Week 5 Recap: BCS Busters, Kiffin Fired, Les Miles


Sep 28, 2013; West Lafayette, IN, USA; Northern Illinois Huskies wide receiver Tommylee Lewis (10) returns a kickoff for a touchdown against the Purdue Boilermakers at Ross Ade Stadium. Northern Illinois won 55-24. Mandatory Credit: Pat Lovell-USA TODAY Sports

Southern Cal fired Lane Kiffin after the Trojans’ 62-41 loss to Arizona State on Saturday night. I am less surprised by this than I was by USC hiring Kiffin or than I will be by whoever hires him next. Kiffin is an easy target for fans and media because no matter your line of work, you probably know someone like him: the person who gets promoted for no good reason.

A quick summary of Kiffin’s résumé: after just two years as a college coordinator, his first head coaching job was with the NFL’s Oakland Raiders at the age of 31; his 5-15 record (he was fired four games into his second season) convinced the University of Tennessee to hire him; he went 7-6 and bailed after one year to take his “dream job” at USC, where he finished 28-15.

He’s only 38 years old. Some school will give him another chance, intrigued by his reputation as a great recruiter or the thought of him assembling a dream coaching staff, which could include his father, Monte, a highly respected defensive coordinator.

That school will ignore his lack of success and public gaffes that added to his reputation as an arrogant underachiever. The school will focus on Kiffin’s lone successful season, in 2011, when he guided USC to a 10-2 record despite scholarship reductions. He followed it up by lying about voting his team No. 1 in the preseason poll, then having them plummet out of the rankings entirely. You can joke about Texas firing Mack Brown and hiring Kiffin, but given Kiffin’s career arc it isn’t that crazy.

BCS Busters?

Fresno State and Northern Illinois are both 4-0 and have the best chances among non-AQ schools of reaching a BCS bowl. Will either run the table to get there?

Fresno, out of the Mountain West, has already survived three shootouts—a 52-51 overtime win over Rutgers, a 41-40 win against Boise State, and a 42-37 victory against Hawaii this past weekend, when the Bulldogs almost blew a 42-3 lead midway through the third quarter.

Northern Illinois has had some close calls as well, though Saturday was not one of them: the Huskies became the first MAC school to win two games against the Big Ten in the same regular season when they won at Purdue 55-24 (they won the season opener at Iowa, 30-27).

Despite favorable schedules going forward, I think both teams’ defenses will catch up with them. Fresno and NIU rank 92nd and 93rd, respectively, in yards per play allowed. Both schools are led by exceptional quarterbacks, but they are going to find themselves on the wrong side of a shootout at some point this season. For Fresno, this might not happen until the potential MWC championship game. NIU may have a better chance at going undefeated. If they do, they better hope Fresno drops a game, as voters will remember the Huskies’ weak showing in last year’s Orange Bowl and likely rank Fresno higher.

Unsolved Mystery: Update

In an off-beat interview with The New York Times, Les Miles explains his weird clapping:

“You can’t be soft-handed; it has to be an aggressive clap. You keep your fingers out so that you don’t get them caught in between, you know what I’m saying? If you get them in between here”—he gestured to the area between his fingers—“it can be an ineffective clap and you can get hurt. Injuries can occur if you don’t keep your fingers spread.”

To die-hard college football plans, it was important to get an explanation for this. But it makes little sense. He is concerned about getting his fingers from one hand caught in between his fingers of the other, but that can only happen if you clap the way Miles does and spread your fingers. And going to such lengths is ridiculous to begin with since NOBODY INJURES THEMSELVES CLAPPING THEIR HANDS.

Nevertheless, it was a fun interview to read. I learned that, like Nick Saban, Miles has the same thing for lunch every day, which means if I was hired as a head coach in the SEC my diet would not be the reason I failed. Also, I didn’t see This Is the End in theaters and after Miles’ scathing review I’m not eager for its video release.

Sep 28, 2013; Eugene, OR, USA; Oregon Ducks head coach Mark Helfrich talks with an official against the California Golden Bears at Autzen Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Scott Olmos-USA TODAY Sports

Quote of the Week: “I think I just saw Carl Spackler.”
—Oregon coach Mark Helfrich referencing the Caddyshack character at the end of his halftime interview of the Ducks’ eventual 55-16 win over Cal in a monsoon