Gordon, Not Earnhardt, is NASCAR’s Michael Jordan

What is, an unpopular opinion for $200, Alex?

It may be deemed blasphemous in some circles, but I’m here to tell you that Jeff Gordon is NASCAR’s Michael Jordan, and Michael Jordan is saying goodbye on Sunday after 23 years of being at the pinnacle of his sport.

Yes, I know the comparisons have long been between Dale Earnhardt and Michael Jordan, but I’m going to argue that Dale Earnhardt was more of a Magic Johnson, paving the way for Michael Jordan, err, Jeff Gordon.

Magic Johnson and Larry Bird catapulted the NBA to the forefront of American sports in the 80s. Their rivalry, their flair, their skill, and their professionalism put the NBA on the map in a way it had never before been. Michael Jordan took the NBA from there and elevated it to another stratosphere. Jordan took the game global.

Much the same story occurred with NASCAR. Dale Earnhardt put the sport on the map. He made it okay to be a NASCAR fan. He made it okay to admit you tuned in on Sundays to a bunch of cars driving in circles. His clashes with Darrell Waltrip and Bill Elliott in the 80s took the sport from the back pages of newspapers around the country to the front pages on Monday mornings.

It was Jeff Gordon however who made NASCAR a national mainstay and took the sport from the deep south and integrated it nationwide. While many will lament the loss of it’s southern roots, those in NASCAR certainly don’t lament the millions upon millions of dollars corporate America has invested into the sport, thanks in large part to Jeff Gordon.

Gordon, without the southern accent and with the GQ looks, took NASCAR to Wall Street. He took NASCAR to corporate America. And corporate America ate it up. Gordon helped eliminate (largely) the stereotypes associated with NASCAR. You didn’t have to sound like an uneducated hick to be a NASCAR superstar. You didn’t have to be from the south to be a superstar in NASCAR. And you no longer had to be “redneck” to be a fan.

Gordon became the first NASCAR driver to host Saturday Night Live. And whether you liked NASCAR, or sports in general, you knew who Jeff Gordon was. And if you did like NASCAR, Jeff Gordon was as polarizing as they come.

Gordon’s career has run full circle. When he entered the sport as a 21 year old phenom there was a ton of interest as to whether this hot shot from California, where in the words of legendary Harry Hogge , “You’re not really anything”, could cut it in the rough and tumble world of stock car racing. Once Gordon proved not only that he could cut it, but that he wasn’t afraid to push back against the best of the best and would be intimidated by no one, fans began to turn on the newcomer to the sport. Gordon quickly became public enemy number one, and it was a role he embraced. The more they booed, the more he was winning.

Gordon’s 1998 season of 13 wins and 28 top ten finishes in a single season (33 races) might possibly be the greatest single season in the modern era, and is undoubtedly one of the greatest single seasons turned in in American sports history. To compare, it ranks up there with the Bulls 70 win season, and, in many ways, surpasses it, thanks to his utter dominance that year and the distance between himself and his closest championship competitors, Mark Martin (7 wins and 26 top 10 finishes himself) and Dale Jarrett (3 wins 22 top 10s). Gordon won the championship by 364 points over Martin, who enjoyed a season that in all but rare instances would have easily been enough to walk home with a championship. As evidenced by the fact that Jarrett, who had a good year in his own right, finished a whopping 709 points behind Gordon.

To say people grew tired of him winning every other week is a very, very mild understatement.

But as his career cycled through into it’s twilight, guys like Jimmie Johnson and Kyle Busch (and more recently Joey Logano) have assumed Gordon’s place at the top of the “NASCAR’s Most Hated” list. As for Gordon, he might very well be the second most popular driver in the sport today. And it’s easily arguable that come Sunday at Homestead, he will be THE most popular driver on the track.

For years, Jeff Gordon wins were met with boos and with angry fans, upset that “Wonder Boy” had won yet another race. But when Gordon took the checkered flag at Martinsville a few weeks ago to secure his place in the championship round of NASCAR’s chase, his win was met with thunderous applause, and an ovation that seemed to last for several minutes. It was the kind of moment that reminded us why we watched sports. For a man that had won 93 career events, there was as much raw emotion and joy in this win as there was when he shed tears in victory lane at Charlotte in 21 and a half years earlier when he won his first career race.

I’m sure it was something new for the four time champion, and I’m sure it is something he will never forget. Well, unless he manages to top it this Sunday by taking what could well be the most popular championship in the sports history.


It is no coincidence that Jeff Gordon made his debut in the same race “The King”, Richard Petty, he of 200 wins and seven championships, made his final start. Never before has there been such an official changing of the guard.

But it wasn’t just the symbolism in Gordon’s career beginning where Petty’s ended. It was Gordon’s arrival on the scene and willingness, and ability, to go toe to toe with, and beat, the sports biggest stars from the get go.


In his first start at Daytona, Gordon out-dueled Bill Elliott in the Gatorade 125 mile qualifying race, and then finished 5th in the Daytona 500. The next year in the Busch Clash All-Star race, Gordon taught the Daytona master himself, Dale Earnhardt, a thing or two with a gutsy move around the Intimidator with just under two laps left to steal a victory.

It was perhaps that moment where Gordon and Earnhardt had their Magic and Michael moment. It was then that the world saw Gordon wasn’t going to back down from anyone, and he was here and here to take the throne atop American motorsports. And it was here where Dale Earnhardt realized this was going to happen, and there really wasn’t going to be anything he could do about it.

93 wins later, four championships, three Daytona 500 trophies, SIX Southern 500 wins, 3 Coca-Cola 600 and five Brickyard 400 triumphs later, Jeff Gordon gets the opportunity to do what few in sports are afforded the chance to do; leave on top. The odds are against him in Homestead, but don’t tell him that. They were against him when the Chase started, and yet, here he is, one victory away from a fifth championship to wrap up one of the greatest professional sports careers this country has ever seen.

It would be the perfect swan song and one of the greatest goodbyes in sports history. It would be the goodbye Michael Jordan should have had.


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Falcons/Saints, It Runs Deep

It may be underrated nationwide, but make no mistake about it, the rivalry between the Atlanta Falcons and New Orleans Saints is as nasty as any in pro sports, maybe sports period. Put quite simply, there may not be two fan bases that hate each other more than the Falcons and Saints.

What started as an innocuous rivalry between two awful franchises who essentially knew that their best chance for satisfying victory every season lie with each other, has developed into a full on 365 day a year cacophony of vitriol, disdain, and pure disgust.

For each person they have a different reason and story for when the hate truly blossomed from a healthy dislike mixed with a tiny bit of compassion into a full-blown disgust for anything relating to the other. I know the very date for me, I know the very place I was sitting, I know the very company I was with, and unfortunately, ESPN likes to constantly remind me of it on a regular basis. Not to mention, so do Saints fans.

You could add up my hatred for the Busch boys, for Jim Leyritz, for the Yankees, the Gators, and the Cowboys, and you’re still essentially putting Pluto next to Jupiter when you compare it to the level of contempt held for the Saints.

I had my hatred for this team, this city, and this state confirmed a couple of weeks ago. I decided to dine at Just Loaf’n. I went due to the fact that there was a scout mob for it, and I’m a cheap bastard. Additionally, in a cruel, cruel twist of fate, and quite possibly God’s cruelest joke on me, cajun food is my absolute favorite cuisine. It’s really not fair.

But I digress.

In any event, I walk into this little restaurant and proceed to the counter to make my order. I’ve never had a muffaletta so I decided this place had the look of something resembling authentic cajun food, so that’s what I ordered. Of course they have no muffaletta bread. So, still trying to stay in the spirit of true cajun food, I order the alligator po’ boy. And of course, they didn’t have any alligator.

So here am I at the counter, my first two options not available, and I’m thinking to myself, “this is why I hate New Orleans”. And if any of you have seen me in a drive through, or at a restaurant when a waiter to comes to take my order, you know I absolutely hate making on the spot decisions about food when I feel rushed. So, it’s safe to say, at this point, I’m not in a very comforting situation. So I make a hurried decision and go with the basic shrimp po’ boy. I’m flustered at this point, so I just out of natural reaction, hand my card over to the lady behind the counter.

Forgetting to use the scout mob. Which was the only reason I’d have set foot in what is turning out to be a truly God forsaken place.

But it gets worse. Upon paying for my food, which was twice what I was expecting, I turn to the right, by the counter, and see one of the most awful creations in the history of man.

This should be illegal in Georgia.

This should be illegal in Georgia.

At this point, I’m like, “Okay God, I get the message, never step foot in New Orleans. I hate it. It hates me. We’re on the same page here”. But no, my punishment wasn’t over yet.

After the less than memorable meal, well memorable in that the special “cajun fries” tasted like they’d been reheated in a microwave, I went to the gas station next door to procure a Mountain Dew.

On Monday morning, while going to work, with said Mountain Dew in my bag, I noticed that my bag seemed to be leaking, and I couldn’t understand why. That is, until I opened and realized everything in my bag (and if you know me, you know I CANNOT STAND when my magazines get crinkled, much less wet, or soiled) was submerged in Mountain Dew. The plastic top to this particular Mountain Dew was punctured, and while laid on its side in my bag, the contents of the bottle poured into my bag, creating a small pond that goldfish could have happily survived in. If only because I assume swimming in a sea of Mountain Dew is a pretty awesome thing.

It took a matter of seconds to remember where I got this Mountain Dew.

Fuck New Orleans.

And while the Saints do have their ring, and I am happy for like one Saints fan on this planet for that happening, though, the joy is tempered the longer we go without one, we still have more wins in this rivalry (49-43), the longest winning streak (10) and the most lopsided victory (55 points). We’ve also won three of the last five and are fresh off a sweep.

So, keep your bounty gate tainted ring New Orleans. When we get one, and we will, you can shut all the way up.


But before I conclude, I leave with you my 15 favorite games from this underrated, under appreciated tale of two cities.

  1. 1991 NFC Wildcard Game: Atlanta 27 New Orleans 20 in New Orleans – Denying the Saints their first playoff win another year, IN New Orleans?
  2. 1973: Atlanta 62 New Orleans 7 in New Orleans – most lopsided margin of victory in series history
  3. 1991: Atlanta 23 New Orleans 20 OT in New Orleans – It denied the Saints a share of the 2nd best record in the NFC, and set the stage for our beating them in the Superdome just one month later in the playoffs
  4. 2010: Atlanta 27 New Orleans 24 in New Orleans – Overtime games in this series will be the death of me, but overtime wins in their building give me life
  5. 1995: Atlanta 19 New Orleans 14 in Atlanta – Jessie Tuggle, “The Hammer” with an interception near the goal line to seal it. My first in person experience of the Falcons/Saints rivalry
  6. 2002: Atlanta 37 New Orleans 35 in New Orleans – New Orleans, meet Michael Vick
  7. 2008: Atlanta 34 New Orleans 20 in Atlanta – New Orleans, meet Matt Ryan
  8. 2004: Atlanta 24 New Orleans 21 in Atlanta – I was there for this one too when Vick found Crumpler in the endzone late for the game winning touchdown
  9. 1980: Atlanta 41 New Orleans 14 in New Orleans – Beating those guys by 27 in their building during the 1980 magical season? Yeah, c’mon with it.
  10. 1981: Atlanta 41 New Orleans 10 in New Orleans – Following that up by beating them by 31 the next year
  11. 1982: Atlanta 35 New Orleans 0 in Atlanta – second largest margin of victory in series history
  12. 1981: Atlanta 27 New Orleans 0 in Atlanta – the first of consecutive home shutouts against the Saints
  13. 2005: Atlanta 34 New Orleans 31 in New Orleans  – Blowing the lead with 46 seconds left hurt, going down the field to reclaim it with :04 left was exhilarating.
  14. 2012: Atlanta 23 New Orleans 13 in Atlanta – national television defensive dominance of Payton and Breezy boy
  15. 2014: Atlanta 30 New Orleans 14 in New Orleans – Osi waving goodbye to the Saints while strolling into the endzone in their building to finish off the sweep? Give me more of that please.

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Filed under Falcons, NFL, Personal

Retract of a Retract, Paul Johnson MUST Go. No, Really

The last few weeks have put me back on the fire Paul Johnson train, and really, I never should have gotten off. I was blinded by the bright lights and shiny objects that were distracting us from the truth of this program while we beat Georgia and won the Orange Bowl.

Most defenses of Paul Johnson begin with bringing up the ACC championship in 2009, the two victories against Georgia (one of which occurred in 2008), and the trio of 9 win seasons culminating in a top 25 post season ranking (Two of which came in 2008 & 2009) during his tenure.

That’s wonderful. Except this is college football, where once the players under the old coaching staff leave, they must be replaced by those of your choosing. You cook and buy the groceries in college football. Being able to make gourmet meals out of what someone else brought into the kitchen is nice. But then what? What do you do when you have to buy the groceries and then make the meals? Being the sous chef in someone else’s kitchen is one thing. Running the show yourself is a different ballgame.

And what we’ve found is Paul Johnson does a fabulous job of taking someone else’s ingredients and preparing them in ways far superior to what his predecessor managed to accomplish. We’ve also found that when Paul Johnson buys the ingredients himself, he can’t prepare anything above a mediocre meal found at Applebee’s.

The numbers, simply put, do not lie. When Paul Johnson arrived at Georgia Tech he inherited a pretty talented roster thanks to Chan Gailey’s ability to recruit due to his NFL background and the fact that Tech was one of the upper echelon programs in the ACC. For the first two years of his tenure with guys like Demaryius Thomas, Jonathan Dwyer, Josh Nesbitt, Roddy Jones, Derrick Morgan, Mario Butler and Morgan Burnett, everything was roses, or oranges, as Tech not only snapped a seven-year losing streak to Georgia in year one under Paul Johnson, but also won an ACC championship in year two as they compiled a 20-7 overall record and went 12-4 in the ACC, with the victory over Clemson in the ACC championship game.

But something happened after that. Those players that Gailey recruited were leaving. The cupboard was bare of the talent brought in by Gailey and Paul Johnson was going to have to rely on his own players going forward. To say the results have taken a nosedive off the cliff would be a slight understatement.
Just consider his numbers since beating Clemson in the 2009 ACC Championship game (which, really, doesn’t actually even count anymore, just to throw even more fuel on that fire) in Tampa.

Overall Record: 41-33

Record vs ACC: 25-15 (two ACCCG losses to Florida State)

Record vs FBS Opponents: 34-32

Record vs Power 5 (ND/BYU): 29-31

This does include the first six games of the 2015 campaign, which, with any reasonable look at the next six games and at best one could see Georgia Tech going 3-3 in those games, with the distinct possibility of going 0-6 being a legitimate fear. But yep, you’re reading that right. Against the big boys of college football, the teams that really matter, Paul Johnson, since winning the ACC championship with Chan Gailey’s players, including the Orange Bowl loss to Iowa that season, is two games under .500 against Power 5 teams and BYU and Notre Dame.

And lets not forget who some of these losses came against. There was the loss in 2010 to a Kansas team that is the definition of atrocious program, and finished 3-9 that season. Both BYU losses came against a Cougars team that wound up 8-5. And of course there’s the real kicker, the blowout loss to Middle Tennessee State in 2012. And no, this wasn’t a Middle Tennessee State team that was a mid major school having a banner year. The Blue Raiders went 8-4 that season and lost to Louisiana Monroe and Arkansas State.

And the rivals?

vs Miami: 1-4

vs Virginia Tech: 1-4

vs Clemson: 2-4

vs Georgia: 1-4

And these numbers of course INCLUDE the 11-3 record in 2014 that looks more and more like an anomaly. Can you imagine what these numbers would look like if for giggles we just ignored them (which, you should ignore the outlier when analyzing statistics) and took them out of the equation? Well, imagine no more.

Overall Record: 30-30

Record vs ACC: 19-13

Record vs FBS Opponents: 24-29

Record vs Power 5 (ND/BYU): 21-28

Not to mention, wipe out the only wins against Georgia, Virginia Tech and Miami.

If you look back at Georgia Tech’s recent coaching history, all of it since Bobby Dodd, actually, you can see that Johnson really doesn’t compare all that favorably to the better names on that list. In his first seven seasons Johnson has had three six loss campaigns. Only William Alexander and Bud Carson have more, and once the Jackets drop their sixth game this year, Johnson will tie Carson for the second most six loss seasons in school history. And he’ll have done it in just 8 years on the job by accomplishing the feat in half the seasons he’s been on The Flats.

But perhaps even more noteworthy is to look at when the six loss seasons occur. Bill Curry lost six or more games three times while he was at Georgia Tech, but remember he went 2-19-1 in his first new years getting the program out of Pepper Rodgers’ wishbone offense (that’s what we have to look forward to once Johnson is finally let go, but that’s an entirely different animal to approach altogether), giving him 2 six loss seasons in his first two years while inheriting someone else’s players and installing his system. Curry won 29 games over the next five seasons (not a remarkable record, by any means) and only had 1 six loss season over his final five years.

Bobby Ross came in to inherit what Curry had left behind and the Jackets promptly went 5-17 in his first two years at the helm. They wouldn’t lose six games in a season again under Ross.

We’re just going to skip Bill Lewis because, well, can’t we just skip the Bill Lewis era? Let’s move onto his replacement, coming into a giant mess. George O’Leary inherited a team that had just gone 1-10, winless against Division 1-A (FBS) competition the year before. O’Leary would start his career at Tech by going 11-11. And having the only six loss season of his tenure.

Chan Gailey arrived in 2002, and as many coaches are prone to do, came with his own system. While using his predecessor’s players, Gailey lost six games in each of his first two seasons. He only lost six in a season once in his final four years at the helm.

And that brings us to Johnson. Johnson comes in, takes over Gailey’s players and wins 20 games. Remarkable. It certainly showed Chan could recruit. The problem is, whereas most coaches start to see more success once they have their players in their system, at leas the successful coaches do, Johnson has done the opposite. He’s reversed the trend. The more of his players he got, the worse the program became. Johnson’s six loss seasons have come in year 3, 5, and 6. And his fourth is going to come in year 8. That would be 4 six loss seasons in six years. The six years after the two transition years where you expect most coaches to struggle the most.

And yet, people will vehemently defend the employment of Paul Johnson. It’s astonishing, really.

One argument people will make is that the 2014 season was one of the greatest seasons in school history. Well, if you consider one of the 25 best seasons in school history to be that big of an accomplishment, then okay. After all, there was no conference championship and there was no national championship. 11 games were indeed won, by playing 14. The winning percentage of the 2014 team was only the 24th best in school history. I’m sure some of Heisman’s, Alexander’s and Dodd’s, even Ross’ and O’Leary’s teams could have benefited from playing an extra game against a patsy to bolster the record. So, you know, the whole double-digit win thing doesn’t really do much for me.

Seven different times Georgia Tech posted a higher winning percentage than it did in 2014 AND won a major bowl game. Take into account two bowl losses and that number moves to nine. And that does NOT include the national championship seasons of 1917 and 1990. So even if you REALLY stretch it out, even with your best argument, 2014 barely makes it into the top ten of Georgia Tech seasons. So, lay off the kool-aid like Johnson had the most amazing year the school has ever seen.

And we can also conveniently ignore the fact that 2015 is shaping up to be one of the worst years in school history. Should Tech manage two more victories and finish 4-8, that will be the 100th best winning percentage in school history. That would mean only 14 years were worse. I think that kind of cancels out 2014. Never mind that I’m not sure I even see two more wins on this schedule. So, if your argument is centered around how great 2014 was, you can stop there.

Others will point to the three trips to the ACC championship game. I’m just going to say right now, if you, in any way, use the 2012 season to argue why Paul Johnson should be here, you probably should never speak about the game of football again; Except to say, “I don’t know anything about football.” Yet, in a season where we only made the conference title game because TWO teams in front of us were ineligible, and a year in which we had to seek a special waiver to make a bowl game because we finished the year 6-7, with only five wins against FBS opponents, people will point to our “bowl streak” and our two trips to the ACC title game in the past three years as reasons Paul Johnson should stay. I suppose fans like that actually deserve the mediocrity of Paul Johnson.

The difference in the mindset of the fan bases in Athens and Atlanta is amazing, when you think about it. Georgia Tech goes 11-3, follows it up with a 2-4 start, and fans are still beating the Paul Johnson drum like Mark Richt beats Paul Johnson. Meanwhile in Athens, despite a 4-2 start following a 10-3 season and top ten final ranking, fans are once again calling for Mark Richt’s head. Baffling, isn’t it?

Maybe Paul Johnson is the genius after all. He manages to be mediocre year after year, yet he takes advantage of the insecurities and inferiority complex within the Georgia Tech athletic department that result in their willingness to hand out silly contract extensions to any coach who ever does anything remotely good.

What happens at Georgia Tech is the Georgia Tech athletic department becomes that guy who is love struck by someone he ultimately can do much better than. And finally, just as that guy decides he’s got to break the news to her that he’s going to have to move on from the relationship, Paul Johnson becomes that girl that gives you the best sex of your life and the next thing you know, you’re at Shane Company’s newest location in Kennesaw buying an engagement ring.

This isn’t to bash Paul Johnson, or to say he’s the worst thing to ever happen to Georgia Tech. He’s a fantastic chef who can take someone else’s ingredients and do amazing work with them. But when asked to buy his own groceries, the meals he turns out are pedestrian, at best. Occasionally he’ll stumble upon something great that makes you give him a second chance running the restaurant. At this point, it’s time to cut bait and find someone who can consistently produce a better product, it’s just that simple.

Even if Johnson somehow wins 3 of the final 6 games this year, the bowl streak would come to an end. Even more interesting would be that over the last six seasons of his tenure at Tech, Johnson will have amassed 44 wins.

Chan Gailey’s career win total at Georgia Tech before being fired after six seasons?


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Filed under Coaches on Hot Seat, College Football, Fire Coaches, Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets

College Football Rankings 10/8

There’s a familiar face at number one, and no, I do not care that they lost to Ole Miss because for an evening they forgot that even though St. Nick is their coach, they are not supposed to freely hand out presents to opponents.

The Big Ten is better than most thought, thanks in particular to the outstanding defense being played by Michigan and Northwestern. Remember when the SEC was known for defense? I’m just saying…

I still need to see LSU be more than one dimensional, but, as long as their quarterback doesn’t throw it to the other team, they’re going to be a contender.

Oklahoma is definitely reminding us that it’s not just Baylor and TCU in the Big 12.

With FSU and Georgia Tech looking more disappointing by the week, having survived Notre Dame and with South Carolina has utter dog meat right now though, while I don’t think Clemson is one of the five best teams in the nation, I can’t see a scenario where they miss the playoffs. They seem to be over their “Clemsoning” days. But, relapse is a dangerous part of addiction recovery.

1 Alabama 4-1
2 Utah 4-0
3 Baylor 4-0
4 Ohio State 5-0
5 TCU 5-0
6 Clemson 4-0
7 Oklahoma 4-0
8 LSU 4-0
9 Michigan State 5-0
10 Michigan 4-1
11 Texas A&M 5-0
12 Northwestern 5-0
13 Stanford 4-1
14 Florida 5-0
15 USC 3-1
16 Georgia 4-1
17 Notre Dame 4-1
18 Florida State 4-0
19 Ole Miss 4-1
20 Duke 4-1
21 Mississippi State 3-2
22 Texas Tech 3-2
23 North Carolina 4-1
24 Iowa 5-0
25 Oklahoma State 5-0
26 UCLA 4-1
27 Houston 4-0
28 Oregon 3-2
29 Memphis 5-0
30 Louisville 2-3
31 Toledo 4-0
32 West Virginia 3-1
33 Kansas State 3-1
34 Boise State 4-1
35 Wisconsin 3-2
36 Boston College 3-2
37 Navy 4-0
38 Cal 5-0
39 N.C. State 4-1
40 Temple 4-0
41 Cincinnati 3-2
42 Arizona State 3-2
43 Auburn 3-2
44 BYU 3-2
45 Miami 3-1
46 Pittsburgh 3-1
47 Washington 2-2
48 Syracuse 3-1
49 Arizona 3-2
50 East Carolina 3-2
51 Georgia Southern 4-1
52 Arkansas 2-3
53 Missouri 4-1
54 Indiana 4-1
55 Tennessee 2-3
56 Kentucky 4-1
57 Central Michigan 2-3
58 Ohio 4-1
59 Tulsa 2-2
60 Virginia Tech 2-3
61 Illinois 4-1
62 Nebraska 2-3
63 Bowling Green 3-2
64 Western Kentucky 4-1
65 Iowa State 2-2
66 Appalachian State 4-1
67 Northern Illinois 2-3
68 Georgia Tech 2-3
69 Minnesota 3-2
70 Louisiana Tech 3-2
71 Marshall 4-1
72 Texas 1-4
73 Air Force 2-2
74 Penn State 4-1
75 Maryland 2-3
76 South Carolina 2-3
77 Colorado 3-2
78 UConn 2-3
79 Oregon State 2-2
80 Western Michigan 1-3
81 Arkansas State 2-3
82 Buffalo 2-3
83 Southern Miss 3-2
84 Virginia 1-3
85 Vanderbilt 2-3
86 San Jose State 2-3
87 Louisiana Monroe 1-3
88 Akron 2-3
89 Middle Tennessee St 2-3
90 Purdue 1-4
91 Washington State 2-2
92 Utah State 2-2
93 UNLV 2-3
94 Ball State 2-3
95 Nevada 2-3
96 Colorado State 2-3
97 Kent State 2-3
98 UT San Antonio 1-4
99 SMU 1-4
100 San Diego State 2-3
101 Wake Forest 2-3
102 Hawaii 2-3
103 Louisiana Lafayette 1-3
104 South Alabama 3-2
105 South Florida 1-3
106 Rice 2-3
107 Texas State 1-3
108 Old Dominion 2-3
109 Fresno State 1-4
110 Army 1-4
111 Rutgers 2-2
112 Tulane 2-2
113 New Mexico 3-2
114 Troy 1-3
115 Eastern Michigan 1-4
116 Miami Ohio 1-4
117 Florida Atlantic 1-3
118 UMass 1-3
119 UTEP 2-3
120 Florida International 2-3
121 Central Florida 0-5
122 Kansas 0-4
123 North Texas 0-4
124 Idaho 1-4
125 Charlotte 2-3
126 Georgia State 1-3
127 Wyoming 0-5
128 New Mexico State 0-4

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Desperation Time for Big Name Programs

Nicely done Paul, looks like last year's charade means we're just going to let the programs slide into mediocrity and worse just...slide.

Nicely done Paul, looks like last year’s charade means we’re just going to let the programs slide into mediocrity and worse just…slide.

Here we are, only a few days into October, and already, several big name schools have their fingers hovering perilously close to the panic button, and with good reason. The upside to having fifty gazillion bowls is that pretty much anybody with a pulse will make one. The downside of this though? If you don’t, then you’re in trouble. Real trouble. Obviously different schools view different levels of success for job security, but there’s one basic rule of thumb across the board just about everywhere; If you don’t make a bowl game, you’re going to be fired.

Obviously this is not taken literally, every single season, at every single school, but making a bowl game is I guess somewhat equivalent to the Mendoza Line. If you aren’t playing in a bowl, then you’re not just merely mediocre, or slightly below average, you’re just plain awful.

In the lower tier of programs in the country, consistent trips to the postseason aren’t necessary to remain employed, but consistently ending seasons without a trip to such a wonderful winter vacation spot such as Mobile will have you looking for a job.

But at other schools, you get one pass, if that, and if you start making a habit of not playing in a bowl game (a habit meaning it happens more than once during your tenure) you will be run out of town faster than Matt Williams after a year of unmet expectations. And this is where things get tricky with these teams. When they have this blip, is it really just a mirage, a series of unfortunate events that so imperfectly aligned that the postseason was beyond their grasp? Or is it the signs of deeper problems, and much more the beginning of the end, if not THE end already?

This is why it’s best for coaches to simply avoid this predicament altogether. Don’t miss a bowl and don’t let the questions begin to amass. But some big time coaches and some big time schools are dangerously close to opening Pandora’s Box of questions about the future of the program.

Georgia Tech has the third longest active bowl streak in the country, at 18. But barring a complete miracle, it won’t extend to 19. High school recruits of today have never seen Georgia Tech not play in a bowl game. It’s something Tech can sell to kids, but not much longer.

Everyone knew the schedule was going to be tough, but after their flukish run last season, and early season domination of patsies, it was thought they would not only be able to successfully navigate the rough waters to another winning season, but that they would be in the thick of the conference race, and possibly the national title picture. Week by week they’ve taken themselves out of consideration for all three. The Notre Dame loss squelched all talk of the playoffs. The loss at Duke the following week put the brakes on talks of an ACC championship, and then this past weekend’s loss at home to North Carolina, in which a 21-0 lead was choked away, pretty much put the kibosh on bowl possibilities.

Tech sits at 2-3, which, at first glance doesn’t appear to be a death sentence. But then you have to remember this team hasn’t beaten an opponent better than Tulane to this point. You consider that if you look at their schedule, there is only one game left on it right now where they can feel like they’d be the favorites. And that is for a trip to Charlottesville, where despite recent success, it’s been a house of horrors. They have to host Pittsburgh and Virginia Tech. They must still travel to play to Miami. They have to go play at Clemson this week. And oh yeah, Florida State and Georgia come calling. Do you see four wins on that schedule? Didn’t think so. Four losses? That’s easy to come up with. What’s frightening for Tech is that 2-10 is as likely at this point as a trip to a bowl game.

The irony in all of this is that the streak should have ended in 2012, but an NCAA waiver allowed a sub .500 Yellow Jacket team that truly didn’t win the division but played in the ACC title game due to the off field transgressions of conference bad boys Miami and North Carolina to play in a bowl anyway. Tech played well against Florida State in the conference title game, and then went and beat USC in the Sun Bowl, finishing 7-7 and keeping some heat off of Johnson. 2013 wasn’t much better, another 7-6 year, another loss in a bowl game. It was obvious at this point that Johnson needed to go. The sooner the better, because the rebuilding process following Johnson will be a long and painful one.

Then, much like this year, in 2014, came back to back losses to those basketball schools in Duke and North Carolina. The ax was ready to drop on Johnson. And then something miraculous (or not, depending on how you want to look at it) and Tech caught fire, won the division, beat Georgia, nearly upset Florida State in the ACC title game and ran all over Mississippi State in the Orange Bowl.

Well done Paul Johnson, you pulled the veil back over our eyes for a moment and kept attention away from the real ugly truth at Georgia Tech. The program was ultimately, at its core, in real trouble. Many, myself included, praised Johnson after last year. I even apologized for being “wrong” about him. No, I was right. I let him convince me I was wrong.

And it looks like this year on the flats, we’re going to finally see how right I originally was. Clemson is the toughest game left on the schedule, so it’s unfair to say it’s a must win, that a loss to the Tigers completely buries the Jackets. But, they’ve used their mulligans, and they could really use some breathing room, not mention some confidence. Going up to Clemson and getting a win, which Tech has had a knack for back when Clemson was mastering the art of Clemsoning, would help. But, these aren’t those same Tigers, and these aren’t the Jackets you can believe in to go win a game like this.

Georgia Tech isn’t the only Tech however in the ACC coastal in deep trouble. Virginia Tech and Frank Beamer, another program on a precipitous decline, is staring at a similar fate. From 2004 thru 2011 the Hokies won double-digit games every single year. That’s eight consecutive 10 win seasons. That’s quality work. But over the last three years they’ve only won 22 games. They’ve lost in each of the last two years to Boston College, they’ve been beaten by Cincinnati, and with their loss two weeks ago, they’ve lost in successive seasons to East Carolina. They’ve only even played six games over the past three plus seasons as a ranked team. Again, after eight consecutive seasons of 10 plus wins.

The Hokies, like Georgia Tech, cannot lose more than three more games the rest of the way. And they have to play aforementioned Boston College on the road, just like they have to travel to play Miami and Georgia Tech. They also still have N.C. State and Duke to play at home. Just like with Georgia Tech, the only game left on the schedule that you can say with confidence they could be favored in is against Virginia.

The sharp decline of the program already had many wondering how much longer Beamer would last, especially since special teams, long the calling card of this regime, had become an all out weakness of the Hokies. This year, with it looking more and more likely that a bowl isn’t going to happen, it’s looking more and more likely that this could be Beamer’s swan song.

While Georgia Tech has a game that they can lose and still back their way into a bowl game, a home loss to N.C. State to drop to 2-4 might get the vultures circling in Blacksburg.

Michael Vick, Marcus Vick, DeAngelo Hall, now Bill Cosby? Might be getting what's coming to ya, Hokies.

Michael Vick, Marcus Vick, DeAngelo Hall, and….. Bill Cosby? Might be getting what’s coming to ya, Hokies. I shudder to think what happened in this room after Beamer left it. 

Speaking of Beamer and the Hokies, wouldn’t The Battle at Bristol lose some of its luster if Virginia Tech were to find themselves coming off a season without a bowl game? Yeah? Well, what if both Virginia Tech AND Tennessee were coming off seasons without making a bowl? Don’t look now organizers, but that very well could be what takes place.

While the final five games on Tennessee‘s schedule look very, very winnable, and thus, completely missing out on a bowl game doesn’t look as likely with the Vols as it does with the two Techs, it can’t be ruled out. Kentucky is better. Maty Mauck could be back for Missouri by the time they meet, South Carolina could be fighting for their post-season lives in their own right, and Kentucky could be actually playing for something at the end of November. So if you’re Tennessee, you would like a little wiggle room.

The problem is, as they too sit at 2-3, they’ve got a very angry Georgia team coming to Knoxville this week, and then after that they have to travel to take on the Alabama team who has made this Georgia team so angry. 2-5 looks very, very possible. As mentioned, the schedule eases up enough to think that at 2-5, Tennessee could still finish 7-5. However, you have to look deeper than just the ease of the schedule. You have to look at the psyche of this program. Tennessee has lost six or more games in seven consecutive years. Yes, you read that correct, Tennessee hasn’t won more than seven games in a season since 2007.
So how much life do you think will be left in this team if it starts 2-5? Lane Kiffin bolted after a year. Derek Dooley didn’t finish his third season. Butch Jones is in his third season. Rocky Top could be about to explode….. again.

Mentioned in looking at the schedule Tennessee closes with was of course the old ball coach and South Carolina. There are two programs Spurrier likes to beat more than anyone; Georgia and Tennessee. When looking at what South Carolina has left, there is virtually no way they can survive losing to Tennessee and still make a bowl game. As bad as the remaining schedule looks for Georgia Tech, it’s even worse for South Carolina.

The Gamecocks can only afford three more losses to still make a bowl game. The problem? There are currently four teams ranked in the top 11 left on their schedule. Sure, I suppose it’s good news that three of them are at home, but home is where this team lost to Kentucky.

A bit of irony? The last time South Carolina didn’t make a bowl was 2007, as mentioned earlier, the last time Tennessee didn’t lose at least six games.

Shifting to the SEC West, Auburn isn’t in full-fledged panic mode yet, but they are one road loss in the next two weeks away from going to defcon one. With Ole Miss, Georgia, Texas A&M and Alabama as four of their final five games, Auburn does not want to enter the final five games of the season anything less than 5-2. Knowing they must win one of those four to reach a bowl game, after pre-season expectations (wildly placed, and not by yours truly) of contending for a national title would be a lot of pressure on a fragile team. Which is why Auburn is getting a bye at the right time.

Because these next two games, at Kentucky, and at Arkansas, are absolutely must win games. And neither looks like a gimme. Conference road games are always tough. But when you need overtime to beat Jacksonville State at home, and only led San Jose State by 7 at home late in the fourth quarter, is there any reason to believe you have any kind of chance on the road against SEC opponents?

Auburn is talented. More talented than their next two opponents. But, they’re also far more talented than both Jacksonville State and San Jose State, and it didn’t mean that much. The problem for Auburn, much like at Georgia Tech, is the very real possibility of finishing the season with 8 or 9 losses. If Auburn stumbles against Kentucky in two weeks, the question becomes, aside from Idaho, will they win another game this year?

I only mention Texas because, well, I have to. They are still one of the biggest brands in the country, even if the on field product has deteriorated to the point it’s unrecognizable. Texas can only afford to lose two more games and still squeak into a bowl game. And both Baylor and Oklahoma still loom on the schedule.

Granted, Texas showed some life against Cal and Oklahoma State, two top 25 teams, but all that progress seemed to get erased with the shellacking at the hands of TCU on Saturday. The schedule outside of national title contenders Oklahoma and Baylor isn’t all that daunting, though no trip to Morgantown is fun, and Kansas State is a very underrated team. The problem is the losses to Cal and Oklahoma State due to shoddy special teams play that pretty much make all of these games must win games for the Horns to make a bowl game. Because, let’s face it, there’s absolutely zero reason on this planet to think they’re beating Oklahoma or Baylor at this point.

Making matters worse seems to be the discord in the locker room that spilled out on to social media this week. The situation in Austin, Texas is messy. There’s a new AD in charge, and Charlie Strong looks more and more like a dead man walking. And if he is, Texas could be staring down the barrel of a season spent threatening to lose double-digit games. Thank God for Kansas, right?

Speaking of former Big 12 powers, someone should tell Mike Riley he’s not in Corvallis anymore. Nebraska finds themselves in as precarious a situation as just about anyone on this list. They sit at 2-3, and with their two most winnable games both being on the road, the margin for error is slim, at most. Missing bowl games doesn’t sit well with the folks in Lincoln. At all. Winning 9 games a year didn’t sit well with them, so imagine bordering on losing that many in a season.

The schedule is also much tougher than it looked a few weeks ago. Northwestern is good. Really good. Iowa is a lot better than expected. Granted, they must come to Lincoln, but that’s where BYU has already won, after losing their starting quarterback, and Southern Miss made a game of it. This is a team that was curb stomped for three quarters by Miami, today’s Miami, not the Miami you grew up hearing about, and who lost to a team who fired their coach in August before the first game was even played.

Yes, there are serious concerns in Lincoln right now. But, on the bright side, as alluded to, they get their toughest opponents all at home. Iowa and Northwestern might have established themselves as the favorites in the division, though neither possesses an offense that looks like it could bury Nebraska and leave them with no chance. Wisconsin has shown they don’t have a pulse offensively against a semi competent defense, and the Spartans of Michigan State seem to be missing that special something at this point of the season. So, with the glass half full, there’s reason to think Nebraska has a shot to win all four of these games, and, ultimately, win out and play for the division title.

But they lost to Illinois.

And there is the glass half empty. It’s also conceivable they lose all four and miss the post-season. It’s conceivable that they not only lose all four, but that they get stymied by the Minnesota defense on the road as well, and the Huskers finish 4-8, at best.

Just a a few short years ago it would have been preposterous to suggest that as we approached the middle of the college football season that programs like Auburn, Texas and Nebraska would be facing such daunting tasks just to make it into a bowl game. Such is the nature of college football though. Two of the most respected coaches in the game, Spurrier and Beamer need to pull rabbits out of a hat to try to salvage their seasons. It’s just the cyclical nature of the game. Not every program, or every coach can stay on top forever. If you’re a Tennessee fan though, you’re starting to wonder if you’ll ever get on top again, or if the karma from firing Phil Fulmer and hiring Lane Kiffin is seeing to it that you never regain your place among the SEC elite. And if you’re a Georgia Tech, you’re kicking yourself for becoming a prisoner of the moment and being blinded to the reality that you knew existed.

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College Football Rankings, 1-128

We’re at about the one third mark of the college football season, and so for the first time, I’ll release my ranking of all 128 teams in the country.

I know some are going to be up in arms over having Alabama ranked above Ole Miss, but I will still say, that as of this day, if these two played again on a neutral field, I’m taking Alabama as the better football team. Five turnovers in a game is an easy way for the better team to not win, and my rankings aren’t about your “resume”, or what I think you’ll do the rest of the year, it’s based on who I think, this week, are the best teams.

The week ahead promises to be exciting, as the schedule is littered with high quality matchups that will greatly affect the landscape of college football this season. But we’ll get to that later, for now, here’s how I rank ’em.

1 Ohio State 4-0
2 UCLA 4-0
3 Utah 4-0
4 Alabama 3-1
5 Baylor 3-0
6 Georgia 4-0
7 Michigan State 4-0
8 LSU 3-0
9 Ole Miss 4-0
10 USC 3-1
11 Florida State 3-0
12 TCU 4-0
13 Michigan 3-1
14 Notre Dame 4-0
15 Clemson 3-0
16 Mississippi State 3-1
17 N.C. State 4-0
18 Oklahoma 3-0
19 Northwestern 4-0
20 Wisconsin 3-1
21 Stanford 3-1
22 Texas A&M 4-0
23 North Carolina 3-1
24 Arizona 3-1
25 Duke 3-1
26 Texas Tech 3-1
27 Florida 4-0
28 Memphis 4-0
29 Oregon 2-2
30 West Virginia 3-0
31 Tennessee 2-2
32 Houston 3-0
33 Miami 3-0
34 Oklahoma State 4-0
35 Toledo 3-0
36 Boise State 3-1
37 Kansas State 3-0
38 Iowa 4-0
39 Cal 4-0
40 Kentucky 3-1
41 Auburn 2-2
42 Louisville 1-3
43 Bowling Green 2-2
44 Boston College 3-1
45 Northern Illinois 2-2
46 Navy 3-0
47 Nebraska 2-2
48 BYU 2-2
49 Temple 3-0
50 Pittsburgh 2-1
51 Washington 2-2
52 Syracuse 3-1
53 East Carolina 2-2
54 Texas 1-3
55 Virginia Tech 2-2
56 Georgia Tech 2-2
57 Ohio 3-1
58 Penn State 3-1
59 Air Force 2-1
60 Central Michigan 1-3
61 Minnesota 3-1
62 Arizona State 2-2
63 Georgia Southern 3-1
64 Missouri 3-1
65 Iowa State 1-2
66 Tulsa 2-1
67 Cincinnati 2-2
68 Colorado 3-1
69 Indiana 4-0
70 South Carolina 2-2
71 Appalachian State 3-1
72 Western Kentucky 3-1
73 Colorado State 2-2
74 Illinois 3-1
75 Louisiana Tech 2-2
76 UConn 2-2
77 Maryland 2-2
78 Nevada 2-2
79 Arkansas 1-3
80 Marshall 3-1
81 Oregon State 2-2
82 Akron 2-2
83 Arkansas State 1-3
84 Western Michigan 1-3
85 Hawaii 2-2
86 Buffalo 2-2
87 Louisiana Lafayette 1-2
88 Middle Tennessee St 2-2
89 Southern Miss 2-2
90 Virginia 1-3
91 Louisiana Monroe 1-2
92 San Jose State 2-2
93 Vanderbilt 1-3
94 Rice 2-2
95 Florida International 2-2
96 Kent State 1-3
97 Purdue 1-3
98 UT San Antonio 0-4
99 SMU 1-3
100 Ball State 2-2
101 UNLV 1-3
102 South Alabama 2-2
103 San Diego State 1-3
104 Washington State 2-1
105 Texas State 1-3
106 Fresno State 1-3
107 South Florida 1-2
108 Wake Forest 2-2
109 Utah State 1-2
110 Rutgers 2-2
111 Central Florida 0-4
112 Troy 1-2
113 New Mexico 2-2
114 Old Dominion 2-2
115 Army 1-3
116 Miami Ohio 1-3
117 Tulane 1-2
118 UTEP 2-2
119 Florida Atlantic 1-3
120 Eastern Michigan 1-3
121 UMass 0-3
122 Kansas 0-3
123 North Texas 0-3
124 Charlotte 2-2
125 Georgia State 1-2
126 Idaho 1-3
127 Wyoming 0-4
128 New Mexico State 0-3

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Must Win Games in Week Three? You Betcha

South Carolina finds themselves in a must win situation, and would Steve Spurrier rather be playing anyone than Georgia?

South Carolina finds themselves in a must win situation, and would Steve Spurrier rather be playing anyone than Georgia?

There is still yet another weekend of September games on the schedule, but already in week three, some teams and coaches are feeling the heat. For some coaches, they’re fighting for their job. For some teams, their chance to spoil the college football playoff party as a dark horse may be dependent on a key early season victory, and for some, they’re neither here nor there, but need a win in the worst way to keep a season from spiraling out of control before it ever really gets started.

For starters, there are a few teams with a chance to make big time statements and propel themselves into the playoff discussion, while a loss this week would probably drop them too far behind the pack to be able to recover, either due to the depth of their fall, or the arduous task that would lie in front of them asking them to not lose another game all season.

#14 Georgia Tech at #8 Notre Dame– This one I went back and forth on as to just how important it is to each team, and finally decided, that if either one wants to make the playoff, they can’t lose this game. And that has more to do with their schedules the rest of the way than it does how far a loss on Saturday might drop them. The odds of either team running the table from Saturday going forward aren’t good, which is what it would require for either to get back into the playoff race. Georgia Tech faces what could amount to be one of the most daunting schedules in all of college football, and while the Irish slate isn’t as difficult, the presence of Clemson, USC and Stanford means Notre Dame would really like to have some margin for error as they head into the cooler months of the season. So while both teams potentially could recover from this loss, both teams know that their best shot at being in the college playoff conversation in November is probably dependent on getting out of September without a loss. With the ACC and the Independent Irish on the outside looking in when it comes to playoff prognostications, every win over a highly ranked foe is critical to obtain, and they can’t afford to let those opportunities slip away.

Stanford at #6 USC- Last year Stanford saw their streak of double digit win seasons snapped at four, all the more impressive considering they’d never posted back to back double digit win seasons in their school’s history. Many felt that was an aberration for David Shaw and the Cardinal however and several pundits predicted the Cardinal would be right back in the playoff mix, and even potentially dethrone Oregon in the Pac 12 North. Then the season began and the Cardinal were physically dominated by Northwestern in one of the more stunning outcomes to date during the 2015 season. While Stanford can afford to lose to USC and still win the Pac 12, they absolutely cannot afford to lose this game and still have any shot at making the college football playoff. It says a lot about where Stanford has come as a program that that is the level of expectation no only in Palo Alto, but nationwide. But a second loss in three games to start the year will have them re-evaluating those expectations very quickly.

Temple at UMass- No, I’m not crazy. And no, I’m not implying Temple is a threat for the college football playoff. However, with their dominant victory over Penn State, and then subsequent win on the road at American Athletic Conference favorite Cincinnati, along with a loss by Boise State to BYU, Temple suddenly has a very legit opportunity to be competing for one of the New Year’s Six bowl games. Yes, Temple, they of 4 bowl games in 67 years of existence. That Temple. But to do so, aside from the Notre Dame game, Temple simply can’t slip up. At all. Every game becomes a must win game for the Owls. But what a story that would be. And they’ve already navigated what most would have considered two of their three toughest tests. Until Temple loses, expect to see them on this page every week from here until the end of the season.

On the opposite end of the spectrum of teams fighting to stay in the race for a national title, you have the coaches fighting to keep their seat from scalding their rear ends as they put for sale signs in their yard. Often times, once the whispers start getting louder, the writing is on the wall. And early season struggles for a coach who came in with the seat anywhere from lukewarm to blistering more often than not lead to a change at the top for the program.

South Florida at Maryland– Randy Edsal was not brought to College Park to go 7-6. Considering that the man he replaced at Maryland won more than 7 games in 6 of his 10 seasons as the head coach, Edsal can’t afford to begin his tenure with five consecutive seasons of failing to top the 7 win mark. After losing in embarrassing fashion to Bowling Green (who, as I’ve championed all along, as a very underrated and explosive offense) Edsal could find himself in real trouble if they slip up again to a weak Bulls program. The Big Ten schedule did Maryland no favors, so if the Terps fail to make a bowl this year and have losses to Bowling Green and South Florida on the resume, Edsal might need to start preparing his.

Illinois at North Carolina– Larry Fedora’s Tar Heels have seen a decrease in their number of wins in both his second and third year on the job, not exactly the direction you want your program to go. 2014 was supposed to be the big turnaround, and it became the biggest disappointment. But with so many starters back on both sides of the ball, and what promised to be a highly explosive, borderline unstoppable offense in Chapel Hill, many, including myself, tabbed Carolina as a sleeper this year. Then the offense slept the entire way through the South Carolina game and had us wondering why we put any faith in the Tar Heels. Illinois may be 2-0, but after the firing of Tim Beckham in August and the uncertainty with that program, along with a lack of talent, losing at home to them is unacceptable for any coach of any program that thinks of themselves as being relevant in college football. The Heels still have a favorable ACC schedule, and have yet to begin conference play, so those goals will still be out there. But it’s going to be awfully difficult to focus on those tasks with what promises to be a whirlwind of rumors and whispers surrounding the future of the program. Couple that with the seemingly never ending cloud of NCAA investigations, and a loss to Illinois could be the straw that breaks the camels back in Chapel Hill.

Virginia Tech at Purdue– This game is far more important than I think many casual observers probably think. Whispers about the future of Frank Beamer and whether or not it was time to hang it up at Virginia Tech have begun to get louder and louder in recent years. Especially as the hallmarks of “Beamer Ball”, his special teams units, have fallen drastically to the point they are no longer a strength, they’re a legit weakness. With a mere 23 wins and no top 25 rankings over the past three years have the program at a potential crossroads. Beamer and the Hokies suffered a bad break when quarterback Michael Brewer went down, but that injury may not be enough to save Beamer if the Hokies suffer to another 5 or 6 loss season. Much like the situation at North Carolina, the schedule is still favorable for conference play, and the Hokies will still control that aspect of their destiny, but losing to a Purdue team that entered the year considered among the worst among all power five conference teams would turn the whispers into full fledged open conversation, and the 2015 Virginia Tech season will be more about what the future of the program holds and less about what they can accomplish this year.

Speaking of Purdue, the Boilermakers went 13-13 in what amounted to the final two seasons Danny Hope was on the job. In the two ensuing seasons they went 4-20 while being rendered for the most part completely uncompetitive. How patient will Purdue remain? The Big Ten schedule for Purdue is disastrous, with only the home games against Indiana and Illinois really seeming to be winnable at this point, so the thoughts of sneaking into a bowl game seem slim, at best. That said, if the team can be competitive in the Big Ten, even if they go 2-6, but can come away with a victory over a team like Virginia Tech, it might be enough to give Darrell Hazell a fourth year on the job. With the Hokies still having all sorts of concerns at quarterback after the Brewer injury, this is one Purdue can get, and at home, needs to get, if Hazell is going to stick around.

Western Kentucky at Indiana– There are many, yours truly included, who just don’t understand how Kevin Wilson still has a job at Indiana. I think we’ve had him on the hot seat for successive years now, and yet, here he is, despite never finishing .500 or qualifying for a bowl in four years on the job. With games against Wake Forest, Rutgers, Maryland, and Purdue still on the schedule, Hoosier fans have a glimmer of hope that this will be the year they return to a bowl game, for what would be just their second postseason appearance over 22 seasons. But after narrowly escaping against Southern Illinois, no game can be chalked up as a W. But if Indiana is going to make a bowl, which this time HAS to be the only way Kevin Wilson gets to back for another year, they absolutely must win a home game against Western Kentucky.

Rutgers at Penn State– With the Kyle Flood allegations and suspensions, Rutgers has officially become the biggest dumpster fire in college football. Just don’t tell that to Penn State fans. Getting blown out by Temple and then struggling to beat Buffalo isn’t what Penn State does. Ever. But it’s what this Penn State does. The Nittany Lions are 4-7 in their last 11 games, including losses at home to Illinois, Maryland and Northwestern, and then the opening week embarrassment at the hands of Temple. Even more disconcerting is the development, or the lack thereof, of Christian Hackenberg. While scouts drool over his physical attributes, his play has worsened since his freshmen year. Many fans wonder aloud how he fared so much better as a freshman under Bill O’Brien than as a junior under James Franklin. These fans will not settle for this. If they cannot take advantage of the mess that is the Rutgers football program and they fall to 1-2 to start the year, the heat on James Franklin, even in just his second year, will ramp up exponentially. One could look to a rather soft conference schedule as a beacon of hope, but, Rutgers is supposed to be the soft part of that schedule. If they can’t take care of business this week, the ball might begin to get rolling on James Franklin.

When a quarterback regresses to this level from his freshman year, confidence in the head coach begins to wane.

When a quarterback regresses to this level from his freshman year, confidence in the head coach begins to wane.

And finally, there are those who are fighting to salvage a season. No, there is no real job security issue with the head coach, and they were never a threat for the playoffs, but their 2015 seasons have not gotten off to the start they expected, and a loss this week could have them well behind the eight ball as we ramp up conference play.

#11 Clemson at Louisville– Personally I take great joy in seeing the Cardinals 0-2. It’s nothing against Louisville, well, it is now, but I love seeing Bobby Petrino fail. I especially love to see how he’s failed. The Cardinals are still talented enough on defense, and Petrino is still smart enough of an offensive mind that this team can still play spoiler in the ACC Atlantic Division. However, an 0-3 start could prove disastrous, because after Samford, Louisville has to play N.C. State and Florida State on the road. 1-5 is a problem anywhere, for any coach, of any program.

South Carolina at #7 Georgia- After the unimpressive win over North Carolina, and the twice as unimpressive loss to Kentucky, South Carolina looks in real trouble. The fact that Connor Mitch is out, potentially for the season, puts an even bigger damper on the inauspicious 1-1 start. The loss to Kentucky by South Carolina takes a bit of the pressure off of Georgia. In years past, an early season loss to the Gamecocks would leave the Bulldog Nation scoreboard watching the rest of the year in hopes of still recovering to play in the Georgia Dame for the SEC championship. With Kentucky already having handed South Carolina a division less, it takes some of the impetus off this game for Georgia. But staring an 0-2 start in the division in the face, it magnifies it ten fold for the Gamecocks. With a road schedule that includes Missouri, Texas A&M and Tennessee, a loss to Georgia suddenly makes the thought of South Carolina missing out on a bowl game for the first time since 2007 a real possibility.

Furman at Central Florida– Over the last five seasons, Central Florida has reached unprecedented and unexpected heights. They’ve christened their new on campus stadium by winning 47 games over that stretch, three times amassing double digit figures in wins as well as winning a Fiesta Bowl and finishing the year in the top 10. 2015 has been much different. It started with a shocking loss to Florida International. That was followed by a dreadful performance against Stanford where the Knights weren’t even remotely competitive. Hopes of returning to the postseason are already on life support, but a loss to Furman would pretty much end them all together. Additionally, rumors continue to swirl about the future of George O’Leary and how much longer he plans to remain the head coach and whether or not he moves on to an administrative role. An 0-3 start, including losses to FIU and Furman might be the most persuasive voice in his ear. Any hopes of salvaging the 2015 campaign rest on righting the ship this Saturday.

Texas Tech at Arkansas– This may not be as much about Arkansas as it is the SEC. The Hogs suffered some off-season attrition, and some of the pre-season prognostications were probably a bit over zealous. However, they still shouldn’t lose at home to Toledo. Now they get to welcome Texas Tech into town, and while the Red Raiders aren’t receiving a lot of love nationally, they have scored 128 points in two games. Of course, they always score points. But the Red Raiders would love nothing more than to earn some national respect while also pouring some salt in the wounds of the SEC from last week. And that’s why this is so dangerous for Arkansas. Texas Tech is coming in with no pressure looking to prove a point. Arkansas takes a gander at their upcoming schedule and one could reasonably ask, if they lose this game, where does their next win against an FBS opponent come from? That’s a scary proposition, and when you’re 1-2 having lost at home to Toledo and Texas Tech, you’re not exactly brimming with the confidence necessary to take on the SEC schedule that awaits. A loss this weekend to the Hogs could be disastrous.

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