Welcome to the third edition of The Hangover, where I recap the previous weekend in college football. This week, The Hangover comes a day later than I originally intended. My laptop broke Sunday morning, plus I had to drive back to Tuscaloosa from lovely Washington, D.C., where I was in the area calling play-by-play for the 117th consecutive game in the rivalry between Woodberry Forest School (my alma mater) and Episcopal High School. After The Game, I made it back to the hotel just time for the evening slate of games, all of which were very interesting for very different reasons. It was another excellent college football Saturday, so let’s dive right into what went down across the country.
The U is back. While I hate being incorrect, I’ll admit I was wrong about Miami and Mark Richt. It’s about time we give them the respect they deserve. The Hurricanes beat Notre Dame 41-8 on Saturday, locking up a spot in the ACC Championship in the process because of other ACC Coastal action. Miami looked gooooood on Saturday, guys, and it started with the turnover chain.
The Hurricanes forced four turnovers, the fourth straight game that they’ve done so, and essentially zapped Notre Dame of any energy that it might’ve had. The Irish were held to 109 rushing yards, and Heisman candidate Josh Adams was limited to 40 yards on 16 carries. I still have my doubts about Miami’s offense, but I have doubts about every team. Right now, Mark Richt’s squad should be commended for what it has accomplished this year. Richt himself should be as well. After years of botching big games and never quite reaching the intended goal, Richt has gotten it right at the U. He’s rebuilt a program into a powerhouse–we just have to see if they can finish the job this season.
Gray’s Top 10
Here’s my updated Top 10 after this past week’s action. Remember, I rank these teams using both the eye test and resumes. Plus, I factor in how the committee ranks the Top 10. These rankings are as of right now, not how I think the season will end.
- Miami (FL)
- Ohio State
- Oklahoma State
- Notre Dame
With my rankings, I’m starting to use the eye test a little more. While I don’t think this is how the committee will rank things on Tuesday, this is how I would sort out the Top 10. First off, while Mississippi State gave Alabama a scare, I still think Alabama deserves the now-vacant top spot. Jalen Hurts finally showed his development as a passer in Starkville on Saturday night. Think about this: in his career, Jalen Hurts has had to lead two last-minute drives when tied or trailing. He’s been successful in both attempts (last year vs. Clemson and Saturday against Mississippi State). I’m now a believer in Jalen Hurts the passer.
Miami had the most impressive win of the weekend and, after snagging two good wins in two weeks, I think they deserve the two spot. Oklahoma is playing better than Clemson right now, so I’ve got the Sooners at three and Clemson at four. It’s a little muddled after that; Auburn is the hottest team in America and, after the way they dismantled Georgia, I’m thoroughly convinced that they would beat anyone right now.
That includes Wisconsin, who I have ranked seventh. Wisconsin looked very impressive against Iowa (which, by the way, what was that, Hawkeyes?), but I would still take Auburn or Georgia to beat the Badgers right now.
8-10 are inconsequential as of right now; they’re not making the playoff. Complain all you want, Ohio State fans, but there’s no way you can argue that you’re one of the four best teams after losing by 31 to an Iowa team that just barely mustered double that number in TOTAL YARDS against Wisconsin. Side note: I’m not convinced that the entire Big Ten is just average. I’d put them as the fourth best conference top-to-bottom right now, ahead of the Pac-12. If you stop being a prisoner of the moment and look at the whole body of work, the conference has been too inconsistent this season to deserve any “special” recognition by the committee. This, by the way, only hurts Wisconsin more.
Coach of the Week
Never thought I’d award this to a losing coach, but Dan Mullen‘s gameplan against Alabama on Saturday was superb.
For the Bulldogs to win, a few things had to happen: they had to keep Alabama’s offense off the field, they had to run the football effectively, and they had to avoid mistakes. Well, Mississippi State had a time of possession advantage of 38:56-21:04 in the game, they rushed for 172 yards (with most coming between the tackles, might I add), and they had zero turnovers.
There were a few defensive play-calling mishaps late, but Dan Mullen put his team in a position to knock off Alabama, and he should be commended for that. If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a thousand times. Dan Mullen is the second best coach in the SEC, and if upper level jobs aren’t going after him then they’re making a mistake. With the proper resources, Dan Mullen would win national championships almost anywhere, and his gameplan on Saturday night shows just how effective he truly is on the sidelines.
Idiot of the Week
This one hurts a little bit to write, but our IOTW is Dino Babers from Syracuse. Let me just say, I think Coach Babers is a really good coach. He’s an excellent motivator who knows x’s and o’s on offense. Defense is another matter, though, and Dino may need to re-read a few instruction manuals.
Syracuse fell to Wake Forest on Saturday 64-43, and got outscored 40-5 in the second half. 40-5!! John Wolford, the quarterback for the Demon Deacons, threw for 363 yards and ran for 136, combining for six total touchdowns. In all, Wake Forest had 734 yards of offense. Babers and defensive coordinator Brian Ward need to have a comin’ to Jesus meeting this week because, while nobody would confuse Syracuse for a defensive juggernaut, these numbers are embarrassing. Moves better be made quickly, too, because the Orange take on Lamar Jackson and Louisville this weekend.
Thursday, as I passed through the hills of Tennessee on my way up to Virginia, I began to think about how much I love Saturdays. That spawned an internal debate about every day of the week and where they belonged on the list and, suddenly, I had my idea for this week’s random rankings. *Disclaimer*: once Random Rankings are posted, they aren’t changing. So if you like Mondays, sorry. I’m very stubborn.
Best Days of the Week
- Saturday-As a fan of college sports, Saturday is easily my favorite day. In the fall, there’s nothing better than kicking back in your dorm room or in a recliner watching college football…except actually going to games on your campus (unless you go to a school with a bad football program which, as an Alabama student, I simply don’t understand). Saturdays during basketball season is amazing because it’s wall-to-wall college hoops all day long, and in the spring you get baseball and, in my case, softball (I’m on the radio broadcast team for Alabama softball, so many of my spring Saturdays are spent at Rhodes Stadium). Saturdays are for the boys and, thankfully, not for class. It’s the best day of the week, and there’s no debate.
- Friday-The precursor to Saturday, Friday comes in as the clear second. There’s no more liberating feeling than finishing your final class on Friday. Once you exit that classroom, your weekend has kickstarted. At Alabama, our Friday night band parties are pretty insane, so that even further cements Friday’s status as second best day of the week. The real kicker that almost puts Friday in the same conversation as Saturday is lunch at the University of Alabama fraternity and sorority houses. Fried Friday’s are legendary and, while the food may make you feel like an obese person after you’ve scarfed down fifteen mozzarella sticks, you’ll be in a good mood all day once you’ve eaten. Side note: do other schools do Fried Friday? I’ve never actually asked. If your school takes part in this glorious tradition, please comment where you go and what y’all eat.
- Wednesday-More of a personal choice for me because this is the night I host The Student Section on 90.7 FM The Capstone (6-7 p.m. CT weekly…yeah, another shameless plug, but who cares–listen here: ow.ly/J3JUW). I love hosting the show, so I’m always looking forward to Wednesdays. Hump Day gets the three spot, though, because it signals the halfway point to the weekend. Once you get to Wednesday, you know the weekend is just around the corner. That’s a pretty great feeling.
- Sunday-If I had grown up more of an NFL fan, I’m sure Sunday would be higher. I like pro football, but I’ve never really had a team so Sunday was always kind of “the day before school starts again.” When I was younger, my family’s Sunday routine went like clockwork: wake up, go to church, go to lunch, then come home and either play golf or do homework. Sometimes I would mix in a little professional football viewing, but most of the time I just used Sunday to relax. That’s still the case now, especially after football games in Tuscaloosa. Seriously, there have been many times when I have needed all of Sunday to recover after a long gameday on campus.
- Thursday-Thursday night football and date parties. I’m not sure how it goes at other schools, but Thursday night parties are pretty regular at Alabama, so this day of the week is pretty fun. Honestly, though, there’s isn’t anything special about Thursday; it’s just the closest to the weekend compared to easily the two worst days of the week, Monday and Tuesday. Also, if you read The Hangover last week, you know how much I enjoy Scandal Thursday’s.
Gray Goes Off
IT HAPPENED! Y’all, when I saw on Twitter that Butch Jones had been fired by Tennessee, I audibly said, “Finally!” at the breakfast table Sunday morning. This move was a long-time coming, and Tennessee fans finally got what they wanted after Saturday’s embarrassing loss to Missouri. Now, we can actually start looking at this coaching search.
The Gray Robertson Search Committee, INC. is back, and we’ve got, in order, the four coaches that John Currie should call about this opening. Spoiler alert: Jon Gruden isn’t on here. Call me a buzzkill, I don’t care, but he’s not going to be the next head football coach at Tennessee. I’ll bet the farm on that.
Dan Mullen (Mississippi State Head Coach)
As detailed above, I think Dan Mullen is an excellent football coach and, given the right situation, I think he’d flourish. He’s won consistently at Mississippi State (68-45 overall at Starkville), and he’s known as one of the best developmental coaches in football. He made Dak Prescott a national brand and has turned Nick Fitzgerald into quite a talent, but don’t forget about some of the other guys he’s had. He took a team led by Chris Relf (Remember him? Exactly) and led them to 9-wins and a Gator Bowl victory over Michigan. He’s an excellent coach that would be spectacular at Tennessee. He would win pretty quickly, I believe, and would continue to bring in quality recruiting talent.
Mike Norvell (Memphis Head Coach)
I explained this choice last week so, since nothing has changed, I’ll just copy and paste what I said last Sunday:
While I still think John Currie should give James Franklin a call and just lay out a blank check, ultimately the best fit at Tennessee is Norvell. Novell is 16-6 in two seasons at Memphis, including an 8-1 mark this year. He’s also done a great job developing quarterback Riley Ferguson, and he’s an offensive guy; he was offensive coordinator at Arizona State for four explosive seasons. His one knock may be that we still don’t know how good of a recruiter he is but, considering the issues Tennessee has on offense and just in the program overall, I think the Vols would be wise to bring in Mike Norvell.
Jeff Brohm (Purdue Head Coach)
The buyout is a little steep, but I think you have to give the Purdue head man a call. He’s completely changed the outlook of the program in West Lafayette, so just imagine what he could do in Knoxville. The Boilermakers’ offense is much improved from a year ago; they currently hold the largest points per game improvement from last year to this year. The Purdue defense is also pretty salty, something that we haven’t said for a few years. Brohm won at Western Kentucky and is already winning at Purdue. Who’s to say he wouldn’t win at Tennessee?
Matt Campbell (Iowa State Head Coach)
If Bill Clark didn’t exist, I would say that Matt Campbell deserves all of the coach of the year honors possible. What he’s done with the Cyclones this season is nothing short of remarkable. They’ve tapered off a little bit the last two weeks, but this team can still win 9-games–something I’m sure the folks in Ames never imagined this season. Campbell is a proven winner who has had success everywhere he’s gone. He went 35-15 at Toledo, leading the Rockets to two MAC divisional titles. He’s also winning at Iowa State (as I’ve said), which one could argue is one of the top five toughest Power Five coaching jobs. He’d be a slam dunk for John Currie.
SEC Power Rankings
I’m an SEC guy through and through, so I have to include my SEC Power Rankings. Auburn showed just how tough they are right now after beating Georgia, and Mississippi State proved that it’s a legitimate 10-win team after it’s effort against Alabama. Another team to watch? Missouri, who continues to steadily move up. This offense is on fire, and the defense isn’t as tragically bad as it was earlier this year. Here are my Week 11 power rankings for the SEC:
- Alabama (2)
- Auburn (3)
- Georgia (1)
- Mississippi State (4)
- LSU (5)
- South Carolina (6)
- Missouri (8)
- Texas A&M (7)
- Kentucky (9)
- Ole Miss (10)
- Arkansas (12)
- Vanderbilt (11)
- Florida (14)
- Tennessee (13)
So Who’s Ready for Week 12?
We’re not quite as blessed next weekend as we have been the last few Saturday’s, which means November 18th will be a day full of upsets. Here are the matchups we have to look forward to:
- Navy at #3 Notre Dame
- UCLA at #11 USC
- Utah at #9 Washington
- Michigan at #8 Wisconsin
- #6 TCU at Texas Tech
- Kentucky at #1 Georgia
- UAB at Florida (GO BLAZERS, Y’ALL!)
I’m off to Athens, Georgia for the Dawgs and Cats in Sanford Stadium next weekend, so stay tuned for another version of The Hangover on the road. Until then, it just means more.