Monday, October 28, 2019

The Week In Football: Vols Win, Will Muschamp's Grave Gets Deeper, and Oklahoma's Defense Implodes

It was another great weekend of college football, mostly thanks to the fact that Tennessee finally beat Will Muschamp in a football game. And not only beat him, but trounced him by almost three touchdowns!
Let’s just start there…
Tennessee Won Their Third Game Of The Year And Moved Closer To Bowl Eligibility
The Vols won their third game of the year, and now only need to go 3-1 in November to become bowl eligible for the first time since 2016. I wrote about the Vols in more detail on Saturday, but in short, this was the best, most complete game this team has played since probably against Kentucky last season. The defense held the Gamecocks scoreless in the second half, the offensive line actually held blocks long enough for the downfield passing game to open up, and that group even consistently won the line of scrimmage against what Pruitt had said earlier in the week was the best defensive front the Vols had seen all season.
The seniors, the Butch Jones recruited guys, were the ones who stepped up. Daniel Bituli had 15 tackles and a blocked punt return for a TD. Darrell Taylor had two sacks and a pass deflection on a key 4th and short in the third quarter. Jauan Jennings had 174 receiving yards and two touchdowns, and even Marquez Callaway hauled in a 55 yard touchdown and returned a punt for another score. Hell, Jarrett Guarantano played arguably the best game of his career before he broke his left wrist (11 completions for 229 yards and two touchdowns).
The Vols last four games go like this: UAB, at Kentucky, bye week, at Missouri, Vanderbilt. Strangely enough, UAB on Saturday could be their toughest remaining game. The Blazers are 6-1, and their only loss was to Western Kentucky, who is in first place in Conference USA East (UAB is in Conference USA West). Three weeks ago we all would’ve though Missouri would be their biggest challenge, but that was before the Tigers lost consecutive weeks at Vanderbilt and at Kentucky by 22 points. Ugly. 
If not UAB or Missouri, then it’s the Wildcats, though that game is probably easier considering that Kentucky did start a wide receiver at quarterback the last two weeks. There’s no way that Tennessee could lose to two different Kentucky teams starting two different wide receivers at quarterback right? That’s reserved for Derek Dooley, former UT coach and current Mizzou offensive coordinator.
The Vols are playing better right now than every team remaining on their schedule, and they have a pretty good chance to run the table from here on out and finish with a winning record in conference for the first time since 2015, something that seemed impossible back in September. Holy crap, if only they took care of business against Georgia freaking State and were able to play pass defense against BYU, we could be looking at a 9-3 season and a chance to pick up win number 10 in the bowl game, something that hasn’t happened since 2007.
Regardless, Pruitt has to get some credit for the Vol play the last month. Almost everyone in the fanbase (including me) was basically ready to send a moving truck to his house like Bill Battle in the 1970s, but since the bye week they’ve been a completely different team. The question for Pruitt is going to be whether or not he can consistently beat the teams the Vol fans truly want to knock off, Florida, Georgia, and Alabama. He’s 0-6 against them so far. Next year, with both the Gators and the Tide coming to Neyland, would be a nice time to at least beat one of them.
Both USCs Are Going To Have New Coaches In 2020
We already know Southern California is going to be coached by Urban Meyer next year, but who will be the coach at South Carolina? It won’t be Will Muschamp, who on Saturday dropped to 3-5 in his pivotal fourth year.
The Gamecocks have four games left, three of which are extremely losable. They should beat Vanderbilt at home this week (though Muschamp and his Natty Light gut could be out of town on Sunday night if they don’t), but there’s a good chance they don’t win any of their final three. They host 20th ranked Appalachian State on November 9th. Do I think the Mountaineers are the 20th best team in the country? No. Do I think they’re a good team that’s completely capable of beating this South Carolina team? Of course. They travel to Texas A&M on November 16th, a team that is better than them, then get their bye week before hosting Clemson on November 30th. The Clemson game could be for Muschamp’s job if the Gamecocks don’t go undefeated over the next three weeks. 
These South Carolina people are not going to be patient, waiting for ole Will to get it together, while there’s another team in their state, Clemson, who has won two of the last three national titles and will probably be in the playoff for the 5th straight year. If Clemson can be THAT good, then can’t South Carolina at least go to a bowl game every year?
So when Will gets fired, who should the Gamecocks turn to? For years, people would’ve said Mark Dantonio, who played at South Carolina in the 1970s, but his Michigan State program has deteriorated the last couple of seasons and their offense has been putrid for years. Plus, at 63, he’s not the ideal age to start afresh somewhere. He makes a lot of money at Michigan State; what would it take to pry him away from there? And would he even want the job? So I’d say there’d be no interest from either side.
I think you can win the SEC and a national title at South Carolina. I know they haven’t really been that program historically, but what makes them any different from Clemson on paper? If Clemson can become a powerhouse, why can't South Carolina be a year to year challenger in the SEC? The problem would be finding the right guy, and I don’t know how many people would be banging down the door to compete against the behemoth that the Tigers are in their own state, plus all the programs that the SEC would be throwing at them.
Obviously you call guys like Matt Campbell at Iowa State, PJ Fleck at Minnesota, and Matt Rhule at Baylor and gauge their interest level. They all might turn you down, but it’s worth a call.
Regardless, the program is worse, not better, than it was two years ago when ole Will won nine games in his second year. They’ll be a change in Columbia.
Oklahoma Severely Hampered Their Playoff Hopes
The Sooners new and improved defense faltered badly on Saturday, allowing Kansas State to score on 8 straight possessions and rack 426 yards of offense. K-State held onto the ball for 38 of the 60 minutes, and were able to withstand a furious Sooner comeback that ended when an OU player touched the ball a half yard early on an onside kick.
Obviously the Sooners aren’t eliminated completely from the playoff; they can still win the Big 12 and finish 12-1, but the problem they’re going to face is that their conference is probably the weakest one in the Power 5 outside of the ACC. Only they and Baylor have one loss or fewer, and their Texas win from two weeks ago looks a lot less impressive after the Longhorns went on the road and lost at TCU, a game that saw their quarterback Sam Ehlinger throw four interceptions.
Is the committee going to think two of group of an 11-1 LSU/Alabama, an 11-1 Penn State/Ohio State team, or a 12-1 Pac 12 Champ Oregon/Utah team, is less impressive than Oklahoma? I don’t know the answer, though my inclination would be to say yes, based on schedule and resume. Their best chance now would be to win out and get some carnage in the other leagues.
Jim Harbaugh Got His Best Win As Michigan’s Coach
The Wolverine defense held Notre Dame to 180 yards of offense in the Ann Arbor rain storm, while they gained 437 yards themselves, including 303 on the ground. Irish quarterback Ian Book had the worst game of his career, finishing a paltry 8/25 for 73 yards. ND had 47 rushing yards on 31 attempts in a game that saw the rain going sideways in the first half.
Obviously a huge W for Jim Harbaugh, who has been, with good reason, the most beatdown coach in the country the last year. Do I expect this performance to be one that turns things around for Harbaugh? Does this mean he’s going to start beating Ohio State with some regularity, or hell, at all? Nah, not really. Remember how good the Wolverine defense was last season? They had a streak of like ten games in a row where they didn’t allow an opponent to gain 300 yards of offense. Then, they went to Columbus, faced the Buckeyes, and gave up 62 points and 567 yards. I expect something similar to happen at the end of the month when they host the Buckeyes, who look like the best team in the country right now.
But good for ole Jim. He wins one game and the Harbaugh sycophants in the media claim victory. Guys… can he beat Ohio State once? Just once?
LSU Knocked Off Auburn And Alabama Destroyed Arkansas To Set Up A 1-2 Showdown In Tuscaloosa On November 9th
Is this game going to get the “Game of the Century” label like it did back in 2011? We’ll see if it’s hyped that way by the networks the next two weeks. Regardless, I suspect this one will be higher scoring than 9-6 rock fight that it was in 2011, particularly if Tua is healthy enough to play.
This will be Ed Orgeron’s best chance to beat Alabama as long as Saban is their head coach. He’s got a Heisman-level quarterback in Joe Burrow, a competent enough defense, and great skill position guys all over the field. Meanwhile, the Tide will be bringing in an injured Tua (or Mac Jones) and an inexperienced defense that is probably the worst Saban has had since 2007. This should be a lot of fun in two weeks.
Should Ohio State’s Chase Young Win The Heisman Trophy?
This is an argument we have every couple of years when someone on defense is arguably the best player in college football, yet gets no real consideration from the Heisman voters, who instead gravitate towards quarterbacks and running backs.
Young is an incredible player, and his contributions went a long way in destroying the Wisconsin offense on Saturday, and by the qualifications of the Heisman, which is supposed to go to “the most outstanding player in college football”, he should be considered, and maybe should even be the favorite. That guy is terrifying and relentless. But we all know that’s not how the committee votes.
The argument that seems to win the day is that while Young might be the best football player on his team, he isn’t more valuable than his quarterback Justin Fields, which therefore means he can’t be the most outstanding player. That argument is nonsensical, because “valuable” and “outstanding” are two different standards, but valuable has basically replaced outstanding in the minds of the voters. Meaning there’s no way Young is going to win the trophy, or even be invited to New York for the ceremony.
You can't force voters to change their standards, and since they really don’t care about the “outstanding” part of the language of the award, shouldn’t we just change it to “valuable”? Seems like an easy fix. Or certainly an easier fix than attempting to change the voting standards of the media members all across the country.
Teams Still Alive For The Playoff
As always, you technically remain alive for the playoff if you are a Power 5 Team with one loss or fewer, excluding the ACC, which is so bad that it should be relegated to the FCS. (* next to the undefeated teams)
ACC: *Clemson
The Tigers beat the hell out of Boston College on Saturday night, and probably won’t play a ranked team until the playoff semifinals. All Clemson needs to do is win out against their crappy schedule to make their fifth straight playoff.
Big Ten: *Ohio State, *Penn State, *Minnesota
Wisconsin drops out of the playoff thanks to back to back losses at Illinois and Ohio State. Minnesota is 8-0, and gets their bye week before facing undefeated Penn State on November 9th, the biggest college game in Minneapolis in… decades probably. This could be a two bid conference, depending on how everything else shakes out. The Big Ten East (and probably entire conference) will be decided on November 23rd when the Nittany Lions travel to Columbus to play the Buckeyes.
Big 12: *Baylor, Oklahoma
Baylor would get in only, I think, if they win out. OU needs some help in front of them, but it won’t matter if they can’t run the table. Baylor gets both Texas and Oklahoma in Waco in November; the problem is that those games will be in back to back weeks.
SEC: *Alabama, *LSU, Georgia, Florida
The ‘Dawgs and Gators play a de facto SEC East Championship and playoff elimination game in Jacksonville this weekend. The winner of that showdown will have to win out and be 12-1 to make the playoff. Meanwhile, the aforementioned LSU-Alabama game on November 9th probably decides the SEC West, but doesn’t technically eliminate the loser from the playoff.
Pac 12: Utah, Oregon
The Pac 12 wants both these teams to run the table and meet in Pac 12 Championship Game, which would guarantee that the Pac 12 champ finishes 12-1. The issue the conference is going to face is that while it’s definitely deeper than the Big 12, is the committee going to think that the winner of this league is better than an 11-1 Penn State/Ohio State team? An 11-1 LSU/Alabama team? A 12-1 Oklahoma team? They’ll probably need more chaos than Oklahoma needs to be able to sneak in.
My Top 4
1.      Ohio State
The Buckeyes are the most complete team in the country. Fantastic offense, great defense. The one flaw in the resume is that they haven’t played a good team on the road yet.
2.      LSU
This is the best offense the Tigers have probably ever had. This is the year for Coach O to beat Saban.
3.      Alabama
The Tide defense is the worst Saban has had since 2007, but he’s the best coach in the country, armed with probably the best passing offense he’s ever had.
4.      Penn State
I’ll throw the Nittany Lions here for now, but I’ll be very interested to see what happens when they go to Minneapolis in two weeks.

Saturday, October 26, 2019

The Vols Break Muschamp's Streak Thanks To Their Seniors

Well, that was unexpected! Not the Vol victory of course, but more so just how dominant they were, particularly in the second half where they held the Gamecocks scoreless in what was the best defensive performance from this program in years.
The sense of dread that I’ve felt a million times watching Tennessee was there from the opening play of the game when South Carolina went 75 yards for a TD. “Holy crap” I thought. “Not again. This is how its going to be today? They're going to lose to Will 'Beer Gut' Muschamp again? Again???” But then the Vols rallied, thanks in large part to their seniors, specifically Jauan Jennings, Marquez Callaway, Daniel Bituli, and Darrell Taylor. Hell, even the quarterbacks played well!
I’ve given Jennings crap for his bad drops and some of the things he’s done this season after he declared himself “team leader” before the BYU game, but that guy has been the most consistent offensive player on the roster, and oftentimes the only receiver that's been able to get open. He's showed up to play every week and has completely bought into Jeremy Pruitt's message. Strange journey for a guy who was literally kicked off the team only two years ago. He had 7 catches, 174 yards, two touchdowns (including one where he got annihilated and still held onto the ball), and even made some good plays out of the wildcat. Probably his best game as a Vol.
I mentioned on Friday about how disappointing Marquez Callaway had been throughout his career, based on how spectacularly it had began against Georgia Tech back in 2017. So of course he would run a punt back for a touchdown and catch another for a 55 yard score today. I expected we’d be seeing a ton of these from Callaway in his career; at least he’s producing them now.
Bituli was incredible as well. That guy has been a tackling machine ever since he strapped his helmet on in Knoxville, and his 15 takedowns tonight, in addition to his blocked punt and recovery in the end zone for a touchdown, should earn him SEC Defensive Player of the Week honors.
Taylor had a bad personal foul against Alabama last week, but he whipped all the tackles on South Carolina tonight on his way to two sacks and a key pass deflection on a Gamecock 4th down try. Unfortunately, he limped off the field in the fourth quarter, and to this point, there is no update on his status. Hopefully he’ll be back sometime this season, at the very least for their three remaining conference games.
Let’s give the quarterbacks, specifically Jarrett Guarantano, some credit too. JG was probably the most hated Vol by the fanbase that I can remember, but he was really good tonight. His 11 completions went for 229 yards, and his second TD pass to Jennings made it to him because he was willing to stand in there and get clobbered by a Gamecock rusher. Unfortunately that hit ended his night, but JT Shrout was impressive too and found Callaway on the next possession for that 55 yard bomb.
The fact that Guarantano was able to play as well as he did, despite rumors that he'd be booed the second he took the field, just goes to show how mentally tough that guy is. We already knew he had it physically; otherwise he wouldn't have been able to stand behind that wet paper bag line for the last few years. But tonight was really great for him. 
Speaking of the offensive line, they played probably their best game all season as a unit tonight. The fact that Tennessee was able to throw the ball down the field is based in large part on the ability of that much maligned O-Line to be able to hold blocks for longer than a half a second.
This has been a completely different team since the bye week; there’s been a visible fire and intensity from them this month that they didn't have before. Guys are flying around on defense, their jawing with the opposition, and they no longer look confused about their assignments. Tonight’s offense was the first time they actually looked like what we thought this team would be when they hired Jim Chaney before the year. I’ve been pretty critical of Jeremy Pruitt for a lot of things this season, but you have to give him a lot of credit for what he’s been able to do with this team after their disastrous start to the season. If anything, the team seems to have bought in more as the season has gone on, and that’s a testament to the job that Pruitt has done.
It’s really nice to have the Muschamp monkey off this program’s back. The fact that he and his Natty Light gut were 7-0 against the Vols was the most embarrassing thing about Tennessee, other than that they’ve lost to Alabama 13 straight times. Hopefully they’ll find a way to kill that monkey too. The sooner, the better.
There’s still a long way to go for this program to get back to where we all want it to be, but tonight was another “brick” in getting this thing turned around. Ultimately Pruitt’s fate will be decided on how he does against the teams Vol fans really want to beat; Florida, Georgia, and Alabama. But for now, he can breathe a bit easier knowing he’s a step closer to bowl eligibility, which would be a nice surprise for anyone who was rooting for this team after the 0-2 start.

Friday, October 25, 2019

Can The Vols Finally Beat Will Muschamp? Plus, Week 9 College Football Picks

Jeremy Pruitt seems to be back in the good graces of the Tennessee fanbase again. After facing levels of condemnation in September that rivaled the end of the Butch Jones tenure, he’s managed to stabilize things on Rocky Top the last three weeks, thanks to the team’s performance against Georgia, Mississippi State, and Alabama. Never mind the fact that the Vols have been outscored 88-47 in those three games, the fanbase is desperate and willing to buy back in, as the thought of admitting that the program has whiffed on four straight coaching hires, and thus must start fresh with someone else is daunting, and brings about even more levels of uncertainty.
Pruitt helped himself with a certain segment of the fanbase with his… antics on the sidelines last week against Alabama. Some fans ate up the fact that he ripped the officiating to the Vol Radio Network at halftime, and that he let the poor calls influence his behavior so profoundly that he looked like a bald 16 year old hopped up on too many Red Bulls for most of the game. Some fans even loved the fact that he jerked Jarrett Guarantano’s facemask after JG screwed up the 4th and goal with an audibled at the line quarterback sneak that led to a 100 yard fumble return for a TD and killed Tennessee's last chance at a comeback.
“Hell yeah!” they said. “That’s how I used to be coached, and by golly, it worked!” Or, “You’re PC nonsense if you have a problem with that kind of coaching!” Or, “Pat Summitt used to coach ‘em hard! Look at this picture!” Or, “Look at this recruit's father! He said that Pruitt could put his hands on his son! That means it’s fine!” Great. Let’s just ignore the fact that if your boss put his hands on you at your job, you’d want to fight him. Or, alternatively, if Guarantano thought that Pruitt had screwed something up, would it be ok for him to lay hands on Pruitt? It wouldn't be? Of course not. Why is it “PC” or “radical” to suggest that two adults shouldn’t lay hands on each other in anger?
Does Nick Saban “coach his guys hard”? You bet. Does Nick Saban ever put his hands on players? Not that I’ve ever seen. You know why? Because its not appropriate. There’s a difference between getting in a guys face and giving him a piece of your mind, and then doing that while also putting your hands on him. I don’t think Pruitt should be fired for this, or even suspended, or even severely reprimanded, but come on, its unacceptable.
I don’t want to spend all day on this stuff because I already wrote about this on Saturday night, but Pruitt does need to find a way to calm himself down on the sidelines and not lose his cool when the calls don’t go his way. He took himself out of the game on Saturday because he thought the officials were jobbing him. You can hate the calls all you want, and some of them weren’t great, and it’s fine to voice your displeasure, but you can’t allow yourself to be consumed by your rage at the officials either. The head coach is the leader of the team and has a duty to his staff and players to keep himself composed on the sidelines as much as humanly possible. Going to your local radio network and ripping the officials at halftime is far from that.
In other news, the Vols picked up a trio of commitments this week from Memphis linebackers Bryson Eason, Martavius French, and Tamarion McDonald, who are all teammates at Whitehaven. French and McDonald decommitted from Arkansas and Mississippi State a couple of days prior and decided to stay in state.
 The high school talent in Tennessee is probably the best it’s ever been, thanks to the population booms in the metro areas of Nashville and Memphis, and it’s a good sign that Pruitt was able get three 4 star instate guys to come wear orange. Every coach that’s come through Knoxville has talked about putting up a fence around the state, and they’ve accomplished that to varying degrees. The present day would be the best time in the history of the prograrm to actually make that a reality.
Of course, there’s not a Tennessee coach in recent memory that has recruited poorly. Phillip Fulmer was an ace recruiter (at least early on) and built his program by getting players from all over the country, particularly in Georgia and South Carolina. Lane Kiffin had a fantastic class in his lone recruiting period; his problem was that he bolted after one year and that almost all of his guys transferred or got in trouble. Derek Dooley was probably the worst recruiter in the modern history of the program, but even he was able to get studs and NFL players on campus. Butch Jones had monster teams in 2015 and 2016 that were loaded with NFL guys he had recruited. The point is, getting four and five star guys in Knoxville has never been a problem; what’s screwed the Vols has been what’s happened when those recruits show up to campus. Talent is obviously important in the making of football players, but the second step is harnessing that talent and maximizing it on the field within the team concept. The best programs have very few whiffs in the recruiting process; they have even fewer whiffs once those players show up on campus.
Is Pruitt going to be able to maximize the talent he recruits? Unclear at this point. If he’s going to be a success, he’ll need to. But at least he’s landing guys.
In regards to South Carolina on Saturday, I mean, if JG is going to be the starter (and it looks that way with Brian Maurer out with a concussion), good luck. That guy is damaged goods at this point, and if he had any confidence left, it was probably all taken away this week when Pruitt got asked during a media appearance about his opinion on the fans in Neyland booing JG when he takes the field.
I’m not really a big “boo the guy on the team you’re rooting for” guy, though if fans want to, that’s their prerogative. I was at the game in 2011 for Matt Simms’s senior night, and when he came out to be introduced with the rest of his graduating class, he got booed by a pretty good chunk of the stadium. I get it, he was a pretty bad Vol quarterback, but really?
Guarantano has been really bad this season. But don’t we want him to play well on Saturday? Everyone in that stadium is going to want to beat South Carolina; isn’t JG having a really good game one of the best ways for that to happen? 
Tennessee can’t win if they are terrified of letting him throw. He doesn’t need to throw 30+ passes for them to be victorious, but this isn’t a Mississippi State situation either where they’ll be able to get away with him passing seven times either.
Will Muschamp is 7-0 in his head coaching career against Tennessee. There’s never been a worse coach in the history of college football to start out 7-0 against a single opponent than ole Will. The Vols could’ve won all of their last six against Muschamp but instead crapped each of them away. If Jeremy Pruitt really has this thing going in the right direction, this is a game, at home, that he wins, or good lord, is at least competitive in. They should be, especially considering the fact that South Carolina doesn’t have the talent to come in there and blow them out.
Pruitt said this week that the Gamecocks had the best defensive line of any team the Vols have faced this season, but with the improvement the offensive line has shown over the last few weeks, Tennessee shouldn’t get blown off the ball and pushed around like a Derek Dooley team circa 2011. Or hell, any other Vol team the last decade-plus.
The Vol defense has improved since the mess that they were at the beginning of the season, and now rank 49th nationally in yards allowed per game. They’ve also intercepted 10 passes, tied for sixth most in the country, and will be ready for Gamecock QB and true freshman Ryan Hilinski to throw them a few. Hilinski is yet have a real stinker this season; why not on Saturday against the opportunistic Tennessee defense?
Tim Jordan has emerged as the feature back for the Vols (he had 17 carries for 94 yards in the Alabama game, compared to just 4 and 3 carries for Ty Chandler and Eric Gray), but I think the staff probably trusts all three runners to carry the ball over 15 times a game if need be. The bigger concern about this Vol offense, particularly with Guarantano, is the passing game. The only consistent receiving threat in 2019 has been Jauan Jennings, but this is also the same guy who has deflected two passes off his own hands and into the waiting arms of defensive backs this season. Outside of Jennings, no Vol had more than two catches last week. Marquez Callaway is probably the most disappointing Tennessee skill guy since…. I don’t even know who. Bryce Brown? The guy came out like Randy Moss two years ago against Georgia Tech and has made exactly one big play in 20+ games since then, his long TD catch on a double move against Georgia. He had 1 catch for 13 yards last week. How can he not get open consistently? Jauan Jennings's 40 time is probably slower than Bubba from Bulls Gap who sits on his couch and eats popcorn, Cheetos, and Mt. Dew for dinner every night, and yet, he finds a way to get open 10-12 times a game. Dominic Wood-Anderson is supposedly a super athlete, but outside of Guarantano missing him for what would’ve been a long TD against Florida, have you ever expected him to make a play at any time during a game? Tyler Byrd had three catches and a long TD against Mississppi State, but was so irrelevant in the Alabama game that I actually thought he stole Harry Potter’s Invisibility Cloak.
The counter to all of that of course is that the quarterback play has been so bad in Knoxville that even if any of these guys were good, we’d have no way of knowing it because Guarantano has taken most of the snaps and has been one of the worst quarterbacks in school history. A lot of Saturday is going to be riding on Guarantano, which should make everyone wearing orange nervous.
If Tennessee loses, they’ll have to win out to finish 6-6 and be bowl eligible. From 1981-2004, the Vols made a bowl game every year except for one. In the 14 seasons since then, they’ve only played in seven of them. The last head coach to win the SEC without going to a bowl game in his first two seasons was… Johnny Majors in 1990, strangely enough, who actually went 5-5-1 in his second year, or .500. The problem for Pruitt is that its now easier than ever to make a bowl game, as there are 40 of these suckers every year and you don’t even have to have a winning record to go. Not making one for back to back seasons as a coach at Tennessee is a travesty, no matter how “bare” the cupboard was when he took over.
I want Pruitt to be successful. I do. Gotta win this week.
Prediction: Tennessee (gulp)
Now, onto the rest of the week…
#13 Wisconsin at #3 Ohio State
Saturday’s Big Noon Kickoff took a bit of a hit last week when Wisconsin Butch’d the hell out of the Illinois game, blowing a nine point fourth quarter lead and losing a game they were favored in by 30.5 points on a last second field goal. Ohio State-Wisconsin was looking like one of the best games in the country this season; now... eh?
The Badgers have the number 1 ranked defense in the country but haven’t played an offense anywhere close to the level of what the Buckeyes have. Ohio State ranks first in the Big Ten in yards and points per game; the best conference offense the Badgers have faced is Michigan, who ranks 9th in yards per game and 8th in points per game. Ohio State’s defense is no slouch either; they rank second in both yards allowed and points per game allowed. Plus, they've allowed the fewest plays of 30+ yards in the entire country.
The Buckeyes are favored by 14.5 points this week, and I’m going to go ahead and lock them in as the Bet The Mortgage Pick of the Week. We’re 3-1 on those so far this season thanks the Oklahoma’s destruction of West Virginia last week. Ohio State has won every game by at least 24 points and may be the best team in the country. I don’t see a way for the Badgers to keep this within three touchdowns. 
This game is the classic example of the Big Ten West team that beats up on their crappy schedule, only to play a big boy from the East who has better athletes, which leads to them getting run off the field. Why do you think a team from the Western Division hasn’t won the conference since the Badgers did in 2012 (a year that the undefeated Buckeyes were ineligible for the conference championship due to NCAA violations, by the way)? Because the Western Division is the JV of the Big Ten. Ohio State and Penn State have been the best teams in the conference the last three-plus years, and whoever wins their showdown in late November is going to be the Big Ten Champ, just like they were the last three years.
Tough start for the Big Noon Kickoff on Fox by the way. They launched this new, huge pregame show on Saturdays to compete with College Gameday, but I haven’t found myself flipping over there once this season. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that Urban Meyer is on TV and working there like the whole, “I had an assistant coach who was smacking his wife around, and I knew about it but did nothing except keep him employed” thing never happened. He’s going to kick ass at USC whenever he takes that job next year, but that dude is a used car salesman.
And then there’s the games at noon, which have mostly been drubbings or on-paper yawn fests. Oklahoma-Texas is basically the only game that lived up to the billing, and even that was a two touchdown game late in the fourth quarter. Saturday is going to be a Buckeye demolition, and the choices for next week are an abominable. I mean, they could literally get TCU-Oklahoma State on November 2nd. That’s great for ESPN 2 at 3:30, but for your marquee game of the day? For the BIG NOON KICKOFF? Yikes.
Prediction: Ohio State
#6 Penn State at Michigan State
Sparty hasn’t played since they got drubbed by Wisconsin 38-0 on October 12. They’ve scored 17 points total against the three best teams they’ve played (Ohio State, Wisconsin, Arizona State), and only have two wins against Power 5 teams in 2019, Indiana and Northwestern (who is now 1-5). Ah, the stalwarts of the Big Ten!
Meanwhile, Penn State is undefeated and coming off an almost choke job against Michigan, a game they led 21-0 at halftime but only won 28-21. The Wolverines were a dropped end zone pass on fourth down late in the game from tying it and potentially sending it to overtime.
Is all the shine gone from Mark Dantonio? Since the Spartans got shut out in the playoff against Alabama in 2015, they’ve gone a paltry 24-21 and 15-16 in the Big Ten. The offense is a disaster, Dantonio is as grumpy as ever, and all the juice in the program feels like its gone. Dantonio isn’t getting any younger either; he’s 63 and has already had some health problems.
The decline in East Lansing is starting to feel eerily similar to the end of Frank Beamer at Virginia Tech. Dantonio hasn’t been as successful as Beamer was, but they were both great coaches who seemed to lose it overnight. Beamer won ten games or more every year from 2004-2011, and then out of nowhere dropped to a measly 29-23 in his last four seasons from 2012-2015, which led to his retirement. Beamer Ball died in those four years, and Virginia Tech became a shell of the program that they were, a dip they still haven’t quite recovered from. This is Dantonio’s fourth year since his last Big Ten title. Michigan State was never an offensive powerhouse with him in charge, but they’ve been atrocious the last year and half. They don't have a quarterback, and they really struggle to move the ball against good teams. It's far from the program that won three Big Ten Titles from 2010-2015.
Penn State is going to go to East Lansing and win easily.
Prediction: Penn State
#8 Notre Dame at #19 Michigan
There was a conversation I saw this week between Fox’s Joel Klatt and Colin Cowherd about Michigan’s place in the history of college football and the job that Jim Harbaugh has done. I linked it above if you're interested in watching it. 
I normally enjoy those two, but I was flabbergasted at the excuses they were making for Harbaugh. Does Jim have naked pictures of them? Acting like Michigan is not on the same level as Ohio State historically is laughable. Do they realize that Michigan is the all time winningest program in the history the sport? Or that the Wolverines lead the all time series between them and Ohio State 58-50-6?
Here are a few "highlights" of the discussion....
“Bo Schembechler didn’t win a national championship at Michigan”. Yeah, because Bo was terrible in bowl games. Does that mean that Michigan didn’t have the talent to win a national title with Bo multiple times? Bo finished in the top ten every year from 1969-1978, and six more times after that between 1979 and 1989. Plus, he captured at least a share of the Big Ten title 13 times and played in ten Rose Bowls. Come on. That’s a dumb talking point. If Bo takes care of business in a few bowl games, he wins a national title, maybe even a couple. Acting like he wasn't in position almost every year to do that is disingenuous.
“Ohio State has a lot more 11 win seasons than Michigan”. Another dumb argument. The Buckeyes did that all seven years with Urban Meyer, but they happened to get Urban and peak in the era of college football where the best teams play 14 games a year, meaning it was easier for Ohio State to accrue more 11 win seasons, because they had more chances to win games. Michigan's program hasn't been on the top of it's game in the 14 game era of college football. In fact, Bo only played more than 12 games once in his entire coaching career. One of the reasons Harbaugh has never won 11 games at Michigan is because his teams have never been good enough to play in 14 games. He’s had two opportunities to win 11 games in a 13 game season, but lost his bowl game both times. He could get a 14th game (and thus another chance to win an 11th game) if he could actually win his division for once.
“Jim Harbaugh has restored Michigan to their historical averages”. You aren’t paying Jim Harbaugh $7 million to get 9 wins a year and go 0-4 (about to be 0-5) against Ohio State and not win his division, let alone the conference, for five straight years. Heading into 2019, Ohio State has 837 wins over 123 seasons of football, or an average of 6.8 wins per year. Michigan, in 140 seasons of football, has 953 wins and has averaged… 6.8 wins per season. These are the same programs, and the fact that Michigan has been poor recently doesn’t mean that the expectations should all the sudden be vastly lower in Ann Arbor.
Harbaugh has been a disappointment any way you slice it. Bo Schembechler went 11-9-1 against Ohio State. Harbaugh is going to be 0-5 after Thanksgiving. Bo never went more than three years between conference championships; Harbaugh has never won a conference championship anywhere and is on his way to being 0 for 5 at Michigan. He doesn’t have to be Nick Saban to be a success in Ann Arbor, but what he’s been for what he’s being paid isn’t acceptable either.
Of course, the Wolverines are kind of stuck with him also, not only from a financial perspective, but also from a relevance point of view. Let’s say that some rich Michigan booster says screw it, we’re firing this guy at the end of the year, or Harbaugh gets his feelings hurt and jumps to the NFL. Who do you hire then? And are you sure that guy is an upgrade? Sure, they probably wouldn’t shell out $7 million for whoever they replace him with, which will help financially, but this program hired Rich Rodriguez and Brady Hoke between Lloyd Carr and Harbaugh, and the program fell off the side of a cliff during those two tenures. Harbaugh doesn’t beat the programs the Michigan fans want to beat, but at least he wins 9 games a year and creates buzz. You never want to fire/lose a coach and then bring in a guy who isn’t an upgrade (ask Tennessee). Who is the definite improvement out there? And while there very well may be, what if you don’t hire him? Would you rather be 9-3 every year and lose to Ohio State, but make a bowl game and finished ranked, or go 6-6 or 5-7 every year and never beat anyone? That’s the boat Tennessee is in and I can assure you it sucks. Of course, Tennessee was in the Harbaugh boat with Fulmer at the end and were a pretty unhappy program. Then they fired him and then started whiffing on his replacements. That’s pretty awful too. The Wolverines kind of feel trapped here.
In regards to Saturday’s home game against Notre Dame, I think its going to be another tough game for the Michigan offense. The Irish have allowed more than 23 points only once this season, and will have had an extra week prepare for whatever the limited Wolverine offense can throw at them. I think this will probably be a low scoring game because the Irish have a hard time running the ball against the better defenses they’ve played (they only rushed for 46 yards against Georgia), but I like ND’s Ian Book much more than Michigan’s Shea Patterson, who is only completing 57.4% of his throws this season. Yikes.
Prediction: Notre Dame
#9 Auburn at #2 LSU
LSU has won 9 of the last 12 in this rivalry, and hasn’t lost to Auburn in Baton Rouge since 1999. I’ve said all year that Auburn was going to be a three or four loss team, despite how good they looked earlier in the season, and they’ll pick up loss number 2 somewhere around 7 o’clock Eastern Time. The shine is gone from Bo Nix a little bit, but I guess that’s what happens when you stop getting lucky with launching 12 jump balls a game. 
I went through the stats with LSU’s offense two weeks ago, but they’re in the top five in the country in every relevant statistical category, which is still shocking coming from a team coached by Ed Orgeron, whose natural tendency would’ve been to revert to the Les Miles “run into the line of scrimmage and fall down” offense. Their offensive coordinator Steve Ensminger deserves a lot of credit for transitioning that side of the ball into a clever, 21st century attack, something that wasn’t on anyone’s radar before the year started. I certainly never expected Joe Burrow to be this good; he looked like your typical mediocre college quarterback last season; now, he could be a first round draft pick, and, depending on if they beat Alabama, win the SEC, and make the playoff, the Heisman Trophy winner. Strange.
LSU will win by ten points at least, but they have higher goals than just winning tomorrow. I’ve written this a million times, and I’ll continue to again: Ed Orgeron is probably never going to beat Alabama and Saban, but if there was ever a year for him to do it, it would be this season. Everything is lined up for him, and even Tua is injured now and might not be 100% when these two teams play on November 9.
Prediction: LSU
Enjoy football this weekend, you deserve it.

Saturday, October 19, 2019

Quarterback Play Killed The Vols, Not The Officiating

I was sitting in bed staring at my computer screen for five minutes, unsure of exactly what I should be saying about what happened tonight. What a strange game. It felt like the Vols were getting dominated, only they were in the game in the fourth quarter, except no one really believed that JG was going to be able to pull it off, but Tua was out of the game… Just a weird night.
There was a lot I liked about how Tennessee played tonight, and a ton I hated. The same goes for Jeremy Pruitt.
I’ve been saying for the past few weeks that this program was just a quarterback away from being able to compete in conference play week to week. There’s never been more evidence for that being true than tonight. Brian Maurer turned a Tua pick into a touchdown and a tie game and Vol Nation was flying high. Then he got knocked out of the game and it became the JG show again. Gulp.
The most amazing thing about tonight was that Vols were still able to move the ball despite JG’s ineptitude. Guarantano finished 7/16 for 55 yards and missed a wide open Jauan Jennings for a TD in the first half, among other mistakes, which included the 100 yard fumble return on the QB sneak that he apparently checked to at the line of scrimmage, instead of the run play that the coaching staff wanted. The strangest thing about this Tennessee season has been the complete evaporation of JG’s accuracy. He’s never been a great quarterback, but at least the guy could put the ball on receivers last season if he was given time. Now he couldn’t hit General Neyland’s statue if he was standing right beside it.
Of course, it wasn’t all JG’s fault. Tennessee had far too many penalties (they had three on three different offensive lineman on one play), including Darrell Taylor’s stupid personal foul that extended an Alabama drive when the Vols had just forced a three and out. Was that a ticky tack call? Sure. Should Taylor be shoving Tide quarterback Mac Jones down to help himself get up? Of course not. Why give the officials an opportunity to blow the whistle if you don’t have to? Alabama turned that possession into points and extended their lead to 28-13. Get off the field there and it’s 21-13 and you have the ball near midfield after the Tide punt with a chance to tie the game.
And don’t give me the “refs screwed us” crap either. Is it the ref’s fault that Daniel Bituli dove head first at Jerry Jeudy and speared him? I don't like the targeting rule but that one was pretty textbook. Maurer got clocked, but that hit looked like it was within the bounds of the rules. Jauan Jennings maybe got interfered with in the endzone, but every Vol fan would’ve been bellyaching if a Tennessee player got flagged in that situation. The worst thing that happened was that there was a weird stoppage before a Vol trick play that is still unexplained. 
The fact is, Tennessee committed dumb penalties all night and got flagged for them, and those mistakes were one of the biggest reasons they lost tonight. They need to stop shooting themselves in the foot with crap like that. Even Pruitt was whining to the Vol Radio Network at halftime about the officiating. Yeah Coach, because that’s exactly what you should be focused on when you’re going into halftime only down 11 against the number 1 team in the country. Not improving upon your own mistakes, but blaming someone else. Tennessee lost by three touchdowns tonight because Alabama was the better team, not because the zebras maybe blew a few calls.
Pruitt was out of control tonight on the sidelines too which was weird and almost unbecoming. Obviously everything culminated with him jerking Guarantano’s facemask after the QB sneak fumble, but he was a maniac for long stretches, blessing out the officials and just overall losing his mind. I’m not going to kill him for the JG facemask thing, but we’re not in the 1954 Junction Boys era of football where you can put your hands on someone because they’re an idiot. If your boss grabbed you like that at your job you’d probably want to fight them. So why was it okay for Pruitt to do it? It wasn't. Of course, you can’t spend large portions of the game bitching at the officials either, and Pruitt seemed almost as preoccupied with that as he did coaching the team. Whatever happened to, “If at first the game – or the breaks – go against you, don’t let up… put on more steam”? The only steam that came from Tennessee tonight was from Pruitt’s ears after he screamed at the officials for the 100th time.
Even with all the negatives, there was a lot to like about how the Vols played tonight. The offensive line wasn’t a train wreck, and the defense had their moments, even if their only chance to stop Tua was to intercept him or knock him out with a high ankle sprain. Again, this team is really just a quarterback away from being 8-4 or 9-3 and building towards what we all want this program to be again. This cupboard was never as bare as everyone made it out to be.
If Tennessee had Florida QB Kyle Trask tonight under center, do you think the score would’ve been 35-13, or do you think the Vols would’ve lost by single digits or maybe even won? The game was there for them tonight, and that was with them getting one of the worst quarterback performances in school history. What if they had above average quarterback play instead?
There’s going to be a lot of pressure on freshman Harrison Bailey next year to be the guy for them at quarterback. I’m not convinced that Brian Maurer can stay healthy, as he’s already been knocked out of the last three games and may not see the field again this year due to his multiple concussions. It’s all on Bailey's shoulders. Does he have it in him? If not, Tennessee will have another year like this one, where they’re underwhelming through seven games and everyone is wondering aloud about Pruitt’s job security.

Friday, October 18, 2019

The "Third Saturday In October" Blues; Plus, Week 8 College Football Picks

It’s Tennessee-Alabama week, the “Third Saturday in October”, or as it’s been known around the South the last few years, 42-10. The Tide are on their longest winning streak (12 straight!) in the history of this rivalry, and only 2 of those twelve have been decided by single digits. ‘Bama has scored over 40 points seven times during the streak, while the Vols have only managed 38 points total in the last three meetings.
I always hear from my Angry Old Man how painful it was from 1971-1981, when Alabama beat the Vols every year and it just never felt like Tennessee was going to get over that hump and win that game. Vol fans of that age remember that pain well. The sad thing is that the Alabama streak is longer now than it was then, and it’s going to get even longer this weekend.
October 21, 2006 was the last time Tennessee left this rivalry victorious. The Prestige was the number 1 movie at the box office that weekend, and SexyBack by Justin Timberlake was the number 1 song in the country. The Friday Night Lights TV show had just premiered on NBC earlier in the month, Twitter was in its infancy, George W. Bush was still president (and would be for two more years), and Keeping Up With The Kardashians was still a year away from launching.
I was 13 years old, weighed 80 pounds soaking wet, and had about as much success with women as the Captain of the Chess Club did. Now, I’m married and have a beer gut. See, it was a long time ago!
It’s been far too long since this “rivalry” was competitive. And the most sad thing is that there’s no end in sight to the Tide dominance. Saban looks entrenched at Alabama for the foreseeable future, Tennessee is awful and doesn’t have the right quarterback (Harrison Bailey next year??), and no one is 100% if the Vols have the right football coach. Okay, maybe I’m like 90% sure that they don’t. But still. Fine, it’s up in the air.
I’ll say this, if South Carolina can go to Georgia, be relegated to their third string quarterback after halftime, score one offensive touchdown, get shut out in the second half, miss two game-winning kicks, and still win, then why the hell can’t Tennessee go to Tuscaloosa and at least make it a game? Sure, I get it, Alabama is probably a bit better than Georgia, and let’s be honest, South Carolina winning that game was fluky as hell and probably happens one in a hundred times, but wouldn’t it be nice if Tennessee, I don’t know, exceeded expectations once?
When the Vols went there and lost by five in 2015, it made sense because that Tennessee team was ridiculously talented and loaded with NFL guys. The same thing goes for the 2009 Vols that went to Tuscaloosa and lost on a blocked field goal at the end of the game. When was the last time Tennessee won a game they weren’t supposed to? Hell, when was the last time they were in a game until the end that they weren’t supposed to be in? I’m racking my brain here trying to think of the last time. Last year against Auburn? No, because the Vols were coming off their bye week and that Tiger team wasn’t that good (they ended the year with five losses). Last year against Kentucky doesn’t qualify either because the Vols were at home and they’re the big brother in that “rivalry”. 2017 was a disaster, and they were loaded with talent in 2016 and 2015. Hell, maybe it was the 2014 Alabama game, in Knoxville, when Josh Dobbs came in and helped the Vols outscore the Tide in the second half on their way to a 34-20 loss. And even that was a 14 point game.
But still, isn’t this program due for something fluky? A game where it’s unexplainable but everything goes their way? Teams can move the ball on that Alabama defense. The Tide haven’t run the ball this season like a traditional Saban offense (they’re only 8th in the SEC in rush yards per game). They’re super Tua-reliant… what if he has a bad game? Sails a few throws?
Things are so desperate in Knoxville that Pruitt joked at his Monday presser about just onside kicking every time. If Brian Maurer is out with a concussion, it's another Jarrett Guarantano game, and that could get frightening quickly. Of course, I'm not THAT confident in Maurer either.
Listen, I know it’s going to be a slaughter. A clobbering. A shellacking. An embarrassment. Jeremy Pruitt is going to do his postgame presser sometime after midnight central time, and he’s going to talk about the same things as always. About how they didn’t execute well enough, but how they fought for sixty minutes. About how they need to improve. Along the way, he’ll butcher the English language with regularity, and he’ll awkwardly sip a bottle of water and think to himself “Damn, can I get my job back with Saban, or am I going to be carrying coffee to Butch Jones as his analyst to Saban’s analyst in two years?” Yadda yadda yadda. It’s the same tired script over and over again, from the head coach at the podium to the team’s performance on fall Saturdays.
When they lose tomorrow, I’m not going to kill Jeremy Pruitt. I’ll just be disappointed, and resigned to the fact that this is the program I root for now.
At least we have this:
Now, onto the rest of the slate…
#4 Ohio State at Northwestern (Friday)
This one is for those of you who are stuck at home tonight polishing off a case of Naturdays and want to watch men running into each other at full speed to help sober you up. I don’t think that works by the way.
The Buckeyes have won every game this season by at least 24 points, and had their bye last week. Meanwhile, Northwestern is having their worst season in years; they’re 1-4 and have yet to beat a Power 5 opponent. The only chance of this game being competitive is if the Wildcats catch Ohio State napping/looking forward to their home showdown next week against Wisconsin. Otherwise, the Buckeyes will win by 40 and have their starters out by halftime.
Prediction: Ohio State
West Virginia at #6 Oklahoma
Fox’s “Big Noon Kickoff” is an on paper flop for the fifth time in 8 weeks, and it also brings us our “Bet the Mortgage Pick of the Week” for Week 8. OU is favored by only 33.5… I’m sorry, but how do they not win this one by six touchdowns? The Sooners have an improved defense (41st in yards allowed and 31st in points allowed), and have the number 1 offense in the country in terms of yards per game. They’re third in points scored per game, fifth in passing yards per game, and third in rushing yards per game. Meanwhile, West Virginia ranks 114th in the country in total yards and 97th in the nation in points per game. You’re not going to believe this, but their defense sucks too, ranking 87th in rushing yards allowed per game and 94th in points allowed per game. Seriously, why doesn’t this game finish 62-10? Oh, I know how, the Oklahoma sideline gets struck by a meteor right before kickoff.
Prediction: Oklahoma
#9 Florida at South Carolina
The Gamecocks were a nice story last week, and they pulled off the wildest upset of the season, but come on, their offense is atrocious without quarterbacks Jake Bentley and Ryan Hilinski, and if Georgia didn’t screw up so badly in every key moment, South Carolina loses and no one is even thinking twice about this game. Hell, frankly, they aren’t now. Georgia choked so badly last week that South Carolina kept trying to give them the game AND they still couldn’t take it. Both teams were treating last week’s game like the winner had to chug a boiling hot Natty Light. Eventually Will Muschamp’s sweaty fat beer gut got thirsty enough and he decided that he wanted to win.
Florida has answered all the questions that anyone had about them with their performances the last two weeks, and Kyle Trask has been one of the better quarterbacks in the SEC since he took over the starting job from Feleipe Franks (comeback win against Kentucky, blowout win over Tennessee, double digit win against Auburn, over 300 passing yards against LSU). Of course, anyone who replaced Franks would look competent. They could’ve thrown my Angry Old Man and his Chad Pennington noodle arm out there and the Gators would’ve been massively improved, as long as his Cheeto-stained fingers could've gripped the ball.
Florida goes into South Carolina and wins comfortably.
Prediction: Florida
#2 LSU at Mississippi State
Great, this is our SEC Game of the Week on CBS. Mississippi State is so bad that Tennessee kicked their ass last week. I can’t imagine a scenario where the Joe Burrow-led offense doesn’t put up 50+ on the Bulldogs. Oh wait, I’ve already done a joke similar to this earlier. Yeah, the meteor thing. Other than that, it’s a blowout.
Prediction: LSU
#12 Oregon at #25 Washington
Ah, something compelling. It’s a shame that Fox is spending all their time hyping up their noon kickoffs (and placing their lead announcers there) because this is arguably the game of the week in the country outside of Michigan-Penn State. Obviously you can’t have a West Coast game at noon eastern, but what would be wrong with hyping this game up and sending Gus Johnson and Joel Klatt here? I promise you this is going to be way better than whatever crap fest performance West Virginia brings to Norman.
The Pac 12 really needs Oregon to win tomorrow to help keep their conference's playoff hopes alive, but I’m not optimistic about their chances. Both teams have fantastic, NFL quarterbacks in Oregon’s Justin Herbert and Washington’s Jacob Eason, but the weather forecast in Seattle calls for temperatures in the low 50s with rain, which could hamper the offensive output of these two.
Washington is already out of the playoff hunt with two losses. If Justin Herbert is going to be a legend at Oregon, and a guy that NFL teams are seriously considering taking #1 overall, then this game, against a good but not great Washington team, is a one he has to go win. Of course, I have no belief in the Ducks in a big spot, particularly not the Mario Cristobal Ducks, who have lost every close game they’ve been in, oftentimes late, due to sloppy execution and soul crushing mistakes. I could foresee Oregon having a couple of bad red zone turnovers, and a late Washington TD drive where they convert a few third and longs. It’s up to the Ducks to change the narrative. We’ll see if Herbert has the goods.
Prediction: Washington
Kentucky at #10 Georgia
Georgia spent the entire week getting ripped/made fun of for being choking ‘Dawgs. Hell, I’ve made fun of them in writing today. If Kirby Smart is a good coach (and from everything we’ve seen so far, he is), I can’t envision them being flat or unprepared again this season. They certainly won’t lose another game like last weekend for a long time. If anything, they’ll be extra motivated this week to come out and make a statement, in hopes of shutting everyone up. Remember, Georgia still controls their own destiny in the conference and in the playoff. All they have to do is win out. They’ve faced worse adversity than this during Smart’s tenure and been able to bounce back. Plus, Kentucky is wretched.
Prediction: Georgia
#17 Arizona State at #13 Utah
This is a yearly gripe for me, but as the Pac 12, how the hell do you allow what is arguably the most important game in one of your divisions to be relegated to the Pac 12 Network, a channel that a large majority of Americans don’t have? Oregon-Washington is maybe the most important game in the Pac 12 North, and they found a way to get it on Fox. How the hell is this not at least a #Pac12AfterDark game on either ESPN or FS1? Someone in the Pac 12 offices needs to be fired. This is an atrocity.
The winner here keeps a single defeat in their conference loss column and has the inside track to the Pac 12 Championship Game (yes, yes, I know USC and Arizona only have one conference loss as well. Counter point: USC is terrible and coached by high school janitor, while Arizona lost by 24 to Washington at home last week and their conference wins are over Colorado and UCLA. Not exactly the top of the league there).
I’m so riled up about this stupid Pac 12 Network garbage that I can’t think coherently about this game. Herm Edwards has done a nice job at Arizona State, far better than anyone expected him to do, considering pretty much everyone ripped the hire at the time when it happened. Wait a second, I did that too.
However, I think Saturday is going to be too tough for them. If Utah is as good as everyone said they were going to be in the preseason, this is a game they should win.
Prediction: Utah
Florida State at Wake Forest
You know the Seminole program has collapsed when they’re underdogs against Wake Forest. The Demon Deacons are 1.5 point favorites even with last week’s embarrassing performance where they gave up 62 points to Louisville.
I would love to spend a week at FSU’s practices and see what they’re like. Does Willie Taggart actually do any coaching or preparation, or does he just sit in his office all day, staring blankly at his computer screen while constantly drinking from a flask? It legitimately seems like that’s what he does with how the team looks every week.
I really don’t care about this game, I just couldn’t pass up an opportunity to make fun of Willie Taggart. Don’t worry Seminole fans, you only owe him $17 million more guaranteed.
Prediction: Wake Forest
#16 Michigan at #7 Penn State
The Nittany Lions have the fourth ranked defense in terms of yards per game and the second ranked defense in terms of points allowed per game. If you’ve watched any of Michigan this year, you’ve seen them have about as much ability to score as I would posting up Shaq. Beaver Stadium is going to be electric on Saturday Night. The Wolverines are going to get run out of the building.
Another loss for Harbaugh against a rival. Don't worry, he's only 2-157 in those games.
Prediction: Penn State
Enjoy football this weekend, you deserve it!