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In the past seven years, Lane Kiffin has held three head coaching positions: the Oakland Raiders (2007-08, with a 5-15 record), the University of Tennessee (2009, 7-6), and USC (2010-2013, 28-15). That last one should be followed by an asterisk: USC dismissed Kiffin at the airport two weeks ago.
Kiffin's Pac-12 rival Steve Sarkisian started at the University of Washington in 2009, and has led the #16 Huskies to an overall 30-26 record, including a hot start (4-1) this season. Kiffin and Sarkisian followed parallel trajectories, working alongside each other and at times vying for the same jobs. The two coached together as assistants under offensive coordinator Norm Chow during Pete Carroll's tenure as USC head coach. In 2004, Sarkisian took a job with the Raiders as QB coach but returned to USC the following year as quarterbacks coach under Kiffin, who had been promoted to offensive coordinator after Chow took a coaching job with the Tennessee Titans. When the Oakland head coach spot opened up in 2007, Sarkisian opted to stay at USC while Kiffin jumped ship, tanked the team, and then leaped to another lily pad in Knoxville.
Four years ago, we put money on Sarkisian's success at UW over Kiffin during his brief stint (2009) at UT. A year later, we coined the nickname "Kid Smirk" for Kiffin after his return to USC as head coach in 2010. And again, we backed Sarkisian.
On Saturday morning, ESPN will interview Kid Smirk. We can only hope The Worldwide Leader asks him if he has learned anything about loyalty, commitment . . . and Steve Sarkisian.
(And yes, that was a very long way of saying "we told you so.")
Tifway-Bermuda Sod, Priced To Sell
The grass market is booming in College Station. Texas A&M will spruce up Kyle Field beginning this offseason, and the school is selling off the 2013 field at $400 per 450 square-foot slice.
A certificate of authenticity, signed by groundskeeper Leo Goertz, along with a how-to-care-for-your-wedge-of-really-high-priced-soon-to-be-dead-grass, will accompany each sale. Buyers can't request specific sections, but we don't doubt Johnny Manziel will be involved in a secondary market of autographed sod. Keep an eye out on eBay for plots of grass bearing a "Johnny Football Stood Here" seal.
Matchups of the Week
#1 Alabama (5-0, 2-0 SEC) vs. Kentucky (1-4, 0-2 SEC)
From the pregame interviews this week, we can't tell if Alabama has given much thought to the Wildcats. 'Bama coach Nick Saban sounded hard-pressed to find a cogent point about the game, settling on: "They are really good on special teams."
Yet we feel strangely compelled to buck our Always Give The Points Against The Kentucky Wildcats strategy. The 'Cats have faced three consecutive ranked teams (#7 Louisville, #20 Florida and #13 South Carolina) and are getting 27 points on Saturday. Would leading your team to a 3-3 record against the spread to start the season count as a positive sign for new coach Mark Stoops?
Our pick: Alabama 34, Kentucky 10
Pat Dye vs. Condoleezza Rice, 21st Century
Auburn coaching legend Pat Dye takes issue with Condoleezza Rice sitting on the newly formed selection committee for the College Football Playoff. The committee will play a key role in the new postseason beginning next season, and Dye believes only those who have played with "a hand in the dirt" should be allowed a seat.
So that rules out most members of the media, school and conference administrators, and analysts, much less all former wide receivers.
#2 Oregon (5-0, 2-0 Pac-12) vs. #16 Washington (4-1, 1-1 Pac-12)
As much as we like Sarkisian, we have a hard time picking against Oregon QB Marcus Mariota. The kid, Mariota is a true sophomore, has a 14-0 TD-INT ratio and an Adjusted Quarterback Rating of 96.7, good for second overall in the country.
QBR - reported as both "raw" and "adjusted" - has supplanted "Passer Efficiency" as the new stat du jour among data wonks. Raw, or Unadjusted, Quarterback Rating doesn't account for the quality of an opponent's defense while Adjusted . . . well, you get it
But then, there's a good argument to made that ESPN invented QBR to give the talking heads more material for the three hours of College GameDay on Saturday mornings.
Need some evidence? Here's Exhibit A: Jalen Whitlow of Kentucky (see above) nearly cracks the Top 10 in Adjusted QBR. Exhibit B: QBR accounts for esoteric factors such as "total clutch-weighted expected points added," which is calculated from, among other things, "clutch-weighted expected points added on penalties," and measures "action plays." We assume "inaction plays" and "choke-weighted unexpected deducted numerals" are omitted.
Maybe we should focus on a few simpler statistics: the Huskies defeated #19 Boise State 38-6 in Week One and lost a close game (31-28) last week to #5 Stanford, in a game filled with dubious injuries. Oregon boasts a perfect 5-0 record, but the Ducks' opponents have a combined total of 11 wins on the season. Those numbers seem pretty straightforward to us.
Our pick: Washington 31, Oregon 30
#25 Missouri (5-0, 1-0 SEC) vs. #7 Georgia (4-1, 3-0 SEC)
#17 Florida (4-1, 3-0 SEC) vs. #10 LSU (5-1, 2-1 SEC)
No wonder college football fans have had enough of the SEC. That six of the ranked SEC teams playing this weekend have a legit shot at a BCS bowl, if not the national title game, can't endear the conference to Middle America. Yet ESPN valued the new SEC Network, largely based on football's draw, at $150mil per year. Maybe the rest of the country, west of I-35 in Texas and north of the Ohio River, doesn't matter.
Our picks: Georgia 30, Missouri 27 and LSU 27, Florida 21
Rivalry of the Week
Mack Brown of Texas and Bob Stoops of Oklahoma will face off for the 15th time in the Red River Rivalry this weekend. The Longhorns, entering the game unranked at 3-2 (2-0 in Big 12), face an uncertain future. Even with a win, Saturday likely marks the final game Brown will coach at the Cotton Bowl. The Sooners have vied for supremacy with Texas throughout the tenure of both coaches, but momentum now favors Texas. Stoops showed some sympathy to his embattled rival this week, stating: "People get tired of you, even when you win a lot."
Although we would never take issue with repeat BCS appearances, we can allow for some frustration from a fan base who haven't seen a 10-win season in three years. Then again, the last 10+ win season came in 2009 when the 'Horns finished the year 13-1 with a loss in the national championship game. But a rabid fan base like Texas's will have a short memory, and Mack may be forced to gracefully retire at the conclusion of the season. Besides, Lane Kiffin is available.
Our pick: Oklahoma 41, Texas 23
The Free Range Sacred Chicken Challenge
The Chicken Challenge this week: Pair each of the teams below with their respective mascots. Pick from the following: The Wolfpack, The Strigoformes, The Roadrunners, The Boll Weevils, The Rhinoviruses, The Lobos, The Grapefruit, or The Wranglers.
Bonus: Which team features a unique u-shaped formation?
Syracuse (+7) vs. North Carolina State
Rice vs. Texas San Antonio (-1.5)
New Mexico vs. Wyoming (-14)
Mike Luce is our man on campus. He welcomes your comments.