I’ll be honest with you: not much of importance happened this weekend. But in college football, that’s when things really get weird. But it wasn’t all that weird either, so I had to get a bit creative with some of the categories this week. Some weeks are down weeks, and that’s okay. If nothing else, Week 12 perfectly set the table for the best week in all of sports: rivalry week. So before we jump in, a quick recap of the categories:
Game of the Week: The game that was the most fun to watch that week. Importance could be a factor, but it isn’t necessary to qualify.
Most Important Game of the Week: The game that had the biggest impact on the playoff race or the college football landscape as a whole.
Drunkest Game of the Week: The game that scrambled your brain just watching. A drunk game is full of chaos, but not the good kind. As the name implies, it’s a game where it wouldn’t be a shock to find out everyone involved chugged a fifth of Admiral Nelson’s beforehand.
Head-Scratcher of the Week: The result that makes less and less sense the more you look at it. This is a celebration of the random, outlier games that we look back on later in the year in awe.
Saddest Game of the Week: The game that just made you feel sad watching. Usually a blowout, either of a team that came in full of hope or one that has already been dead for a while.
Hype Killer of the Week: The game where one bandwagon comes to a screeching halt. The game where a team that looked like a future college football darling crashed back down to Earth.
Seat-Warmer of the Week: The game that pushed a coach’s job security into the danger zone because coach search season never ends. It’s usually about the coach of the losing team, but that’s not always the case.
Seat-Cooler of the Week: The opposite of the seat-warmer, this is the game that will let the winning coach sleep a little more soundly at night. At least for now.
Your Future Coach: A new category where I look at a game involving an up-and-coming G5 coach that probably won’t be sticking around very long. If your team is ever in the Seat Warmer section, this one is for you.
Dealer’s Choice of the Week: The game that I just feel like talking about. It could be because it was especially fun, or stupid, or just because I want to make fun of a team I don’t like. It’s more of a catch-all category than anything.
All caught up? Good, let’s go.
Game of the Week: UTSA vs. UAB
This might be the best game of the season that nobody watched. C-USA’s division deciding showdown got pushed to ESPN+ because apparently you aren’t allowed to have more than one non-American G5 game on tv on Saturdays. UAB and UTSA traded blows throughout, but the ending was what took this matchup to the next level. The Roadrunners had the ball down 3 with only a minute left, when they mounted an electric drive to take it down to the 1-yard line. QB Frank Harris scooped up the bad snap, rolled out to his left, and made a throw that is the stuff of legends.
Oscar Cardenas hauled in the pass, and UTSA clinched the C-USA West title. The season’s not over yet, but this will be one of the key moments in the history of one of the country’s fastest rising programs. In just their 10th season in existence, UTSA is drawing 35,000 fans, will be playing for a conference championship, and is one win away from an undefeated season. Head coach Jeff Traylor is the perfect fit for the Roadrunners, and lucky for them, he seems to be in it for the long haul. Despite many people, myself included, assuming he would leave to take over at Texas Tech, Traylor signed a massive 10-year contract extension a few weeks ago. With a coach like Traylor and an administration that is clearly committed to winning, the sky is the limit for UTSA football. Meep meep.
Most Important Game of the Week: Oregon vs. Utah
I might as well just copy and paste everything I said about Oklahoma last week. Everyone knew that Oregon was not the third best team in the country. Their win against Ohio State looks flukier every week, while their loss to Stanford continues to look worse. And when I say everyone saw this coming, I mean it. Utah was actually a 3-point favorite heading into this game. The Utes whipped Oregon in every phase of the game and might get a chance to do it again in the PAC-12 championship game. The big loser in all of this is the PAC-12, who will miss out on the playoff for the fifth year in a row, and the seventh time in the playoff’s eight-year history. Expansion can’t come soon enough.
Drunkest Game of the Week: Southern Miss vs. Louisiana Tech
This game was a different kind of drunk. Southern Miss had one of the worst offenses in the nation and had just used their record 10th different QB of the season against UTSA. I like to picture the coaching staff all out at a bar that night, drinking their sorrows away, when one has a stroke of inebriated genius. “Hear me out, hear me out. All our QBs suck, right? So what if, hear me out, we didn’t use a QB.” They took Jack Daniels’ wisdom to heart and played an entire game without a quarterback. But the craziest part is, it worked. The Golden Eagles put up 35 points, their third highest total of the season, and won their first FBS game. Wide receiver Antavious Willis was a perfect 3 for 3 with a touchdown, and Frank Gore Jr. (yes, that Frank Gore) threw two dimes of his own to complete the upset. Will this revolutionize the sport, becoming the next evolution of the triple option? No chance. It’s more like when you get really pissed off after throwing your 5th interception in a game of Madden and throw a running back in there just for the hell of it. In vino veritas.
Head-Scratcher of the Week: Nebraska vs. Wisconsin
I’m cheating a bit here. I’m not scratching my head at this game as much as I am at Nebraska’s entire season. How many different ways can a team find to lose a game? It’s become a meme that “Nebraska is the greatest 3-9 team of all time”, but it’s kinda true. Every single week I’m left wondering how a team that looks that good ends up being so bad. The only teams they’ve beaten are Fordham, a bad FCS team, Buffalo, who lost their coach and half the roster in May, and Northwestern, a Frankenstein’s Monster of mediocre transfers. But on the flip side, they’ve lost to five ranked teams by an average of 4.5 points per game. They are legitimately about a dozen plays away from being 11-0. The decision to keep Scott Frost for another year makes sense because there are clear signs of progress. But come on man, it’s year four and he still hasn’t made a bowl game. Josh Heupel and Shane Beamer walked into arguably much worse situations this year, and both of them already clinched a bowl berth. Statistically, Frost is the worst Nebraska head coach in the last 60 years. Progress is great, and patience is a virtue, but at some point you have to win games.
Saddest Game of the Week: Ohio State vs. Michigan State
Nothing is sadder than having your hopes and dreams crushed right before your eyes. Ohio State beat the life out of the Spartans on Saturday, to the point that watching that game started to feel dirty. Sadness feels like too soft of a word to describe that. But hey, at least Michigan State is going to pay their coach $95 million to give their Heisman candidate running back 6 carries.
Hype Killer of the Week: Alabama vs. Arkansas
Are we as a society finally willing to accept that Alabama just might not be that good this year? The offense has been humming as expected, but the defense has slipped to a point once thought impossible under Saban. Granted, they’re still in the top 20, but that’s not the standard the Tide have built. Arkansas isn’t known for their high-powered offense, but they looked like Lane Kiffin had suddenly taken over in this game. The Hogs had a passing success rate of 62% and an astounding 8 explosive passes! It feels like Bama has gone entire seasons without giving up those kinds of numbers. If you ask an Alabama fan what the problem is, they’ll probably tell you it’s Pete Golding, but I think the heart of the issue is their safeties. Jordan Battle and DeMarcco Hellams are obviously super talented, but not at the insane level Saban is used to. The Tide have had a unanimous All-American safety in 7 of the last 11 seasons. And that doesn’t even include guys that are household names here in the South like Eddie Jackson, Vinnie Sunseri, and Robert Lester. The Saban model asks more out of the safeties than anybody on the field, and it shows when they don’t quite measure up. In my opinion, this is the main reason that 99% of his former defensive coordinators can carry over that success. Will Muschamp was his original golden boy, and yet South Carolina had a top 50 defense just once in his five years there. Without a lynchpin to hold their defense together, Alabama is just a really good team, not the dominant hype-train we’re all used to.
Seat-Warmer of the Week: Arizona State vs. Oregon State
Arizona State has ended up in a weird situation. They went from a sneaky championship contender to a likely 8-4 finish. QB Jayden Daniels started off as a Heisman dark-horse, but now looks more likely to transfer to a mid-tier G5 school just to get a chance to play. Despite all this negative energy, the Sun Devils ended up right where they were supposed to be. They’ll only miss their pre-season win total by 1, and they aren’t particularly bad at anything on the field. Looming over all this, as always, is the NCAA. Back in the summer, news broke that ASU was under investigation for a litany of violations. It was a lot of run-of-the-mill recruiting stuff, but the real bombshell was a blatant disregard for the NCAA’s COVID protocols. Unlike paying players, this is a spot where the NCAA still has actual authority, so don’t be surprised if they bring the hammer down just to show that they still can. All these factors combined make it seem like the Herm Edwards experiment is over. That’s not even including the fact that a no-brainer replacement is out there, validating a long-held conspiracy theory of mine. Part of the initial reporting on the investigation mentioned that ASU has no idea who snitched because so many former assistants hate the current staff. It just so happens that the hottest name in up-and-coming coaches is also a former ASU assistant: Billy Napier. Napier has been infamously picky about choosing his next job, turning down places like Auburn and Mississippi State in the past few years. It’s not unreasonable to think that a former co-worker just might’ve tipped him off that the Arizona State job would be coming open soon. I know this sounds like a Pepe Silvia moment, but it’s gained some traction from people like coaching carousel expert and burgeoning Twitter troll Steven Godfrey.
Who knows how it all ends up, but don’t be shocked if you see Herm back on TV next season.
Seat-Cooler of the Week: None
For the first time, I’m going to have to leave a category empty. For a multitude of different reasons, none of the wins from last weekend did much to save someone’s job. I originally was considering North Texas’ win over FIU, but there are rumors that Seth Littrell is out regardless. Wins over Duke and Stanford don’t mean much for Louisville and California, respectively. Financial issues at Florida State meant that Mike Norvell’s job was never in jeopardy anyways. Beating Texas might cool down Neal Brown’s seat at West Virginia, but I doubt it. Plus, that would make this the fifth recap in a row with a section about Texas losing, so I don’t want to beat that horse anymore. So, no seat-cooler this week. Oh well.
Your Future Coach: Louisiana vs. Liberty
I spent a little time talking about him earlier, but Billy Napier is going to be coaching somewhere else next season. He’s been the engine behind this coaching carousel, dictating a lot of the decision making behind the scenes. For example, Virginia Tech decided to fire Justin Fuente on November 16th, even though it would’ve cost them $2.5 million less to wait and fire him in December. The rumors are that Napier was about to agree to a deal with TCU, and the Hokies didn’t want to get left out. Right now, it sounds like Napier is likeliest to end up at Florida but given his history there’s no telling where he ends up. Like I said earlier, my money is on him ending up in Tempe, Arizona before all is said and done.
Dealer’s Choice: UCF vs. UConn
The greatest rivalry in all of sports has finally returned: The Civil ConFLiCT. Well, one side considers it a rivalry, even though the schools are 18 hours apart and have only played a total of 16 times. If you have time, I’d highly recommend reading the full history here, but I’ll give you a really brief summary. After upsetting UCF back in 2014, UConn head coach Bob Diaco decided in his post-game press conference that the two schools should be rivals, totally out of the blue. That offseason, UConn created a trophy and added a countdown clock to the game in their locker room. Obviously, it was an effective motivational tool, because the Huskies won again. But in 2016, UCF notched their first official ConFLiCT victory, laying claim to the new trophy. Except, they didn’t want it. UCF left the trophy sitting on their sideline, and nobody saw it again. Diaco was fired that year, and new coach Randy Edsall wanted nothing to do with it. Just like that, the ConFLiCT was over. Until this happened:
For the first time ever, UCF acknowledged the historic rivalry. Even if the new trophy is probably just a replica, it looks like the Knights decided to revive this tradition rich matchup between two bitter riv- aaaaaand they left it again.
(Header photo courtesy of UTSA Athletics)