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Starting 11: Should Georgia Coach Mark Richt Stay or Go?

Sep 27, 2010 – 1:05 PM
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Clay Travis

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In the wake of Mississippi State's 24-12 victory over Georgia, Mark Richt is now 2-7 in his past nine Southeastern Conference games. Including 2-2 against Kentucky and 1-3 against Tennessee in the past four seasons. Back in September of last year, I wrote that Richt was following Phil Fulmer's path, that he would be the next successful coach in the SEC forced out.

Last season's record set off alarm bells, and this season has already proven that all the fears were well founded. No matter what you think of Richt, no one can argue that his program at Georgia hasn't slipped.

Starting off 0-3 in the SEC this season only tells part of the story. Ten players have been arrested, the best player was suspended for selling his jersey, the team has played with a curious lifelessness. Finally, all the turnovers and penalties aren't camouflaged by superb talent like they were in the past. This is a poorly disciplined team both on and off the field.

Now in his 10th season at Georgia, Richt is the longest tenured coach in the SEC at the same school. (Steve Spurrier and Houston Nutt have coached in the league longer, but done so at multiple schools). In the wake of the 1-3 start to this season, the worst at Georgia since 1993, it seems clear that Richt's ninth and 10th are going to be the worst two seasons of his career in Athens.

Before September is even complete, Richt's future at Georgia is one of the biggest subplots of the 2010 college football season. Primarily because, no matter what you think of the Bulldogs this season, Georgia is one of the 20 best jobs in America and Richt's departure could set off a series of coaching dominoes that reaches far and wide.

But in the meantime Georgia's new athletic director faces a difficult decision: Should Richt stay or go?

What's more, with recruiting at a premium, is Richt in danger of becoming a dead coach walking? I'll spend more time on this soon, but taking a look at Georgia's remaining eight games, Richt will be favored in the next three: at Colorado, Tennessee and Vanderbilt. He'll lose at least one of these. Indeed, the Bulldogs are only four-point favorites over an awful Colorado program, while UT and Vandy will roll into Athens with nothing to lose and everything to gain.

With eight games to go, 6-6 looks like the best possible outcome for Georgia. And it could get worse than that, much worse.

All I know for certain is this: As a Tennessee fan, the Bulldogs are the only team in the SEC I watch and think, "It could be worse, we could be Georgia."

1. Texas got whipped by UCLA and fell in the AP poll from 7 to 21.

And now we see why Mack Brown and crew didn't want to join the Pac-10. They knew many beatdowns would follow if they joined a tougher conference. Oklahoma and Texas are about to become the new Ohio State, the national whipping boys for college football fans across the country who hate the way the BCS structure exists. Come next season, there's going to be a valid perception out there that the Big 12 -- now 10 teams and without a championship game -- dodged the big boys by staying together.

Just as Ohio State reaped a whirlwind when the Big Ten took big-game beatings after playing a weak conference schedule, so too will Texas and Oklahoma. You're already seeing it by how far Texas plummeted in the wake of the defeat. The media almost dropped the Longhorns out of the Top 25.

In the meantime, UCLA's road beatdown of the overrated Longhorns left the Big 12 regular season -- Every game counts! -- with only two games that anyone outside of the Big 12 footprint could possibly care about -- Texas and Oklahoma this weekend and Texas at Nebraska two weeks later.

Good look selling that "package" of Big 12 games to advertisers when the new television deal arises.

2. Oregon doesn't have a national championship caliber defense.

Plain and simple.

The Ducks are a fun team to watch, but they gave up 597 yards to Arizona State late Saturday night. Most of y'all were probably, like me, asleep by the time this one ended. So I watched the second half on DVR Sunday morning. I don't have a 40-man research staff, or any at all for that matter, but I'm pretty confident that no national championship winning team has given up that many yards in a regulation game in the past decade.

Not even Les Miles at LSU in 2007.

It may be an overused cliche that defenses win championships, but lack of a top-caliber defense most certainly can lose them. I'm not sure what will happen this week against Stanford, but I know someone unexpected in the Pac-10 will get the Ducks this season. And when it happens, it will be a loss by two or more touchdowns and everyone will profess shock.

Except y'all.

Go ahead and write the Ducks off as legit title contenders.

3. Early Saturday morning, I was seated on my flight en route to Fayetteville for the Alabama-Arkansas game. As we taxied out to take off for Dallas, the connecting stop for the flight to Arkansas, the pilot clicked on the PA system and announced that thunderstorms had shut down the Dallas airport.

Uh oh.

We sat on the runway for a while and eventually we taxied back to the gate. I walked up to talk to the pilot, explained that I was flying to the game and had to be in Arkansas by 1 or so, and he told me to get off the plane and watch it at home because there was no way I was getting there on time.

So I did.

Anyone else ever board, go out to the runway, sit for over an hour and then climb back off the plane and go back home?

I walk back to my car at the airport valet stand. (You can valet at Nashville for $22 a day, which has to be the best deal in the city). My car still isn't moved. I ask for my keys and the valet attendant looks at me and says, "Your plane already go and come back?"

I'd been gone for, at most, two hours.

"Yes," I said.

4. Denard Robinson's health is the newest obsession in the Wolverine state.

And if other Michigan fans are anything like my wife, everyone is convinced that Robinson isn't going to make it through the Big Ten season unscathed. The injury against Bowling Green just confirmed their worst fears.

But this is not the only thing that Michigan residents are convinced will go wrong.

I'm operating on the working thesis that the state of Michigan currently has the greatest degree of pessimism of any state in the Union since the end of the Civil War. Can anyone dispute this or offer counter-arguments? Right now, Michiganders anticipate the absolute worst in any situation, sports or otherwise. The collective pessimism hanging over the state has to be the darkest cloud in United States history.

5. Tennessee's celebration after the double-overtime victory over UAB said more about the state of the program than any words possibly could.

I'm not begrudging the players their celebration, but the fact that the team felt this way after needing five missed field goals, an interception returned for a touchdown and two overtimes to beat a Conference USA team at home, is an ominous sign as the SEC season gets rolling.

Any SEC team probably beats the Vols by two touchdowns on Saturday. Meanwhile UAB's coach, Neil Callaway, is trotting out field goal kickers to attempt 54 yarders for the win after his kicker is already 0-4 on the game. This had to be the dumbest coaching decision I've ever seen.

Two questions: when was the last time a college game ended on a made 54-yard field goal? I can't remember ever seeing it. Better question: When was the last time a kicker who had missed four previous field goals made a 54-yarder to win a game? It's probable this has never happened in the history of college football.

UAB had over 500 yards of offense and was facing a fourth-and-2 at the Tennessee 36. Why not go for the first down here against a tired Vols defense? Isn't that the percentage play? Of course it is. Just make a couple of decent decisions and Callaway's Blazers win the game. Instead, Tennessee's players celebrated like they'd just won an SEC title.

6. Kentucky fans had the gall to argue they were disrespected when Florida was installed as 14-point favorites.

That was despite the fact that Florida had beaten them 23 consecutive times and that the last trip the Wildcats made to Gainesville ended in a 63-5 drubbing. Predictably, the Gators did what the Gators do to Kentucky. They whipped them early, going up 14-0 in the first quarter and never losing this margin for the rest of the game.

In the past three seasons, Florida has outscored Kentucky 73-0 in the first quarter.

Basically, if you put money on Kentucky in this situation, you never need to gamble again.

7. With Nevada's ascension to the Top 25, Boise State will now play three Top 25 teams this season. That's two, and potentially three more than Nebraska plays.

I'm going to keep reiterating this until others take note of the crap schedule that Nebraska plays. If Oklahoma beats Texas this weekend, Nebraska will go the entire regular season without playing a single Top 25 team.

How can the talking heads consider that a legitimate national title-contending schedule and dismiss Boise's? It boggles my mind that no one but me has even compared Boise and Nebraska's schedules. To reiterate last week's point, Boise has a tougher schedule than Nebraska.

8. Five SEC games were nationally telecast in HD at the same time Saturday night.

I've never seen this before. At around 8:30 CT: Georgia at Mississippi State, South Carolina at Auburn, West Virginia at LSU, Kentucky at Florida and Fresno State at Ole Miss were all being broadcast in HD.

I've been writing about it for a while, but the SEC games are more widely distributed than the NFL games. That is, given the regional television schedules that govern most NFL broadcasts, your average viewer in Boise, Idaho can watch an entire season of any SEC team on television easier than he can any NFL team from outside his viewing area. That's why the SEC is going to continue to lengthen the gap between it and other conferences.

One SEC fan fashioned his own five-television viewing area in the living room to ensure that he didn't miss the action. Note: this wasn't me. I was too busy flicking back and forth all over the television dial to keep tabs on every game.

9. Stephen Garcia's back-to-back fumbles confirmed every Gamecocks fan's worst fear.

But before we discuss this, did everyone see Cam Newton launch himself into the end zone on fourth and goal with Auburn trailing 27-21?

The play didn't count because Auburn had a false start, but Newton looked like he'd taken off from a trampoline. If he scores here, which he would have, this turns into the play of the week, an otherworldly display of athleticism. As is, the play is a mere footnote. But I want y'all to star it, because at some point it's happening again, and people are going to be talking about it for a long time.

The final kick in the groin from Lane Kiffin to the UT fan base? Deciding to offer Matt Simms a scholarship instead of Cam Newton. Each week Newton is getting better and he remains a darkhorse Heisman contender. He's already the single most exciting player to watch in the SEC.

As for South Carolina, ouch. How long is it going to take for Steve Spurrier to get over this loss? The final four possessions of the game all end in Gamecock quarterback turnovers: fumble, fumble, interception, interception. The first two were by Garcia and the last two were by freshman Connor Shaw.

How about the decision to suddenly pull Garcia with five minutes left? You can't do this, right? Especially when Garcia played well up to the point of the fumbles? Now Gamecocks fans have to spend the next two weeks listening to Spurrier dance around the questions about his starting quarterback against Alabama.

10. Jordan Jefferson is the worst quarterback in the SEC, and one of the worst in college football

But first another great quote from Les Miles. This one on cornerback Patrick Peterson: "When he's hydrated, he's the best in the country, arguably."

You. Can't. Make. These. Up.

In the meantime, the LSU defense is presently the top-ranked in the SEC, and ninth best in the nation. And unlike just about every other SEC team, the Tigers have played four BCS level teams. So those defensive numbers are legit.

But where does LSU's passing offense rank after four games?

Try 115th out of 120 teams in the nation. Can it get worse? Three of the teams beneath the Tigers run the triple option.

The total offense numbers aren't much better: 110th in the nation. What does all this mean? It's impossible to predict how the next eight games for LSU are going to turn out because there isn't a team in the nation with a greater disparity between total offense and total defense.

Good luck LSU fans.

11. Your two-year old has to poo at the cell phone waiting lot of the airport: What do you do?

For those who don't have, or never have had, a recently potty-trained 2-year old, they let you know that they need to use the bathroom about two minutes before they are going to use the bathroom. It doesn't matter where you are. And it doesn't matter how many times you asked them if they needed to use the bathroom before you left. This gets all the worse when he or she squeals, "I've got to poo!"

Especially when you're parked in the cell phone waiting area of an airport.

This is like every parent's two-minute drill. You've got to make a play.

This happened to me Friday night and I panicked. There are minimal options. You can't park at the airport and go inside to use the bathroom because there are hardly any public bathrooms outside the security area and it's going to take you at least 10 minutes to get parked at the airport and get him inside. On the other hand, it's also going to take at least 15 minutes to leave the airport and get to a place with a bathroom, during which time your child will definitely use the bathroom on himself.

Once he uses the bathroom on himself, he's not going to sit in it while you wait on his grandmother to arrive. So you'll have to leave, drive back home, change him and then come back to the airport to pick up your mother-in-law, who already hates you and will add this indignity to the long list of indignities that she began compiling the moment she first met you.

So what did I do? I climbed a cell phone waiting area fence -- one of the short decorative ones, not the ones with razor wire on top -- carried him to an open grass field, and had him go in the grass like he was a dog on a walk. Then I used his underwear as toilet paper.

He loved it because he got to watch a plane take off while pooing.

Just call me Elway.

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
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