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Forde-Yard Dash: Figuring value in the head-scratching world of college football

Pat Forde
Yahoo Sports
Forty names, games, teams and minutiae making news in college football (pirate gear sold separately in Pullman, at newly reduced prices):

FIT TO BE (BOW) TIED

The conspicuous consumption by Ohio State (1) president E. Gordon Gee, as reported by the Dayton Daily News, is more a university matter than an athletic matter. But given Gee's interest and influence in sports, this is fair game for The Dash.

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E. Gordon Gee

It's not enough that Gee is easily America's highest-paid president of a public university. It's all the other trappings of sultanhood that come along with his $1.9 million a year salary. As the Daily News reported this week, the $7.7 million in expenses he's charged Ohio State since 2007 is what truly separates Dr. Bow Tie from his comparatively austere colleagues. (By comparison, the Daily News cited expense spending that was a mere fraction of that by Texas president Bill Powers and Michigan prez Mary Sue Coleman.)

The line item that jumped into the headlines Monday was the $64,000 spent by Ohio State on bow ties, bow tie cookies, O-H and bow tie pins. With good reason. But there are others worth pointing out.

The Dash particularly loved the $532 shower curtain for the guest bath in the president's mansion. Maybe it previously was a framed exhibit in The Louvre.

Gee has rung up an $813,000 tailgating tab. Don't think they're drinking PBR at those tailgates. And the cornhole boards are made of platinum.

The newspaper said Gee also dropped more than 10 grand on limo service while traveling from 2008-10, which means you aren't likely to see him schlepping around the airport rental car facility when the Buckeyes go bowling. (Oops, they're ineligible to go bowling until next season anyways.)

Bottom line: Ohio State could have saved a lot of money if Jim Tressel (2) had gone ahead and fired Gee 18 months ago, as the president infamously joked.

Bottom line, part 2: Keep in mind that college presidents as a whole remain opposed to paying college athletes. Let the players eat bow tie cookies.

EXTRAVAGANCES AND BARGAINS

In keeping with the Gee-inspired theme of cost vs. benefit, The Dash looks at what (and who) else is overpriced in college football:

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Kirk Ferentz

Kirk Ferentz (3). Salary: a reported $3.86 million. For that, Iowa fans were treated to a 32-31 loss to Central Michigan on Saturday – the same Central Michigan that entered the game 4-19 against FBS competition since 2009. Ferentz has had a long and distinguished career in Iowa City, but he's also 9-11 in his last 20 games coaching the Hawkeyes, including consecutive losses to little brother Iowa State. That's not quite as egregious as a $532 shower curtain, but it's a waste of money.

Tickets to Michigan State-Michigan (4). The annual rivalry game, to be played Oct. 20, was premium priced at $95 per individual ticket. That's when both teams were touted as national championship contenders. Given the offensive ineptitude – the Spartans are 104th nationally in scoring and the Wolverines are 64th, but scored more than half their season total against miserable Massachusetts – The Dash figures that could be about $5 per point. No thanks.

Hog hats (5). Price: $29.95. That's what it costs to put a plastic Razorback on your head and yell, "Woo, pig, sooie!" Today in Arkansas, fans are hiding their Hog hats deep in the closet, next to the autographed picture of Bobby Petrino and a souvenir game program from the Arkansas-Citadel game in 1992. After a disastrous 1-3 start to a season that began in the Top 10, the only fan who will still dare to be seen in her Hog hat is this, um, remarkable lady.

Brent Venables (6), Clemson defensive coordinator. In January he was given a multiyear deal reportedly worth about $800,000 per season – rock-star coordinator money – to tighten up a unit that finished 71st nationally last year in total defense. After being gouged for 667 yards by Florida State on Saturday, the current Clemson defense ranks 95th in total defense.

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Bob Stoops

Bob Stoops (7). A year ago, with his team ranked No. 1, Oklahoma gave Stoops a new contract worth $34.5 million over seven years. Since then the Sooners have gone 10-4, and just 6-4 against Big 12 competition, including the upset loss to Kansas State Saturday. Stoops is a very good coach, but he hasn't been a national championship coach since 2000 and hasn't been close to a national championship coach since 2008.

[Also: Oklahoma joins USC in long climb back up the rankings]

"Alternate" uniforms (8). The trend has gone into overkill and verging on trite. The Dash doesn't know what it costs to come up with a zillion different uniform combinations – one for each autumn Saturday mood at some schools. Maybe the outfitters do some of it for free, if the program is big enough. But The Dash does know this: The nation's No. 1 team wears the same thing every time out, and that lack of variety doesn't seem to be impairing performance.

Any and all Heisman promotional material for Oklahoma quarterback Landry Jones (9) and Wisconsin running back Montee Ball (10). It's over for Jones, who ranks 58th nationally in pass efficiency and looks pretty ordinary when not surrounded by elite receivers. And it's over for Ball, a finalist last year who scored 39 touchdowns but this year has only found the end zone three times and was knocked out of Saturday's game against UTEP with a head injury.

Now the list of what (and who) is a bargain in college football:

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Bill Snyder

Bill Snyder (11). Earlier this month Kansas State gave 72-year-old Snyder a bump up to $2.2 million a year. That will go a long way in Manhattan, Kan., but it's still a pretty small price to pay for the guy who built the program out of nothing from 1989-2005, then came back three years later and resurrected it. After beating Stoops in Norman on Saturday, it doesn't seem right that the wily codger is earning less than half as much as "Big Game Bob."

MAC gear (12). Buy your Mid-American Conference school shirts and wear them proudly this week, alums and fans. The eternally trod-upon league rose up and scored a victory over the Big Ten (Central Michigan over Iowa), a victory over the Big 12 (Northern Illinois over Kansas) and two victories over the Big East (Ball State over South Florida, Western Michigan over Connecticut). The league didn't even need its best team (undefeated Ohio) to do anything spectacular to still have a great weekend.

Tickets to Northwestern-Minnesota (13). They're $50 each for what could be the last Big Ten clash of unbeatens. The game is Oct. 13 in Minneapolis, and the 4-0 Gophers have only a trip to highly beatable Iowa between now and then – with Floyd of Rosedale on the line, by the way. Northwestern (also 4-0) hosts Indiana and visits Penn State the next two weekends. It would be a great thing for both teams – and a terrible reminder of how lousy the Big Ten is this year.

Leis (14). There were an estimated 20,000 of them in Notre Dame Stadium Saturday, a gesture of kinship and support for Hawaiian linebacker Manti Te'o after the recent deaths of both his girlfriend and his grandmother. Brothers Bar and Grill in South Bend ordered 1,000 of them from Oriental Trading Co. for a mere $250. United Beverage Co. of South Bend gave away around 12,000 of them that they had sitting around, left over from a marketing campaign for Landshark Beer. Other businesses and individuals chipped in as well in a movement organized in large part by Notre Dame's student Leprechaun Legion. A small price to pay for a priceless bonding moment, and Te'o responded with two interceptions in the Fighting Irish's 13-6 victory over Michigan.

[Also: Week 4 Winners and Losers: Safe to say Florida State is back?]

Willie Taggart (15). Base salary for the Western Kentucky coach: $475,000. Expect that to change when the bigger schools come after Taggart in a hurry at season's end. Since taking over an 0-12 Sun Belt program in 2010, Taggart has gone 2-10, then 7-5 and now is 3-1 with victories over Kentucky and Southern Mississippi. The Hilltoppers bludgeoned Southern Miss 42-17, racking up 560 offensive yards against one of the more accomplished mid-major programs. Taggart played under Jack Harbaugh at Western Kentucky and coached under his son Jim at Stanford. He brings a Harbaugh-esque level of confidence and charisma to the job.

Louisiana Tech (16) season tickets. They can be had as cheaply as $90, quite a deal to see the nation's No. 3 scoring offense. Undefeated Tech has scored 50 points in each of its three games and won by steadily increasing margins: seven over Houston, 19 over Rice and an emphatic 28 over Illinois. If the Bulldogs win at Virginia Saturday, the hurricane-rescheduled game against Texas A&M Oct. 13 takes on even more importance. It could be the last thing separating Sonny Dykes' team from 12-0.

West Virginia's exit fee from the Big East (17). It was steep – $20 million in payments or retained revenue. But getting out in time for the 2012 season gives a talented Mountaineers team a chance to realistically compete for the Big 12 title, and possibly even a spot in the BCS championship game. If West Virginia were still playing in the Big East its strength of schedule would be taking hits from the non-conference pratfalls of South Florida, UConn, Syracuse and Pittsburgh and even a 12-0 record likely would leave the Mountaineers outside the championship discussion. There will be no such concerns in a loaded Big 12.

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Dasha Zhukova

Dasha Zhukova (18). USA Today says the perfectly named Dashette "buys multimillion-dollar paintings on a whim" with the help of her "Russian oligarch boyfriend." The Dash is not intimidated and will offer to buy her a beer and Louisiana Tech season tickets. Take that, Russian oligarch boyfriend.

WHO'S NO. 2?

There is no question who is No. 1 – that's Alabama, which saw its streak of scoreless defensive quarters end at 12 against Florida Atlantic. (Thus giving coach Nick Saban a reason to shred his team in film sessions this week.)

There are plenty of questions about who should rank right behind the Crimson Tide and hold (for now) the position opposite Alabama in the BCS championship game. Through four weeks, there are no fewer than 10 teams that could make an argument right now for the most important position in the rankings:

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Kansas State QB Collin Klein (US Presswire)

Kansas State (19). Reason to like: Wildcats have played two quality opponents and looked great both times. Crushed Miami at home, upset Oklahoma on the road – the most impressive road win in the nation thus far. Reason to doubt: Sooner or later someone will force the nation's No. 105-ranked passing attack to win through the air. Then what? Next major test: Oct. 13 at giant killer Iowa State. Toughest schedule stretch: K-State closes at TCU, at Baylor, home against Texas. Current Dash ranking: No. 2. Dash prediction: Getting the victory in Norman looked like the toughest task on the schedule, so the odds of going 12-0 certainly went up. But the Big 12 looks too tough to get through unbeaten.

Florida (20). Reason to like: The Gators are already 3-0 in the SEC, with two road wins in tough environments. They haven't given up a fourth-quarter point this season. Reason to doubt: Will Florida be able to move the ball against elite SEC defenses? It hasn't faced one yet. Next major test: Oct. 6 against LSU in The Swamp. Toughest schedule stretch: In October, Florida faces LSU, Georgia and South Carolina, plus Vanderbilt in Nashville. Current Dash ranking: No. 3. Dash prediction: The schedule is prohibitive. In fact, to win a national title, Florida would theoretically have to go through the top six teams in the current rankings: Nos. 3-6 are on the regular-season schedule in LSU, Florida State, Georgia and South Carolina. Then would come an SEC championship game matchup with No. 1 Alabama. Then a presumed BCS championship game against No. 2 Oregon.

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Notre Dame QB Tommy Rees. (US Presswire)

Notre Dame (21). Reason to like: Has played and defeated three straight major-conference opponents, and hasn't given up a touchdown in two straight games against then-ranked opponents. Reason to doubt: Fighting Irish are plus-six in turnover margin in last three games, but have only won those games by a combined 27 points. Is the quarterback play good enough? Next major test: Oct. 6 against Miami in Chicago. Toughest schedule stretch: All four October opponents (Miami, Stanford, BYU and Oklahoma) are in the Sagarin top 45. Current Dash ranking: No. 4. Dash prediction: The schedule is stout enough to impose its limits on the Notre Dame comeback story. The Irish will get back to a BCS bowl, but not the BCS bowl.

[Related: Notre Dame still doesn't have a QB controversy, so stop asking]

Georgia (22). Reason to like: Has won every game by a minimum of 21 points, and two SEC games by an average of 33 points. Reason to doubt: Sagarin rates strength of schedule to date 114th nationally, 13th toughest out of 14 SEC teams. Next major test: Oct. 6 at South Carolina, which has won the last two meetings. Toughest schedule stretch: Three straight away from home in October, including South Carolina and Florida. Even the game in between, at Kentucky, could be tricky – Georgia has struggled with the Wildcats in recent years. Current Dash ranking: No. 5. Dash prediction: Hard to see the SEC East winner being unbeaten – and that's before a potential matchup with Alabama in the conference title game.

South Carolina (23). Reason to like: Handled injury to quarterback Connor Shaw without a hitch and is off to a 2-0 start in SEC play. Reason to doubt: Has never lost fewer than two SEC games since joining the league in 1992, and the Eastern Division is tougher at the top than it's been since Tim Tebow left Florida. Next major test: Oct. 6 against Georgia. Toughest schedule stretch: Consecutive games against Georgia, at LSU and at Florida Oct. 6-20. Current Dash ranking: No. 6. Dash prediction: Unless running back Marcus Lattimore gets back to dominant form, South Carolina may lack the firepower to win its biggest games.

Oregon (24). Reason to like: Ducks have dominated four straight opponents, including a 49-0 demolition of ranked Arizona on Saturday. Reason to doubt: Oregon has yet to leave Eugene for a game, and Sagarin rates its schedule just the 96th toughest in the nation so far. Next major test: Oct. 18 at Arizona State, a Thursday night game against an opponent that has played very well at home this season. Toughest schedule stretch: November, which includes three road games (USC, California and Oregon State) and three ranked opponents (USC, Oregon State and Stanford). Current Dash ranking: No. 7. Dash prediction: This is the team to beat for the No. 2 spot.

Florida State (25). Reason to like: Already has played two ACC games and won both impressively, highlighted by second-half overwhelming of then-No. 10 Clemson. Reason to doubt: Hasn't played a road game yet. Also, is winning the ACC – currently the fifth-strongest league in the Sagarin Ratings – enough to win over voters accustomed to seeing the league underperform? Next major test: Oct. 20 at rival Miami, which has played pretty well outside of a meltdown in Manhattan against Kansas State. Toughest schedule stretch: Now. Five of the next seven are on the road, three of them against Sagarin top 45 competition (North Carolina State, Miami and Virginia Tech). Current Dash ranking: No. 8. Dash prediction: Seminoles will likely need some help, because undefeated teams from the Big 12 or Pac-12 likely would rate ahead of them.

LSU (26). Reason to like: Destroyed Pac-12's Washington, survived SEC road opener against desperate Auburn. Reason to doubt: The 12-10 struggle past Auburn revived questions about whether LSU has the quarterback play and overall offensive sophistication to win a national title. Zach Mettenberger's passer rating is just barely better than Jarrett Lee's was at this point last year. Next major test: Oct. 6 at Florida. Toughest schedule stretch: Oct. 6-Nov. 10. Four of the five opponents in that stretch are currently undefeated. Current Dash ranking: No. 9. Dash prediction: If the Tigers are 11-1 and everyone else has a loss, we could have another LSU-Alabama title game rematch – but The Dash thinks someone else gets through unscathed.

Stanford (27). Reason to like: Scored one of the biggest wins of the year to date nationwide, shutting out USC in the second half Sept. 15. Toughest team to run on in the nation so far. Reason to doubt: Hasn't played a road game, and we'll see whether quarterback Josh Nunes can throw it well enough to win a shootout. Next major test: Oct. 13 at Notre Dame. Toughest schedule stretch: Five of the final seven games are on the road, including season-ending trips to Oregon and UCLA. Current Dash ranking: No. 10. Dash prediction: Cardinal have been admirably strong after losing Andrew Luck, but winning in Eugene looks like a long shot.

Oregon State (28). Reason to like: Two games, two victories over ranked teams, no cupcakes so far. Reason to doubt: Wisconsin looks like it was badly overrated when it went into Corvallis. UCLA may prove to have been overrated as well. And two games is still a small sample size to judge how far the Beavers have come from 3-9 last year. Next major test: Saturday at Arizona. Toughest schedule stretch: November will be rugged, with Stanford and Oregon in addition to Arizona State and California. But three of the four are in Corvallis. Current Dash ranking: No. 11. Dash prediction: Oregon State is vastly improved. But Oregon State is not a realistic BCS championship game candidate despite the impressive start.

Who's not on this list, but could be when they finally start playing some quality opposition: Texas (3-0 heading into Big 12 play), West Virginia (4-0 and embarking Saturday on a streak of five straight games against undefeated opponents), Mississippi State (4-0 and could be 7-0 when visiting Alabama Oct. 27) and TCU (3-0 going into a revenge game at SMU Saturday, followed by Big 12 play).

COACHES IN TROUBLE

We're only one-third of the way through the regular season, but it's starting to get late early for a few embattled coaches. And for a few antsy fan bases who want to know what it will take to get unemployed outcast Bobby Petrino. The five coaches with the greatest sense of urgency right now:

John L Smith (29), Arkansas. You have to feel for Smith, who lost his brother last week – that's the truly bad news. Then he lost his third game in four tries as interim head coach of the Razorbacks. For a guy on a 10-month contract, that's not going to get it done. He absolutely will not be back in 2013. Chances of getting Petrino: zero. This is the place that got rid of him in the first place. A much hotter name will be Louisville coach and Arkansas native Charlie Strong.

[Related: John L. Smith confuses Arkansas and Alabama]

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Joker Phillips

Joker Phillips (30), Kentucky. A large percentage of the fan base gave up on Joker after the season-opening loss to rival Louisville. Then more gave up when the Wildcats lost at home to Western Kentucky. Apathy has set in. What would help: A return to health for starting quarterback Maxwell Smith. He sat out the Florida game and the Cats were shut out. To have any chance of scrounging up six victories this season, Smith has to play – and play well. Chances of getting Petrino if there is a change: decent. Kentucky fans saw firsthand what he did at Louisville and many of them would love to have that offensive mind on their side. And if it's a question of taking on a coach with baggage, well, the school hired John Calipari, didn't it?

Derek Dooley (31), Tennessee. Since leading Florida 20-13 in the third quarter Sept. 15, the Volunteers have set an SEC record for evaporated optimism. They were steamrolled 24-0 the rest of the way by the Gators, then were locked in a tie game with truly awful Akron in the middle of the third quarter Saturday before pulling away. Dooley is 14-15 at Tennessee and the next four opponents are undefeated - and the only one at home is No. 1 Alabama. If the Vols are 3-5 heading into November, the pressure will really be on. What would help: Some toughness on the defensive front. Tennessee is allowing a soft 4.6 yards per rushing attempt, has recorded only five sacks and is 81st nationally in tackles for loss. Chances of getting Petrino if there is a change: This might be the best spot, if the school has the stomach to make the hire.

Frank Spaziani (32), Boston College. He's 21-21 in his fourth year at Chestnut Hill, with steadily declining returns. Maybe 1-2 BC, coming off a bye week, catches visiting Clemson flat after the big loss to Florida State – but if not, this has the look of a second straight 4-8 season. With athletic director Gene DeFillipo retiring, there may not be enough people in Spaziani's camp. What would help: being able to run the ball. The Eagles are 114th nationally in rushing and are averaging just 2.99 yards per carry. Chances of getting Petrino if there is an opening: unlikely that a Catholic priest is going to sign off on that, and unlikely that Petrino would want the job.

Doug Marrone (33), Syracuse. He's 1-3 this year, 18-23 overall with the Orange and has lost eight straight games to FBS competition. Even in the modest Big East, his record is an uninspiring 6-15 – and next year the competition gets (a little) tougher in the ACC. What would help: Not turning over the ball ('Cuse is a minus-six in that department) and not being terrible on special teams (119th in net punting, 112th in punt returns, 111th in kickoff returns). Chances of getting Petrino if there is an opening: He can probably do better.

STEALTH GAMES OF THE WEEK

The communal flop of the Big Ten has taken the air out of the weekend. Nebraska-Wisconsin and Ohio State-Michigan State are now just games instead of games, and the rest of the slate is pretty dull. But The Dash did locate three games to circle and keep an eye on for various reasons.

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Cincinnati RB George Winn. (US Presswire)

Cincinnati-Virginia Tech (34) in Landover, Md. The Bearcats may benefit from watching video of what Big East brother Pittsburgh did to upset the Hokies on Sept. 15. Pitt creased Virginia Tech for 254 rushing yards – and Cincinnati can run the ball. If Cincy wins, look for it to roll 6-0 into Louisville for a Friday night game Oct. 26.

Baylor at West Virginia (35). Intriguing on a couple of levels. First, will the two pyrotechnic offenses combine to put 100 points on the board? Second, will the teetotaling Baptists from Baylor faint when they encounter the decidedly un-sober game-day atmosphere in Morgantown?

Penn State at Illinois (36). You might recall that first-year Illini coach Tim Beckman and his staff were literally on the Penn State campus after the NCAA laid the smackdown on the Nittany Lions, recruiting players right out of the dorms. That didn't go over real well with first-year Penn State coach Bill O'Brien. Since Penn State players are still free to transfer without restriction after the season, O'Brien and staff might want to be on the lookout for Illinois coaches giving their players the "Call me maybe" signal pre- and post-game.

COACH WHO EARNED HIS COMP CAR THIS WEEK

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Al Golden

Al Golden (37), Miami. It's been a harrowing start to his tenure at The U, from the Nevin Shapiro allegations in August 2011 to a subsequent Yahoo! Sports report that Golden allegedly committed violations of his own during a 6-6 record his first season. But the Hurricanes are 3-1 in a presumed rebuilding year after prevailing in a wild game at Georgia Tech. Miami went from up 19-0 to down 36-19, then rallied with 17 straight points to force overtime. Once there, the Hurricanes scored the only touchdown on a 25-yard run by senior Mike James.

COACH WHO SHOULD TAKE THE BUS TO WORK

BYU's Bronco Mendenhall (38). He easily made the worst coaching decision of the last week, at Boise State. The Cougars scored to make it 7-6 with 3:37 left in the game and Mendenhall decided to go for a two-pointer and the win. There were two big problems with that decision: BYU was out of timeouts, which meant a final possession would be sheer panic; and even more importantly, overtime would favor the team with even a scantly competent kicker. Riley Stephenson hasn't been great for the Cougars (his miss at the end helped cost them the Utah game) but Boise's kicker situation is even worse. Playing for overtime would have been the smart call.

PUTTING OUT AN APB FOR …

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Corey Lynch

Corey Lynch (39), the Appalachian State player who blocked Michigan's field goal on the final play to seal one of the all-time greatest upsets in college football history, in 2007. Lynch, who swatted down a 37-yard attempt, did some brief time in the NFL. Anyone with an update on Lynch, please apprise The Dash.

Meanwhile, The Dash is pleased to report that last week's APB subject, former Ohio State quarterback Joe Germaine, is alive and well and the head football coach at Queen Creek High School in Arizona. Germaine's Bulldogs are 5-0 this season.

POINT AFTER

The Dash had no time for socializing or revelry in Tallahassee last weekend, so there is no hot spot to tout. But the week before in the Bay Area was so good that there is a leftover recommendation from there. When thirsty in the San Francisco area, The Dash recommends Lagunitas IPA (40), brewed by the company of the same name in Petaluma, Calif. Thank The Dash later.

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