Chain vs. Plank, Who Ya Got?: The Weekend in College Football
Plus, the college football playoff race is total madness.
Photo by Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports, Twitter/@MichaelFosterSN
Welcome back to The Weekend in College Football, VICE Sports' new column. Each week, we'll take you through everything you missed on Saturday (or, God forbid, Friday night), the things worth learning, and look ahead to what happens next. Enjoy.
1st and 10: The CFP Race Is Insane
The College Football Playoff has certainly been a success in its three years of existence, and the run-up to the Playoff is far more exciting than the debacle that was the BCS. But I have a confession to make: Last year was boring as hell.
As excited as we try to get about the annual selection show, at this point last year we all knew which teams—Alabama, Clemson, Washington, and Ohio State—were going to be selected. Only two other teams, Michigan and Oklahoma, had any real hope of cracking the list.
This year, other than Alabama, I really can’t tell you who’s going to be selected. Because at this point, there are multiple top teams in multiple conferences that have a chance.
- Clemson: Probably the best non-Alabama bet, but only has one great win (Auburn) and lost to Syracuse, somehow. If the Tigers lose the ACC Championship Game to Miami, they’re out.
- Miami: This week’s darlings (more on that later) after destroying Notre Dame, but is the schedule strong enough to get in, even with one loss? Probably not.
- Wisconsin: If they win out, they’re in. But if they lose to Ohio State in the Big Ten Championship Game, their best win will be either Michigan, Northwestern, or Iowa. As 2015 Iowa can attest, that’s probably not going to be enough.
- Oklahoma: Probably the second-best chance behind the ACC champion, but the Sooners still have to go to West Virginia and play the No. 2 team in the conference in the Big 12 title game.
- Georgia: The Bulldogs just got blown out by Auburn, but if they win the SEC Championship Game, they’re in.
- Auburn: The win over Georgia is impressive. Maybe they’ll get themselves into consideration if they beat Alabama?
- Ohio State: The Buckeyes dominated Michigan State after being blown out by Iowa (which is still hilarious). If they similarly dominate Michigan and Wisconsin, they’ll have a very strong resume, despite the losses to Iowa and Oklahoma.
Do any of those teams have a better than 60 percent chance of getting in? Clemson, Miami, and Wisconsin certainly control their own destiny. Oklahoma most likely does, too. Georgia might. With just a little bit of help, Auburn and Ohio State will both have strong cases.
The selection show is in less than a month and we’re officially in a wild playoff to get to the Playoff. That’s how it should be.
2nd and 8: Miami Is Awesome and You Should Cut It Out with the “Catholics vs. Convicts”
The Miami-Notre Dame rivalry was branded “Catholics vs. Convicts” when the top-ranked Hurricanes visited the Irish in South Bend in 1988, and it was memorialized by an ESPN 30 for 30 with the same name.
The moniker speaks for itself: Notre Dame players were choir boys, while Miami’s mostly black team was branded a group of criminals. No, Miami didn’t run a particularly clean program in the 1980s, but “convicts” certainly wasn’t an adequate way to describe the players on the team. Moreover, in recent years Notre Dame has been guilty of some deplorable actions of its own, including academic fraud and railroading an investigation into a reported sexual assault by a football player, after which a woman committed suicide.
And yet, the reputation has stuck with the Hurricanes.
You might think this is just a cute little tradition, but given the not-so-subtle racism involved, and the fact that it seems to bug the current Miami players who are definitely not convicts, maybe you should stop using the name.
Clip of the Week
Ten years ago, Georgia players celebrated a big win over Auburn by dancing to Soulja Boy’s “Crank That” on the field.
Auburn didn’t forget. Ten years later, the Tigers celebrated their blowout victory over the Bulldogs the same way.
That’s some excellent college football trolling.
Tennessee Should Hire Lane Kiffin
The Butch Jones era is mercifully over at Tennessee after the Vols lost 50-17 to Missouri and fall to 0-6 in SEC play. Tennessee remains one of the toughest jobs in college football because the fans have massive expectations, but the Vols don’t have the recruiting advantages that many of their conference brethren—Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Auburn, and even Texas A&M—enjoy.
Here’s how the Vols will deal with these built-in burdens: They’ll copy the rest of their conference’s teams and hire a Nick Saban clone who will never be as good as the original (hello, Dan Mullen).
Here’s what they should do: Hire Lane Kiffin.
Admittedly, the No. 1 reason the Vols should do this is the hilarity of it. Kiffin, you’ll remember, had perhaps the most tumultuous one-year stint in coaching history while in Knoxville, before ditching town for USC. Tennessee fans hate him, probably for good reason.
But there are two other reasons Tennessee should hire Kiffin: For one, he’s a good coach who’s off to a great start with Florida Atlantic. And two, it would piss Saban off to no end, which might play into Tennessee’s hands.
Kiffin was the offensive coordinator at Alabama until Saban got so fed up with his antics that he sent him packing the week before the 2016 national title game (which Alabama lost). The Vols haven’t beaten the Crimson Tide in over a decade, so why not add some sass to what has become a stale rivalry?
Kiffin, for one, seems on board.
Have some fun with this, Tennessee. If you hire another generic SEC football coach, nothing is going to get better.
3rd and 1
These “tributes” seem harmless, but in reality, they’re a way for teams to use jingoistic marketing to build their own brands. Pledging allegiance to the military through vague patriotic symbols and playing dress up isn’t the same as helping veterans, and it’s disingenuous to suggest otherwise. Veteran and sports writer Matt Ufford, who graduated from Northwestern—a school that loves integrating patriotic imagery into its football team—said it best in his attempt to “debark the bullshit train to Jingotown":
Sporting events, particularly around Veterans Day, have a habit of condensing military service into an easily digestible slice of patriotism. The PA announcer says words like "heroic" and "sacrifice" without context or meaning while soldiers and sailors stand in camouflage or dress uniforms, a 38-second tribute that squeezes an emotional trigger for the audience while whitewashing the devastating effects of war -- its 500-pound bombs and rubbled buildings, its stolen sons and daughters, its impossible and unfair cruelty.
Football coaches tend to struggle with math and probability. Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen is no exception.
With 6:30 left in the game and the Bulldogs tied with mighty Alabama, Mississippi State faced 4th-and-3 at the Alabama 42-yard-line. Given how great the Alabama defense is, it wasn’t particularly likely that the Bulldogs would get down to that point on the field again. But instead of seizing the opportunity to keep the Crimson Tide on their heels, Mullen decided to punt.
The punt ended in a touchback, helping MSU gain all of 22 yards of field position. The Crimson Tide scored two possessions later to win the game, after the Bulldogs couldn’t move the ball past their 24-yard-line. Shockingly, the decision to punt put MSU in far worse field position overall and diminished its chances to win.
Don’t punt in plus territory with the game on the line, kids. And especially don’t do it against Alabama.
Player Who Deserves to Be Paid This Week: Baker Mayfield
Besides being the best player in college football and the Heisman Trophy favorite, I’d like to congratulate Mayfield for again beating long-time nemesis TCU, this time to keep the Sooners in College Football Playoff contention.
Mayfield and TCU coach Gary Patterson have been feuding for years. Mayfield said in 2017 that he doesn’t like the Horned Frogs because he was promised a scholarship by Patterson that never came.
Recruiting can be a frustrating and deceptive process for players, but rather than understand that, Patterson got all defensive.
He said, “If Baker Mayfield wants to blame TCU for 128 BCS schools not offering him a scholarship, that’s fine.”
It’s true, Mayfield didn’t get any major scholarship offers out of high school, but now he’s one of the most marketable, exciting, and talented players in the game. Pay the man, already—and take the money out of Patterson’s paycheck.
Obscure College Football Team of Note: Kennesaw State
Miami has gotten a lot of attention for its very cool turnover chain, but the Hurricanes have officially lost the award for best turnover prop to Kennesaw State, which has a turnover plank.
Something to Look Forward to
Alabama plays Mercer this week, so it’s annual Nick Saban Gets Mad About Reporters Overlooking a SoCon Team to Ask Questions About Auburn Week. Set your DVRs and Twitter searches accordingly.