My “day job” has got in the way of posting this week, but hopefully I can get back on track.
Just listening to the call-in shows this week reminding me of that children’s story about Chicken Little who just knew the sky was falling. That’s the thought process with about 1/2 of the fan bases in College Football this week after just ONE WEEK of the season. That 1/2 is ready to throw themselves into the Grand Canyon while another 1/2 has gone from 0 to 60 miles per hour to convince themselves – after ONE WEEK – that a holiday trip to the Arizona desert for the National Championship game is in order. Everyone needs to calm down, because it’s just one week. Last year Ohio State was dreadful against Virginia Tech and if you watched that game you’d have been convinced that the Buckeyes wouldn’t win 6 games. Instead, they won the National Championship. So, is there a similar story out there this year? Well, you know there is a team that’s just kind of lingering in the background now that’s going to get a spot in the four-team playoff. It’s just the way college football works.
So who believes the sky is falling this week? Well, the number one fan base to be on suicide watch is clearly Texas. And frankly, their head coach isn’t doing much to calm the waters. There’s a saying in the Longhorn state to “Don’t Mess with Texas”. Well, it certainly appears that Texas is just a mess. Granted the Longhorns were awful in losing to Notre Dame 38 – 3 on Saturday night. But, Coach Charlie Strong simply came off looking like a weak leader in panic mode this week when he demoted his offensive coordinator Shawn Watson to simply quarterbacks coach, while promoting a first year assistant (who was fired at Oklahoma last year and didn’t call the plays for the Sooners) to play caller. The number one sign of a coach in trouble is throwing assistants under the bus. That screams panic mode. When Randy Sanders “resigned” as offensive coordinator at Tennessee, you knew Phillip Fulmer’s days were numbered. As a head coach you cannot freak out after one week and start tossing around assistants like day old socks. What’s the incentive for Shawn Watson to care this week? Texas is a tough job that Charlie Strong just made tougher by refusing to stand up and take responsibility for the way his team played. He can clearly coach (just see what he did at Louisville where – surprise Shawn Watson was his offensive coordinator) but he looks weak and when sharks see blood in the water, well you know the rest.
Virginia Tech is in panic mode as well. Again, there’s no reason for that. I said all along that I wasn’t a Michael Brewer fan, but I admired his toughness and that came through again on Monday night against Ohio State. Unfortunately, no matter how tough you are, when a 300 pound defensive tackle pounds you into the ground broken bones are going to happen. They say he’ll be out 4 – 5 weeks after surgery to repair a broken left collarbone. I’m not so sure about that. I think if he’s back by early November that will be an accomplishment. So, naturally the message boards light up with “our season is over.” Really? Well, you were never going to play in the playoff anyway and that hasn’t changed and the back-up quarterback has a scholarship and the coaches recruited him for a reason. The key for the coaches (and by that I mean offensive coordinator Scott Loefler) is to find out what Brendan Motley can do and tailor the offense to his skill set. Loefler seems to think that you can take his University of Michigan pro style offense and simply plug someone into it and that’s not the case. Great coaches don’t do it that way. I am certainly not a Duke basketball fan, but last year Coach K figured out what his players could do and they did it all the way to a National Championship. Brendan Motley is not a pocket passer and he’s not going to be comfortable throwing the ball 25 times a game, so let him do what he does best and go with it. You might be surprised at the results. However, I have no belief that Loefler and his over-sized play card and ego will do that. He was an odd hire to begin with getting the job fresh off coordinating one of the worst offenses in the country at Auburn. Va. Tech still has the best defense in the ACC’s Coastal Division so let’s see just how far that can take them.
It was a bad week for injuries. BYU lost its starting quarterback to a season ending injury for the third time in his career. Tough for that kid, but the good news is that they rolled a back-up fresh off his mormon mission who threw the game winning touchdown pass. Syracuse lost its quarterback and Pitt lost returning ACC Player of the Year in runningback John Conner to a season ending knee injury. He’s saying all the right things about coming back next year, but he is clearly an NFL prospect and it’s time to go get paid. Runningbacks have a limited shelf life anyway with all the hits they take. Rehab yourself, take the paycheck and forget Pitt. Overall it was a pretty bad week for the ACC. The conference tries to convince you that they actually care about football. Don’t be fooled. The ACC has forever been and forever will be about basketball. Florida State is a true football school and they’ve dominated the league since joining it. Clemson is about football so is Virginia Tech and Miami (well at least they used to be). But the North Carolina schools are basketball centered and the ACC is based in North Carolina. So, does the commissioner actually care if UNC loses to South Carolina, Va. Tech loses to Ohio State, Louisville loses to Auburn and Virginia looks like Virginia against UCLA? He’ll tell you he does, but as long as the Final Four pops up in early April with an ACC team in it, that’s really the what the ACC is about. If in fact, the ACC was about football why expand with Pitt, Syracuse, and Boston College?
When you schedule a I-AA opponent (now called FCS which is a joke by the way), you are supposed to pay them to come over, hand them a loss and send them home. Three FBS teams didn’t get the memo. Washington State lost to Portland State, Kansas loses to South Dakota State (go Jackrabbits) and Wyoming lost to North Dakota. Nothing as earth shattering as Appalachian State over Michigan in 2007, but still not the right way to start off the season. You’re out a check and take one in the loss column.
As for teams who need to temper the excitement. Start with Tennessee. Yes, the Volunteers are on their way back up, but giving up 30 points to Bowling Green is not exactly cause to book your tickets for New Year’s Eve in Dallas or Miami. Let’s see what happens against Oklahoma, who appears to be quietly going about it’s business while the hype machine rolls with Baylor and TCU. The last time there was this much hype over a Tennessee home game was a few years ago when they hosted Florida. College Gameday was in town and the town was rocking. The result wasn’t worthy of the hype. Add West Virginia to that list. A nice start but Georgia Southern isn’t a Big XII team and USC probably needs to calm it down a little as well. Beating Arkansas State 55 -6 is a good way to take your mind off your head coaches’ troubles, but not exactly the stuff national championships are made off and the PAC 12 plays 9 conference games (only the Big XII and PAC 12 do that).
Figure after week 2 all will be right in the world again with some fan bases and they’ll be replaced by others who just know the sky is falling and there’s no reason to care anymore.