- Watch for these eight coaches to become the talk of this winter’s hiring and firing cycle—starting with both sides of the season's biggest stunner. Plus, Michigan enters the top four, the Purdue offensive line gets its moment in the spotlight and the rest of this week's Punt, Pass & Pork.
When did it become clear Ohio State was in trouble at Purdue on Saturday? When Boilermakers coach Jeff Brohm called for this just before halftime—and it worked.
Brohm never met a trick play he didn’t love, and he also has yet to meet a team he couldn’t make believe it could win. The group Brohm inherited last year after his arrival from Western Kentucky had been beaten down, going 8–28 in the three seasons before his arrival. He immediately changed the mindset of the Boilermakers. He led them to a bowl game in his first season, and now they’ve pulled off an upset for the ages. What’s next for Brohm and Purdue? Well, even though they have three losses, only one of those came in Big Ten play. The Boilermakers, with upcoming games against Wisconsin and Iowa, remain very much in play for the Big Ten West title if they can replicate what they did on Saturday.
And even if Purdue doesn’t pull off that particular miracle, Brohm has cemented his status as a coach every athletic director in America is following. That’s why he leads off this edition of Hot Names, Hot Seats.
Jeff Brohm, head coach, Purdue
You just read why anyone would love Brohm as their coach. But there is one school in particular that is flailing on the field and absolutely would be a perfect fit for Brohm. He’s a Louisville native who starred at quarterback at Louisville.
Of course, the Cardinals already have a coach in Bobby Petrino. But you’re going to be reading about him in the Hot Seats portion of this column. Should the Cardinals decide to make a change, Brohm is the perfect choice. At Louisville, he could recruit the kind of players who could compete for titles in the ACC. And if you can compete for the ACC title, there’s a good chance you can compete for the national title.
Matt Campbell, head coach, Iowa State
Just when it seemed the shine had come off Campbell after a 2–3 start, his team shut down West Virginia’s offense and reminded us why we considered him one of the best young program-builders in the country. This week, Campbell will face Texas Tech and Kliff Kingsbury, who seems to have coached his way off of the list below thanks to a vastly improved defense.
Scott Satterfield, head coach, Appalachian State
It might take the perfect situation to blast Satterfield out of his alma mater, but his success there will be tough for ADs to ignore. And this may be his best season yet. After losing in overtime at Penn State in Week 1, the Mountaineers have gone 5–0 and only one opponent has cracked double-digit points.
Manny Diaz, defensive coordinator, Miami
It took Diaz years to overcome the rough patch that took him from defensive wunderkind to poster boy for the declining years of the Mack Brown era at Texas, but Diaz has proven himself multiple times at three different schools (Louisiana Tech, Mississippi State and Miami) since getting fired at Texas in 2013.
The defense carried the Hurricanes to 10 wins last season, and it’s still playing at a championship level even though the offense has been flailing. Miami ranks second in the country behind Michigan in yards per play allowed (3.8) and ranks seventh in the nation in takeaways with 17. Diaz has always had the smarts and the organizational skills to be a head coach, but that period at Texas knocked him off the path. A smart AD will notice what Diaz has done since.
Clay Helton, head coach, USC
A few weeks ago, I compared Helton’s tenure at USC to Jim McElwain’s tenure at Florida, and the on-field parallels continue to be uncanny. The job of USC’s coach is to lead the Trojans to national titles, and even a Rose Bowl win in year one and a Pac-12 title in year two might not be enough to save Helton if the Trojans endure more losses like the 41–28 drubbing—the score was closer than the game—they endured at Utah. USC’s offensive line can’t open holes for its backs. The Trojans gained 73 yards on 31 attempts against Utah even though the Utes usually dropped an extra defender out of the box and into pass coverage. Helton still has a chance, but USC will need to get better this year, and he may have to make staff changes.
Bobby Petrino, head coach, Louisville
Petrino hasn’t had many answers for why his team has been so bad following the departure of 2016 Heisman Trophy winner Lamar Jackson. And the Cardinals are righteously awful. They’re 2–5 and 0–4 in ACC play, and they still have games against Syracuse, Clemson, NC State and out-of-conference rival—and genuine 2018 revelation—Kentucky on the schedule. It probably isn’t going to get better anytime soon, and a fan base sick of scandal in its athletic department is ready to revolt after the precipitous fall of the one program that seemed stable.
Petrino’s buyout if he’s fired after this season is about $14 million, and that’s a massive number. But because of the unique structure of his contract, it actually would go up next year. Would Louisville eat the buyout just to clear the decks of the Tom Jurich era and start anew with Chris Mack running the basketball team and someone else running the football program? That probably would only happen if the perfect candidate were out there.
Oh, wait. He is.
Chris Ash, head coach, Rutgers
The good news? Rutgers led at halftime against Northwestern. The bad news? The Scarlet Knights still lost 18–15. With remaining games against Wisconsin, Michigan, Penn State and Michigan State, a 1–11 season with an 11-game losing streak is a real possibility. Yes, Rutgers changed conferences and got dropped into one of the nation’s toughest divisions. But there is simply too much football talent in New Jersey for its flagship state university to be this bad at football. Ash is 7–25 there, and he may not be the guy to fix the program.
Would Rutgers hire its second consecutive Ohio State defensive coordinator if it moves on from Ash? Why not? Greg Schiano is the most successful coach in recent Rutgers history, and the Tennessee debacle from last year may limit his options in terms of becoming a head coach again. Ohio State hired Alex Grinch away from Washington State last year with the idea that Schiano was moving on to be a head coach again. Perhaps that succession plan could take place one year later.
David Beaty, head coach, Kansas
Beaty inherited an almost impossible situation and still probably deserves more time. But with a new athletic director (Jeff Long) and a big fundraising drive ahead, the Jayhawks could make a change just to prime the donor pump.
A Random Ranking
The most recent edition of Halloween hit theaters this past weekend, so let’s rank the scariest horror villains whose exploits spawned at least five installments including sequels and/or remakes.
2. Michael Myers
3. The Xenomorph
4. Jason Voorhees
5. Freddy Krueger
8. The Ball from the Phantasmfranchise
1,537. The Leprechaun
1. Alabama (8–0)
Last week: 1
Last game: Beat Tennessee, 58–21
Next game: Nov. 3 at LSU
Quarterback Tua Tagovailoa’s knee seemed fine, and the Crimson Tide were up four touchdowns on Tennessee with 3:31 remaining in the first quarter. Alabama may have a weakness that eventually will get the Crimson Tide beaten, but that weakness has yet to be exposed.
2. Notre Dame (7–0)
Last week: 2
Last game: Beat Pittsburgh, 19–14
Next game: Saturday vs. Navy in San Diego
The Fighting Irish had the week off, and now they’ll embark on the first of two West Coast trips in five weeks with Navy awaiting in one of the U.S. Navy’s favorite cities. The Midshipmen are struggling this year, and with an open date prior to playing Navy, Notre Dame should be ready for the option. But no matter what happens in the game, Notre Dame’s front seven will take a pounding that it must recover from for the stretch run.
3. Clemson (7–0)
Last week: 4
Last game: Beat NC State, 41–7
Next game: Saturday at Florida State
Tigers coach Dabo Swinney offered perhaps the most telling statement after his team finally took advantage of its massive talent advantage against a quality opponent. “NC State is a good team,” Swinney told reporters Saturday. “They just ran into a team today that played to its potential. They'll go on to have a good year.” Clemson did finally play to its potential, and the result was the first team we’ve seen this year that looks as if it might be able to go toe to toe against Alabama.
4. Michigan (7–1)
Last week: Unranked
Last game: Beat Michigan State, 21–7
Next game: Nov. 3 vs. Penn State
I have LSU in the No. 4 spot in the Top 10 (Plus One), but since this is a projection, I’m projecting that Alabama beats LSU on Nov. 3 and knocks the Tigers from playoff contention. Should LSU win that game, the Tigers probably would move to No. 1. But for now, the Wolverines will occupy this spot. Michigan’s win at Michigan State was chippy from pregame warmups. After the game, Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh called the Spartans’ pregame tactics “bush league” and Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio called Harbaugh’s summation “B.S.” While the clock was running, the game might have been as feisty had Michigan’s defense not held Michigan State to 94 total yards and an 0-of-12 mark on third-down conversions. Michigan’s offensive line protected Shea Patterson well enough and opened holes for tailback Karan Higdon, who gained 144 yards on 33 carries. If Michigan keeps playing this way, it can beat everyone else in the Big Ten. But the road isn’t easy. Penn State, Ohio State and (the Wolverines hope) the Big Ten West champ await.
Big Ugly of the Week
I can’t single out just one Big Ugly this week. The entire Purdue offensive line earned this award Saturday by doing what its Ohio State counterpart could not. It created big plays on the ground that allowed the Boilermakers to stay balanced and salt away a win against the Buckeyes.
The biggest plays Purdue made in the run game were two long fourth-quarter touchdown runs by D.J. Knox that started with huge holes created by a line that communicated well and came up with answers for Ohio State’s aggressiveness near the line of scrimmage. (So pretty much the opposite of what Penn State’s line did on that fateful fourth-down play against the Buckeyes.) The most beautiful play is Knox’s 40-yard touchdown that essentially shut the door on the Buckeyes with 6:46 remaining.
Ohio State walked a linebacker to the line of scrimmage, creating a five-man front. Purdue ran an outside zone, which requires the linemen to correctly identify the middle linebacker—that ID can change from play to play; essentially, you’re looking for the fulcrum of the defense—and count off to ensure they block the people most likely to interfere with the play.
Right tackle Matt McCann kicked out his man easily. Meanwhile, right guard Dennis Edwards had a linebacker on the line of scrimmage lined up on his outside eye. When the ball was snapped, that backer slanted across Edwards’s face. Knowing center Kirk Barron had to fire out fast to get a different linebacker on the second level, Edwards adjusted and pushed his man in the direction the man wanted to go. Had the players miscommunicated, Edwards might have let his man go, thinking someone would pick him up, and headed off to the linebacker Barron was chasing. Meanwhile, on the other side of the line, left tackle Eric Swingler pancaked Ohio State star Dre’Mont Jones. That created a massive pile of Buckeye bodies in the middle of the line, leaving a gaping hole to the right for Knox. He planted, cut and zoomed through it.
Three And Out
1. The countdown is already on for Alabama-LSU in Baton Rouge on Nov. 3, SI’s Ross Dellenger writes. Both teams are off this week, and the Tigers may need to use that extra time to figure out what they’ll do in the first half with their best defensive player out because of a targeting call in the second half of Saturday’s win against Mississippi State.
2. Congratulations to Nebraska’s Scott Frost for his first win as coach of his alma mater. It took a lot longer than expected, and he didn’t feel like he needed a Gatorade bath after the Cornhuskers’ 53–28 win against Minnesota, but he’ll take it.
3. Perhaps Old Dominion will call the play that helped the Monarchs beat Western Kentucky the Kick 15. Like Auburn’s Kick Six against Alabama in 2013, the play began with a field goal attempt during the closing seconds of a tie game that fell short and was caught and returned by the opposing team. But unlike the Kick Six, Old Dominion’s Isaiah Harper didn’t reach the end zone. He made it to about the Western Kentucky 16-yard line. But there was a flag. A Western Kentucky player had been called for a facemask penalty. That meant the ball would move half the distance to the goal line, and the Monarchs would get one untimed down. They used that down for a chip-shot field goal by kicker Nick Rice to lift them to a 37–34 win.
This is one of the craziest finishes you’ll see. And mind you, all this action took place in the final 1:40 of regulation.
What’s Eating Andy?
With Notre Dame off this past weekend, Notre Dame Stadium was just sitting there. So Garth Brooks played a show there. I saw Garth play the Orlando Arena when I was in high school, and the guy still brings it. I guarantee everyone was singing along when he played “Unanswered Prayers”.
What’s Andy Eating?
The bacon renaissance this century has given rise to two distinct phenomena. One is something I like to call Stupid Bacon Tricks. This is the act of inserting bacon into pretty much every dish regardless of whether it makes the dish better. Even I, someone who believes wholeheartedly in the power of bacon, am willing to admit that it doesn’t make the most appealing ice cream flavor.
The other phenomenon, however, shows the proper respect to the finest of all cured meats. It’s the rise of the restaurant that revolves around bacon. These places don’t stretch to devise the most incongruous way to use bacon; they simply make it the centerpiece of many of their dishes. Chicago’s Paddy Long’s was one of the early adopters of this idea, and I’ve been aching to try it for years. Sunday afternoon, I finally got my chance.
With the Bears playing the Patriots at Soldier Field, the place was pretty quiet save for a pair of friends—one a Bears fan and one a Pats fan—trying different bacons and draft beers. “We should send Mitch Trubisky to Russia to overthrow Putin,” the Bears fan said early in the fourth quarter. “He overthrows everything else.”*
*Yes, this gentleman did appreciate the irony that Trubisky’s Hail Mary to Kevin White failed only because Trubisky underthrew the ball because of pressure from Kyle Van Noy.
Paddy Long’s puts bacon on burgers, naturally. It offers a massive BLT featuring three different types of bacon. It mixes bacon into poutine. But I was most interested in just the bacon itself. So I ordered the bacon board appetizer, which comes with strips of Irish bacon, Danish bacon, jowl bacon and cracked pepper bacon. What arrived was a beautiful array of cured pork that could serve as a meal itself. (That deli in Eugene, Ore., that I wrote about last week claims Dr. Atkins would love its beef belly pastrami sandwich? No. He’d be all over this bacon board.)
Irish bacon comes from the pig’s back rather than its belly. It looks a little like ham, and it tastes somewhere between what we Americans think of as bacon and ham. This would be excellent on a sandwich, but it also paired nicely with the Dogfish Head Punkin Ale I was drinking. Danish bacon, meanwhile, comes from the loin and has thicker seams of meat between the fat than the bacon we’re used to getting here. The texture reminded me a little of the beef bacon I had at Jack’s Barbecue in Seattle last year, but the flavor is most decidedly pork.
The cracked pepper bacon is the traditional American bacon (from the belly), sprinkled with large chunks of cracked black peppercorn. Paddy Long’s (correctly) cooks its bacon with crispy edges but chewy insides, and this gave me exactly the flavor I craved when I walked in the door. But it wasn’t the best of the four. That was the jowl bacon, which is fattier, silkier and simply more satisfying than the rest. When I wrote about the smoked hog jowl at the New York outpost of Mission Chinese in 2016, I posited that jowl might be better than belly. After having the cured form of jowl, I’m now 100% convinced.
I also ordered a Bacon Combo Platter to try some of Paddy Long’s more bacon-forward dishes. It included beer-battered bacon strips, bacon grenades (housemade sausage wrapped in bacon and deep fried) and bacon-wrapped dates. Skip the first two, which lose the bacon inside the fried batter, and just get a full order of the bacon-wrapped dates. While bacon ice cream may not hold a candle to chocolate ice cream, the combo of bacon and date perfectly teams the salty/smoky of the bacon with the sweetness and richness of the date. Forget bacon cupcakes. This is the ultimate bacon dessert.
I also exercised some restraint that I probably wouldn’t have a few years ago. For $80, a diner at Paddy Long’s can take the Bacon Bomb Challenge. What’s a Bacon Bomb? It’s a whole lot of sausage wrapped in bacon and smoked. It’s very similar to the Bacon Explosion that became popular on the barbecue competition circuit. Paddy Long’s version checks in at about five pounds, and if a person can eat the entire thing as well as a side of fries, that person gets a T-shirt, their name on the wall and the charge wiped off their bill. As late as 2016, I probably would have tried it. I might have even succeeded. But I would have been miserable for days. Now?
I left feeling great and dreaming of the next time I can eat jowl bacon and bacon-wrapped dates.