Starting 11: LSU Coach Les Miles Needs His Own Reality Show
Holding a 30-10 lead with just over 10 minutes remaining, against a team of backups, Miles went all Les Miles on us. That means his decision-making suddenly went askew. Two touchdowns from North Carolina sliced the LSU lead to 30-24 and the Tar Heels recovered the onside kick. UNC managed to force a turnover and took possession with 1:29 remaining.
At this point, North Carolina had two timeouts left.
This is where the entire LSU coaching staff bears the brunt of criticism. If LSU is willing to overpay Miles $4 million a year, why can't it pay someone, anyone $80,000 a year to be the voice of Les Miles reason? That person would listen on the headset and say something like, "Instead of running offensive plays, let's just take three knees, coach. They only have two timeouts left. No need to get risky here. Let's take the win and get out of town. Drop a quarterback back twice, take knees, and you're sitting at 1:20 left after they burn both of their timeouts. Take another knee, drop back until a defender gets close, knee it, and we're sitting at around 40 seconds left when we punt. Drill the ball through the end zone and North Carolina has to go 80 yards in 32 seconds with no timeouts left."
That's the percentage play, right? Every fan of reasonable intelligence would have made this suggestion, right? Hell, I'll make this offer: let me be on the sideline with LSU and Miles for the remainder of the season. I'll take on this role, and all I ask as remuneration is that you let me write a book about my season as Miles' coaching conscience, the angel on the mad hatter's shoulder. It will cost you absolutely nothing. Plus, I'll increase your probability of victory.
You know where to find me, LSU.
Instead, you know what happened. LSU ran three plays, including, alarmingly, a toss sweep on third down that, predictably, ended in a fumble and left LSU relying on North Carolina's tight end dropping two passes in the end zone that kept an epic, 21-point, final-10-minute collapse from becoming a reality.
That's why I'll say this for Miles: anytime he's on television, you can't look away. Actually, any time Miles speaks, you can't look away either. Remember when he told me that the ocean was sincere in response on an oil spill question? Basically, the fact that Miles doesn't have a reality television show is a crime against humanity.
Anyway, on to the ClayNation Starting 11. In the meantime, I'll be expecting your call, LSU athletic administration.
1. Where did South Carolina's Stephen Garcia get those rushing moves on his 20-yard touchdown run?
I'll tell you -- running from the cops for the past three seasons in Columbia.
Garcia looked good enough to win an SEC East title for the Gamecocks. South Carolina fans who read that sentence had to immediately take the vapors and go lie down. They've heard it all before.
In fact, I'll go this far: Saturday's game against Georgia is likely an elimination game for the SEC East. Lose and the Bulldogs are facing real issues with Arkansas coming to town next week and their definite loss to Florida in the World's Largest Cocktail Party on tap. Not to mention Auburn and Kentucky. Don't laugh, the Bulldogs are 2-2 the past four seasons against the Wildcats. Lose to South Carolina and Georgia is likely to lose the tiebreak to the only two teams capable of winning the East this fall.
That means Georgia could be realistically eliminated in its first SEC game of the season.
Win and the reverse is true, the Bulldogs are in great shape -- at least as good of shape as a team with nine arrests in the offseason can ever be.
2. Oregon was up 59-0 ... at the half.
Best stat from this game? New Mexico had the ball for more than 27 minutes and put up a total of 107 yards. Plus, while its coach is most famous for punching an assistant, we're talking about New Mexico here, the alma mater of Brian Urlacher. It actually has a decent history. It's not like this was some Ohio Valley Conference team from a lower echelon of competition. (Sorry, Ole Miss fans).
Do you know who the quarterbacks coach is at New Mexico? David Reaves, Lane Kiffin's brother-in-law. Why is Reaves at New Mexico? Because Lane bailed on the Tennessee job and Reaves, then an assistant with the Vols, found out about the move in an Atlanta restaurant.
At halftime of this game, do you think he contemplated calling the NCAA investigators back and saying, "Screw it, I'm done with coaching. You want Lane Kiffin's head on a platter, meet me in Albuquerque on Tuesday."
By the way, Oregon is winning the Pac-10 and scoring 400 points on USC's defense. Write that in stone.
3. Florida fans who clamored for John Brantley last season are officially idiots.
What, going 26-2 with a national championship and two SEC title game appearances really wasn't good enough for y'all?
Well, you've got your wish, a vastly inferior team without Tim Tebow.
The most glaring flaw in Florida's new pro-style offense? The Gators still don't have the ability to throw the ball down the field. Midway through the fourth quarter, Brantley had completed 13 passes for 42 yards.
13 for 42!
An average of 3.2 yards per pass completion.
Those would be bad numbers for a running back. Yet, they're indicative of what the Gators' offense has become since Dan Mullen left -- an offense utterly lacking in explosive plays. I hope offensive coordinator Steve Addazio is renting in Gainesville, because he's taken a fully loaded Bentley and turned it into a big wheel in two seasons at the helm for the Gators.
Prediction: Urban Meyer is going to need to fire him in two years.
4. Having a nine-months pregnant wife on the opening weekend of college football season is fraught with peril.
First, every time the phone buzzes and she's outside of the house you almost fall off your couch. Is she in labor? Nope, that's just a friend telling me that Oregon is going to beat Tennessee, 100-0.
Second, nine-month-pregnant women are impossible to disagree with. They're like Georgia football players on summer weekends, disagree at your own peril. Every suggestion you make about anything is wrong. My mother-in-law has moved in with us as we await the arrival of a new baby and early on Saturday afternoon, she tapped me on the shoulder, adopted a solemn face, and said, "Just agree with everything that she says. No matter what it is."
Truer words, gents, truer words.
5. Imagine how badly Ole Miss would have lost to Jacksonville State if the NCAA had kept Jeremiah Masoli out.
You should have seen my e-mail and Twitter feed after Jeremiah Masoli's appeal was granted by the NCAA. It was as if I was the NCAA official who had disallowed his bogus transfer to begin with. I was less popular than a Confederate flag in the Grove ... scratch that. I was less popular than a South Will Rise again chant ... scratch that.
Basically, Ole Miss fans, everyone is laughing at you because you got what you deserved. How bad was the laughter in the wake your defeat?
When they announced your loss to Jacksonville State at the Northwestern-Vanderbilt game, 38,000 smart kids joined in uproarious laughter.
Seriously, Vanderbilt and Northwestern fans were laughing at you.
6. Utah's Kyle Whittingham on the sideline calling timeouts in overtime.
Doesn't this rule have to change? Multiple timeouts, really? You shouldn't be able to do this. But worst of all was the fake timeout at the end. Now we fake-ice in college football?
The only thing more ridiculous than this was watching Pittsburgh head coach Dave Wannstedt taking years off Dion Lewis' career so he can eke out nine wins a season. Somewhere Ricky Williams is nodding along with that previous sentence.
Lewis carried the ball 25 times against Utah, which is actually a low workload for him. Last year, Lewis carried the ball 325 times. Putting that into context, playing in one extra game and winning the Heisman Trophy, Mark Ingram carried the ball 271 times last season.
Speaking of health, am I the only person who expects to see Whittingham doing bench press reps in his coach's polo and khakis every time the camera cuts to the Utah sideline? Screw players, he needs to be tested for HGH. Does Whittingham bench press for 20 hours a week?
7. Vandy's personal foul call that ended Saturday's game against Northwestern was a joke.
I'm not one to pile on the officials, because I think they have a difficult job and get calls right for the most part. But the call made at the end of Northwestern-Vandy, a personal foul, hitting-the-helmet call that effectively ended the game, was an awful error of judgment. I'd put it on the same level as the celebration penalty called against Georgia's A.J. Green last season in the LSU game.
I saw it live from the sideline and later watched it on replay. Put simply, it was an awful, awful call. That was far from a high hit. At a baseline level, what you're paying an official for is his discretion and judgment. Intent matters. So does context. At full speed, do you think Vandy's player was trying to hit Northwestern's quarterback in the head? Especially when the quarterback was running full speed for the first down and so was the Vandy player?
There was no helmet-to-helmet contact, so this call really boiled down to an official deciding it looked bad. You can't make that call at this point in the game.
I included the quotes about the hit in my story from Saturday night, but I thought it was such a bad call that it deserved mention here as well.
8. Michigan's win forestalls the inevitable.
Rich Rodriguez is still going to get fired at the end of this season. Remember last year when Tate Forcier had turned the corner, the spread offense was going to work, and Michigan started 4-0? Everything was all peaches and cream, Rich Rod was going to work out, the world was a glorious and beautiful place that was paved with Rose Bowls, right?
How did that work out for you Michigan fans?
You're finishing the season 2-5 no matter how well you start it. So enjoy your false hope, Wolverines. It's really all you have left.
9. Thomas the Tank Engine is more profitable than Amtrak.
On Sunday I took my two-year old son to meet Thomas. If you don't have children, you're thinking, Thomas the what? If you do have children, you're already Googling to see if Thomas comes to visit your city.
I paid $16 per person for a one-mile train ride. But I'm not complaining about the cost because my son absolutely loved it. As did every other kid -- and there were tons -- milling around Thomas in Nashville this weekend.
But it left me wondering -- how is that Thomas the Tank Engine is more profitable than the actual passenger trains in this country? Seriously, 170 years or so after train travel revolutionized this country, we've reached the point where a fake train is more profitable than the actual passenger train industry. Can you imagine if in the year 2180 or thereabouts, a toy airplane is more profitable than the entire air travel industry? (That might happen next year if someone designs a really cool airplane).
Anyway, dropping a couple of hundred dollars on Thomas, Inc., left me with this thought: if Amtrak just made all of its trains Thomas characters, could it turn a profit? Congress should have a hearing on this.
10. Cameron Bleeping Newton.
You probably missed this stat line, but you shouldn't have, it was the single most impressive performance by any player in the opening weekend of college football.
Leaving the game midway through the fourth quarter, Auburn's Newton passed for 186 yards and rushed for, wait for it, 171 yards. That's 357 yards of total offense in his first career start at an FBS level.
I've written it before, but I'm writing it again, Cam Newton and Gus Malzahn = gold.
Malzahn made Chris Todd look like he had a pulse last season. This year Malzahn is going to make Newton into the second coming of Vince Young. If you want a candidate for the Heisman Trophy that no one is talking about yet, take Cam Newton. With Auburn's schedule, he has a chance to win a lot of games. With his explosive talent, he has a chance to make a ton of highlight reels.
I can't wait to watch the Auburn-Mississippi State game Thursday night as the two best young offensive minds in the country, Gus Malzahn and Dan Mullen, go after it head-to-head.
It's going to take 40 points to win that game.
11. "Mad Men's" Don Draper punking out against Duck in their drunken fight on Sunday night was the only thing worse this weekend than the University of Tennessee's pay-per-view quality.
The University of Tennessee charged its fans $34.95 to watch the debut of Derek Dooley's hair on the sidelines. Then it employed announcers who couldn't identify the players, cameramen who made JP/LF/Raycom laugh, and generally managed to make everyone thankful that ESPN and CBS paid over $3 billion to ensure that the SEC doesn't have to produce its own telecasts.
But all of that paled in comparison to Don Draper's windmill punch and his pinning by Duck in last night's episode. Draper, who in season four of "Mad Men" has turned into the television equivalent of Les Miles on the sidelines, officially hit a low point Sunday night.
Pinned by Duck?
The only thing more unlikely would be an SEC school losing at home to an OVC school. (Sorry again Ole Miss. Somewhere the ghost of William Faulkner is crying).
As we finish off the first week's Starting 11, a plea to English teachers out there: start teaching "Mad Men" and "Friday Night Lights" scripts alongside Shakespeare.
I'm not kidding.
You know where to find me LSU.
Follow Clay Travis on Twitter here. With All That and a Bag of Mail returning for the football season, you can e-mail him questions at Clay.Travis@gmail.com