First this week I want to thank John L. Smith for proving me right once again. I said he should have been fired five weeks ago and I was right. Yesterday’s embarrassing performance against South Carolina proved it again.
The eighth-ranked Gamecocks blasted Arkansas 38-20 in a game that wasn’t as close as the score indicates. Even the USC faithful got bored and left the stadium early. Better to beat the traffic than to watch the second stringers mop up against the Razorbacks, who fell to 4-6 overall and 2-4 in the SEC.
I think I can hear in a low but growing undertone in Fayetteville, “Thank God for Auburn!” Only the extremely hapless Tigers/War Eagles keep Arkansas from being the worst team in the SEC West.
If Jeff Long was a really good athletic director, he would have built a performance clause into Smith’s short (but not short enough) contract. Well, he wouldn’t have hired Smith in the first place; but, what’s done is done. Smith’s contract should have read something like “You don’t perform, you don’t get paid.” That way, at this point, Smith would owe the University of Arkansas (and how many others?) money.
I can’t decide if, while wishing I had lots of money, I should wish for the $850,000 Long threw down the toilet when he hired Smith or the millions of dollars in NFL salary this season is going to cost Tyler Wilson over what he would have made had he jumped to pro ball after last season.
Wilson is trying too hard to put the team on his back and carry them to victory. He looks worse every week as he gets more battered and more desperate to make something special happen in a season where special means you beat Auburn and Kentucky.
Wilson, first-team All-SEC quarterback in 2011, threw two interceptions, one returned 69 yards for a touchdown, and two touchdowns Saturday. His season totals now stand at 18 touchdowns and 10 interceptions, not exactly numbers that will have the NFL scouts drooling. He threw for 24 touchdowns with only six interceptions last year.
Wilson is also banged up. I expected even Smith or Paul (I’ll never be a head coach after this season) Petrino to see that and put redshirt freshman Brandon Allen into the game once it was out of reach. Nope, Wilson played the entire game. No rest for him and no much-needed game reps for his backup.
When asked about it after the game, Wilson said he didn’t want to come out. When I read that in Sunday’s paper, I was stunned. Only on a team with no leadership on the coaching level would a quarterback make the decision on who plays and who stays on the sidelines. Only on a team with absolutely no coaching leadership would a kid be foolishly risking his health and what’s left of a potential NFL career flinging balls and running for his life when the game had been decided long ago.
I know it seems like it can’t get much worse, but it will if Wilson goes down with another injury and Allen is thrust back into the starting role with so little game experience. And that won’t be Allen’s fault. It will be Smith’s and Petrino’s.
Petrino, at least, better start thinking like he’s auditioning for his next job. Maybe he’s counting on Bobby to land another head coaching job and let him ride the nepotism train again. He’s coaching like that’s his only option. Maybe it is.
SEC And National Roundup: Johnny Football for Heisman! Texas A&M freshman phenom Johnny Manziel, aka Johnny Football (soon to be trademarked), passed and ran now ninth-ranked Texas A&M past previously unbeaten and top ranked Alabama 29-24 in Tuscaloosa Saturday. Manziel and the Aggies may have knocked their new conference right out of the national championship picture by defeating the Tide.
Louisville also fell from the rapidly dwindling ranks of the unbeaten Saturday, leaving only Oregon, Kansas State and Notre Dame. The Ducks, who took over to top spot in today’s AP poll, trounced Cal 59-17. Kansas State dumped TCU 23-10, and Notre Dame snuck by a very weak Boston College team 21-6.
If two or all three of those teams remain unbeaten, the SEC’s remaining one-loss team or teams (currently Alabama, Georgia and Florida) will most likely be shut out of the BCS Championship Game.
Notre Dame is by far the least deserving to contend for the title. The Irish won their second close game in a row against inferior opponents. Last week they had to go to overtime to be Pitt. The Irish still face Wake Forest (5-5) at home and a road game against arch-rival Southern Cal, currently 7-3.
Both Oregon and Kansas State face stiffer competition than Notre Dame in their final two games. The Ducks host an 8-2 Stanford team that is ranked 14th in this week’s AP poll after knocking off Oregon State yesterday. Oregon closes the season at arch-rival Oregon State. The Beavers are 15th with a 7-2 record.
KState plays at Baylor (4-5) and finishes at 18th-ranked Texas (8-2).
Garnering the “least deserving” title in the SEC is Florida. The 9-1 Gators somehow moved up from sixth to fifth place after needing a blocked punt returned for a touchdown in the closing minutes of their game to defeat UL-Lafayette 27-20. The highly unpredictable Gators have quality wins over LSU, Texas A&M, and South Carolina this year, but also barely beat Bowling Green and Missouri. Their only loss was to Georgia 17-9. That is, until they play Florida State in two weeks.
That loss to Georgia will keep the Gators out of the SEC Championship Game as the Bulldogs sewed up the SEC East title by ripping Auburn 38-0 Saturday. Georgia will meet Alabama for the SEC title in Atlanta on December 1.
The Tide have Western Carolina and Auburn left on their regular season schedule.
The eventual SEC champion will have to hope at least two of the remaining undefeated teams get beat in the next two weeks or, in the case of Oregon, in the PAC-12 Championship Game. Otherwise, the SEC champs will be playing for third place at best in January.
Vanderbilt became bowl eligible for the second year in a row by defeating Ole Miss 27-26 in Oxford Saturday; Missouri defeated Tennessee 51-48 in four overtimes in Knoxville; and LSU extended Mississippi State’s losing streak to three in a row by defeating the Bulldogs 37-17.
In a rare sports calamity, North Carolina’s basketball team showed up to play Georgia Tech’s football team and lost to the Rambling Wreck 68-50 in the ACC’s highest scoring game ever. The Tar Heels tried to run the four-corner offense late in the game, but couldn’t figure out how to dribble the football.