Now here is one of the more strangely reasoned arguments I’ve seen.
There’s a vacancy on Georgia’s coaching staff and for the short time in his young head coaching career, Kirby Smart has to replace a coordinator. Mel Tucker is moving on to become the next head coach at Colorado with an official announcement yet to come, leaving Smart with a key hire to make as the early signing period approaches.
Seeing as how the Bulldogs have been to the SEC Championship two years in a row and in the thick of the College Football Playoff discussion in both seasons, there won’t be a shortage of coaches who really want this job.
Add in the fact that UGA is teeming with young talent on the defensive side, and the third-year head coach should have an impressive list of names to choose from. But let’s take a look at things from the financial side. Tucker made $1.5 million this past year, and that money will be freed up. UGA can afford to go out and lure a successful assistant from another school, but there’s more flexibility there than you realize.
The federal excise tax, which came into effect before this season, applied to Tucker because his salary was a $1 million or more. Under new tax law, a 21-percent tax is applied for any salary over $1 million and it is taken on the ammount over $1 million. For Tucker, that meant that Georgia’s Athletic Association was paying a 21-percent tax on $500,000, the amount the veteran assistant was making in excess of that seven-figure threshold.
Some quick math shows that in addition to Tucker’s $1.5 million salary, UGA was paying $105,000 because of the tax…
Does anybody really think if Kirby says pay that man his money, Butts-Mehre is going to flinch over the excise tax consequences? I mean, I dump on the Georgia Way as much as anyone possibly can, but even I don’t think McGarity’s blind enough to die on a hill like that.
Dan Wolken asks the musical question, “…at what point does the reliability of college football’s top programs being in the Playoff start to become a little bit stale?”
Man, I guess Trump’s right: all that winning does get tiresome.
Wolken’s got a couple of suggestions on how to fend off impending boredom. First, go to an NFL model of scheduling that gives the better teams tougher schedules. There are a ton of problems with that, from noting that college football isn’t a monolith like the NFL to the reality that there is far more turnover on college rosters year-to-year than in the pros.
Next is playoff expansion, of course. It’s coming and, let’s face it, even if the grand poobahs of the sport won’t say publicly that Cinderella is coming, Mickey will say it privately. Needless to say, that’s a dumb solution, too, mainly because the top teams will still be there and, outside of the occasional upset, will be there at the end.
Allow me to suggest something more radical than what Dan proposes. The easiest way to get a handle on leveling the talent disparity in college football is, well, to level the talent disparity. Simply put, reduce the number of scholarships a D-1 team can have on its roster. Sign 20 a year and limit the overall number to 65 and you’ll start to see the wealth spread. If you’re worried about less depth and injuries, well, give kids five years to play
four five and cut a game out of the regular season schedule to reduce the risk.
Of course, my suggestion isn’t any more likely to happen than Dan’s first thought. We’re all just waiting on Cindy to get our jollies, I suppose.
Gawd, this makes me smile.
Coach Paul Johnson’s final game as Georgia Tech coach will be played far from the Yellow Jackets fan base in a bowl that has left players feeling slighted.
Sunday, Tech was selected to play in the Quick Lane Bowl in Detroit on Dec. 26 against Minnesota. The initial reaction from Jackets players on Twitter was displeasure over being sent to the bowl with the eighth pick of ACC teams (not including Clemson) despite having finished the season strong (four wins in final five games), tied for the fourth best league record (5-3) and beaten three teams ahead of them in the bowl lineup – Virginia (Belk), Miami (Pinstripe) and Virginia Tech (Military).
The angst, the angst.
Well, Qua, if you really want to know…
Your team played mainly uninspired ball all season long. Your coach is retiring because it’s no longer fun. Your fans don’t travel, which means they don’t buy tickets. Hell, your fans aren’t even showing up at home. Other than that, it’s a complete mystery to me, too.
Besides, it sounds like you’re in for a swinging time in Detroit, at least as much as you can swing in Detroit in late December.
Quick Lane Bowl executive director Brad Michaels said that, during the bowl trip, teams will have the opportunity to attend a Detroit Lions game at Ford Field (where the bowl game will also be played) and visit the Henry Ford Museum. Michaels told the AJC on Friday that “we’re confident that, no matter who we get, they’re going to leave here wanting to come back.”
Don’t forget to send everyone a postcard.
Nick Saban, full of shit? Color me surprised, surprised.
Maybe he had Reggie Ball draw up his ballot.
I had to chuckle a little about this pundit fest, because of the “Kirby went to the Nick Saban school of coaching” bit. How quickly everyone forgets about Alabama’s embarrassing loss to Utah in the 2009 Sugar Bowl.
Actually, I don’t think Kirby’s forgotten that for one second. I wouldn’t be surprised if the team is given a history lesson, either.
But it’s not the coaches you worry about in games like this. They get paid to win, bowl or not. It’s the players’ motivation you never know about until they step on the field.
That being said, this is the attitude I hope the team embraces.
“We just wouldn’t go out there and let anybody beat us,” wide receiver Mecole Hardman said Saturday night. “We definitely are going to have motivation to play because we’ve got to get this taste out of our mouth somehow. Somebody’s got to feel us.”
Bottle that and spread it around the locker room, Mecole.
Yeah, it’s ownership time. I made my preseason picks and now I have to live with the consequences, such as they are. Accountability, and all, you know.
As always, schools are listed in the same order as they were in the preseason post, with this season’s won-loss totals.
[Ed. note: Please read that last sentence again, carefully, before you blast me in the comments for not agreeing with the order of presentation. You’ll save us both a lot of time. Thanks!]
ALABAMA (13-0, 8-0)
- What I said: I actually had to make a couple of changes from last year, but who am I kidding here? If Alabama isn’t in the national title hunt when the Tide plays in the SECCG, it’ll be a complete shock.
- How I did: Sure, a total duh, but, still…
- Final grade: A
AUBURN (7-5, 3-5)
- What I said: This could be one of those classic cases where a team is as good or better than it was in the previous season and still have less to show for it. That’s because of the schedule, which has the Tigers opening against Washington and playing Alabama and Georgia on the road. On the other hand, if the offensive line doesn’t jell, Stidham showed last season he’s not at his best working under pressure. I’m seeing three losses.
- How I did: The offensive line never jelled. The running game never jelled. Stidham couldn’t carry the team. Got that part right, but didn’t see how the rest of the team didn’t carry itself, either. Good on the direction, bad on the trajectory.
- Final grade: C+
LSU (9-3, 5-3)
- What I said: The Tigers were good last season, but not great. This offseason, they ditched an offensive coordinator and brought in a transfer quarterback to run the offense. Not exactly a recipe for success and that schedule, which opens against Miami and has Florida and Georgia as the crossover division games, is brutal. I could see as many as six losses in the regular season, but I’ll hedge my bet and say a repeat of 8-4 looks more likely.
- How I did: Did LSU surpass expectations because they were a better team or because of the low bar Orgeron set? Yes.
- Final grade: C-
MISSISSIPPI STATE (8-4, 4-4)
- What I said: One thing Mullen did well in his time at MSU was manage the roster and Moorhead stands to benefit from that quite nicely this season. The Bulldogs inhabit the SEC West, but the rest of the schedule isn’t as daunting. I don’t think they’ll do worse than last season’s four losses and may very well wind up being one of the season’s more pleasant surprises. Let’s say 9-3.
- How I did: They wound up about where I thought, but I have to admit they didn’t do it quite the way I expected, which was with an improved offense. Instead, the defense was dominant and the coaching changeover and the resultant struggle figuring out what to do with Fitzgerald probably cost them at least one win.
- Final grade: B
TEXAS A&M (8-4, 5-3)
- What I said: TAMU plays Clemson and Alabama in the first four games of the season. Ouch. Auburn and Mississippi State are road games. Ouch again. Combine that with Fisher changing the offense and the inevitable personnel misfits that go along with that, and it’s hard to see the Aggies taking a huge leap this season. 7-5 looks about right as a regular season projection.
- How I did: Like it or not, Jimbo Fisher did one of the better coaching jobs of 2018. This team had some obvious flaws, but he did a good job of masking some of those. He also did excellent work with Kellen Mond. With the way TAMU is recruiting, you get the feeling this is a program on the rise.
- Final grade: C-
OLE MISS (5-7, 1-7)
- What I said: Give ’em credit — the Rebs could have collapsed last season, but managed to win six. They’ll be fun to watch, as a bad defense and great passing attack is the perfect recipe for shootouts. The conference schedule is a problem in that the most winnable games are all on the road. That’ll wind up costing them another win over last year’s total.
- How I did: Bingo.
- Final grade: A+
ARKANSAS (2-10, 0-8)
- Outlook: A bad team looking to get better, but, again, you’re looking at a bad personnel fit for what the new staff wants to do. I know Ian Boyd says that Chad Morris has enough to work with offensively, but I look at the mess on the offensive line and wonder if that’s really the case. A favorable schedule helps, but not that much. 6-6, tops, and 5-7 more likely.
- How I did: Once again, I diagnosed the symptoms, but didn’t see the depths of the disease, most likely because I didn’t appreciate how much John Chavis’ game has declined. Just a bad, bad team.
- Final grade: D+
GEORGIA (11-2, 7-1)
- What I said: The schedule is manageable. The talent level is exceeded only by Alabama’s, and not by much. Mentally and emotionally, though, Georgia is in uncharted territory. This is where we’ll find out if Kirby Smart passes his next coaching test. My bet is he does and Georgia loses no more than one regular season game.
- How I did: Yep.
- Final grade: A
SOUTH CAROLINA (7-5, 4-4)
- What I said: Boom’s improved the talent level and you have to respect the way the ‘Cocks clawed their way to nine wins last season. I do believe the hurry up will pay benefits down the line as it likely suits Bentley’s game better. Deebo Samuel’s return is a major plus. So what makes me hesitate? Two things. One, there are bound to be growing pains as the new offensive scheme is put in place and two, that +11 in turnover margin did a lot of heavy lifting in 2017. I don’t see more than eight regular season wins for South Carolina and I feel somewhat shaky about that.
- How I did: South Carolina finished minus-4 in turnover margin. My shakiness was justified.
- Final grade: A-
KENTUCKY (9-3, 5-3)
- What I said: The best thing UK has going for it this season? The East, generally speaking, is in recovery mode. Kentucky will win five or six regular season games because that’s what Kentucky does. Just don’t expect it to be pretty.
- How I did: I vastly underrated the fine job Stoops did building an experienced roster.
- Final grade: F
MISSOURI (8-4, 4-4)
- What I said: There are a lot of nice parts back on offense. The question is how competent the new offensive coordinator is. Defense won’t be pretty. One thing that’s gone below the radar is that this is a tougher schedule than we usually see Mizzou play. For one thing, there’s Alabama on the road. For another, they probably shouldn’t sleep on Purdue at Purdue in what might be a very entertaining matchup. If I felt better about SOD, I could see as many as eight wins. Let’s hedge and say 7-5.
- How I did: Dooley got better as the season progressed and Mizzou got to eight wins.
- Final grade: A-
FLORIDA (9-3, 5-3)
- What I said: They can’t be any worse than they were last year. It’s not unreasonable to expect Mullen to get more out of the quarterback position than they got last season, but there’s only so much lipstick in the world to paint on that pig. They don’t have one of the more favorable cross-division schedules and they finish at FSU. Still, there are parts to work with and Mullen is good at getting as much as he can out of what he’s got. I expect the Gators to double their 2017 win total.
- How I did: Things pretty much turned out as expected. The Gators got one more win than I projected because FSU crashed and burned.
- Final grade: A-
VANDERBILT (6-6, 3-5)
- What I said: Derek Mason knows how to coach defense, so how come Vandy will be better on offense than defense this season? And who thought scheduling a road game at Notre Dame was a good idea? It’s gonna be a real stretch for the Commodores to win five games again in 2018. They’ll be back in the SEC East basement.
- How I did: There’s a simple reason Vanderbilt did better than I expected: the bottom of the SEC West was worse than the East, and the ‘Dores got to play Arkansas and Ole Miss. Also, thanks, Tennessee!
- Final grade: C-
TENNESSEE (5-7, 2-6)
- What I said: Booch out; Pruitt in. The best thing the new staff has going for it is lowered expectations. They’ll need all the help they can get just to get the Volunteers back to mediocrity this season. The Vols do have their traditional November schedule going for them, but will they survive a brutal five-game stretch that starts with Florida, runs through Georgia, Auburn and Alabama and finishes at South Carolina? Five regular season wins are likely, six tops.
- How I did: Pretty much spot on. The Vols did pick up a win against Auburn, but spit the bit in November. Very much still a work in progress under Pruitt.
- Final grade: A
There you have it. Looking at it in hindsight, this was one of my better sets. Whether that’s due to my keen insight, or simply because the conference as a whole was more predictable than usual, I have no idea.
How did you preseason projections go?
One of life’s lesser mysteries is why reporters keep asking Bill Hancock to opine about the chances for playoff expansion.