November 23, 2008

The Fix: Palm, Muschamp, bowl plans and more


Believe it or not, it's Texas A&M week, known to everyone else as Thanksgiving week.

This week the last two years has been right up there with getting the flu, watching one's 401K and winning free tickets to a Charlie Weis motivational speech for Texas fans.

But Longhorn players sound motivated to end a two-year losing streak to the Aggies.

"It's Senior Day. It's A&M," said Colt McCoy. "You couple those things and we want to play great, do our best and give ourselves a chance to win."

Added McCoy, "We just didn't finish (the last two years). Walking around the locker room this week the word will be finish. We know what's at stake. That's enough motivation in itself, in addition to losing the last two years."

TECH IS AN LCL (LUBBOCK CITY LIMITS) TEAM

Shame on me for thinking Texas Tech could keep its incredible offensive rhythm through a bye week and on the road against OU, where the Sooners are now 60-2 under Bob Stoops.

I dropped and gave myself 50 pushups. (And made it through 23 of them before passing out.)

BCS TALK

Let's get the College Football Fix started with an update from BCS guru Jerry Palm of CollegeBCS.com. (depression alert). Palm says Texas' No. 2 ranking in this week's BCS ranking is most likely fool's gold.

"OU is only 12 points ahead in the Harris Poll, 42 in the coaches poll," Palm said. "Some voters may be on the sideline a little bit waiting to see if Oklahoma finishes the job. It was not a good week for Texas in terms of getting into the Big 12 title game. Because Oklahoma is only going to gain ground from here in all three facets of the formula if it keeps winning.

"There's not a lot of reason for optimism for Texas, but that's what I've been saying all along.

"What Texas needs most of all is to be 12-1 or for Missouri to win the Big 12. Then, Texas would be the highest rated Big 12 team and it might open the door for them. If Oklahoma wins the Big 12 title, or Tech does, there's no reason to think Texas will finish ahead of either of those teams - nor any reason they should.

"So as far as the BCS title game is concerned, either Texas gets the miracle that puts them into the Big 12 title game and takes care of things themselves, or Missouri wins the Big 12 and opens the door for Texas. The Longhorns need Baylor to beat Tech. That puts Texas into the Big 12 title game. So if you're going to root for something, root for Baylor because that's first. When that fails, you root for Missouri in the Big 12 title game."

Palm said voters are overlooking Texas' head-to-head victory against OU because it is their nature to reward a team for playing well at the end of the season. Palm called OU's victory over Tech "one of the most impressive performances a team has had in a single game all year. They put up a basketball score. So likely they'll play for the Big 12 title."

But on a brighter note, Will Muschamp did not interview with Clemson, Tennessee or Washington this past week because he is now the FUTURE head coach at Texas. (I thought that would put a few smiles on faces.)


MUSCHAMP GETS THE JIMBO FISHER DEAL


After last season, Florida State named offensive coordinator Jimbo Fisher as the coach designate to Bobby Bowden, who is 79. The deal calls for Fisher to be the head coach after the 2010 season or else he gets paid a $2.5 million bonus. If Fisher decides to leave for another job before then, he pays $2.5 million.

The details of Will Muschamp's deal as coach-designate at Texas are still being finalized. Texas athletic director DeLoss Dodds said only that Muschamp will have a five-year contract as head coach whenever Mack Brown moves on.

"In the last few years I've watched universities who have hired new head coaches from the outside, and there's a bunch of trauma there generally," Dodds said. "You can lose a recruiting class, replace your whole coaching staff, you have athletes leave. There are all kinds of problems. Sometimes there are lawsuits, buyouts, but it's not a pretty picture in a lot of cases."

We decided to talk to Gene Williams of WarChant.com, Florida State's Rivals.com site, to get his thoughts on the pros and cons of having a head coach in waiting.


Q: How was the Jimbo Fisher deal received when it was announced?

WILLIAMS:
It was generally well received by everyone. Fans, alumni, recruits. That's one reason you do it, so you have long-term stability. If the head coach leaves, the recruits know who is going to be there. From that perspective, that's where the big benefit is.

Q: What are the traps in an arrangement like this?

WILLIAMS:
Everyone's situation is different. I can speak in terms of Florida State. You've got decisions being made that will directly affect Jimbo Fisher. And he may not have direct input on it. Or he has some, and it becomes a question on where do you draw the line between how much say belongs to Bobby Bowden and how much belongs to Jimbo Fisher. Jimbo Fisher might disagree on some of the recruits Coach Bowden is going after. We've heard there were some recruits Jimbo Fisher wanted that the defensive coaches didn't want. IN a couple years, those are the guys who are going to be leading the defense for Fisher, so that's a situation that could be frustrating.

Q: At what point does this relationship possibly become stale?

WILLIAMS:
Florida State is unique in that there is only two more years left on the situation. If Bobby Bowden doesn't step down after the 2010 season and hire Jimbo Fisher as the head coach, he'll get a nice buyout ($2.5 million) and go somewhere else. Conversely, if Jimbo Fisher takes another job before the three-year deal is up, he has to pay Florida State $2.5 million. Under state law in Florida, you can't have an open-ended contract. So they had to specify a date. Obviously, Mack Brown is a lot younger (57 years old) than Bobby Bowden (79 years old), so it will be interesting to see if Texas puts the transition at five years or eight years or what.

Q: What's the relationship like between Bowden and Fisher?

WILLIAMS:
It's good. Fisher was brought up in the Bobby Bowden school, so the philosophies are similar. Terry Bowden was his coach when he played. So it's a pretty good marriage. Coach Bowden has also been willing to delegate a lot of the responsibilities to Fisher. I could see where if the coaches' personalities don't mesh and the head coach isn't willing to delegate, it could become a serious issue. But it's been pretty smooth at Florida State so far.

Q: Why do you think these coach-in-waiting, coach-designate deals are gaining momentum?

WILLIAMS:
I think there's a couple reasons. One is recruiting. You can go into a recruit's home and tell the parents, 'We've got long-term stability here. You're going to know who the head coach is going to be. You're going to know their philosophies.' I think that's a huge plus for Florida State. The other thing is you see all these schools getting in a lurch trying to find a head coach. It's a media circus. It looks negative when they get guys turning them down. You saw that at Michigan and some other schools. But in these situations, if the head coach gets sick or steps down or retires. Boom. You're good to go. All that media circus is eliminated by naming the successor from inside.

Q: Are there ever times when the fans starting expressing things like, 'Why did we do this with Jimbo Fisher, why didn't we do it with someone else? Or what would Jimbo Fisher have done as coach? Or why can't we have Jimbo Fisher now?' Basically, things that could become distraction for the team and the coaches.

WILLIAMS:
That's another negative you see in the whole thing. There are a lot of fans who are ready to make the transition. A lot of them aren't. But a lot of them are. So you get people saying things like, 'Jimbo Fisher is doing more than Coach Bowden now, so why doesn't he just become the head coach?' Then you've got a situation where if the team suffers a couple losses, fans start saying, 'Well, this Jimbo Fisher isn't all he's cracked up to be. Why are we stuck with him? Did we make the right decision?' If you're doing well, it's not an issue. But if you suffer a couple losses, it lends to a lot of second-guessing and finger-pointing.

Q: One year into it, are fans still excited about Jimbo Fisher as their next head coach considering the Seminoles' offense has struggled at times?

WILLIAMS:
Interestingly, that's the one side of the ball that has improved dramatically this season. They've been recruiting really well on that side of the ball. Fans are pretty happy. When you have a game like the Boston College game and the team gets shut out - you'll get your usual post-game reaction where fans will point fingers and point them at Jimbo Fisher. But overall, I think they're happy because the offense has progressed this season. And I would say 80 to 90 percent of the fans are still excited he is going to be the next head coach.


BOWL PROJECTIONS

These are based on Sunday conversations with bowl officials connected to games with Big 12 tie-ins:

1. TEXAS
- As the highest-rated Big 12 team in the BCS, the Longhorns know what needs to happen to reach the BCS title game. (Jerry Palm explained it all earlier.) If Oklahoma beats Oklahoma State and then beats Missouri for the Big 12 title, Texas is all but assured of a Fiesta Bowl berth. If Oklahoma State beats OU, and Texas Tech beats Missouri for the Big 12 title, Texas Tech would go to the Fiesta if not the BCS national title game. If Missouri beats Oklahoma or Tech for the Big 12 title, and Texas falls short of the BCS title game, UT would be an attractive BCS at-large team to play Boston College in the Orange Bowl or Alabama in the Sugar Bowl.

2. OKLAHOMA - With wins against Oklahoma State and Missouri, the Sooners are probably in the BCS national title game. With a loss to Oklahoma State Saturday, the Sooners are a 2-loss candidate to be a BCS at-large team or land in the Cotton Bowl. With a victory over Oklahoma State and a loss to Missouri in the Big 12 title game, the Sooners are probably in the Cotton Bowl against Ole Miss.

3. TEXAS TECH - With a win against Baylor and a loss by Oklahoma to Oklahoma State, the Red Raiders are in the Big 12 title game. A victory over the Tigers in the Big 12 title game would put the Red Raiders into the Fiesta Bowl and possibly the BCS national title game. If OU wins out and Texas Tech finishes with a win against Baylor, the Red Raiders are probably in the Cotton Bowl. If Tech loses to Baylor, it could be in the Alamo.

4. MISSOURI - With a win in the Big 12 title game, it's off to the Fiesta Bowl. With a loss to Kansas or in the Big 12 title game, and it's probably off to the Alamo Bowl and a game against Northwestern.

5. OKLAHOMA STATE - With a win against Oklahoma on Saturday, the Cowboys could be Cotton Bowl bound. With a loss, the Cowboys are probably Holiday or Alamo bowl bound.

6. NEBRASKA - With a win against Colorado, the Cornhuskers are probably headed to the Gator Bowl for a possible matchup against Florida State. The Gator was leaning toward Notre Dame until Greg Robinson and Co. knocked off the Irish in South Bend. Even with a loss to Colorado, Nebraska is probably Gator Bowl bound.

7. KANSAS - It's looking like the Insight Bowl and a berth against Iowa, Wisconsin or Minnesota.

BOWL GAMES

BCS National Title Game -
Oklahoma vs. Florida

Fiesta Bowl - Texas vs. USC

Rose Bowl - Penn State vs. Oregon State

Orange Bowl - Boston College vs. Utah

Sugar Bowl - Alabama vs. Cincinnati

Cotton Bowl - Texas Tech vs. Ole Miss

Holiday Bowl - Oklahoma State vs. Oregon

Gator Bowl - Nebraska vs. Florida State

Alamo Bowl - Missouri vs. Northwestern

Insight Bowl - Kansas vs. Wisconsin


TEXAS' NEXT OPPONENT - TEXAS A&M (4-7, 2-5)
(7 p.m. Thursday, Royal-Memorial Stadium, ESPN)


The Aggies are coming off a 41-21 loss at Baylor. It was one of quarterback Jerrod Johnson's worst games - he had four interceptions. A&M is one of the worst rushing offenses (110th, 98.7 ypg) and worst rushing defenses in the country (115th, 219.5 ypg).

"We're a very fragile group (on defense) because we haven't had much success," Texas A&M coach Mike Sherman said. "Our coaches are constantly trying to rally our guys to believe in what we're doing. I think it's the transition from one scheme to another and guys trusting in themselves to do it the way they're supposed to do it. I had hoped we'd be further along, but it's obvious we've had our struggles."

Texas is a 33 -point favorite. That should tell you everything.

COAST TO COAST

TOP FIVE

1. FLORIDA
- Gators are chomping.

2. TEXAS - Longhorns beat OU head to head. Enough said.

3. OKLAHOMA - Coming on strong, but lost to Texas.

4. ALABAMA - Had the week off to find some more offense

5. USC - Defense is unreal, but unless Oregon State loses to Oregon - the Beavers win the Pac-10


CHIP'S HEISMAN TROPHY BALLOT

1. Colt McCoy -
Has done it all for a one-loss team that beat Oklahoma head to head

2. Sam Bradford - Does everything well, but doesn't have to provide team's ground game like McCoy does

3. Brandon Spikes - Linebacker from Florida has provided incredibly meaningful big plays for Gators this season


CHIP'S PICKS

WEST VIRGINIA (-3) at PITTSBURGH -
Pitt 24, West Virginia 21

MISSISSIPPI STATE at OLE MISS (-13) - Ole Miss 27, Mississippi St. 24

LSU at ARKANSAS - LSU 23, Arkansas 20

COLORADO at NEBRASKA - Nebraska 31, Colorado 17

MARYLAND at BOSTON COLLEGE (-6.5) - Boston College 27, Maryland 17

BAYLOR at TEXAS TECH (-20) - Texas Tech 35, Baylor 20

KANSAS vs. MISSOURI (-13) - Mizzou 38, Kansas 21

OKLAHOMA (-7.5) at OKLAHOMA STATE - Oklahoma 28, Oklahoma State 21

GEORGIA TECH at GEORGIA (-9) - Georgia 31, Georgia Tech 28

AUBURN at ALABAMA (-14.5) - Alabama 17, Auburn 14

OREGON at OREGON STATE (-3) - Oregon State 34, Oregon 31

NOTRE DAME at USC - USC 42, Notre Dame 0

ONE FINAL THOUGHT

Found it utterly entertaining to watch Greg Robinson and the Orange take down Chuck Weis and the Irish. Weis' post-game comments said everything about why his team never looks like it's having fun. He said if his players didn't bounce back with the right mindset next week at USC they'd be "humiliated" in a "massacre." "I told them it's their choice," Weis said. You just get the sense his players hate playing for the guy. If you're going to rip guys, you have to love them up. I don't know if Weis is capable of the later.


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