Tusk to Tail: The Hogs should win in Columbia; but does Bobby take his bike to Baton Rouge?
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Members of Tusk to Tail are heading to South Carolina with a trailer full of tents, televisions and booze, and hearts full of hope. But no bail money. So the Hogs better handle the Cocks.
Several SEC coaches are in the proverbial “hot seat.” Which coach do you predict will be the first to be fired, and who do you think will replace him?
Butch Jones will be the first coach fired in the SEC. It’s a foregone conclusion he will be out and surprising to some he hasn’t already been fired. It’s entirely possible Bobby Petrino ends up there. Here’s the dirty secret about that job: There’s no natural recruiting base with talent flowing every year so that makes finding a coach harder. Perhaps Chad Morris (SMU) is an option, but maybe he waits to see if A&M opens up.
If the season ended today, the race to the unemployment office would be led by Tennessee’s Butch Jones and LSU’s Ed Orgeron. Their inability to reclaim National Championship glory days, establish momentum, or live up to preseason expectations is shocking and unacceptable to their 100,000-plus fans per game.
This should give Razorback fans perspective. Over the past week the UA has advertised tickets still for sale for the Auburn game, quickly followed by emails announcing DISCOUNTED tickets to that same game. Some are ready for Coach B to take a motorcycle ride down to Crosses. With that self-confidence here, imagine how fans feel at schools that have won National Championships within the past 53 years.
Back to the question. I think Tennessee finds a way to win a few more than LSU in the West, Orgeron gets sacked first, and his replacement rides in on a Harley with a wicked offensive playbook and a fire in his belly. Welcome back to the SEC Bobby Petrino! Fans and administrators have a higher tolerance for your winning ways in The Bayou.
I’ve narrowed it down to two places that I think will make a change at the end of the year. The first is Ole Miss. Their record is going to be bad, and interim coach Matt Luke won’t have many supporters. Also AD Ross Bjork is probably on his last legs.
The second coach is Ed Orgeron at LSU. He lost at home to Troy, the team from the powerhouse Sunbelt conference, for God’s sake! The last time LSU lost two games in September, they fired Les Miles who only had a National Championship and a 114-34 record for them. Ed’s buyout is significant, but not compared to losing to Troy. The only problem I see for LSU is who would they want to get to replace him? I will say Chip Kelly, assuming he would work for their AD.
So those two are my choices, and I think of the two, we will be saying goodbye to Mr. Orgeron, who will leave football for a career in teaching English to foreigners.
I’d say Butch Jones by a landslide, and possibly Bobby Petrino to replace him. Tennessee will throw character and moral issues out the window now. They are desperate.
• Arkansas @ South Carolina
I like the Hogs in this game, but it’s never easy on the road in the SEC. The South Carolina offense has struggled over the past several weeks due to key injuries along the offensive line and wide receiver. The Gamecocks only managed 26 rushing yards on 23 carries against the Aggies last Saturday night. The weak South Carolina run game puts quarterback Jake Bentley under the gun to make big plays. He’s very capable of turning a busted play into a touchdown. The Razorback defense will need to keep him in check to win this game.
It feels like the Arkansas offense has become more balanced the last two games. Guys like Jonathan Nance, Dion Stewart and Jordan Jones have stepped up at wide receiver and the tailback rotation of Whaley, Hayden and Williams have rushed for 200 plus yards the last two games. If we win the time of possession, stop their run game, and keep Bentley between the tackles we will have a chance to win. Arkansas 28, USC 21
This is Bielema’s first game against the Gamecocks, but David Williams will be able to tell him all about Columbia and his former team. Bielema has faced Muschamp in a 2013 game at Florida (Hogs lost 30-10) so he probably has an idea of Boom’s tendencies. While South Cackalacka did beat NC State (now 4-1) to open the season, they’ve since lost star playmaker Deebo Samuel for the season. They have a solid QB in Jake Bentley, but his O-line has had challenges protecting him (sound familiar?).
They have a good defense as they held Texas A&M to 24 points last weekend. The line has already shifted in this game from favoring the Gamecocks by 2 to the Hogs by 1.5. All that said, the Porkers leave Columbia with a win, as Bielema evens his ledger against Boom.
I like the Hogs in this one. The Hogs should be able to run the ball enough to eat some clock and the passing game is improving from game to game. If the Hogs can score 40 on A&M, they can score 40 on Carolina and that should be enough to win. Hogs 34, Carolina 24
The Hogs match up well with the Gamecocks. Carolina only had 23 rushing yards last week in the A&M loss. Arkansas should be able to run the ball effectively and make enough plays downfield to control time of possession. Defense will need to make some plays on 3rd down, which they don’t like to do. I think the running game hits on all cylinders and Hogs get a road win. 27-20.
• LSU @ #21 Florida
LSU is struggling on both sides of the ball. This is a bit of a rivalry game for them, but with so much going on around the program, I’m not sure the kids will ever get what the coaches are feeding them this week. Florida is on its 3rd string QB but he should be enough to win this game at home. Florida 23, LSU 17.
Apparently, the oddsmakers don’t see this game as most people might. What is the reason? Except for against State, LSU’s offense has put up decent numbers. Still, Florida at home against this LSU team seems like a safe pick.
The Gators get two games in a row at home vs. LSU after a hurricane last year in Louisiana. LSU just lost to Troy. How the LSU AD keeps his job after hiring Orgeron is beyond me. We all knew. Florida is so close to being 1-3 but have been winning by their chinny chin chins. This will be an ugly game. Take Florida just because they are at home. And LSU sucks. 23-17.
• #13 Miami @ Florida State
Miami looked good dismantling the previously undefeated Duke Blue Devils with their defense holding them to 2 field goals. Florida State beat Wake Forest last week for its first win of the season. Miami has lost 7 straight to FSU. While the Seminoles are more talented overall, they are not the same since losing their star QB in the season opener. Miami’s defense is playing well, and a young, inexperienced QB will have trouble even at home. Hurricane Irma pushed this game to this weekend from its original September date. It’s possible that Tropical Storm Nate disrupts this one as well. Look for the U to put an end to this losing skid against the Noles.
Miami looks good this season while FSU has struggled. Richt seems to have Miami moving in the right direction, but I still smart from picking the likable coach too many times in big games where his teams inevitably disappointed me. Florida State under Jimbo Fisher has dominated the other Florida schools. I expect a close FSU win.
• Ole Miss @ #12 Auburn
The Auburn football team has really improved over the last several weeks, especially on offense. At this point in the season, I see them as the third best team in SEC behind Alabama and Georgia. The Tigers will have the opportunity to play both those teams in Auburn at the end of the season. They do have 3 road games coming up @LSU, @Arkansas and @ Texas A&M. None of those teams are playing particularly well, but a road game in the SEC can be a little tricky.
The Tigers take on Ole Miss at home on Saturday where they’ll continue to fine tune their offense. Ole Miss is going through their own John L Smith type season and this will be one of those name your score games, not quite as bad as Alabama but still brutal. Auburn 45, Ole Miss 17.
• #23 West Virginia @ #8 TCU
If this game were in Morgantown, I would go with the Mountaineers. However, TCU, that lush little private school, is back in the Top 10 (feel my Baylor jealously). Gary Patterson has reclaimed that sweet-spot balance of a high octane offense and stingy defense. Horned Frogs pull away after a tight first half, 38-17.
• #1 Alabama @ Texas A&M
This is too easy. There is Alabama and then there is everybody else. A&M is off to a 4-1 start, and is 2-0 in conference. Also they are playing at home. Unfortunately they are playing a Bama team that has allowed only one third down conversion in the past two weeks. The Bama defense will be too much for A&M, and the Tide running game will keep Jalen Hurts from getting his uniform dirty this week. Bama is a 26 point favorite in this game. Who am I to argue with the people who do this for a living? Bama 45, Texas A&M 17.
Bama is a 25-point favorite on the road at A&M. That’s unheard of. Bama has outscored Vandy and Ole Miss 125-3 the last two games. Their defense has allowed one 3rd conversion in the two games. And the Hogs get to face that a week from Saturday. Yay. Bama rolls on 48-10.
Editor’s note: Welcome to the sixth season of Tusk to Tail – the sport of tailgating as organized, performed and perfected by a group of Hog fans who have been tailgating together sober and otherwise for more than a decade. Members of the Tusk to Tail Team are Sean Casey, Jack Clark, Dale Cullins, Greg Houser, Craig May, David Rice and Mark Wagner. Tusk to Tail is managed by Talk Business & Politics against the advice of attorneys and family. The diehards may also be followed on their Facebook page. Or follow the crew on Twitter — @TuskToTail