Tag Archives: sec football

Missouri Tiger Marcell Frazier Is Speaking To The Media Again

After a 1-5 start to the season, the Missouri Tigers were fortunate to be in the Texas Bowl. That good fortune was created in large part to an offense that found its top-gear during the second-half of the season. Bowl games are fickle beasts though. So when Texas beat Missouri 33-16, it wasn’t a complete surprise. The attention that players give these non-championship level bowl games is always questionable and, at times, the focus of the coaching staff can be questioned. And that’s just what Missouri’s Marcell Frazier did. He questioned coaching loyalty.

Frazier’s defensive squad played well enough to win this game. If anyone had room to call anyone out, it was a member of the Missouri defense. But Frazier was out of line when calling out now-departed offensive coordinator Josh Heupel, offensive line coach Glen Elarbee and, when we get right down to it, the entire offensive side of the ball under the leadership of interim offensive coordinator Joe Jon Finley.

Back in June, Frazier announced that he wouldn’t grant interviews to the local Missouri media this season over treatment that he perceived to be harsh and unfair. We not only heard nothing from Frazier via local beats but heard very little from him nationally. That all changed once Texas beat Frazier’s Tigers.

For Frazier to have placed a self-imposed gag order on himself over critical members of the media only to throw former coaches, current coaches, and teammates under the bus is classless. I know, in his own words, he’s just a teenage boy (but not really), but he positioned himself to be as mature, if not more mature than many of the adults in his life. Not so.

As a fan, I don’t like Heupel and Elarbee leaving the program when they did. But I get it. Just as Frazier said, college football is a business and coaches move around looking for new opportunities that will further their careers. We all know the nature of the business and that includes the players. Heupel and Elarbee left at the worst possible time. Get over it. The timing of their departures was no excuse for Frazier to lob his verbal grenades at Joe Jon Finley and the offense.

All year Missouri fans heard about the toxic locker room atmosphere that Barry Odom had inherited from Gary Pinkel. We heard about a few bad apples who didn’t have the best interests of the team at heart. When Odom kicked players off of the team or had players transfer out, Missouri fans were sold on the idea that the culture was being cleaned up. Maybe these guys were toxic, maybe they weren’t. But this is what we were sold on.

I’ll say this. As good as Frazier was on the field, his attitude should be called into question. If he was willing to publicly say what he said about everyone associated with Missouri’s offense, then I have to wonder what he was saying behind closed doors. Maybe we’d have a hint of Frazier’s attitude if he wouldn’t have been hiding from the media all year. That is until he was ready to attempt to publicly humiliate teammates and coaches.

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E-mail Seth at seth.merenbloom@campuspressbox.com 

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

 

Phil Fulmer Is Set To Be “The Don” Of The VolNation Family

John Currie has been fired by Tennessee. With the soap opera coaching search that was underway at Tennessee, his firing shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone. But let’s be honest, Currie was in a precarious position from the beginning.

Currie’s job was a position that Phil Fulmer coveted. The former football coach left a storied past on the sidelines and he hoped to lead the program back to the top as A.D. He was a finalist for the position that Currie was ultimately selected for.

Fulmer received a consolation prize in place of the job he pined away for when the university hired him as a special advisor. That sort of thing happens a lot but, in this instance, it left Currie in a shaky position from day-1 on the job. All it would take is one real or perceived slip up for the hardcore Vol fans to get their wish. That slip up occurred when Currie attempted to hire Greg Schiano to replace Butch Jones.

It was all downhill from there for Currie and the writing was on the wall.

There are now reports that Fulmer has been sabotaging Currie’s coaching search in hopes of replacing the Rocky Top outsider. This isn’t a good look but if we’re being honest, it’s exactly what #VolNation has deeply desired all along.

#VolNation marched on Knoxville in protest of the attempted hiring of Schiano due to their high moral standards. Those fans couldn’t fathom the thought of a man like Schiano roaming the sidelines inside of Neyland Stadium. Under no circumstances could they have Schiano acting as the face of the program. And Currie was considered guilty by association.

But #VolNation is just fine with Fulmer.

Each year college football presents a laundry list of awards to players, coaches, and teams. Many are serious. Some are not. The Fulmer Cup is one of those parody awards.

The Fulmer Cup tracks player arrests. If your program had the most players arrested, you win the award. And why is it named The Fulmer Cup? Easy. Because Phil Fulmer ran a program whose arrest record rivaled its winning percentage. Ah yes. The good old days!

This is all well and good for #VolNation. You can run your program like Tony Soprano if you’re considered a True Vol. If you’re an outsider, like Currie and Schiano, then perceived moral improprieties will have you pushed off of Rocky Top.

With Fulmer lurking over his shoulder, Currie was placed in an impossible situation from his first day in Knoxville. All he had to do was give Fulmer and his fans a reason to hate him. Once that happened, Fulmer seems to have taken care of the rest.

All that’s left to do is for Tennessee to name Fulmer as A.D., name Peyton Manning as a special advisor to the program, and to bring Tee Martin in as head coach. Once the ’90s are reestablished in Knoxville, all will be right for #VolNation.

The thing is, I don’t know if we should call this Rocky Top family an athletic department or a syndicate. Rick Barnes better watch his back or Don DeVoe may be brought back to coach the basketball team.

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E-mail Seth at seth.merenbloom@campuspressbox.com 

Photo: Flickr

Tennessee Volunteer Football Fans Have Lost Their Minds

It’s been nine years since the SEC football conference champion came out of the East. It’s for good reason that the division is known as the SEC Least. For that to change, a better collection of coaches have to be assembled in the East and that is beginning to happen. Sort of.

There were two openings created in the East when Tennessee and Florida fired its coaches mid-season. Tennessee fans planned on singing Rocky Top with Jon Gruden. Florida fans planned on doing the Gator chomp with Chip Kelly. Once reality set in, Gruden stayed put with Monday Night Football and Kelly accepted the natural fit at UCLA.

That left Tennessee with Greg Schiano and Florida with Dan Mullen. I was going to write about both of these hires, but after looking into the storylines, I’ve decided to focus on the would-be marriage between Schiano and Tennessee.

Schiano isn’t a hire that will excite Tennessee fans. He may be an underwhelming hire, but the reaction from those fans, both influential and Average Joe, is downright scary. Some fans want Currie’s plane to crash while a local coffee shop, Remedy Coffee, says that Schiano isn’t allowed in the establishment.

The reason why some fans are hoping for Currie’s death and coffee shops won’t sell Schiano a dirty chai is because he coached at Penn State during the Jerry Sandusky scandal.

Fans and politicians can’t believe that Currie would allow someone who supported child molestation into Neyland Stadium. The outrage is so strong that some believe the offer to be the Tennessee head coach will be pulled. If this is the case, it’s a huge overreaction.


First, let me say this; Schiano doesn’t support or condone child molestation. I don’t know the man and I’ve never spoken to him. But I’m confident in making that statement. Jerry Sandusky and Penn State were both prosecuted. What happened in Happy Valley was awful but it’s been dealt with. I’m sure that isn’t a popular opinion but it’s the truth. Schiano is innocent.

Now for the hammer to be dropped.

The problem is with the Tennessee fanbase. You’re all off of your rockers. Many college football fanbases are rabid, volatile, emotion-filled groups of people. But this group of fans perched upon Rocky Top is really something special.

This group of Tennessee fans, comprised of no-names, politicians, and business owners, are so upset that they didn’t get Gruden that they’re trying to run off a coach before he’s stepped foot on campus. Schiano has coached at Penn State is just a convenient excuse. Not getting Gruden, or even Dan Mullen was a huge blow to the over-inflated egos that root for Tennessee football. It’s just a bad look for any fanbase.

Remember this; there’s no room for Schiano in Knoxville but Peyton Manning remains a living deity. Accusations and assumptions are only damning when the target isn’t a member of the Tennessee’s Mount Rushmore.

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E-mail Seth at seth.merenbloom@campuspressbox.com 

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

 

The Missouri Tigers Versus The Florida Gators Offers Intrigue

I like storylines. A good storyline elevates an already good game or adds intrigue to an otherwise out-of-sight/out-of-mind game.

Florida at Missouri is a game with an intriguing storyline.

Jim McElwain was relieved of his duties in Gainseville. McElwain’s Gators won two SEC championships as he picked up the pieces after the failed experiment with Will Muschamp. But it’s a what-have-you-done-for-me-today industry and, going into this game against Missouri, Florida is 3-4 with no hint of an offense.

As for Missouri, first-year head coach Barry Odom is nursing a 3-5 record. The Tigers are coming off of a would-be impressive road win against UConn. Drew Lock looked magical as he completed 83 percent of his passes while tossing five touchdowns. But please, let’s put that performance in perspective. It was against a bad UConn team.

So what’s intriguing about this matchup?

For Florida, it’s going to be about pride. Will the mid-season firing of their coach be considered a gut check opportunity for the Gators? This is a road game for Florida and those can always be dicey in the SEC even when the road team is traveling to the Siberian northern region of the conference.

Missouri needs to build on the recent wins against Idaho and UConn. As Dave Matter pointed out, a bowl game is still on the table for Missouri. It’s difficult to argue against math. Numbers don’t lie. But 6 or 7 wins are potential outcomes. As for the probability of being bowl eligible? Well, that depends on if you’re a glass-half-full or glass-half-empty type of fan.

What we do know is that Florida has set its course. McElwain is out and a new coach will be hired. Firing him was questionable to me. Doing it mid-season was downright BOLD. If Florida plans on hiring a current coach – like Dan Mullen – then the AD gained nothing by firing the coach midseason. If the Gators are going to go whale hunting – going for a Chip Kelly or Bob Stoops – then a midseason shakeup makes a bit more sense. Having said that, if the AD is playing Moby Dick, then that whale of a hire better be made. Otherwise, it’s going to be more like Mopy Dick at Florida.

This game for Odom and Missouri is now more precarious. Florida doesn’t have a head coach and the performance of the team has been underwhelming to date. The storyline makes this a must-win game for Odom if he hopes to keep the morale of the fanbase as a glass-half-full proposition. This game is also important for recruiting. Odom had made head-way into the South and was hoping to do the same in-state. Verbal commitments have been lost and the in-state talent couldn’t care less about Missouri. A win against a struggling, but name brand SEC school like Florida will help Odom’s elevator pitch.

I’m not going to make a prediction about this game. There are too many unknowns with these teams and there has been far too much on-field inconsistency from each of these teams. What can be said is this – there’s intrigue with this game and it could make for one of those classic mid-season SEC games.

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E-mail Seth at seth.merenbloom@campuspressbox.com 

Photo: Airforce Global Strike Command

Making Death Threats Is Not A Part Of Being A Sports Fan

As their team sits at 3-3 and in 2nd-place in the SEC East, fans of the Florida Gators thought their season would be going better than it has up to this point. There was the season-opening 33-17 loss to a disappointing Michigan team. And they lost frustrating games to LSU and Texas A&M. None of these losses were bad losses but those games against LSU and Texas A&M should have been wins.

I’m here to tell fans of the Gators that it’s just a game. It’s. Just. A. Game.

But for a vocal, impulsive minority portion of the fanbase, it’s more than just a game. This is SEC football and everyone should dominate the way Nick Saban and Alabama do. So naturally (?) some Florida fans have resorted to making death threats against both Jim McElwain and some of the players.

If you’re a fan of the Gators, there are bigger things in life than the record of the football team. If you’re a fan of any team, there should be bigger things in your life. But this is SEC football. Remember? “It Just Means More.”

Except it doesn’t.

The success or lack thereof of your favorite sports team should not mean more. It shouldn’t mean more than your well-being, the well-being of your family, or the strength of your relationships with others. Most of us understand this. But sadly many don’t.

Your happiness and reason d’etre shouldn’t hinge on the success of a sports team. And when your mental sanity is tethered to the record of a sports team, you only appear more delusional when it’s a college team your psyche is tied to. If you’re a grown ass man or woman, stop worshipping 17-21 year old kids and go find a life. It’s a big world out there and Jim McElwain shouldn’t be the captain of your ship.

This attitude is nothing new, particularly in the SEC.

I’m not a fan of NCAA basketball referee John Higgins. When I say that, what I really mean is that I’m not a fan of Higgins as referee. He may very well be a great guy and great businessman. When the Kentucky basketball team lost to North Carolina in the 2017 NCAA tournament, some Wildcat fans blamed Higgins. And you guessed it, there were even threats made against his life.

These aren’t the only examples of fans going off the deep end but these are two of the most reason examples in the SEC.

Watch your team on television. Go to the games. Be an armchair quarterback on message boards. Have fun being a fan. But remember this. It’s all about fun for you. Your livelihood doesn’t depend on the success of your favorite team and neither should your happiness.

If you find a need to harass and threaten the lives of coaches and players then being a fan of a team isn’t for you. You need to put on yourself on probation for lack of institutional control and come back to sports when you’re mature enough to handle it.

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E-mail Seth at seth.merenbloom@campuspressbox.com 

Photo: Pixabay

Pondering and Power Rating the SEC

It took me a few days to muster up my enthusiasm for college football after the brutal, inexcusable loss in Baton Rouge, and now I am actually now looking forward to the games this weekend. With that, here are my power ratings on the SEC.

  1. Alabama
  2. Georgia
  3. Texas A&M
  4. LSU
  5. Auburn
  6. Kentucky
  7. South Carolina
  8. Florida
  9. Miss State
  10. Ole Miss
  11. Arkansas
  12. Tennessee
  13. Vanderbilt
  14. Missouri

Auburn has a better football team than LSU, but LSU deserves to be rated ahead of AU by virtue of its win on Saturday. That could right itself by season’s end. The Bayou Bengals could have a big letdown this coming Saturday at Ole Miss, and the Rebels had to gain some confidence by whipping Vandy. The bottom 4 teams are utterly miserable, at this point, but Auburn better watch out for Arkansas. The Tigers are beat up and have to be a bit demoralized after the loss to LSU. We’ll see what they’re made of Saturday.

Bama continues to dominate, but Georgia is for real and both teams could be undefeated entering the SEC Championship game. The Bulldogs’ schedule certainly is not daunting although there are some potential pitfalls on there, especially Auburn at Auburn and Georgia Tech in Atlanta.

Texas A&M is a sleeper and has an opportunity to make some noise before it’s all said and done. Watch out for the Aggies.

“Butch Jones is probably coaching his last game as head man of the Vols.”

Kentucky? If it can get by Mississippi State, in Starkville, that could be a springboard to a very good season. The Wildcats could even make a New Year’s Day bowl game.

Conversely, if State beats Kentucky its record would be 5-2 and the Bulldogs might be poised for a run in its last 5 games. Games with Texas A&M and Alabama would loom large. The fact-of-the-matter is, State will not beat Alabama and it is doubtful to come home with a win in College Station. But win the others and that would put them at an impressive 8-4.

Cock-a-doodle-do! South Carolina is also sporting a 5-2 record and don’t forget that one of those wins came against a very good North Carolina State team. Georgia, Florida and Clemson are huge obstacles to a sterling season in Columbia.

Over in the other Columbia, the Missouri Tigers are truly stinking the woods up with a 1-5 record at its halfway point in 2017. There are a few potential wins left on the Tigers’ slate, most notably this Saturday versus Idaho and the following weekend at UConn. But Tennessee, Vanderbilt, and Arkansas are winnable games for Mizzou.

Florida is a mediocre 4-3 and facing an almost certain loss to Georgia in that heated rivalry. Missouri, South Carolina, UAB, and Florida State conclude the Gators schedule and those games are all possible wins or losses. Don’t laugh at the possibility of a UAB victory in The Swamp. Bill Clark has the Blazers playing remarkably good football, especially when one considers that this team hadn’t played a game in two years before the 2017 campaign began.

We haven’t even mentioned Tennessee except by name. I don’t know if ‘dumpster fire’ is even an adequate description for what is taking place up on Rocky Top. But, historically, November has been the month when the Vols really tend to make hay. But Alabama might beat them mercilessly on this Third Saturday in October and that could complete the demoralization process in Knoxville. Butch Jones is probably coaching his last game as head man of the Vols.

After a 3-0 start the Vanderbilt Commodores have lost 4 straight games and are headed south with a bullet. The schedule is doable (South Carolina, Western Kentucky, Kentucky, Missouri, and Tennessee) but it will have to pick up the pace to make a bowl game.

That’s my take on the Southeastern Conference here and today. A lot of football remains to be played and who knows what portends as we look down the stretch of the 2017 college football season. Good luck to you and your favorite teams!

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E-mail Bird at bird.lecroy@campuspressbox.com or follow him on Twitter @Autull.

Image via Flickr/getmahesh

Mizzou Is In The SEC For Better Or For Worse

Everyone likes taking shots at the Missouri football program. I get it. There’s no denying that Missouri football is horrible in its current state of affairs. But Missouri is not the only bad team in the SEC.

Missouri has become the seemingly trademarked product of all that is bad with SEC football. This anti-Missouri bias was on display when Gary Danielson referred to Tennessee as “Missouri” while the Volunteers were being drubbed 41-0 by Georgia. And Danielson didn’t call Tennessee “Missouri” once. He did it twice and this was after Brad Nessler corrected him.

Danielson’s jab at Tennessee at the hands of Missouri was met with some snarky defense.

Ha, ha, ha! We get it, Holly. As bad as Tennessee played, it’s an insult to the Volunteers to refer to them as Missouri. Just remember that Missouri doesn’t REALLY belong in the SEC. And when it comes right down to it, Missouri should really be kicked out of the Alabama-And-The-13-Dwarfs conference.

Former Missouri beat reporter for the Kansas City Star, Tod Palmer, jumped to the defense of Missouri. All that got in response from Anderson was the classic “snowflake” jab.

Danielson was making the same statement on air that Anderson was making on Twitter. That statement was that Missouri is bad and doesn’t belong in the SEC. It’s just a tired, whiney argument at this point. I can’t say this loud enough – Missouri is in the SEC and Danielson, Anderson, Saturday Down South and everyone else needs to come to terms with this!

[Merenbloom: Why Does Saturday Down South Hate Missouri And Barry Odom]

Part of coming to terms with this is expecting people like Palmer and myself jumping to the defense of Missouri when the jabs are thrown. We’re not “snowflakes” when we bring up the recent success that Missouri has had in the SEC. When Anderson asked Palmer how Missouri’s two SEC East titles went for the Tigers, she and others like her continue to question Missouri’s place in the conference. No, Missouri didn’t win the SEC Championship during either visit to Atlanta, but Butch Jones would gladly trade his collection of 2nd, 4th, and 6th place SEC East finishes for just one of Missouri’s conference championship game appearances.

Here’s the reality of the situation.

Missouri is in the SEC and the Tigers have had some success in their new conference. Times are tough right now for Missouri as the on-field product is hot garbage. And if you need to know, hot garbage is indeed worse than a dumpster fire.

Tennessee hasn’t won the SEC East since 2007. Times are tough in Knoxville, but for different reasons than Missouri’s tough times. The Volunteers aren’t a dumpster fire let alone hot garbage. Jones is merely the captain of a dysfunctional ship.

Here’s a little more reality.

Danielson was out-of-line for using Missouri as the butt of his joke. But at this point, Missouri fans are used to this kind treatment from Danielson. He didn’t like Missouri being in the SEC when the Tigers were good in 2013 or 2014 and he doesn’t like Missouri’s membership in the SEC when the team is hot garbage.

As for Anderson, she made her comment on Twitter and I had no problem with using that forum for the jab. Having said that, calling Palmer a “snowflake” for defending the program showed who had the thin skin.

And I’ll offer a touch more reality…

There’s a fine line between hot garbage, a dumpster fire, and a dysfunctional ship. Both Missouri and Tennessee need new coaches.

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E-mail Seth at seth.merenbloom@campuspressbox.com or follow him on Twitter @SethMerenbloom.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

 

What We’ve Learned About SEC Football

We’re going into week five of the college football season. There have been some exciting games played in the SEC including Texas A&M beating Arkansas in overtime and Florida’s miraculous wins over Kentucky and Tennessee. But what have we learned so far?

Butch Jones

Tennessee is 3-1 but the Volunteers could just as easily be 1-3. They had an amazing comeback win against Georgia Tech and hung on for dear life against UMass. Georgia Tech is understandable. But UMass? I would have thought that after bungling the end of the game against Florida that Butch Jones and his team would have come out prepared against UMass. No. I was wrong. Jones didn’t have his team prepared for UMass.

Here’s what we know – Butch Jones is in over his head at Tennessee.

Sure he’s won nine games a year at Tennessee but he just as easily could have led his teams to double-digit win totals. Jones is a capable coach. He wouldn’t have had success at Cincinnati and Central Michigan if he couldn’t coach. But now that the Tennessee brand helps him land four- and five-star talent, he seems to have become complacent.

Alabama Is Still Really Good

We’ve been told about the demise of Alabama. They tell us that there’s a quarterback controversy. They tell us that the defense is on par with previous Crimson Tide units. We’re told that Nick Saban’s success at Alabama is the result of the SEC taking a few steps back.

Here’s what we know – Alabama is still really good.

Don’t believe the jealous rhetoric. The defense that everyone is questioning was strong enough to knock Deondre Francois out for the year. The quarterback controversy that we’re told about is wishful thinking. Jalen Hurts is doing what’s asked of him. And besides. When was the last time a Saban-led Alabama team was built around the quarterback? As for the quality of the SEC? Maybe it has taken a step back but Alabama is as good as it’s ever been.

Just ask Vanderbilt.

Where Have All The Coaches Gone?

Yes. The conference has taken a step back. The SEC East hasn’t fielded a competitive team in the SEC title game in what seems like forever. The SEC West appears to be Alabama And The Six Dwarfs. So what’s the problem?

Here’s what we know – The conference lacks quality coaches.

If you want to find the good teams in any conference, just start with the coaches. The SEC East has Kirby Smart, Jim McElwain, Derek Mason, Mark Stoops, Barry Odom, and Will Muschamp. While I think McElwain is a fantastic coach with tons of potential, that group is nothing to write home about. As for the SEC West, we find Nick Saban, Gus Malzahn, Dan Mullen, Ed Orgeron, Bret Bielema, and Matt Luke (for now). Saban is obviously Saban, Malzahn’s seat grows hotter each season, and Mullen was the hot new commodity until Smart and Georgia beat the Bulldogs down. As for Orgeron, Bielema, and Luke? Who in need of a coach would be beating their doors down? Nobody, that’s who.

This is the biggest problem in the conference. Only a couple of teams really want to invest in a football coach. It’s not acceptable for your AD to say, “Well, we can’t get Saban, or Fisher, or Swinney, so we might as well save a few bucks and go cheap.” This isn’t acceptable.

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Photo: Wikipedia

 

 

Barry Odom Inherited A Mess From Gary Pinkel

Saturday, September 16 was a horrible, no good, very bad day if you’re a Missouri Tigers football fan. There’s not much else that can be said about losing at home to Purdue by a score of 35-3.

Can it get better? I hope so. Will it get better this season? I have my doubts.

My doubts extend all the way back to when Barry Odom was hired. I wasn’t the only one who voiced concern about a successful assistant coach with no college head coaching experience being tapped to lead an SEC program but I was certainly in the minority.

After drubbing its sacrificial FCS opponent, Missouri followed that performance up with a questionable loss to South Carolina and an absolute abomination against Purdue. Those putrid performances against Power 5 teams coupled with the questionable firing of defensive coordinator Demontie Cross have pushed even the staunchest Odom supporters to the brink.

[Merenbloom: Barry Odom And The Missouri Tigers Shouldn’t Be Locked Into Drew Lock]

Over at RockMNation, Bill Connelly brings up a number of relevant points for discussion when he stated that Missouri’s winning culture has vanished; it’s not all Barry Odom’s fault, but it’s on him to fix it. Or else.

Connelly stopped just short of stating who some people consider to be the real problem when he made this passive aggressive statement:

That’s not really this coaching staff’s fault — it inherited what it inherited. Obviously better coaching could lead to more success, which would in turn provide the evidence needed for good player leadership. But this is what happens when a winning culture stops winning. It becomes very difficult for even an experienced coaching staff to get that ship turned back around.

“It inherited what it inherited.” Connelly doesn’t come right out and say it but that’s an indictment of Gary Pinkel. It’s often times said that the mentality of the players is a direct reflection of their coach. So when observing the apparent lack of leadership on this team, we are to some degree being met with the image of Pinkel. And I have to say that this isn’t the first time that I’ve heard Pinkel’s leadership and dare I say character called into question.

Pinkel may be the real problem at Missouri but Connelly is correct about it being on Odom to fix. We see this sort of thing in corporate America all of the time. A CEO retires, moves on to their next opportunity, or is fired and their replacement has the responsibility of making the culture their own. Seasoned leaders have the confidence and experience to be successful in this often times difficult transition. Odom may have the confidence but he’s lacking the experience required for an undertaking like the one at Missouri.

A person doesn’t hire themselves and former AD Mack Rhoades signed off on Odom. And part of the reason that Odom was Rhoades’ choice was that Odom was Pinkel approved. There are times when being the preferred candidate of the retiring coach is a smart choice. This wasn’t one of those times. Rhoades would have wanted a brand new culture if he knew how Pinkel was running his program. And that would have required hiring someone who had no ties to Pinkel. Or, possibly, Rhoades didn’t care. He did high-tail it out of Columbia not long after selecting Odom.

The triumvirate of Odom, Pinkel, and Rhoades is exactly why I believe Jim Sterk will pull the plug on Odom’s tenure as head coach. He won’t clean house in-season because that would be foolish. Sterk gave former Missouri basketball coach Kim Anderson one last season and he’ll do the same for Odom. This will also give Sterk time to identify and fully vet his candidates before making his selection. Sterk played the long-game with Cuonzo Martin’s hiring process and I have no doubt that he’s taking the same approach with Odom’s successor.

There are skeletons in the Odom-Pinkel-Rhoades closet. I’m not the one to out them but I’m confident that Sterk will clean it all up.

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Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Auburn: It Hurts to Face Reality

Enough has been written and said about Auburn’s offensive woes Saturday night in Clemson. Congratulations Clemson! Auburn, put this one as far out of your mind as possible and look toward getting some clean, crisp execution for the coming game with Mercer.

This is a perfect opportunity to get well, score some points, and make some noise.

Offensive coordinator Chip Lindsey moves up into the press box and offensive line coach, Herb Hand, will now work from the sideline.

Fine.

The Tigers need to win their next four games (Mercer, Missouri, Mississippi State, and Ole Miss) and they need to look good doing it. This can be done. It should be done. Auburn needs to be 5-1 as they make the trek to Baton Rouge with all of their goals still intact.

If Auburn were to accomplish this, and win in Red Stick for the first time since 1999, you really couldn’t ask for a whole lot more. I think that is probably where a goodly number of people expected Auburn to be at that juncture of the season.

Well and good.

But back to the business at hand. As I’ve stated on more than one occasion, Auburn has the talent, depth, and experience to win the SEC. One other attribute that I have mentioned on those occasions, along with the strengths above, is coaching. I thought Gus Malzahn had finally put together a staff, including both coordinators, that he was extremely comfortable with and one that could get the most out of his players. And win big.

That is no longer the case. I don’t know what to think any more. But, since the brutally deflating Texas A&M game of 2014 (won by the Aggies, 41-38), things have gone askew on the Plains. Auburn was ranked in the top four going into that game. It was coming off a huge, exciting win in Oxford against an Ole Miss team that was also ranked in the top four at the time.

And then? Welcome to hell. Since that A&M game, Malzahn’s Tigers have gone 17-16 (great score for a football game, but an achingly mediocre record for a football program of Auburn’s stature.) It’s record in conference play during that stretch is 7-12.

This won’t do.

I am typically a sunshine pumping, positive fan when I assess Auburn’s potential here in print or in conversation with others. The glass is not half full. It is full. Always. I understand how the reality of things work and what outcomes could possibly transpire, but I choose to, more often than not, side with the best case scenario.

That’s the way I operate in life itself. Positive pedal to the metal. No time for naysaying. Negativity be damned.

And then life, or football as a microcosm of life, happens and it takes a harsh turn, and one finds oneself quoting from a song penned by Robert Duvall for his brilliant, Oscar winning performance in Tender Mercies. “Because it hurts so much to face reality.”

The harsh light of reality now beams down harshly on the fortunes of Auburn football.

Auburn was picked, at SEC Media Days, to be the second best team in the Southeastern Conference. A few of those media members selected Auburn to win the SEC. I did in this space in late August. Of course I did. Auburn could yet fight its way to either of those spots, but that absolutely and unequivocally will not be the case if it continues to play as it has in the first two games of the 2017 season.

There is another song from Tender Mercies popularized by David Allan Coe. It is titled, If You’ll Hold the Ladder. Each verse concludes with the line, “And if you’ll just hold the ladder, baby, I’ll climb to the top.”

Gus, get this thing turned around. Our defense should be able to give us a chance to win any game we play. The offense is loaded with that talent, depth, and experience that I spoke of earlier.

Get everyone on the same page. Put them in the best position possible to win each game. Coach ‘em up! Hold the ladder!

For if you don’t, we Auburn fans will all be singing the song we so badly do not want to sing, It Hurts To Face Reality.

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E-mail Bird at bird.lecroy@campuspressbox.com or follow him on Twitter @Autull.