Rich Rants: Week 8 - Welcome Back, WVU

Week 8 thoughts, musings and ramblings about the weekend.

Early-mail Rich Cirminiello
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The college football world has a little more vibrancy and energy when West Virginia is winning. You’ve been missed, ‘eers. Morgantown is a special place, with a knack for staging memorable moments. That part of the map has been too quiet in the fall the past two years. But a huge upset of unbeaten Baylor could mean that the Mountaineers are finally set to turn the corner. QB Clint Trickett, with a ton of help from WR Kevin White, has evolved into one of the Big 12’s best passers. And the defense delivered an improbable effort that it can build upon over the next month.

Somehow, some way, Stanford must figure out how to fix its sagging, predictable offense. There’s not enough time to turn things around in 2014, so it’s going to be an important offseason for whichever coaches comprise the staff. In this day and age, how does a major program struggle to score points, especially when there’s a talented line, a veteran quarterback and pretty good skill players already built into the equation? No, the Cardinal should not blow up the general blueprint for success. It’s worked, both under Jim Harbaugh and now David Shaw. But tweaks can be made without trashing an identity to prevent scoring 10 points against a middling Arizona State D from ever happening again.

While it’s hard not to be impressed by Florida State’s ability to survive close games, we will not have a repeat national champion this season. The Seminoles played with the heart of champions against Notre Dame. And Jameis Winston the quarterback and Jameis Winston the student couldn’t be more different characters. The former is one of the most clutch and poised players at this level. But FSU continues to showcase flaws that belie its abundance of talent. Seven games into the season, the ‘Noles are still making too many mistakes in the basics, tackling, blocking and fulfilling assignments. Someone, either in the regular season or in the playoff, is going to break through and exploit a team of survivors that’s already flirted with disaster four times in 2014.

I sincerely hope Frank Beamer is thinking about an exit strategy. Beamer is an icon, one of those rare coaching legends who ought to leave the profession when he feels it’s time to go. He’s Blacksburg’s Bill Snyder. I just hope he’s contemplating the future right now, whether that means he retires a year, two years or three years from today. Since the beginning of December of 2011, Virginia Tech is 16-16 versus FBS opponents. And when the quality starts slipping for a mature staff, rarely does the situation turn around for any extended period of time.

Remember when the world was bearish on Utah’s Kyle Whittingham and TCU’s Gary Patterson, because both coaches were struggling in more demanding leagues? Yeah, that feels like a distant memory right now. The Utes and the Horned Frogs have soared past forecasts so far in 2014 by starting 5-1 and ascending from unranked to the Top 25. Neither veteran forgot how to coach. It’s just taken a few years to get the troops adapted to the rigors of facing Pac-12 and Big 12 opponents, week-in and week-out.

The hype surrounding Oklahoma this offseason was just that—hype. The Sooners haven’t been UCLA or South Carolina disappointing this year, but it’s getting close. Just about everyone seemed to have OU in its final four in the summer. With a little over a month left in the regular season, the Sooners might not be one of the top four teams in the Big 12. WR Sterling Shepard has been the exception to an inconsistent offense, the D hasn’t lived up to expectations and even ultra-steady PK Michael Hunnicutt imploded in Saturday’s devastating home loss to Kansas State.

Urban Meyer and his offensive staff are doing a remarkable job of in-season coaching and adjustments. After half a season, some forget that this was supposed to be Braxton Miller’s team. And unlike a year ago, there’s no Kenny Guiton on the roster to vie for college football’s Rolaids Relief Award. The Buckeyes are flourishing with a rookie, J.T. Barrett, under center, scoring at least 50 points in each of the last four games since gagging against Virginia Tech on Sept. 6. Regardless of how it impacts the College Football Playoff, Ohio State at Michigan State in three weeks remains one of the most fascinating games left on the 2014 schedule.

Anyone notice that Louisville RB Michael Dyer channeled Auburn RB Michael Dyer on Saturday? Or that star WR DeVante Parker made nine catches for 132 yards in his first action of the season? The Cardinals have almost two weeks to prepare for a visit from Florida State in a game that could profoundly impact the ACC’s ability to have a representative in the playoff. Bobby Petrino, with time and a roster that’s getting healthy, ought to unnerve a Seminole defense that has not performed up to expectations this fall.

Will Muschamp is Exhibit A why many athletic directors prefer to recycle a former head coach instead of taking a chance on a hot coordinator. Success as an assistant is a necessary stepping on a coach’s career path, but it guarantees nothing once that long-awaited head job is realized. The two assignments are different animals, like a Gator to a Longhorn. And Muschamp just never clicked in Gainesville, save for a surprising 11-win effort in 2012. At a school like Florida, there can be no gambles when it comes to the high-pressure, high-money head coaching gig. And hiring anyone other than a proven head coach is a gamble that Jeremy Foley won’t take when he begins searching for Muschamp’s successor.

LSU’s 2015 season began two weeks ago, after the 41-7 loss to Auburn. LSU starts every season shooting for championships, but the only hardware that’ll be brought back to Baton Rouse this year will be of the bowl variety. Still, the Tigers are improving, as evidenced by back-to-back wins, including Saturday’s 41-3 rout of previously-surging Kentucky. The program will use the next five games as stepping stones. It’s going to develop the young talent on both sides of the ball to capture a tailwind that can be carried into next season, when there’s a clean slate and a better opportunity to compete for titles.


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