The Silliest Of Seasons

By Brad Hubbard | @bradhubbard | 11.29.2017


This time of year (mid to late November) is known as the ‘silly season’ in college football. It’s silly because of several reasons. First, the money spent to remove coaches and hire new ones. Second, the search process which as some schools have shown can be an absolute disaster. Football is a game and if you remove yourself and look at the big picture, what has occurred over the last few weeks or so is absolute nonsense.

Full disclosure, I am a graduate of the University of Tennessee and a very proud alumni.

Over the past few weeks universities (or major boosters) have paid out a minimum of $55 million to remove head coaches. That’s right. $55 million to pay coaches to leave. Meanwhile people in this country, who love these football programs and struggle to make ends meet, have to sit back and watch a coach like Butch Jones will get $205k a month for the next 40 months to not work. The best deal, how bout former Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin. Sumlin will get some $10+ million in the next 60 days to not coach football. Texas A&M doesn’t even get a deal on the payout if Sumlin takes another job. How bout that for an exit package!

Why are these buyouts so high? Well partially because the whole industry has gone off of the deep end. Arkansas head coach Brett Bielema was fired shortly after the teams last game of the season. In fact the media got the PR release immediately after the game which may have occurred before Bielema got the news.

Speaking of deep end, let’s talk about Tennessee and the fiasco that is still occurring there. Athletic Director John Currie fired head coach Butch Jones and was very frank and professional in the press conference following the firing. He gave off an air of professionalism and the expectation that Currie was planning far ahead and a new head coach would be in place soon. Several weeks later Currie tried to hire former Rutgers and Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Greg Schiano. That outraged the Tennessee fanbase, media, alumni, boosters and even politicians to the point of protests on campus. It was so bad that Currie had to (from what we know) withdraw the offer and go back to the drawing board. That drawing board saw him get turned down by Oklahoma State’s Mike Gundy and apparently be overruled on bringing in Purdue’s Jeff Brohm.

But back to the Schiano debacle. The pulling back from Schiano showed a few things; first that social media and boosters can stop a hiring if they don’t like it. Second that people associate anyone with the Penn State at the time of the Jerry Sandusky abuses as tainted goods and finally, the expectations at a Power 5 school like Tennessee is to have a “splash hire” and someone who can put their team back in the running for national championships. For some at Tennessee that means former Tampa Bay and Oakland head coach Jon Gruden. A coach who hasn’t roamed the sidelines of a football game in a decade and hasn’t coached at the collegiate level in almost 30 years.

Let’s be honest, all this is beyond the pale. This is college football where the players are not paid yet millions of dollars are being shelled out to fire coaches and hire new ones all the while the universities that the players represent saddle students with enough loan debt to make an economist have an extra shot of tequila. Social media turns into the digital equivalent of a forrest fire and fans get so fired up that they protest or confront coaches who might leave as one did at Florida State head coach Jimbo Fisher’s weekly radio show.

Athletic Directors are beholden to big money donors who bless or curse hires. Coaches change jobs and receive millions of dollars while the players they recruited are stuck and can only transfer to schools in a lower division or sit out a season. They do not get to share in the riches  of revenue but put their bodies on the line for 12 games a year and then some. It’s time for this industry to look in the mirror and say that enough is enough.

College football is a wonderful sport but it is officially out of control. While the passionate fans found in Knoxville, Gainesville, College Station, Lincoln and Fayetteville among others deserve a quality program for the support they give, at the end of the day it’s still just a game being played by unpaid participants. The amount of money, time and attention being paid to firing and hiring coaches could and should be spent elsewhere. It doesn’t appear that this will change any time soon so do what you can do enjoy the fiery spectacle.

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Transfer U

By Brad Hubbard | @bradhubbard


We have covered the topic of graduate transfers before but a new crop has emerged and it raises new and different questions.

Dakota PrukopDakota Prukop was the first “name” quarterback to make a move. Like Vernon Adams, Prukop, is moving up from the FCS level (Big Sky Conference as well) to Oregon. Prukop turned down Alabama and Texas in the process.

This is the second year in a row that an FCS quarterback is moving into the quarterback role at Oregon. This begs the question, has Oregon been unable to recruit a young quarterback? Do they really look at their quarterback recruits and think, ‘man, we’re toast if we don’t get a transfer in here’ ? The Oregon coaching staff should do a better job of identifying, recruiting and developing a quarterback because there is no way that crossing your fingers and hoping a graduate transfer QB just decides to go to Eugene.

Texas A&M lost two quarterbacks….in a week! Top recruits Kyle Allen and Kyler Murray both decided to transfer away from College Station. Add that to Kenny Hill, who transferred last year, and that makes three top QB’s who have left the Aggies in the last two years. Unlike the graduate transfer Prukop, Allen and Murray will have to sit out a year just like Hill is currently doing at TCU.

Trevor KnightFormer Oklahoma quarterback (and Sugar Bowl MVP) Trevor Knight has decided to leave Sooner nation behind. Knight started plenty of games for the Sooners but his inconsistent play led to walk-on transfer (and eventual Heisman contender) Baker Mayfield getting the starting nod. Funny thing is, Knight might walk into a starting role at A&M because Hill, Allen and Murray decided to leave.

Patrick TowlesOther graduate transfers this off season include former Kentucky signal-caller Patrick Towles who is moving onto Boston College and former Georgia backup Faton Bauta who will take his skills to Colorado State. Both are eligible to play immediately for their new schools.

Florida’s Will Grier is another quarterback who like Allen and Murray, will have to wait to play. He is under NCAA suspension for essentially PED use and regardless of where he goes, he will still have to serve his suspension.

Earlier this year in the column ‘College Football Free Agency’ that we didn’t think graduate transfers was a trend. We were right, it’s not a trend….it’s a full blown movement!

Players, in particularly quarterbacks, are making it clear that if they don’t feel their job is safe or have the opportunity to move to a bigger and better program then they will jump at the chance.

Sounds just like the working world doesn’t it?

On the other hand, while quarterbacks like Russell Wilson and Vernon Adams have found success, there are plenty who have failed to impress. As we alluded to in the post ‘Transfer Dreams’, just because you started somewhere else doesn’t mean you will succeed (much less start) at another school.

In other words, past performance isn’t indicative of future success.

Schools would be better served by going the parallel route: recruit and develop a quarterback and if a graduate transfer drops in your lap then all the better. Either way you should come out on top. Meanwhile, don’t think for a minute that we’ve seen the end of the graduate transfers.

Holiday Viewing Guide

By Brad Hubbard | @bradhubbard

The Holiday season isn’t done just yet which means that there are still sports to view on a random weekday.

Tuesday Dec. 31st

(In Progress) AdvoCare v100 Bowl: Boston College vs Arizona – 9:30am ESPN: The country’s best RB Andre Williams vs a tough and under appreciated Arizona team.

Chik-Fil-A Bowl: Texas A&M vs Duke – 5pm ESPN: It’s probably your last chance to see Johnny Manziel as a collegiate. There is also the possibility of a shootout on New Year’s Eve.

San Jose Sharks at Anaheim Ducks – 5pm REGIONAL COVERAGE: The Sharks ended the Ducks 10 game winning streak on Sunday night. Ducks are probably out for revenge.

Portland Trailblazers @ Oklahoma City Thunder – 5pm NBA TV: Two of the top teams in the Western Conference get down to business. Portland is looking to end a two game losing streak, a first for them this season, and OKC continues to try and get by without starting guard Russell Westbrook.

-Coolest event today is not the games themselves but the adventures of Fox Sports announcers Gus Johnson and Bill Rafferty. Check it out on AwfulAnnouncing.com

Wednesday Jan. 1st

Tottenham @ Manchester United – 9:30am NBCSN: It’s a full slate of games for the Premier League. This is the best match up of the day.

Capital One Bowl: South Carolina vs Wisconsin – 10am ABC: Two teams that could be in the BCS if it wasn’t for a tough loss here and there. Should be the game of the morning.

Winter Classic: Toronto Maple Leafs @ Detroit Red Wings – 10am NBC (may change due to weather): It’s become and annual tradition on New Years day and made even cooler by HBO’s 24/7 show. This year a Canadian team finally gets to show it’s stuff on New Years Day. This time it’s outside in the Big House at the University of Michigan.

Rose Bowl: Michigan State vs Stanford – 2pm ESPN: This is going to be a good ole fashion, hard hitting football game. Should be tough, close and fun to watch.

Fiesta Bowl: Baylor vs Central Florida – 5:30pm ESPN: Baylor scores a ton of points and Central Florida has been this seasons “cardiac kids”. Also, UCF QB Blake Bortels is a possible first round draft pick and has a smoking hot girlfriend.

 

The Saturday You Always Wanted

By Brad Hubbard @bradhubbard

Seven ranked teams lost on Saturday. Four lost to unranked teams. Five other teams were in the quintessential ‘dog fights’ but were able to pull out the victories. It’s the perfect example as to why you watch football all day.

Saturday was one of those days you hope will happen when you turned on the television that morning. Upsets, nail-biters, coast to coast action for 13 hours. Coincidentally it was also one of this days that had non normal kick off times.

A typical Saturday of college football really has four sets of start times: 9am, 12:30pm, 4:30pm, and sometimes one game at 7:30pm. This particular Saturday had some odd start times like 1pm, 2pm, 5:30pm and multiple games at 7:30pm. This provided a great overlap when games came down to the wire. So when Penn State was driving for the tying touchdown against Michigan you weren’t even missing the start the of the Texas A&M at Ole Miss game.

None of this is planned of course, it’s just a nice coincidence.

Even the networks didn’t know which games were going to be the best ones of the day. ESPN College Gameday and most of the big name college football reporters descended upon Husky Stadium in Seattle for the Oregon at Washington game. One member of Gameday didn’t even stay for the game. Kirk Herbstreit jumped on a plane after the show ended at 9am and high tailed it to Oxford, Miss (probably via Memphis,TN) for Texas A&M at Ole Miss game which kicked off at 5:30pm. Fortunately for him, this game turned into one of the best games of the day.

Texas A&M vs Ole Miss

From Missouri beating Georgia in Athens to Penn State outlasting Michigan in the fourth overtime in Happy Valley to Johnny Football leading his team in prayer as a former FC Dallas goalkeeper knocked in the winning field goal to seal the win for Texas A&M.

This is what Saturdays’ were made for. Non-stop, exciting games that go down to the wire from coast to coast. It’s why we are college football fans.

What to Watch 10/10-10/13

By Brad Hubbard @bradhubbard

Thursday Oct. 10th

4:30pm-ESPN: Rutgers @ Louisville (An important battle in the AAC. Both teams have a  short week but Rutgers went into 3 overtimes against SMU last weekend. That could be difference. It’s also a chance to check out Louisville QB Teddy Bridgewater for yourself.)

5:00pm-TBS: Detroit Tigers @ Oakland A’s (Game 5 in the ALDS. Winner gets a date with the Boston Red Sox on Saturday. Let’s do this!)

5:25pm-NFL Network: NY Giants @ Chicago Bears (Can the Giants get a win this season or will they go 0-6? It will be funny for everyone outside of New York if they do.)

Friday Oct. 11th

6:00pm-ESPN3: BC Lions @ Calgary (West Coast rivals meet again. Calgary RB John Cornish looks to set another league record for rushing yards in a season.)

Saturday Oct. 12th

9:00am-ESPN: Missouri @ Georgia (Georgia’s D is not very good and they are missing just about everyone on offense due to injury. Missouri is a surprising 5-0. Upset alert!)

12:30pm-CBS: Florida @ LSU (How Florida lucked out and got at daytime kick off we’ll never know. Either way it’s a must win for both teams if they want to keep their SEC & National Title hopes alive.)

1:00pm-FS1: Oregon @ Washington (The Quack Attack gets its first true test against an old rival. Can UW bounce back and contain the Ducks high-powered O? Needless to say, it’s going to be very, very loud in Husky Stadium.)

5:30pm-ESPN: Texas A&M @ Ole Miss (It will be points galore in Oxford. Big point swings are liable to occur.)

7:00pm-Regional: Montreal Canadiens @ Vancouver Canucks (East meets West for the first time this season.)

Sunday Oct. 13th

1:25pm-FOX: New Orleans Saints @ NE Patriots (5-0 Saints head to Foxboro. Can Tom Brady find some WR’s in time?)

6:00pm-ESPN: Seattle Sounders @ Portland Timbers (Cascadia Cup match between two playoff teams. Only time Seattle visits the Rose City during the regular season. This is always something awesome to see.)

Early Season No No

Most College Football programs schedule their out of conference games early in the year and generally during the first few weeks. While some schedule the proverbial cupcake and others try to take on another big name program most try to go with the safe route. The safe route includes programs from the mid-major conferences like the MAC or Conference USA. On paper it looks like a solid strategy but in reality it can end up costing you a major bowl game at the end of the year.

Three programs that would be considered a mid-major even though two of them are not in a conference are the Academy schools, Air Force (Mountain West Conference), Army and Navy (both Independents). All three of these programs run the triple option offense which is based on misdirection, angle blocking and more importantly execution.

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You’ll see a lot of times these Academy schools scheduled at places like Michigan, Penn State, Tennessee, South Carolina, and Oklahoma. Even more often then not you see these Academy schools giving these big time College Football programs all they want in week two or three. For example in 2011 Navy lost at South Carolina by 3 points. In 2006 Tennessee squeaked by Air Force with a 1 point victory in Knoxville and Army lost by 4 points at Texas A&M in 2008.

The reason these games and others are so close is that it is so hard to prepare for these offenses and the sheer grit of the the players. If you’re a major program you have a very limited window to prepare your defense for an offense that you see only every couple of years. The defense has to be disciplined, stick with their assignments and tackle very well. The minute they don’t, this offense can break off a big play.

Former Notre Dame and current New Mexico coach Bob Davie said multiple times while a commenter for ESPN that the triple option was the hardest offense to defend in all of College Football.

You have to remember, you’re asking 18-23 year olds in College to buckle down, be disciplined and stay on their assignments. You’re also asking them to do this the week after their first game where they may have blown out some cupcake or been throttled by another big program.

The offense isn’t the only thing these Academy schools have going for them. They are training the military leaders of tomorrow and that is something that an opponent cannot prepare for. These Academy schools are not going to quit. You saw this no quit attitude this past Saturday in Ann Arbor, Michigan where Air Force was on the verge of upsetting a top 25 program in Michigan. Michigan ended up winning 31-25 but Air Force had an opportunity to take the lead at the end of the game.

Some programs do better at defending this offense than others because they see it more often or have more time to prepare for it. Georgia Tech runs the triple option with much better players than the Academy schools but they play the same teams in the ACC year after year so those programs see the offense on an annual basis.

College Football is always changing with very few constants. One of those constants is the triple option at the Academy schools. Why big time programs continue to schedule them in weeks two and three I’ll never know. If you are going to play them, take them in week one or after a bye week so that you have more time to prepare or else live the possibility of either a loss or an extremely close game that could end up costing the program millions of dollars in bowl money at the end of the year.