Not everyone should give up four weeks into the college football season.
For instance, West Virginia sits at 2-2 and just lost at home in a conference game. This would be bad if you did not know the context: that the Mountaineers only won four games last year, and look very much improved in two losses to potential national title contenders Alabama and Oklahoma. There are downsides to scheduling a tough out-of-conference slate, but claiming a plausible quality loss is not one of them. The Mountaineers are vastly better in 2014, Clint Trickett is on pace for a 4,000-yard passing season, and giving up would be barking madness.
That doesn't mean some teams aren't totally and utterly done. Florida is done, a very definite, evident, and replicable kind of done. The exact moment that happened came on the final series of the first half against Alabama when, it may amuse to recall, Florida only trailed by one touchdown. Florida got the ball on the 20-yard line with 1:44 on the clock. These were the playcalls.
With a fourth-year quarterback playing against one of the most suspect Alabama secondaries of the airtight Nick Saban era, Florida ran the clock out because ... because they have completely given up on Jeff Driskel, a quarterback who completed nine of 28 passes for less than a hundred yards and looked like a converted tight end filling in for an injured starter.
This came after Alabama handed the Gators free points via turnovers and begged them to stay in the game. In response to being given a free sandwich, Will Muschamp instead tried to use it as a cellphone and threw the whole thing in an adjacent gutter.
The problems with Florida are pretty mechanical, and the politics pretty simple.
The problem with Michigan may be more systemic, and here's where we have to delve into the ugliness of institutional politics before you ever get to "whatever happened to Devin Gardner's mechanics." The answer for that part is easy: he now has had so many offensive coordinators that he is a passing robot with a thousand serious coding conflicts running at once.
Brady Hoke is to blame for the immediate football mess. He, in turn, was hired by Dave Brandon, who is to blame for hiring Hoke, but also for so much more: for giving away tickets to Michigan games with the purchase of a few Cokes; for then having to clarify what a bumbling mistake that was by someone; for allowing the Notre Dame series to end via Irish AD Jack Swarbrick handing him a letter just before the kickoff of the 2012 game; for rearranging the student section, then watching student attendance plummet beyond even the levels experienced by other schools; for, in short, adopting the Daniel Snyder Model of Monetized Brand Particulation, naming everything possible in the program's barrel of assets while failing to increase or even maintain output on the field.
He also let this happen.
[/quietly suffers through resulting poop-shivers after watching]
Brandon is a half-clever stuffshirt who would probably talk about the program having "shareholders" and think it didn't sound like a vampiric robot sizing up his gullible human prey.
Misery in Michigan
The best part about college football's personalities are that they are largely allowed to be localized individuals. The worst part is that, for all the measures you might think are used in decision making, a lot of it comes down to localized individuals performing under weird, localized pressures -- like the pressures at Michigan, where people aren't necessarily comfortable with running football as a business and yet aren't quite okay with being a middling football team, either.
At Florida, the local mechanics might be less complex. Jeremy Foley hires a good coach, and suddenly the major prerogative of Florida football has been satisfied: winning football games. Michigan, though, is stuck in the same schizoid power gap Alabama fell into for the better part of 25 years after the death of Bear Bryant, in need of something and someone falling role-wise between Bo Schembechler and a charismatic dictator. And to get that kind of authority figure in power anywhere, the usual price is always the same: the rolling of many, many heads.
Ordem e progresso
Alabama may be our nation's Brazil in that sense, a state where just this weekend I saw a dude running on the side of I-20 in full gear with an iPod sleeve and running visor, in violation of everything considered safe and sensible.
I also watched as Alabama fans got quickly into the stadium, knew every verse and chorus of the pregame and in-game hymnal, and packed snacks and headset radios like they were preparing for a long afternoon's hike. Bryant-Denny runs exactly like its team does: like clockwork, right down to the Dreamland barbecue in the stands and the fans waiting for "Rammer Jammer" and leaving like they were clocking happily out of a pretty good day's work.
P.S. Old dudes in cargo pants and fishing shirts have whittled down in-game fashion to a science. Vented fishing shirts give maximum ventilation with minimal fuss. Cargo pants allow for maximum gear totage. The man in front of me had no less than $15 worth of snacks stashed in his clothes and enough pockets to construct a pretty decent club salad made entirely from Lunchables purchased at a gas station. Ugly and functional, just like a houndstooth-patterned Bobcat.
In summary: Alabama fans are now as regimented and disciplined as their team, and maybe Nick Saban should run for governor when he retires.
Nick Saban runs for governor
Indiana beat Mizzou, and not even statistics can explain it. This means you now rule the SEC East, Indiana, and heretofore lay claim to all the benefits thereof. Those include, but are not limited to:
- The right to be piledriven into the turf by the eventual SEC champion out of the West in Atlanta in the first weekend in December.
- All the Chick-fil-A you care to eat, ever.
- A giant above-ground pool full of Dr Pepper, replenished as you like (watch for ants!).
- A mystifying, late-season loss to Georgia or South Carolina. Your choice, but pick one.
- An instant bowl slot somewhere between Jacksonville and Tampa.
- The ability to serve as single-case, meager rebuttal to criticism of the Big Ten.
The job of the SEC East champion is simple. The SEC is someone constantly pleasuring himself to his own reflection. The SEC West is the burly right arm used for the pleasuring, and the SEC East is the shriveled, half-developed left arm that fills out a shirtsleeve. We feel confident you can fill out that shirtsleeve, Indiana football. Enjoy your new kingdom.
Well what if someone just tried to rig up the strangest but still possible championships imaginable after four weeks well wouldn't that be an utter atrocity and oops we already did it--
- Big Ten: Indiana vs. Iowa. Don't act like you don't want to watch this. It's "The People Under the Stairs" in football form.
- SEC: Mississippi State vs. South Carolina. Winning a title with a four-loss South Carolina team and ruining Miss State's best year ever would be maximum possible Spurrier-ness.
- Pac-12: Arizona vs. Cal. Okay, this isn't really possible, but who doesn't want to see if someone can score 36 points in a quarter again?
- Big 12: [file not found]
- ACC: Georgia Tech vs. Boston College. Like the most frightening things in life, is entirely possible at this point!
As in committees, because giving up on one coach means shopping for another. Since 500 people have asked since Will Muschamp's tenure as Florida coach officially died against Alabama, here are a few clarifiers.
No, no one's hiring Mike Shanahan, because he is pro football poison, and would just be looking for a retirement prep gig. You can also mark Jim Harbaugh off the list via being a West Coast person who might only consider the Michigan job out of affection. (Note: Jim Harbaugh loves only cheap pants. Michigan has no shot.)
Take any other pro coach you could possibly consider off that list. They are making more money to not recruit and would probably be happy doing that for the rest of their lives. Chip Kelly is not coming to coach Florida. That hurts so very much to type, but the heart is a lying bastard at all times, and I am typing that as much for you as for me, hopeful person.
Dan Mullen would be hiring the expectations of the past with all the pressures of the present. Bobby Petrino would be leaving Louisville after a year and torching every last bit of rehabilitative work he'd done to convince people he was not the kind of coach who would leave a job in the middle of the night. He might get a call anyway, being one of Foley's alleged primary targets last time around.
No one's even thinking about hiring Jon Gruden. Take your jaw and wire it shut with a clothes hanger for even thinking about saying that out loud.
This leaves a small crew of friendly, not entirely shocking or unpleasant possibilities for the job.
Mullen is still probably one, all personal reservations with Foley aside. Mike Gundy is an excellent coach with a verified age of 47 and a stellar track record at Oklahoma State. Ruffin McNeill is older, but in a not-dissimilar spot in his alma mater at East Carolina. Mark Helfrich at Oregon will be mentioned, but he still might need some time to escape the long shadow of Kelly to get serious consideration. Kliff Kingsbury might have a rough year at his alma mater, Texas Tech, and still get consideration. The prospect of offensive coordinator Kurt Roper pulling the Dabo Swinney Protocol and successfully taking over the program after Muschamp's firing seems unreal, but Dabo Swinney is employed, isn't he?
If Muschamp is fired before the end of the season, Ed Orgeron should be hired as the Designated Interim Coach In Charge Of Getting Everyone Awesome Food And Generating Abundant Positive Hollerin'.
This is a new business, and Orgeron is the best practitioner of what could be a brilliant and necessary niche job. You, the Designated Interim Coach, come into a program in trouble, love it up, and agree to leave things happier and better than you left it -- all without assuming a single bit of long-term responsibility.
The Rebound Coach, the Football Spot Uncle, That Cool Boyfriend Dad Had After The Divorce: whatever you care to call it, it's an idea whose time has come, and one that Orgeron might have already mastered.
French for "detained," as in the LSU run game. The Tigers only got 89 yards of rushing offense in their loss to Mississippi State, despite having Heisman enthusiast Leonard Fournette in the backfield.
A Les Miles team may be a lot of things: inconsistent, maddening, and prone to baffling, outright odious quarterback play. But all of them have run the ball well, and all of them have at least five completely batshit special teams plays. LSU had neither this week, and watching that forces me to resort to the mother tongue to say, nous sommes préoccupés, Lester.
If Alabama fans do not embrace the Spanish language announcers' nickname for running back Derrick Henry, then they are wasting one of the greatest college football nicknames and visuals ever.
EL TRACTORCITO. Know him, and know the very definition of punishing, clock-killing victory.
By assuming the mantle of being most noble in defeat, Washington State's Connor Halliday now stands in the role of college football's new Nick Foles.
Foles, now with the Eagles, became one of the most admired players in the college football blogosphere for his ability to complete 35 passes for 500 yards and multiple touchdowns and look completely awesome in ... well, in inevitable Arizona losses during the Mike Stoops era. Halliday threw for 436 yards, 4 TDs, and zero interceptions, and that would have been enough had he not been playing Marcus Mariota, who threw for five touchdowns in a 38-31 road win for the Ducks in Pullman.
Connor Halliday never, ever gives up, and at Wazzu that makes him either a noble fool or our bravest American. (Or both, which is entirely possible.)
Auburn keeping an out-of-conference game with Kansas State on the schedule happened thanks to cold economics. It's cheaper to keep the prestige-damaging risk of losing to Kansas State on the schedule rather than buy it out.
The dividends, though, are paid out in the kind of early season experience Auburn desperately needs. The Tigers played a deliberately slow, frustrating team ideally suited for a game against a faster opponent bent on sprinting a winded opponent off the field. They won, passing an early stress test few voters will even remember when Playoff time comes around.
(If you've already forgotten this game that happened last Thursday, the point has already proven itself. Remember how bad Ole Miss looked against Boise State in the first half? You've probably forgotten that already, too, but here comes a super-hyped matchup of undefeateds in Oxford on October 4 anyway.)
Wisconsin pulled Melvin Gordon after just 13 carries. Those carries went for 253 yards and five scores, making this the first substitution this season for "That's enough, mutant" not involving Mariota.
The week ahead is so lightweight I'm going to an OutKast show on Friday instead of watching Fresno State at New Mexico. It's a brave sacrificem but it's one heroes make, particularly when Thursday night has a pretty good slate of Texas Tech-Oklahoma State and UCLA-Arizona State on. Remember that OutKast plays three shows this weekend, and that something good happens for the Oregon Ducks at every single one of them.