Florida State needs a new coach, and it has to make the right hire. Not just for Florida State and Florida State fans, but the ACC as a whole. It's crazy to think that one coaching decision could affect an entire conference. But here we are after just 21 games in the Willie Taggart experience at Florida State and the ACC looks weaker than it ever has. Florida State fired Taggart after a 4-5 start to the 2019 season, leaving the Seminoles on the search for another head coach.
The conference cannot afford to have Florida State exist in a state of futility much longer. Before the start of the 2019 season, there was a lot of focus from both the college football media and fans on the Pac-12 and its failure to live up to the standards of being a Power Five conference. As CBSSports.com's Ben Kercheval wrote on Saturday night in his Overreactions column, a lot of people wrote the entire conference off as a College Football Playoff contender following Oregon's loss to Auburn in the season opener.
Well, the ACC is what everybody thought the Pac-12 was. It is the conference that's clinging to Power Five status with its Clemson-colored fingernails. One only has to look at the events of this past weekend to realize how bad things have gotten.
Florida and Georgia played in Jacksonville on Saturday afternoon. It was a top-10 matchup, and it was the second consecutive week with a top-10 matchup in the SEC, and the sixth time an SEC game featured two top-10 teams this season (two were nonconference matchups with Notre Dame and Texas). The SEC will have a matchup between No. 1 and No. 2 when LSU and Alabama square off this weekend. Now, you can write this off as merely "SEC Bias," and if you'd like to, fine. The SEC does have a bit of a monopoly on top-10 matchups because it constitutes so much of the top-10 every week, so let's expand our criteria for everyone else.
If we look at matchups between two ranked teams in each of the Power Five conferences, we find that there have been seven in the Big Ten, two in the Big 12, four in the Pac-12, and 10 in the SEC. Now, as 14-team conferences, we must consider that the Big Ten and SEC have more chances for such matchups. The ACC is also a 14-team league, so how many matchups between ranked teams have featured an ACC team this season? Two. The same number as the Big 12 with minor differences. First of all, the Big 12 has four fewer teams, but both of the Big 12's matchups were conference games. Neither of the ACC's were. There was Virginia's nonconference game against Notre Dame and Clemson's game against Texas A&M.
It should also be mentioned that the Big 12 purposely backloads its schedule. The conference currently has three teams in the AP Top 25 poll, with Texas and Oklahoma State on the periphery. Oklahoma has games remaining against Iowa State, Baylor and Oklahoma State, which could be ranked when they meet. Baylor will still play Oklahoma and Texas, which could be ranked when they play as well.
What do the matchups look like in the ACC? Well, thankfully, Clemson has a game remaining against No. 22 Wake Forest, because Wake Forest is the only other ACC team to be ranked this week. Considering the Deacons are only at No. 22 despite being 7-1, they may fall out of the rankings entirely if they lose on the road to Virginia Tech this weekend.
More importantly than whether Wake will be ranked when Clemson plays it, however, is the fact that the ACC is in this position. On Saturday night, there was a game between Memphis and SMU. It felt like a bigger game than any we've had in the ACC this season besides Clemson's clash with Texas A&M. It felt like there was more on the line because the winner of that game got a leg up in the AAC's West Division. Memphis won, and is now in a position where it can win the American and earn a New Year's Six berth.
In the SEC, it's Alabama and LSU this weekend, but there are still showdowns between Auburn and Georgia, as well as the Iron Bowl before the SEC Championship.
The Big Ten has a game between two undefeated teams in Penn State and Minnesota this weekend, and there's a playoff feel to it for both teams. Plus, there are still games to come between Penn State and Ohio State, as well as Ohio State and Michigan. Minnesota will play Wisconsin as well, and that could decide who moves on to the Big Ten Championship.
Both Oregon and Utah are currently top-10 teams, and while they won't meet in the regular season, they seem to be on a collision course to meet in the Pac-12 Championship Game.
The big game in the ACC is Clemson and Wake Forest. A game in which Clemson will likely be favored by no fewer than three touchdowns. Once Clemson beats Wake -- use it as motivation, Deacs! -- it will then get to play whichever 8-4 or 7-5 team emerges from the Coastal with the fewest scars. Clemson will be favored by at least three touchdowns against them, too.
The ACC might as well stand for the All Clemson Conference at this point, because it's the only team in it that matters on a national scale, and if you took the Tigers out of it, it'd just be a Group of Five conference. In fact, in my rating system, which judges teams strictly on how they've performed in the current season and nothing else, the American Athletic Conference rates higher than the ACC this year.
So, please, Florida State, I'm not going to tell you what to do, but for the sake of yourself, the ACC, and college football as a whole, make a good hire. Clemson needs a challenger within the ACC. We all do.
Hot Seat of the Week
Taggart might not be the only coach in his second year as head coach to lose his job this season. Arkansas' Chad Morris was already on the hot seat heading into last weekend, and that was before he did or didn't guarantee a win (depending on who you ask) against Mississippi State. Whatever the case, this was the quote from Morris when asked about what he was planning to do at quarterback and the rest of his roster heading into the Mississippi State game.
"Well, first of all, we're going to win this football game this week," said Morris. "And whoever we feel like is the best opportunity to win that game is first and foremost who we're going with."
Morris was answering in the context of whether or not he'd go with his "veterans" or if there'd be a youth movement to gain experience for 2020. Morris did not say, "we're going to do what we feel is best to win this game," he said, "well, first of all, we're going to win this football game."
Arkansas did not win the football game. It lost 54-24 at home to a Mississippi State team that is now 4-5. Arkansas is 2-7 and 0-6 in the SEC. Its two wins have come against a 5-5 Portland State team and a 4-5 Colorado State team. Morris is now 4-17 at Arkansas, including 0-14 against SEC teams. It should come as no surprise that the pitchforks are coming out, and Arkansas fans are no longer calling the hogs, but for Morris' head. Arkansas gets Western Kentucky this weekend, which should be a win, but the fact it doesn't feel like a sure thing says everything about the situation in Fayetteville right now.
Of course, if it's any consolation to Morris, the last two coaches to sit on The Hot Seat of the Week in The Monday After were Charlie Strong and Lovie Smith. Strong has gone 3-1 since he was honored, while Smith is 3-1 as well. I hope Morris receives the same Monday After bump they did because no coach deserves to be fired based on results after only two seasons.
Stat of the Week
Arkansas now has two 17-game SEC losing streaks (one active) since midway through the 2012 season. This is terribleness on a historic level.— Paul Myerberg (@PaulMyerberg) November 2, 2019
This is definitely playing a role in Morris' hot seat, even if he's only responsible for 14 of those 34 consecutive losses.
Touchdown Run of the Week
Please enjoy Antonio Gibson running away from all of life’s stresses and problems pic.twitter.com/3L6wyKV0b5— Banner Society (@BannerSociety) November 3, 2019
That touchdown run by Memphis' Antonio Gibson should have been worth 12 points. College football needs to pass a rule that allows awesome plays to be worth twice as much. The sole arbiter of which plays are worth it should be me, and I should be paid no fewer than $10 million a year to do so.
Worst Camera Work of the Week
With apologies to my fellow Cover 3 Podcast host and friend, Barton Simmons, nobody watches Ivy League football. Hell, even when people do decide to watch Ivy League football, they don't get to see it. Barton, who played at Yale, was thrilled to see Harvard lose to Dartmouth on Saturday on a last-second Hail Mary. Or, at least, he would have been thrilled to see it had the camera shown it.
Dartmouth beat Harvard on a wild Hail Mary 😮 pic.twitter.com/FATykfMdlV— ESPN College Football (@ESPNCFB) November 2, 2019
If the camera operator is a student at Harvard, I'm guessing they got in because of a generous donation from their alumni parents.
Tom Fornelli Team of the Year Dropouts of the Week
Beginning in 2019, The Tom Fornelli Team of the Year Award, presented by The Tom Fornelli Foundation For Football Exceptionalism, is to be given out to one incredible football team that best displays the values of The Tom Fornelli Foundation For Football Exceptionalism. Every week, teams will be eliminated from the running for reasons. Those reasons are at the sole discretion of Tom Fornelli and The Tom Fornelli Foundation For Football Exceptionalism, which is comprised of Tom Fornelli and nobody else. Here are the teams eliminated from consideration in Week 10.
Reason For Elimination
I believe in you, but you had a spotlight game to prove yourself to the world and lost.
I didn't tell you beforehand, but the Sunflower Showdown was an elimination game.
You are a confusing team!
I wanted it to be the year of SMU. I really did.
I'm done waiting for you to turn it around.
Wow. Georgia State won in Knoxville and you couldn't.
Before the season, I thought Clay Helton would get the axe before you did here.
I think we both know you stuck around longer than you deserved to.
Teams remaining: 29 / 130
Teams eliminated last week: Arizona State, Auburn, Ball State, New Mexico State, North Texas, Notre Dame, Oklahoma, Texas State, Tulane, UNLV, Utah State
For a full list of eliminated teams and the respective reasons, click here.
Press Conference of the Week
QB @Masonfine09 discusses his 7-TD performance in tonight's win over UTEP— North Texas Football (@MeanGreenFB) November 3, 2019
📺 Full Presser: https://t.co/inud1t6o5X#GMG #UNiTeNorthTexas pic.twitter.com/h2Jffwp34X
Listen, when you throw for 332 yards and 7 touchdowns in a game like North Texas QB Mason Fine did, you get to wear whatever you damn well please to the press conference afterward.
Petty War of the Week
Please retweet so @ArmyWP_Football can see who won today pic.twitter.com/sxBGqyeiUL— Air Force Football (@AF_Football) November 3, 2019
Air Force beat Army 17-13 on Saturday, and it led to some hurt feelings on Twitter. Personally, it doesn't matter to me who won or lost this game, because it's not about who wins or loses. It's about staying under the total, which these two did, and I greatly appreciate that, so I hope they can reconcile their differences.
AP Voter of the Week
The later it gets into a season, the harder it is to make sure you aren't ranking teams above teams they've lost to. Teams change throughout a season. A team that looked bad in early September could look like an entirely different team in mid-November and deserve to be ranked above a team it lost to months earlier. But there are some instances when it still doesn't make any sense.
That's why this week's AP Voter of the Week is the Los Angeles Daily News' Mark Whicker. Now, I want to point out that while I might have a few minor differences of opinion, Whicker's top 13 teams are solid. When we get to No. 14, however, we find Iowa. Now, that in itself isn't horrible. Whicker is one of three voters to have the Hawkeyes that high on their ballot this week. Where things get strange is that Whicker has Michigan three spots below Iowa at No. 17.
Now, here's a quick reminder that Michigan beat Iowa 10-3 earlier this season. It is 7-2, and its two losses have come against No. 5 Penn State and No. 16 Wisconsin. It just crushed Maryland this weekend, but it beat No. 15 Notre Dame 45-14 last week. It also has that win over No. 18 (or No. 14 on Whicker's ballot) Iowa.
Iowa is 6-2, and its two losses have come to Michigan and No. 5 Penn State. Its best win is an 18-17 victory against 5-3 Iowa State, which is not ranked but did appear on one ballot at No. 25 this week. That ballot did not belong to Mark Whicker. So while both share similar losses, Michigan has the much stronger win, and also beat Iowa. What justification is there for ranking Iowa three spots ahead of Michigan on your ballot?
Oh, and by the way, Whicker has Michigan five spots ahead of the Wisconsin team that beat it by 21 points, but a loss to Illinois and getting blown out by Ohio State will do that.
College Football Playoff Projection of the Week
- Ohio State
Until the next Monday After!