by Bruce Marshall, Goldsheet.com Editor

AT THE RUMOR MILL...What to make of reports that there was contact between U. of Texas Regent Wallace Hall and the super-agent for Alabama HC Nick Saban, Jimmy Sexton, just after the Crimson Tide’s BCS title game win over Notre Dame last January 7? Sources tell us that it is standard operating procedure for Sexton to always be on the lookout for clients, and there is no outward indication that Saban is interested in leaving Alabama. But let us also remember that Saban has voluntarily moved from every head coaching position in his career (Michigan State, LSU, Miami Dolphins), each a plum job in its own right. In the bigger picture, however, it suggests that the wheels have been turning for a while in Austin regarding the future of HC Mack Brown, whose prognosis is looking extremely bleak (more on that in a moment). According to reports, Regent Hall apparently even asked Brown if he was contemplating retirement, to which Mack responded with a negative. Moreover, no one is disputing that the conversation between Hall and Sexton took place. Our response? We’re not dismissing anything regarding Saban or Texas. And should the Longhorns indeed hit the eject button on Brown, expect Jimmy Sexton to at least get a call from Austin (or, perhaps, vice versa).

BIG RED TURBULENCE...Meanwhile, we applaud Nebraska for not taking any disciplinary action against HC Bo Pelini after a rogue journalist provided an audio tape of a Pelini tirade against two Omaha sports writers and Big Red fans from back in 2011. Pelini obviously regretted the commentary but, if reports are true, had no idea who might have recorded his tirade. Which brings up another issue of the new-wave online media outlets, and websites such as Deadspin (which ran the story), which often abandon established journalistic norms if there is some attention to be gained from a sensationalized story. In these overly-sensitized times, we still find it hard to believe that anyone would be surprised by off-the-cuff (and, presumably, off-the-record) commentary made by anybody, especially high-level football coaches like Pelini. This is how people often talk in private. We have our own issues with Pelini and his coaching and will leave our commentary at that; what we have no use for are tabloid websites like Deadspin that believe they are harvesting any substantive ground when “breaking” such stories. Instead, we decry the assault on journalism that a proliferation of inane websites have embarked upon.

“COLORFUL” MATCHUP TO WATCH THIS WEEK: Wyoming at Air Force ...No love lost between respective coaches Dave Christensen and Troy Calhoun, the latter accused of gamesmanship by the former in last year’s game at Laramie, prompting some post-game invective from the Wyo coach directed toward Calhoun (let’s just say the first word rhymed with “buck” and included the term “flyboy” as well) while another Christensen verbal missile referred to Calhoun as “Mister (insert word again to rhyme with “bucking”) Howdy Doody” which would result in a $50,000 fine to the Cowboy coach and suspension from the next game as dictated by Wyo AD Tom Burman. And after attending the Mountain West media day in July, and witnessing no interactions whatsoever between Christensen and Calhoun, we can safely say that the wounds have yet to heal. All of which adds an interesting element to the dynamics surrounding this Saturday’s matchup att Falcon Stadium. Stay tuned for the obligatory postgame handshakes, too.

Now, to the Week Three winners and losers...

WINNER: Georgia Tech... While ESPN and the rest of the free world fawn over Clemson, Miami, and Florida State and anointed each as ACC teams to watch on the national radar, regional insiders are quick to include a much-improved Paul Johnson-coached Georgia Tech in any such discussion after the Jackets romped at Duke, 38-14, last Saturday. While Johnson’s new full-time option pilot, soph QB Vad Lee, looks to be perhaps a significant upgrade from the man he split snaps with a year ago, Tevin Washington, it’s the defense that has caused ACC sources to take notice. Rid of the ill-advised 3-4 looks and stale schemes of former d.c Al Groh (who was dismissed midway in the 2012 campaign, after which the Yellow Jackets played some of their best football of the season), the personnel seems a much-better fit for the preferred 4-3 alignments of new d.c. Ted Roof, a veteran defensive tactician and one-time HC at Duke. Of course, HC Johnson remains shrewd as ever and reportedly cannot contain his excitement over the possibilities the ascending QB Lee provides for his offense, too. So while the rest of the country oohs and ahhs about the Noles, Canes, and Tigers in the ACC, keep your eyes on the Ramblin’ Wreck.

LOSER: Texas... The decision by under-fire HC Mack Brown to dump d.c. Manny Diaz after the recent BYU embarrassment was understandable. But enlisting Greg Robinson, who had been out of coaching for the past couple of years and had been working for the Longhorn Network at the time he received the S.O.S. call from Brown, hardly seems the answer, either. Especially after Robinson’s second stint as Longhorn d.c. (a position he also held in 2004) got off to an inauspicious start last Saturday vs. Ole Miss, which gouged the Texas “D” much as BYU had done the previous week in a 44-23 romp. The Longhorn rush defense now ranks among the worst in the nation and the prospect of the platoon rallying under Robinson (whose most recent defenses, at Michigan in 2009-10, were a mess) appears far-fetched. So, too, do prospects of Brown lasting on the job beyond this season. With all of the challenging Big 12 dates still ahead, Texas looks as if it might have to struggle just to get bowl-eligible. In which case not even Brown’s close relationship with AD DeLoss Dodds is likely to save his job.

WINNER: Auburn... Yes, we know that the Tigers didn’t quite get the pointspread cover last Saturday night at Jordan-Hare Stadium vs. Mississippi State. But Gus Malzahn has found a QB to run his spread in juco Nick Marshall, who after a few mistakes in his early starts was cool as a cucumber in a near length-of-the-field drive covering 89 yards in the last two minutes, culminating in a game-winning 11-yard TD pass to C.J. Uzomah with only 10 seconds to play, giving the Tigers a 24-20 win. Auburn has thus already matched its win total from last season’s 3-9 disaster that got Gene Chizik fired. Next up is an all-Tiger battle at LSU.

LOSER: Kansas... More and more, Jayhawk AD Sheahon Zenger is looking foolish for his decision to hire Charlie Weis as the KU coach a year ago. Big 12 sources continue to have a laugh at the expense of Zenger, a typical headstrong, new-wave exec of the sort that is usually found on Wall Street, intent upon putting their stamp of approval on the organization. What astounds most of our scouts is how Zenger could have landed on Weis without considering some of the underachievement involving Charlie after his dismissal from Notre Dame, which included subpar stints as an o.c. with the NFL Kansas City Chiefs and a disastrous season as Florida’s o.c. in 2011 that was almost enough to get first-year HC Will Muschamp fired in Gainesville. And SEC sources tell us that Muschamp was hardly disappointed that Kansas relieved him of Weis after the 2011 campaign. After last week’s 23-14 loss at Rice (did Zenger figure on KU losing back-to-back years vs. the Owls when he hired Charlie?), Weis still hasn’t beaten an FBS foe into his second season in Lawrence. His best chance might come this week vs. a rebuilding La Tech side. But if Weis can’t win that one, his Jayhawks figure to be an underdog (and a substantial one most weeks) in every upcoming Big 12 game.

WINNER: Kentucky... While the straight-up result last week vs. high-ranked Louisville was a losing one, there were plenty of reasons for optimism in Lexington, as new HC Mark Stoops’ Wildcats played the trash-talking Cardinals evenly for much of the proceedings at Commonwealth Stadium. Betraying UK was a receiving corps that dropped too many accurate throws made by QBs Maxwell Smith and Jalen Whitlow. But the defense appears sturdy and the offense only figures to improve under new coordinator Neal Brown, the architect of some high-powered spread attacks in previous career stops at Troy and Texas Tech. The upcoming SEC slate is obviously going to be a bear, but don’t expect the Wildcats to be an easy touch anymore, either. An upset or two invovling UK in SEC play would be no surprise.

LOSER: Marshall... So much for that BCS Buster talk emanating from Huntington. Last week’s 34-31 loss at Ohio shattered those dreams before mid-September and cast new doubts upon HC Doc Holliday, whose recruiting prowess has never been in doubt but whose game-management skills as a head coach are coming under increasing scrutiny. The Herd could still be the best in a watered-down CUSA but already have to adjust their postseason sights upon bowls like the Liberty and Beef O’Brady’s after the loss to Frank Solich’s Bobcats.

WINNER: Florida Atlantic... Some Big 12 sources believe the downturn in Nebraska’s defensive fortunes the past two seasons is directly related to the departure of Carl Pelini, Bo’s brother and former Husker d.c. who has been the head coach at Florida Atlantic since last season. Might Carl be the real coaching star of the Pelini family? Well, some Sun Belt observers are beginning to think so after the Owls have continued their improvement in Carl P.’s second season, highlighted by last week’s 28-10 romp at South Florida. FAU has now covered its first three games on the board this campaign and 11 of its last 13 since early last season. And with juco QB Jaquez Johnson getting more comfy running the FAU spread, expect the Owls’ ascent to continue.

LOSER: Utah... To be more specific, the overtime play-calling for the Utes after a wildly entertaining second half that forced an extra session last Saturday night vs. Oregon State. But beginning the overtime with two basic running plays meant that QB Travis Wilson had to convert a 3rd-and-9 situation on the first series of downs, which Wilson could not accomplish. Settling for field goal., Utah was vulnerable to more-aggressive Beaver playcalling that helped OSU steal a 51-48 OT win.

LOSER: Wake Forest... More and more ACC observers are beginning to wonder if the Deac program has run its course for respected HC Jim Grobe. Wake has slipped from its perch atop the ACC in the middle of the last decade and has qualified for a bowl just once in the past four years. Now one in five looks likely after a close home loss to ULM last week, the sort of game that the Deacs needed to win if they were serious about getting back into the postseason. But it is also the latest example of a program in decline, and the days when Grobe was able to exploit a power vacuum in the league when Florida State, Miami, and Clemson were all struggling looks to be a long way back in the rear-view mirror. The Deacs only managed 15 rushing yards vs. the Warhawks, putting too much pressure on sr. QB Tanner Price, and Wake is going to have more problems vs. ACC opposition if it can’t discover some offensive balance, and quickly. A loss this weekend at Army would be especially ominous, with the teeth of the upgraded ACC slate still to come.

WINNER: South Alabama... Flying way under the radar is USA, but back-to-back wins over Tulane and Bobby Petrino’s Western Kentucky suggests that HC Joey Jones has the Jaguars on the ascent. Former Virginia QB Ross Metheny continues to provide playmaking ability for an “O” that scored 36 ppg vs. the Green Wave and Hilltoppers. The Jags might offer good spread value in their next game on September 28 at Tennessee.

Return To Home Page