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Reorientation: Houston Nutt faces the fire

Matt Hinton
Dr. Saturday

Adjusting to the weekend's new realities.

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Rebel Fail. On Saturday, Ole Miss was picked off five times and looked generally inept en route to a 30-7 trouncing at Vanderbilt, the Rebels' ninth loss in their last ten SEC games. On Sunday, even Houston Nutt was beginning to sound like he didn't think he should be the head coach anymore:

He looked like a man who was disappointed, in himself and in his team. And who knows how much negative energy surrounds his program, and just how angry many Ole Miss fans are with the situation.

"I've never felt that way on a sideline," Nutt said. "I just felt, it just was not right. (I) just didn't have that confidence we were going to make first downs and move the ball like I normally do. It just didn't feel right. That was a first."

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I can assure you, coach, the feeling was not a first for Ole Miss fans, who had already endured a touchdown-free performance by the offense in a 14-13 loss to BYU and now appear to have given up on the Nutt administration altogether. (A few have already entered the "Acceptance" phase of grief and are debating the relative merits of Nutt's potential replacements.) Athletic director Pete Boone sent out a letter to season ticket holders Sunday night to acknowledge the disappointment, inform them he's "discussed the current state of Ole Miss football" and urge them not to abandon the team. Boone will also be showing up this afternoon to address the media before Nutt's regular Monday press conference.

The only fans who don't seem interested in seeing the coach's head on a pike anytime soon? A group calling itself "Forward Rebels!," which has taken out full-page ads in the Jackson Clarion-Ledger and Memphis Commercial Appeal to call for the administration's head on a pike — presumably, in part, for hiring Houston Nutt.

Stanford takes a hit. Stanford's odds of running the table in the Pac-12 may have gotten a little longer in the first half Saturday, when all-conference linebacker Shayne Skov — the unquestioned leader of the defense, on the field and off — went down with what appeared to be a major knee injury, expected to cost him the rest of his junior season. (Official MRI results should come today.) It didn't matter against Arizona, which didn't score in the second half and was easily overwhelmed on the other side by the Cardinal offense. But long term, the prospect of Skov's extended absence makes likely shootouts against USC, Oregon and Notre Dame loom that much larger down the stretch as obstacles to a run at the BCS title.{YSP:MORE}

Gamecocks get grounded. As heroic as Marcus Lattimore was in a 37-carry, 246-yard, three-touchdown gem of a performance in a 24-21 win over Navy, it's impossible to ignore the subtext: South Carolina needed a hero against a double-digit underdog because the passing game is blinkered beyond recognition. Through three games, the Gamecocks rank 102nd nationally in passing yards, 105th in pass efficiency and have connected on just two touchdown passes — this, with a fifth-year senior (Stephen Garcia) throwing to a future top-10 draft pick (Alshon Jeffery).

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The near-miss cost Carolina two spots in the AP poll, where it dropped from 10th to 12th, and has the OBC seeing visions of doom as the SEC schedule begins in earnest:

"If our guys think we're hot stuff, all we have to do is look at our statistics just to sort of tell us what we've been doing, and what we've been doing is just scraping by every (game) we've played just about," Spurrier said. "If we're going to have a good year, we better improve."

Hawaii's low-flying hangup. Hawaii had to be expecting easy pickings Saturday at UNLV, which came into the day ranked dead last nationally in pass efficiency defense after being ripped to ribbons by Wisconsin and Washington State, and barely removed from the bottom in pass defense, total defense and scoring defense. Instead, the Warriors' prolific Run 'n Shoot attack stalled out with four turnovers, five punts and a paltry 290 total yards in a 40-20 blowout at the hands of one of the worst teams in the country.

Three games in, the same offense that averaged 40 points per game on 500 yards of total offense in 2010 is more than 10 points and 150 yards per game off the pace, and has back-to-back losses to show for it.

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Matt Hinton is on Facebook and Twitter: Follow him @DrSaturday.

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