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Forde-Yard Dash: How Week 3 Shook Up USC's Head Coach Hunt

Plus, a quick Dash through three conference games between undefeated teams, Bruce Barnum’s Beer Garden and a sour ale flavor bomb.
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Forty names, games, teams and minutiae making news in college football, where the Pac-12’s new official airline doesn’t fly to two of the Pac-12’s biggest cities:

MORE DASH: Struggling QBs | Top QBs Profile | Conference Challengers

FOURTH QUARTER: USC STOCK WATCH

When a job the stature of USC’s becomes open before mid-September, it generates an incredibly long speculation cycle about potential candidates. Condolences to the coaches who have to dodge questions, obfuscate and equivocate for months at a time, but that’s where we are. One week after Clay Helton was sent packing, here’s how the events of the weekend (minorly) affected the presumed list:

Whose stock went up (31):

James Franklin, Penn State. Won a big game in prime time in entertaining fashion, beating Auburn 28–20. Penn State’s atmosphere is pretty self-sustaining regardless of the coach, but it didn’t hurt for any interested parties at USC to turn on the TV and see a madhouse. The L.A. Coliseum may never rock like Beaver Stadium during a Whiteout, but it can provide a great atmosphere when the team is good.

Luke Fickell, Cincinnati. His undefeated Bearcats beat a Big Ten team on the road by two touchdowns, and that was after trailing by two TDs in the first half. If you looked at the talent on either side, Cincinnati had more. That’s a testament to Fickell’s recruiting, retention and development.

P.J. Fleck, Minnesota. Pounding the daylights out of a Pac-12 South team (Colorado) in its own stadium seems like a good way to get the attention of another Pac-12 South school.

Donte Williams, USC interim coach. His debut at Washington State started with the team plane tipping over backwards upon arrival, star quarterback Kedon Slovis getting injured on the first series, and a 14–0 deficit. Then the Trojans responded with 45 unanswered points, with backup QB Jaxson Dart and his racing-stripe eyeblack throwing for 391 yards and four touchdowns in his first college game. Williams has a great personal story, growing up very near the USC campus and working his way up the coaching ladder to return home and join Helton’s staff. But the idea of USC replacing a guy who got his start as an unproven interim coach with an unproven interim coach seems extremely remote.

Urban Meyer. He’s 0–2 in Jacksonville, neither game close. He’s never been 0–2 in his life. If USC fans want to hold out hope that he pulls a Petrino and bails on the NFL to go back to college, go ahead. It’s a telescopic long shot, but if he gets to 0–12 . . .

Matt Campbell, Iowa State. Clobbering UNLV 48–3 shouldn’t move the needle, but it was at least within a short private jet flight from L.A. in case anyone wanted to fly to Vegas for an easy in-person look.

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Whose stock is unchanged (32):

Chris Petersen. There isn’t anything Pete can do one way or another beyond sending out the bat signal that he’s interested in getting back into coaching. If he is, this gets interesting.

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Mario Cristobal, Oregon. The more he wins in Eugene, the less likely he’d seemingly be to want to leave.

Whose stock went down (33):

Tony Elliott. The Clemson offensive coordinator is operating a once-fluid machine that is now seizing up post-Trevor. That can quickly turn around, but the Tigers scoring a total of 17 points in two games against FBS competition has been a tough watch.

POWER 5 UNBEATEN BATTLES

There are three conference games between 3–0 teams Saturday. The winners will feel very good about completing a perfect September and taking momentum into October. A Dash through all three:

Rutgers-Michigan (34). When: 3:30 p.m. ET. Where: Ann Arbor, Mich. Series: Michigan leads 6–1 and has won the last six. Line: Michigan by 18 1/2. Key stat: Neither team has turned the ball over this season. Rutgers has taken it away eight times. If the Scarlet Knights don’t create turnovers, can they slow down the nation’s most productive rushing attack? Dash pick: Michigan 30, Rutgers 17. Las Vegas is begging you to take the Scarlet Knights with that fat spread. Rutgers can and will cover, but will not win.

Texas A&M–Arkansas (35). When: 3:30 p.m. ET. Where: Arlington, Texas. Series: Arkansas leads 41-33-3, but A&M has won the last nine. Line: Texas A&M by 5 1/2. Key stat: Football people pay close attention to turnover margin and explosive plays, and both of those categories tilt in favor of the Razorbacks. The Hogs are plus-three turnover margin to A&M’s minus-three. Arkansas's differential in explosive plays produced vs. allowed (runs of 20 yards or more and passes of 30 or more) is plus-11 to A&M’s plus-three. Dash pick: Arkansas 21, Texas A&M 19. Call the Hogs a top-15 team after this one.

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Kansas State–Oklahoma State (36). When: 7 p.m. ET. Where: Stillwater, Okla. Series: Oklahoma State leads 41–26, and has won the last two. Line: Oklahoma State by six. Key stat: The Wildcats have outgained their opponents on the ground by 513 yards in three games, running it 70 more times than passing it thus far. Dash pick: Kansas State 26, Oklahoma State 24. The Cowboys are one of the least impressive 3–0 team in the country.

STAT OF THE WEEK

After opening the Jedd Fisch Era with losses to an independent, a Mountain West team and an FCS opponent, Arizona (37) has now lost 15 straight games across three seasons. That includes 12 straight Pac-12 games . . . and the opponent this week is undefeated Oregon on the road in a Name The Score Special.

COACH WHO EARNED HIS COMP CAR THIS WEEK

Bruce “Barney” Barnum (38), Portland State. If the FCS school doesn’t give Barnum a comp car, it should now. Or the fans should pitch in and get him one, after the solid he did them. Last week on a Portland radio show, Barnum promised to buy beer for all fans that came to the home opener against Western Oregon—and not just beer, but all the beer. More than 2,000 free beers later at what came to be called Barney’s Beer Garden, the Vikings had a 21–7 victory. A great American.

COACH WHO SHOULD TAKE THE BUS TO WORK

Manny Diaz (39), Miami. After being pounded late by Michigan State, his losing streak against Power 5 teams has now reached four, and the Hurricanes have surrendered an average of 45.3 points in those games. Miami’s famed turnover chain might need to be pawned; the Canes have produced one or fewer turnovers in 10 of the last 11 games. They’re a minus-5 turnovers so far this season.

POINT AFTER

The Dash didn’t imbibe while on the road in Bloomington over the weekend, but did try an interesting sour ale: Epicurean Hotel Water (40), brewed by Urban Artifact out of Cincinnati. The gist is a beer that has some of the taste of the infused water dispensers you see in some hotels. Let’s just say that those are not “hints” of cucumber, lemon and lime; they are shouts. This is a flavor bomb of a beer. If you’re into sours, give it a try and thank The Dash later.

MORE DASH: Struggling QBs | Top QBs Profile | Conference Challengers

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