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The Heroes and Villains of CFB Week 10: Barry Odom Gets Two Big Wins at Florida

The Kickoff:

When Mizzou stomped No. 11 Florida 38-17, the triumph  gave head coach Barry Odom two gifts wrapped in one box: (1) his first win over a ranked opponent, and (2) extra-strength job security.

Odom almost certainly will return for his fourth season in 2019. The Tigers are 5-4. Their final three regular-season games are against Vanderbilt (home), Tennessee (road) and Arkansas (home.) The three teams have combined for a 2-13 record in the SEC this season.

If MU can avoid an upset, Odom will finish with the regular season with an 8-4 record. And there’s no way he’ll be fired after an 8-4 season that includes impressive wins over Florida and Purdue, plus an appearance in a bowl game for the second consecutive season. Qualifying for a bowl game isn’t difficult in these modern times, but Missouri wasn’t bowl-worthy in 2015 and ’16. So it means something for the Tigers to pack up and head for a bowl game for the second year in a row.

The data processors are quite impressed by Missouri.

Examples:

* Mizzou is ranked 15th nationally in ESPN’s Football Power Index. Only four SEC teams are rated higher than the Tigers: Alabama (No. 1), Georgia (third), Mississippi State (10th), and LSU (No. 12.)

* In the updated Sagarin ratings, Mizzou is ranked 18th.

* Missouri comes in at 12th nationally in SRS (simple rating system) used by the college football site at Sports Reference.

Mizzou’s strength of schedule — the fourth most difficult in FBS, according to Sagarin — is an important factor behind Mizzou’s lofty status with the computers.

The win at Florida proved something else: The Tigers have really good talent and plenty of experience and should be 7-2 right now, aiming for 10 regular-season wins. That’s the cost of handing games to South Carolina and Kentucky. The Tigers’ 1-4 SEC record should be 3-2.  But beating Florida gives Odom some relief; the futility against ranked teams was a tiresome subject for the coach.

Florida, reeling from a crushing loss to rival Georgia, wasn’t ready to play against Mizzou. The ambivalence was obvious.

That doesn’t discredit the Mizzou win.

Barry Odom’s team was shocked and undoubtedly depressed by losing a stunner to Kentucky on the last play of the game.

But Odom got his Tigers ready to go. He had them motivated.

Florida coach Dan Mullen didn’t have his team prepared emotionally.

All credit goes to Odom.

A key question going forward: If Mizzou closes strong in 2018, will Missouri fans be more motivated to buy tickets for 2019?

The Opening Nine-Play Drive: 

It was a revealing weekend in college football.

Here are some of the things we learned … or learned all over again.

1-Alabama is even more dominant than we assumed.

2-That’s because Alabama has a defense that’s much better than assumed. After being downgraded as a defense that was below Alabama’s usual standards, the Tide was in the mood to prove a point. Just ask LSU. Alabama’s 29-0 pounding of LSU was the Tigers’ worst home defeat  in 16 years. Total yards: Alabama 576, LSU 196.

3-If any team has the defense, physicality, speed, coaching and quarterback to give ‘Bama a game — it’s Clemson. In their last four wins, the Tigers have destroyed Wake Forest, NC State, Florida State and Louisville by a combined score of 240-36. The only decent team on that list is NC State, but still…

4-Michigan has a helluva defense. Since halftime of the season opening loss to Notre Dame, Michigan’s defense has allowed opponents to scratch for points on only 16 of 102 possessions, or 15.6 percent. The Wolverines, who clobbered Penn State 42-7 on Saturday, have yielded an average of only 186.6 in their last six games … and no more than 283 yards in any of those contests.

5-Ohio State will lose at home to Michigan on Nov. 24 because the Buckeyes don’t have much of a defense. In a comeback win over visiting Nebraska, Ohio State gave up 450 yards on defense. The Buckeyes have allowed 450+ yards in four of their nine games this season. Between 2014 and 2017, the Buckeyes allowed 450+ yards only five times in 55 games.

6-It’s been a long time coming, but Missouri quarterback Drew Lock can beat a  ranked team, and on the road, and conquer its defense. Which, you know, is the kind of what you’d expect from a 2019 first-round draft choice.

7-Back to the subject of defense: No Big 12 team is familiar with the concept. This was comically reaffirmed in Oklahoma’s 51-46 victory over Texas Tech; Boomer Sooner and the Red Raiders combined for 97 points and 1,156 yards. NFL games will look like this in about five seasons.

8-The most overlooked Power 5 team is Boston College –well, at least until now. The most intriguing matchup next Saturday will be a showcase for No. 22 BC, which hosts No. 2 Clemson. At 7-2 overall and 4-1 in the ACC, Boston College will take a shot at upsetting Clemson (6-0 in ACC.) And if the Eagles fly and pull that off, there’s a chance they can steal the ACC Atlantic from Clemson. Related note: This Saturday “College GameDay” will set up at Boston College for the first time since 2009.

9-It’s basketball season at Kentucky after the Wildcats got hammered 34-17 by visiting Georgia. It was a fun party while it lasted.

Let’s make our weekly inspection of the Heroes and Villains ….

THE FOOTBALL HEROES OF CFB WEEK 10

The Army Black Knights: by defeating Air Force 17-14, West Point is guaranteed of retaining the Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy. They can win it outright on Dec. 8 with a win against Navy. It’s entirely possible for Army (7-2) to cap the regular season with 10 victories. Coach Jeff Monken has done a sensational job of rebuilding a fallen program. I bet you didn’t know this: Army has won 20 of its last 25 games. And by handling Air Force Army will possess the C-I-C trophy in consecutive seasons for the first time in program history. The Knights are one of the best non-Power 5 teams in the nation.

West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen: Have to admire the coach’s set of brass. Will Grier zips a 33-yard touchdown pass to Gary Jennings with 16 seconds remaining to bring WVU to within a point of Texas. Kick the extra point, go to overtime, and try to win it. Holgorsen went for the win RIGHT NOW, going for a two-point conversion. After three timeouts (two by Texas), Grier faked out the Texas defense and sprinted into the end zone for the two points and a 42-41 walk-off.

Georgia offensive coordinator Jim Chaney: In their only loss so far, at LSU, the Bulldogs (8-1) got away from what they do best: Run the damn ball. In losing by 20 at Death Valley, the Dawgs called only 23 designed runs that gained 91 yards. Georgia rebounded with emphatic wins over Florida and Kentucky to clinch the SEC East. And the season got back on track through Chaney’s play-calling emphasis on the ground game. In the wins against Florida and Kentucky, Georgia averaged 41 designed runs and 205 yards rushing per game. Tailbacks Elijah Holyfield and D’Andre Swift have combined for 1,296 yards, 6.2 yards per carry, and 12 rushing TDs.

Notre Dame: The leprechauns are still dancing, as the Fighting Irish moved to 9-0 by turning back a challenge at Northwestern. After the Wildcats scored on two quick touchdown drives to reduce a 17-point deficit to three, Notre Dame responded like a champ with a 10-play, 89-yard march that ended with quarterback Ian Brook’s 23-yard run. Final score: Notre Dame 31, Northwestern 21. Book was really good in this one, connecting on 22 of 34 for 343 yards and two TD throws to go with his clinching touchdown run. Coach Brian Kelly’s team has games left with Florida State, Syracuse and USC. Florida State is junk this year, USC is flaky, and that leaves 7-2 Syracuse as (perhaps?) the prime threat to Notre Dame’s quest for an undefeated record and a playoff spot. Notre Dame and Syracuse will play their Nov. 17 game at Yankee Stadium; this one could be a lot of fun.

Tua Tagovailoa: The Alabama quarterback is  ridiculous. After weeks of giving nothing to opponents, Tua threw his first interception of the year in the LSU game — and it says something about the kind of season he’s having when one INT becomes a sidebar. But did you see Tua’s two touchdown passes (perfection) and his stunning 44-gallop for a TD run? “He made some tremendous plays tonight,” said LSU coach Ed Orgeron. “He’s one of the best players I’ve seen.”

Speaking to reporters after the game, Tagovailoa gave gentlemen around the world a new term to use the next time they are, say, struck in an especially sensitive area of their bodies. When asked what happened when he stayed on the ground — on all fours — after a hard tackle by an LSU player, Tua said this: “He hit me in the goodies.”  Hit me in the goodies?

One more Tua Tagovailoa note: when holding court with reporters after Bama’s 29-0 win, Tagovailoa carried a bag of Maui-style onion flavored potato chips, his favorite snack from his home state of Hawaii. Taking note, our friend Pat Forde of Yahoo Sports got off a terrific line in his postgame column: “Thus, we have the definitive proof: Tua really is all that and a bag of chips.”

Mizzou QB Drew Lock at Florida: A superb game, with Lock completing 24 of 32 for 250 yards and three touchdowns. Kudos, applause, attaboy, etc. Question: Why didn’t we see more performances from Lock like this against winning and ranked opponents? Makes no sense.

Oklahoma QB Kyler Murray: In the shootout win over Texas Tech, Murray became the first Sooner quarterback in OU history to have 300 yards passing and 100 yards rushing in the same contest. Murray recovered from throwing two early interceptions to pass for 360 yards (with three touchdowns) and rush for 100 yards (and a TD.)

Arizona QB Khalil Tate: He’s struggled with injuries and ineffective play this season, but his dazzling form returned in Friday’s 42-34 win over Colorado.  Completing 11 consecutive passes through one torred stretch, Tate passed for 350 yards and five touchdowns and scored on a 25-yard run.

Pittsburgh Panthers:  The ACC Coastal is a mess, but someone has to win the division for the right to get demolished by Clemson in the ACC title game, right? Pitt seems willing to try. The Panthers, 4-1 in the ACC, assured themselves of a share of first place in the Coastal by defeating No. 23 Virginia 23-13 behind 229 yards rushing on 19 carries by RB Darrin Hall.

Illinois: Lovie Smith’s downtrodden squad had a jolly good time in averaging an astonishing 10.7 yards per play, and a berserk 12.3 yards per rush, in a 55-37 mashing of Minnesota.

Duke coach David Cutcliffe: By soaking Miami 20-12 Duke will be headed to a bowl game for the sixth time in seven years. You may be wondering: What’s the big deal? This: Before this stretch, the Blue Devils competed in only six bowl games in the previous 70 seasons.

Three cheers for UTEP: The Miners terminated the longest losing streak in the FBS — 20 games — with Saturday’s is a 34-26 road win at Rice. UTEP survived, hanging tough after nearly blowing their 34-10 lead after three quarters. This was the Miners’ first victory beating North Texas on Nov. 26, 2016.

THE FOOTBALL VILLAINS OF CFB WEEK 10

Florida Gators: Just a lame effort against Missouri. Little energy, ambivalence about competing, a bunch of blown assignments, and a coaching staff that couldn’t rally their team from a loss to Georgia in the previous game. Florida absolutely made a charitable donation to Mizzou. But maybe one positive will come out of this for the Gators: Coach Dan Mullen may install Kyle Trask at starting quarterback and bench the backsliding Feleipe Franks.

UCF: The Knights remained undefeated this season, and stretched their overall winning streak to 21 games by outlasting Temple 52-40 on Thursday night. But UCF fans need to stop whining about their team’s also-ran status in the bid for one of the four playoff spots. UCF was plundered by a nothing-special Temple offense for a school-record 670 yards. Despite playing one of the softest schedules in FBS, the UCF defense is ranked 96th nationally by allowing 430 yards offense per game.

The Pac-12? Still stinks. Washington State (8-1 overall, 5-1 conference) dodged a threat with close 19-13 win over visiting Cal late Saturday night. And by ducking a potetial defeat, Mike Leach’s team is the only hope for the Pac 12 in the hustle for a playoff spot. And even that’s a long shot; the Cougars still have to play against rival Washington on the road. Washington will likely take the Pac 12 North by beating Wazzu. And to state the obvious: If Washington State loses for a second time, it’s done. The Pac 12 South is a muddle of mediocrity; all six teams (Utah, USC, Arizona, Arizona State, Colorado and UCLA) have at least three conference losses.

Louisville coach Bobby Petrino: His team is an epic failure, as bad as it gets. Here are Louisville’s last three losses: 66-31 to Georgia Tech; 56-35 to Wake Forest; and 77-16 to Clemson. But is Petrino really a loser? Ask his financial advisor. There’s a bunch of talk about Louisville boosters putting together the $14 million owed to Petrino if Louisville dumps him after the season. If that happens, the Cardinals will aggressively pursue Purdue coach Jeff Brohm, a beloved Louisville alum and former starting QB at L’Ville.

Miami and coach Mark Richt: The Hurricanes have averaged 13 points per game in losing three in a row. Richt’s reputation as a bright offensive mind is the subject of ridicule among livid Miami fans. The Canes are 5-7 in their last 12 games dating back to 2017. Related note: Miami, Florida State and Florida all lost this weekend. It happened last weekend, too. This is the first time — ever — that the Florida-based, Power 5 programs lost all of their games over two consecutive weeks.

Penn State: By getting crushed 42-7 by Michigan at The Big House, coach James Franklin’s team went 0-3 this season against the other three Big Ten East big boys. But unlike the close-call home losses to Ohio State (27-26) and Michigan State (21-7) the Nittany Lions got trounced by Michigan. And among Penn State fans Franklin’s game-game management issues continue to be an issue of increasing irritation.

Navy Midshipman: Never a villain … just very disappointing in 2018. My favorite team is hurting. The latest drubbing 42-0 at Cincinnati, means that Navy (2-7) will finish with only it’s third losing season since 2002. The Mids have lost six in a row, and the dismal day at Cincinnati was their worst shutout loss (in terms of margin of defeat) since 1992. But the losing skid began last season when Navy lost six of their final eight games — making it a 4-13 record in their last 17 games. Two problems: (1) Coach Ken Niumatalolo doesn’t have a quarterback who can effectively run the triple option; (2) This is Navy’s fourth season as a member of the American Athletic Conference, and though the affiliation started off well, the rigors of conference play is putting Navy in a debilitated state. The Midshipmen don’t win many recruiting battles for elite athletes, so they are facing bigger, stronger and faster teams every week, with rare relief. And the schedule is physically punishing. It doesn’t get any easier next week when the Mids play at UCF.

LSU: In the 29-0 shutout by Alabama, the LSU running backs carried 13 times for 19 yards. And coach Ed Orgeron spent the week stressing how his team needed to be physical and punishing to win the fight in the trenches. Alabama rushed for 295 yards. “They whooped us,” Coach O said.

UCLA coach Chip Kelly: It isn’t that Kelly and the Bruins lost (42-21) in his return to Oregon. The sad thing for the coach is that Kelly’s return to Oregon was a non-event, barely noted nationally. Kelly is basically irrelevant now, and that’s stunning if you  think of his incredible offenses and 46-7 record Oregon from 2009 through 2012.

Houston: Beat a ranked South Florida team and then lose to 3-5  SMU? Geez.

Texas coach Tom Herman: The Longhorns are back, all right. Back to being an underachieving team that’s 6-3 and inexplicably ranked 15th by the AP voters.

Thanks for reading …

–Bernie

More: Lock burns No. 13 Florida again, Mizzou wins 38-17 in Swamp