Forde-Yard Dash: Whittling down the list of potential contenders

Forty names, games, teams and minutiae making news in college football (last-play magic potion sold separately in East Lansing and Atlanta):

HALLOWEEN COSTUME TREND: DRESSING UP AS UNEMPLOYED FLOYD, THE FIRED/RETIRED/RESIGNED FOOTBALL COACH

With seven FBS coaches already gone before the end of October, there are opportunities for fans to capitalize with timely costumes for Saturday:

Fired Al Golden (1). Costume: white dress shirt, khakis, orange tie – and orange paw prints all over your body, signifying where Clemson stepped on you on your way to the Floyd line. For added points, get a friend to fly a remote-control model airplane over your head trailing a “Fire Golden” banner.

Retired George O’Leary (2). Costume: a white wig, a UCF pullover and a falsified résumé taped to your back. Among items on the resume: only Heisman Trophy finalist in University of New Hampshire history; 1972 Olympian; winner, 1986 Pulitzer Prize; war hero; Academy Award nominee, best supporting actor, 1994; Notre Dame head coach, 2001.

Resigned Steve Spurrier (3). Costume: visor, no shirt, can of Coors, golf club.

Steve Spurrier resigned midseason due to his team's poor performance. (Getty)
Steve Spurrier resigned midseason due to his team's poor performance. (Getty)

In black marker write “resigned” on your chest, and “not retired” on your back. If you want to add a list titled “Tennessee barbs” to roll up and stick in the back pocket, all the better.

Blindsided Randy Edsall (4). Costume: Under Armour sweatshirt. Flattop haircut. Knife in back with “Kevin Anderson” written on handle.

SIMPLE HALLOWEEN SUGGESTIONS FOR THE STATE OF MICHIGAN

Jalen Watts-Jackson (5). A No. 20 white Michigan State jersey, a football and a wheelchair.

Blake O’Neill (6). A No. 12 blue Michigan jersey and a football. Drop the football every few minutes.

AND THE PERFORMANCE ART HALLOWEEN DISPLAY THAT WILL PUT NEIGHBORHOOD JACK-O-LANTERNS TO SHAME

Wheel dumpster into front yard of person hosting Halloween party. Set contents ablaze. Place sign reading “Rutgers (7)” in front.

WHITTLING DOWN THE PLAYOFF FIELD

The herd of realistic contenders for the College Football Playoff has been thinned to 21 teams – and even that gives wide latitude to the word “realistic.” But The Dash is here to help. A brief breakdown by conference of each of the 21, and what needs to happen for them to stay in the mix:

Pac-12 (8). Right now this is the league on the outside of the bracket looking in. There are no Pac-12 unbeatens, and only two teams with a single loss.

Stanford (6-1): Since a surprising upset loss in the season opener at Northwestern (9 am PDT kickoff for that one), the Cardinal has reeled off six straight victories by double digits. The Stanford offense has shown new vitality in 2015 with the emergence of Christian McCaffrey as an all-purpose threat. The Cardinal can pick up plenty of strength-of-schedule points in the closing five games, with only Colorado looking like an easy victory. Finishing with victories over Notre Dame and a quality opponent in the Pac-12 title game could make Stanford the strongest one-loss team in the land.

Utah (6-1): This is the only other Pac-12 possibility. After watching USC linebacker Cameron Smith intercept their perfect season Saturday, the Utes need to win out and defeat Stanford in the Pac-12 title game, and may still have to hope for help elsewhere.

Big Ten (9). The league has three unbeatens. They are a combined 23-0. They have beaten a total of two currently ranked teams – one on the flukiest final play of the season, the other on a 57-yard field goal at the gun. The Dash has a suspicion that the Big Ten will be overly respected by the CFP committee – Messrs. Alvarez and Osborne presiding – when the first rankings are released Nov. 3.

Ohio State (8-0): At least the Buckeyes are now dominating opponents, beating Penn State and Rutgers the past two weeks by a combined 70 points. It was nice of Urban Meyer to start his best quarterback at last, and J.T. Barrett delivered handsomely against the Scarlet Knights.

J.T. Barrett's dominance Saturday made fans wonder why he hadn't been starting all season. (AP)
J.T. Barrett's dominance Saturday made fans wonder why he hadn't been starting all season. (AP)

What Ohio State’s SOS lacks can be made up on the back end – Michigan State and Michigan are the final two regular-season games, and a potentially undefeated (and overrated) Iowa team could be waiting in the Big Ten championship game. If Ohio State wins out, it will have a chance to defend its title. With one loss, it gets dicey.

Michigan State (8-0): The Spartans are probably in the same position as the Buckeyes – just win and you’re in. If they snap what would be a 23-game Ohio State winning streak in the Horseshoe and beat undefeated Iowa in Indy to reach 13-0, they’d be a lock. But this is a badly banged-up team, and a single loss could eliminate them from playoff contention.

Iowa (7-0): The Hawkeyes could be an intriguing test case. Assuming they beat Maryland on Saturday, they should rank at or near the bottom of the unbeaten teams in the first CFP rankings Nov. 3. And the strength of schedule gets no better over the final five games: Maryland, Indiana, Minnesota, Purdue and Nebraska are a combined 2-15 in Big Ten play. So basically Iowa would be hoping a one-game résumé – taking down unbeaten Ohio State or Michigan State in the league title game – carries the day. Oh, and hoping that Pittsburgh wins the ACC. That’s a lot of hoping.

SEC (10). The league’s last unbeaten team figures to be a solid underdog in its next game, Nov. 7 at Alabama. If LSU loses in Bryant-Denny Stadium, the SEC will need its reputation – and a few key non-conference wins – to carry some weight with the committee.

LSU (8-0): The Tigers will coast into the playoff if they win out, but that won’t be easy. They gave Florida its only loss to date and have won all other games by double digits with the exception of a road game against Mississippi State on Sept. 12 – and with the Bulldogs 6-2, that victory is holding up pretty well. In addition to playing Alabama, LSU also visits ranked Mississippi on Nov. 21. Few teams in the playoff hunt have two remaining road games that challenging.

Alabama (7-1): The Crimson Tide’s home loss to Mississippi could end up being the source of great debate and consternation – if not elimination. You could argue that Memphis was able to do what Alabama was not – beat the Rebels at home. You could also argue that if Memphis were minus-five turnovers against Ole Miss like the Tide was, it would have lost by 26 and not six. If Alabama wins out, it will have a claim to being the nation’s premier one-loss team and probably make the playoff.

Florida (6-1): A road loss to unbeaten LSU is no shame, and Florida’s domination of Ole Miss looks good in comparison to Alabama’s loss to the Rebels. If the Gators score victories over Georgia, Florida State and the SEC West champion in the league title game, that would be a strong 12-1 résumé to put on display. Even if they’re playing their backup quarterback the rest of the season.

Big 12 (11). November is the action month in a conference that saved all its marquee matchups for then. It may work splendidly, as the nation turns its attention to the American southwest for big-time games. But the old poll truism says that late losses hurt more than early losses, and as injuries mount it can also deplete the best teams for the biggest games. After what happened last year, and lacking major non-conference wins to help the overall league profile, the Big 12 better hope its (one true) champion is undefeated.

Baylor (7-0): The Bears have pretty much beaten nobody so far, but they’ve looked so good doing it that they’ve earned their way into most media mock brackets.

Seth Russell is done for the season after suffering a broken vertebrae in his neck Saturday. (AP)
Seth Russell is done for the season after suffering a broken vertebrae in his neck Saturday. (AP)

Now comes the hard part: a five-game closing stretch that includes three ranked teams, two of them unbeaten, and does not include injured star quarterback Seth Russell. Maybe Baylor can stay in playoff consideration with a loss and a backup QB, but that could be when its non-conference schedule of SMU, Lamar and Rice comes back to haunt.

TCU (7-0): The Horned Frogs know what it’s like to play hurt, having endured multiple major injuries on the defensive side of the ball. Yet they’ve won every game, perhaps because the competition has been soft: according to the Sagarin Ratings, TCU hasn’t yet played a single Top-40 opponent – and still it has narrowly avoided defeat twice. Like Baylor, the Frogs’ schedule is backloaded. Like Baylor, the Frogs’ playoff hopes may not be able to survive a loss.

Oklahoma State (7-0): Like all the other Big 12 leaders, the Cowboys are here on the strength of the zero in the loss column and not much else. They simply haven’t played enough good teams, or played with sufficient domination, to establish themselves as serious playoff contenders. Those opportunities all lie ahead.

Oklahoma (6-1): For the Sooners, playoff hopes will boil down to a three-game season Nov. 14-28 – at Baylor, home against TCU, at Oklahoma State. Any loss is an elimination loss, but if they win out, they could have a chance. It would help Oklahoma greatly if Texas continues to win games after its horrid start, thus legitimizing the upset loss in Dallas.

ACC (12). In all likelihood, this league has one team with a playoff chance – Clemson – and two with maybe-sorta-kinda chances if things break well in Florida State and Pittsburgh. North Carolina and Duke are hood ornaments at this point – the records look shiny, but they don’t serve a purpose in terms of playoff discussion.

Clemson (7-0): The Tigers are on the right side of the bubble, with a big victory over Notre Dame and three dominating wins thereafter strengthening their position. Despite looking letdown-proof, The Dash still feels compelled to call the Saturday trip to North Carolina State a potential trap game. Then comes the likely division-deciding home game against FSU. After that there are three overmatched opponents, including rival South Carolina, and an ACC title game. At 13-0, Clemson would make the field. At 11-1 with a loss to the Seminoles, or at 12-1 with a loss in the ACC title game? Probably not.

Florida State (6-1): The Seminoles’ margin for error evaporated in one crazy play at Georgia Tech on Saturday night. Now they must win out and hope their one-loss résumé compares favorably to others. Victories at Clemson and Florida would be pretty strong – but that defeat at the hands of what is already a five-loss Tech team is probably a deal breaker.

Pittsburgh (6-1): You could argue that the Panthers haven’t yet beaten anybody, and you’d be right. But you can also say that aside from Florida’s loss at LSU and Notre Dame’s loss at Clemson, nobody has a better defeat than Pitt: It came on a 57-yard field goal at the gun on the road against unbeaten Iowa. And now here come three straight games against one-loss teams: North Carolina at home Thursday night, Notre Dame at home Nov. 7, and at Duke on Nov. 14. If Pitt can somehow get to Charlotte 11-1 and then take down unbeaten Clemson, it would have a surprisingly solid argument for inclusion.

North Carolina (6-1): The Tar Heels have basically the same league schedule ahead as the Panthers, but they’re lacking the quality non-league win opportunity that Notre Dame presents. And their lone loss hasn’t held up over time: a 17-13 opening defeat against a South Carolina team that has been so disappointing it chased its coach into a midseason resignation. Still: if UNC gets to 11-1 and shocks Clemson in the title game, it would at least be in the conversation.

Duke (6-1): Two of the Blue Devils’ three ACC wins have come by two points, so we’re not exactly talking about a dominant 6-1 team. Still, Duke will be in a two-way tie for first in the loss column of the Coastal when it takes the field at home against Miami on Saturday. Win there, and the next two weeks (at UNC, home against Pitt) could well decide things. But non-conference wins over Tulane, North Carolina Central and Army don’t exactly stamp Duke a playoff contender.

The Rest (13). There are four more teams that could lead to a lot of cussing and discussing among fans, media and committee members over the next six weeks.

Notre Dame is still very much in the playoff picture with its difficult schedule. (AP)
Notre Dame is still very much in the playoff picture with its difficult schedule. (AP)

Notre Dame (6-1): Do the Fighting Irish have a chance? Absolutely. Their loss is, all things considered, a great loss: by two points on the road in a monsoon against unbeaten Clemson. Their win over USC is good, with a chance to get better if the Trojans finish strong. They have three remaining opponents with a combined record of 19-2, and face all of them on the road: Temple on Saturday, Pitt on Nov. 7 and Stanford on Nov. 28. If Notre Dame is 11-1 after Thanksgiving weekend, the debate will be delicious.

Temple (7-0): The undefeated Owls are a great story, but not a great playoff contender. At least not yet. The only Sagarin Top 50 team they’ve beaten is Penn State, which checks in at No. 48. And they’ve played a lot of truly bad teams. But there are three flashy opportunities still out there: home against Notre Dame on Saturday in the biggest game in school history; home against unbeaten Memphis on Nov. 21; and potentially against unbeaten Houston in the first AAC championship game. Should Temple reach 13-0 with those wins, dare to dream?

Memphis (7-0): The Tigers own one win that could be solid gold in the compare/contrast game, depending how things break – they beat Ole Miss by 13. The more the Rebels win in America’s alleged toughest division, the better that will look. If Memphis can buttress that with wins over undefeated Houston and Temple in successive weeks on the road Nov. 14-21, plus an AAC championship game victory, that will stir the pot.

Houston (7-0): Tom Herman has been great coaching up a talented, underachieving team, but the résumé is threadbare. The lone Power 5 victory to date is over a Louisville team with a losing record, and the other game against Power 5 competition is against perennial SEC bottom feeder Vanderbilt on Saturday. Beating an undefeated Memphis on Nov. 14 and an undefeated Temple in the AAC title game would give the Cougars something, but almost certainly not enough for playoff inclusion.

IF ALL HELL BREAKS LOOSE ...

... and everyone loses and a two-loss team gets a chance, who will it be?

Michigan (14). If Utah wins the Pac-12 and the Wolverines can finagle into a three-way tie for the Big Ten East division title at 7-1 – Ohio State beats Michigan State, and Michigan beats Ohio State – it would get interesting. Nobody could say it had a more fluky loss to a quality team than Michigan, and if it were the only team to beat the Buckeyes? Hey, The Dash would at least be willing to listen.

Georgia (15). Beat Florida, win the SEC East, then knock off unbeaten LSU in the league title game. Would that be enough to make people forget the complete flop at home against Alabama and subsequent blown lead at Tennessee? Maybe not. But remember, this is the if-all-hell-breaks-loose scenario.

Mississippi (16). The Rebels’ two losses are to teams that are a combined 13-1, so that’s not bad. (Well, the margin of defeat is pretty bad – a combined 41 points.) What Ole Miss could conceivably sell are the only losses inflicted upon Alabama and LSU, an SEC West title, plus a payback win over Florida in the SEC championship game. That would be a lot on the positive side of the ledger.

UCLA (17). If the Bruins continue to pile up victories after their two-game hiccup against Arizona State and Stanford, that would include quality road wins at Utah and USC.

Despite a slew of injuries, Jim Mora's Bruins are still in contention for the playoff ... for now. (Getty)
Despite a slew of injuries, Jim Mora's Bruins are still in contention for the playoff ... for now. (Getty)

(Admittedly not a long trip to USC, but the ticket distribution would be in favor of the Trojans.) Add a potential Pac-12 title-game revenge win over Stanford and you’d have a very good 11-2 résumé.

Penn State (18). The two losses are to unbeaten teams. Neither was close, but still. If the Nittany Lions could win out, beating Michigan and Michigan State in the process, and have Ohio State lose its last two games to those same teams, the Nittany Lions would shockingly win the Big Ten East. Finish it off by beating undefeated Iowa in the Big Ten title game, and hope for (even more) luck elsewhere.

BEST WINS BY TEAMS WITH LOSING RECORDS

Georgia Tech (19) over FSU. At 2-5, the Yellow Jackets were one of the biggest disappointments in America. Then they ran a blocked field goal back with no time left to hand the Seminoles their first regular-season loss since October 2012 and became the nation’s darlings for a weekend.

Texas (20) over Oklahoma. Absolutely everything had gone wrong in the first five games for the Longhorns – offense, defense, special teams, social media. Then the 1-4 Horns got up off the deck and shocked their hated rivals in Dallas. Charlie Strong has never looked more dashing than when he was wearing the golden cowboy hat on the floor of the Cotton Bowl afterward.

Washington (21) over USC. The game destined to be remembered as the night that sent Steve Sarkisian over the edge.

Tennessee (22) over Georgia. The Volunteers came into the game reeling, with a 2-3 record and three blown leads on their résumé. Then they reeled some more, falling behind 24-3 late in the second quarter. But some gutsy calls by coach Butch Jones and clutch execution by his players triggered a huge comeback and a sweet victory.

South Carolina (23) over North Carolina. The Head Ball Coach’s one shining moment in his dismal final half a season. Tar Heels fans are still trying to get over QB Marquise Williams throwing two interceptions in the end zone in a four-point loss, in what has been their only defeat of the season.

South Alabama (24) over San Diego State. The Jaguars have lost by 39 to Nebraska, by 50 to North Carolina State, and by 18 to both Arkansas State and Texas State. But on Sept. 19, the Sun Belt school went on the road and made magic happen against the leader of the Mountain West's West Division. South Alabama kicked a 46-yard field goal on the last play of regulation to tie the game, then won in overtime.

THE RACE TO REPLACE

It would seem the rush of in-season coaching changes is an unsettling move for the college game toward pro-level urgency to produce – except that college football has had pro-level stakes for some time now. And in looking at the seven changes so far, Steve Sarkisian’s could not be helped and Steve Spurrier’s seemed completely unilateral on the part of the coach. So there are some individual circumstances that don’t fit the trend.

However, there is little doubt that schools are more willing than ever to fire a coach whenever it believes a critical mass has been reached. Perhaps athletic directors are trying to pull a Greg Byrne (25), who four years ago pulled a Jeremy Foley.

In 2011, Byrne, Arizona's athletic director, fired Mike Stoops in the middle of his eighth season – a move that drew some harsh criticism at the time. But what Byrne gained was time to go to work on identifying, recruiting and negotiating with his next coach. He took a swing at Urban Meyer, then zeroed in on the guy he hired, Rich Rodriguez. Arizona was able to get ahead of the pack pursuing the former Michigan coach.

That’s a page from Foley’s 2004 playbook at Florida, where he fired Ron Zook midseason and went to work on landing Meyer. Notre Dame also wanted Meyer, but was outflanked by the forward-thinking Foley.

So there can be a strategic advantage gained by thinking ahead and acting early, especially if the desired hire is not coaching elsewhere at the time. Which makes The Dash wonder, how many schools currently have their eye on Greg Schiano?

Here are three other colleges that appear likely to fire their current coach at some point, perhaps before the final game has been played.

Darrell Hazell may not be long for the Purdue job. (Getty)
Darrell Hazell may not be long for the Purdue job. (Getty)

Purdue (26). Darrell Hazell is only in his third year, but the expectation in industry circles is that the school will make a change – question is when. With the bye week just past, Purdue likely will wait until the season is over. At 5-26, Hazell has the worst winning percentage in school history for any coach with more than one season on the job (.161), and Purdue just announced a $60 million fundraising campaign for football facility upgrades that will be a tough sell under the current regime. But will the historically frugal school have a realistic wish list for its next coach, or strike out attempting to attract big names?

Virginia (27). The Cavaliers are 2-5 and likely on their way to a fourth-straight losing season – something that hasn’t happened in Charlottesville since 1975-78. Mike London has overseen all four, and this would be five losing seasons in six years on the job. In other words, two more losses should seal the deal. However, Ivy League-educated athletic director Craig Littlepage doesn’t seem like an in-season firing guy. He’s resisted fan pressure this long; what’s five more games?

Rutgers (28). The glimmers of good times never seem to last here – the Scarlet Knights haven’t had a regular-season winning streak since October of last year. This year, at 3-4, the season highlight was a furious rally to beat Indiana 55-52 on Oct. 17 – a stirring performance Rutgers followed with a 49-7 home loss to Ohio State. But the losing is just a veritable cheese cube on the buffet of issues the school is plowing through. Kyle Flood’s job is in grave jeopardy for so many reasons that the only counter-argument to keeping him would seem to be a fear of athletic director Julie Hermann being entrusted with hiring his replacement. (According to NJ.com, Hermann vaguely and unconvincingly offered “support” for Flood when asked about him following a groundbreaking ceremony Saturday.)

Two other schools that may be trying to perform the difficult task of nudging out legends on something other than their own terms:

Virginia Tech (29). Frank Beamer’s program had slipped badly the previous three years, but this could be his worst season since 1992. The Hokies are 3-5, and three of the last four regular-season games are on the road. But if Beamer doesn’t want to go, can he successfully be finessed out? Athletic director Whit Babcock isn’t yet two years into the job, and could be faced with trying to round up booster support to oust the best coach in school history.

Kansas State (30). The Wildcats are winless in Big 12 play and haven’t beaten a Power 5 opponent since last November. The current slide includes a 55-0 loss to Oklahoma that hearkened back to the bleak, pre-Bill Snyder days. Now it’s time to consider the post-Bill Snyder days, since the Hall of Famer is 76 years old. Snyder may be ready to retire – but what if he wants to not only promote a successor from within the program, but within the family? Son Sean Snyder has been on staff for 20 years, but has never coordinated anything other than special teams. Almost every athletic director would feel squeamish about that succession plan, and K-State’s John Currie is a pretty smart AD.

ACADEMIC FOCUS APPARENTLY LACKING FOR OLE MISS STAR NKEMDICHE

When the Lott Impact Trophy folks sent out the lengthy ballot of quarterfinalists for the award for the nation’s top defensive player, there was a surprising footnote at the bottom: “ROBERT NKEMDICHE, DE, Ole Miss – School does not feel he meets academic standards.”

Two other players – Joey Bosa of Ohio State and Shawn Oakman of Baylor – were omitted from the quarterfinal ballot after being suspended for a game. But the exclusion of Robert Nkemdiche (31) – a potential high draft pick after this, his junior season – wasn’t tied to a specific incident or situation.

Robert Nkemdiche has played both offense and defense for the Rebels this season. (AP)
Robert Nkemdiche has played both offense and defense for the Rebels this season. (AP)

Ole Miss simply felt he wasn’t doing the job in the classroom in order to push him for an award that takes that into consideration.

The Dash asked Lott Trophy spokesman Pete Donovan for further explanation. He emailed back: “We do not have a specific academic criteria, such as a minimum grade point average. We ask the Sports Information Directors if their student-athlete is attending and passing classes. In the case of Nkemdiche, Ole Miss notified us after the season began that they felt he did not qualify academically for our award.”

The Dash sought comment from Mississippi on Monday and did not receive a response. However, the school got in touch with the Lott people Monday in response to the Yahoo inquiry, according to an email that was forwarded to The Dash. They forwarded an email chain from earlier in October that included the following between Lott Award officers, from Oct. 6:

“After several attempts, I finally connected w/ my guys at Ole Miss re; Robert Nkemdiche. They were very apologetic for not getting back to me sooner, however they stated that unfortunately they don’t feel that Robert is suitable for consideration. While stellar on the field, they don’t believe that he has the academics nor the community service that would be suitable for consideration.”

If Nkemdiche’s academics are that suspect, you wonder whether he’d be eligible for a bowl game. Those are almost universally played after fall-semester grades are in, and several players in past years have missed bowls after a bad semester.

Ole Miss spokesman Kyle Campbell provided the following response Tuesday morning: "I am not allowed to discuss a student-athlete’s eligibility, but I can confirm he is not at risk. Obviously there are many awards that our media relations team has nominated Robert for. This particular award has subjective criteria, and due to student-athlete privacy concerns, I am not able to share the specifics of the decision-making process."

Between that and star offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil missing seven games due to NCAA violations regarding impermissible benefits from agents, it’s clear that there can be a price to pay for recruiting players with eyes fixed on the NFL.

THROWBACK UNIFORMS OF QUESTIONABLE TASTE

Saturday against Penn State, Maryland (32) broke out throwback uniforms from 1961 – which, until last year, was the last time the Terrapins had beaten the Nittany Lions. Turns out this was an even worse idea than the Terps’ awful normal uniforms.

Because in 1961, Maryland was an all-white team that would not recruit African-Americans. The first black Terrapin on scholarship did not arrive until 1962, when Darryl Hill came in as a transfer from Navy. He first took the field in ’63.

The Dash was informed that several black former Terps were upset by the decision to wear a uniform celebrating the school’s segregated past. Maryland might want to keep its history books handy the next time it gets a throwback idea.

THE ERA OF THE ANONYMOUS DB TURNED HERO

With two indescribably improbable returns, Jalen Watts-Jackson of Michigan State and Lance Austin (33) of Georgia Tech have followed the fleet footsteps of Chris Davis (34) at Auburn. They have gone from nobody to somebody famous in the time it took to grab a football and run to daylight with no time on the clock.

Watts-Jackson did it with a botched punt Oct. 17 to beat Michigan. Austin did it with a blocked field goal to beat Florida State on Saturday. But Davis is The Original, with his 109-yard return of a missed field goal to beat Alabama in 2013.

And don’t forget Clemson safety Jayron Kearse (35), who isn’t really anonymous (he was the Tigers’ leading returning tackler from 2014) but also is not a household name. Kearse is responsible for forcing a Notre Dame fumble inside the 5-yard line in the fourth quarter of the Tigers’ 24-22 victory over the Fighting Irish.

Which DB will jump out of nowhere and into America’s consciousness this week? Stay tuned.

LIP UPDATE: WE HAVE A WINNER

Hearty congratulations to Anu Solomon (36) of Arizona. You are the 2015 Last Interception Pool champion. Solomon now has thrown 202 passes this season without a pick, outlasting the rest of the field. (The catch: Solomon was benched in the second half Saturday against Washington State, which admittedly is backing into the award. But those are the breaks.)

His final competitors, Everett Golson of Florida State and Dak Prescott of Mississippi State, both bowed out Saturday night, throwing their first interceptions of the season against Georgia Tech and Kentucky, respectively. That leaves the winnings to Solomon: a mousepad from 2003 Conference USA media days, some gently used compression tights, and the undivided attention of Dashette Tena Desae (37). Congrats, Anu.

Tena Desae
Tena Desae

COACH WHO EARNED HIS COMP CAR THIS WEEK

Clay Helton (38), USC. In his second week as the boss, the interim guy guided the Trojans to their biggest victory in two years, a romp past Utah. With Sarkisian gone, Helton has been a stabilizing influence. Given the talent at his disposal, there could be many more wins to come.

COACH WHO SHOULD TAKE THE BUS TO WORK

Gary Pinkel (39), Missouri. The Tigers have become completely unwatchable on offense, as they’ve slid to 1-4 in the SEC. They were 0-14 on third-down conversions Saturday against Vanderbilt – Vanderbilt! – and scored in single digits for the third straight game and fourth time this year. Pinkel suspended starting quarterback Maty Mauk weeks ago, and touted true freshman Drew Lock has been thrown to the wolves behind a horrible offensive line. The two-time defending SEC East champions are 127th out of 128 teams nationally in both total offense and scoring offense. The Tigers may not win again in 2015 – or, at this rate, cross midfield again.

POINT AFTER

The Dash kept it local over the weekend, but did sample a nice line of Cincinnati-brewed beers. Try the Truth IPA or Cougar Blonde Ale from Rhinegeist (40) and thank The Dash later.

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