also rapidly climbing the ladder of biggest used car salesmen in the history of college athletics. I can’t wait for him to refer to his program as, “Little Ole Clemson” after they win the national title again this year. “Little Ole Clemson”. Shut up.
Who Had The Worst Weekend?
It comes down to Georgia and Utah. Baylor has to be bummed out, but they weren’t the favorite and they were down to a third string quarterback. There’s no shame in losing to an Oklahoma team that’s now won the Big 12 five years in a row. Wisconsin should feel bad too, but they realistically don’t have the athletes to compete with Ohio State, a team so dominant that they have a chance to be the best squad in the history of their storied program. Plus, they get to go to the Rose Bowl.
Georgia got taken apart by LSU, lost for the third straight time in their backyard in Atlanta, and Kirby Smart now has almost an identical record (43-11) through four years as Mark Richt (42-10). Plus, their offensive line coach Sam Pittman accepted the head coaching position at Arkansas. The O-Line was the only good thing about the Bulldog offense this year, and now they’ve lost their position coach there. Georgia fired Richt because he didn’t win big enough, and so far, Kirby has been the exact same guy. Plus, the program feels like its trending in the wrong direction, at least offensively. The only group that missed former offensive coordinator Jim Chaney more than the Georgia football program this year were all the grocery stores and restaurants in the Athens area.
I suppose Georgia could turn it around. They’re in a football mad state loaded with high level recruits. The money is there for them to go out and hire a top notch offensive coordinator. Which is why the biggest loser of the weekend was Utah. The Utes had the number 1 ranked rush defense in the Pac 12, only to give up 239 yards on the ground to Oregon in a 37-15 thrashing in the conference championship game.
Utah isn’t the program that Georgia is. There aren’t a ton of Power 5-level prospects inside the borders of their state, and they don’t have the money, the interest, or the facilities that they do in Athens. They could play football down there for 25 more years before they get another shot at making the playoff. All they had to do was be what they’d been all year, and they’d be on a plane to Atlanta to play LSU at the end of December. Instead, they’re playing Texas in the Alamo Bowl. Some consolation prize.
Tennessee Is Going To The Gator Bowl To Play Indiana
Good. Going to the Music City Bowl to play Louisville would’ve been a bigger letdown than my high school dating life. There’s nothing prestigious about going to Nashville and playing in a lower tier bowl game against a bad ACC team. There is a lot of prestige in going to the Gator Bowl, in Jacksonville, and beating the hell out of a good Big Ten team.
Which Program Made The Best Hire?
Florida State, Missouri, Arkansas, and Ole Miss all filled their coach openings this weekend. The Seminoles nabbed Memphis coach Mike Norvell, Mizzou hired Appalachian State coach Eli Drinkwitz, the Razorbacks grabbed Georgia O-Line coach Sam Pittman, and the Rebels made the flashiest move of all by hiring FAU coach Lane Kiffin.
Of all the hires, Kiffin has the highest ceiling relative to what the program has been historically. Ole Miss has had some good teams over the years, but they haven’t won the SEC since 1963, and have never appeared in the SEC Championship Game. Kiffin is going to be able to recruit at Ole Miss (maybe even without cheating), and he's a smart offensive mind that knows how to keep his program in the news. It'll be fun having him back in the SEC next year. Of course, he also has a low floor. Ole Miss isn't the easiest place to win, and they had NCAA trouble recently with Hugh Freeze. They are definitely being watched. Oh, and make sure you get a burner phone Joey Freshwater.
Florida State made the safest hire, going with Norvell, who has won the American Conference West Division the last three seasons. There’s a big opportunity for someone to come in and fill the void in the ACC, a league that is Clemson and no one else.  I don’t know if Norvell is the guy to do it, but with that conference in such sorry shape, and Florida State being what it is historically, he has a great shot to get this thing turned around quickly.
 Eli Drinkwitz is an unknown at Missouri to me. The guy was the offensive coordinator for a few years at N.C. State, got the App State job, and went 12-1 in his only season there. There are a lot of people who could’ve inherited that App State team and gone 12-1 this year; that program is a machine. It’s going to be harder to win at Missouri relative to the fanbase’s expectations than it was at Appalachian State. The Mountaineers are the Alabama of their conference; Missouri is AT BEST the fifth most desirable job in the SEC East.
And then there’s Sam Pittman and Arkansas. I just feel bad for the Razorback fans. You were arguably the worst team in the history of the SEC this year, and you’ve gone 13-51 in the conference over the last eight years. They still owe both Chad Morris and Bret Bielema millions for firing them. The school is in the middle of nowhere, in a tiny state with no players. They were supposedly in both the Lane Kiffin and Mike Norvell sweepstakes and got neither of them. Now they’ve settled for Pittman, a long-time offensive line coach at a multitude of schools. Pittman hasn’t even been a coordinator since he was the OC in 1986 at Beggs High School. Wow. Good luck.
So if I had to rank the hires, we’re going with Kiffin 1, Norvell 2, Drinkwitz 3, and Pittman 4.

Friday, December 6, 2019

Who Is Going To Win All Ten FBS Conference Championship Games?

I can’t believe it’s conference championship weekend. One of my first college football memories of the year was Pat McAfee doing his schtick on TV during the UCLA-Cincinnati game on the opening Thursday, followed by my Old Man angrily texting me about the Bruins quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson, or DTR for short. “DTR?!!?” he said. “What the hell is DTR? HE HASN’T EARNED A NICKNAME YET!!!!” Yes, because it’s MUCH easier for the announcers to say “Thompson-Robinson” 5,000 times a broadcast. This is who raised me.
My Old Man was also extremely adamant that I pick EVERY championship game, or all ten of them, this week. Yes, because I’m sure people actually care about my opinion on who wins the Conference USA Championship Game.
What’s that? No one cares about any of my opinions? Hey! Come on, now you sound like my wife!
Sun Belt- Louisiana at #21 Appalachian State
The Ragin’ Cajuns hosted App State on October 9 and lost 17-7. Depending on what happens in the other championship games, the Mountaineers could potentially be playing for a berth in the Cotton Bowl here, which would happen if they finished as the highest ranked Group of Five team. App State is better, is hosting the game, and has more to play for.
Prediction: Appalachian State
MAC Championship- Miami (OH) vs Central Michigan (in Detroit)
The MAC doesn’t have a bowl pecking order, so the winner of the this game could theoretically go to Cheribundi Tart Cherry Bowl, the Dollar General Bowl, the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl, the Makers Wanted Bahamas Bowl, the Raycom Media Camellia Bowl, or the Quick Lane Bowl. Or in other words, games no one cares about.
Prediction: Central Michigan
Sun Belt- UAB at Florida Atlantic
Tennessee played and beat UAB earlier last month. The Blazers have a good, stout defense, particularly for a Group of Five team. Meanwhile, there’s the host FAU, led by Lane Kiffin, who is perpetually in head coaching rumors. Hey Lane, a little advice here… if Arkansas offers you the job, don’t take it. That place sucks and they aren’t close to winning. The same goes for Ole Miss, only the Rebels are more dysfunctional and have out of whack expectations for what they’ve been historically. You want to totally sour and destroy your reputation? Go to one of those schools and run off a three year SEC record of 5-19 and get fired. That’s a really likely scenario even if you come in and do everything right. I wouldn’t necessarily want the Missouri job either, but of the three open SEC jobs, it’s the best one. Is Lane a candidate at Florida State? That would be the job I’d want if I were him.
As for tomorrow’s game, hell, why not UAB and their defense?
Prediction: UAB
Mountain West- Hawaii at #19 Boise State
These two also played earlier in the year in Boise, and the Broncos won by 22. Boise, like App State, could theoretically make the Cotton Bowl, depending on what happens in the American Conference Championship. 
It’s going to be rainy and in the mid 40s tomorrow for this game. I have my doubts about this warm weather Hawaii team traveling that far north and beating a team that they lost to by three touchdowns to earlier in the season.
Prediction: Boise State
American- #20 Cincinnati at #17 Memphis
These two just played a week ago in Memphis and the Tigers won by 10. What, if anything, can Cincy conjure up in a week to combat what happened last Saturday?
The winner here is more than likely going to the Cotton Bowl.
Prediction: Memphis
Pac 12- #5 Utah vs Oregon (in Santa Clara)
This one is actually tonight at 8 on ABC, and comes with a probable playoff berth on the line for the Utes, assuming LSU beats Georgia in the SEC Championship Game.
11-1 Utah has won every game this season by at least 18 points, outside of their loss at USC and their narrow 5 point win on the road at Washington. Oregon sandwiched 9 straight wins between a loss in their opener against Oregon and their upset defeat at Arizona State two weeks ago.
I’m not sure that Utah is one of the four best teams (they have no wins over teams that are currently ranked, and if they beat Oregon and make the playoff, they would be the first team to ever make the playoff with only one ranked win), but I’ve soured on Oregon and, in particular, their quarterback Justin Herbert, both of whom were awful in a big spot at Arizona State, before a late rally made the game seem more competitive than it actually was. Herbert has been… good this year? 31 TDs and 3,140 passing yards is nothing to sneeze at, but compared to someone like LSU’s Joe Burrow (44 TDs, 4,366 passing yards) he’s had a disappointing year, particularly for someone that many prognosticators have as the number 1 pick in the NFL draft.
I’ve seen Oregon’s offense slog around too many times this year to have confidence in them to not have a stinker against Utah, the best defense they’ve played since Auburn.
Prediction: Utah
Big 12- #7 Baylor vs #6 Oklahoma (in Arlington)
If Utah and Georgia lose, this could very well be a playoff play-in game. Oklahoma won the regular season meeting at Baylor, a game that saw the Sooners erase a 28-3 deficit. OU has the number 1 offense in the conference, and shockingly enough, also has the Big 12’s number 1 ranked defense. Yes yes, I know that’s like being the tallest of Santa’s Christmas Elves, but they were near the bottom of the country in every defensive metric last year and have rebounded to respectability in one season. It just goes to show how good of a job first year defensive coordinator Alex Grinch has done.
Personally, I think Oklahoma is better than Utah. They are certainly much more dynamic on offense, and while their defense isn’t great, they’ve only had one real stinker this year, the Kansas State game where they gave up points on eight straight drives. But I don’t have to go by just the eye test; if the Sooners win tomorrow, they’ll have wins over three ranked teams, and two of them over a Baylor team that lost to no one else the entirety of the year. Now obviously, the committee doesn’t see it that way, or OU would be ranked ahead of Utah today.
What if Oklahoma pounded Baylor by four touchdowns, while Utah slogged their way through Oregon and only won by three points? Would that be enough for the committee to jump the Sooners over the Utes? Ohio State was killer in the 2014 Big Ten Championship Game, and that victory propelled them from #6 to #4 in a single weekend.
Sidenote: My Old Man predicts that OU’s Lincoln Riley will be the next Dallas Cowboys head coach. It makes sense. Jerry Jones has gone to the college ranks before (including with Barry Switzer, also from Oklahoma, the last Dallas coach to win the Super Bowl and make the NFC Championship Game), and Riley is young and doesn’t have a ton of ego yet, meaning he probably wouldn’t bow his back up as much when Jerry decides he needs to call into local Dallas radio and have a thirty minute phone conversation about the team on Monday every week.
Of course, I don’t know how Lincoln Riley is going to solve the organizational dysfunction in Dallas. The four most important people in an NFL operation are the owner, the GM, the head coach, and the quarterback. Teams who win consistently are good in all four of those areas. Sometimes, you are able to overcome a deficiency in one of those areas and still win, but your margin for error becomes significantly lower. Dallas is good enough at quarterback with Dak, and if they hired Lincoln Riley, that’s an immediate upgrade over the expressionless ghost they have coaching them now in Jason Garrett, but even if the Dak-Riley marriage was perfect, how the hell are those two going to overcome their kooky owner/GM situation? Jerry has a press conference after every game. Name another owner that does that. Jerry calls into Dallas radio and undermines his head coach. Just this week, Garrett told the media that the team was probably going to be looking at making a kicking change. Jerry told the media that they’d be doing no such thing. How could any coach succeed in that situation? I don’t think Garrett is even a good NFL coach, but come on.
Jerry is a great businessman, and he’s an important owner for the NFL’s brand, but he’s been a terrible owner for his own football team ever since he basically fired Jimmy Johnson because his own ego was too large.
Prediction: Oklahoma
ACC- #23 Virginia vs #3 Clemson (in Charlotte)
What do you want me to say about this game? Is Virginia really the 23rd best team in the country? Does anyone believe that? Clemson has won their last seven games by 31 points or more, and statistically, their defense is better than last year. Trevor Lawrence hasn’t thrown an interception since October 19th, and that aforementioned defense has only given up 47 points in their last 7 games. Congratulations Virginia on finally exorcising all your Virginia Tech demons last week, but Saturday night is going to be a throttling.
Prediction: Clemson
Big Ten- #1 Ohio State vs #8 Wisconsin (in Indianapolis)
These teams played in October in Columbus and the Buckeyes won 38-7. No team in the current Big Ten West has won the conference since Wisconsin in 2012, and that was the year that Ohio State went 12-0 but couldn’t play for the title due to NCAA sanctions. The big boy football programs in this conference are all in the East Division, and this Ohio State team has a chance to be the best in the history of their storied program. I don’t think they’ll have any trouble handling Wisconsin again.
The spread here is Ohio State -16. Are they going to be 15 points worse on a neutral field than they were in this same matchup two months ago? I don’t see it. Buckeyes -16 is the Bet The Mortgage Pick of the Week. This is free money.
Prediction: Ohio State
SEC- #4 Georgia vs #2 LSU
I feel really strongly about LSU here. Georgia needs the game more (they won’t be in the playoff without a victory here), but I’m not sure their offense is going to be good enough to take advantage of what has been a really mediocre Tiger defense. LSU also only gave up 7 points last week in their demolition of Texas A&M, their best defensive showing of the year. To make matters worse for Georgia, they'll be without one of their best receivers in the first half, George Pickens, who got suspended for fighting in the Ga Tech game last week. His absence will only further ground their already stale attack. LSU is going to load up in the box to stop the run and dare Jake Fromm to throw over the top of them. I’m not sure he’ll be able to. He certainly hasn’t shown that level of passing acumen all year.
I get it, Atlanta is closer to Athens than it is to Baton Rouge, but is this really going to be a “home” game for Georgia? Like sure, they’ll probably be more ‘Dawg fans there, but Georgia had this same “advantage” against Alabama in Atlanta in 2017 National Championship Game and the 2018 SEC Championship Game and lost both times.
No one has been able to slow down Joe Burrow and the Tiger offense all year. Will Georgia suddenly have the magic elixir? LSU has scored 36 or more points in 11 of their 12 games. Even if the Bulldogs were able to hold LSU to their season low in points of 23 (that came against Auburn), are we sure Georgia would be able to score that many? They only got to 30 or more points three times this year against Power 5 opponents, and none of the teams they scored that many against finished with more than 7 wins.
Prediction: LSU
Enjoy football this weekend! You deserve it!

Monday, December 2, 2019

The Week In Football: Vols Dominate Vandy, Harbaugh Loses To Ohio State Again, And Dabo Goes Full Used Car Salesman

Like always, it was an awesome weekend of college football. The Iron Bowl was electric, Michigan lost to Ohio State again, and Tennessee snapped their embarrassing three game losing streak to Vanderbilt.
Let’s start with the Vols….
Tennessee Dominated Vanderbilt On Senior Night
Freshman Eric Gray rushed for 246 yards and three touchdowns, including a 94 yard scamper that was the longest run by a Tennessee player in 42 years. Gray had only 207 yards the entire year before Saturday; now, he’s on a couple of the Top 5 Vol single game rushing lists.
I don’t want to brag too much, because it’s freaking Vanderbilt and Tennessee should win this game every year, but it was nice that they were able to impose their will so severely in this game, despite the fact that they couldn’t get anything going in the passing game the whole night.
Tennessee finishes with a winning record in conference play (5-3) and will surely find themselves in a January Bowl for the first time since 2015.
Where Does The Tennessee Program Go From Here?
For now, a January Bowl against a Big Ten opponent. But what about next year?
Let’s look at the schedule:
September 5: Charlotte
September 12: @Oklahoma
September 19: Furman
September 26: Florida
October 3: Missouri
October 10: @South Carolina
October 17: Bye Week
October 24: Alabama
October 31: @Arkansas
November 7: Kentucky
November 14: @Georgia
November 21: Troy
November 28: @Vanderbilt
Pretty manageable for an SEC schedule, right? Charlotte, Furman, and Troy should all be wins as long as they don’t pull another Georgia State-level performance. Missouri will have a first year head coach, a new quarterback, and will be coming to Knoxville. Arkansas will have a new coach as well, and at this point, is one of the worst programs in the history of the conference. The Vols own Kentucky, and get the Wildcats in Knoxville, a game they haven’t lost at home since 1984. Vanderbilt was terrible this year and will probably be awful again next season. They go to South Carolina, but they beat them this year, and the Vols will assuredly have more talent than that program, which is slowly deteriorating under the weight of Will Muschamp’s beer gut.
That’s 8 on paper wins right there, all against teams that the Vols appear to be better than right now. Which means the season will hinge on how they do in four games: at Oklahoma, home against Florida, home against Alabama, and at Georgia. Realistically, they need to win at least one of those for me to feel like next year is a success. The Oklahoma game is probably the least important because it’s not against a conference rival, and Jeremy Pruitt is ultimately going to be judged on how he does against Florida, Georgia, and Alabama. Win one of those four and they’ll have their first 9 win regular season since 2007. 2007! Wow.
Sure, its going to hurt losing a lot of these seniors. Jauan Jennings and Marquez Callaway are their best receivers. Daniel Bituli is their leader on defense, Darrell Taylor is their best pass rusher, and Nigel Warrior was probably the most consistent guy all year in the secondary for them.
On the other hand, they’ll be back to 85 scholarship players in 2020 for the first time in the Pruitt-era, and the quarterback play should be better. Either Jarrett Guarantano takes a leap as a senior with a ton of starts under his belt, or Harrison Bailey comes in as a freshman and plays like Bo Nix. And if neither of those things happen, then Brian Maurer gets the job with a whole year of experience in the Jim Chaney offense. One of those guys should emerge and play well.
Plus, they’ll have a ton of their contributors from this year back. Josh Palmer will be a senior and their best receiver, and Alontae Taylor and Bryce Thompson got better every week and will be back in the secondary. Henry To’oto’o had a fantastic year and will step into the Bituli role, something he should be able to manage with the loads of experience he gained this year. Eric Gray, if he keeps that level of play up, could be the best running back in the conference next season.
Perhaps most importantly, the entire offensive line has a chance to be back, including center Brandon Kennedy, who seems like he may attempt to get a sixth year of eligibility. That unit was very young this year, but improved rapidly as the season went along. The Vols O-Line had resembled Swiss Cheese for the majority of this decade, and isn’t it incredible that they put together a five game winning streak the year they get consistent blocking? Funny how that works.
There’s a lot to be excited about with this program going forward. They haven’t won anything yet, and they certainly aren’t “back”, but there is hope again on Rocky Top. Optimism. A fall to look forward to. We’ve been here before, of course. We felt like this with Butch after 2014, and we all know how that turned out.
Which is why the Vols have to beat one of those four power schools next year. Pruitt can’t afford for them to remain stagnant. And he certainly can’t afford another loss to a Group of Five team.
Jim Harbaugh Lost To Ohio State For The Fifth Straight Year
The Buckeyes have outscored Harbaugh’s teams 221-126 in their five meetings, and only one of the games has been decided by single digits.
There are going to be two narratives coming out of this game, and I think both are actually wrong. The larger, more vocal segment of people leave Saturday saying things like, “WOW, JIM HARBAUGH SUCKS! HE’S NEVER GOING TO BEAT OHIO STATE! LET’S FIRE HIM!”, while the Harbaugh apologists like Joel Klatt and Colin Cowherd will say that Harbaugh has restored Michigan to what they’ve been historically, a 9-10 win team.
For those that want Harbaugh fired, who are you going to get that you’re sure is going to do a better job? Jim has underachieved, but he’s been far better than Brady Hoke or Rich Rodriguez ever were. Plus, he’d be owed $15 million if he was fired today, and that doesn’t even count what they’d owe to buyout his assistants. Do they really want to get into a situation where they pay a fortune to move on, only to replace him with another Hoke that they have to turn around a fire 3 years from now? It’s more likely they’d get someone that doesn’t work out and is worse than someone who does better than what Harbaugh has done. Plus, are we sure Buckeye head coach Ryan Day isn’t Larry Coker all over again? 2019 Ohio State might be 2001 Miami, a dominant team loaded with pros that is coached by a former assistant who didn’t build the program. This dominant roster that Ohio State has was put together by Urban Meyer, just like how that Miami team was assembled by Butch Davis. There’s no guarantee Ryan Day will be able to keep the Buckeye program at the absurd heights that Urban pushed them to. So if the Buckeyes start slipping at all, and Michigan sticks by Harbaugh, this now one-sided rivalry could flip the other way very quickly.
On the other hand, Harbaugh has been paid by the Michigan administration the last five years like he’s Saban or Dabo, and yet, he’s not been close. Jim isn’t getting $9 million a year to “return Michigan to their historical averages”, he’s getting paid that much to beat Ohio State, win the Big Ten, and compete for national titles every year.
You know what? Every single one of these blue-chip programs has a “historical average” of 9-10 wins a year. That’s why they are historically great programs. But sometimes, these historically great programs do what Ohio State or Alabama or Clemson or Oklahoma have done for the last decade and start winning multiple conference championships and have 11 or 12 win seasons. Harbaugh is being paid to get Michigan to that level, and there is nothing stopping him from getting this program there, other than the fact that he’s overrated as a coach. If Dabo, Saban, Lincoln Riley, or Urban were at Michigan right now, do you think there’s any way they’d ever lose to Ohio State five times in a row? No way, right? Because there’s no reason that Michigan, with a $9 million a year coach, should ever lose to any opponent five times in a row. The Wolverines have everything that it takes to win more than they have been under Harbaugh.
Michigan is stuck between a rock and a hard place. They really can’t afford to fire Harbaugh, due to their financial obligations to him AND the fact that there’s no guarantee they’ll hire someone better, but he’s also been underwhelming for what he’s been paid. There isn’t a good answer, and frankly, their best hope is that either Columbus, Ohio is destroyed by a meteor, or that Ryan Day is Larry Coker 2.0. Otherwise, they’re screwed.
Alabama Lost One Of The Highest Scoring Iron Bowls Ever To Eliminate Themselves From The Playoff
The 93 points scored in this game on Saturday are the second most in the history of the rivalry, trailing only the 99 that were put up in the 2014 meeting. The Alabama defense surrendered 34 points, and Mac Jones tossed two pick sixes, including one that bounced off Damien Harris’s back on the goal line and into the arms of an Auburn defender, who carried it 100 yards for a score.
The narrative coming out of this game is that the Saban dynasty is dead, and that Nick is a product of the old college football, and that the sport that has moved away rapidly from Saban’s ground and pound and defense style. Nick is in his late 60s now, and if he wanted a seven figure TV job, there’d be one waiting for him. His defenses are no longer great because he’s gotten torched multiple times by the modern offenses with mobile quarterbacks.
As much as I’d love for all of that to be true, I think it’s a ludicrous position to hold. I hate Alabama more than ISIS, but they have one “down” year and all the sudden it’s over? This is the first time since 2010 that an Alabama team finished the regular season with more than one loss. It’s the first time since the playoff started in 2014 that the Tide won’t be included in it. Alabama lost their first round NFL quarterback and were still able to put up 45 points on Auburn’s elite defense. If Tua had been healthy, they win this game, because there’s no way he would’ve thrown two pick sixes. This wasn’t a great Alabama defense, but it was also an inexperienced one that was starting multiple freshman due to a surplus of injuries. If Tua doesn’t get injured, they finish the year 11-1, make the playoff for the sixth straight year (unless Georgia won the SEC), and would’ve instantly become horrifying to whoever the number 1 seed ended up being.
 Alabama is the Patriots. They’ve been counted out before. I’m not going to say the dynasty is finished until Nick is yucking it up on a TV set somewhere.
Does Anyone Have Patience Anymore?
Listen, I love making fun of football coaches. Most of them have no self-awareness and take themselves far too seriously, and a lot of them would be working at 7 Eleven if they weren’t coaching football.
I also call for people all the time to be fired here. However, I mostly only do that with coaches at the blue chip jobs. The coaches at those programs, like Florida State (who fired their coach) and USC (who may or may not have fired their coach) have higher expectations, a higher ceiling, and more resources to win big time, and therefore, have a shorter leash due to all of those factors.
Somehow, as the expectations have risen and the patience has gotten shorter at the big time programs, that has transitioned down to the mid-tier jobs. Barry Odom took over at Missouri before the 2016 season, a school mired in chaos due to a fake racism hoax, took them to two straight bowl games (and it would’ve been three straight if not for NCAA sanctions) and still got fired on Saturday. Matt Luke inherited a mess at Ole Miss due to Hugh Freeze’s phone calls and NCAA violations, and while the Rebels didn’t light the world on fire, their offense was really good this year, and they were a player pantomiming a dog peeing in the end zone away from maybe winning the Egg Bowl. He only got three years. Some people speculated that Joe Moorhead at Mississippi State would’ve gotten fired if he’d lost the Egg Bowl, despite only having his job for two years. Arkansas was all time bad this year, but Chad Morris was attempting to completely re-work the roster away from Bret Bielema’s ground and pound attack into a more modern, open offense. Arkansas knew this was what he would be doing when they hired him, and they knew it might take time. He got fired anyway.
None of these places are big time jobs. Ole Miss hasn’t won the SEC since 1963, and they’ve never been to the SEC Championship Game either. Missouri hasn’t won a conference title since 1969, while Arkansas hasn’t done it since 1989 (and never in the SEC). What do these programs expect? Ten wins a year? I don’t think any of the coaches that got fired were elite, but none of them inherited great circumstances either, and all were given far too little time to turn around their middling programs. I suppose this is just the new reality of sports.
And just like with Jim Harbaugh and Michigan, who the hell are these programs going to get? You have to push all the chips in on Mike Norvell at Memphis right? He’s succeeded big time in a Group of Five conference at a school that is in the middle of SEC country. Of course, if I’m Norvell, why the hell would I want the Ole Miss or Arkansas job? Those places are AT BEST the fifth best job in the SEC West, only they have such unrealistic expectations that I’ll get fired in three years if I’m not winning 11 games a year. Missouri is, in my opinion, the best of those three jobs, but I still have to compete with Georgia, Florida, and what appears to be an up an coming Tennessee, three programs that all have vastly superior resources to me. If I’m Norvell, the only place I’m leaving for is Florida State.
Which brings us to Lane Kiffin. Kiffin is the ultimate high ceiling-low basement hire. Either he’s going be winning ten games in Year 2, or you’re going to be in NCAA trouble after his first recruiting class comes to campus. There is no in between. Of course, if you’re one of these places, you already aren’t good, so Kiffin coming in and screwing up royally only means you’re in the exact same place in three years as you are now. So you might as well roll the dice and hope he works out, which I don’t think is an impossibility considering he recruits like a mad man and knows how to coach offense.
Shut The Hell Up Dabo
I think Dabo might be my least favorite person in college athletics. He’s gone from a nice story, the wide receivers coach turned national champion, to the biggest used car salesman college football has ever seen. Last year, after Clemson beat the hell out of Alabama in the National Championship Game, Dabo referred to his program as, “Little Ole Clemson”. Yes, because nothing screams “Little” like winning two national championships in three years. Shut the hell up.
On Saturday, after Clemson ran through a terrible South Carolina team, Dabo decided now was the time to start whining about the playoff committee. Dabo told the media, “Obviously, if we lose this game, they are going to kick us out. They don't want us there anyway. We'd drop to 20 [had Clemson lost to South Carolina]. Georgia loses to this very same team, and it's, ‘How do we keep Georgia in?’... We win, against the team that beat [Georgia], and it's, ‘How do we get Clemson out?’ It's the dadgummest thing… Again, our league doesn't get enough credit. Maybe we need some of them ACC guys on some of them big network shows they have. Maybe we ought to put [former Clemson sports information director] Tim Bourret on there.”
Shut the hell up Dabo. 1. You’ve been in the playoff four straight years, and will be there for a fifth straight year when you take Virginia apart on Saturday. 2. The ACC does suck, and you all are the only team in the Top 25 that hasn’t played anyone in the current Top 25. 3. Who is trying to keep you out of the playoff? You’re ranked third! I’m sorry that you don’t have the resume of either Ohio State or Clemson. As a fun exercise, let’s look at where Clemson has been slotted in the final playoff rankings the last four years… (checks notes)….
2015: #1
2016: #2
2017: #1
2018: #2
So the committee has viewed your team as either the best or second best team in the country the last four years, but now that they slot you as the third best team, suddenly they want you out? What? The only thing more ludicrous than that take would be when Dabo goes down to the used car lot and attempts to sell a 1986 Toyota Camry with 200,000 miles for $35,000.
Teams Still Alive For The Playoff
As always, you are still alive for the playoff as long as you are a one loss team in Power 5 conference, with the exception of the ACC, which is a league so bad that a single loss eliminates you. (SORRY DABO!) (*by the undefeated teams)
ACC: *Clemson
No one tell Dabo this, because it counters his BS narrative, but the Tigers will be in THEIR FIFTH STRAIGHT PLAYOFF as long as they handle Virginia on Saturday in the ACC Championship Game, something they should do with ease.
Big Ten: *Ohio State
The Buckeyes are probably already in the playoff, even if they lose to 10-2 Wisconsin on Saturday in the Big Ten Championship Game, but a win against the Badgers will probably make them the 1 seed in the playoff.
Big 12: Oklahoma, Baylor
These two play again on Saturday in the Big 12 Championship Game. To make the playoff, the winner would need Georgia to lose in the SEC Championship Game to LSU, and they’d  probably also need Utah to lose to Oregon in the Pac 12 Championship Game. Personally, I think Oklahoma is better than Utah, but the committee hasn’t seen it that way, at least not yet (I think the Utes are better than Baylor, however).
SEC: *LSU, Georgia
LSU, due to their resume, is probably already in the playoff, regardless of what happens on Saturday in the SEC Championship Game. Georgia must win on Saturday to make it in.
Pac 12: Utah
Based on the committee rankings so far, Utah would be in the playoff as long as they win the Pac 12 Championship Game against Oregon AND Georgia loses in the SEC Title Game to LSU.
My Top 4
1.      Ohio State
2.      LSU
3.      Clemson
4.      Georgia

Saturday, November 30, 2019

Eric Gray And The Vols Ran Over, Through, And Around Vanderbilt

Well, it certainly wasn’t the best performance Tennessee has had on their now five game winning streak, but today’s 28-10 victory over a bad Vanderbilt team has given the Vols their first winning record in conference play since 2015, and will more than likely propel them to their first New Year’s Day Bowl Game since then also.
Eric Gray was the best player on the field today, and his rushing performance will put him inside the Top 5 on many of the Vol record lists. His 94 yard rushing TD was the longest by any Tennessee player since Kelsey Finch’s 99 yard scamper against Florida in 1977, and his 246 yards are the fifth most by any Vol in a single game in the history of the program. Gray had shown flashes of explosiveness throughout the year, but he was very clearly the third back on the roster… until today. He finished the day with three rushing TDs and almost ten yards per carry.
Jarrett Guarantano was off today, and had by far his worst game of the Tennessee winning streak, completing only 6 of his 17 pass attempts. He started the game 0 for 7 and threw an interception that set up Vanderbilt’s early field goal. Of course, JG was still able to convert his six completions into 120 yards and a TD. 
Let’s be honest, the pouring rain and horrible weather conditions were a factor in limiting the passing game today. Vanderbilt’s two quarterbacks completed less than 50% of their throws also, and both teams combined for only 289 passing yards.
The best thing about Tennessee today was how they were able to dominate the game in the trenches. They couldn’t throw the ball a lick and were still able to blow Vandy off the ball on their way to 297 rushing yards and an 18 point win. The Vol defense held the Commodores to less than 300 yards of offense, and finished off their regular season by only allowing 71 points over the final five weeks (or 14.2 points per game. For reference, Florida, the second ranked defense in the SEC, only allows 14.2 points per game this season. So they’ve basically been on the level of the second ranked defense in their conference for the last five weeks.)
Most importantly, the Vols snapped their three game losing streak to Vanderbilt, something that never should’ve happened in the first place, and is further evidence of just how far this program had fallen over the last couple of years. Before last season, the Commodores hadn’t taken three in a row in this “rivalry” since 1926. I’m pretty sure that’s the year my Old Man was born. Or at least that’s what I thought he said when I asked him how old he was once. Again, he had a mouthful of Cheetos, so he could’ve said 1886 or 1962 or anything.
For those of you that wanted a blowout, a 50 point win, well, I’m sorry, but that was never going to happen today. The spread was 23.5 points, which was far too high considering the Vols have only beaten Vanderbilt by that many points twice since 2006. And while Tennessee has made a really nice turnaround this year, their largest margin of victory of this season against an FBS opponent was only 23 points. They won their last two games, at Kentucky and at Missouri, by a combined total of eight points. This isn’t, and never has been, a team that blows people out. Plus, the weather was terrible today, which severely limited their ability to get big plays and really open it up. They won by three possessions today. It's impossible for me to be upset about that.
Tennessee won’t learn their bowl fate until next Sunday, but with their winning conference record and hot finish to the season, I’d be shocked if they were anywhere other than a New Year’s Day Bowl. They’ll be in either the Gator Bowl, the Outback Bowl, or the Capital One Bowl against some quality Big Ten opponent, and will be going for their first 8 win season since 2016. No one would’ve predicted that after they blew the BYU game.
Crazy stat: today was the first time in his 16 conference games that Jeremy Pruitt was favored. He’s a not bad 7-9 in those 16 conference games, which is even more impressive if you remember (and I’m sure you all do) that this team was 0-8 in the SEC in 2017, the year before he arrived in Knoxville.
Pruitt is in the good graces of the fanbase now. Whether he remains there will depend on how they do against Alabama, Florida, and Georgia next season. But for now, let’s celebrate this season, and carry the fight to whoever they get in their bowl game.

Monday, November 25, 2019

The Week In Football: Vols Become Bowl Eligible, Ohio State Asserts Themselves, And Oregon Goes Up In Flames

While it might’ve been a great weekend to be a Tennessee Vol, the same can’t be said for the fans of other schools, namely Oregon, who saw their playoff hopes go up in flames in Sun Devil Stadium, or Penn State, who lost to Ohio State for the third straight year.
Let’s just start with the Vols, like always….
Tennessee Beat Missouri To Become Bowl Eligible
The Vols, after a putrid 1-4 start, have rebounded to win five out of their last six and will now get to host an atrocious Vanderbilt team on Saturday with a potential January 1 Bowl Berth on the line.
No one would’ve predicted in September that Tennessee would be in this position, with a chance to finish with a winning record in conference play, after the way they started the year, with two atrocious home losses to Georgia State and BYU. I’m just glad they’re finally playing up to their potential.
Under normal circumstances, Jeremy Pruitt would be the SEC Coach of the Year, but with Ed Orgeron and LSU having the kind of season that they are, that award will probably end up in Baton Rouge.
As happy as I am, the Vols still have a lot of work to do. Winning four in a row is great, but ultimately, the fanbase is going to want those wins to start coming against Florida, Georgia, and Alabama. They’re going to want SEC Championships and Championship Game appearances. They’re going to want wins over ranked teams.
I know this makes me a “snowflake”, but can Jeremy Pruitt stop putting his hands on his players? Again, I don’t think he should be severely reprimanded for this, but he shouldn’t be dragging Shawn Shamburger around and acting like he as the head coach is the biggest bully on the prison block either. Anyone who is defending this behavior, I’d just ask you:
1.      What would you do if your boss put his hands on you at work like that? Wouldn't that violate every workplace norm know to man? Wouldn’t you want to take a swing at him? And wouldn’t your company fire your boss for that behavior? Wouldn’t you be horrified and angry, if at your job, your boss put his hands on another employee like that?
2.      How does this make Shamburger better? That’s what everyone always says when defending this style of "coaching". Pruitt put his hands on him and now Shamburger won’t hit Kelly Bryant late out of bounds anymore? What? How does that make sense? You know what’s way better and is completely within the bounds of acceptable conduct? An ass chewing and a benching. You can coach a player “hard” without attempting to assert yourself over him physically. A head coach should be able to communicate with his players without resorting to putting his hands on them. How hypocritical is it for Pruitt to demand ultimate composure from his players, but then display none of that himself?
Georgia’s Offense Sucks
The ‘Dawgs crappy offense gained just 260 yards, and Jake Fromm completed only 11 out of his 23 pass attempts. Luckily for them, their defense was able to hold Texas A&M to -1 rushing yards on 20 attempts. -1? How do you get that physically dominated up front if you’re the Aggies?
The fact that they held A&M to negative rushing yards but only won by six points should be concerning to Georgia. They’re going to beat the hell out of Georgia Tech on Saturday, but the SEC Championship against LSU, a must-win for the ‘Dawg playoff hopes, looks more difficult by the day despite the Tigers bad defense.
Georgia isn’t going to be able to completely shut down the LSU attack, and if they can’t figure out a way to generate more of an offensive push themselves (and I don’t think they’ll be able to), they could find themselves on the outside of the playoff again.
Which brings us to this: are we sure Kirby Smart made the right decision at quarterback? Since his tenure at Georgia began, Kirby has had Jake Fromm, Jacob Eason, and Justin Fields on the roster at the quarterback position. Now, only Fromm remains. Eason v Fromm was a debate in the past, but it’s pretty much over now that Eason is the quarterback of a five loss Washington team. But how about Fromm v Fields? Fields is the quarterback of the high flying Ohio State Buckeyes, who rank inside the top five nationally in many offensive categories. I’m 100% certain that Fields is a better quarterback than Fromm. He’s a better athlete, more accurate, equally strong arm, etc. Do you really think Fields would’ve transferred to Ohio State if Kirby had told him he was going to be the starter at some point last year? And do you think Georgia loses to South Carolina in the fashion they did if Fields was their quarterback? And what happens to the Ohio State offense if they don’t have Fields? Are they even close to being as dynamic? No way, right? And what would happen to the Ohio State offense if Fromm was their quarterback? They certainly wouldn’t be better.
Ohio State Beat Penn State By Double Digits
And it would’ve been more if the Buckeyes didn’t lose three fumbles, including one right at the goal line as Fields was diving for a touchdown.
The Buckeyes outgained the Nittany Lions by almost 200 yards and held the football for almost ten more minutes in a game that wasn’t as close as the 28-17 score would suggest.
I’ve maintained for most of the season that Ohio State is the most complete team in the entirety of college football, and despite having a less impressive resume than LSU, should be ranked ahead of them because of the Tigers bad defense. If they could’ve held onto the football, I think that’s the position most people would’ve held coming out of the weekend.
Ohio State’s toughest test of the year might come on Saturday, when they travel to Ann Arbor to take on surging Michigan, who has won their last four games by 25 points or more. Do I think Jim Harbaugh is going to be Ohio State? No. But his team is playing really well and the Buckeyes don’t necessarily need to win this game to make the playoff. Could they be asleep at the wheel a little bit? Saturday should be fun.
No One Was At Vanderbilt’s Game Against ETSU on Saturday
This comes on the heels of Vanderbilt announcing that Derek Mason would be returning next season.
Is Mason really that bad of a coach? He’s certainly not James Franklin, but he has beaten the in-state rival Vols three years in a row (damn) and has been to two bowl games in six years. What are the expectations in Nashville exactly? SEC titles? Nine wins a year?
James Franklin was a historical anomaly for the Commodore program. It won’t happen again for decades that a guy like him shows up in that program and wins nine games back to back years. Mason isn’t a great football coach, but he’s pretty par for the course for the history of that program.
Ed Orgeron Roasted Arkansas
After racking up over 600 yards of offense and scoring 56 points against Arkansas, Ed Orgeron, in response to his team’s lack of celebration, told the media, “There wasn’t going to be a celebration for beating Arkansas. They haven’t beaten anyone in a long time.”
The lows keep on getting lower for the Razorbacks.
Oregon Is Out Of The Playoff
The Ducks (and Justin Herbert) sucked for three quarters, and when they finally got things together, their furious comeback was killed by Sun Devil quarterback Jayden Daniels’s 81 yard touchdown pass.
Herbert finished with over 300 yards passing, but he threw two costly interceptions and his completion percentage was below 50% before the comeback.
Saturday night just goes to show you why no team in the history of college football has ever won nine conference games AND the conference championship game in the same season. That’s what Oregon was going to have to do if they wanted to make the playoff. That extra conference game against an opponent with comparable talent gives you that much more of a chance to slip up. Oregon didn’t have the luxury of playing Western Carolina like the Alabama did this weekend.
Utah, on the other hand, was impressive again. Their 35-7 victory over Arizona gave them their seventh straight win, and six of those seven have been by 18 points or more. The Pac 12’s playoff hopes rest on Utah winning their next two now, though Oregon certainly won’t roll over for them in two weeks in the conference title game.
Teams Alive For The Playoff
As always, you remain in playoff contention as long as you have one loss or fewer in a Power 5 conference, with the exception of the ACC, which is such an awful league that one loss would eliminate you. (* by the undefeated teams)
ACC: *Clemson
The only thing between the Tigers and their fifth straight playoff appearance is a terrible South Carolina team and either Virginia or Virginia Tech in the ACC title game. So they’ll be in the playoff.
Big 10: *Ohio State, Minnesota
The Buckeyes are in if they win out or win the Big Ten Championship. What would happen if Ohio State beat Michigan this week, but then lost to either Minnesota or Wisconsin in the Big Ten Title Game? Wisconsin has been eliminated from playoff consideration due to their two losses, but would a 12-1 non-conference champ Ohio State still get in? What if Minnesota beat Wisconsin this weekend and then beat Ohio State in the Big Ten Championship Game? Would the Big Ten get 12-1 Minnesota and 12-1 non-champ Ohio State both in? And what if Georgia beat LSU in the SEC Championship Game? Who gets left out between 12-1 SEC Champ Georgia, 12-1 non champ LSU, 12-1 Big Ten Champ Minnesota, and 12-1 non champ Ohio State, assuming that Clemson wins out and finishes 13-0? How about 12-1 Big 12 Champ Oklahoma or 12-1 Big 12 Champ Baylor or 12-1 Pac 12 Champ Utah? We could have levels of chaos never seen before in the history of the playoff.
Big 12: Oklahoma, Baylor
Did Oregon’s loss open the door for the Big 12 champ? Is the committee going to value 12-1 Oklahoma or 12-1 Utah higher at the end of the year? So far it’s been Utah, but what happens if the Utes lose to Oregon in the Pac 12 Title Game and Oklahoma wins out? The door is very much open for the Big 12 still.
SEC: *LSU, Georgia, Alabama
I’m leaving the Tide here only because they have one loss, but out of every team listed, they have the fewest opportunities remaining to bolster their resume, because they won’t be playing in a conference championship game. Plus, there’s a good chance they lose to Auburn on the road this week.
Georgia has to win out to get in.
Pac 12: Utah
The Utes must do the same thing as Georgia.
My Top 4
1.      Ohio State
The most talented team in the country.
2.      LSU
The best resume in the country.
3.      Clemson
I guess.
4.      Georgia
Their offense is poor, but they maul teams defensively. Their isn’t a great choice at number 4.