Monday, December 9, 2019

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

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

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