The quick trigger is turning college football into the NFL
Forty names, games, teams and minutiae making news in college football, where midseason is not supposed to be firing season:
Holy Al Davis! What's Going On Here?Fitting that the two schools engaging in the cold-blooded, NFL Lite practice of kneecapping coaches in October are Auburn (1) and Clemson (2). They historically rank among the most warped perspectives in college football. Check the NCAA infractions database: Auburn has had five major infractions cases in football alone; Clemson has had three.
Given that cuckoo's nest context, it's not shocking to see Auburn trap-door offensive coordinator Tony Franklin (4) all of six games into his first full year at the school. Sources told The Dash that the coaching staff had become embroiled in turmoil and Tuberville felt compelled to do something to stave off an internal insurrection -- but shouldn't the head coach and administration be able to settle disputes with something less rash than an in-season firing? Isn't that part of the reason a coach and athletic director get paid the big bucks, to handle personality and philosophy conflicts?
Clemson's move Monday to whack Tommy Bowden (5) 10 years to the month after his brother stepped down on The Plains is a monument to bad management. In firing Bowden less than a year after handing him a raise and a four-year contract extension to keep him from going to Arkansas, Clemson now is on the hook for a $3.5 million buyout to a coach it has never really loved. Good thing the IPTAY members have more money than sense.
The Dash won't cry many tears for Bowden, who did a spectacularly poor job preparing his team for this year and then threw senior quarterback Cullen Harper (6) under the bus after losing to Wake Forest, benching him in favor of freshman Willy Korn (7). But what does a midseason firing accomplish, beyond making a mockery of all the ideals college sports are supposed to enhance? What about the bromides about handling adversity with class and fostering team unity and building character? Do they apply only during winning seasons?
The hire-and-fire cycle in college football already has shortened to a dangerous degree. If midseason pink slips are going to become standard operating procedure, as well, the sport's tenuous moorings in higher education might as well slip free altogether. This isn't the NFL -- yet.
Ten More On The GriddleWhat Auburn and Clemson have started, other schools will continue -- though hopefully not until a full season's work is on the books. The 10 coaches on the clock as we reach midseason, from most urgent to most secure:
"During his final years, I would visit home, notice Benji graying and limping and hairless in one spot and think to myself, 'Lord, please take him.'
"Which is the only way to feel about Willingham right now."
(Given the inevitability of Willingham's demise, the obvious leading candidate for the job would be Missouri coach and former Washington assistant Gary Pinkel -- if he wants it. There are plenty of reasons he might not, starting with the fact that, at age 58, he's not into another rebuilding job. But in an interview with The Dash last week, he mentioned his mentor, former Washington coach Don James, about a dozen times. What if his mentor called him to come save the program? "There's no job opening at Washington," Pinkel said. "I just do my job here. I don't deal too much in hypotheticals." That's fine, but everyone else will. Another alternative for the Huskies could be Missouri offensive coordinator Dave Christensen, who played at UW and was a finalist for the Washington State job last year.)
Greg Robinson (9), Syracuse. How bad is it: Nuclear winter, in a place that knows a thing or two about winter. The Orange are 1-5 and riding a nine-game losing streak against FBS competition. Robinson is 8-33 overall. Low point: Surrendering 42 points and losing by two touchdowns to Akron at home. Chance of a turnaround: Please. Last word: It's so over for Robinson that former Syracuse star Rob Konrad recently e-mailed athletic director Daryl Gross to campaign for Florida assistant Steve Addazio as the next coach of the Orange, per the Syracuse Post-Standard.
Joe Glenn (10), Wyoming. How bad is it: Hopeless. And nearly pointless. The Cowboys have been outscored 131-10 in four Mountain West Conference games. They're 2-5 on the year and Glenn is 28-38 in Laramie after a promising start. Wyoming has committed 27 turnovers, by far the most in the nation. Chance of a turnaround: Remote, like Laramie itself. According to the Wyoming Tribune Eagle, Glenn isn't even sending his staff out recruiting during this bye week. Last word: From Robert Gagliardi of the Wyoming Tribune Eagle: "What makes this change difficult for UW is Glenn's popularity. He's one of the most genuine and likable guys you will ever meet.
"But college football isn't about being liked.
"It's ultimately about winning games and being competitive.
"UW isn't either right now.
"That's why Joe must go."
Tommy Tuberville, Auburn. How bad is it: Tense, to say the least. Like Clemson, the Tigers began the season in the AP top 10. Like Clemson, it's gone to hell faster than Linda Blair in "The Exorcist," with Auburn now 4-3. Unlike Clemson, Tuberville made a staff change that dramatically failed, when he fired offensive coordinator Al Borges last December and replaced him with the aforementioned Franklin. Low point: Losing to awful Arkansas on Saturday. Firing Franklin has fixed nothing so far, as the Tigers' offense flailed its way to 193 total yards in that upset loss. Chance of a turnaround: Never count out Tuberville, who has never won fewer than seven games in nine seasons at Auburn -- and who is packing a six-game winning streak against Alabama. If he makes it seven -- especially against an undefeated Tide -- how could you fire him? Last word: "I put our guys in a tough situation," Tuberville said after the Arkansas loss. Now he's put himself in a tough situation.
"Are Fulmer and his staff worse as coaches than they were at the start of this decade? Probably not. But Tennessee's recruiting has been on a downhill slide for several years, and it's showing up big now, especially with the addition in recent years of aggressive recruiters such as Alabama's Nick Saban and Florida's Urban Meyer.
"You can't fool the consumer. There are vast amounts of empty seats at the nonconference home games. And check the message boards. Even the fans who like Fulmer personally are almost apologetic when writing they've lost faith in him and his program.
"It's becoming increasingly clear that the school needs to offer Fulmer his $6 million buyout..."
Al Groh (12), Virginia. How bad is it: Considerably better now than two weeks ago. Then, the Cavaliers were 1-3 and winless against FBS competition. Now, they're 3-3, with emphatic victories over Maryland and East Carolina. Low point: A four-touchdown loss to Duke on Sept. 27. Chance of a turnaround: Groh is another escape artist, and his greatest escape could be under way right now -- but the schedule is difficult the rest of the way. Combined record of the remaining five opponents is 25-10. Finding three more victories and reaching bowl eligibility will be a challenge. Last word: From Aaron McFarling of the Roanoke Times, after the East Carolina game: "Here comes Al again. Seriously. It's getting ridiculous. The guy is winning with fake field goals now. Next week, it'll probably be the ol' Statue of Liberty play on fourth-and-20 that gets it done.
"Rest assured, though, he will get it done.
"Why? Because Al Groh is like a musket in a museum: You can't fire him. You can't even break through the glass case and TRY to fire him. Inside that orange sweatshirt with rolled-up sleeves is one resilient dude, and he's holding a midseason revival in Charlottesville for the second straight year."
"Everybody now -- 'It's hard to win.'
"Can the Wildcats win two in a row? It's hard to fathom how we got here, when a little more than a week ago it was all gloom and doom. It's not as if K-State is out of the woods, so to speak, but this is obviously still the manageable portion of the schedule."
Mike Stoops (14), Arizona. How bad is it: It's better than in past years -- but more improvement is needed for Stoops to be out of the woods. The Wildcats are 4-2 for the first time in eight years, but blowing a late lead at Stanford on Saturday was a step back. Low point: The loss to the Cardinal makes Arizona 0-4 over the past two years against Stanford and New Mexico, games that many fans circled as winnable in August of 2007 and '08. Chance of a turnaround: It appears to be ongoing -- just a question of whether Stoops is the guy to see it through. A 10-year bowl drought would seemingly have to end this year for Stoops to be around for a sixth season in Tucson. Last word: From Greg Hansen of the Arizona Daily Star: "Going home for a series against Cal and USC is not the prescribed way to get well. It is, instead, a predictable way to fall to 4-4 and create a sense of desperation. Losing to Stanford and New Mexico means that the Wildcats now must beat Wazzu and one of the Oregon schools next month to avoid playing Arizona State with everyone's jobs at stake."
Dave Wannstedt (15), Pittsburgh. How bad is it: Riding a four-game winning streak that includes consecutive Big East road victories, it's pretty good. The Panthers are 4-1 and should be bowl eligible before November arrives. But Wannstedt has blown a sure thing before, with a five-game losing streak to end 2006 that kept Pitt home for the holidays. Low point: Season-opening loss to Bowling Green was not the way to start an anticipated breakthrough season, and it ramped up the criticism of Wannstedt here in Year 4. Chance of a turnaround: If the Panthers don't beat Navy this week and Rutgers the next, it could get dicey. Closing stretch -- at Notre Dame, Louisville, at Cincinnati, West Virginia, at Connecticut -- looks full of toss-up games. Last word: From Ron Cook of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: "This Pitt win [over South Florida] ... proved that Wannstedt, in his fourth season, has the program back on track after the nightmarish home loss to Bowling Green in the opener Aug. 30. It also means Pitt is a strong contender -- maybe even the favorite -- to win the Big East Conference.
"Hats off to Wannstedt and his staff for keeping the Pitt team together when just about everybody -- me included, certainly -- gave up on the Panthers."
"According to the report, presented Thursday to the Iowa Board of Regents, there was no Hawkeye cover-up of an alleged sexual assault of a woman by two Iowa football players. No tampering. No malice. Which means if you anonymously ripped Ferentz, the Hawkeye football coach, on some radio show or smeared him anonymously on some message board, you owe the man an apology."
Coach whose FBS career can only get better in Year 2 (provided there is a Year 2): Washington State's Paul Wulff (23). The guy hired from nearby Eastern Washington is presiding over an all-out grease fire on the Palouse. The Cougars not only haven't beaten an FBS opponent, they haven't come within 25 points of one. They've given up 63 or more points in three of four Pac-10 games. They've had so many injured quarterbacks that they actually held open campus tryouts for warm bodies. Oh, and guess who comes to town Saturday? USC. Have fun, Paul.
And one person whose job is absolutely secure: Dashette Olivia Wilde (24). Enjoy your lifetime contract.
Waiting ListWith five unbeatens going down last week, The Dash is all the more convinced that there will be, at most, one unbeaten team in the BCS conferences. Which means the one-loss teams remain prominently in the BCS National Championship Game mix.
In order, The Dash ranks the ten most relevant one-loss teams with help from Jeff Sagarin's ELO-Chess rating system:
Oklahoma (26). Where the Sooners stand: fourth in the AP poll, fifth in the Sagarin Ratings. How bad was the loss: not at all, versus Texas (No. 1 Sagarin) on a neutral field. Best win: TCU (No. 14 Sagarin). What lies ahead: meetings with high-powered unbeatens Texas Tech (11th) and Oklahoma State (9th), plus two other top-40 opponents. But Oklahoma needs Texas to lose twice to win the Big 12 South and advance to the Big 12 title game.
Ohio State (27). Where the Buckeyes stand: 12th in the AP poll, 15th in the Sagarin Ratings. How bad was the loss: not bad, other than the margin, at USC (No. 13 Sagarin). Best win: Minnesota (No. 25 Sagarin). What lies ahead: The Buckeyes face three straight Sagarin top 15 opponents in Michigan State, Penn State and Northwestern. Believe it or not, the anchor game on their computer ratings is Michigan, which checks in at No. 105 Sagarin.
Virginia Tech (28). Where the Hokies stand: 17th in the AP poll, 12th in the Sagarin Ratings. How bad was the loss: getting worse all the time, versus East Carolina (No. 64 Sagarin) on a neutral field. Best wins: over Georgia Tech (No. 16) and North Carolina (No. 19). What lies ahead: Five teams in the Sagarin top 53. The weak sister is Miami at No. 82.
USC (30). Where the Trojans stand: Living off reputation with the humans, they're sixth in the AP poll but only 13th in the Sagarin Ratings. How bad was the loss: Oregon State is an OK team, but being dominated didn't help. Best win: wipeout of Ohio State (No. 15 Sagarin). What lies ahead: A horrible schedule. Only Cal, Notre Dame and Stanford are in the Sagarin top 45, but none is in the top 20. Games against UCLA, Washington and Washington State could torpedo the Trojans with the computers.
Missouri (31). Where the Tigers stand: 11th in the AP poll, 17th in the Sagarin Ratings. How bad was the loss: not bad against unbeaten Oklahoma State (No. 3 Sagarin) but it happened at home. Best win: walloping of Nebraska (No. 39) in Lincoln. What lies ahead: a huge opportunity at Texas on Saturday, but then only two other top-50 opponents in Colorado (No. 50) and Kansas (No. 34).
The Dash's Heisman List
1. Colt McCoy, Texas. Vaults to the head of the class with an inspired performance in the comeback victory over Oklahoma. At times McCoy was the only thing the Longhorns had going for them -- and it was enough to keep them in the game. As The Dash has said before, he's out-Tebowing Tim Tebow.
2. Sam Bradford, Oklahoma. Even in defeat, it's hard to drop a guy who threw for 387 yards and five touchdowns. So The Dash left him right where he was.
3. Chase Daniel, Missouri. Falls from the pole position after two bad fourth-quarter interceptions help keep the Tigers 30 points below their season scoring average in an upset loss to Oklahoma State. But he's got a great shot at redemption Saturday: at Texas and against Colt McCoy.• ESPN.com's Heisman Watch | Vote!
Florida (32). Where the Gators stand: nobody is getting by on laundry more than Florida, which is 5th in the AP poll and 26th in the Sagarin Ratings after crushing LSU. How bad was the loss: very bad, at home to Mississippi (No. 52). Best win: wipeout of LSU (No. 38). What lies ahead: five opponents in the top 45, including Georgia in the Cocktail Party game Nov. 1. But a late date with The Citadel will hurt the power ratings.
California (33). Where the Golden Bears stand: 25th in the AP poll, 24th in the Sagarin Ratings. How bad was the loss: ugly, at schizophrenic Maryland (No. 53 Sagarin). Best win: over Michigan State (No. 10) in Berkeley. What lies ahead: a big chance at USC, plus three top-45 opponents. But Cal has a long way to make up in the polls.
Georgia Tech (34). Where the Yellow Jackets stand: receiving votes in the AP poll, 16th in the Sagarin Ratings. They're the converse of Florida. How bad was the loss: by three points at Virginia Tech, not bad at all. Best win: shutout of Duke (No. 20) Oct. 4th. What lies ahead: good serve-notice opportunities against Georgia, Florida State and whatever is left of Clemson.
Last Interception Pool UpdateOur final two competitors remained in the running after big victories and quality performances Saturday.
Baylor freshman Robert Griffin (35) tore apart Iowa State, completing 21 of 24 passes for 278 yards and two touchdowns. He's now gone 128 passes without a pick.
Mississippi State junior Tyson Lee (36) kept the ball away from the notably larcenous Vanderbilt defense, completing 12 of 22 passes for only 81 yards and a touchdown in a big upset of the Commodores. Lee has now thrown 93 passes without an interception.
This week: Griffin faces an Oklahoma State defense that just collected three of Chase Daniel's four interceptions on the season. Lee takes on Tennessee, which has intercepted 11 passes this season and took two from Matthew Stafford on Saturday.
Good luck to both men.
Putting Out An APB For ...... Former Michigan State running back Lorenzo White (37), who was the first Big Ten back to gain 2,000 yards in a season (1985) before going on to a solid NFL career. Anyone with information on the Spartans' all-time leading rusher, please apprise The Dash.
Meanwhile, The Dash is pleased to report that former LSU quarterback Jeff Wickersham (38) is alive and well and, in his own words, living in Metairie, La., where he owns Shipyard Supply, LLC, an industrial distribution company with locations in Metairie and in Mobile, Ala. The Dash thanks all of Tiger Nation for the recon work.
Point AfterWhen hungry and thirsty in Columbia, Mo., The Dash recommends the mini cheeseburgers at Booches (39), an old-school, no-frills pool hall that's been there since Norm Stewart had hair. For drinks, head to Willie's (40), which shares space with The Field House to offer everything an overly enthusiastic (and occasionally over-served) football fan could want.
Pat Forde is a senior writer for ESPN.com. He can be reached at ESPN4D@aol.com.