Welcome to Four Down Territory, Omaha Sports Insider’s weekly college football round table. We will be joined by members of the Omaha Sports Insider staff to get their thoughts on what is going on in the world of college football. This week we are joined by Joe Quinn of AM 590 ESPN Omaha and Tyler Martin of OmahaSportsInsider.com and Kris Krug, contributing writer for Omahasportsinsider.com
Big news broke Sunday afternoon when it was announced LSU had let Les Miles go just four weeks into his 12th season as the head coach of the Tigers. Miles was nearly let go at the end of last year but athletic director Joe Alleva made a last second decision to retain Miles for the 2016 season.
Was letting go of Miles so early in the season the right move and who does LSU bring in to replace Miles in 2017?
JOE: Regardless of the timing, it was time for a change at LSU. I love Miles as a coach, but his inability to recruit a high quality quarterback and failure to revolutionize on offense were costing the tigers chances to play for championships. It’s just too much to ask of even an elite defense (which LSU has had) to win every game 9-7.
The two names I’ve heard tossed around the most are Tom Herman and Jimbo Fisher. At least one person that covers the team told me he doesn’t think it gets past those two names, but if it does, it’ll be a “who’s who” of college football coaches.
TYLER: I believe it was time for a change at LSU as well, but I’m not so sure the timing was the best. I understand the recruiting process, but at the same time, doesn’t that send a message that no one is safe at the head coaching position at LSU? I’m not sure who will take over for Miles at LSU, but it will be an uphill battle for whomever does.
I understand the compairison to the situation between Bo Pelini and Nebraska, but Bo Pelini wasn’t playing against Alabama and Ole Miss, and there were major character issues that led to his firing. Les Miles has always been an upstanding guy. It will be tough to find a replacement that can do better than he did.
KRIS: The LSU situation is similar to what Nebraska went through with Pelini and Riley. Tiger fans love Miles as was proven last season when chants of his name were heard throughout the stadium during what was thought to be his last game. I think the timing of letting Miles go will backfire.
I understand he was let go to get a head start on the coaching search and save recruits, but what if Oregeron starts to win? Players and fans may want him because he rallied the team in a time of need but with how bad Ole Miss was under his control, I can’t see him taking over permanently. And how exactly is this staff selling LSU football to recruits?
As far as names go, keep an eye on Lane Kiffin. I know Kiffin failed miserably at USC and with the Oakland Raiders but now that he’s been groomed by the best coach in college football at Alabama, Alleva may give him a call.
During the pre-season, there was talk about how talented the Wisconsin Badgers could be this year but their incredibly difficult schedule would keep them from making a trip to Indianapolis in December for a chance to play for the Big Ten Championship. But, after wins over LSU and No. 8 Michigan State, the badgers look like one of the best teams in the country.
The daunting schedule continues this week with a trip to Michigan followed by Ohio State, Iowa and Nebraska. After watching the Badgers handle the Spartans last week, what is Wisconsin’s record after this four game stretch coming up?
JOE: I still there’s a chance Wisconsin goes 3-2 or even 2-3 during that stretch. Michigan State looked far more vulnerable on defense in the loss than I would have ever expected, and perhaps some of the injuries (specifically at linebacker) are finally starting to catch up to them. Ohio State and Michigan are still the two best teams in the conference, and I could easily see Wisconsin splitting against Iowa and Nebraska.
TYLER: I believe Wisconsin beats Michigan and Iowa, but loses to a hot Nebraska team and a nearly unstoppable Ohio State team. Wisconsin’s defense is good enough to slow down the Ohio State offense, but I’m not sure the Badger’s offense will be able to do a thing on the Ohio State defense.
Nebraska will be hell bent on getting a bid for the Big Ten championship game and will pass the ball just well enough to sneak by. Wisconsin goes 3-2 in this stretch.
KRIS: At some point you have to think the schedule will catch up to the Badgers and they will drop a game or two. The good news for the badgers is after their date at the Big House this weekend, they get a chance to relax next Saturday before welcoming in Ohio State Oct. 15.
This stretch of games reminds me of Oklahoma in 2000 when the Sooners had to take on No.11 Texas, No. 2 Kansas State in Manhattan and No.1 Nebraska back-to-back-to-back. Oklahoma survived that run and went on to win the National Championship.
The bye week for the Badgers next week will help, but I don’t see them getting by Ohio State on Oct. 15. Nebraska is the final game of this grueling stretch and though Wisconsin has embarrassed the huskers each time in Madison, I think the badgers will be physically exhausted and out played. I like Wisconsin to go 3-2.
Nebraska got bit by the injury bug again when offensive guard Tanner Farmer went down with a high ankle sprain in the Cornhuskers win 24-13 win over Northwestern on Saturday night.
Offensive line depth was already seen as an area of concern for Nebraska coming into this season but the group has done a pretty good job in the first four games. Is Farmer’s absence a huge area of concern or can Nebraska work around another injury?
JOE: Well, Nebraska has a strong chance to be OK as long as they don’t lose anyone else. If another interior lineman were to go down, the two best options would be Jalin Barnett and true freshman Boe Wilson, both guys with very little playing experience to date. Illinois isn’t a great team, but they do feature a fairly good defensive front. If anyone else goes down, the adventures could begin.
TYLER: Nebraska is in the part of its schedule where it can work past these minor injuries. After October, there will be no room for this kind of injury to the interior line. After Illinois, Nebraska has a bye week, then heads to Indiana and comes back home to take on Purdue. After the Purdue game, the Huskers better hope the injury bug has stayed away before back to back road games against Wisconsin and Ohio State.
KRIS: Well the frontline has done a little better than expected this season, though there really hasn’t been a huge just yet. Oregon front four were not thought to be a huge problem two weeks ago and Northwestern, Wyoming and Fresno State were no issue. The injury bug hasn’t been as big of a problem as it has been in years past but with as young as that line is, moving forward I would feel better knowing Farmer is ready to go. The buy week after the Illinois game will certainly be an advantage for the Huskers.
We are presented this weekend with some unexpected big matchups. The weekend kicks off tonight (Friday) with No.7 Stanford vs No. 10 Washington. Saturday we’ll see No. 11 Tennessee vs. No. 25 Georgia, No. 8 Wisconsin vs. No. 4 Michigan and No. 3 Louisville vs. No. 5 Clemson. Those are just a few of the biggest matchups this weekend. What is your must-see matchup for Saturday?
JOE: Stanford vs. Washington is the game of the week. The winner should emerge as the clear favorite to win the Pac-12 North, which is by far the stronger of the two divisions.
Louisville-Clemson feels like it could be a blowout for the Cardinals if they play like they have so far this year, and I’m still not convinced Wisconsin marches into Ann Arbor and runs over the Wolverines. The Badgers will be going against a much better defensive unit this time.
TYLER: I’m very intrigued by this Wisconsin vs. Michigan matchup. There are still a lot of questions about how good these teams actually are, and this game should answer that question.
KRIS: Deciding between Wisconsin vs. Michigan and Louisville vs. Clemson is nearly impossible. I’m going to lean with the badgers. I’m interested to see how far this Wisconsin team can go unbeaten. The schedule-maker gods hate the badgers but Paul Chryst has that team rolling.
I know Alabama won the national championship last year but if Wisconsin wins an Ann Arbor tomorrow, they’ll have wins over No.4 LSU, No. 8 Michigan State on the road and No. 4 Michigan on the road. How would this not be the No.1 team in the country?