Monday, September 26, 2016

College Football: Goodbye Hat. (And other early season thoughts)

Knowing what we think we know about the goings-on in Baton Rogue the firing of Les Miles after a no-good, very bad loss to an Auburn team that's, at best, offensively challenged wasn't all that much of a surprise.  It was only the timing and suddenness of it that made it shocking.  Cam Cameron also being shown the door shouldn't surprise either.

In fact, Miles probably should have been let go at the end of last year. But LSU's AD is a weak sort and he allowed his decision to be influenced by emotion.

Speaking of which, here are a few (non-emotional) thoughts on what's happened over the first 1/4 of the college football season.

1. Be careful what you wish for..... you just might get it.  This holds true in the case of LSU and USC, two schools who have been used to startling success but who appear to be on the cusp of heading into dark water.  Firing a winning coach is a huge gamble, as Nebraska how that's worked out for them, and the next hire is insanely risky, especially if you select the wrong person.

2. My FIVE is worse than Florida International. Who also fired their head coach.  Of course, they went 0-4 and I've gone 0-4 in terms of winning weeks. Last week was 2-3 which, shamefully, represents a modest improvement.  I'm now 5-20 for the early season and need to start turning things around. Either that or, like a smart person, you could start fading my picks and probably do fairly well for yourself.

3. Whither the MAC? I had thought that the MAC conference would be better than it is. In fact, a LOT of my incorrect picks have been on the side of MAC teams.  Of them, only Western Michigan seems to have something resembling a top program this year. Head Coach PJ Fleck should be a hot commodity for B1G coaching positions that are sure to come up after year's end.

4. I missed on Texas aTm early. I thought, incorrectly, that aTm would lose to UCLA and Arkansas. This is because I underestimate their defense, and so far we've seen Good Trevor Knight. The problem for aTm is that the tougher part of their schedule is coming up once they get past South Carolina.  Good Texas aTm in September is something we've seen before. It remains to be seen whether or not they can remain Good aTm in October.

5. I didn't miss on OU. I still think OU is going to finish the season 10-2 and win the Big XII. Looking at early conference play you might say that Baylor is their toughest challenge, but the Bears only have a win over a mediocre Oklahoma State team as evidence they are still any good. TCU appears to be having issues defensively, and Kenny Hill Jr. is just as likely to do something bone-headed as he is to do something great.

6. Florida State has been hurt by injuries, but they lack overall team speed. This is another team that I over-estimated, putting them, along with LSU, in my projected pre-season CFP. The Louisville game exposed them, but I still think they have a decent chance to finish the season strong and end up in a Big Six bowl game. I also think that HC Jimbo Fisher might seriously consider making the jump to LSU in the off-season.

7. How impressive was Texas' win over Notre Dame? I think that's a fair question to ask because it's pretty clear the Golden Domers are not very good this year. Defensively they gave up 38 points to Duke.  Freaking Duke, and not in basketball. With Notre Dame's cupcake-laden schedule they should still be able to make a decent bowl, a better bowl then they should make based on their talent because of their fan-base.

8. Son of "Love Coach" is not the answer at USC. Helton is a good OC, but he's clearly in over his head as the head of the Trojan machine. Yes, I understand that from an administrative perspective USC is a nightmare, and that new AD Lynn Swann might be a train-wreck. But if you had to ask me my early pick for the leader in the Tom Herman Derby I'd say it was the House of Troy.

9. Speaking of coaching changes..... I'm not entirely sold that by simply moving to a Power 5 school Herman would be better off than he is at UofH. Excepting money, but when you think about it he's fairly well compensated already.  Yes, I could see him leaving for USC, but (stay with me here) would he really be in a better position at LSU or Mississippi State than he is at Houston? When I evaluate coaching jobs I rank them according to where a coach is most likely to win.  At Houston he doesn't have to play Saban and the SEC West every year, which is why I think going to big-fish USC makes the most sense.

10. The program that hires Art Briles deserves all that bad press they are going to get. Ken Starr's interview only made the program look worse. They still don't understand that there's a problem, or even what went wrong. Almost the entire fan-base of Baylor still believes that this is all an orchestrated attack because they got good at tackle football. It's a cult of derangement and I still say that if the program is not willing to self-police, and judging by the fact that all of the assistants are still there they aren't, then the NCAA and Big XII (especially) should do the policing for them. Yes, ejecting them from the conference would be messy, but I think it's a necessary step to protect them from themselves.

And finally.....

As is typically the case, there are some spectacular games on deck this coming week.

Connecticut @ Houston (-27.5) I realize that, on paper, this should be a blowout, but UConn and the fighting Diacos upset the Cougars last year. Revenge is a dish.

Stanford @ Washington (-3) An interesting Pac-12 battle that could go a long way toward determining who represents the North in the Pac-12 Championship game.

Texas @ Oklahoma State (-3) Is Texas "back"?  Beats me, but this game might provide us with a little bit of insight.

Buffalo @ Boston College (-17) The Eagles have not looked very good this year and Buffalo can at least play offense. They might not need much defense against BC's pathetic points-scoring unit.

Navy @ Air Force (-7.5) Two undefeated service academies going at it. I don't care who you are that's pretty awesome.

Tennessee (-3) @ Georgia The Bulldogs got housed last week against Ole Miss, and the Vols got a huge monkey off of their backs against Florida.

Tulane (-2) @ UMass Is it possible for negative points to be scored in a game? The total here would have to be remarkably low for you to not take the under.

Northern Illinois @ Ball State (-4) It's time to ponder the possibility that NIU is not good this year.

North Carolina @ Florida State (-12) We'll see about Florida State this week as they take on a decent Tar Heel team that desperately needs a win.

Oklahoma (-3) @ TCU If OU is to turn it around then they need to start here. If TCU is to win the conference they must look much better than they have.

Utah @ California (-1) A very, very interesting matchup in the Pac-12. I'm not sure if  Cal can stop Utah's offense.

South Florida @ Cincinnati (NL) Injuries could tell the tale in this game, but it's a key one for two teams with designs on bigger things later on, who both must win to keep those dreams alive.

Western Michigan (-3) @ Central Michigan. The Chippewas are coming off a horrible loss to Virginia, while Western Michigan is looking to prove it's the best team standing in the MAC.

Louisville @ Clemson (-2) The marquee matchup of the weekend could all but determine the ACC champion. This could be an outstanding game.  Or, yet another blowout.

Arizona State @ USC (-7.5) This would be USC's last stand IMO. IF the Sun Devils come out ans surprise everyone with a win here, watch out.

Wisconsin @ Michigan (-10.5) I expect this line to move toward Wisconsin drastically in the days leading up to Saturday. This feels like a FG game either way.

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