Cleaning Up the Mess 2015: Week 8

(Via USAToday Sports)

Author’s note: I apologize for the lack of a TV Party post this week but some issues came up and the thin slate dictated that I also give myself a bye week. Everything should be back to regularly scheduled programming in Week 9.

Cleaning Up the Mess is here to make sense of what just happened at your weekend-long television party. Who put Goldfish in the blender? And why is the thermostat on 42?

This week: Paul Johnson. Paul Johnson. Paul Johnson. Best guest ever. 

Roberto Aguayo was sent in on 4th down with six seconds left in the game to top his career long of 53 yards by attempting a 56-yard field goal to edge Florida State over Georgia Tech. The Seminoles were hobbled by the Yellow Jacket defense all evening in a game that saw Everett Golson throw his first interception of the year, while Dalvin Cook didn’t even scratch 90 yards on the ground. At 16-16, the game was a haphazard, rough draft of what a football game was supposed to be, and Aguayo’s field goal was going to be the punctuation mark to an otherwise ugly game.

ESPN’s camera took the point of view from behind Aguayo as the ball was snapped. Everything was routine until the camera jerked ferociously. The only thing indicating a blocked kick was the call from Mark Jones, who screamed as Georgia Tech’s Lance Austin cradled the ball in his arms and took off down the sideline. Austin flew past defenders and weaved past Aguayo, a few seconds removed from being Florida State’s hero. Aguayo lunged after Austin and ended up flat on his stomach, only to watch as Austin entered the end zone then into the arms of elated Georgia Tech fans. “What a time to be alive,” Jones exclaimed as fans clamored to be next to a player who had never scored a touchdown in college until that very moment, when the ticker rolled 22-16.

As bedlam ensued at the end zone, Paul Johnson waltzed his confident ass toward midfield with his tongue hanging out as if he were Kobe Bryant. And why not? He had every right to gloat. The Yellow Jackets ended a 28-game ACC winning streak for the Seminoles that started prior to Jameis Winston’s first game against Pitt in 2013. They did it with a losing record, and they did it in a way that can be described as equal parts shocking, hilarious and mind blowing.

Georgia Tech’s win means less for the Yellow Jackets than it does for Florida State. The Seminoles were enjoying some mid-season evaluation and recalibration in the national media regarding their shot at a national championship. With the last second loss to the Yellow Jackets and a bloody Ibis left for dead in Coral Gables by Clemson, Florida State’s chances at ascending to college football’s coveted Valhalla have all but evaporated into the Atlanta atmosphere. The Seminoles would need the kind of college football reckoning that would knock Clemson out of contention for the Atlantic division along with winning out.

That’s not to say that utter chaos isn’t an option. Georgia Tech’s own special teams miracle is the second consecutive last ditch play that involved a botched kick after the “Gift Six” during Michigan-Michigan State. It also was the highlight of a day which included two games that went into quadruple overtime within hours of one another. Chaos is always on the table in college football, but the season that brought us Confident Ass Paul Johnson has reaped an ample amount that has brought us incredibly close to the brink of a repeat of 2007. Therefore, Florida State can still be in this thing, but it’s not really up to them at this point. It’s up to whatever cruel football deity that deems Clemson less worthy as the ACC’s representative in the Playoff.

What a time to be alive, indeed.

***

(Via Kelvin Kuo – USAToday Sports)

USC opened as a three-point favorite at home against Utah. The line moved to six and a half points as of Saturday morning. Everyone in college football cried foul due to the off-the-field issues surrounding Steve Sarkisian as well as a clear lack of defense. I found myself mystified, the only reasoning I was able to think of being the Trojans’ embarrassment of riches on offense. Even if Utah had better coaching and a better game plan, the amount of talent that the Trojans have is the only reason that I could think that Vegas had ranked them so high. The advanced statistics offered some credence to Vegas’ odds making. Football Outsiders’ S&P+ ratings projected that the Trojans would beat Utah by 5.6 points with a 62.7% win probability. The results proved far more lopsided than the statistics suggested.

The Utes kept pace with the Trojans on offense by putting up 353 total yards to USC’s 380 but the Trojans managed to tamp down on the Utes’ Travis Wilson. Wilson was intercepted four times; USC converted two of those interceptions into touchdowns. WR Juju Smith-Schuster racked up 143 yards and a touchdown, a stat line that outpaced Utah’s impact player RB Devontae Booker. Booker only rushed for 62 yards on 14 carries, a meager average of 4.4 yards per carry.

Utah’s 42-24 loss in Los Angeles knocks them out of playoff contention and puts them in the same waiting room with Florida State. As far as their aspirations for their first Pac-12 title game are concerned, they are still squarely at the top of the Pac-12 South. Both UCLA and USC sit below the standings with two conference losses putting Utah squarely in control of their conference title destiny even with the loss to the Trojans. For the Utes to lose a shot at it would require a huge face plant in their last five games. Is it possible? Yeah, but in the same way that Confident Ass Paul Johnson was possible in the final six seconds of the Florida State-Georgia Tech game.

***

Miami’s worst loss in school history came at the hands of what may be one of Clemson’s best teams ever. It should be noted though that one of the Tigers’ best play came when they sacked Brad Kaaya rushing ONLY TWO DEFENDERS. If you’re a good football team, this should never happen. Even if you’re a mediocre football team, this shouldn’t be happening. But, Miami, even with all of its talent from one of the most football rich regions in one of the most football rich states, looks like a team that is struggling to make a bowl game. That is why Al Golden was fired on Sunday evening.

Golden’s tenure was always an uphill battle since his first year on the heels of NCAA sanctions that resulted from the Nevin Shapiro investigation. Golden was supposed to be the answer to years of scandal that the administration had felt was tied to the “swag” image of the program while also delivering wins. Instead, the program buttoned up while promoting their past with little results to show for the contradicting styles. That is why Al Golden was fired on Sunday evening.

The Hurricane football program has been plagued with facilities and a stadium that is light years behind other programs that are constantly in national contention. It has been this way since the heyday of the program in the 1980s. Yet, the neon glow of the ’80s has forever colored how former players and alumni have held the program. Golden could never rise up unless he was able to compete with hated rival Florida State, a program that rose again to prominence in the late-aughts and early 2010s. Golden never won a single game against Florida State in his tenure. That is why Al Golden was fired on Sunday evening.

The end of Al Golden at Miami opens the door for the Hurricanes to get a head start in a coaching race that is crowded, with USC and South Carolina, among others, looking for coaching talent. The problem that Miami faces is that they may not have the kind of money to attract upstart candidates like Justin Fuente and Tom Herman, both of whom may only see a slight bump in pay from their jobs in the AAC. The only attractive candidate and fit for the program may be Mario Cristobal, Alabama’s current O-Line coach who played at UM in the early ’90s. He has a vast knowledge of the program and has deep ties in South Florida. He’s also been promoted on Twitter by Uncle Luke as a viable option. While having connections in Miami may help, it still won’t bring new facilities and national attention to a place that has long been away from the center of the college football universe but still has a fan base that considers it as the sun, the moon and stars.

OTHER LEFTOVER PARTY FAVORS

  • Ohio State ran through Piscataway in a 49-7 win and managed to make fun of ornery actors of the Revolutionary War along the way. JT Barrett’s first start of the 2015 season resulted in 324 yards and five touchdowns. The Buckeyes now look like the number one team that was unanimously voted for at the beginning of the season. All of this is happening after certain people have written them out of the playoff picture.
  • Baylor rolled over Iowa State 45-27 in a game that saw Seth Russell leave in the 2nd quarter with a fractured neck bone. The Bears were held to one of their smallest margins of victory thus far, which really doesn’t mean anything when you consider that this is a Paul Rhoads team that has done far worse to far better teams.
  • Michigan State was only leading 28-26 near the end of the third quarter against Indiana at home. Then, the Spartans proceeded to score 24 unanswered points to win 52-26 and get one game closer to their November 21st date with Ohio State.
  • UCLA stopped Cal’s drive towards a bowl game in a 40-24 rout of the Golden Bears. Jared Goff posted a QBR of 54.3 with 295 yards and three touchdowns on 32 of 53 attempts. He was essentially lobbing up passes to keep in lock step with Josh Rosen who looked elite with 399 yards and three touchdowns on 34 of 47 attempts. That kind of effort deserves some kind of spa treatment. Good thing Rosen already has a hot tub in his bedroom.
  • Temple extended their undefeated season with a 24-14 victory over East Carolina. Head coach Matt Ruhle is now starting to see his name circulate in the coaching carousel that has been fired up.
  • Two other school extended their undefeated seasons: Houston and Memphis. Houston’s 59-10 beatdown of UCF was so severe that George O’Leary finally decided to retire. Meanwhile, Memphis participated in another game that shot well above the 80-point mark in total points with a final score of 66-42 against Tulsa.
  • Alabama slowly creeps its way toward another playoff appearance after a slow rolling, Derrick Henry-led 19-14 win against Tennessee.
  • Ole Miss rebounded nicely with a 23-3 victory over Texas A&M that made Myles Garrett laugh at the inability of the Aggie offense to do anything.
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