College Football

The Huddle: S01E02

Welcome to The Huddle, wherein NCB’s football writers gather on Google Docs and shoot the breeze about college football things. We remember that time you got in trouble for listening to podcasts in your cubicle, so we decided to put it in written form. You’re welcome!

TAYLOR: Good evening, readers. I am Taylor Venema, lead college football writer at No Coast Bias, and I am joined by . . .

BRIAN: Brian Hall. I write for No Coast Bias, somewhat obviously.

TAYLOR: First, let’s be clear here: college football is absolutely bonkers and nothing else can come close. What in the world happened at Miami/Duke?

BRIAN: So for the last two weeks I’ve lead off 1st and LOL with crazy finishes in the last two weeks (both on special teams plays, I should add) and I tried to make it abundantly clear that, with how crazy and improbable it is, it seems like CFB is always giving us these awesome things, and then this happens. Eight laterals, referees reviewing a penalty and reversing it, and the conference coming out and suspending the crew for the decision, citing FOUR errors on the final play alone. It was incredible.

TAYLOR: And then there was the Miami Hurricanes’ Twitter account, just tweeting ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ in response, which is perfect. That doesn’t happen in any other sport. There have been plenty of other wild special teams endings, too, as you said . . . the snap off the punter’s face in Oklahoma State and Texas, the Michigan and Michigan State ending (Fail to the Victors), the Georgia Tech walkoff returned blocked field goal . . . this game is the best.

BRIAN: There really is no other sport where this stuff happens on a weekly basis. And the best part is that it’s all brand new every time it happens. Stuff never gets old or loses drama. Speaking of new things, though, something else still relatively new to the football world is about to happen this week. The playoff committee is about to release the first official playoff rankings for 2015. So Taylor, who are your top four that the committee will vote for after they inevitably read this while preparing for the meeting?

TAYLOR: Obviously there’s Nebraska, who has assembled a flawless résumé so far.

BRIAN: Please, just don’t. My heart can’t take it.

TAYLOR: But for real . . . gosh, with the fall of Utah a few weeks ago I don’t know whether we have a clear cut top seed anymore. The Committee’s rankings are going to be fascinating, given that we have TEN undefeated teams and last year at this time we had two. And I almost guarantee you one of the top four will have a loss. So my ballot is this (and honestly, these four “seeds” are more or less interchangeable):

  1. TCU – The Frogs are annihilating people and they have Trevone Boykin, who is probably the best player in the country. Before Seth Russell’s injury I would have had Baylor here.
  2. Clemson – Deshaun Watson is basically the same as Boykin. What I would give to see these two match wits.
  3. Ohio State – They’re still winning, and as long as J.T. Barrett can stay sober they should continue to.
  4. LSU – For now, though if Alabama beats them Saturday slot the Tide in here instead.

BRIAN: I certainly agree that the amount of undefeated teams is incredibly high for this late into the season, however I don’t think it’s really difficult to see the difference in talent and actual ability to win of those teams. Sure, Oklahoma State is undefeated, but they most likely won’t beat both Baylor and TCU, so it’s easy to count them out. And Iowa is undefeated which shouldn’t be hard for any team playing that schedule. So given what teams have shown, this is what I’d go with:

  1. Clemson – Obvious choice in my opinion. The Tigers have played really well with some moderately tough competition on an ACC schedule, and other than a scare against a Notre Dame team that’s still good despite losing Maliek Zaire, they’ve dominated lesser opponents. And they still have a meeting with a pretty good FSU team as well.
  2. LSU – Obviously, like you said, this hinges on the game in Tuscaloosa this weekend, but the Tigers have not had an easy road to 8-0 by any stretch, and they’ve done everything to deserve a spot. Sure they may have overlooked Syracuse a bit, but clearly by beating Florida, a team whose defense should have been able to do more against their offense, they’ve shown they can hang with anybody.
  3. Ohio State – The Big Ten is tough for me because still think that Michigan might be the best team in the conference despite the freak loss to MSU and almost blowing it against a Minnesota team that should not have been in that game at all. But tOSU has looked better than Michigan State, and they have yet to actually lose, so until then, I’d say they still deserve a spot.
  4. TCU – I guess I’ll say TCU for now, but honestly this Big XII spot hinges entirely on either TCU, Baylor, or OK State going undefeated. So we can just come back and edit this later in the year to whichever team has done that.

But that’s my ballot so far, although I think a lot of things will clear up after this weekend. And speaking of things that are clearing up, how about the fact that TEN schools are currently without head coaches?

TAYLOR: The carnage has been unprecedented. It’s a vicious industry these days, even just two years ago the midseason firing of Lane Kiffin broke the presses because they fired a coach DURING THE SEASON! Now that just seems to be the norm. And our hearts shatter for Jerry Kill, who just couldn’t bear any more. A downright tragedy.

BRIAN: The Kill decision honestly upset me, and I have no investment in the Minnesota program. That guy brought a great culture to a school that really needed somebody like him. He’ll certainly be missed, and hopefully he can use the extra time to start turning his health around. And just today Hawaii announced that they were firing Norm Chow after a 2-7 start. Like you said, it’s a vicious industry, but I think that has more to do with the calendar that CFB follows anymore. The time to fire a coach is now, if you want to get a head start on finding a guy who can recruit and bring in a class to have a solid first year and a foundation to build on, you can’t wait until December. It’s just the necessary evil of the game, it seems.

TAYLOR: December, by which time these ten schools will hire new coaches . . . and then the schools whose coaches got hired away will hire ten coaches . . . will we even recognize half the coaching staffs in the FBS next spring? Obviously the hot candidates are Justin Fuente, Tom Herman, and Matt Rhule . . . who’s gonna get lucky and snag them?

BRIAN: I had to make the case to some rowdy friends and fellow Husker fans last night that had Nebraska waited a year they could’ve snagged one of those guys 🙁 But honestly, I’m sure Miami will likely get one. There’s a wealth of talent down there, and there’s no reason to believe a good coach can’t win at that school with so much talent and an ACC schedule every year. But USC is going to have the pick of the litter, so really we’ll have to wait until the first domino falls before we start to see any other action.

TAYLOR: I know there are a lot of reasons why Miami’s been shackled this past decade or so, but if I had to pick a team to be “back” first of the current struggling bluebloods it would be the ‘Canes . . . assuming whoever they hire can manage the weird dynamic of an administration that wants to deny its past successes. And USC has a JACKED roster. I could see that being a year-one success type place.

(And I’ll try to put this delicately, Brian: Fuente was totally available for Nebraska last winter.)

BRIAN: What’s worse than that is I’ve heard (albeit from an unreliable source) that Kyle Whittingham from Utah applied last year as well and we passed on him. Don’t know if that’s true or not, but if so it’d really sting even more. But before I delve into the emotional complexities of being a Nebraska fan in 2015, I have to ask Taylor: which team that has fired its head coach is the least likely to find a better replacement?

TAYLOR: My gut says South Carolina. Steve Spurrier was that whole program and even he was struggling to keep pace in an abysmal SEC East the last couple years.

BRIAN: That’s a good point. I’d throw Maryland in the mix simply because I can see them going for a guy that just doesn’t work out at all. They likely won’t get one of the top candidates that everyone is naming, and I don’t see someone coming in and immediately fixing the Terps problems, especially not in conference that’s going to be pretty tough for the next couple years. . . at least, at the top half.

TAYLOR: That’s fair, I feel like Maryland should get a little more credit because they should . . . theoretically . . . dominate that region, what with all the Under Armour money and the fact that outside of Penn State they really don’t have any competition for recruits. But then you remember Urban Meyer, Jim Harbaugh, and Mark Dantonio are in that division and you just feel bad for the Terps.

Okay, here’s one: in 2012, Bret Bielema shocked the world by leaving his conference championship-winning Badgers for the Arkansas Razorbacks. Which successful Power Five coach could you see leaving for greener pastures?

BRIAN: Well, ruling out Whittingham because I already mentioned him (and I’m not sure if he’d be willing to leave Utah), I’m going to throw Kevin Sumlin into the mix. He’s built a fine program out of A&M, but they clearly have issues that come up every year (i.e. an inability to stop the run), and going somewhere where you wouldn’t have to beat ‘Bama and LSU every single season might do well to make him look a lot better as a coach. What are your thoughts?

TAYLOR: Ooh, yeah, that’s a good one. I could see Miami or USC throwing some money at a guy like Sumlin. I bet both of those programs would flourish with that system on offense given the talent in the area. I had entertained a scenario in my head wherein the Iowa Hawkeyes were terrible this year and a certain alumni, tired of competing with Baylor and TCU and sick of his fanbase, uprooted and went to Iowa City (Bob Stoops). But Iowa is good now so Kirk Ferentz will be there for 70 more seasons.

BRIAN: If the Big Ten set up some sort of glorious long con to make Iowa look good so they’d give Ferentz another ridiculous extension before everyone started to compete again, I’d actually be ok with Nebraska playing its role in hiring Mike Riley and becoming mediocre.

TAYLOR: May Ferentz coach a thousand years.

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