The Blitz: Where the polls failed; who's next after Kiffin?

BY foxsports • September 30, 2013

Look, voters were wrong, for better and for worse.

It's what
happens when teams are ranked before we've seen them play a game,
leaning on the accomplishments of a year ago and the stars that return
to drive perceptions -- and in two instances more than any others, the
polls failed us this season.

South Carolina and Oklahoma.

Ranked
No. 6 and No. 16, respectively, back in August, the reality is the
Gamecocks and Sooners have looked far different than what we were told
we were getting out of them. But theirs are more than cases of voters
simply overrating and underrating them; they are cases of getting caught
up in hype and history.

We all saw the highlight of Jadeveon
Clowney de-helmeting Michigan's Vincent Smith in the Outback Bowl and
there were believers that a defensive end could win a Heisman Trophy and
put a team in a national title hunt in the SEC, where defenses reign,
at No. 6 back in August.

But South Carolina, which dropped to
13th in the latest Associated Press Top 25, is now 3-1 after edging UCF
28-25 on the road. The Gamecocks' season now includes lackluster wins
over 1-3 North Carolina, two-loss Vanderbilt and narrowly beating an AAC
team that was a 7 1/2-point underdog. Oh, and that Clowney-led defense
is giving up 381 yards (58th in FBS) and 25.3 points (tied for 64th) a
game.

Granted, Clowney is playing through a foot injury that will
require surgery after the season, but he has just 12 tackles, including
three for loss, two sacks and one forced fumble. The end just hasn't
been the defining force he was expected to be, which, more than
anything, may speak more to the pollsters throwing their weight behind a
team led by a defensive player in an age of offense.

The
calendar has yet to turn to October and the Gamecocks would need some
monumental breaks to get back into SEC East hunt, let alone the national
title picture. That's a huge whiff for a team ranked No. 6 in the
preseason.

*You could make a fair argument for Notre Dame,
14th to open the year and now out of the rankings, as the biggest poll
failure. But nobody was talking about an Irish team sans Everett Golson
as a BCS title contender again.


Meanwhile the Sooners jumped
three spots to 11th following a dominant 35-31 win over Notre Dame --
another team that was overrated back in August at 14th -- in South Bend
and have climbed into the BCS title conversation.

To be fair, no
one was feeling the Big 12 this summer with Oklahoma State the
conference's highest-ranked team at 13th and the last we saw of the
Sooners they had been demoralized by Texas A&M's Johnny Manziel in
the Cotton Bowl.

Add in that the defense had major turnover and a
major question mark at quarterback following the departure of Landry
Jones and voters had cause to be skeptical.

Oklahoma's young
defense is improving, ranking sixth in the nation in allowing 12 ppg and
while the mobile Blake Bell is a major departure for a Bob Stoops team
at QB, he's emerging as a fully formed passer. In his first two starts,
the guy previously know as the Belldozer, has thrown for 646 yards and
six TDs and he's completing passes at a 73.1 percent clip.

Don't
discount the Sooners' recent inability to live up to their preseason
placement as a reason for the lack of preseason attention as Oklahoma
went from fourth last year to 15th and No. 1 in 2011 to 16th.

We've
reached a you-have-to-earn-my-love place in our collective relationship
with Stoops' teams, but now clear favorites to win the Big 12 -- with
some help from West Virginia's stunning win over the Cowboys -- Oklahoma
be worthy of that affection.

The preseason rankings were wrong.
But thankfully for the Sooners, and unfortunately for South Carolina,
reality comes with the benefit of allowing voters to self-correct.



Lane
Kiffin is out, his three-plus seasons at USC coming to an unceremonious
end in an LAX parking lot following Saturday's loss to Arizona State.
Paul Pasqualoni was fired as well after just 28 games at UConn, the
final straw coming in a 41-12 loss to Buffalo on Saturday which dropped
the Huskies to 0-4 on the season.

Their departures pose the
question: who could be next? Here's a look at the top three remaining
coaches on the hot seat, which will be updated monthly throughout the
season (or as someone else joins Kiffin and Pasqualoni in being suddenly
'single.')


He
got the Longhorns off to a 1-0 start in the Big 12, but it's going to
take more than one win to get the heat off Brown. With four Top 25
opponents left -- No. 11 Oklahoma, No. 21 Oklahoma State, No. 20 Texas
Tech and No. 17 Baylor, all of which are higher than 27th in total
offense -- things could get bad for a defense that's ranked 109th in
FBS.


His
expletive-filled rant only amplified a program that has been stuck in
neutral under Pelini's direction and increased the spotlight on him this
season. Anything short of a Rose Bowl berth and chances are that sound
byte makes a comeback. His Huskers are now 3-1 and their next five
includes No. 16 Northwestern and No. 19 Michigan.  


In
his 13th year with the Demon Deacons, Grobe is the dean of ACC coaches.
But stability hasn’t bred a consistent winner as he's produced four
straight losing seasons and he's now 2-3 after a 56-7 loss to No. 3
Clemson. Those two wins? They came vs. FCS school Presbyterian and now
2-3 Army.




Are
they now legitimized in the public eye? Braxton Miller was sharp in
throwing four TDs and the defense held Wisconsin's rushing attack 245
yards below its season average. Yes, they needed a defensive stand in
the final minute to top the then-No. 23 Badgers, but it a statement win
on a national stage. Urban Meyer's crew can get another next week at No.
16 Northwestern.


The
media's pick to win the Big 12 at media days, the Cowboys went into
Morgantown at 3-0, only to get dumped by a West Virginia squad that was
dominated by Maryland in Week 4. The offense was completely out of synch
as QB J.W. Walsh and Co. went 6-of-20 on third downs, with Walsh
delivering just two first downs with this arm, and running backs Desmond
Roland and Jeremy Smith didn't help matters in combining for just 58
yards. The Cowboys took a huge dive as a result, going from 11th to 21st
in the rankings.


Now
4-0 for the first time since 2001, the Huskies got an impressive
performance out of Bishop Sankey -- he had 161 yards on a school-record
40 carries, breaking Corey Dillon's previous mark of 38 -- in beating
Arizona. The Wildcats, a gritty, physical defense, are a strong primer
as the Huskies now face No. 5 Stanford.


An
Oct. 5 date with Miami had all the makings of a clash of unbeatens with
major ACC Coastal Division title implications. Instead the Yellow
Jackets took some of the thunder out of that game as a defense that was
ranked 11th in total D was dominated by Virginia Tech's Logan Thomas --
who was credited with 279 yards, while the Hokies had 276 as a team --
and the vaunted spread option was held to a measly 129 yards rushing in a
17-10 loss.


What's
it going to take for Jordan Lynch and Co. to get into the Top 25? The
Huskies remain out of the rankings despite beating Purdue 55-24, which
was their second win over a Big Ten team this season, in moving to 4-0.
They're still fighting for respect while fellow non-BCS conference squad
Fresno State enters its second weekend in the poll. Remember, this is
the same team that made the Orange Bowl and returns the MAC Offensive
Player of the Year in Lynch.


The
belief was the Rebels' offense would be the ones to hang with
top-ranked Alabama on the road. But that unit suffered a major setback
in getting shutout for the first time since 1998. If there was a bright
spot it was Ole Miss' defense, which came in ranked 33rd after allowing
35 points to Vanderbilt and 23 to Texas and held the Crimson Tide to 16
points through three quarters.




With
the Bulldogs' BCS title hopes on the line for the second time in two
weeks Murray delivered another impressive performance. He was 20 of 34
for 298 yards, four TDs and an interception and ran in another score to
outduel former roommate Zach Mettenberger and the-No. 6 LSU. He's thrown
himself back into the Heisman Trophy mix despite looking out of it
after falling to Tajh Boyd and Clemson.


He
had five tackles, including 1 1/2 for loss, with a sack, a forced
fumble and two interceptions in the Horned Frogs' 48-17 win over SMU.
His first pick came with the game tied 10-10, setting up TCU's go-ahead
TD and then put an exclamation point on the victory with his second INT,
which he returned 66 yards for a score.


Averaging
19.3 yards per attempt heading into Saturday's game with Cal, good
enough for seventh in the nation, this Ducks sophomore ended the day
leading all FBS by nearly 11 yards. He took his first try 75 yards for a
score in the second quarter, then had a 67-yard return for a TD in the
third, totaling 142 yards. He's now averaging 36.5 on six tries on the
season.




As
previously stated, this one has lost some of its buzz (no pun intended,
Yellow Jackets ... or is it?) but it's now a must-win game for
different reasons. The Hurricanes, a potential national title dark
horse, can't afford to lose with No. 8 Florid State still ahead; Georgia
Tech needs this one to avoid all but falling out of the division race.
Look for Miami to keep its resurgence going.
The Pick: Miami 35, Georgia Tech 27
 

The
Wildcats have thrived with their two-QB system of Kain Colter and
Trevor Siemian, teaming to throw for 935 yards, seven scores and four
picks and a 69.8 percent completion percentage and they've run for 272
yards and three scores. The Buckeyes struggled vs. the pass in topping
Wisconsin, allowing 295 yards, but that was because they were obsessed
with bottling up the Badgers' run game. Northwestern, is strong on the
ground (249.5 per) but doesn't present the same difficult matchup for LB
Ryan Shazier and the Ohio State front seven, who are eighth in FBS
(84.6). The Buckeyes should be able to put pressure on the Wildcats' QBs
and leave Evansville with a win.
The Pick: Ohio State 31, Northwestern 20


The
Huskies controlled the line of scrimmage against Arizona behind
Sankey's aforementioned workhorse performance, but the Cardinal are a
different animal -- or tree, to be more precise -- than the Wildcats.
Stanford's defense, whose stats don't tell just how strong they are up
front (35th in total D; 21st against the run), can turn this into a
grind for Washington. Coming off their most explosive game of the season
(560 yards and 55 points vs. Washington State), the Cardinal are
rolling heading into this one and that's bad news for the best squad
Steve Sarkisian has assembled in Seattle.
The Pick: Stanford 34, Washington 20

Last Week: 2-1
Overall: 10-2


share story