Howdy! Ready for another crazy weekend of college football? After the theatrics and craziness of Week Four, we’re about to head into a set of huge match-ups between ranked teams and we can’t wait. We went 3-2 on our picks, which wasn’t totally our fault. But before we do anything else, we have some unfinished business to take care of.
We Told You So
We warned you. We don’t pick Tennessee-Florida for a reason, even though we couldn’t weasel out of picking at our other gig. But we did mention last week that:
When the Volunteers and Gators take the field on Saturday, there’s nothing else to consider but how much these schools really hate each other. It’s our experience that the teams that don’t respond to trash talk are the ones who do their talking on the field, and the Volunteers’ relatively quiet offensive play selection to date makes us suspicious. Full disclosure: we’re one hundred percent Tennessee Volunteer and have been since birth. So we’re not picking the score or the winner, but have every expectation of saying “we told you so” on Saturday afternoon.
Turns out we were pretty dead on the money. The real Vols came out last Saturday with a come-from-behind second-half domination of the #1 ranked defense in the country that silenced UT critics all over. The trash-talking Gators slunk back to the Swamp, a chastened Jalen “Teez” Tabor having to deal with the fact that as per his request, UT’s Josh Dobbs did in fact throw right at him. Nine times as a matter of fact, including an iconic torching for a TD from converted QB Jauan Jennings. So we told you how the game was going to go down, and we told you twice that trash-talking usually backfires. Spread the word. Both are fact.
Mid-Season Coaching Fires
LSU relieved iconic head coach Les Miles and OC Cam Cameron of their duties this week, finally completing the coup d’etat that failed in Baton Rouge last fall. After they elevated Ed Orgeron to interim head coach, the expected rumors of who will be the next head honcho of the bayou began. Tom Herman, Lane Kiffin, Jimbo Fisher, and even disgraced Baylor coach Art Briles have been named as potential replacements.
Allow us to step aside for just one moment to make a promise. If LSU hires Briles and raises him to one of the top jobs in college football, we will eviscerate the university every week in this column for the two and a half years Briles manages to go without getting into trouble and fired. Bank on it, because that’s an absolute fact.
That being said…
Firing a head coach midseason never works out well, and there are recent examples at similarly storied programs that bear this out. USC’s firing of Lane Kiffin and kicking him off the school bus on the tarmac at the airport may be the funniest coach fire ever, but the program has plummeted since then into a big fat mess. Tennessee got rid of coach Phillip Fulmer midseason in 2008, which sent the proud Volunteer program into the gutter after a year of the aforementioned Kiffin followed by the epic incompetence of Derek Dooley. The program was so destroyed that it’s literally taken current coach Butch Jones years to rebuild. And now the Mad Hatter has fallen in Baton Rouge, and perma-interim-HC Orgeron has a seven-game audition to try and salvage the season and land himself the job.
Perma-interim? Oh yes. Orgeron was Kiffin’s interim HC at USC after the infamous dismissal diss. He saved the Trojans’ season, going 6-2, but was ultimately passed over for the head coaching job in favor of Steve Sarkisian, thus demonstrating that USC was still totally clueless about how to pick a new head coach in the post-Carroll era.
Here’s the thing, folks. Firing a coach mid-season accomplishes several things. Odds are, your season has pretty much ended. Candidates to fill the position are uncomfortably aware that if they start 2-2, they might be 2-2-ing out the door before October. And the players for that school might not be quite as interested in going all-out in the foreseeable future.
And then, there are the stats. There’s not a huge sample size in NCAA football, but there is in the NFL. Since 1970, no team that fired its coach midseason has made it to the playoffs. A statistical study by Jon Bois at sbnation found that teams in the big four pro sports (NFL, NBA, MLB, and NHL) who fired their coaches midseason have an abysmal .428 winning percentage. The fact of the matter is that there is no quick fix in coaching any sport, and especially not the uber-competitive field of NCAA coaching. The consequences of such an event last for years beyond the season in which it happens. And historically those consequences are not good.
Class Act of the Week
Florida CB Quincy Wilson made a baffling guarantee about the Tennessee game last week.
QW: Nobody has ever seen a duck pull a truck. Florida Gators are going to win, simple as that. That’s it on that. Any other questions?
Reporter: So are you guaranteeing a victory?
QW: Yeah, we’re going to go out there and play Gator football and win.
So the mascot of the Oregon Ducks decided to disprove Wilson’s comment, releasing this video on the official Oregon Athletics Twitter account.
Have you ever seen a Duck pull a truck?
— GoDucks (@GoDucks) September 22, 2016
After the Vols made Wilson’s avian guarantee into the mocking catchphrase of the month, they reciprocated with this response from VFL Films, the official Twitter account of UT Athletics Broadcasting.
— VFL Films (@VFL_Films) September 26, 2016
So why is this so classy? After months of trash-talking from the Gators, a school on the opposite side of the country made a gesture all in fun. Oregon’s humor and cleverness was a high point of the week, furthering the relationship created with UT and its fans in their home-and-home series a few years back. It was a true pleasure to see something fun pushing through the fanatic rhetoric and reminding us this is just a game. That and it’s just hilarious as all get-out to see a duck and a blue tick coon hound are besties. Kudos.
Trash Act of the Week
So let’s talk about the idiot who set one of the oak trees at Toomer’s Corner on fire after Auburn’s wacky win over LSU. The video above shows said idiot setting the toilet paper on fire. It takes three minutes from ignition to end. By the time the fire department got there, Auburn fans were desperately trying to extinguish the still-burning areas on the ground by stomping out the flames.
One of the reasons college football is so great is its traditions. For over 70 years, fans have gathered at Toomer’s Corner to roll the huge oaks that have stood there. After Auburn beat Alabama in the 2010 Iron Bowl, disaffected dingdong Harvey Updyke poisoned the trees and called the Paul Finebaum Show to brag about it.
After Updyke did jail time and got banned from the state of Alabama – that’s no lie, by the way: banned from the whole state! – Auburn replaced the trees with new ones. This season is the first that Toomer’s Corner was reopened for rolling following a win. Just four weeks ago, USA Today was cheerfully celebrating the return of the tradition.
But on Saturday night, one miserable person set one of the toilet-papered trees ablaze, and Auburn fans watched one of their trees burn.
If you can’t respect the traditions associated with college sports and are such a miserable person that you need to make thousands of people you don’t know miserable too, we would opine that you need a new pastime. And as the alleged pyromaniac is 29-year-old Jochen Wiest, a German citizen who is working in Alabama on a visa, hopefully he’ll be banned not just from the state of Alabama, but the country. Disgusting. Total trash.
Pickin’ and a-Grinnin’
Our record is not too shabby at a healthy 15-5. It would be 16-5 if we’d bitten the bullet and picked the Tennessee-Florida game, but that’s okay. Getting to say we told you so is infinitely more satisfying. But this week boasts a slate of huge inter-conference matchups with ranked teams, so let’s see how we fare.
#7 Stanford versus #10 Washington
This game has huge implications, not just for the PAC-12 but the playoff picture as well. With both teams undefeated and ranked in the top 10, everyone will be tuned in to see how Stanford’s one-man wrecking ball does against the Huskies’ hype.
Washington QB Jake Browning is having a mega-season so far, but has yet to face an elite defense. Junior TB Lavon Coleman ran for 181 yards last week, but that was against Arizona. Stanford is a much bigger test, and with Christian McCaffrey rolling up more Heisman-type stats the Huskies will face a formidable test.
Stanford has played three Power 5 opponents already. With seasoned lines and a dynamic special-teams game, the Cardinals are going to be too much for the upstart Huskies to handle. Should be a great game and extremely close, but we’ve got Stanford pulling away with the win. Stanford 28 Washington 24
#8 Wisconsin versus #4 Michigan
We’ve picked against Wisconsin twice already this season. We took LSU over the Badgers for the opener at Lambeau Field, and last week we took Michigan State to get them at home. Imagine our surprise to see that Wisconsin had schooled Sparty 30-6 in East Lansing.
Michigan, on the other hand, has been a point monster in its first four games, where they beat up a reeling Penn State, barely escaped a scrappy Colorado, and decimated to kindergarten classes from Granny Elaine’s DayCare and Full Contact Crafts academy. Safe to say, we don’t know much about how the Wolverines will hold up against a real defense. Believe us: That Badgers defense is a beast.
Most pundits are going with Michigan in this game, but what we’ve seen from Wisconsin and coach Paul Chryst has impressed us. We’re thinking the Badgers can knock off the Wolverines in a low-scoring defensive slugfest. Wisconsin 17 Michigan 14
#11 Tennessee versus #25 Georgia
Usually this is a huge game, with major implications about who represents the SEC East in Atlanta in December. This is a rivalry as storied as UT-Florida, and these two teams don’t like each other. With the Vols coming off a huge win over Florida and games with Texas A&M and Alabama back-to-back in the next two weeks, this game has “trap” written all over it.
But new head coach Kirby Smart and his true freshman QB are both experiencing growing pains, and both the offensive and defensive line play are subpar. The o-line is playing so poorly that Nick Chubb, one of the best backs in the country, hasn’t touched the 100-yard mark since the opener against the North Carolina Tarheels.
With Tennessee firing on all cylinders and the goal of the East division title and the SEC Championship game in its sights, we don’t think that coach Butch Jones is going to permit his Vols to overlook this particular foe. Tennessee 45 Georgia 21
Oklahoma versus #25 TCU
Normally, this game would be a clash of the titans. With Oklahoma reeling from losses to two top-10 programs in #6 Houston and #3 Ohio State, Oklahoma may have the best 2-2 team in history. TCU, too, got rickrolled by Arkansas in what proved to be one of the best games of the season so far.
So both teams have been stymied from their original goal of being the one true champion of the Big XII and jockeying for a place in the playoff conversation. Neither team has a defense, TCU from choice and Oklahoma from the injury bug.
This game will be wild and high-scoring, and may come down to coaching. It would be easy for TCU to come into this game with the attitude that the Sooners just can’t stand up to their offensive machine, but the fact of the matter is that if Oklahoma gets going, TCU’s defense is much, much worse. Defense wins championships – and rivalry games. Oklahoma 45 TCU 42
#3 Louisville versus #5 Clemson
The Louisville Cardinals laid an epic beatdown upon a hapless Florida State a couple of weeks ago, which propelled them into the playoff picture. The Clemson Tigers, on the other hand, were expected to bulldoze their way through their season and have instead looked like an old, rusty push mower.
Louisville QB Lamar Jackson has been putting up video game stats so far, as one of the most dominating players in the country. Clemson’s star QB Deshaun Watson has looked rather more pedestrian. So what does this game come down to?
Whichever team can stop the opposing quarterback will win the game. In 2015, Clemson had one of the top defenses in the country, but they lost six players to attrition. Throwing that secondary against Jackson and his 464-yards-per-game average? We’re taking Louisville to administer another reality check to a conference foe. Louisville 38 Clemson 28
We’ll see how it goes this weekend with our picks. Regardless of how accurate we end up being, this is going to be a great weekend of college football, and 15-5 is a good place to be. Oh, and one other thing:
We told you so.
Saying that feels good, and that’s a fact.