Rich Rants: Going Hog Wild

Week 13 thoughts, musings and ramblings about the weekend.

Early-mail Rich Cirminiello
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Now you’re just messing with your critics, Florida State. This Seminole squad has got to be the strangest collection of players in recent memory. I mean, we’ve reached a point where it seems as if the Noles can’t function properly unless they’re being pushed to the brink by an underdog. Hey, Steve Addazio does a great job with BC, but only a couple of Eagles could even start in Tallahassee. Yet, Boston College went toe-to-toe with FSU, just like so many others have in 2014. If the Noles somehow win four more games, the college football world will need to have a shrink on retainer to rationalize what took place this season.

UCLA is finally playing to the level many thought it would back in the preseason. It’s about time. After handling weaker opponents like Florida State’s West Coast twin, the Bruins have flexed their muscles with comfortable wins over Washington and USC. Handily beating the Trojans was a true turning point, both in the Pac-12 South race and as it pertains to local recruits. There have been some rocky moments for Jim Mora this fall, as the staff evolves, but a 3-0 mark against a crosstown rival is a huge development for the UCLA program going forward.

Enough already with the late-season cupcakes, SEC. The sport’s best conference has no business ever facing the likes of Charleston Southern, Samford and Eastern Kentucky, let alone in November, when title chases are happening. Games with second-tier opponents are horrible for the game and the fans, and spare me the altruistic angle of what it means to the FCS school. It’s not the job of the heavyweights to fill small-program coiffures, nor has that ever been the motivation when these matchups are scheduled. If the SEC can’t self-correct here, the College Football Playbook committee ought to start punishing those schools with tissue-soft non-conference schedules.

The vultures have begun to circle Notre Dame. Revel in the collapse now, Irish haters, because Brian Kelly’s squad might be championship-caliber in 2015. ND is staggering to the finish line, losing consecutive games to Arizona State, Northwestern and Louisville. Hello, middling bowl game. But this program was always about 2015, despite the fast start that briefly elevated the bar to unattainable heights. Kelly has used a ton of young players, QB Everett Golson will keep evolving and it’ll be a boon to the squad if WR DaVaris Daniels and CB KeiVarae Russell return to South Bend after being suspended for 2014.

Gary Pinkel has to be one of the three or four most underrated head coaches in America. One look at Missouri’s recent recruiting classes, mediocre by the SEC measuring stick, makes the program’s recent success all the more impressive. No one gave the Tigers much of a chance in the mighty Southeastern Conference, yet Pinkel has his kids within a victory on Friday from playing in a second straight league title game. Remarkable, particularly since this current Mizzou team is void of household names, and has spent the last two months getting nothing from Maty Mauk and the passing game.

If Frank Beamer stays any longer in Blacksburg, the situation at Virginia Tech is bound to get worse before it gets better. Listen, I really like Beamer, both personally and professionally. Great man, legendary coach. But there comes a time when that coach can no longer maximize the talent of the personnel surrounding him. And unfortunately, Beamer has reached that stage in his iconic career. He’s made tweaks and alterations in recent seasons, but the Hokies remain stuck in neutral. Here’s hoping Saturday’s 6-3, touchdown-less loss to Wake Forest compels the coach to step away soon before his legacy starts taking hits.

Tevin Coleman isn’t winning the Heisman Trophy, or even the Doak Walker Award. But the Indiana junior could be having the most impressive season by any individual. Coleman isn’t running behind Melvin Gordon’s line, and he’s not getting much support in the passing game from true freshman QB Zander Diamont. Yet, Coleman is still just 96 yards away from becoming the 18th back in history to rush for 2,000 yards in a season. And he’s going to do it without the luxury of a postseason game to pad his final stat line.

I have no earthly clue what should be done with Bo Pelini at this point. On the one hand, the coach has been ultra-consistent throughout his seven-year tenure. On the other hand, he’s been ultra-consistent throughout his seven-year tenure. And cranky, controversial and unable to get Nebraska above the plateau. At some point, the Huskers are going to throw their hands up and move in a new direction. But you have to wonder if the program will lament the day it canned a coach it could count on to deliver nine or 10 wins, year-in and year-out. I would not want to be Husker AD Shawn Eichorst right now.

Forgetting for a moment what’s transpired over the totality of a season, Arkansas is one of the dozen or so best teams in the country right now. No, you can’t rank the Razorbacks in the top 10 since they’ve lost five times, but how many teams are playing better as the regular season reaches its crescendo? The Hogs have blanked LSU and Ole Miss in back-to-back weekends, an incredible feat for a program that had a 10-game losing streak on Sept. 1 and a 17-game SEC losing streak on Nov. 1.

Sorry, Marshall, but any dreams you had of facing a Power Five opponent in a New Year’s Six bowl game may have dissipated into the Birmingham sunset on Saturday. Fair or not, the unbeaten Thundering Herd had to exist above the criticism to remain in the marquee postseason game hunt, the result of a schedule devoid of recognizable opponents. Slipping past 5-6 UAB on a fourth-quarter touchdown, however, likely means the committee will anoint the Mountain West champ or the American Athletic Conference winner, whoever that winds up being.


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