The Montessori Award and Smith's Picks editor Wann Smith roasts Dennis Franchione and gives his weekly picks.

Readers note: The Montessori Award is bestowed by the College Football Gazette each week to the most disorganized, incompetent and unprepared head coach of the preceding weekend.

And this week's winner of the Montessori Award is…

Texas A&M head coach, Dennis Franchione.

Franchione, after spending three years at Texas Christian and upgrading their program to one of comparative respectability, was hired in 2001 by the University of Alabama. A revealing story in and of itself, Alabama had brought Franchione aboard to navigate the university through the coming storm of probation and its accompanying attrition. The situation in Tuscaloosa was made crystal clear to Franchione before he took the job; being hired on the heels of Mike DuBose's disastrous 2000 campaign, he knew that he was expected to provide long-term stability in leading the Tide through their tribulations and, hopefully, back to the promised land.

Ol' Dennis spent 2001 and 2002 in Tuscaloosa but, after gaining a more focused perspective on the situation, split for the browner pastures of College Station in 2003. Recently hired A&M Athletic Director Bill Byrne (who saw the handwriting on the wall in Lincoln and also bailed out over central Texas) made the decision to bring Franchione aboard to "upgrade" the program.

What has Dennis done for the Aggies since his arrival?

His record was 4-8 in 2003, 7-5 in 2004 (with watershed losses to Baylor and Tennessee), and 5-3 thus far in '05. But wait…it gets worse. With games remaining against Texas Tech in Lubbock, Oklahoma in Norman, and Texas (anywhere), the Aggies are looking down the barrel of a 5-6 season. So when you consider that Slocum's record over his last three years at A&M was 21-15, Franchione loses some of his ‘program-building' luster.

The Aggies' loss to Iowa State last weekend, specifically for which Franchione has earned his Montessori Award, was particularly egregious. Although Iowa State came into the game with virtually no rushing attack they were still able to pile up 178 yards on the ground (averaging 3.6 yards per carry) while shredding the clueless A&M secondary for 371 yards, 4 touchdowns and no interceptions en route to a 42-14 Aggie whacking.

So make room on the trophy shelf, Dennis. Considering your adept coaching skills there may be more Montessori Awards in your future.


The Picks

Saturday, November 5th

Alabama (-17) at Mississippi State
Remember the hoopla and criticism the ‘Bama administration suffered when they selected Mike Shula over Sylvester Croom? Where are those critics today? Mississippi State has won two games this season, beating Murray State and Tulane. Revenge would be sweet for the Croomster but from where I'm sitting it doesn't look promising.
Alabama by Shula's age (40)

South Carolina at Arkansas (-4) I didn't think it would be possible to make Oklahoma's 36 point shellacking in their Orange bowl game against USC last season look like a close game but these Piggies did exactly that in comparison by losing to the Trojans 70-17. But the fact remains that Arkansas is a better team playing at home than when they're trying to play on the road…barely. South Carolina enjoyed the benefit of playing a very poor Tennessee team last weekend and just may be expecting an easier time of it in Fayetteville. They might be in for a surprise.
Arkansas by 6

Texas (-28) at Baylor Although Mack let the motivation factor slide in last week's game in Stillwater, we all saw what the Horns did to the Cowboys in just 30 minutes. The same thing could happen in the first half this weekend. Baylor, a far better team than OSU, will probably be taken lightly by Texas and therefore could be capable of playing Mack's crew closer than any team has since Ohio State. Don't laugh…yet.
Texas by 17

Missouri at Colorado (-11 ½) Can't you picture Gary Pinkel coaching defensive backs at Western Illinois in '06?
Beefaloes by 17

Kansas State at Iowa State (-7 ½) How's this for a bit of obscure information: A Dan McCarney coached Cyclone team has never beaten K-State in Ames. Ever. In fact, the last time Iowa State beat KSU in Iowa was back in '93 when they were coached by Jim Walden (the Cyclones went 3-8 that season). So suffice to say, ISU is due. But it's doubtful that they're due by more than seven.
‘Clones by 7

Miami, Florida at Virginia Tech (-6 ½) Let's see if we can flowchart this one…Larry Coker takes over for Butch Davis in 2001…his record in '01 is a sterling 12-0-0, in '02 it's 12-1-0, in '03 it's 11-2-0, in '04 it's 9-3-0…so, as the graduation rate of Butch Davis' players increases, Coker's win/loss record goes gradually south. But '05 appears to be breaking away from the pattern. So far this season, the Tropical Breeze is 6-1 and with games remaining against VT, VA, WF and Georgia Tech, Coker could be on track for a 9-2 record. Unfortunately, the second half of his losing season is on the horizon this weekend.
Virginia Tech by 8

Nebraska (-1) at Kansas The big news in Lincoln this week has been Bill Callahan vehemently denying that he made a ‘throat-slashing' gesture at the officials during last weekend's Oklahoma game while expressing his disagreement over a non-holding call. So, what are we to believe? Callahan or our lying video tape replays? It's also my understanding that he's denying calling Oklahoma fans f****** hillbillies in Norman last year and he's claiming no responsibility for hiring John Blake. Wonder who's going to be responsible for his 6-5 season in 2005?
KU by 2

Tennessee at Notre Dame (-8) Phil Fulmer finally found a scapegoat for the sluggish offense in Knoxville on Monday when he forced the resignation of Tennessee offensive coordinator Randy Sanders. Fulmer announced that he will be doing the play calling for the offense himself for the balance of the season. Yeah…that'll help.
Irish by 10

Wisconsin at Penn State (-10 ½) Sure, Penn State appears to be "back", but let's not get carried away just yet. Wisconsin scatback Calhoun makes this line too heavy.
Nittany Lions by 4

Stanford at USC (-32 ½) All the pundits who have mentioned Stanford in the same breath as UCLA as candidates to upset Southern Kluh-fernia are risking ridicule and derision. Yes, the Cardinal has played well this year, but that and 28 USC points by halftime should earn Walt Harris a first-class seat next to the bus driver on the way back to Palo Alto.
USC by 35

Texas A&M at Texas Tech (-16 ½) It was mentioned in a Sports Illustrated article last year that after the 77-0 sponge-bath the Aggies took in Norman in 2003 Dennis Franchione went home, crawled into bed with his security blanket and sobbed like a nine year-old girl. Touching. It leads one to wonder just how many tears Franchione might have shed after last weekend's 42-14 caning in the gentle confines of Kyle Field. Still and all, I haven't quite bought into the fiction that Mike Leach has learned to coach defense.
Red Raiders by 13

*** Wann Smith has served two years as national columnist for the Pigskin Post, contributed to the College Football News (a contributor to Fox Sports and the Sporting News) and is currently the editor of the College Football Gazette. Smith lives in St. Louis with his family.

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