TOP TWO TEAMS, SEVERAL COACHES BITE THE DUST
Last weekend, which signified the final college football games of the 2017 season had its usual laundry list of head coaches who lost their jobs, but the long Thanksgiving weekend also had the top two teams in the weekly Associated Press Poll victimized by Ol’ Man Upset. The Iron Bowl rivalry between No. 1 Alabama and No. 6 Auburn is always fierce and gives the oddsmakers fits because they are usually wrong. The bookies are crying again this week after the 4½ -point favored Crimson Tide saw their dream of an undefeated season come to a screeching halt as Auburn out-played them in every phase of the game 26-14, knocking off a No. 1 team in two of the last three weeks. The Tigers shellacked Georgia 40-17 on Nov. 11. The Miami Hurricanes were stormed past 24-14 by Pittsburgh and knocked both from the ranks of the undefeated and their No. 2 standing in last week’s poll. The upsets created a huge mix-up for this week’s poll which saw Clemson catapult from No. 4 to No. 1 while Alabama slipped to No. 5 and Miami slid down to No. 7. Notre Dame dropped from No. 9 to No. 15 while Penn State, the only new team in this week’s Top 10, moved up from No. 12 to No. 9. But what produced the largest scramble was in the head coaching department where dozens of names were tossed around as capable replacements for these exiled coaches. An interesting scenario developed at the University of Tennessee after Butch Jones was canned following the Vols’ 50-17 annihilation Nov. 11 by Missouri, which was 3-5 at the time. Tennessee was considering hiring Ohio state defensive coordinator Greg Schiano as Jones’ replacement. But state officials criticized the school on social media and fans protested the idea on campus because of his background as a defensive assistant at Penn State during Jerry Sandusky’s tenure as defensive coordinator. Sandusky is serving 30-to 60 years in prison for his conviction on 45 counts of sexual abuse against children. Social media reveals that most of the Tennessee football fans favor the hiring of former NFL coach Jon Gruden, because his wife was once a cheerleader for the Vols and his son is currently attending the school. But Gruden is happy with his television job and admitted often that he is not interested in a college coaching job. The Missouri Tigers also were responsible for another head coach losing his job when Arkansas fired Bret Bielema after a 48-45 loss. Chip Kelly picked UCLA over Florida as his next coaching job so Florida hired Dan Muller from Mississippi State. But the biggest newsmaker in our area was the firing of Kevin Sumlin by Texas A&M. Word of his imminent dismissal—win or lose at LSU Saturday night–clogged the social media outlets. It was perhaps the worst-kept secret ever. And before the ink was dry on A&M’s decision to pay Sumlin the $12 million remaining on his contract, a list of names popped up as his replacement. Florida State’s Jimbo Fisher had been mentioned during most of the month as the one most likely to take his place. The big attraction for Fisher is the fact that he’s won at least 10 games in six of his eight seasons at FSU, a feat that Sumlin was able to achieve only once—his first season in 2012 when he had the services of Heisman Trophy winning freshman quarterback Johnny Manziel. The knock on Sumlin wasn’t the ability for his teams to win—he had a 51-26 record for his six-year tenure—but his inability to post enough Southeast Conference West Division victories. His teams were 1-5 against Alabama, 0-6 against LSU and 3-3 against Auburn—4-13 overall. Here’s hoping Texas A&M doesn’t make the same mistake three times of firing a coach with a winning record like Orange native R.C. Slocum and Dennis Franchione. KWICKIES…It’s a shame my McNeeses State Cowboys (9-2) were overlooked for a berth in the on-going Football Championship Subdivision playoffs. Three teams—Southland Conference Champion Central Arkansas, last year’s winner Sam Houston State and Nicholls State—are in this year’s tourney. I can understand the first two, but Nicholls State lost three games and never had to play Central Arkansas. West Orange-Stark head coach Cornel Thompson made no bones about his disappointment after the Mustangs’ 17-3 victory over Mexia Friday night. ” We just weren’t ready to play and I don’t understand that,” Thompson told anyone who wanted to listen. “I will not make excuses,” he continued, “I expect my players to go out and perform at a certain level. We have to be better, or I’m not sure we’ll be playing much longer.” However, the Mustangs extended their winning streak to 37 straight, which leads the entire state of Texas. The picture is becoming much clearer in the NFL as far as the division leaders are concerned. Philadelphia is running away with the NFC East with its league-leading 10-1 record. The Minnesota Vikings have a comfortable three-game lead in the NFC North, New England is leading the AFC East as usual and the Pittsburgh Steelers look like division winners in the AFC North. JUST BETWEEN US…There’s a huge article coming out in this week’s issue of ESPN The Magazine about Earl Thomas and how he credits playing football in Orange to the success he now enjoys as a five-time All-Pro for the Seattle Seahawks. The author, William Widmer, points out Earl’s benevolence and generosity to his home town. But it’s disturbing how Widmer rates our city, getting quotes from people in Beaumont and on the state level. After reading the article, one should come away with the idea the author has never been to Orange—and maybe not even to Texas.