The Hot Seat: Lane Kiffin & Mack Brown

LANE-KIFFIN-USC-PRESS-CONFERENCELane Kiffin

Lane Kiffin threw some gasoline in the fire when the Trojans fell 10-7 against Washington State at home, in the Coliseum. Then ranked 25 USC were 15-point favorites over the Cougars and a win seemed obvious in their home opener. The Trojan loyal were shocked, disappointed, and pissed as a team that once dominated the PAC-10 fell to a team that had won 3 away games in five years. Two words echoed throughout the Coliseum as the clock wound down and the Trojans fled the field-“Fire Kiffin”. Pat Haden has shut out the sounds of Trojan fans calling for Kiffin’s job previously, but he can’t ignore 90,000 chanting for him to be gone.

This time last year, Kiffin was coaching the number 2 ranked team in the country. The Matt Barkley led offense teemed with potential and the Trojans seemed poised to return to their former glory. Then came a loss to Stanford, another to Arizona, then Oregon, UCLA, and Notre Dame. The season culminated in an humiliating loss to Georgia Tech in the Sun Bowl were the Trojan players looked undisciplined, uncaring, selfish, and embarrassed. The frustrated players even had a locker room fight post game during which Kiffin probably hid behind his dad. The 2012 Trojans became the first team to be ranked #1 in the preseason AP poll to fall out of the top 25 entirely by season’s end. Kiffin had lost both his season and his the confidence of his team. Despite making history, and losses to rivals UCLA and Notre Dame, Pat Haden said he was 100% behind Lane Kiffin at the start of the 2013 season.

Kiffin’s coaching failures began even before the season started. The guy couldn’t even name a starting quarterback until week 3 of the college football season. It’s not like Kiffin didn’t know that Matt Barkley was leaving and that a new quarterback would need to be ready come this season. Kiffin has had THREE YEARS to decide who will follow Barkley and it still wasn’t enough time. When USC enjoyed success under Pete Carroll, the next quarterback was always ready to take over. The transition was smooth from Carson Palmer, to Matt Leinhart, John David Booty, Mark Sanchez, and finally Matt Barkley. It’s also not a good idea to fail to name a starting quarterback when you have the best receiver in college football on your team. Marquis Lee wanted to be able to establish chemistry with his quarterback before the season started. When asked about the quarterback situation preseason, Lee said that “This is crazy. I am still waiting” and was hoping for it to be decided before the preparation for Hawaii began. Lee began the season as a Heisman candidate but only has 15 receptions for 131 yards and zero touchdowns through two games. Kiffin’s inability to name a starter early has hurt Lee’s campaign and one of the weakest offenses in Trojan history.

kiffinOne highlight of this season has been the Trojan’s defense under new defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast. Pat Haden kicked one Kiffin to the curb and has seen immediate improvement, so why wouldn’t shouldn’t kicking another help? Defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin was blamed for many of the 2012 problems and was replaced by Pendergast this season, and what a change it has been. USC ranks first in rushing defense (15 yards per game) and sacks (11), and 11th in total defense. The defense has allowed only one touchdown in the two games that they’ve played. Kiffin can put absolutely NO blame on his defense and its looking like it may not have been the main problem last year. The loss to Washington State came from Kiffin’s inability to call offensive plays and properly scheme.  USC’s two quarterbacks threw for a combined 54 yards and the rushing game ended with 139 total yards. Boos filled the Coliseum with every bubble screen and the refusal to make plays downfield. The Trojan offense could only get one touchdown on a team that previously allowed 31 points to Auburn. Kiffin’s play calling was more conservative than Dick Cheney and lacked any creativity.  The only way he could get the Trojan faithful cheering was when they shouted for him to be fired in unison.  The loss to Washington State falls entirely on Lane Kiffin and his seat can’t get any hotter.

It came out today that USC had a players only meeting following the loss to WSU. Kiffin wasn’t told and Marquis Lee said that it was about “staying positive and moving forward.” He said that “Kiffin don’t know nothing about it” and that it was a meeting for the players to discuss the future. There seems to be a lot of things “Kiffin don’t know nothing about,” such as players meetings, coaching, and keeping his team motivated and disciplined. Unless there is a massive turnaround for the Trojans, Kiffin will be left behind as USC moves forward.

Mack Brown

mackclaphd_1360938a Lane Kiffin isn’t the only big name coach moving towards the door. Mack Brown and Texas took a rough 40-21 loss to BYU this past weekend. BYU Quarterback Taysom Hill racked up 259 yards and embarrassed the 15 ranked Longhorns. Rather than take responsibility, Mack Brown deflected attention over to his defensive coordinator Manny Diaz. Diaz was fired earlier this week and replaced by Greg Robinson. After their performance against BYU, the new coordinator might want to put an emphasis on tackling. This basic fundamental of football seems absent in Texas right now. Anyway you look at it though, Mack Brown is running out of people to put the blame on and Texas is moving in the wrong direction.

Texas is in the recruiting hotbed of the football world and its head coaching position has long been considered the best in all of college football. Mack Brown seemed destined to remain the Longhorns coach after multiple national championship appearances and his ass had been kissed more by UT boosters than the Blarney Stone. Texas’ mediocre performance these past few seasons have changed all that. The University of Texas doesn’t tolerate mediocrity, they expect to be in the BCS picture every year. Even more damning to Brown and the Longhorns is that they are no longer considered the top dog in Texas.

Texas A&M had long been considered the little brother of UT and a second thought to Texas football. Johnny Football and Texas A&M’s surge in the college rankings have changed all that. Texas A&M even out-recruited Texas in 2013, snagging the #11 recruiting class compared to Texas’ #24 recruiting class according to Rivals rankings.  If Texas continues to be outperformed by A&M, all of those talented Texas recruits may look towards becoming Aggies rather than Longhorns. A&M is clearly moving in the right direction while Texas continues to flounder. The University of Texas has a reputation of being the elite Texas college, but that reputation may very well be in jeopardy.

Mack_BrownMack Brown is one of the most respected coaches in all of college football, but no one is irreplaceable (except maybe Saban). Brown is slowly running out of excuses, and he needs to get his team to perform the rest of this season if he hopes to save his job. There’s a sense of desperation in Texas as the Longhorns are reaching for any reason to explain their recent downturn. Eventually, Mack Brown will run out of any excuse beside himself for Texas’ performance. Fans and boosters will start to look for a change at the top in order to regain the prestige UT is accustomed too. However, Brown and Kiffin can turn down the fire that’s warming up their chairs. College football fans have short-term memories-if you win, all is forgiven. Both coaches are playing with fire and the rest of this college football season will show who gets burnt.

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Tye Masters
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Finally Some Stability in the Mountain West

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Sometimes the proverbial greener grass on the other side looks a lot different the closer you get: the grass isn’t greener, it’s just a different grass in a different location. Amidst the chaos of conference realignment and an evolving landscape in college sports, Boise State and San Diego State realized that what looked like a good idea from afar really wasn’t any better than their current situation.

After the restructured Bowl Championship Series format gave schools from the Mountain West and Big East (along with the other non-power conferences) an equal opportunity to qualify for a BCS game, the reasons to stay in the Mountain West far outweighed the reasons to move. The switch no longer made any sense strategically or financially. Boise State withdrew their commitment from the Big East right before the New Year, with San Diego State officially withdrawing and being reinstated to the Mountain West on Wednesday.

The news provides a sigh of relief for the other Mountain West schools, and should provide stability for a conference that has been one of the most active in realignment with several teams coming and going over the past few years. With San Diego State’s reinstatement, the Mountain West will have 12 football members next season, with Hawaii as the lone football-only member, giving them an 11 team league in all other sports.

Don’t be surprised if more moves follow. There have been hints that BYU is looking to re-join a conference in order to have better bowl tie-ins, with their former home the Mountain West being their preferred choice. BYU has been playing their other sports in the West Coast Conference, so it is possible that they may join as a football-only member. At this point, the Mountain West could seek one more member for all sports, which would give them a 14 member football conference and 12 member conference for all other sports. Regardless of any further expansion, one thing is clear for the Mountain West: the teams they have now will be staying for a while, with a new TV deal in the works and a football conference championship game sure to be finalized in the coming months.

Last decade when Boise State, Utah, and TCU stormed the BCS picture taking out highly ranked opponents from power conferences like Oklahoma, Alabama, and Wisconsin, the nation took notice. However, many of the power conference commissioners claimed those schools could certainly compete for one game with the big boys, but not for a full season; they had lots of talent, but were undersized and would wear down against tougher opponents with more depth. When the whirlwind of conference realignment began, many of those same commissioners apparently had a change of heart and decided those “small schools” were good enough to join their league. One of the first schools invited to a power conference was Utah to the now Pac-12. Next was TCU to the Big East, and ultimately the Big 12. Then it was the original Cinderella team Boise State to the Big East, among many others.

What many fans have realized is that those schools were good enough to compete all along; the big schools just didn’t want to share the massive paychecks they were receiving from the BCS. TCU went 7-6 in their first season in the Big 12, but were involved in several close losses, and at times were bigger and faster than some of their conference opponents who had been in the “power conference” for years. How much better will they be after collecting a Big 12 paycheck the next three or four years? Same with Utah and the Pac-12, the more money they earn, the more they can spend on facilities, recruiting budget, and stadium renovations/expansions. An increase in revenue for these schools will only make them more competitive down the line than they already are.

Boise State was in the driver’s seat with these conference negotiations. They knew both conferences needed them badly for name recognition and to give them a premier team to glorify on a national stage. They made the wise choice by staying in the stable conference, with the Big East unsure of its future in any regard as the “Catholic 7” figure out their next move. San Diego State was about to take its top-level basketball program to the Big West, which would have been an awful move for their RPI and strength of schedule. The Mountain West knew this, and never panicked. They let the process play out, waited patiently for things to settle while also setting up contingency plans, and then calmly welcomed both schools back in with open arms, like a father to his prodigal sons.

Fans have a lot to look forward to in the near future with this conference. Next season San Jose State and Utah State, two improving programs (both went 11-2 last season) who are getting more attention of late, will add more depth to an already competitive league. UNLV, the doormat of Mountain West football, is in the process of finalizing a stadium proposal that will be one of the most attractive places to play in the country if everything goes through. New Mexico was atrocious for years but played much better this year under first-year coach Bob Davie and should continue to improve, while Air Force, Fresno State, and Nevada remain steady programs year in and year out.

The Mountain West is already on the map as an elite mid-major basketball conference, with three teams consistently being ranked in the top-25 so far this season. The stability resulting from Boise State and San Diego State’s decisions, coupled with the restructured TV deal, will benefit the conference from top to bottom in recruiting and future planning. The key to any business’ long-term success is stability; the Mountain West finally has that.

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David Oleson
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How Notre Dame Fans Learned To Smile Again

Manti Te’o has helped the Irish regain their national status.

24 years is a long time for anything in the 21st Century. Our food is instant, our change immediate, our responses pinpoint.

24 years ago there wouldn’t be a forum for me to post this on.

24 years ago I wouldn’t be able to shove this article down your throat with a series of tags and links.

24 years ago when you got bored of reading this and decided you’d rather watch porn you’d have to walk into a seedy video store, with a balding 40 something behind the counter—fresh from his Sexual Predators Anonymous Meetings—, to fulfill your lude fantasies.

24 years ago I was just being born.

And 24 years ago was the last time Notre Dame fans were able to absorb the hatred we so dutifully inherited.

Trying to explain what it’s like to be a Notre Dame fan to people who are not is similar to explaining the color red to a blind man or healthy relationships to Rihanna, but for the sake of this article I’m forced to try. And, after a weekend of reacting, over-reacting, under-reacting, and finally under and over thinking everything, I’ve reached a conclusion: Being a Notre Dame fan is like being a Yankees fan only if the Yankees never won…ever. You have the self-aggrandizing history—literally referring to old wins as “annals”—, you have the bloated over reacting to every win and loss from a fanbase consisting of hippies turned yuppies turned crochety relics of a golden past, the Talking Head circle jerk discussing your mediocre team daily like the college football version of Tim Tebow, and, worst of all, the spiteful vitriol of millions of people who inherited their hatred for your team like you absorbed your fandom. We are the Lakers if only Kobe never got traded and Shaq stayed with the Magic; We are the Red Wings if Yzerman got traded to to the Dallas Stars; We are Manchester United if Rooney stays on Everton, Ronaldo stays in Portugal, and Sir Fergie never decided to take over the world. We are tortured into motion by the weight of our own glorious history and a nation of friends and foes alike who are unable to forget it. So 24 years after the last Notre Dame Championship, 24 years after one of the greatest college football teams of all time, it is almost fitting that this Notre Dame team sits at #1 and preparing for their first BCS Title Game since it’s conception. This Notre Dame that is not blowing out teams by double digits but squeaking out tough, defense wins. This Notre Dame team that isn’t lead by future 1st Round quarterback busts with cannon arms and no charisma, but a scrambling redshirt freshman who found himself pulled in multiple games this season. This team led by tight ends and defensive linemen. This team that doesn’t just find the smartest white guy in the midwest but recruits actual players. This Notre Dame team isn’t just bringing Notre Dame back, they’re changing the entire culture that left the Golden Dome slightly silver for the past two decades.

10 BCS eligible teams, two wins over top 10 teams, two wins over teams who will end up in BCS Bowls, a top 10 strength of schedule, the #2 scoring defense, the best rushing defense in the nation, and, possibly the greatest stat of the year, opponents have 26 carries on the Notre Dame goalline for -23 yards. Even as I type this I can hear the detractors spiel, “But what about the game you should’ve lost against Pittsburgh? What about the close games against BYU and Michigan and Michigan State? What about your quarterback being pulled?”. To them I say “what about it?”. This isn’t a flawless team. This isn’t an all time great team. What this is is a team that has gotten better every single week. What this is is a team that doesn’t make mistakes, doesn’t have stupid penalties, doesn’t turn the ball over in bad situations. What this is is the best Notre Dame team in 24 years, the team that makes the never ending Notre Dame discussion finally worth having. The team that doesn’t win with the Brady Quinns and Jimmy Clausens of the world chucking the ball downfield to slow receivers to compensate for a defense filled with Lilliputians who can’t match up with the athletes of the world.

Most importantly, what this is is the only team without a loss…you know, whose quarterback doesn’t really, REALLY like tattoos.

 

Bru General Peppers

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