Berry’s college football buffet: Hey, Texas A&M, hands off Bob Stoops, but give Lincoln Riley a call

Berry’s college football buffet: Hey, Texas A&M, hands off Bob Stoops, but give Lincoln Riley a call

Money does not grow on trees in College Station, because there are no trees (or danged few). Money is not the issue. Which means the Aggies can aim high.

Berry Tramel

By Berry Tramel

| Nov 16, 2023, 1:30pm CST

Berry Tramel

By Berry Tramel

Nov 16, 2023, 1:30pm CST

Texas A&M fired Jimbo Fisher the other day. All it costs is a $77 million buyout. And a ton of money to pay off his coaches. And a ton of money to hire a new coach.

Money does not grow on trees in College Station, because there are no trees (or danged few). Money is not the issue. Which means the Aggies can aim high. Here’s my crazy list for who A&M might go after:

  1. Urban Meyer: Only a school with no scruples would hire a coach with no scruples. Shoe, meet foot.
  2. Jim Harbaugh: Harbaugh lives in chaos. A&M is quite accustomed to chaos.
  3. Deion Sanders: Watching Deion with the oilies who run A&M would be fascinating theater.
  4. Lincoln Riley: Does Riley need a parachute? A&M would offer him one.
  5. Dabo Swinney: We’re starting to see Swinney get a little frayed around the edges in Clemson. Maybe a change of scenery would do him good.
  6. Dan Campbell: There are no ex-Aggies, even if they’re coaching the Detroit Lions.
  7. Bob Stoops: Please say no, Bob, if the Aggies come calling. We need you at Sellout Crowd.
  8. Bill Belichick: A variety of pro football outlets believe Belichick soon will need a job.
  9. Lane Kiffin: Kiffin doesn’t mind poking the Nick Saban bear.
  10. Dan Lanning: A series of Oregon coaches have left for worse jobs (Willie Taggart to Florida State, Mario Cristobal to Miami). Why not Lanning?
  11. Steve Sarkisian: Oh my goodness this would be the ultimate payback for the Longhorns joining the Southeastern Conference.
  12. Ryan Day: Hey, at A&M, you don’t get in hot water for losing to Michigan. You get in hot water for all kinds of things, but not for losing to Michigan.
  13. James Franklin: Long ago, A&M swiped Jackie Sherrill from Pittsburgh. Why not Franklin from Penn State?
  14. Brian Kelly: A&M already has a coaching feud with Alabama. Why not start one with Louisiana State?
  15. Josh Heupel: The SEC likes to inter-hire. 

Playoff committee disrespecting Washington

The College Football Playoff committee has Georgia No. 1. OK, it’s Georgia. I get it.

But the committee has Washington No. 5. Makes you want to use the word tarnation.

As in, what is going on?

The 10-0 Huskies have beaten Oregon, Arizona, Southern Cal and Utah. That’s a solid quartet of victims. That’s the best quartet of victims in America.

Georgia’s best wins: Missouri, Ole Miss, Auburn, Kentucky.

Florida State’s best wins: Louisiana State, Clemson, Duke, Miami.

Ohio State’s best wins: Penn State, Notre Dame and whichever Big Ten dregs you want to choose from Wisconsin, Rutgers and Maryland.

Michigan’s best wins: Penn State, Nevada-Las Vegas and, uh, Nebraska?

Washington is No. 5? I’ve never seen a committee so asleep at the wheel. I’ll give them Georgia. I won’t give them anyone else.

The committee is 100 percent disrespecting Washington and probably the Pac-12 in general.

Will that continue next season, when Washington, Oregon, USC and UCLA will be in the Big Ten? Is the committee’s disrespect geographical? Cultural? What?

No way does Washington deserve to be No. 5.

Let’s get to my rankings:

  1. Washington 10-0: If the Huskies win at Oregon State on Saturday and don’t rise to at least No. 2, I have no defense of the CFP.
  2. Georgia 10-0: Kirby Smart’s team appears to have everyone’s attention.
  3. Florida State 10-0: The Seminoles get the easiest path remaining, with North Alabama, Florida and likely Louisville in the Atlantic Coast Conference Championship Game. Even the All State Playoff Predictor now puts FSU with the best chance.
  4. Texas 9-1: That’s right. The Longhorns. Enough of this Big Ten charade.
  5. Alabama 9-1: I would say that the Crimson Tide has more quality wins than Michigan and Ohio State combined.
  6. Ohio State 10-0: With all that said, the Michigan-Ohio State winner will have a strong case to rise high. 
  7. Michigan 10-0: Kooky, that UNLV represents the Wolverines’ second-best victory.
  8. Oregon 9-1: The real debate is what happens if the final playoff slot comes down to a 12-1 Oregon vs. a 12-1 Texas.
  9. Missouri 8-2: I’m sold on Mizzou as a top-20 team, but I’m not sold on the Tigers as a top-10 team. However, the contenders fall quickly after eight.
  10. Oklahoma 8-2: I’m open to suggestions for replacing the Sooners. But not with Louisville, and not with Ole Miss. Maybe LSU.

Upset special: Iowa State over Texas & Colorado over WSU

Big 12: Some wondered if the shine was off Matt Campbell’s star in September. His Cyclones lost 10-7 at Ohio U., and Campbell even lost his cool with a heckling fan.

But Campbell didn’t build the Iowa State program on sand. The Cyclones righted the ship, and they are in a four-way tie for second place in the Big 12.

Now they host Texas, and the Southeastern Conference-bound Longhorns will be glad to be rid of November in Ames, Iowa. ISU has beaten Texas in three of the last four meetings at Jack Trice Stadium.

Texas’ offense is struggling. Quarterback Quinn Ewers returned last week from injury, but he looked rusty, and star tailback Jonathon Brooks is lost for the season with a massive knee injury.

Texas barely held on to win 29-26 at Texas Christian last week, and four of the Longhorns’ last five games have been one-possession scores.

Iowa State’s defense will be ready to keep this close. Texas is a 7½-point favorite, but let’s go with the Cyclones in the upset.

National: Colorado over Washington State

Washington State would have been one of college football’s biggest September stories. If not for Colorado.

Deion Sanders’ rocket-start with CU eclipsed everything in college football. The Buffaloes started 3-0, with wins over Texas Christian and Nebraska, plus a double-overtime instant classic against Colorado State.

The Deion Show captured the fancy of the nation, even people who are not that tied into college football.

And nobody much paid attention to Washington State, which in September upset then-19th-ranked Wisconsin and Oregon State. The Cougars were 4-0 and ranked 13th in The Associated Press poll.

But Colorado and Washington State have combined for just one win since. WSU has lost six straight to fall to 4-6. The Buffaloes have beaten only Arizona State, 27-24 on Oct. 7.

Tied for last place in the Pac-12 — yes, below California and Stanford and ASU — are Washington State and Colorado.

Saturday, the last-place teams meet in Pullman, Washington, and the Cougars are four-point favorites.

But somehow, Colorado’s fall seems less steep than Washington State’s. The Buffs have been competitive in every game except a 42-6 loss to Oregon. CU lost to Southern Cal 48-41, Stanford 46-43, UCLA 28-16, Oregon State 26-19 and Arizona 34-31.

Let’s go with Deion and Colorado in the upset.

Ranking the Big 12 teams

My head hurts from all the potential Big 12 tiebreakers. Let’s take a break and just rank the teams on where they are in terms of performance.

  1. Texas (9-1, 6-1): The Longhorns are a heroic Dillon Gabriel drive from being unbeaten and ranked probably No. 2.
  2. Oklahoma (8-2, 6-1): The Sooners’ shortcomings are overstated. OU lost two down-to-the-wire games, on the road, against top-25 teams.
  3. Kansas State (7-3, 5-2): Two of KSU’s losses look agonizingly impressive. An overtime loss at Texas, and a 61-yard walkoff field goal at Missouri. Both top-10 teams.
  4. Oklahoma State (7-3, 5-2): If the Cowboys could get the directional schools (South Alabama, Central Florida) off their schedule, what a season they would be having.
  5. Kansas (7-3, 5-2): I don’t make allowances for injury, but this is partly an allowance for injury. The loss to Texas Tech came because KU was down to third-team freshman quarterback Cole Ballard.
  6. Iowa State (6-4, 5-2): Man, the Cyclones looked good in a runaway win at Brigham Young.
  7. West Virginia (6-4, 4-3): The Mountaineers would like to have Houston’s Hail Mary back.
  8. Texas Tech (5-5, 3-4): The Red Raiders have played two straight strong games. Now they become bowl eligible with a win over Central Florida.
  9. Texas Christian (4-6, 3-4): Bummer of a season for the Horned Frogs. Beating OU next week is required to be bowl eligible.
  10. Central Florida (5-5, 2-5): UCF looked like a CFP contender in routing OSU.
  11. BYU (5-5, 2-5): The Cougars have been outscored 117-26 the last three weeks, by Texas, West Virginia and Iowa State.
  12. Baylor (3-7, 2-5): The Bears’ descent is quite alarming in Waco.
  13. Cincinnati (3-7, 1-6): The Bearcats’ win at Houston was at least a sign of life.
  14. Houston (4-6, 2-5): Heck, I couldn’t argue if you wanted to put UC or Baylor last.

Coaches on the hot seat: UCLA’s Chip Kelly & K-State’s Chris Klieman

National: Bruin Report Online says Kelly “likely” will be fired, either after the Bruins’ game Saturday against USC or after the season finale against California.

Most of my hot-seat takes revolve around whether a coach will be fired, not should he be fired.

But should Kelly be fired?

My impression: no. Kelly is 33-33 in six seasons at UCLA, and that’s not up to Bruin standards, which frankly aren’t that high. Since the incredibly underrated Terry Donahue retired after 20 years at UCLA (1976-95), here are the Bruin coaches:

Bob Toledo 49-32, Karl Dorrell 35-27, Rick Neuheisel 27-35, Jim Mora Jr. 46-30, Kelly 33-33. Twenty-eight seasons, 33 games above .500. 

But the Bruins are getting better under Kelly. In his first three seasons, UCLA was 10-21. That means the Bruins are 23-12 the last three years.

UCLA hasn’t been close to a Pac-12 championship, but let’s be clear. This is not a fabulous job. UCLA’s facilities are below par, its fan base never has been engaged that much and the Bruins play in a stadium (the Rose Bowl) 26 miles away, through LA traffic.

Between Donahue and Kelly, UCLA finished in the AP Top 25 just five times in 22 seasons. 

The 1998 Bruins were the last UCLA team to make a major bowl. They have been to two major bowls (both Roses) since Troy Aikman’s senior season of 1988.

UCLA might fire Chip Kelly. It might happen on Sunday. But there’s little reason to believe the Bruins will find a more successful coach, especially going into the Big Ten.

Big 12: Klieman is a wonderful coach and has been quite successful in Manhattan. But he’s under the gun Saturday.

His Kansas State Wildcats play at Kansas, and the Sunflower Showdown has been tinted purple for 14 straight years. Not since 2008 has Kansas beaten KSU.

But it could happen this season. The Jayhawks are a legitimate threat and they’re playing at home, where KU has beaten Illinois, Central Florida and OU.

Only trouble for Kansas, relief ace Jason Bean suffered a head injury last week, leading to a loss against Texas Tech. KU coach Lance Leopold said he expects Bean to play, but we’ll see.

If Kansas pulls off this victory, it would signal a new era in the Sunflower series, one in which Klieman doesn’t have such a hold on the state of Kansas.

Ranking the national games

  1. Washington at Oregon State, 6:30 p.m., ABC: What appears to be the last game in a series that dates to 1897 and has been played 106 times. But man, that Washington-Minnesota rivalry should be out of this world.
  2. Georgia at Tennessee, 2:30 p.m., CBS: Thanksgiving pies are in the oven, and the Bulldogs have played only two true road games, and one of them was Vanderbilt.
  3. Utah at Arizona, 1:30 p.m., Pac-12 Network: Not many games left on the ill-fated Pac-12 Network, but this is a good one.
  4. Texas at Iowa State, 7 p.m., Fox: How much will the Longhorns miss tailback Jonathon Brooks, who has 1,139 rushing yards but has been lost to a massive knee injury?
  5. UCLA at Southern Cal, 2:30 p.m., ABC: At least the uniforms should be glorious.
  6. Kansas State at Kansas, 6 p.m., Fox Sports1: Sudden thought. The Sunflower schools are in prime position for the new-look Big 12. KU football and KSU basketball are riding high; Kansas basketball always is supreme, and K-State football generally is reliable.
  7. Illinois at Iowa, 2:30 p.m., Fox Sports1: The Hawkeyes can serve a useful purpose by winning this game and putting the Big Ten West out of our misery.
  8. Appalachian State at James Madison, 1 p.m., ESPN Plus: The Mountaineers have won three straight and seem capable of at least putting up a fight to end JMU’s unbeaten season.
  9. Louisville at Miami, 11 a.m., ABC: The 9-1 Cardinals don’t have much of a resume’, but the playoff committee loves low-loss teams.
  10. Southern Methodist at Memphis, 11 a.m., ESPN2: This figures to be SMU’s toughest American Conference game. The Mustangs are tied with Texas-San Antonio and Tulane atop the league, all unbeaten, but SMU plays neither UTSA nor Tulane.

Ranking the Big 12 games

  1. Texas at Iowa State, 7 p.m., Fox: Longhorns catch a break with the weather; high of 56 in Ames on Saturday, though that will be down into the 40s after sundown.
  2. Kansas State at Kansas, 6 p.m., Fox Sports1: KU’s Big 12 title hopes virtually evaporated with its loss to Texas Tech last week, but the Jayhawks would take great delight in ending K-State’s hopes, too.
  3. Oklahoma at Brigham Young, 11 a.m., ESPN: This game seemed a lot more treacherous back in August and even September.
  4. Oklahoma State at Houston, 3 p.m., ESPN2: Cougar coach Dana Holgorsen was in Stillwater for only a year, but he transformed the OSU offense (in 2010). After nearly five seasons in Houston, we’re waiting for him to do the same for the Cougars.
  5. Central Florida at Texas Tech, 4 p.m., Fox Sports2: The dreaded FS2 telecast. Wonder if a rash of those are in the Big 12’s future? So far, OU and OSU have avoided those.
  6. Baylor at Texas Christian, 2:30 p.m., ESPN Plus: The Revivalry, they’ve been calling it, but the schools now have christened the series the Bluebonnet Battle, after the state flower of Texas. Reminds me of the old Bluebonnet Bowl.
  7. Cincinnati at West Virginia, 1:30 p.m., ESPN Plus: Finally, the Mountaineers have another regional conference rival. It’s 308 miles from Cincinnati to Morgantown, about the same distance as Fort Worth to Lubbock.
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Berry Tramel is a 45-year veteran of Oklahoma journalism, having spent 13 years at the Norman Transcript and 32 years at The Oklahoman. He has been named Oklahoma Sportswriter of the Year by the National Sports Media Association. Born and raised in Norman, Tramel grew up reading four newspapers a day and began his career at age 17. His first assignment was the Lexington-Elmore City high school football game, and he’s enjoyed the journey ever since, having covered NBA Finals and Rose Bowls and everything in between. Tramel and his wife, Tricia, were married in 1980 and live in Norman near their daughter, son-in-law and three granddaughters. Tramel can be reached at 405-760-8080 or at [email protected].

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