Tag Archives: Steve Sarkisian

USC Trojans Disappoint with Hiring of Lynn Swann

Family is important to most people in society because it provides stability, warmth, and a loving atmosphere. However, does it provide perspective? In Los Angeles where you have to keep perspective on most things USC is sticking with what is familiar and comfortable for them by choosing Lynn Swann as its new athletic director. This choice for the Trojans is being criticized by many and I am no different.

I thought the USC hierarchy would finally go outside the box and hire somebody that actually had some experience running an athletic department, but they settled on yet another Trojan with no experience to run one of the most glamourized athletic departments in all of college sports.

USC failed its fans with this hire. Trojan fans want somebody to restore order for them and to put the Trojan football team back at the top of the college football world. Lynn Swann does not do that in the least. Usually people with previous work qualifications for the job end up getting a huge gig like this. Nope. Not at USC because the only thing that they apparently look at is if you played for USC at some point in the past.

Coming into this job Lynn Swann’s only previous work experience in college athletics would be that he was a sideline reporter for ABC Sports/ESPN over 10 years ago. That’s it. That’s all she wrote folks. Come July 1, Lynn Swann will be in charge of arguably the premier sports department on the West Coast with no more than a microphone worth of experience in college athletics.

Does this make you feel good Trojan fans? I hope not because you deserve better than this. The history behind hires like this for Trojan family does not exactly ring like a sound endorsement for the school.

They hired former running back Mike Garrett to run the athletic department and his gross oversight of the Trojan athletic department led to bowl bans and sanctions for both football and men’s basketball. Garrett, in all his smugness, when he was asked about the troubles in the athletic program at USC merely said that other schools were “envious” of the Trojans. Really? Yeah, I am sure they were jealous of the USC predicament of being kept out of bowl games and not going to NCAA Tournament. The loss of revenue was probably a minor detail as well for these other “envious” schools. Garrett’s last act was to hire former Trojan assistant coach Lane Kiffin. How did that work out?

Pat Haden was supposed to rescue USC, but he did not rescue anything or anybody. He had no more experience than Lynn Swann has. Haden fires Lane Kiffin on the tarmac at LAX after a big defeat at Arizona State, hires Steve Sarkisian and says he didn’t know about Sark’s drinking issue. That was about as big of a denial as Steve Sarkisian thinking he didn’t have a drinking problem. Haden comes out of the press box to defend his coach at Stanford which was a negative for the program. He eventually fires Sark over the drinking issue and that brings us to this week.

Everybody knows that the resources at USC are world class. So, you would think that an institution like USC, given two months to look for a qualified candidate, would be able to come up with somebody that would have the experience to lead the Trojan athletic department for the next 10 plus years. Guess again. This was the best they could come up with.

Lynn Swann. Just let it sink in Trojan fans.

Maybe he provides some out of the box thinking that the athletic department sorely needs. However, it may just be some of the same at USC. I don’t see anything, but the same old stuff for Trojans. They are trying to recreate the Pete Carroll era and it’s not working at all. It’s tough to strike lightening twice, even at USC.

USC needed to go outside the box and it didn’t. USC needs perspective and by staying in the family, it lost that perspective.

E-mail Mike at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @pigskinopinion.

*Featured image courtesy of commons.wikimedia.org

Do You Like a Great Storyline? Alabama, USC and Lane Kiffin Have it for Us

Wunderkind: someone who achieves success or shows great talent at a young age.

This is the definition you see when you open up your Merriam-Webster dictionary. There isn’t a profession in the world that doesn’t boast a list of people that are considered to be wunderkinds and the coaching profession is no exception to this statement.

Prior to the 2010 season kicking off, Pete Carroll left the University of Southern California (USC) Trojans high and dry. As Carroll raced up to Seattle to take the head coaching job with the NFL’s Seattle Seahawks, he left USC in the wake of NCAA sanctions. Who would be willing to take the USC job while knowing that the Trojans would be ineligible for post-season play, that their juniors and seniors would be eligible to transfer without having to sit out a year, and also knowing that there would be scholarship restrictions to manage?

That was easy. In what would be one of Mike Garrett’s final decisions as USC’s athletic director, he chose to hire college football’s 35-year-old wunderkind- Lane Kiffin.

Lane Kiffin’s 2010 team went 8-5 despite only having 71 scholarship players. With wins over conference rivals California and UCLA, the wunderkind’s future appeared to be bright in southern California.

The 2011 season was an even bigger on-field success for Kiffin as his Trojans went 10-2. However, due to the NCAA sanctions, USC was once again ineligible for postseason play and this included the Pac-12’s conference championship game. The 35-year-old USC wunderkind was proving his worth in the face of adversity.

USC hit a rough patch on the field in 2012. Kiffin posted a record of 7-6, however, it was a record breaking year; just not a record any coach would want to hold. The 2012 USC team was the first team since 1964 to start the year ranked No. 1 only to finish the season unranked. The wunderkind was losing his shine.

Things became interesting for Kiffin in 2013. After taking his team to play Arizona State, Kiffin boarded the team plane after a 62-41 loss to the Sun Devils. In what would become one of the more infamous firings in sports history, Pat Haden fired Kiffin at the Los Angeles International Airport. Pat Haden left Kiffin at the airport.

Teams across the country are now preparing for the 2016 college football season. Spring practices have begun, we’re about a month away from the spring games taking place and as fans we’re already looking forward to another exciting season of football. The excitement begins September 3 at AT&T Stadium when Alabama takes on USC.

If you like intriguing story lines, this game has it all. Alabama opens the season as the defending national champion and is considered to be a contender for the 2017 national championship. As for USC, they look to move on from the Pat Haden and Steve Sarkisian eras as Clay Helton sheds the title of interim head coach and begins his official head coaching duties against Nick Saban. Helton’s job of establishing consistency within the Trojan program will begin against a program that has become synonymous with the word “consistency.” And yes, let’s not forget that Lane Kiffin is now the offensive coordinator for the Alabama Crimson Tide. I’m ready to kick this game off. Let’s roll(Tide)!

This will be the first time that Kiffin has coached against the program that left him stranded at the airport. Haden is no longer the USC athletic director, but USC can’t hold a fond place in the heart of Kiffin. Kiffin coaches his Alabama offense with all of the bravado one would expect. That bravado includes celebrating touchdown catches while the ball is still in the air. Simply put, Kiffin coaches with a swagger that we should expect to be full throttle on September 3.

If Kiffin’s association with USC wasn’t enough, there is also the association between Kiffin and Helton. In 2010, when Kiffin put his first USC coaching staff together, Helton was hired as his quarterbacks coach. And going into that infamous 2013 Trojan season, Kiffin promoted Helton to offensive coordinator. When Kiffin was fired mid-season, Ed Orgeron was named interim head coach and held that position until he quit prior to USC’s bowl game. Take a wild guess as to who coached that bowl game in Orgeron’s place? If you guessed Clay Helton, you would be correct.

Who knew that a wunderkind could have this kind of coaching tree?

Going into the game, I have one request of Nick Saban. Please coach Saban, I’m begging you, make Kiffin available to the media. College football needs the sound bites.

E-mail Seth at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @SMerenbloom.

*Featured image courtesy of Neon Tommy/Flickr

Five You Must See: Week Eight

#20 Cal (5-1) at UCLA (4-2) Thursday 9:00 PM on ESPN

To start off your weekend, flip over to this west coast battle between teams trying to bounce back.  Cal suffered a minor setback two weeks ago, turning the ball over six times and losing by six points at Utah.  You can bet Sonny Dykes used the Bears’ bye week to draw up some new schemes to throw at the Bruins.

After looking like the team to beat in September, UCLA is in danger of dropping their third straight if they’re not careful.  Injuries on defense are catching up to them quicker than they’d hoped.  The Bruins have lost a key member to each level of their defense, most notably linebacker Myles Jack who is no longer with the team because he has declared for the NFL draft.

Speaking of the draft, you’ll want to take advantage of a rare opportunity to see Cal quarterback Jared Goff.  Many are touting him as possibly the first QB taken this April.  Jim Mora had better find a way to get more out of his defense or Goff will take advantage.

UCLA needs a fast start to win this game.  Josh “chosen” Rosen has proven to be capable of a lot of things you wouldn’t expect from a true freshman quarterback.  Leading a comeback against a conference opponent is not one of those things.  If Cal scores the first two touchdowns they’ll probably run away with it.

Tennessee (3-3) at #8 Alabama (6-1) Saturday 3:30 PM on CBS

As I’ve said before, there aren’t many weekends where I’m not interested in the SEC on CBS game of the week.  Few things say fall quite like hearing Verne Lundquist and Gary Danielson go back and forth, drooling over how impressive this guy and that guy are.  I watch because even the bad matchups are made entertaining by those two in the booth.  Unfortunately, we’ll have to rely on Verne and Gary this week as well.

(Photo: USA Today Sports)
(Photo: USA Today Sports)

Frankly, I’m not giving Tennessee much of a chance in this one.  Alabama is just too strong.  The Tide offensive line has been commanding the line of scrimmage since slipping up in the loss to Ole Miss.  Running back Derrick Henry has been the main beneficiary.  The workhorse is up over 900 yards on the season with 12 rushing touchdowns.  He averages over 20 carries per game, and at nearly six yards a pop that makes for a long day if you’re lined up on the other side.

We can’t discount the Vols’ resiliency though.  They’ve lost three games to Oklahoma, Florida and Arkansas by a combined 12 points.  Last time out they were down 24-3 in the first half against Georgia, only to come storming back to win 38-31.  Quarterback Josh Dobbs leads his team by example.  The kid plays every down with a toughness that’s rarely seen in quarterbacks.  It’s refreshing to see, and he’s going to need it with the Bama defense chasing him around all afternoon.

Alabama needs a win to set up that epic showdown with LSU in two weeks.  First, let’s see how they handle a team with nothing to lose at this point.

#15 Texas A&M (5-1) at #24 Ole Miss (5-2) Saturday 7:00 PM on ESPN

Here we have another matchup of two teams coming off losses.  A&M was put in their place by Alabama in a game that was never really close.  Meanwhile, Ole Miss was beaten convincingly by a Memphis team that everyone had not taken seriously enough.

Interestingly, this will be the Aggies’ first true road game this season.  In retrospect, it’s easy to see that we all probably gave them a bit too much credit for their “neutral-site” win over Arizona State in the season opener.  That alone was enough to catapult them from unranked to #16.  Since then Kevin Sumlin’s squad hasn’t done anything more than we would have expected them to.  This is their opportunity to show everyone they’re for real this year.  I’m not sure they are.

The Rebels’ standout defensive end Robert Nkemdiche suffered a concussion while carrying the ball on offense last week.  Suddenly, people don’t seem to think it’s such a great idea for Hugh Freeze to be using one of his best players on both sides.  Nkemdiche’s availability this weekend is still in question.  Not having him in the lineup would be a huge blow to the Rebel defense.

These two seem pretty evenly matched so the game will come down to who can limit their own mistakes and capitalize on their opponents’.  We should be looking at a full sixty minutes here.

#3 Utah (6-0) at USC (3-3) Saturday 7:30 PM on Fox

USC has a lot going on right now.  Head coach Steve Sarkisian is long gone.  Athletic Director Pat Haden collapsed on the sideline before last Saturday’s game at Notre Dame.  Not to mention, the Trojans are staring their fourth loss right in the face with the powerful Utes coming to the Coliseum.

Utah might be the best overall team in the nation right now.  They’ve got an expert possession-style gameplan courtesy of head coach Kyle Whittingham.  And if you do happen to knock them off their game somehow, the Utes can handle it because there aren’t many things they don’t do well.

I’m looking forward to watching Cody Kessler, JuJu Smith-Schuster and Adoree Jackson challenge Utah’s defense.  If those three can take advantage of the Utes’ one perceived weakness, their secondary, then this game will become much more interesting.

If not, we could see Utah make another big statement by blowing out a conference opponent on the road for the second time this fall.

Washington (3-3) at #10 Stanford (5-1) Saturday 10:30 PM on ESPN

The night cap should be a decent enough watch this week.  Even if it’s not, you’ll want to see this revitalized Stanford team.  Since losing to Northwestern to open the season, the Cardinal have scored 31, 41, 42, 55, and 56 points in their last five games, winning by an average of 22 points.  That’s wonderfully uncharacteristic for a team that’s used to handling opponents but only winning by two touchdowns.

(Photo: Kirby Lee / USA Today Sports)
(Photo: Kirby Lee / USA Today Sports)

Quarterback Kevin Hogan is doing exactly what he needs to, completing easy passes (65.9% completion rate) and taking care of the ball (12-3 touchdown-to-interception ratio).  The rest is as simple as turning around and handing the ball off because running back Christian McCaffrey has been feasting on Pac-12 defenses.  In four conference games McCaffrey has yet to fail to reach 100 yards, rushing for 200+ twice.  Last Thursday against UCLA he racked up four touchdowns on the ground, averaging nearly 10 yards while carrying the ball 25 times.  I’ll be shocked if the Cardinal don’t keep feeding him.

Washington may look like a pushover, but like Tennessee, they make for entertaining games by keeping themselves within striking distance.  The Huskies have lost to Boise State, Cal and Oregon by a combined 15 points.  They don’t stop the run or the pass exceptionally well.  They just keep their opponents out of the endzone.  U-Dub comes into this one ranked sixteenth in scoring defense, allowing just 16.8 points per game.

Washington might be the only Pac-12 team left on Stanford’s schedule that can stop this sudden offensive explosion.  I never thought I’d say this, but the higher the score is the more I like Stanford here.

Game of the Weak

Troy (1-5) at New Mexico State (0-6)

Big shoutout to Aaron Creguer for suggesting that I feature this atrocious matchup in a new “Game of the Weak” segment that will highlight the worst game on the schedule each week.

These two abominable programs have accounted for just a single win this fall.  That one came when Troy beat up on Charleston Southern of the FCS.  The Trojans have played in some tough road games, travelling to NC State, Wisconsin and Mississippi State.  But, it doesn’t seem to have done them much good since they’ve dropped games to South Alabama and Idaho as well.

New Mexico State, for my money, is the worst team in the FBS.  The Aggies have collected two SEC paychecks for getting embarrassed by Florida and Ole Miss.  They’ve lost to Georgia State and Georgia Southern, a feat that I can’t imagine any FBS team has ever accomplished.  And they’ve already chalked up an L next to their biggest game against rival New Mexico.

If for some reason you’re interested in watching this futility you can stream the game on the Watch ESPN app Saturday night at 8:00pm.

College Football Death Threats and the Best Remaining Games of 2015

Week 7 was crazy. Jason (@Jlindy87) did a good job of recapping the best, so I have thoughts on Blake O’Neill’s detractors then on to the best of the rest of 2015 and my mock playoff committee ballot.

The two saddest and funniest fans of Week 7.

On Michigan State’s scoop and score

Well, I’ve never done anything in front of 100k plus people live and millions more on television, so I can’t imagine what that pressure is like when “all” you have to do is punt the ball away to secure your programs most important victory of the season. That said, mistakes happen and pressure is high, and Blake O’Neill will be fine. The people who aren’t fine are those who made death threats or suggested the kid kill himself.

If you’re one of the people that decided to get in touch with O’Neill and suggest terrible things to him, you’re the problem with society. If you think football – college football at that – is literally going to ruin your weekend if your team loses, then re-evaluate your life’s priorities.

The play was huge and yeah, it’s a little crazy how it went down, but keep things in perspective.

The hilarious audio from the Michigan State radio. The color guy is really the show.

The most important games of the rest of the season

Hyperbole and all that. That said, these are the games that will define college football the rest of the season. All the other games are also-rans.

Week 10 – Saturday, November 7

TCU at Oklahoma State – If Kansas State didn’t put a scare into TCU, Oklahoma State will. We’ll assume both teams head into the game undefeated, but Mike Gundy needs to win this game more than Gary Patterson. Sure, the powers-that-be in the Big 12 would prefer TCU to win to bolster the end of season matchup with Baylor, but Gundy needs to win this game to prove that he can win big games. Oklahoma State was atrocious in 2014, and 2015 looks to be its best season in several years. Little OSU could certainly shake up the entire Top 25 – and probably find its way into the Top 10 – with a win over TCU.

LSU at Alabama – I’ll say it now: The Game of the Century. It’s been awhile since these two have played in a GOTC, so why not make this one? No. 5 LSU looks great with Leonard Fournette running all over the place and Brandon Harris might actually be a decent quarterback for the Tigers. No. 8 Alabama is shootin’ its regular, (as my inner-city friends would say) and certainly looked like they could beat the world after the first half against Teas A&M on Saturday. This game being in Tuscaloosa (not a great college town) certainly hurts the wow factor, but I’ll figuratively bet against my tide and take Les Miles and the Tigers. See below about why LSU winning this game is super-duper important.

Florida State at Clemson – This is obvious. Florida State looks great again. Dalvin Cook is the real deal and I have no idea what Jimbo Fisher did this off-season to grow his hair back and fix Everett Golson, but that sounds like the coup of 2015. Clemson for the sake of ‘Clemsoning’ needs to beat Florida State which it hasn’t been able to do since 2011, and overall is 8-20 versus the Seminoles. Florida State can solidify its playoff-contender status by beating Clemson on the road and staying undefeated. I have to say, I had zero faith in Florida State this season after its playoff exit, but Golson and Cook have sold me. Keep on truckin, Florida State.

Week 11 – Saturday, November 11

Memphis at Houston – This makes the list because I’m from Ohio and I guess I have to love Tom Herman. He’s a great offensive mind that Ohio State wishes they still had. Memphis beat Ole Miss last weekend and will face Navy on November 7. Houston faces somehow-Power 5 Vanderbilt on October 31, then plays should-be-Power 5 Cincinnati on November 7 before hosting Memphis. Assuming both teams remain undefeated, the winner of this game has a great shot a New Year’s Six appearance.

Oklahoma at Baylor – Big Game Bob or his usual No Game Bob? We’ll find out. If Oklahoma didn’t get up for the Red River Shootout, I’d be shocked and awed that they’d get up for Baylor. Oklahoma certainly cannot score as many points as Baylor, but if their defense can slow it down throughout the entirety of the game it may provide a blueprint for everyone else. Maybe.

Week 12 – Saturday, November 17

LSU at Ole Miss – This is simple. Let’s assume LSU beats Alabama, but loses to Ole Miss. Ole Miss owns the SEC West tie breaker. If Ole Miss then goes on the SEC Championship Game and wins, the SEC will not make the college football playoff. That’s why this game is super-duper important. I talked to Kristen (@OGKristenB) who told me I don’t know what I’m talking about and that Ole Miss only has the tiebreaker over Alabama (obviously). So, while fun, this game as of right now is NOT super-duper important.

UCLA at Utah – I gave up on the Cleveland Browns years ago, but I’m not ready to give up on UCLA. UCLA still has hope and Utah looked shaky against Cal a few weeks, so I’d say if there were any team that could upset them between now and the Pac-12 Championship Game it would be Cal. The only thing that would make this better is if this were on a Thursday.

Michigan State at Ohio State – This will decide the champion of the Big Ten East. No other game in the entire conference is more important this season. I’ll make my conditional pick right now, if Urban Meyer is still trying to re-live Tim Tebow and Chris Leak with J.T. Barrett and Cardale Jones then Michigan State wins. If Meyer names and sticks with Barrett then Ohio State wins. Winner is in the playoff unless they lose to West Division champion Iowa. Yeah, I said it. See below.

Week 13 – Friday, November 27

Baylor at TCU – First to 70 wins. We’ll assume both teams are undefeated, so the winner of this is the Big 12 champion. I’m not a betting man, but if I were, I’d put my money on Baylor. There will be absolutely zero defense in this game, but I think Art Briles’ offense is just too much for TCU to handle. Again, TCU struggled against Kansas State and Texas Tech. Baylor puts up 60 almost every week and tells you to come get them.

Week 13 – Saturday, November 28

Notre Dame at Stanford – Playoff implications and all that. Will both teams enter with only one loss? Stanford needs to win this game in case it loses the Pac-12 Championship Game to even have a sniff of the College Football Playoff. Every game is a must win for Notre Dame because of its loss to Clemson who I think loses to Florida State a few weeks earlier. Everything is murky, but this is probably the best game on the board right now.

Florida State at Florida – I’m still not sure what to think of Florida. Their only loss was a close one to LSU this past weekend and they aren’t scheduled to face another ranked opponent until they welcome the Seminoles to the Swamp. In the interim, Florida State will travel to Clemson, where I think they win, but this game isn’t as important as the game at Clemson. If Florida hasn’t lost another game and is en route to the SEC Championship game in Atlanta, then the Gators will want to claim their first win over the Seminoles since 2012 and second in seven years.

Explained: My Week 8 Top Ten Ballot

Baylor, Utah, TCU, LSU, Ohio State, Clemson, Alabama, Florida State, Michigan State and Notre Dame

That’s my ballot for the Campus Pressbox mock playoff committee this week. Thoughts, quickie style:

  • I’m bearish on Baylor because even though they don’t play defense it seems like they can outscore anyone. The biggest test for them will obviously be TCU, who struggled against Kansas State and allowed Iowa State to score 21 this weekend. I’m temporarily giving them the benefit of the doubt. Keep reading.
  • I’m under the impression that Urban Meyer will finally name J.T. Barrett the starting quarterback for Ohio State. I’ve said since they won the National Championship he should be no matter what Cardale Jones did for the team last season. If Barrett is named the starter, I’m back on the Ohio State train and will have no problem replacing TCU with them in the top four. The ballot is that fluid.
  • Dalvin Cook and Everett Golson put Florida State into my top 10. I really have no idea where Florida State came from. I think a lot of us wrote them off with the departure of Jameis Winston, but Florida State looks good. Their biggest hurdle is the weak ACC, so beating Clemson (read above) should vault them back into the national conversation. I hope their playoff performance this season is better than the last.
  • Number 11 is Iowa. They’re good and if we’re going to give Ohio State respect despite their schedule we have to do the same for Iowa. I’ve made no secret of my shock that Kirk Ferentz still has a job. I’m also 33 and able to admit when I was wrong, and Kirk has earned his paycheck this year. Iowa doesn’t face Ohio State or Michigan State, but Iowa doesn’t make the schedule and if the Hawkeye’s played both teams and beat or hung around both then they’d still at least be in the Top 15. Mea culpa.
  • I’m still not sure about Alabama and Clemson. Talk to me after November 7th. Scroll up.

Links That I like (sorry, no short reads allowed)

The Sad Story of Steve Sarkisian: Too much, too soon [Jack Follman/Pacific Takes] – Jack is a great writer. Here’s the story of former USC coach Steve Sarkian’s demons and how he got in and out of USC so fast.

Former Louisville recruit about his visit: ‘It was like I was in a strip club’ [John Barr and Jeff Goodman/ESPN] – Where there is smoke, there’s probably fire. I’m not sure this type of behavior doesn’t go on at every school, but that doesn’t make it right. I don’t think this matters much this season, but I didn’t think Jim Boeheim would essentially be forced into early retirement. Keep an eye on this.

LSU’s Leonard Fournette is calling to mind the greats, but what does hype matter to a child of Katrina? [Alan Shipnuck/Campus Rush] – I have no idea if Leonard Fournette is going to play football next year, but it’s clear at least right now that he’s the best running back, if not the best player, in college football. I’m not 100% on board with Seth’s (@SMerenbloom) assessment that players should be able to go right to the NFL – which is the NFL’s policy – but I will concede that certain players should be allowed to go if a plurality of the NFL teams think he’s ready. It’s also bad for college football if Leonard Fournette sits out because then no one gets to see his amazing talent. Also, a child of Hurricane Katrina? Jesus, I am old.

How They Do in Oxford [Kiese Laymon/ESPN] – I’d be lying if I told you I didn’t like Ole Miss. I love any place that tailgates and despite everything that’s happened in the past at Ole Miss, I think it’s one of the best stories in America. If you haven’t read Wright Thompson’s Ghost’s of Mississippi or seen the 30 for 30 – Ghosts of Ole Miss then you’re truly missing out. Racism is still a thing in America, but the read and the film show how deep it was and how many of us were and are shielded from it. Laymon’s take is decidedly different, but worth the 12 minutes it will take you to read it.

The Persecution of Patriots Nation [Erik Malinowski/Rolling Stone] – Love or hate the Patriots, it’s clear the goal of the team and their fans is to have Roger Goodell handing Tom Brady another Super Bowl trophy on February 7, 2016 in Santa Clara. I’m always for people scoring their comeuppance, so I hope this works out for them. I know, it’s NFL – you’ll be alright.

Epic Blue Jays–Rangers seventh inning will be talked about for years [Bruce Arthur/Toronto Star] – This is some of the best baseball writing I’ve seen in years. I can’t imagine another inning of baseball will be better this post-season. Read, re-live and repeat.

E-mail Damien at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @damienbowman.

Which Direction Should USC Go?

Getting past any distraction is the key for any college football program. But when the football team loses its coach in the middle of the season it creates a scenario that nobody surrounding the program wants to deal with.

Welcome to the current world of USC Trojan football. By now we all know what has happened to the premier college football program on the West Coast. Steve Sarkisian was put on a leave of absence and less than 24 hours later Sarkisian was terminated as the Trojan Head Coach. Clay Helton has been named the interim coach for the remainder of the season, but after that, what should the Trojans do with their search for a new head football coach?

First of all, we have to realize that Pat Haden isn’t going anywhere. Personally, I think he needs to go, but realistically he won’t be fired anytime soon. The fans, alumni, and the big money boosters who want him gone are going to have to wait on that possibility because the powers that be at USC, especially the USC President Max Nikias, gave Haden the vote of confidence.

“I look forward to working with Pat Haden as our USC AD for many years to come.” USC President Max Nikias said in statement on Tuesday.

Now, onto the bigger issue of a head coach for the Trojans. Where do they go? Does Clay Helton even have a chance at getting the head coach job? Do they go outside the “Peter Carroll” tree?
These are all questions that are being asked since the firing of Steve Sarkisian on Monday. It is my belief that the USC brass need to go outside anybody that is connected with Peter Carroll and anybody that is connected with the university. With that being said, Jack Del Rio and Jeff Fisher, two ex-Trojan players, should not be on the list, but in reality, they are not leaving the NFL to come back to college anyway. I don’t believe they would have any interest in going back out on the recruiting trail to get players to come to USC.

The name that was brought up almost immediately was Chip Kelly, former head coach at Oregon and current Philadelphia Eagle Head Coach. Chip is not going anywhere, he’s not leaving the pros right now. He just signed a $35 million dollar contract a couple of years ago and leaving this soon after coming from the college ranks would be an admission of failure. I don’t think he’s ready to leave Philly at this point. The other aspect of hiring a guy like Chip Kelly is that he is not a “shaking hands, kissing babies” type of coach. He wasn’t well liked by alumni and boosters at Oregon because he wasn’t kissing their backsides in terms of giving them the time of day, so I don’t think that would play well with the big money people at USC.

What about Brian Kelly, Head Coach of Notre Dame? Kelly’s coaching style will be on display for USC this upcoming weekend because the Trojans are playing Notre Dame on Saturday. Would he leave the Irish and go coach for one of their long-time rivals? He might. He has said that coaching at Notre Dame is something you can do for 15 years. He’s in year six with the Fighting Irish and if the Trojans bring an open checkbook I could see him listening at the very least. The other part of what might make Brian Kelly attractive to USC is that he has a classy persona and that persona is rooted in coaching discipline to his players. He’s a possibility for the Men of Troy.

Somebody mentioned Jim Mora, Head Coach at UCLA. How crazy would that be? Leave the Trojans’ crosstown rival to go coach USC? I don’t see that happening at all. Mora has a great thing going with the Bruins, is raising money like a madman for the program, and everybody associated with the program LOVES him. UCLA has plenty of money to keep Mora away from anybody and they would not let a Mora move to USC happen. To me, Mora is off the list.

Kyle Whittingham, Utah Utes Head Coach is getting some mention as well. What he has done at Utah the last few years and having his team currently ranked in the top five in the polls will catch the eyes of the hiring committee at USC for sure. He’s also in the same conference and the same division as USC, so I would think people around the program are talking about him already. It’s no secret that Whittingham has had some difference of opinion with administration at Utah in the last couple of years, so he just might pick up the phone if the Trojans call. Some people might ask “Why would he leave?” People leave jobs because it’s just time for a new challenge. Is Utah going to be Alabama or Ohio State? Probably not, so a new challenge or a change of scenery might be something Kyle Whittingham wants in his life at this time. Imagine what he could do with the talent the USC brings in on a yearly basis? Just let that thought sink in.

Finally, what about Kevin Sumlin? Currently, he is overseeing the program at Texas A&M and has done some great things with facility upgrades and raising money at College Station. Before Sarkisian was hired, Sumlin was contacted by USC to be their coach two years ago. Nothing got done between the two parties back then, but could it get done between Kevin Sumlin and USC a second time around? I think it could. With the amount of money that USC could bring to the table and the talent they can bring to the field, why wouldn’t Sumlin take the call? I think Kevin Sumlin should be near the top of the list, if not at the top of the Trojan wish list. He’s young, innovative, runs a spread type of offense, he can recruit, has shown that he can handle the media pretty well. And to survive in Los Angeles you need to be media savvy.

The problem at USC is not lack of talent, that’ll never be an issue for them. The Trojans can go anywhere in the country and get the type of talent they are accustomed to getting. The issue at USC is there administrative leadership. They have allowed things to get out of control with their decision making.

“USC has four and five star athletes, do they have four and five star leaders?” Former Oregon Head Coach Mike Bellotti questioned the other day on ESPN.

That’ll be the question that any prospective coach will have going forward with USC. If they want to get somebody like Kevin Sumlin, Brian Kelly, or Kyle Whittingham to come to USC then they have to show that they have their act together. Right now it’s the leadership at the top that is not together, so until that happens the Trojan program will suffer.

More Than A Friday: Thinking of Lamar Odom During a Busy Week in Sports

Lamar Odom is going to die. We sincerely hope it doesn’t happen today, tomorrow, next week, next month, or even in the next year. For Odom, there is a reality, and doesn’t that word really have some negative connotation to it? The reality is, that I hope he is able to survive from the time between now and whenever this publishes, but only for a life that doesn’t involve suffering.

Why do I care about the mortality of Lamar Odom? As former Arizona Cardinal Darnell Dockett so bluntly stated, he didn’t cross my mind before he was trending, so to speak. I don’t mourn for his situation with a Lakers or Heat flag on my car, and I’m not sympathetic to the character he was presented as to the masses on a show I didn’t watch. I know who he is, because of basketball, and I know how much he loved being a Laker, through the words of his ex-wife during a very brief glimpse of that show that I swear I didn’t watch. I’m sympathetic to his situation, because he is very obviously in the public eye, and it feels like he’s slowly dying in front of all of us.

I don’t feel that he deserves that. He deserves our compassion, but to suffer, with all of those toxins eating away at the very life he’s lived for the past 35 years, 11 months, and change; no one has earned that fate. Everyone in the media seems to be acting appropriately sensitive, walking on egg shells and citing his difficult background, while commending his wildly successful life and hoping for the best. We’re all human enough for that; we should be well wishing Odom for a prolonged life or a merciful death, though most of us don’t know the answers. While we brace ourselves for the inevitable assassination of his character from a few directions, and for various reasons, this is a time to be above the noise and just care.

In Major League Baseball

If you lack a dog in this fight, it’s been an awesome week of watching the field dwindle itself from 8 down to 4. If you had rooting interest in the Division Series, half of you are elated and half of you ain’t.

The Chicago Cubs were the first ones in the clubhouse, waiting to see what the rest of semi-final field would be. They had to win that winner-take-all game, which is always dangerous. It meant burning their best arm, leaving one Jake Arrieta available for just one start in the subsequent best-of-5 series. To survive that do-or-die game in Pittsburgh, it meant taking on baseball’s best regular season team and a long-time arch-rival in what’s been a very lopsided pairing for a very long time.

Give it to the Cubs, for not letting history get the best of them. They were able to bounce back after a poor showing in St. Louis in Game 1, a game that had you thinking the Cubs didn’t have the ammunition to survive the almighty Cardinals, beaten and battered as Mike Matheny’s squad may have been. Lo and behold, they kept hitting the ball out of the park, and when the Cardinals pecked away at a Chicago lead, the Cubs scratched back.

We’ll say good-bye to the Cardinals, and point out that they’re just another great National League team that managed to win at least 100 regular season games on a long list of triple-digit winning National League teams that have failed to win the World Series since the Mets won it all in ’86. The 2015 chapter of the Mets are a little different; they’re not supposed to be here. Blame the Washington Nationals for that, but maybe credit these young Metropolitans for being too dumb to know the stage is too big for them or that they’re not ready yet.

For a while, we’ve known the National League’s chapter of New York baseball was acquiring too much talent to be kept down for long. Remember when Matt Harvey was pretty much the chosen one there? Those days are long gone, with the flowing locks of Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard making the Dark Knight (and the Yankees) an afterthought in Gotham. You’ve got Yoenis Cespedes and David Wright earning the headlines for Terry Collins’ team, but it was the efforts of the likes of Michael Conforto and Daniel Murphy that put them in the place they needed to be to host the Cubs on Saturday in Game 1 of the NLCS.

As for the Dodgers, the brilliance of Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke for two games apiece wasn’t enough. Chase Utley taking out Ruben Tejada on a questionable double-play breaking slide wasn’t enough. Justin Turner’s .526 batting average wasn’t enough, nor was any other aspect of the roughly $310 million payroll enough to get three wins against these Mets in a best-of-five series. If you’re into math, they were paying about $77 million, per team that advance farther than them in the 2015 Playoffs.

It’s probably not the best of ideas to reduce a best-of-five that goes the distance down to a single inning of an elimination game, but that’s how we’re going to roll with the American League Division Series. The conversation of the day on Wednesday, at around 2:30 PM (Mountain Standard Time) was about whether or not the Astros could rebound from their 8th inning collapse, a few days prior, against the defending AL Champs at home. And maybe the Royals had something to do with that as well, but you had to hold the phone on making Game 5 of Astros-Royals into headline material. Down 6-2 in the eighth inning, on the road, six outs from elimination, the Royals put together one of those innings. They got some bounces and scored enough runs(5) to survive(a 7-6 victory), but needed another win to advance. That was Monday.

Before the Royals could do what they needed to do, back at home on Wednesday evening, there was the issue of settling the other half of the bracket with Game 5 in Toronto. Fast forward to the 7th inning of that one, game tied at 2, with Rougned Odor on 3rd base and Shin-Soo Choo at the plate. On a Russell Martin throw back to Blue Jays’ reliever Aaron Sanchez, the ball hits Choo’s bat and squirts toward the third baseman. Odor scores on the “throwing error”, and all hell breaks loose in Toronto. After a review, the Rangers lead 3-2 and they were 9 outs from another trip to the ALCS. Rangers shortstop Elvis Andrus wasn’t prepared to help the cause.

It started with a routine ground ball to short, which he mishandled. Then, there was a double play ball, and well, the ball was thrown poorly by Mitch Moreland at first base, and Andrus couldn’t haul it in. Next batter, it’s a sacrifice bunt not executed well, where a good throw to third should eliminate the lead runner, but Andrus can’t handle it. Bases loaded.

Toronto tied the game on a ball that should be described as a Texas Leaguer, and could have invoked the Infield Fly Rule, floats beyond the reach of the Texas second baseman. It ends up being a fielder’s choice at 2nd base, but the tying run scores. Tie game, runners at first and third for Jose Bautista.

What he did was hit the ball, so far that metaphors would be ineffective for those that don’t know much about Canadian geography. It was a three-run job, giving the home team a 6-3 lead that would stick. After he hit it, he tossed his bat about eight feet in the air, and (we assume) it traveled for kilometers before it reached the ground, well after he’d run the bases.

Blue Jays win, and they’re back in the ALCS, for the first time since 1993. That was the year Joe Carter hit baseball’s second (and most recent) World Series clinching walk-off home run. In a lot of ways, regardless of what happens to the Blue Jays the rest of the way, this Bautista shot may have been a bigger deal.

1908, 1985, 1986, 1993. The last time the Cubs, Royals, Mets, and Blue Jays have won it all, respectively. We’re going to get someone new, while the Giants, Red Sox, Cardinals, and Yankees watch from the couch…and I that’s just fine by me.

In Football

Ohio State is going to stay #1 until they lose. It’s just the way it is. I look forward to them playing Penn State under the lights in Columbus, but I’m not looking forward to seeing them wearing all black, for the sake of wearing all black.

Texas A&M will host Alabama, and the Aggies have a legitimate shot to win that game and establish themselves as a legitimate player in the College Football Playoff talk, while Jim Harbaugh’s Michigan Wolverines host in-state rival Michigan State with a good chance to finally allow some points and to likely get handed their second loss of the season.

Florida will travel to Baton Rouge for a night game with LSU on Saturday. They will be without their starting quarterback, while South Carolina hosts Vanderbilt and USC travels to Notre Dame, both without their head coaches. You might expect an 0-3 run from that group with those voids.

On Sunday, expect plenty of blood in the water, in Pittsburgh, Cleveland, and Indianapolis. Bruce Arians didn’t even take the Cardinals back home last week, after thumping Detroit; you can be sure he wants to get his pound of flesh from Mike Tomlin and company, after they kicked him to the curb a few years back. TJ Ward said he wanted to remain with the Browns (and presumably his best friend, Joe Haden) two year ago, but Cleveland wasn’t interested, so he’ll surely be interested in ringing some bells with his Broncos visiting the 2-3 Browns. Finally, they say snitches end up with stitches, so go ahead and find your own shitty air/inflation-related pun to describe what Tom Brady and the Patriots might do to the Colts on Sunday night.

In the National Hockey League

Call it a Stanley Cup Hangover, or call it the distraction of one of your top players being accused of sexual assault, but the Chicago Blackhawks have looked anything but Champions…so far.

It’s obviously early, but we haven’t seen an immediate impact from Mike Babcock joining the Maple Leafs or Connor McDavid joining the Oilers. Both will happen in due time.

The Arizona Coyotes are basically left for dead by anyone who knows anything about this game, but they’re off to a promising start under Dave Tippett in Glendale. Rookies Anthony DuClair and Max Domi look like they have something special budding in the desert, making major contributions to the ‘Yotes 3-1 start.

Week 6 Rundown: No Replacing the Head Ball Coach

On a weekend when there weren’t a lot of big games, we were still left with plenty to talk about. But first I have to start off on a sad note. As if Mondays aren’t bad enough to begin with, word came out that Steve Spurrier has retired. The Old Ball Coach is best known for lighting up SEC scoreboards in the 90’s with the Florida Gators.

As a young kid growing up watching the Badgers grind it out on offense game after game, Spurrier routinely coached offenses I could only dream of watching. He goes down as one of the greatest coaches in the sport’s history and many coaches could only dream of accomplishments that are merely third or fourth on Spurrier’s list of most impressive feats. Though he never got South Carolina over that final hump and didn’t come close to replicating the offensive success experienced with the Gators, college football will be much less fun without him.

Spurrier’s final game resulted in a loss, with the Gamecocks being handled by the LSU Tigers. I still have no idea how LSU is ranked so highly, but Leonard Fournette really might be able to carry this team to the playoff. I was watching the game at a friend’s place on Saturday, and while I don’t doubt Fournette’s incredible ability, I mentioned how I thought it was a little ridiculous that he was SO heavily favored to win the Heisman considering they’d only played 4 games and all were against poor competition. Literally five seconds later on the next play of the game, this happened. I guess that’s what I get for speaking negatively of what might be the best running back since Adrian Peterson.

South Carolina wasn’t the only USC with problems this weekend. The Trojans’ season is turning into a disaster after losing another home game they shouldn’t have, this time to the Washington Huskies. At least the Trojans mixed it up this time. Usually in the past couple years when they’ve been upset it’s because the defense gives up 50 points. This time it was the offense’s fault, putting up just 12 points in a 17-12 defeat. Then a few days later Coach Steve Sarkisian was asked to take a leave of absence and ultimately fired by the program.

We can only hope he gets the personal help he needs but as far as the football team goes, put another quarter in the merry-go-round for a coaching spot that has lacked any stability since Pete Carroll left. I’m not sure where USC goes from here. After the recent hires, it might be best to go after a hard-nosed, no-nonsense type of coach. Someone like Jim Harbaugh, but who doesn’t completely hate USC quite as much.

Elsewhere in the Pac-12, Utah hosted the biggest game on the college football slate with Cal coming to town. It was an ugly battle but the Utes held on to win by six. Devontae Booker had a huge game (222 yards, 2 touchdowns) but the most impressive thing from this game is that Utah picked off Cal QB Jared Goff five times. Their schedule isn’t quite as daunting as it looked before the season, so the Utes have a good chance to reach the Pac-12 title game at at least 11-1 with a possible playoff spot on the line.

Another team that started the year a bit under the radar (though not to the same extent as Utah) was Clemson. Most felt they would take a step back from last year, but the Tigers remain undefeated and play in a lousy ACC with Florida State as their only competition. It gives the Tigers a pretty good chance to run the table, but also means that finishing undefeated is paramount since a 12-1 record in the ACC won’t come close to guaranteeing them a playoff spot.

As for the Tigers’ only competition in the ACC, the Seminoles looked underwhelming yet again. After being up 14-3 at the end of the first quarter, Florida State was unable to put Miami away. Not only that, they needed a late stop to seal the win and were saved in this rivalry game for a second straight year by Dalvin Cook. I don’t think we’ll know the true quality of this FSU team until they play in a marquee bowl game and get smacked around by some Pac-12 or SEC team.

Another Top-10 team that struggled yet again was the Michigan State Spartans. There isn’t really much different to say about them at this point. I only bring them up so I can mention the hilarious ending to their game, where the Rutgers quarterback spiked the ball on 4th down when they could have thrown a potential game-tying hail mary. The Spartans are going to need more than 4th down spikes from their opponent to survive this Saturday. That’s because they head to Ann Arbor to play a Michigan team that hasn’t given up a point since Bo Schembechler was roaming the Wolverine sidelines.

Alright, it’s only been three games, but in this day and age it feels like that long. Three straight shutouts? That’s impressive no matter who the competition is. They’ve given up a total of 14 points in five games since the season opening loss to Utah. If the Wolverines knock off the Spartans, there’s a chance we could get an undefeated defending champ Ohio State traveling to Ann Arbor to play an undefeated (in Big Ten play) Michigan on the last week of the season in Jim Harbaugh’s first year. That would be call in sick to work worthy.

Every TCU game would make you wanna call in sick to work if you’re a fan of offense. The Horned Frogs survived another shootout, surviving a 45-point outburst from a Kansas State team starting their 18th string quarterback. The only other real game of note in the Big 12 however was the Red River Shootout between Texas and Oklahoma. I don’t care if they changed the name because of “political correctness” or whatever, it will always be the Red River Shootout to me. This game was anything but a shootout however, with Texas stifling the Sooners’ offense on their way to a 24-17 victory.

I thought last week that Al Golden’s only chance to save Miami’s season was with a win over Florida State. Well the same could’ve been said for Texas in their rivalry game. I’m not sure how much season is left to be saved for the Longhorns, but it will at least keep the Texas faithful from breathing down Charlie Strong’s neck for a week. And look at that! The Longhorns have a bye this Saturday so it gives Strong two weeks of a reprieve before his next chance to blow away any good will this win has given him.

I had to re-check the box scores Sunday to make sure my eyes didn’t deceive me, but Texas AND Tennessee both had improbable victories Saturday? I’m not sure I can fully comprehend a college football world where it’s not a surprise that TCU and Baylor are in the Top 5 halfway through a season but it’s shocking when the Longhorns and Volunteers win on the same day. After losing two games in excruciating fashion this season, it must have felt pretty great for Tennessee fans to be the ones overcoming a 21 point deficit to stun Georgia. With that said, which loss hurts more for Georgia? Getting blown out by a Top 10 team at home or giving up a three touchdown lead and losing to a team you should probably beat?

I’ll finish with my Top 25 rankings rant of the week. It’s something I may have to start doing weekly since there’s always something I laugh about when looking at the polls. The polls are basically irrelevant, but it’s amazing that the media/coaches have and will pick apart the playoff committee rankings when they themselves put out ridiculous rankings all season. My issue this week is with the hate on Ole Miss. Ole Miss and Alabama have the same record. Ole Miss lost on the road to a team that is ranked ahead of both them AND Alabama. Alabama lost at home to Ole Miss. The Crimson Tide are ranked three spots ahead of the Rebels. I don’t get it.

Top 4

Baylor

Utah

Clemson

Ohio State

Campus Pressbox 27: On Randy Edsall and Steve Sarkisian

Damien and Mike talk about the firing of Maryland’s Randy Edsall and the indefinite suspension of USC’s Steve Sarkisian. Who are the potential replacements for both and what culpability does USC Athletic Director Pat Haden have if any.

Note: this podcast was recorded hours before Southern California terminated Steve Sarkisian.

Hosts:

Topic:

  • Randy Edsall
  • Maryland’s next football coach
  • Steve Sarkisian
  • Pat Haden’s survival of athletic director

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Steve Sarkisian is Fired By USC

College football is a high pressure business with high pressure expectations from everybody involved. The media, administration, fans, alumni, and the big money donors all have their ideas about how their football program should be run. The head coach has to be the guy who has to be the face of the program, but can sometimes be put into a situation where the ability to deal with the pressure is too much.

At USC the pressure is immense. They are a national “brand” in college football and when Head Coach Steve Sarkisian came on board a couple of seasons ago, people thought he would be putting the Trojans back on the map, leading them out of the sanctions that were put on them by the NCAA. He still may be THAT guy, but for right now, there are other problems he has to deal with.

Sarkisian had been asked by AD Pat Haden to take an indefinite leave of absence from the program, but when Haden had some more time to consult with other administration officials, he ultimately decided to terminate Sarkisian.  Assistant Coach/offensive coordinator Clay Helton has been named interim head coach. Sarkisian was asked to take a leave of absence after he showed up in “no condition to work” according to sources close to the program.

“After careful consideration of what is in the best interest of the university and our student-athletes, I have made the decision to terminate Steve Sarkisian, effective immediately.” Pat Haden said in a statement.

Earlier in the year, Sarkisian was asked to apologize for his behavior at the Salute to Troy benefit in August. He was reportedly dropping f-bombs while addressing the crowd at the event, and other people also said that he was slurring his speech and acting intoxicated while at the event. Questions soon followed about possible alcohol problems with Sark. Shortly after the event Sark announced that there would be no more alcohol in the coach’s office, but it seems that there are larger issues here.

Having seen the Trojans in person when they came to Arizona State, I saw a couple of things that disturbed me about Sarkisians behavior. I was down on the field when USC came out of their tunnel during pre-game announcements and when the team came running out onto the field, they were followed by Sarkisian.

Most coaches take the field with a fairly reserved type of demeanor, Sarkisian did not. He was fired up, yelling at the student section of Arizona State, trying to goat them into a response and he got his wish. Students were yelling obscenities back at him and he seemed to be taking a decent amount of pleasure from it. However, what happened next was even more embarrassing for him and USC. He was giving the students the middle finger as he made his way to the Trojan sideline. In this age of technology where everybody has a camera, why do something of this magnitude in the public arena? You are asking for trouble.

It was after seeing that display of unethical behavior that my own thoughts about his drinking issue became more solid. From the time we all heard about his behavior at the Trojan benefit in August I thought there was a larger issue with Sarkisian, and indeed there is now.

Sources are coming forward saying that there was a time during that Arizona State game that the other coaches had to pull Sarkisian away from the players during a timeout because they thought he was intoxicated.

If that is true, Pat Haden, (USC’s AD) had to have known. If he didn’t, then there has been a huge cover-up for Sarkisian, or Haden was in some extreme denial about his coach. Does Pat Haden need to be fired as well? Yes. In my opinion, Haden should have taken this much more seriously. He hitched his wagon to Sarkisian when he came down from the Stanford press box to defend his coach after a controversial play during the game. Pat Haden has failed Steve Sarkisian, much like Sarkisian has failed Haden. You have a coach and an athletic director who have been the face of the program and the coach has an apparent drinking problem while at the same time it appears that the school had it’s face buried in the sand about it.

“They would not let him come to practice.” A source told ESPN’s Brett McMurphy.

Another player told ESPN’s Shelley Smith by text message that Sarkisian “showed up lit to meetings again today.”

Once the dam breaks on a subject like this, all sorts of other incidents pop up around somebody like Sarkisian. Reportedly there are documents showing his use of alcohol at Washington as well as players from Washington that have said they could smell alcohol on his breath during meetings while he was the coach there.

The firing of Steve Sarkisian will hopefully be the catalyst for him to start a life of sobriety and repairing the obvious damage done to his personal and professional life. I believe that Steve Sarkisian is a good man deep down inside his soul, but like many people, he has demons. He has to find way to get past these issues because if he does, our society is all about second chances for people who hit the proverbial rock bottom with their lives.

In the end, this is a part of Sarkisian’s life that he needs to figure out and get some serious help with, so football should be an afterthought for him. He needs to get sober and realize there are some things in life that are bigger than football.

Coaches on the Rocks and Coaches who Saved Their Bacon

Some quick thoughts on a bunch of things from this past weekend’s college football action.

Texas should pretend every opponent is Oklahoma

This is arguably the biggest game on Texas’ schedule every year and they came out and dominated the first half. The second half was a bit shaky, but it was still solid nonetheless. I think we can silence all of the fire Charlie Strong talk for the rest of this season. The Longhorns’ second half schedule is a lot more manageable with only Baylor currently ranked.

Back to Charlie Strong. I don’t know him, but it’s obvious this was the biggest win of his career. You can talk about all the other stuff before Texas, but he needed this because as Seth (@Smerenbloom) said to me during the podcast the other day, lose this and the fire is all the way up. I’ve been the leader of the give Strong more time train, and I still think that no matter what, he gets this year and all of next before Texas considers a change. I don’t think it’s fair to give him less than four of his five years and I don’t think it’s fair to whomever the incoming athletic director is to fire him without giving him a fair evaluation.

So, no matter who the players (boosters) that don’t like Charlie Strong are, I hope you’ll get off of him and let the man do his work. There wasn’t a lot at Texas when he got there and as we know now there are plenty of Mack Brown’s players who aren’t fans of Charlie Strong’s players. This happens everywhere and this is why Charlie Strong deserves four years.

And…Texas ISN’T that important. Listen to the podcast and you’ll know why.

Everything is coming up Vols

Sometimes it’s better to be lucky rather than good. Tennessee was super lucky against the Georgia Bulldogs this week and ya know what, that’s ok. That’s good enough to maybe take a little bit of the pressure off Butch Jones and put it squarely on Mark Richt. Georgia was rocked by Alabama last week and lost to an unranked Tennessee team this week. Not a good look. Sure, Nick Chubb was injured and that’s a big deal, but Tennessee has been basically listless the first four weeks of the season.

Losses to Oklahoma, Florida, and Arkansas make things seem bleak for Jones, but in reality the only one of those losses that meant anything to the season was the Florida loss. Beating Georgia changes everything.

The Vols are off next week then head to Tuscaloosa to face Alabama. Whatever. I mean, they aren’t in the division, so even if they lose it really isn’t a big deal. The goal is to show meaningful progress week to week no matter who the opponent is.

Tennessee and Butch Jones are fine, and together.

On Randy Edsall

Randy Edsall was fired on Sunday. I live in Big Ten country and I know very little about Edsall or Maryland. I’m not a fan of living in the past, but I’ll say this, Maryland shouldn’t have fired Ralph Friedgen. The move wasn’t popular at the time and it makes less sense now a few short years later. I can’t say if Edsall was in over his head, if Maryland just isn’t a great place to play football, or if being in the Big Ten East is the worst thing to happen to a new entrant in the conference.

All that said, I have a ton of respect for Edsall by standing up to a silly question from a reporter about shaking hands with his players after his defeat versus Ohio State on Saturday. When rumors emerged Thursday that Edsall was on the hot seat, I admit I was more than surprised. I don’t know what the expectations are at a school like Maryland when that team has to face Michigan, Michigan State, Penn State, and Ohio State every year. Sure, this is Maryland’s second year in the conference and it sounds like Edsall’s teams have been in underachievement mode for a long time, but what is really going to improve?

Trouble at Southern Cal with Steve Sarkisian; Pat Haden

I promise not to pile on and my issues aren’t really with Steve Sarkisian. People have problems and it sounds like these problems have been well-known for some time. I think it’s safe to say Sarkisian won’t return to coach football at Southern California, and if he was indeed under the influence a few weeks ago versus Arizona State then that makes complete sense. I also know that because these issues may have been well known, the reason he hasn’t been terminated (for cause) is because the American with Disabilities (ADA) and Family and Medical Leave (FMLA) Acts protect him, which is a good thing.

My immediate issues are with the coaches who may have known he was under the influence at Arizona State and didn’t say anything, and if they did who did they say it to? Everything indicates athletic director Pat Haden didn’t know he might have been intoxicated before or during the game, but now that he’s been put on indefinite leave assistant coaches are leaking information they knew he was drunk.

I understand, you don’t want to be the one who throws your boss under the bus, but at what point are you not being a friend by not speaking up? If there are coaches and staff who knew he was at work drunk then those people should be dismissed immediately. If Haden didn’t know, then I don’t directly fault him, but as the head administrator of USC athletics everything falls on his shoulders.

Everything.

If there is any indication that Haden knew anything of Sarkisian’s alleged drinking problems at Washington and hired him without running that information up the flag pole, then he should be dismissed without question.

When USC officially dismisses Sarkisian (and it will happen), Haden should leave with him. He made Sarkisian his first priority when he arrived at USC and has hitched his wagon to him. It would seem that for a time Haden was the calm in the storm after Mike Garrett, Lane Kiffin, and all the Reggie Bush related sanctions. But based on what’s going on with Sarkisian it could be time to move on.

Where Southern Cal goes from here is anyone’s guess, but the first and most important step is to make sure they do right by Steve Sarkisian. Football will continue somehow, but in the long run that’s the least of their worries.

What I left out

My original thoughts on Randy Edsall’s presser on Saturday included two Les Miles videos, and I would be remiss if I didn’t include them. Full disclosure, I thought Edsall had done enough to at least postpone his firing until the end of the season. But I am also of the same mindset as Florida athletic director Jeremy Foley, “What should be done eventually, must be done immediately.” So, in that regard, I’m glad Edsall won’t be sort of lame duck coach until December.

The first is honestly my favorite Les Miles moment. Remember when he was to supposedly leave LSU to coach Michigan? His response in 2007:

The second comes at the end-of-season presser in 2010 when a retiring reporter asks Miles about being interviewed by Erin Andrews:

Podcasts you should listen to

Last week I had the pleasure of talking with our own Bird LeCroy (@Autull) who is the co-host of the SEC 411 about his five favorite SEC college football stadiums, and five college football stadiums I’ve never been to.

Later in the week, I talked with Campus Pressbox’s Managing Editor Seth Merenbloom (@Smerenbloom) about a wide range of football topics including which coaches (other than Edsall) are on the hot seat, college football’s super powers, and salaries of college coaches versus their president and provost bosses.

E-mail Damien at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @damienbowman.