Upon Further Review

Mike Zierath, Staff Columnist
Hawkeye Report

We are 1/3 of the way through the season. Sounds like a good time to take a look back at the preseason prognostications about coaching hot seats and see where we currently are.

As of this time, the only major casualty has been Missouri’s Defensive Coordinator DeMontie Cross. The odd thing about this firing was Missouri head coach Barry Odom said, “it had nothing to do with on the field production”. Huh, I’ll be darned. Turns out it was a “Philosophical” difference. I’d have a philosophical difference if my team had been outscored 117-30 in the last three games. Funny thing about that………..Odom took over the defensive coordination job the latter part of last year.

Let’s get after it.

Last year at this time, I had already fired Clay Helton, Gus Malzahn and a few others that are still working at their chosen profession. Shows how much I know. Now, I did, however, get a few right too. Les Miles, Mark Helfrich and Charlie Strong come to mind.

Prior to this season starting, I stated that, barring a series of catastrophic events, it appeared that the ACC and Big Ten looked fairly secure. There was a catastrophic event last week when Nebraska fired their AD, leaving Mike Riley flapping in the wind. Just a matter of time for “the nicest guy in coaching”! A couple names to keep in mind are Steve Addazio at Boston College in the ACC and Chris Ash at Rutgers. Both have been struggling and while I don’t think that either one of them will get the axe this year, they need to get it turned around quickly. One that seems to be getting a bit more popular is Lovie Smith at Illinois. He really seems to be having trouble separating college from the Pros in my opinion, particularly with comments he makes to media that seem to me he still thinks he’s coaching the Bears. It’s a different game Lovie, recognize it or leave it.

My number one hot seat coaching projection was Kliff Kingsbury at Texas Tech. They were dead last in defense last season and there were no signs of life from anything other than their incredibly potent offense. They are 3rd in total offense after four games this season, averaging 587 yards a game. They are 86th in total defense. They are also 3-0, which, doesn’t make my prediction of doom look all that ominous for Coach Kingsbury. However, the meat of their schedule is on the horizon. I think that we are about to see the true Techsters. The defense is trending in the right direction after starting the season at 3rd after one game. They will be tested by the opposition defense in upcoming games as well. I still think Kliff is standing on the edge of, well……………a cliff.

David Beaty, even after inking a contract extension at Kansas, has to be moving up the list quickly. They just aren’t good and aren’t getting any better from what I’ve seen early this year.

Next, Gary Anderson was my guy in the Pac-12, and still is. The Beavers aren’t good. They are 117th in total defense, 98th in total offense. In the very competitive Pac-12 North, those numbers won’t keep him employed.

I called Jim Mora a pre-season stretch. Now that I’m old, I know I should stretch before I get out of bed in the morning, but this one is starting to look good. UCLA is 2-2. They should be 1-3 except for a remarkable meltdown by Texas A&M in the first game that allowed them a gift. I have a feeling this is going to get worse for Mora before it gets better.

I also had Rich Rod over Todd Graham as another hot seat candidate. They both really were, that was just a pick'em. Would not surprise me to see both out before the end of the season.

The SEC hot seat watch is getting fun! Don’t think so?

Kevin Sumlin at A&M is still battling for his life. Barry Odom at Missouri is basically begging for his. Butch Jones, whether you think he should be on the list or not, is probably on the list. Some think Gus Malzahn and Ed Orgeron should be on the list. I don’t think either of them are.

The guy that I projected as a long shot hot seat coach was our very own Bret Bielema. I saw Bret up close and personal this past weekend……he’s getting harder and harder to miss. As his paycheck has grown, so has his waist! His ego was always big, so that hasn’t changed. What I think is funny, and have always noted, he never wears shorts. Anyone else see that? It’s not because his legs are white or his waist is large…..has something to do with that big beautiful tattoo on his calf. Anyway………..Bret is allowing his team to play him right on to the hot seat. The biggest issue with Bret and being fired is the buyout that is as large as that sweatshirt he was wearing on Saturday. My Google skills aren’t what some of yours are, but it appears his buyout would be right around 18 million if he were let go this year. That goes down to around 9-11 million next year. I don’t know if Hog fans can wait another year.

I had an incredible college football experience this weekend. Decided it was time to start going to some of the local games and picked the Arkansas vs Texas A&M game at AT&T Stadium. I’ve always been a closet A&M fan, so it just seemed natural. My better half amused me and tagged along and we were treated to a very enjoyable game and atmosphere. One thing I noticed immediately, southern ladies at these games really dress out. I talked to some A&M season ticket holders inside, and they said that this display was mild. If I really wanted to see a fashion show, I needed to come to Kyle field, or, head to “The Grove” at Ole Miss. I was told, they even wear Kentucky Derby style hats to those games. Another thing I gleaned from my conversations were that most A&M fans had probably had enough of Kevin Sumlin. It wasn’t that they disliked him, it’s that they want better. They are tired of being, well, average. Sound like a familiar complaint?

My weekend was capped by an exciting evening of football. I really didn’t give the Hawks much of a chance, but I said all week, if they can keep it close, I like their chances. They kept it close, and I really thought they would pull it off at the end, until Saquan Barkley, Trace McSorley and the Penn State Nittany Lions ripped my soul out on the last play. I said this earlier this week on the boards, but I’m certain I know how MSU fans felt the year 7 got 6! There were no tears though fellas, I’m saving those for the day Iowa wins a National Championship, or a Big Ten Championship, or when coaches make a questionable player personnel decision and I’ve consumed too much Fireball!

I like Iowa’s makeup right now. We’ll learn a lot about them in the coming weeks, but right now, they look a little better than the 7-5 team I had them pegged for.

Referees have had a tough year. It started the first week, rolled poorly into the second, we saw some highly questioned calls the third and I was witness to one in person and one on television in the fourth. The one I witnessed personally was so egregious, that there was an apology issued before the game had even finished. Texas A&M freshman quarterback Kellen Mond ran an RPO, kept the ball and went 73 yards for what appeared to be a touchdown. Only problem was, the side judge ruled him out at the 10 yard line after there was some contact at that point. Now, for those that don’t know, AT&T stadium has one of the nicest video displays in sports. It’s also one of the largest and displays in HD! When they showed the replay it was very obvious that Mond hadn’t stepped out, and it wasn’t even close. A play that is ruled out of bounds is not reviewable. Unfortunately, the entire stadium, both fan bases, knew the truth. Arkansas held them out of the end zone, and A&M settled for a FG. A 4-pt swing. As it stood, it turned in to a 5 point play because later in the game, A&M did the right thing and went for a 2-pt conversion, which failed. Had they just been able to kick the extra point, it’s five points. That call caused the game to be a three point margin at the very end and A&M was able to kick a FG to send it to overtime. If the call had been correct, A&M would have enjoyed a 2 point victory in regulation, 45-43.

The other terrible call was in the TCU vs Okie State game. TCU was headed for the end zone, up 27-17. Only problem, the back fumbled the ball, prior to crossing the goal line. Replay, in my opinion, confirmed that. Refs took a look, and somehow managed to disagree with what seemed to be an easy call, fumble, touchback, Oklahoma State ball. Instead, it was touchdown TCU and a 34-17 lead. Oklahoma State just couldn’t recover. Puts a damper on one of my potential CFP participants!

I realize refs are human. I like the human element of the game. But, if you are going to have replay, and look at darn near everything, it takes the human element nearly out of the game. I think that part of it is what causes refs to be overly careful in making calls, because, they don’t want to be wrong. They want to go to replay and feel good that their calls are upheld. And sometimes, I think that is preventing them from doing a better job.

The good news is that when I woke up Sunday morning the pain had lessened and my sentiments about college football were still the same: it’s the best game in sports…..period.

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