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  • In this week's #DearAndy mailbag: The future of the SEC coaches who will be shown the door by season's end, the case for three-loss Mississippi State to be ranked above unbeaten UCF and a call for peace in the war over Thanksgiving side dishes.
By Andy Staples
November 22, 2017

As we prepare to eat our turkey, cornbread dressing and mashed potatoes (more on that later), the most pressing issues in college football involve the coaching carousel and the College Football Playoff. You had some great questions about both…

From Jon: Will Butch Jones, Kevin Sumlin and Jim McElwain all be head coaches of Power 5 teams next year?

I think Sumlin will, but I’m not so sure about the others. Sumlin and Texas A&M will almost certainly part ways after the LSU game, but not because Sumlin failed as the Aggies’ coach. Texas A&M administrators and fans want something they’ve never really had, and it’s unclear if there is a coach out there who can give them what they want—especially with Nick Saban’s Alabama dominating the SEC West. Texas A&M will take a big swing or two—think Jimbo Fisher—but it’s tough to predict whether the Aggies will connect. Sumlin, meanwhile, seems like a fit at a lot of places. If Chip Kelly doesn’t take UCLA, Sumlin—who considered the Bruins before taking the Texas A&M job—might fit there. He could win at Nebraska, too. Don’t be shocked if Sumlin gets another job very quickly.

Jones and McElwain could need more time, or they may never be head coaches at the Power 5 level again. The story of Jones calling a Tennessee recruit and telling him to find another school will raise huge red flags with any athletic director considering hiring him. McElwain, meanwhile, probably needs a year off to process exactly what the hell happened at Florida. He still could be a quality head coach at a Power 5 school, but he needs to be at a place where the recruiting isn’t quite as cutthroat as it is in the SEC.

From @lurking98012648: Of the fired/dead-man-walking coaches (Butch, McElwain, Bielema, Mora, Sumlin, Riley), who will be a head coach again first? Who will have to wait the longest? [Answer linked here, and in the video atop this post.]

From @skygtr350: How is a three-loss Mississippi State team ranked higher than an unbeaten UCF?

Because the teams’ profiles are very close using advanced stats, and that’s bad for UCF. The committee cares most about who a team has beaten, so let’s look at Mississippi State and UCF’s wins using Football Outsiders’ S&P+ rankings.

Mississippi State FBS wins

LSU 21
Texas A&M 61
UMass 81
Kentucky 88
Louisiana Tech 89
Arkansas 95
BYU 106

Median S&P+ rank: 88

UCF FBS wins

Memphis 22
SMU 58
Navy 70
FIU 93
Temple 94
Maryland 109
Cincinnati 110
UConn 119
East Carolina 121

Median S&P+ rank: 94

The committee doesn’t use S&P+, but it does consider similar advanced stats. Neither win profile is great, but Mississippi State’s slightly edges UCF. (In other words, Mississippi State probably would also be undefeated had it played UCF’s schedule to this point.) Throw in a loss on the final drive against Alabama (S&P+ rank: 2) and the committee gives Mississippi State a one-spot advantage.

What’s interesting is that S&P+ loves UCF. The Knights are ranked No. 3, just behind Alabama and Ohio State and just ahead of Wisconsin and Georgia. Personally, I think UCF would beat Mississippi State if the teams played. But I think it would be very close. So UCF and Mississippi State being one spot apart doesn’t feel that egregious even if the UCF folks believe their team belongs in the top four. As always, the moral of the story for Group of Five teams is this: If you’d like to compete for the national title, then create the toughest out-of-conference schedule you can. Otherwise you stand no chance.

From Mark: Please explain: How is Ohio State even mentioned for the playoff? They've gotten throat-punched twice, once at home, then to Iowa by 30, who then lost two in row. Joke. [Answer linked here, and in the video below.]

From Rob: What was the over/under on how many times you said “junk” the last two days on @ESPNUonSiriusXM?

It’s at least 347 times between two radio shows in which the newsiest topic was Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield grabbing his junk on national television. It was stupid. He shouldn’t have done it. It won’t keep him from winning the Heisman Trophy.

Kids, take it from Uncle Andy. Don’t grab your junk on national television.

From Brandon: Bama beats Auburn but then loses a close game to Georgia for the SEC title. Who gets in? [Answer linked here, and in the video below.]

From David: This is more of a statement. Mashed potatoes (while very good) are NOT a side for #Thanksgiving. #CornbreadDressing

David, why do you hate America? In a feast celebrating the abundance available to us, why would you discriminate against any dish? Cornbread dressing and mashed potatoes are both excellent, and there is room for both on my table and in my stomach.

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