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The Itis: CFB Treats - Observations from Week Eleven
On this week's recap: Portal SZN is Almost Upon Us; Texas A&M Has BANISHED Jimbo Fisher; Interesting RB/WR Stat Tidbits; And Who Has The Best Shot of Preventing UGA's Three-peat?
You remember Alexanderov? Well he came to see me one day last year. He said Robert, we've got a great opportunity— there's a copper mine, it's in Russia, it's under-exploited— there's billions under the ground, and to get it out, all we need is a couple hundred million…
- Richard Gere, Arbitrage (2012)
Jimbo Fisher Has Officially Been Banished From Texas A&M
“F**K ME, what the hell are we going to do, Bjork?!”
A prominent Aggie booster's voice reverberates across the dim room of the Texas A&M football stadium, addressing current A&M AD Ross Bjork on an early November Saturday evening in College Station. In the background, the radio commentator's voice fades:
“…and with the final whistle, the Rebels escape with a win—38-35! Hotty Toddy! Hotty Toddy! Praise Kiffin!”
The booster continues: “I’m already knee deep in NIL payments to these ****ing five-star DLs — I can’t even afford to get my kids Christmas presents this year — and we still can’t knock the goddamn QB on his ***?!”
The booster erupts into an unintelligible scream of anger, sadness, and resentment. He briefly contemplates his life’s decisions— every move, every major event in his journey that led him here. A faint moment of clarity arrives through the madness:
“Am I really that desperate that I forked over millions of dollars of my hard earned money to some 17 year old kid in South Florida? Just so we could beat Alabama and Georgia? Am I OK?”
However, before reason could prevail, he snaps back into the frenzy.— “of course that’s OK, everybody’s doing it. What we need is more money, more five star DLs, more momentum…”
A&M’s AD, Ross Bjork, sharply interjects: “You remember Alexanderov? A&M class of 88’…”
“Well, he came to see me one day last year. He said Robert — he calls me Robert even though he knows my name is Ross — we've got a great opportunity, there's a copper mine, it's in Russia, it's under-exploited— there's billions under the ground, and to get it out, all we need is a couple hundred million…”
“…Now you know me as the AD of this fine Texan program, but in another life, I was an oil man, as is the case with every prominent figure within the administration of the Aggies Athletics department…”
The booster cuts Ross off mid sentence “Yes, yes, I know this already, what is the point?”
“The point is” Ross continues, “is that the copper mine is an analogue to the Texas A&M football program…”
“I know you wanted to take your wife and kids to Papua New Guinea this year on vacation… but I need you to see the bigger picture here. This program is a gold mine, but the NIL funds are drying up due to a loss of booster confidence. What’s worse— we’re too afraid to make the move we know we should make because of… what— a couple hundred million dollars up front?”
“Jim (that’s the booster’s name)— I would never question your loyalty to the program, and that’s why I already know the answer to my next question. Can you summon the troops— can you guys eat this insane buyout on Jimbo’s contract, so that we can finally unearth the potential that lies within this program?”
Jim hesitates, uncertainty etched on his face. Ross acts quickly, “Jim, stay with me... Christmas presents, vacations, it's all superficial. I’m talking about leaving a legacy.”
“We look like wankers right now. Swirly’d by Alabama on national TV. And Georgia, don’t even get me started on them—we haven’t even played the Dawgs, and that’s probably for the best, all things considered.”
Jim, hunched over, manages to blurt out in-between sobs, “But you told me after we signed that 2022 class that we would win. You told me we would be winners!”
Ross puts his hand on Jim’s shoulder: “We will. I promise you. But before we can— I need you, Jim. Can you pay this buyout for me?”
Jim pulls out his maroon-coloured ‘Johnny Football’ handkerchief, simultaneously removing his cowboy hat with his free hand. After blowing his nose, in dramatic fashion, he replies:
“You know I will… anything for the program.”
I don’t know if anyone out there is still with me at this point. I wouldn’t blame you if you didn’t make it this far through that made-up stor— I mean, recollection of a very real conversation that likely transpired early last week between A&M AD Ross Bjork and a prominent booster.
Texas A&M is one of the best jobs in CFB— don’t let anybody tell you otherwise. When assessing a program, we need to look holistically at the infrastructure of the organization, not just focus on where they’re at now. After all, if places like A&M were in a good spot right now, they probably wouldn’t have fired their coach, right? One name that’s hot right currently is Oregon’s Dan Lanning. Lanning is, of course, a former UGA DC, which seems to have immediately given him some sort of seal of approval amongst other fanbases. Clearly he’s a good coach, he’s doing a good job this year.
I think when answering the question of whether he’d leave Oregon for Texas A&M, it’s probably helpful to look at some of the most successful coaches at Oregon recently (Mario Cristobal, Chip Kelly), and note that they each voluntarily decided to leave for another destination. Texas A&M had to fire their head coach to get him to leave. It raises the question of: which programs do coaches view as destinations, and which are viewed as ladders to the destination? I don’t have the answer to that question, and to be fair, it probably varies somewhat coach to coach, but I think it’s something to keep in mind with this situation.
In the movie from which the opening quote of this article derives from, Richard Gere’s character—Robert, learns an old lesson the hard way: “if it looks too good to be true, it probably is”. That is— the profitable mining investment that seemed like such a great idea on the surface, was actually a bit of a complicated mess behind the scenes. His character probably should have asked himself before investing: if this is such a great opportunity, why hasn’t anyone else unearthed it successfully yet?
A&M is a great opportunity— there’s no debate about that; but why hasn’t anyone gotten it right yet? That concern would be at the top of my mind if I was a coaching candidate for the Aggies opening.
On the flip side — historical mediocrity aside — A&M has everything a prospective coach could ask for in terms of infrastructure. The elements are here to win a national championship, and they should be in the conversation almost every year.
Texas A&M (whether they admit it or not), are chasing the Alabama and UGA model. They’d be fools not to— indeed, it is not necessary to recreate the wheel here. The formula to dominate CFB is actually quite simple. The reason more programs don’t follow it is because they can’t. A&M is one of the few that can.
The question is: if you’re the admin, do you follow the recipe, and prioritize a defensive coach, who also has the pedigree as a relentless dawg on the recruiting trail (e.g., Dan Lanning)? Or do you choose a different path (e.g., Lane Kiffin, Kalen Deboer)?
RB/WR Stat Tidbits
Currently five RBs have seen 200+ carries, all have gone over 1000 yards.
Sixteen rushers have gone over 1000 yards currently. In 2022, 40 finished with over 1000 yards.
Update on the RB1 race: six RBs are currently averaging 24 points or more in 1PPR formats: Ashton Jeanty, Blake Watson, Omarion Hampton, Kairee Robinson, Rasheen Ali and Ollie Gordon.
There are 21 RBs currently averaging over 20 FPG. Three of them: Ashton Jeanty, Jonathan Brooks and Darius Taylor are currently inactive.
LSU’s WR2—Brian Thomas, still leads the FBS in receiving TDs with 13.
USC’s WR Brenden Rice has the best TD-REC ratio of leading WRs with 11 TDs to 37 RECs. For context, every other player — save for Ja’Mori Maclin (46) — with 11 TDs or more has at least 54 receptions.
The top four WRs in FPG currently all have over 100 targets (Malik Nabers, LaJohntay Wester, Malik Washington and Marvin Harrison).
According to Rotowire, nine WRs currently have seen over 100 targets.
It may surprise many, but Illinois’ WR1—Isaiah Williams, is currently fourth for most targets this season (109) according to Rotowire. That’s what we all expected out of Brett Bielema’s ground and pound outfit from last season, right?
UGA Has The Best Resume in CFB
One of the differentiators between people in CFF/CFB (and I suppose in life in general) is the ability to acknowledge and update one’s ideas, stances, and assessment of things as new information is uncovered. They say first impressions die hard, and that’s just a cold hard psychological fact. But it’s up to the individual to take a step back and acknowledge their own bias in that case.
A lot of entities in the CFB media parrot the same narratives over and over again. And a lot of these people are going to be unable to move off of the first impression they had of UGA’s schedule this season. But here we stand, mid-November, and UGA has the best resume in CFB. That’s right— the best two wins of any of the undefeated programs. In fact, probably the best two wins of any program.
I’m going to dive into greater detail on my feelings of the B1G in a later section, but the argument that OSU — or even UM — has a better resume now is a smoke-and-mirrors argument. OSU’s best wins are Notre Dame (they’re not very good) and PSU (they’re solid— at least on defence, probably a top 25 team, but not a very good or great team). ND is currently ranked 19th, and PSU is generously ranked at 12. From where I stand, Ole Miss and Mizzou are better than both of those teams.
There was of course a time when we all thought FSU’s SoS was at a stronger level. Now that we know Clemson isn’t even a top 25 team, and LSU isn’t quite as good as we thought this year, all of a sudden that resume looks pretty weak.
UW probably has the next best resume, with the marquee win over Oregon headlining their SoS. Wins vs. Utah and Arizona are good, but not great. Utah has been walking wounded all season, and Arizona — while they’re an exciting offence — is not at the level along the lines of scrimmage to be considered a serious team yet.
The Only Team That Can Prevent a Three Peat is…
This is my hot take for the week, and I promise I’m not here trying to just piss people off: I think the playoff should just be the two PAC12 teams and the two SEC teams. Again, as a Dawg homer who obviously wants to see them win again, I think Alabama is the only team that can line up toe to toe with UGA.
The make-up of the rosters of Oregon and UW is such that a game vs. Alabama or UGA would at least be interesting— they could definitely threaten those defences. With elite QB play and elite WRs there’s always a chance vs. elite teams. UM can’t beat UGA. Neither can this year’s OSU or FSU. And don’t even get me started on UT. Maybe I’m wrong… but I really don’t feel like I am (isn’t it always that way?).
Anyways, ya’ll know where I stand on this, and that’s that UGA and Alabama are the two best teams in CFB as it stands right now. My (maybe not so bold) prediction is that whoever wins the SEC championship will win the natty this year. Let’s just cross our fingers and hope that it’s not those ****ing gumps.
B1G is Down Bad This Year
Apologies to my fellow PSU fans—I genuinely appreciate PSU as a program. However, let's be straightforward: when a team confidently plays one-dimensionally and still secures victory, it indicates that it’s opponent is not a serious team. Sure, PSU beat up on a bunch of JV teams, which has them sitting at a nice record, but — despite what the box score might say — they were never really in it in the second halves vs. OSU and UM. From what I could tell from watching both games, PSU did not have the offensive ability to threaten either the Buckeyes or the Wolverines. I’ve seen it happen enough when Kirby Smart’s teams beat inferior opponents by margins that were less than you’d expect, to recognize when one team knows it’s ‘big bro’, and hence doesn’t need to exert any more energy than necessary. Forget the style points, just get the dub and get the hell out of there healthy. That’s what I saw with OSU and UM. It was the realization that they literally cannot lose if they don’t turn the football over and gift PSU easy points. For those reasons, some (me) have compared this year’s PSU team to the Mark Stoops Kentucky teams of recent memory in the SEC.
The B1G has possibly the most horrendous QB play of any conference in a very long time. When even the marquee programs don’t have elite QBs (OSU, PSU)— or at least, QBs that are not currently playing elite — you know you have problems in the B1G. We expect programs like Illinois, Indiana, Northwestern etc. to trot out athletic equivalents to John from accounting, but even the mid-tier programs like Wisconsin, Minnesota and MSU are struggling too. This is a very bad conference this year, and the fact that more of the national media have not recognize this fact is troubling. Could it be because a certain network has TV rights to the B1G? Probably has something to do with it…
I’m just going to leave the screenshot below of the final score from UGA vs. UK in 2022 here for the observers… Defensive masterclass by both UGA and UK? Or could it be that UGA understood that they only need to throttle the game and get the hell out of there healthy? I’ll let you be the judge, whatever your impression, I advise keeping that in mind when hearing about PSU playing OSU and UM close.
ESD & Portal SZN Is Almost Upon Us / More on A&M
I feel bad for people who are exclusively NFL fans. Just think of all the cool fun they miss out on year-round in the realm of CFB. I can’t be the only one who finds it alarming that there are football fans walking around RIGHT NOW who have no idea about the anarchy that will ensue this December once the portal opens, and once early signing day (ESD) kicks off.
I remember when Travis Hunter flipped from FSU to Jackson State after being committed to the Noles since his 10th grade. That was bananas. I also remember when current UF Safety Kamari Wilson randomly showed up to his school on ESD in a brand new blue BMW, shortly after he announced his commitment to UF in a shocker after he was rumoured to have been a silent to UGA since the summer. That one stung a little. And my gosh… how about that 2022 Texas A&M recruiting class— wait… too soon?
It’s crazy to look back at that class and consider that they were this close to also landing LSU’s wonderkid, Harold Perkins, out of Cypress, TX. It’s also funny to consider that — seemingly the only one they missed on — turned out to be the best player of all those defensive recruits. Walter Nolan is pretty close, and definitely has an argument for that claim. But Perk’s a literal superstar in CFB, and has been since his freshman year.
A&M chose a strategic time to rid themselves of Jimbo Fisher. I already know that the AD is a gangster behind the scenes based on what I saw from his press conference the other day post-firing of Jimbo Fisher. He alluded to the fact that the timing was with the portal and ESD dates in mind, and that he understands that many on the current roster will be inundated with requests to transfer to other programs. I know he understands the game within the game because he elevated the DL coach to head coach. Why would he do that? Because Elijah Robinson is a good coach? I’m sure that had something to do with it, but more likely it was because he understands that this roster is stocked with a lot of elite DL that they need to keep from hitting the portal; and that those guys are the recipe to winning national championships.
I alluded earlier to the fact that A&M should follow the UGA/Bama model, but in fact— I think they have been. Programs everywhere have good QBs, RBs, WRs— heck, you can even find elite OL play all over the country. Just look at the B1G historically. But only a select few have elite DL, in particular— elite interior defensive line players. Alabama’s recruiting of this unit fell off between 2018-2020, and they were punished for it by watching UGA win two natties in the time frame that those Alabama players became sophomores, juniors, and seniors. At the same time, UGA became the poster program for elite interior defensive line play, putting three of them in the first round over the span of two drafts.
I am obviously not privy to the internal conversations of the Texas A&M football program and what their (alleged) NIL strategy was. But if I had to guess, somebody (likely Jimbo), advocated that the majority of the funds mustered up for NIL should be allocated to the DL position group. Likely, he understood that this the only way you are going to consistently beat teams like Alabama and UGA. If you look at what they’ve done in recruiting since NIL went live, I think the structure of their classes confirms this.
This is a program that alternated each year from signing zero five stars to signing one or two (at any position) under the pre-NIL years of the Jimbo Fisher Tenure. Post-NIL, A&M signed (or has currently committed) six five star DLs alone (seven if you count all different services) across three classes.
That group includes the #1 overall player in Tennessee in 2022, the #1 overall player in Florida in 2022, the former #1 overall player in GA from 2023 who reclassified and became the #3 player in the 2022 cycle, the #2 overall player in Florida in 2022, the #1 overall player in Arizona in 2022, the #2 overall player in Texas in 2023, and the #1 overall player in Louisiana in 2024.
When reading the rundown of that list all at once, one can’t help but acknowledge the sheer might and will of this program to achieve incredible things. That’s an insane run at that position group, from a program that really does not have the success (at any level— team or individual) to be able to sell all those kids on A&M the way the current staff did.
The reader at this point would probably point out to me that— while yes, that is an impressive run at one important position group, it hasn’t exactly correlated with a lot of winning, which is how A&M found itself here in the first place. Indeed, I’d say that having elite DL players and depth at the position is a necessary but not sufficient condition to be a dominant CFB program. Things like the program culture, development at the position etc. are equally as important.
In my hypothesis, the current AD was likely part of the discussions of where (allegedly) the NIL funds, once raised, should be allocated. At least, that would help explain his decision to elevate the DL coach to interim HC over say… one of the coordinators (one of whom has served as head coach at numerous other programs). It’s not that unprecedented that a position coach gets elevated, so I’m not suggesting that that alone is odd, it’s just something interesting I found about the whole situation.
How many of those former five stars will end up hitting the portal this December? I guess that remains to be seen. All we have to do as viewers is sit back and watch, let’s see how effective A&M’s player retention strategy turns out be.
Side note #1: One of the best videos on YouTube in my opinion is the live watch with Texas A&M’s staff of the UGA vs. Alabama national championship game from January 2022. In it (I’m paraphrasing) Jimbo alludes to the fact that the DL guys ‘do more good on accident than most other guys do on purpose’. DL coach and now-interim HC Elijah Robinson also alludes to the fact that (again, paraphrasing) ‘those are the types of guys we have now’ when the staff was marvelling at Jordan Davis and Jalen Carter.
There are some straight-up recruiting animals on this staff like James Coley who is also in the room, which made the video even more interesting in my opinion. I’ve probably watched this entire three-hour long epic two or three times.
Side note #2: Literally just as I’m about to finalize this article, I see UGA has pulled off a massive flip on interior DL prospect Nasir Johnson from UF. Figured it was fitting with today’s theme on UGA, A&M, Alabama and the emphasis on interior DL play... #GoDawgs!
Weekly YouTube Video
Once again, I participated on Jared’s show ‘Chasing the Natty’ this week:
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