We’ve reached the end of the train line for this feature in 2023, and it happened quickly. A lot has been decided — we have some conference championship matchups set, several coaches fired, and lots of fun games planned for our final week of the piece this year.
Don’t bore us — get to the chorus.
It’s time for the four biggest stories from the week prior in college football. Agreement is not required, but I can give you a bad Yelp review if you don’t.
SEC sackings: It’s wild to say this, but we’ve had two SEC coaches canned in the span of a week. Mississippi State clipped Zach Arnett, while Texas A&M got Jimbo Fisher.
It’s an interesting story of contrasts, in that Arnett didn’t even make it a full season in Starkville before drawing the axe. Rumors swirled about the relationships between Arnett and his staff. He also — allegedly — didn’t get along great with the people pulling the strings within the program. Still, it is rather jarring to see the move come that quickly.
Fisher, meanwhile, walks away from College Station with a $76 million parachute. He always seemed an odd fit for A&M, and now he’ll go somewhere — the West Virginia faithful seem to want him there, despite Neal Brown finally having a solid enough Mountaineer club — for his next endeavor.
Deion Sanders’ name immediately came up — stop that foolishness, people — and Dabo Swinney was mentioned at A&M almost within minutes. I think you could get a guy like Jeff Traylor at A&M and be extremely happy with that hire. If it were after next season, G.J. Kinne’s name might come up on a preliminary list. I’m wondering if Mississippi State doesn’t reach out to Rich Rodriguez, which would not be the splashy hire it would have been a decade ago, but might be the safest name of the lot.
Time to Lea-ve: Could Clark Lea be the nest SEC coach to go? Vanderbilt got absolutely trounced by South Carolina last week, and Lea has nine wins in parts of three seasons in Nashville. The Commodores appeared to at least be moving toward the surface a bit last season with a 5-7 finish, but they have completely cratered — again — this year in a 2-9 (0-7 SEC) campaign. Lea being an alum might buy him another year, but Vanderbilt now finds itself in the same malaise as Virginia and Stanford.
Vanderbilt is next-to-last in total offense, last in total defense, next-to-last in rushing offense — hilariously, leading only South Carolina in that category — and near the bottom in almost every other statistical category of significance.
Hooking on: Texas held a 26-6 lead at the half against TCU and looked poised to pummel the Horned Frogs. Instead, Texas only got a Bert Auburn field goal in the second half in squeaking out a 29-26 victory. The win proved especially Pyrrhic as running back Jonathon Brooks went down with a torn ACL in the game. The Longhorns survived Quinn Ewers’ injury, and now they get to play the rest of the season without Brooks.
Ava-loss: Along with the dismissals at A&M and Mississippi State, Boise State clipped Andy Avalos this past week. Avalos wraps up his tenure at Boise with a 22-14 (17-6 Mountain West) record. The rumors have already started about Bryan Harsin coming back to Boise. That can’t happen, right? Right?
In this column, we want Jason Eck to take that job. Do the right thing, Boise. Bring our guy to the Smurf Turf.
And now for the time that I show off my complete lack of handicapping skills. I make no claims to the contrary. With that, here’s what you’ll read every week:
I’ll pick four games each week, with many not in the huge P5 windows, because I tend to color outside those lines a bit. I’ll just pick straight lines as they are listed on the day I pick them — no money lines, no teasing, nothing else. I’ll keep track of my record as the season goes along, and you can trash me in the comments each week for my lack of prediction prowess.
NOTE: None of the text within is meant to serve as gambling advice. This is largely meant for parody and light-hearted review. At no point should any of the picks in this article be construed as gambling advice offered by FBSchedules.com or me.
Maryland (-2.5) at Nebraska
WHAT HAPPENED: Maryland 13, Nebraska 10
This looked really dicey for your humble local correspondent until Jack Howes drilled a 24-yarder to walk it off. This was Howes’ second three-pointer of the fourth quarter, as he had put home a 35-yarder earlier in the period. Taulia Tagovailoa had a decent enough day, going 27-for-40 for 283 yards, a touchdown, and a pick. This was nearly double the throws made by three Nebraska passers, who totaled 21.
The Huskers are now 5-5, with trips to Wisconsin and Iowa remaining on the docket. Matt Rhule can still get his Nebraska squad to a bowl in his first year, but that’s a tough couple-game stretch.
Appalachian State at Georgia State (-2.5)
WHAT HAPPENED: Appalachian State 42, Georgia State 14
Georgia State got to 6-1 under Shawn Elliott…and then the wheels fell off. The Panthers have dropped three straight, including getting boat raced by the Mountaineers over the weekend. I thought this might be the week GSU got right, and I was incorrect. Now, they have to go to LSU and Old Dominion to close the season. Seven wins seems to be an ambitious total.
Joey Aguilar had a nice and efficient day, connecting on 14-of-21 throws for 255 yards and three scores for the Mountaineers. App needed that win, because they close the regular season with a trip to Bridgeforth Stadium in Harrisonburg to battle JMU before Georgia Southern treks up the mountain to Kidd-Brewer to close the campaign. Interestingly, App winning this game may end up harming the chances of their next opponent reaching a bowl game, as the six wins make the Mountaineers bowl-eligible.
Florida International at Middle Tennessee (-10.5)
WHAT HAPPENED: Middle Tennessee 40, Florida International 6
I wasn’t expecting a FIU victory, necessarily, but I expected a bit of urgency from a 4-5 FIU team trying to win two of its final three to get to a bowl game. Yeah, about that…
Middle led 31-6 at the interval and the Panthers just never responded. Nick Vattiato was 18-for-25 for 275 yards and four scores for the Blue Raiders, who torched FIU in the victory. FIU now needs to win at Arkansas and against WKU to make a bowl. Good luck with that.
Arkansas State at South Alabama (-11.5)
WHAT HAPPENED: South Alabama 21, Arkansas State 14
Butch Davis had a chance to make his group of life champions bowl-eligible, but the Jaguars weren’t having it. South Alabama got 163 rushing yards and a score from La’Damian Webb in the victory. Carter Bradley threw for two scores to help create space for the Jags before the final score from the Red Wolves, which saved the nonexistent wager for your friendly local sportswriter.
stAte needs to beat Texas State at home or win at Marshall to make a bowl. South Alabama plays the same teams, but they host Marshall and close the season in San Marcos. The Jags also need at least one victory to go to postseason play.
Week 12 (2-2 in Week 10, 16-18-2 this season)
Coastal Carolina (-3.5) at Army (noon, CBSSN)
Appalachian State at James Madison (-8.5) (2pm, ESPN+)
UTEP at Middle Tennessee (-7.5) (2pm, ESPN+)
NC State at Virginia Tech (-3) (3:30pm, ESPN+)
My final look at .500 for the year. Considering I have no gambling skill whatsoever and haven’t done this in the column before, whatever happens happens.
(I really want that .500, though…)
And finally, here are the
four five “under-the-radar” games I’ll be watching this week and how to watch them. I’ll also include lines if there are any — for informational purposes only, naturally, as outlined in the above disclaimer. I don’t yet have a name for this section. All times are Eastern.
I’m doing something different in this space. I’ll pick two games, but I want to honor one of the great friends of the site and feature.
This weekend we’ve got FIVE BOWLELIGIBOWLS between 5-5 Teams.
Which five finally get to Bowl Eligibility by winning their BOWLELIGIBOWL?? pic.twitter.com/VVss9XQK8v
— Sickos Committee (@SickosCommittee) November 16, 2023
Our friends at Sickos Committee are the best. I love to throw a silly week into things, and this gave me the perfect chance to both honor them and do something totally silly.
Also, the lines — again, for entertainment purposes only:
Texas Tech -2.5 (vs. Central Florida)
South Alabama -10.5 (vs. Marshall)
Boise State -3 (at Utah State)
Wisconsin -4.5 (vs. Nebraska)
Georgia Tech -6.5 (vs. Syracuse)
Charleston Southern (4-6, 2-3 Big South-OVC) at Gardner-Webb (6-4, 4-1) (1pm, ESPN+): It’s Championship Saturday — again — in Boiling Springs, N.C. Saturday. The ‘Dogs are in line for back-to-back conference championships under future star coach Tre Lamb, and — despite the difference in records — may be a better team this year than they were last year.
GWU running back Narii Gaither — whom I covered in high school and have seen do incredible things for years — has eclipsed the 3,000 career rushing yards mark. Only one other GWU rusher has ever reached that mark. If Ty French gets a sack this Saturday, he will eclipse the school record of former Packer Gabe Wilkins.
A win by the Runnin’ Bulldogs would give Gardner-Webb just its fourth conference championship and second playoffs appearance in Division 1.
LINE: None as of press time.
#4 Montana State (8-2, 6-1 Big Sky) at #2 Montana (9-1, 6-1) (2pm, ESPN+): The Brawl of the Wild is always — always — a must-watch. It is especially so this year.
This is the 122nd edition of one of the most awesome rivalries in sport. What does this game mean? Well, take it away, Montana Sports Information!
To the victor go the spoils. The spoils being an outright Big Sky Conference championship trophy, the 306-pound Great Divide Trophy, a likely No. 2 playoff seed and home-field advantage in the postseason, and, oh yeah, bragging rights that every Montanan will lean on for the next 364 days.
A trophy that weighs more than I do — I won’t say by how much — to the winner? Let’s go.
Another outstanding fact? For 20 years, Montana was actually named Montana State University. Montana State was Montana State College. That is a level of petty you have to respect, even if you live thousands of miles from the Treasure State.
Inject this game into my veins.
LINE: None at press time.
So slams the door on season 12 of this humble little feature, with a few breaks in between. I’m thankful to Kevin for having me along for the ride for this long, and to all of you for the clicks, jokes, and support. You are the best.
My wish for you is that your holiday season — whatever you celebrate, or even if you don’t — be filled with joy, companionship, and love. May 2024 bring you peace and prosperity. We’ll gather back here in September — and whenever I’m running the ship between now and then — and start this craziness all over again.
To quote the great Billy Joel:
Life is a series of hellos and goodbyes
I’m afraid it’s time for goodbye again
Until next year, friends…