Monday, September 30, 2019

The Week In Football: Clemson Flops, Ohio State Surges, And Clay Helton Buries Himself

It was another exciting college football weekend full of a predictable Nebraska blowout, the death of the Clay Helton era at USC, and the almost end of Clemson’s long winning streak. At least Tennessee wasn’t here to lose by four touchdowns again! Don’t worry, we’ll have that next weekend!
Let’s start with the Tigers….
Clemson isn’t a Top 4 team
The Tigers barely held on to win against a North Carolina team coming off back to back losses to Wake Forest and Appalachian State. Clemson narrowly outgained the Tar Heels (331 to 290) and had to stop a UNC two point conversion with less than a minute to go to preserve the victory.
Trevor Lawrence isn’t even close to the same quarterback as he was in 2018. His completion percentage has fallen by 3 and a half points, and he’s already thrown 5 interceptions, as compared to just 4 all of last year. More troubling if you’re a Tiger fan, he looked confused and lost against what is really a pretty average UNC defense.
Clemson’s best win is by 14 at home over Texas A&M, a team that already has two losses and will probably finish with five. They beat the hell out of a Syracuse team that gave up 63 points to an awful Maryland team, and they destroyed a crappy Georgia Tech squad that is in the middle of transitioning to a completely different offense. There isn’t another ranked team on their schedule until MAYBE the ACC Title Game (or Wake Forest if they can remain undefeated until they meet in November), meaning they don’t really have a chance to improve their standing or secure another impressive, resume building win.
The good news for college football fans is that everyone (including me) came into 2019 assuming we’d get “Clemson-Alabama V” in the playoff again and the winner would be the national champion. That seems increasingly less likely. With how bad the Tigers have looked, coupled with how terrible the ACC is, their only chance to make the playoff is if they run the table. There are no mulligans for them this year. 
Of course, if they aren’t one of the four best teams in the country at the end of the year BUT are still undefeated, are they really deserving of making the playoff? I get it, they can’t control the fact that their conference is abominable, but that puts the onus on them to beat the hell out of everyone on their schedule. I used to be convinced by the argument that “oh, they are the defending champion, they deserve to be able to defend that championship, particularly if they run the table.” Then Florida State did just that in 2014, went into the playoff against Oregon, and lost 59-20. Were the Seminoles one of the four best teams in 2014? Definitely not. 
Isn’t that the goal of the playoff committee? To get the four best teams? The fact is, this isn’t the 2018 Tigers. They’ve lost most of their front seven and almost half their starters from last year. Every college team exists in a year long window, and no team SHOULD have the current season judged based on the season prior, because its a vastly different group of players.
With that said, if Clemson runs the table, they’re going to make it in the playoff, even if they have five or six more clunkers against average teams again. Then hopefully they’ll get blasted by Ohio State or Oklahoma or whoever and we’ll start reevaluating how we pick the four teams.
Washington Buried The Clay Helton Era At USC
The Trojans went into Seattle and lost by two touchdowns in an uninspired performance that Clay Helton needed to keep his job. USC sits at 3-2 with a trip to Notre Dame coming up in two weeks.
I don’t mean to gloat (wait a second, yes I do), but I’ve been on the “Clay Helton should be the coach on an eight year old travel baseball team” corner for as long as I’ve been writing about college football. Sam Darnold saved Helton’s tenure from being an absolute disaster, and even carried his sorry butt to a Pac 12 Championship back in 2017. But without Darnold as his starter, Helton is a paltry 9-13 as the full time head coach.
The question for USC is 1. Who is the new athletic director? 2. What are they going to do about Helton’s reported buyout of around $15 million and 3. Can they lure Urban Meyer?
I don’t know enough about university politics to predict who the new AD will be, but what I do know is that if I’m the Trojans, I’d call Urban and ask him, “How much?” Money should be no object in this hire, particularly not for a program that’s botched their last three coaching searches with Lane Kiffin, who was too immature, Steve Sarkisian, who loved the bottle too much, and Helton, who I can only assume was the janitor in the university cafeteria before he was elevated to head coach.
If Urban wants $12 million a year, let him have it. Do you want to win football games, or do you want to continue to be irrelevant? Urban would probably prefer the lifestyle in Southern Califorina and the Pac 12 better than what he faced in the SEC at Florida or in the Big Ten at Ohio State. People want to win out there, but they aren't insane. The media isn’t as aggressive, the fans aren’t as nuts, and they’d definitely still cover for him if he lied about not knowing about an assistant coach beating his wife, as long as his team was winning.
Nebraska Got Destroyed By Ohio State on Saturday Night Football
Ohio State won by 41 points and scored on their first 8 drives while holding the Cornhuskers to under 100 yards of offense until late in the third quarter.
This was supposed to be Ohio State’s first “real” test of the season, but they had all the answers, and frankly, have had them all season. Justin Fields tossed three touchdowns and ran for another and has yet to throw an interception all year. JK Dobbins had 177 rushing yards, and the Buckeye team combined for 368 of them. The defense had three interceptions and limited the Huskers to 47 passing yards. This might be the best team in college football.
As for Nebraska, the Huskers dropped to 7-10 in the Scott Frost era, and haven’t beaten a ranked team yet, losing by 46, 17, 5, and 41 in their four opportunities.
The Huskers aren’t punting on their favored son yet, and probably won't next year either, but this certainly isn’t what Husker fans expected when they hired Frost away from Central Florida two years ago. 
Here's something to keep an eye on; Frost only coached two years at UCF, and Saturday was just his 43rd career game as a head coach. Sure, he went 13-0 in his second season at UCF, but are we sure he's a good coach? Larry Coker and Gene Chizik have won national championships early in their coaching tenures with someone else’s talent/Cam Newton, and both of them turned out to not be good, or even average coaches. Can we attribute those 13 wins in 2017 to Frost, or his predecessor George O'Leary, who seemingly left the cupboard not completely bare?
Mike Riley won 9 games in his second year in Lincoln and got fired a year later. Is Frost getting to 9 wins this year? Seems unlikely.
Auburn Blew Out Mississippi State
No team in the country has a combination of three better wins than the Tigers, who have now knocked off Oregon on a neutral site, Texas A&M on the road, and Mississippi State by 33 at home. Bo Nix had 335 passing yards in what was the most complete game he’s played as the Auburn quarterback, and the Tiger defense was dominant for three quarters before relenting a bit in the final period.
Auburn is on the right trajectory  to make a run for the SEC Title and a playoff spot, but they still have four loseable games on the schedule (Florida, Georgia, LSU, Alabama) plus whoever they end up playing in a potential SEC Title Game (probably Georgia). Do I trust Nix, a freshman, to go 3-1 in those games? Honestly, no. They should beat the Gators in The Swamp this weekend, but I think there’s a good chance they’ll lose all three to LSU, ‘Bama, and Georgia.
Teams Alive For The Playoff
I think it’s safe to do this after five weeks. As always, every undefeated team in the Power 5 is alive, as well as every one loss team, with the exception of the ACC, where that league is so awful that a single loss eliminates you. No Group of 5 team will be included here because they don’t play anywhere near the same schedule/have the same talent. (* by the undefeated teams)
ACC: *Clemson, *Wake Forest
Virginia’s 15 point loss to Notre Dame, as well as their narrow win over Old Dominion, eliminates them from contention. No one should really buy Wake as a playoff team, but they could potentially be undefeated when they travel to Clemson on November 16th.
Big Ten: *Ohio State, *Wisconsin, *Iowa, *Minnesota, *Penn State, Michigan State, Michigan
Michigan State will probably drop out of contention on Saturday when they lose at Ohio State. Michigan hosts Iowa on Saturday in a game that could eliminate them. Minnesota… come on. Wisconsin goes to Ohio State on October 26th, but even if they lose, they could still run the table, beat the Buckeyes or someone else in the Big Ten title game, and make the playoff. Still a lot to be worked out here.
Big 12: *Oklahoma, *Baylor, TCU, West Virginia, Texas, Oklahoma State, Kansas State
Still a ton to be sorted out here as well. Texas could eliminate themselves in two weeks when they play Oklahoma. A team to keep an eye on is Baylor; the Bears are undefeated and get both Texas and Oklahoma at home. The problem is that those games happen back to back weeks.
Pac 12: Colorado, Arizona, Utah, Arizona State, Oregon, California, Washington
No undefeated teams left here, though one of these teams could potentially go on a run and finish 12-1. If I had to pick one, it’d probably be the Huskies because I think the Pac 12 comes down to the winner of the Oregon-Washington game on October 19th, which will be in Seattle. Outside of the Oregon game, all of Washington’s most difficult remaining showdowns are at home; Utah comes there on November 2, and the Apple Cup at the end of November will be there also.
SEC: *Alabama, *Georgia, *LSU, *Auburn, *Florida, Missouri
Mizzou isn’t a realistic contender here, particularly not with their one loss being to Wyoming. Plus they aren’t running the table anyway. I suppose there is a chance to get two SEC teams in, but I’d bet there’s enough chaos between the five undefeated squads that we could have all five with at least one loss, and maybe even four of them with two losses.
My Top Four
1.      Ohio State
The Buckeyes haven’t played the greatest competition yet, but they’ve won every game by at least 24 points. The meat of their schedule is still left, though they get Michigan State, Penn State, and Wisconsin all in Columbus.
2.      LSU
I don’t think the Tigers are beating Alabama because of the whole Orgeron-Saban thing, but they still have the best singular win of any team this season, their victory at Texas. LSU gets both Florida and Auburn in Baton Rouge in October.
3.      Oklahoma
The Sooners haven’t had the most challenging schedule yet either, but they’ve scored at least 48 points in every game and won all of them by at least 18. Jalen Hurts should be the Heisman frontrunner; through four games, he has more TDs and passing yards than both Baker Mayfield and Kyler Murray had in their first four games with Lincoln Riley as their head coach.
4.      Alabama
I can’t put the Tide any lower than fourth, though I have concerns about how crappy their defense has looked through four weeks. Tua has been phenomenal (76.4 completion percentage, 23 TDs, no picks), but their defense gave up 476 yards (279 rushing) and 31 points to Ole Miss on Saturday. I guess that’s what happens when you start multiple freshman on defense. Auburn, Georgia, and LSU all have very potent offenses; if they Tide have to win every game relying on Tua to outscore people, eventually they’ll get torched badly enough by someone that they’ll lose, and it might even happen twice.
I’d have Georgia 5th, Auburn 6th, and Wisconsin 7th. Maybe Clemson comes in at 8… maybe.

Friday, September 27, 2019

Tennessee Vs The Bye Week; Plus, Week 5 College Football Picks

It’s not even October, and yet, the Tennessee season is already, for all intents and purposes, over. It’s been a disastrous second year for Jeremy Pruitt, the team, Jarrett Guarantano, Phillip Fulmer, the fans, hell, really everyone who wears/cheers for the orange and white.
Who involved in the program has had the worst season? Let’s examine:
Jarrett Guarantano
JG is an obvious pick here, as he got a ton of preseason hype and has done nothing but remind the fanbase of when Nathan Peterman was the quarterback. JG threw three interceptions in 12 games last season; he’s already got four in 2019 in just four games. The BYU loss can be laid squarely at his feet, and his performance against Florida led to him getting benched to start the second half.
I was a JG defender for the last two years because no quarterback in the SEC had gotten worse protection than him, and because when he actually had time to throw, he delivered a nice, accurate football. I don’t know what’s happened this season; maybe he’s taken too many hits? Regardless, he’s been really awful, and the days of his accurate arm are gone, it seems.
It’s difficult to be too hard on him considering he’s already graduated and might not even be on the team next year, even though he does have another year of eligibility. He’s not an important piece of… whatever is getting built in Knoxville going forward.
The Team
Really bad year for everyone here too. Jauan Jennings declared himself the leader and then dropped an easy TD catch against Florida that ended up getting picked off on the deflection. He then committed a dumb personal foul on a punt return. Leadership!
The offensive line is… a wet paper bag. Yeah, yeah, I know, I know, I’ve made that same joke a million times. Give me a more accurate representation of their blocking “prowess” than that and I'll start using it.
The defense is a train wreck as well. I can’t believe how slow they look. I don’t know if its team speed as much as it seems like they have no idea what they’re doing play to play. The pass rush is as non-existent as my high school dating career, and the secondary looks more lost than Ray Charles in a corn maze. Defensive coordinator Derrick Ansley seems like a guy that should be one and done, only Fulmer guaranteed his contract for three years at $1 million per season. Really. Are we sure Phillip should be the AD?
Back to the offense; they can’t run the ball, the quarterback play is terrible, and even worse, there’s not competent QB on this roster. Which means the Vols will be relying heavily on Harrison Bailey next season, the number 1 ranked quarterback in the state of Georgia, to come in as a true freshman next season and be the guy. That’s a total tossup.
The Fans
The Vol fans have to be the least happy people in the history of sports who have ever cheered for a team, and with good reason. This program has done nothing but Seagal them over the last 12 years, and there is no end in sight to the weekly ass beatings.
The fans are going to come close to filling Neyland next Saturday for the Georgia game, where their beloved Vols are going to lose by a score of 63-0. They’ll do the same for Mississippi State the next week, where the Tennessee will once again find a way to Butch it up. They’ll revolve their entire day around the Alabama game the next Saturday, only to watch their team be out of it by the halfway mark of the first quarter. And so on.
There are still some, hell, probably a lot of Pruitt defenders left in the fanbase. But what will they be saying at the end of October when this team is 1-6 and about to face South Carolina? What about when a bad Gamecocks team beats them in Neyland? How should they feel about 1-7? Will there be any defenders at that point? Why would there be?
Phillip Fulmer
It’s too soon to say whether or not Fulmer is a good athletic director, but he’s got a lot riding on this Pruitt hire working out. This was his handpicked coach, and he’s greenlit everything that Pruitt wants to do. Fulmer has taken a lot of grief in the national media for wearing coaching gear to work and for jumping into an offensive lineman drill last year, but at almost 70 years old, I think even he realizes it’s unrealistic for him to be the head coach again. Something to monitor going forward though I suppose.
Jeremy Pruitt
The biggest loser of the season. Pruitt is 6-10 through sixteen games, and the Vols, who returned sixteen starters from last year, are as bad as they’ve ever been, and significantly worse than they were in 2018.
This team at the bare minimum should be 3-1. There’s no excuses for losing the Georgia State game or the BYU game where by the end of it, you had a 99% chance to win. There’s normally no shame in losing to Florida in Gainesville, but when the thumping is 34-3 with a backup quarterback making his first start in seven years, then yeah, there’s a lot of shame.
Things aren’t getting better in Knoxville. Pruitt said on Wednesday that the team was 100 times better than they were at this time last year. Jeremy, that’s dumb. And wrong. You know what you didn’t do last year? Lose to Georgia State. If you’re 100 times better, I don’t know, you start 3-1 and are very competitive at Florida.
Pruitt also doesn’t help himself in these postgame pressers, where he talks about Tennessee’s performance with the same energy and passion that he’d discuss the intricacies of the hide and seek game that his kindergarten class used to play. He talks like a guy that is in the most secure seat in the country. Reporters lob softball questions at Nick Saban, and half the time it seems like he wants to fight them to the death. And he’s winning games! A little more fire from Pruitt would be nice.
He’s basically Butch Jones in these media appearances, only with a Southern accent and less platitudes. I can’t believe I’m typing this, but he actually uses the word “execute” and “fight” more than Lyle did. How is that possible?
Pruitt’s in over his head. He should be a defensive coordinator somewhere.
And don’t give me the crap about “12 year mess”. Come on. That doesn’t hold water when you were favored in your first three games and only won one. Or when you went to Gainesville against an AT BEST above average Florida team and lost by 31 points. Is this roster really that bad? They’ve recruited pretty well there the last decade plus despite all of their issues. The cupboard will never be bare enough in Knoxville to lose to Georgia State.
The Vols real problem was 2012, when they went as cheap as hell on the coaching search and hired Butch. If there was ever a time to summon all of your resources and throw a great offer at someone, that would’ve been the year. Instead they acted like they were Tulsa or some school with no money and hired Butch. The Derek Dooley spot was a tough one because Kiffin left them at the altar and they had to scramble right before signing day to get someone. It was unfortunate, but it happened. So Dooley gets three years and it doesn’t work out. Oh well. Now it’s time to hire the right guy.
And that right guy was in their state! James Franklin had just won 9 games at Vanderbilt! Vanderbilt! But no, Tennessee was too good to hire Vanderbilt’s head coach. Couldn’t do that!
“But Matt, But Matt, But Matt! What if James Franklin didn’t want the job?” Then you give him so much money that he doesn’t say no. Everyone has a price, and that price shouldn’t be too hard to get to when you’re the coach at Vanderbilt.
Do you think there’s any chance the Vols are in this sorry of a state if they hired Franklin instead of Butch in 2012? No way, right? Franklin isn’t perfect, but he’s already won the Big Ten and has gone 34-9 at Penn State since 2016. Tennessee is 19-22 over that same stretch.
So instead they get “Brick by Brick” for five years until that implodes, which leads to the coaching search of 2017 that was so botched and leaky (Fulmer’s fault? Seems likely) that John Currie got fired as he was offering the job to Mike Leach. This leads to Fulmer accepting the AD position and hiring Jeremy Pruitt, who honestly probably went into the interview and said as many Fulmer buzzwords as he could possibly think of to land the job.
You know what wasn’t the problem? Firing Fulmer in 2008. This is the popular fan talking point every once in a while when the program sucks, like now. Would Tennessee be in as bad of shape as they are if Fulmer hadn’t gotten canned? Probably not. But let’s not have revisionist history about the end of the Fulmer era either. The program had deteriorated. The Vols hadn’t won the conference in ten years, they were in the midst of their second losing season in four years, and Fulmer seemed to have lost his edge. The program needed new life, and it was sagging under Fulmer. It was time. The fact that the last four coaching hires haven’t worked out doesn’t mean pulling the plug on Fulmer was a mistake, it just means that the athletic department is incompetent and has done a bad job hiring coaches since then. Two things can be true at once.
It's going to be a long rest of the fall down in Knoxville. I don’t know about you guys, but I can’t wait to watch them get their skulls caved in about five more times this season!
Now, onto the rest of the week….
#12 Penn State at Maryland
Arizona State at #15 California
We’ve got two really good Friday games this week. Maryland looked like a darkhorse Big Ten East contender through the first two weeks of the season under first year coach Mike Locksley. Then they went to Temple and lost 20-17. Meanwhile, Penn State has played one legitimate opponent, Pittsburgh, and held on to win 17-10.
Is the Maryland offense more like the one that put up 79 and 63 points the first two weeks, or is it closer to the one that struggled to move the ball against Temple and scored only 17? I have no idea.
The Terrapins have beaten the Nittany Lions just once in their last 34 meetings dating all the way back to 1962. This has been a hammer-nail relationship. I suspect it will stay that way tonight.
As for Cal-Arizona State, the Golden Bears are the only undefeated team left in the Pac 12, and already have wins at both Washington and Ole Miss. Meanwhile, the Sun Devils have a true freshman quarterback, Jayden Daniels, on the road at Cal, a place Arizona State has not won at since 1997.
I think Cal is legit good. I know Ole Miss isn’t a good team, but to win that game away from home, two time zones over, at what amounted to a 9 am kickoff for their body clocks, was really impressive. Beating Washington on the road too and only holding them to only 19 points was a fantastic win also. Arizona State’s best win was at Michigan State a few weeks ago, where they managed just ten points in what was an ugly rock fight. If the Spartans don’t botch the game tying field goal attempt, the game goes to overtime and who knows who wins. I like Cal here by double digits.
Prediction: Cal and Penn State
Texas Tech at #6 Oklahoma
Did you know that Texas Tech ranks third in the country in fewest pass yards allowed per game? Only 133.7 yards! Granted, they’ve only played one Power 5 opponent, Arizona. But still, were they ever at any point inside the top 100 in that statistic when Kliff Kingsbury, the former most handsome man in college football, was the coach?
The cure for that great pass defense is Oklahoma, who has put up 157 points in their first three games. The Sooners rank 7th nationally in passing yards per game and 2nd in rushing yards. Good luck Red Raiders!
This is Fox’s fifth “Big Noon Kickoff” Game, and so far through the first four weeks they’ve had three duds. Looks like we’re headed towards a fourth. Great start for the Big Noon Kickoff!
OU’s Lincoln Riley is THE offensive mind in college football, what Chip Kelly was eight years ago, and the only thing that’s kept him from winning a national title to this point has been his crappy defenses. Oklahoma ranks 53rd in the nation in yards allowed per game so far, but they haven’t even gotten into the meat of conference play yet, where I’m sure they’ll get torched about five or six different times. It won’t matter, at least not tomorrow.
Prediction: Oklahoma
Northwestern at #8 Wisconsin
Northwestern has won their last 8 road conference games, and in their last 18 games as a double digit underdog, they’ve won ten of them outright. Meanwhile, Wisconsin has the number 1 defense in the country and are fresh off last week’s destruction of Jim Harbaugh’s Michigan coaching tenure. I can’t believe this is real, but Northwestern might be the best offense the Badgers have faced all year… and they’ve only scored 47 points in three games.
The only way this one stays close is if the Badgers have an emotional hangover from last week’s ass kicking over the Wolverines. Otherwise, it’s 31-7 or something like that.
Side note: the Badgers are a team to keep an eye on in the playoff hunt, with how good their defense is and what Jonathan Taylor gives them offensively. Their problem is going to be that schedule; they still have home games against Michigan State and Iowa, and they’ll travel to Ohio State on October 26th. Then they’ll have the Big Ten Championship Game, probably against Ohio State again. Realistically, they can probably only lose one of those three regular season games, and then they’ll have to beat the Buckeyes and win the conference. That’s a pretty tall order.
Prediction: Wisconsin
#1 Clemson at North Carolina
Another week, another crappy ACC opponent for the Tigers. We really should just relegate the ACC to the Group of Five or the FCS and then let Clemson be an independent. The Tigers haven’t played a great game against a good opponent all season, and it won’t even really matter if they do it this weekend or not because North Carolina is not a competent team. In fact, the Tigers won’t have to play a complete game all year until late December in the playoff and they’ll still be able to go undefeated until then. When the second best team in your conference is Virginia, who struggled for three quarters with Old Dominion and only beat a really awful Florida State team at home by 7, you know your league is garbage.
Prediction: Clemson
#18 Virginia at #10 Notre Dame
No one with a functional brain can really believe that Virginia is the eighteenth best team in the country, right? There’s no way.
This one feels like a huge mismatch to me. The Irish just went to Georgia and had the ball with less than two minutes and a chance to score the winning touchdown. Impressive. What do you think would happen if the Cavaliers went to Georgia? Is it more likely that they’d be down 6 in the fourth quarter, or 60?
The only way Virginia wins here is if Notre Dame isn’t emotionally ready to play off of last week’s thriller. Otherwise, the Irish win by double figures.
Prediction: Notre Dame
#21 USC at #17 Washington
It looks like Matt Fink will make his first career start for USC at quarterback tomorrow as the Trojans travel north to play the Huskies. Last week he filled in for the injured Kedon Slovis and threw for 351 yards in USC’s upset victory over Utah.
I’ve made fun of Clay Helton more than just about anyone, due to the fact that he looks like he should be the nightshift janitor at a 7-Eleven, but he’s somehow managed to keep himself afloat this season in a job that he’ll probably not have by the end of the year. The Trojans aren’t a trainwreck in 2019 like they were last year, but there will be a new AD at Southern Cal soon and whoever this person is, they’ll want to make their own hire. Not that I blame them, of course; I wouldn’t want the guy that works behind the counter at the gas station coaching my football team either.
As far as this game, I like the Huskies. Quarterback Jacob Eason was phenomenal last week at BYU (24-28, 3 touchdowns) as Washington laid the smackdown 45-19. This isn’t always a good indicator of how a game will play out, but USC did play at BYU two weeks ago and lose in overtime. Washington went there and the game was never in doubt. Tomorrow won't be either.
Prediction: Washington
Ole Miss at Alabama
This is our SEC on CBS game, and it’s really pretty dreadful. The Rebels have two wins, against Southeastern Louisiana and Arkansas. SE Louisiana might as well be Roast Beef Tech, while Arkansas lost to San Jose State last Saturday, a program that had two wins in their last 24 games. I don’t think this is a great Alabama team outside of Tua, but it won’t matter tomorrow because the Rebels are bad.
Side note: Ole Miss’s head coach Matt Luke looks like the monthly winner of the local hot wing eating contest, particularly when he sweats profusely in that Mississippi heat. What does that have to do with tomorrow? Nothing, I just thought it was worth mentioning.
Prediction: Alabama
Kentucky at South Carolina
No one outside of Clay Helton needs a win more this weekend than South Carolina’s Will Muschamp, who wants to avoid dropping to 1-4 in what is a very pivotal fourth year for his job security going forward. Unfortunately for him, his team is bad. The Gamecocks have given up 81 points combined to Alabama and Missouri the last two weeks, and have only scored 37 themselves. I don’t have to love Mark Stoops or Sawyer Smith or the Wildcats as a whole to think they can go to South Carolina and win (And I don’t, by the way. Mark Stoops looks like a guy who would curse out the umpires at a little league game while wearing a sleeveless tee shirt).
Prediction: Kentucky
Mississippi State at #7 Auburn
The Tigers might finish the year as the best 3 loss team in the country. Incredibly, they’ve still got Alabama, LSU, and Georgia all left on the schedule, plus Florida on the road, which isn’t impossible but definitely not easily winnable. I don’t think they’ll have any problems with Mississippi State this week, but I wonder how Auburn people are going to be feeling at the end of the year when they’ve still got north of $20 million committed to Gus Malzahn, a guy who will have one season with less than three losses in seven years.
Prediction: Auburn
#5 Ohio State at Nebraska
This is the biggest game for the Cornhuskers in a long time. College Gameday will be there. It’s the ABC Saturday Night Game. The eyes of the nation will be upon them (or maybe they’ll be on Scott Frost, the new most handsome man in college football).
Ohio State has won all four of its games so far by at least 24 points, and they scored 76 unanswered last week against Miami of Ohio. Joel Klatt thinks they’re the best team in the country, and they’ll certainly have a great shot to prove that this week because I think they’re going to slaughter the Cornhuskers.
Scott Frost very well may end up winning big at Nebraska, but it won’t start tomorrow. In fact, the only real question is if the Huskers can keep the Buckeyes from covering. They’re 17 point favorites. I don’t give out gambling advice here normally, but if I were you, I’d bet the mortgage on the Buckeyes.
Prediction: Ohio State
Enjoy football this weekend! You deserve it.

Monday, September 23, 2019

The Week In Football: Vols Drown In The Swamp, Harbaugh Drops The Ball, And Georgia Hangs On

It was another thrilling weekend of college football… unless you’re a Tennessee fan. The Vols were blasted by an average Florida team, losing by double digits to the Gators for the ninth time since 2007. Let’s just start there….
Vols Embarrassed Themselves… Again
I’m running out of ways to explain Tennessee's incompetence. The Vols were outgained on Saturday by 202 yards, turned the ball over four times, had Jauan Jennings drop a wide open touchdown pass that turned into an interception, and committed four personal fouls. They blocked about as well a wet paper bag, and tackled even worse. Jarrett Guarantano was horrendous, and he was eventually replaced at halftime by Brian Maurer, who wasn’t much better. Guarantano threw two interceptions and finished with a QBR of 9.9. Maurer, the one the fanbase had been clamoring for, finished 4 out of 11 passing for 44 yards and had a QBR of 12.2. But yeah, he’s the next Josh Dobbs! This was totally a Josh Dobbs situation! Stop.
As has been a theme in this rivalry, the Vols couldn’t run the ball at all. Ty Chandler was the leading rusher, finishing with 34 yards on ten carries. Awesome. Eric Gray had six carries for 27 yards but lost a fumble, and had 16 of his yards come from one attempt, meaning he gained just 11 yards on his other five opportunities.
Jim Chaney was brought in to bring some life to what was an anemic offense the last two years, but so far, the Vols have looked horrible on that side of the ball. Their biggest problem is that the two most important aspects of a good offense, quarterback and offensive line, have been absolutely atrocious and are arguably the worst in the conference. When Dobbs was the quarterback a few years ago, the offensive line was a train wreck too, but he was so talented that they were still able to move the ball. I don’t know if we can blame Chaney yet, as the man has presided over some high powered attacks in the past, but with that said, he’s still been a disappointment so far.
What About Pruitt?
Before I go any further here, Jeremy Pruitt is going to be the coach in 2020 unless he has drunk driving arrest (which, I were him, I’d definitely be rolling down to the local Applebees and polishing off a couple dozen $2 dollar drafts with how bad my team is) or has some other scandal in his personal life. He’s Fulmer’s guy, his first big hire, and he’s not going to bail on him after two years, even if things continue horribly (which they will).
With that said, the fanbase seems pretty divided on what to do and how they feel about Pruitt. I guess these things always happen when a coach isn’t living up to expectations. On the one hand, those who don’t want Pruitt fired yet argue that, “you can’t fix a 12 year mess in 16 games” and, “They’re playing a lot young players” and, “We need to let him get some of his recruiting classes in there first” and, “They’re still playing Butch’s players!”
To me, those arguments don’t hold water. Every program in the country plays young guys with no experience. Alabama is going to start five freshman on defense this season. Clemson’s starting quarterback last season was a true freshman. Florida’s quarterback Kyle Trask hadn’t started a game in seven years. "We play young guys!" isn't an excuse. 
And let’s not act like Butch didn’t recruit well. I’m not saying he was recruiting on the level of Alabama or Florida every year, but he was still landing classes in the top 10 or 15. He certainly wasn’t getting out-recruited to the point that the score of Saturday’s game should be 34-3.
I don’t see how, “We need to let Pruitt get his guys in there” makes any sense either. Why? The Vols have gotten inarguably worse this season with a squad that brought back 16 starters from last year’s team that knocked off two ranked opponents. Why would anyone have confidence in Pruitt’s ability to “coach ‘em up” when he’s been in charge of the program and things have gotten this bad? The Vols looked poorly coached. They don’t “execute”, block, tackle, anything. They turn the ball over far too much, and they commit dumb penalties multiple times a game.
You know, it would’ve been one thing if the Vols had gone down to Gainesville and been competitive. Then you have a case about the whole “fix a mess in 16 games” thing. Pruitt could make the argument that things were getting better, and it would've been a much more believable one. Florida was 31 points better than the Vols. 31! And like I wrote on Saturday, the Gators are going to play Georgia in Jacksonville later in the season and lose by four touchdowns. So if Florida is 31 points better than Tennessee, and Georgia is four touchdowns better than the Gators, then when Tennessee hosts the ‘Dawgs in two weeks, is score going to be 63-0? Why not? 
Realistically, what does Pruitt have to do next year to keep his job? Win nine games? Does anyone think he’s capable of that? I certainly don’t. At the very least, they’ll be underdogs against Florida, Georgia, and Alabama. Oh yeah, they’re also at Oklahoma next year too. So that’s probably four losses right there. He’d have to win all of their other eight games and a bowl to get to nine wins. Who has confidence they can do that? After all, this is the program that lost to Georgia State and were defeated by BYU when they had a 99% chance to win at the end of the game.
So if we know Pruitt is going to get fired at the end of next season, what are we waiting for? Seriously. The Vols are going to go 2-10 or 3-9, the worst season in the history of the program. I’d love to see an example of a coach at a big time school who won two games in his second year and then went on to eventually win the conference later in his tenure. If it has happened, it hasn’t occurred in the SEC in a while, because every coach that’s won the conference since the inception of the championship game in 1992 had at least nine victories by his second year.
Tennessee fans deserve better. But instead we’ll just get another fun year next season where the program gets their teeth kicked in again and again and again. Awesome.
Georgia Held On To Beat Notre Dame
Kind of surprising that this game was as close as it was, considering the Irish finished with just 46 rushing yards and were penalized 12 times for 85 yards, most of them being pre-snap penalties due to the Georgia crowd noise.
The key point of the game was late in the fourth quarter, with Georgia facing a fourth and short in Notre Dame territory and protecting a 20-10 lead. Instead of going for the kill and attempting to blast the Irish off the ball with their rushing attack (like they’d been doing all night), Kirby Smart chose to settle for a field goal to put them up just 13. Why not just go for it? There’s no way you don’t pick up the yard unless you have a total lapse up front, and if you do make it, the Irish defense is probably broken mentally, which makes it easier for you to punch in a TD and go up 17, which virtually ends the game. If you don't make it, your defense has been stout all night, and the likelihood of them driving the ball down the field was pretty low. If you make it, but get stopped on the next set of downs, well at least you've ran more time off the clock. Instead, they decide to kick then, and it stays a two possession game. If you’d asked Brian Kelly in that moment what he would’ve wanted Georgia to do, he would’ve said kick it. That means something.
Add this to the list of questionable late game decisions made by Kirby Smart in his three-plus seasons in Athens, the most prominent of course being the fake punt against Alabama in the SEC Championship Game last year.

The ‘Dawgs should be 7-0 when they go to Jacksonville on November 2 to play Florida. Win that and they’ll finish up by hosting Missouri, traveling to Auburn, hosting Texas A&M, and going to Georgia Tech. Kirby is 0-3 on the road against SEC West teams in his tenure with Georgia, so that Auburn game is one to keep an eye on, though they’ll probably be favored every week until they play Alabama (or maybe LSU) in the SEC Championship Game.
As for Notre Dame, the Irish have a good chance to run the table the rest of the way, but it’s going to be difficult for them to make the playoff case, unless there is just a ton of chaos, meaning they’re going to need to be one of the only one loss teams in the country with maybe one or two undefeated teams. It’ll be particularly difficult for them if Georgia finishes the year with their only loss being to Alabama in the SEC Championship Game, because how could a one loss Irish team get in the playoff over a one loss Georgia team who beat them head to head? Or let’s say that Georgia wins the SEC; what’s the case for Notre Dame getting in over Alabama? Seems like a tough one to make.
Auburn Beat Texas A&M In College Station
The Tigers did this despite only gaining 299 yards of offense (compared to 391 for the Aggies) and dealing with swirling coaching rumors all week that Bob Stoops was going to take over for Gus Malzahn after the season.
Auburn has shown a ton of grit so far this season. They should’ve lost to Oregon in Week 1, and they didn’t succumb to the heat in a loud road environment this week. I don’t know what this means for them going forward, but if Bo Nix continues to play well, it’ll make Gus’s ridiculous contract not look like quite the dumpster fire that it actually is.
As for the Aggies, the schedule is only going to get tougher from here, and they already have two losses. They host Alabama on October 12, and finish the year with back-to-back games at Georgia and at LSU. Brutal. They won’t be favored in any of those games, and 7-5 feels probable for Jimbo Fisher’s second year.
If they do finish 7-5, that’ll bring Jimbo’s two year record to 16-9. If he did that at Tennessee, they’d throw a damn parade for him and probably name a street after him. But at A&M, where he’s making $7.5 million, I don’t think a lot of folks are going to be thrilled. I’m not saying he’s on the hot seat, just that he wouldn’t have lived up to the expectations that come when you sign a ten year deal so far.
Michigan… What Else Is There To Say?
The Wolverines had an extra week to prepare for Wisconsin and were down 28-0 at halftime. Listen, I get it, the Badgers are a good team, and maybe are even a darkhorse playoff contender. They’ve got the best defense in the Big Ten, and have one of the Heisman frontrunners in Jonathan Taylor.
With that said… holy crap Jim Harbaugh, you can’t have a performance like that in your fifth year, particularly not when you haven’t won your division, conference, or beaten Ohio State yet. This was a big game for ole Harbaugh and they crapped the bed.
Good luck against Ohio State this year too. This was the time for Harbaugh to beat them, in Ryan Day’s first season, when they had only four returning starters. Instead, the Buckeyes haven’t missed a beat while Michigan is arguably worse off now than they were in 2015 when Harbaugh got the job.
I don’t know what the Wolverines do going forward. Can they fire him? Do they want to pay him a buyout of over $15 million? And who would they hire to replace him?
I just can’t believe it hasn’t worked there for him yet. He resurrected and built what was a dead Stanford program, and he showed up in the NFL and had the Niners in the NFC Championship Game in 2011 and 2013 and the Super Bowl in 2012. But since he arrived in Ann Arbor, it’s been a disappointing mess.
There are no good answers for the Wolverines.
Washington State Blew A 32 Point Third Quarter Lead To UCLA
Crappy UCLA put up 50 second half points and forced six turnovers to comeback against kooky Mike Leach and Washington State. Hilariously, this happened only a few hours after I was arguing that Mike Leach would’ve been a better hire for Tennessee than Jeremy Pruitt was. How much of an idiot am I? Don’t answer that.
Chip Kelly needed a win probably as much, if not more than Pruitt did, and he was actually able to pull it off with an offense that finally looked like the kind he used to terrify the country with at Oregon. Can the Bruins build off this going forward and turn around what has been a disastrous first 16 games for Kelly? We’ll see.
As for Leach, Saturday, and frankly, this whole week, is why the best two jobs he’s gotten have been Texas Tech and Washington State. Do I think he’s a better coach than Jeremy Pruitt? Yes. Would I rather have him at Tennessee? Yeah, I would. But he’s never really been a defense guy, and while he’s a hilarious, how well would it play at Tennessee if they lost the same week someone asked him at a press conference about what SEC mascot would win in a fight to the death? Leach was really asked that about the Pac 12 mascots earlier in the week, and he answered the question about as thoughtfully as I would’ve hoped for him to do, because he’s Mike Leach and that’s what he does. He’s a crazy funny guy, and I’m happy he’s in college football. But realistically, he’s not ever getting the Tennessee job, particularly not with Mr. Serious Phillip Fulmer calling the shots.

My Top 4
1.      Clemson
I’ll leave the Tigers here for now, even though they haven’t been tested and won’t be until the playoff semifinals in late December. The ACC is atrocious. The second best team in the league, Virginia, only beat crappy Florida State and Willie Taggart by a touchdown at home last week, and followed that up by struggling for three quarters with Old Dominion. Not good. 
2.      LSU
I’ll slot the Tigers here for now, though like I’ve said before, they aren’t beating Alabama. But their win at Texas two weeks ago is still probably the best of any team at this point in the season.
3.      Alabama
I think this is worst Alabama team Saban has had since the three loss one in 2010. If there were ever a year for LSU and Swamp Monster Orgeron to get them, it would be this season.
4.      Oklahoma
I’m putting the Sooners here because I think they’re going to finish the season with the best offense in the country for the third straight year. Georgia didn’t blow me away on Saturday; if anything, I feel less confident in them.

Saturday, September 21, 2019

Vols Get Blasted At Florida By 31 Points, Prove They've Botched Their Fourth Straight Coaching Hire

Tennessee rolled into Gainesville today and embarrassed themselves by losing by 31 to a pretty average Florida team playing a quarterback who hadn’t made a start in 7 years.
There are an infinite amount of ways to say this was a bad loss. I could talk about the fact that this Florida team is going to travel to Baton Rouge later in the season and lose by three touchdowns, or that they’re going to play Georgia in Jacksonville in late October and lose by four touchdowns. So if the Gators are four touchdowns worse than the Bulldogs, and Tennessee is almost five touchdowns worse than Florida, then does that mean that the Vols are nine touchdowns worse than Georgia? Hell, why not?
I could also talk about how Tennessee has the same problems as a football team today as they did at this point last season, only they’re arguably worse now. Jim Chaney’s offense has been really pitiful so far, and the offensive line continues to be a wet paper bag. I actually thought the defense was competitive today, and they even forced three turnovers, but that probably says more about how mediocre the Gators are than how good the Vol defense is. Does anyone with a functional brain think that Florida is the ninth best team in the country? Of course not. The Gators are a four loss team that Tennessee wasn’t close to being competitive with in Jeremy Pruitt’s sixteenth game as head coach.
How in the hell is it possible that Tennessee has whiffed on four coaching hires in a row now? I think its pretty apparent that Jeremy Pruitt isn't the guy at this point. He’s been an F. 
Lane Kiffin lasted one year before he bolted, and they compounded that problem by hiring Derek Freaking Dooley. And when that didn’t work out after three seasons, they rightly moved on. The 2012 coaching search was the time to make it rain on some coach and hire the right guy. Instead, they went cheap and hired Butch Freaking Jones. The 2017 coaching search was even worse, but despite all the botchery, they still almost hired Mike Leach! Does anyone think the Vols would be 6-10 with Leach through 16 games? Does anyone think they would’ve scored 3 points against anyone in Leach’s sixteenth game?
One thing I’m glad we can finally put to bed is the notion from a majority of the fanbase that Tennessee was just a quarterback change away from being competitive. Yeah, because Brian Maurer looked PHENOMENAL today…. Wrong. They don’t have a competent quarterback on this roster, and somehow Jarrett Guarantano is the best of the bunch, which is why he was the starter.
That being said, Guarantano was abominable today. He missed Dominic Wood-Anderson for what would’ve been a TD, or at least a huge gain into Florida territory. He threw a terrible pick directly into the hands of a Gator DB because he badly misread the coverage while Marquez Callaway read it perfectly. His QBR was 9.9. He was on the field for seven drives of six plays or less.
The only Vol who had a worse day than JG was Jauan Jennings, who declared himself the “leader” of this team after the embarrassing Georgia State loss. He dropped a perfect throw in the endzone on third and goal that deflected up in the air and turned into an interception. He committed a personal foul on a punt when he ran into the returner after he called for a fair catch. I guess Jauan didn’t get enough leadership reps this week.
Let’s look at the rest of the Vol schedule. I’m trying my hardest to find two wins.
September 28: Bye Week. Tennessee is 1-3 now, but I swear, if anyone could figure out a way to register a loss on the bye week, it would be the Vols.
October 5: Georgia. It’s going to be 63-0.
October 12: Mississippi State. The Bulldogs aren’t good. Neither are the Vols.
October 19: @Alabama. Gulp.
October 26: South Carolina. Will Muschamp is 7-0 against Tennessee and the Gamecocks, even with freshman quarterback Ryan Hilinski, have shown the ability to move the football.
November 2: UAB. If they don’t have a second win by this point, this will probably be it.
November 9: @Kentucky. The Wildcats are on a backup quarterback but were still able to score 21 points against the same Gator team that Tennessee just scored 3 against.
November 16: Bye Week. Again, if anyone could find a way to lose on the bye week, it would be the Vols.
November 23: @Missouri. The Tigers have the better quarterback and are at home.
November 30: Vanderbilt. The Commodores have beaten the Vols three years in a row. Granted, they are awful so far in 2019 but hell, so is Tennessee.
Realistically, we’re looking at a 2-10 or 3-9 season at this point. Derek Dooley was a train wreck, but even he managed to win 5 games in every season. Butch Jones botched so many games that it’s hard to remember him winning anything, but even he made three bowl games.
And if they do go 2-10 or 3-9, what’s the argument for Jeremy Pruitt to get a third year? Seriously. The program will have just had its worst season ever despite having back a majority of the starters on both sides of the ball from a team that beat two ranked teams last season. All of the issues with the team are worse than last season. Pruitt was AT BEST the eighth choice when he was hired in 2017; no one was thrilled when he got the job, which made his leash pretty short. It was even shorter when he lost to Georgia State. It might be completely gone now after today's performance. If/when he does get fired, I think whatever roster turnover and recruiting losses there is after the season can be mitigated by the fact that Jeremy Pruitt is no longer around the program. Why keep someone employed as the football coach when the team is only getting worse the longer he is in charge?
So in November, when the season is down the toilet, you fire Pruitt, and then you call either Matt Campbell at Iowa State or Mike Leach at Washington State and pay what it takes. Campbell isn’t even 40 yet; plus, he's been able to make Iowa freaking State competitive in football. Leach would’ve taken the job in 2017, and I can’t imagine that he wouldn’t want it now. I don’t know if either are capable of restoring the Vols to national prominence, but I’m pretty confident they wouldn’t be going without a touchdown in their 16th game against what is going to end up being a four loss team.

Friday, September 13, 2019

My Never Ending Crusade To Fix The College Football Schedule Plus Week 3 Picks

Another college football weekend is upon us, and if I’m being honest, it’s one of the poorer Saturdays I can remember in terms of the on-paper schedule. There are no games between ranked teams, #1 Clemson at Syracuse (who just got Seagal'd at Maryland last week) is the ABC Saturday Night Game, and College Gameday is going to Ames, Iowa, for the first time ever because the Cyhawk Trophy is up for grabs. Nothing against Ames, but come on… if Iowa-Iowa State is among to the two or three best games of the week, then you know it’s a pretty bad on-paper schedule. I love college football almost more than I love my wife (ALMOST BABE! ONLY ALMOST!) so I’ll be watching, but the weakness of the on-paper schedule isn’t unique to this Saturday so far in the 2019 season. I mean, it’s a crime that we’ve only had three games between ranked teams so far this year. Plus, Fox’s “Big Noon Kickoff” so far has featured FAU at Ohio State, Army at Michigan, and this week, Ohio State at Indiana. Wow! Can’t wait for that one!
The college football schedule is an atrocity. The NFL makes sure that each and every week, they’re putting quality games on the field that the fans want to see. I'm sorry, but nobody wants to watch Arkansas State at Georgia this weekend, not even 'Dawg fans, and certainly no one wants to go. No one in the history of humanity has ever said, “You know the matchup I’ve been dying to see? New Mexico at Notre Dame! Let's get on Stubhub. No matter the price, it's a bargain!”
Listen, just elect me the college football scheduling czar and let me fix everyone’s September scheduling woes. I promise I'll eliminate all this Chattanooga at Tennessee BS that no one wants to see.
I like Nick Saban’s idea of playing ten conference games and then two others against Power 5 opponents, but can we at least get every SEC and ACC team playing nine conference games? Guys, it’s time. Every other league does it. And the fans don’t want to go/stick around for Sandwich Tech at LSU or Directional School Nevada at Florida. They really don’t. Let’s get it together for our fans. And don’t give me the “SEC is a gauntlet” argument. Please. Not when you’ve got schools in your league losing to Georgia State and Wyoming.
So here’s the proposal: every Power 5 League plays nine conference games. If you want to play more, great! But at least nine. Then, you know what, the other three games have to be against other Power 5 opponents. That way you’ve got 12 legitimate teams on your schedule each and every season and you’ve now given your fans a reason to want to go to the games. That way you don’t have lunacy like the Alabama athletic department tracking students on their phones to make sure they stay at games that no one wants to go to or sit through for four quarters.
“But Matt! But Matt! But Matt, if Alabama doesn’t pay Weber State a million dollars to come to Tuscaloosa and get their ass kicked, then how are they going to fund their athletic department? You know that million dollar check and ass kicking basically pays for Weber State’s entire athletic department budget for a year, right?”
Uh yeah, if Weber State can’t fund their athletic department without Alabama subsidizing them, then that’s Weber State’s problem, not Alabama’s. I shouldn’t have to pay with a wasted Saturday because the folks in Ogden, Utah need their athletic department paid for. Plus, aren’t there better uses of a million dollars of athletic department money than shipping it out West to fund someone else’s athletic department? I can think of a few… like maybe the players on Alabama’s roster get that? And then you invite Texas or Ohio State into your stadium in place of Weber State and make ten times what you would’ve made had you kept that crappy school that no one wants to see on the schedule.
Some of you reading this right now are probably thinking to yourselves, “Wait a second, why should Alabama players get paid by the school when they’re already getting paid to be there by the boosters?” Oh whoops, I’m not allowed to say that. Everyone on college football does everything on the up and up. Definitely everything is above board. No one cheats in college sports! No one!
Now, I guess we’ll move onto the Week 3 slate….
Chattanooga at Tennessee
I can’t believe this game is even being played. Tennessee benefits in no way here. If they win, great, they paid Chattanooga a million dollars to come to Knoxville so the Vols can get a meaningless victory. If they lose (oh my god), then Jeremy Pruitt gets fired as he’s walking off the field. Wait a second, maybe that is a benefit….
Prediction: Tennessee
#20 Washington State vs Houston (at NRG Stadium in Houston)
Not technically a Houston home game since this one is at the Texans’ stadium, but for all intents and purposes it is. If you’re at your house tonight drowning yourself in Natty Lights, stop doing that and flip over to ESPN at 9:15 for this one, because this game is going to be a fireworks show. 70-63 is in play here. I’ll take almost Tennessee coach Mike Leach here to squeak this one out because Houston’s defense is about as sturdy as a wet paper bag.
#6 Ohio State at Indiana
I know I know, I cited this game earlier as an example of the crappy football schedule, but I’m grasping for straws here folks! There’s not a lot to choose from!
The Buckeyes are 18 point favorites here in a series that they lead 74-12-5. They’ve won 23 straight against the Hoosiers and haven’t lost to them since October of 1988. They’ve tied Indiana (1990) more recently than they’ve lost to them. I’d love to see Ohio State lose here, or at least have Indiana make it competitive, but I don’t see any way the Buckeyes don’t win by four touchdowns unless the Ohio State bus gets struck by a meteor on the way to the stadium.
#2 Alabama at South Carolina
Incredibly, this is Alabama’s first game against South Carolina since the Tide lost in Columbia as the #1 team in the country back in 2010. (This is another reason why the SEC needs nine or ten conference games. Alabama hasn’t played South Carolina in almost an entire decade? Tennessee beat Auburn on the road last year, but they won’t return there for another 12 years? What? Madness.)
This is our first SEC on CBS game of the season, but I think it’s going to be a dud. The Gamecocks lost their veteran quarterback Jake Bentley before last week’s game, and even when he played, South Carolina looked really bad against UNC in their opener. I don’t think this is a great Alabama team, at least not yet, but they should still go in there and take care of business. The only potential issue I see here for the Tide could be if the weather is so hot and humid that Nick Saban sweats his hair plugs out. But even that shouldn’t slow them down. Plus, Saban has played games in brutally hot temperatures before (like at Texas A&M in September) and those plugs held strong. So he should be fine.
Prediction: Alabama
Stanford at #17 UCF
Good on Stanford for traveling all the way across the country to play this game against a legitimate opponent. The Cardinal always challenge themselves out of conference; this year, for example, their non-conference schedule was Northwestern (Big Ten), the best Group of Five team (UCF), and a team they play every season that also happened to make the 2018 college playoff (Notre Dame).
With all that said, getting credit from me for traveling to play an opponent has no bearing on how this one will play out on the field tomorrow. Or will help the Cardinal after last week, where they allowed USC with a freshman quarterback to go on a 42-3 run to end the game. Sure, quarterback KJ Costello will be back for Stanford, but before he got knocked out of the game against Northwestern two weeks ago, he’d only guided the Cardinal to 10 points. It’s not like he was lighting it up out there. So I’m not sure how much of an upgrade it really is.
Prediction: UCF
Pittsburgh at #13 Penn State
Pittsburgh got blown out by Virginia in Week 1 and then beat Ohio by ten last Saturday. So I’m not sure how good they actually are, though I’m guessing not that good. Meanwhile, Penn State has scored 124 points in two weeks against… Idaho and Buffalo. Great. Who cares?
Fun, crazy fact here: Syracuse and Dino Babers were the last ACC team to beat Clemson, all the way back in 2017 at the Carrier Dome. The ACC team and coach before that? Pittsburgh and their current coach, Pat Narduzzi, in 2016. He did it with Nathan Peterman at quarterback! Does that have any bearing on how tomorrow will turn out? Nope! Just thought I’d mention it.
Prediction: Penn State
#24 USC at BYU
Clay Helton really is going to go 3-0 isn’t he? I can’t believe I’m going to say anything nice about a team that Helton coaches, but wow, that beatdown against Stanford last week was impressive. Frankly, it’s about time the Trojans put it on someone, considering they have significantly more four and five star recruits than everyone they play (And yes, I know Bubba in Bulls Gap is reading this right now and saying to himself, “Stars don’t matter, the only thing that’s important is HOW MUCH DAMN HEART YOU HAVE! DALE JONES AT TENNESSEE!” Bubba’s wrong, but I appreciate his contribution here).
 They’re going to be 3-0 because that BYU team is really pretty mediocre. You know, the BYU team that Tennessee had all but defeated until the Cougars inexplicably completed a 60+ yard pass to set up the game tying field goal that sent the game to overtime? Unlike the Vols, USC actually has the capability of playing well at the line of scrimmage, as they showed last week. They should be able to overwhelm BYU.
And when that happens… I mean good lord, how can Tennessee lose to a team last week that’s going to get blasted tomorrow by a squad that’s got Clay Helton, a traveling tube sock salesman, running the program?
Prediction: USC
#19 Iowa at Iowa State
As mentioned before, College Gameday will be here for this one, the first time they’ve ever been to Ames, Iowa. Who in the world is going to be the “celebrity” guest picker? Are there any famous Iowa State grads I don’t know about? Famous Iowans? Or are they just going to put a corn husk out there and let it pick games? To be fair, the corn probably has about as much college football knowledge as Lee Corso does at this point.
Onto the game, I’m going to pick Iowa State because their head coach Matt Campbell should be the first guy Tennessee calls if (or more than likely, when) they fire Jeremy Pruitt.
Let’s face it guys. Tennessee, at least at this point, isn’t going to get the top name that everyone always throws out for them. Whether it’s the lack of want to pay for a name like that, or the fact that the program is in ruin (and has been for a decade-plus) and isn’t attractive right now, not getting the flashy name is pretty much exactly how it’s gone down there during the last three coaching searches. So why not Campbell, who is young (he’s only 39) and has made a nothing program in Iowa State relevant (he won 8 games in both 2017 and 2018). Winning 8 games at Iowa State is like winning 11 at Tennessee; it’s really impressive and it also never happens. Drive to his house in Ames or whatever corn-fed Iowa town he lives in with a briefcase full of millions of dollars of cash. Ring the doorbell, and when he answers, hand him the case with an attached note that says, “Please, please, save our god forsaken program. Here’s millions of dollars. Also inside is step by step instructions for how we want you to do a blood sacrifice of a goat to the football gods, since apparently we’ve pissed them off, which is the only reasonable explanation to the decimation of our football program over the last twenty years.” Then Campbell takes the money, does the blood sacrifice, goes to Knoxville, and returns the Vols to glory. Everyone wins. Except the goat.
Prediction: Iowa State
#9 Florida at Kentucky
UK finally broke their 31 game losing streak to Florida last season with a 27-16 victory in Gainesville. Not that last year means anything for tomorrow, of course.
Kentucky lost their starting quarterback Terry Wilson to a season-ending injury last week. Meanwhile, for Florida fans, it must feel like their quarterback has a season-ending injury every time they watch Feleipe Franks attempt to play the position, because that’s the only way someone could have that much experience and still play that badly every week.
Sawyer Smith will make his first career start tomorrow at QB for the Wildcats. Sawyer Smith. Yes, that’s his name. He sounds like one of those rough kids you went to middle school with who all the sudden stopped showing up to school and was never heard from again. Regardless, I can’t imagine that his first career start is going to go all that well for him. A fast defense with a ton of pros... yikes. Even if Feleipe Franks throws three picks and misses 10 open receivers, the Gators are going to win this game.
Prediction: Florida
#1 Clemson at Syracuse
#5 Oklahoma at UCLA
These are our two marquee night games? Really? The combined score here is going to be 150-14. Syracuse’s crappy defense is exactly the medicine that Clemson needs to jumpstart their offense. Meanwhile, UCLA lost to San Diego State last week. How are they going to slow down Jalen Hurts and OU? They’d struggle against them even if Superman was their middle linebacker.
 Prediction: Clemson and Oklahoma
Enjoy football this weekend. Let’s get this damn schedule fixed.