The Top Ten (Okay, 12) Coaching Matchups of Rivalry Weekend
1. Nick Saban vs. Gus Malzahn (3:30 p.m. ET Saturday, CBS) - Forget the weekend, this may be the best coaching matchup of the entire season. The ultimate defensive mind in the game against a Mount Rushmore member of the spread offense.
Most will point back to the 2010 game, but I see this is as a doppelganger of the 2009 Iron Bowl, when Gus Malzahn and a not-yet-fully-formed Auburn offense gained 332 yards, jumped out to a 14-0 lead and held it until the final 84 seconds of the game. There's a win to be had for Auburn on Saturday, but it will probably take at least one touchdown of 65 yards or more, a few gadgets and a nice cheat sheet on the Alabama pass defense for Nick Marshall.
2. Kevin Sumlin vs. Gary Pinkel (7:45 p.m. ET Saturday, ESPN) - Missouri came within one game of playing for a national championship in 2007, so to call this the biggest game in modern school history would be wrong. But think about what a win would mean for the entire University of Missouri. It'd mean they'd beaten out Southern powers Florida, Georgia, South Carolina and Tennessee for the SEC East title. It'd mean they beat fellow newcomer Texas A&M in their shared race to Atlanta, after two seasons of the Aggies grabbing every headline and the Tigers grabbing none. It'd mean they'd beat longtime SEC members Kentucky, Ole Miss and Vanderbilt to their first SEC title game in year two of membership. It'd mean they'd no longer be Team 14 in a 14-team league.
And, oh yeah, it'd mean they'd head to the SEC Championship with a (however remote) chance at a national championship berth.
3. Rich Rodriguez vs. Todd Graham (9:30 p.m. ET Saturday, Pac-12 Networks) - Arizona State plays for the right to host Stanford in the Pac-12 Championship next week, but there's more on the line here for the Wildcats than the Sun Devils. One week after beating Oregon by 26 points, the game that says everything about where Rich Rodriguez wants to take this program, Arizona's performance against Arizona State will tell us whether to classify that 42-16 thrashing of the Ducks under "fluke" or "statement". A win moves the Wildcats to 8-4, on the fringe of the top 25, evens the score with a fellow second-year staff in Tempe, and marks 2013 as a definite step forward from 2012. A loss drops Arizona to 0-2 against Arizona State in the Rodriguez-Graham era, matches last season's 7-5 regular season record, including a 1-3 mark over their final four.
4. Urban Meyer vs. Brady Hoke (12 p.m. ET Saturday, ABC) - It may take the combined powers of Bo Schembechler, Fielding Yost and Bennie Oosterbaan for Michigan to pull off a win, but this rivalry is littered with examples of one team spoiling the other's shot at a national title. And this would be an utterly tragicomic spot for Urban Meyer to suffer his first loss at Ohio State. But everything about the way these teams have played over the past two months says this should be an easy Buckeyes win. Right?
5. Dabo Swinney vs. Steve Spurrier (7 p.m. ET Saturday, ESPN2) - How great is this weekend? 10-1, sixth-ranked Clemson visits 9-2, 10th-ranked South Carolina, and it's relegated to ESPN2! Clemson has taken a whole host of forward steps under Dabo Swinney, but everything he's accomplished is accompanied by an asterisk until he solves his Steve Spurrier problem. South Carolina has won the last four in this series - all by 10 points or more, and by an average score of 31-14.
6. Jim Mora vs. Ed Orgeron (8 p.m. ET Saturday, ABC) - Right now, Coach O is like a guy who got his name called on The Price is Right, bet $1 on his first bid and won his way to the Showcase Showdown. An argument for the head coaching job loses a bunch of steam with a season-ending loss to UCLA, which would be the Trojans' second straight to Mora after beating this same club 50-0 to close the 2011 season.
7. Kliff Kingsbury vs. Mack Brown (7:30 p.m. ET Thursday, Fox Sports 1) - We can't ignore context here. There's a greater than zero chance this is Mack Brown's last game in Austin. Brown's had his troubles in Lubbock, but he's never lost to Texas Tech in Austin, winning by scores of 58-7, 42-7, 43-40, 52-17, 59-43, 34-24 and 52-20.
For all the points normally scored in this game, it's the running game that tells the story. In each of the last 22 Texas-Texas Tech games, the team that rushes for more yards has won the game. Facing a team that's allowed a shade under 298 rushing yards per game in its current four-game losing streak and that sitting on a seven-game losing skid in its last seven true road games (by an average score of 48-22), a loss would be an absolutely awful farewell to the stadium he's called home for the last 16 years.
8. Mike Leach vs. Steve Sarkisian (3:30 p.m. ET Friday, FOX) - Steve Sarkisian has gone 7-6 each of the last three seasons. Washington is 7-4, so a loss to Washington State and a loss in the bowl game would be required to repeat history for a fourth time. This fall is already a success for the 6-5 Cougars, who will return to the postseason for the first time since the 2003 Holiday Bowl, but a shot at eight wins after last year's 3-9 finish? A second straight win over Washington? Washington State fans may just carry Mike Leach on their shoulders all the way back to Pullman.
9. Jimbo Fisher vs. Will Muschamp (12 p.m. ET Saturday, ESPN) - Let's be honest here, no one is giving Florida a chance here. Not nationally, not in Tallahassee, not in Gainesville and likely inside the Ben Hill Griffin Stadium home locker room. Muschamp, Brent Pease and company can look at it to ways: as a death trap, or as an opportunity. The longer the game stays close, the bigger the monkey on Jimbo Fisher's back gets. And if there was ever a time to pull out that reverse pass to the left tackle Florida's saved all season, by God, this is it.
10. Mark Richt vs. Paul Johnson (3:30 p.m. ET Saturday, ABC) - Johnson's job likely doesn't hinge on beating Georgia on Saturday, not with a sixth bowl in as many seasons already clinched and especially not if things break right elsewhere and Georgia Tech backs its way into the ACC Championship. But let's take a look at Johnson's history against Georgia: a 45-42 win in his first year, then losses by six, eight, 14 and 32 points. With junior quarterback Hutson Mason making his first career start, if Johnson doesn't beat Georgia now, when will he?
11. Brian Kelly vs. David Shaw (7 p.m. ET Saturday, FOX) - Notre Dame is likely headed to the Pinstripe Bowl win or lose on Saturday, and Stanford's Rose Bowl hopes hinge on next week's Pac-12 title game, not this week. We'll just have to settle for a chess match dependent on whether or not the Notre Dame defensive front can withstand Stanford's slegdehammer offense. They did it last year. Barely.
12. Hugh Freeze vs. Dan Mullen (7:30 p.m. ET Thursday, ESPN) - As our friend Andy Staples pointed out elsewhere this week, this year's Egg Bowl feels a lot like last year's game, only the exact opposite. In 2012, it was Ole Miss that needed to a win to A) take back scoreboard on its intrastate rival and B) extend its season. The Rebels won convincingly, 41-24. Now, its Ole Miss whose postseason future is already secure, and Mississippi State who needs a victory to keep playing.
This is how you commemorate a huge win against a top 5 team
This is how you memorialize a victory against a top five opponent, who also happens to be trying to fight their way into the national title picture.
In arguably their biggest game of the season, Oklahoma State came out of the gate with guns blazing and flat out took it to Baylor, and no video out there sums up the game better than this one.
I'll be the first one to say that "Radioactive" takes home the award as the most overused (and annoying) song in football videos this year by a large margin, but the production quality in this clip is so good that the music is honestly just background noise.
Video: Arizona's video department is at it again
Call me crazy, but I love the creativity here heading into rivalry week from Arizona.
The Wildcats "fear no fork".
Using an iPad on the sidelines
You probably don't know this, but the Portland TrailBlazers have been one of the best teams in the NBA this season. After a 33-49 finish to last season, Portland is off to a 13-2 start, riding an 11-game winning streak to the third-best record in the NBA. Why does this matter? Why are we writing about this on a football website?
The Blazers made a key off-season acquisition that spurred their white-hot start. The iPad. Portland now shows players in-game video from the bench, and they say it's turned into a major competitive advantage.
"It does [help] because you get to see it [again], and in the game everything happens so fast," shooting guard Wesley Matthews told Blazersedge. "You ask yourself, 'Did I rush it? I felt like I rushed it.' [The video can tell me] when I'm in that same situation -- off a flare screen, when Nic [Batum] passes over the top -- [if] I have more time to get the shot off or [if] I have to shoot it at that speed again. Or, could I have driven it?"
We understand that using any sort of live video during games is nearly universally banned throughout football (although at the high school level, some states are beginning to allow this in some form). But, can you imagine what the likes of Chip Kelly, Bill Belichick and Nick Saban would do if they could immediately review game film on the sidelines?
The NBA allowing it sure does make us think this is coming...and probably sooner than you think. Will be fascinating to see.
The Aggies have something insane up their sleeves
The zubaz trend is older than every player currently on your roster. But it looks like Texas A&M might try to bring it back - at least for one week.
Yesterday, Texas A&M recruiting Twitter account tweeted the following:
Then, Wednesday morning, Adidas sent out this picture of Kevin Sumlin's personal recruiting helicopter, lovingly known as the Swagcopter.
On one hand, zubaz is awful. On the other, recruits will probably love it. They don't have fashion scar tissue from the late 80's and early 90's to fight through.
Ultimately, though, you're currently reading an article about the uniforms Adidas will outfit Texas A&M in for their trip to Missouri on Saturday night. Guess who wins? Adidas.
UPDATE: It appears the helicopter tweet was too good to be true. But, still, the Aggies will have some special uniforms on Saturday.
A younger Steve Spurrier?
You've got to love rivalries.
A few weeks back, first-year Virginia offensive coordinator Steve Fairchild went on a local radio show and said the following: “UVa should not lose to Virginia Tech. I’ve been on both campuses, and I’m new to the area and I’m just giving you kind of an unbiased feel here.”
A coach says his current school should not lose to its rival. Nothing shocking about that. That quote would have blown away with the wind, as most do, were it not for Virginia Tech associate head coach/running backs coach Shane Beamer.
As Hokies beat writer Andy Bitter notes, the younger Beamer takes pride in being the Cavaliers' nemesis.“It bothered me, greatly,” Beamer said. “I’d be lying if I said it didn’t
“I thought it was odd for an assistant coach to say that statement. If you feel that way that you shouldn’t lose to Virginia Tech, more power to you if you feel that way about your team. That’s your decision. But I had a problem with the ‘you’ve been on both campuses part’ of his interview. ‘I’ve been on both campuses and there’s no reason for us to ever lose to Virginia Tech.’ I have a problem with that statement.”
This is far from the first time Beamer has fired shots toward Charlottesville. A few of the highlights:
- On Sept. 7, he tweeted that Virginia Tech drew the largest crowd in the state for a home date with Western Carolina. He didn't happen to mention that Virginia also hosted Oregon on Sept. 7, though he didn't have to.
“I’m sorry, but recruits follow me on Twitter, and if I can’t point out we had more fans in the stands than they did, I don’t think that’s taking a shot at UVa,” Beamer said.
- The time he tweeted good luck to the Mississippi State baseball team before it faced Virginia in the NCAA Super Regional. As Beamer said, he was only thinking about the Bulldogs' baseball staff he got to know from his time in Starkville.
- Beamer tweeted good luck to the Mississippi State baseball team last summer right before it took on Virginia in the super regional, although he said that was simply wishing well the Bulldogs staff he got to know during his time as a coach at MSU.
- The time he called Virginia's crowd of 8,000 for its spring game a "nice little crowd".
There are two issues at play here. First, there's likely no one on Earth with more Hokie pride than Shane Beamer. He attended Blacksburg High School. He played at Virginia Tech from 1995-99. He's worked there since 2011. And, of course, his father is the greatest coach in the history of the school.
Second, he spent four seasons working for the Ultimate Troll Master in college football history. "I spent too many years around Steve Spurrier," Beamer says, "that's my problem."
Virginia Tech heads to Charlottesville on Saturday (3:30 p.m. ET, ESPNU). The Hokies have won nine straight in the series and 13 of the last 14.
UPDATE: Fairchild has called for a cease fire.
#UVA OC Steve Fairchild on Shane Beamer being upset with his radio comments: "I was just having some fun with some guys on the radio."— Mike Barber (@RTD_MikeBarber) November 27, 2013
Florida HS playoff game ends in 74-73 shootout
Clay HS and Bishop Kenny HS threw down in a 5A playoff game last Friday that will have the entire state of Florida talking for decades.
It was one of those games that is every defensive coordinator's worst nightmare, and every offensive coordinator's dream.
Down 60-44 at one point the game, Clay escaped with a 74-73 shootout victory that went down to the wire. The winning score (a run by Clay quarterback Wes Weeks around the right edge with 10 seconds remaining) capped off a 72 yard drive that started with just two minutes remaining. Considering how the game went, it was a fitting ending between the two offensive juggernauts.
On the losing end when the final buzzer sounded, Bishop Kenny quarterback John Wolford still managed to put up video game like stats, throwing for 539 yards, rushing for 234 more, and accounting for 10 total touchdowns on the night (seven throwing, three rushing according to ActionJaxNews.com). Wolford also finished his high school career as Florida's all time leader in passing yards, completions, passing touchdowns, and overall touchdowns (some of those were set by Tim Tebow). Something tells me we'll be hearing his name on Saturday's in the near future.
The two teams combined for a total 1,472 yards and shattered the previous scoring record by a losing team back in 2006 (a 63-62 Clearwater Christian victory over Indian Rocks Christian).
The video below is a great recap of the game's highlights. Defensive coordinators beware, the clips that would make you happy are pretty scarce in this one.
Video: Behind Michigan State's AWOL mentality on the defensive line
In his first season in East Lansing, Ron Burton has been the man tasked with turning the Spartan defensive line loose, and the results have been impressive. Taking over a unit that ranked in the top 8 rushing defenses last season (#8 at 98 ypg), Burton has taken over a unit that has improved by nearly 40 yards per game, allowing less than 60 rushing yards per contest, by far the best in the country.
Burton brought with him a defensive mantra that he and his players refer to as AWOL (standing for Animals WithOut a Leash). Players explain it as playing with a "controlled, wreckless abandon", and Burton himself says that it centers from playing with a "controlled rage".
Either way you want to look at it, it's production that matters, and his unit has everything you look for.
Here, in the latest Spartan All Access video, Burton dives into the AWOL mindset and explains how it has helped mold them into one of the most productive units in the country.