Michigan leads this week’s Misery Index after a 37-33 loss to Michigan State. Here are the others that made the index, a weekly measurement of knee-jerk reactions based on what each fan base just watched:
FOUR MORE IN MISERY
Texas: For the low, low price of $24 million, Texas got rid of Tom Herman and a bunch of assistant coaches who had expensive guaranteed contracts after last season. Problem solved, right? Coaching changes are always the answer at Texas, where the failures are never about anything inherent to the program or administration and always chalked up to the idiot with the whistle. Texas’ bottomless pit of resources allows the Longhorns to do as they please and get rid of as many coaches as they wish. But the buyout money Texas has doled out lately isn’t exactly making things better. Surely that $24 million could have been spent on more interesting pursuits than watching new coach Steve Sarkisian blow double-digit leads three weeks in a row.
But that’s where Texas is this season: Watching its boosters’ money go to waste on a coaching staff that is doing nothing significantly better than the one before as the Longhorns lost to Baylor 31-24 and slipped to 4-4.
There are a lot of coaches in college football who could go 4-4 at Texas, particularly when elite players such as running back Bijan Robinson and receiver Xavier Worthy are in the program. It doesn’t take a unique level talent to be this mediocre, and yet Texas just keeps paying up and paying up and paying up for the privilege.
Maybe Sarkisian’s recruiting chops will eventually cure some of these ills, particularly if Texas can land high school junior quarterback Arch Manning. But at the Misery Index, we only evaluate a program’s future based on what we see and what we know. And what we know at Texas is that in the month of October, they lost games in which they had an 18-point lead in the second half against Oklahoma, an 11-point lead against Oklahoma State and an 11-point lead against Baylor. Had it been Herman orchestrating that trio of collapses this season, it would have been no less annoying for Texas fans — but an awful lot cheaper.
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Iowa: Years from now, we’re all going to laugh — well, maybe not Iowa fans — but the rest of us will definitely laugh that this team was ranked No. 2 at one point in the 2021 season. Oh, who are we kidding? Most likely, we are not going to remember at all that Iowa was one of the most massively overrated teams in the history of college football. We’re probably going to forget that the P word — yes, Playoff — was uttered in relation to the Iowa Hawkeyes once they reached 6-0. We will almost certainly erase from our mental hard drives that this team was living on turnover luck and opponents’ injuries until it finally got exposed. So this is a good time to document it for posterity, just in case we are ever again seduced by the narrative of a hard-nosed, throwback Kirk Ferentz team launching itself into the national conversation.
It’s simply not going to happen.
This isn’t a knock on the Iowa program, for which 6-2 should be considered a solid record at this point in the season. It’s a knock on those who were irrationally exuberant about the prospects of a team that had 173 offensive yards in its best win of the season (against Iowa State, which committed four turnovers), oddly struggled with Colorado State and was losing to Penn State until the Nittany Lions’ quarterback Sean Clifford got hurt. It’s a knock on Iowa fans who suggested that the rest of us were crazy for doubting that this team really belonged in the top-five.
Now, after a 27-7 loss to Wisconsin, the Hawkeyes will be fortunate to stay in the Top 25. That’s two consecutive games losing to middling opponents in Purdue and Wisconsin. That’s two consecutive games scoring just seven measly points under the direction of offensive coordinator Brian Ferentz. And now, what once seemed like a lock — Iowa playing for a Big Ten title as the West champion — has become a longshot.
Pittsburgh: This is why it’s hard for Pitt fans to enjoy good things. As soon as the accolades start coming around and they’re actually expected to win games, the program’s history of belly-flopping toward 7-6 starts attacking the olfactory nerves like a sewer. Yes, Pitt fans could smell this 38-34 loss to Miami coming from miles away because they’ve seen what happens when prosperity lands at their doorstep before.
Last week’s win over Clemson opened the door to a special season at Pitt, with quarterback Kenny Pickett rising on Heisman Trophy ballots and an ACC championship looking like a realistic goal. Now, it’s probably just a nice team that could win eight games and possibly go somewhere warm for Christmas.
The shame of it is that Pitt’s defense, which is very near and dear to the heart of head coach Pat Narduzzi, has been the culprit in both of the Panthers’ losses this season. When Pitt lost to Western Michigan on Sept. 18, it gave up 44 points and ruined a 382-yard, six-touchdown passing effort by Pickett. This time, Pitt gave up touchdowns on Miami’s first three drive: 75 yards in five plays, 70 yards in three plays and 60 yards in two plays.
That makes it awful tough to win, even on a day where Pickett completed 39-of-55 passes for 519 yards with three touchdowns. Though Pickett did throw two interceptions, you can’t expect him to be perfect. If that’s the requirement for Pitt to win an ACC title, we’ve learned it was too much to ask.
Georgia Tech: No fan base in the country was as mentally prepared to lose for multiple years as the Yellow Jackets. When Paul Johnson and Georgia Tech went their separate ways, it was understood that the next coach would need a significant amount of time to overhaul a roster that was recruited to play option football.
But a major part of the attraction to Geoff Collins was his track record of building defenses relatively quickly that were aggressive, difficult to prepare for and dynamic because of how creatively he used his personnel. This was true as a coordinator and a head coach at Temple, so you’d think it would happen at Georgia Tech, too.
But at the 30-game mark of his tenure, patience is starting to wear thin — not just because Georgia Tech’s offensive production has been predictably inconsistent, but because the defense has been a total flop. Though Collins has a defensive coordinator in Andrew Thacker, he’s the face of it when the Jackets are on the wrong end of Virginia Tech’s season-high output of 491 yards in a 26-17 loss. He’s the face of it when Georgia Tech scores 40 but loses to Virginia because it allows 636 yards. He’s the face of Pitt winning 52-21 in Atlanta.
Collins is just 9-21 as the Georgia Tech head coach, but he doesn’t seem to be particularly on the hot seat. This is a long rebuild, and Tech’s cash-strapped athletic department has little choice but to see it through.
However, the lack of competitiveness on defense is a major concern. If Collins can’t get that fixed by next year, the message board complaints will start to bleed into administrative intervention sooner rather than later.
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TRENDING TOWARD MISERY
Indiana: The great thing about a program like the Hoosiers is that fans will never take the good years for granted. There have been so few and far between in the history of Indiana football that there would literally be no point to rooting for the team if people didn’t ride the high of a season like 2020 for the next decade.
But did Indiana’s regression to the mean have to be this fast and this rude?
We’re not talking about a team, by the way, that everyone figured to be terrible. In fact, Indiana was 17th in the preseason USA TODAY AFCA Coaches Poll. Instead, 2021 has been a house of horrors as the Hoosiers fell to 2-6 with a 38-35 loss to Maryland.
If you’re looking for extenuating circumstances, they’re easy to find. Quarterback Michael Penix Jr., who was so terrific last season, didn’t look like the same player coming back from an ACL tear and has battled a shoulder injury for much of this month. Indiana’s had a very tough schedule and suffered some close losses.
But when you lose to Maryland, that’s the coup de grâce on a lost season.
Florida: By any objective measure, Florida has one of the most talented rosters in college football. In 2019, the Gators’ recruiting class ranked No. 8 nationally, according to Rivals.com. In 2020, they were No. 7. The current group of freshmen was the No. 11-ranked class last year.
So this notion circulating among the Gators’ fan base that Dan Mullen can’t recruit or won’t recruit or doesn’t know how to get great players to Florida doesn’t really hold up to scrutiny. He just doesn’t recruit as well as Kirby Smart, and for one day a year that tends to matter a great deal.
Florida’s 34-7 loss to Georgia, dropping Mullen to 1-3 in the “World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party” game, felt like a pretty good representation of the talent gap between the two teams. The Gators have some really intriguing individual pieces. Georgia has a stud at just about every position, and the game wasn’t close as a result. Beyond the Georgia problem, this has been a tough year for Florida with losses to Kentucky and LSU in addition to Alabama and Georgia. And now it’s an inflection point for Mullen, who has won just four of his past 11 games dating back to the end of 2020.
Understandably, Florida fans are not happy about this turn of events. They measure their program by division titles and beating Georgia, then SEC and national titles after that. Mullen has only accomplished the first part once in four years and hasn’t come all that close to the second. If Mullen wants to last another four years, he’ll need to do better.
Arizona State: Few major programs in recent years have been accused of recruiting violations that appear to be as straightforward and blatant as those allegedly committed under Herm Edwards. While college football shut down in-person recruiting during the COVID-19 pandemic, there seems to be a mountain of evidence — including information provided by former Arizona State staffers — that the Sun Devils continued hosting prospects on campus among other potential NCAA violations.
The collective reaction from Tempe has been little more than a shrug. Arizona State’s administration apparently has more investment in Edwards putting a winning team on the field than fear of the NCAA’s appetite to drop the hammer. But is it still worth the trouble if you’re not doing much winning?
The Sun Devils were not competitive at home against Washington State, losing 34-21 on Saturday while committing five turnovers against a team that saw half its coaching staff get fired two weeks ago because they wouldn’t take a COVID-19 vaccine. That follows a 35-21 loss to Utah in which they committed 13 penalties and got beat physically at the line of scrimmage. So what, exactly, is Edwards offering these days other than minor bowl games and future sanctions?
FIU: Without the funding, facilities and fan base to realistically aspire to a major conference, Florida International has always existed on the very fringe of the FBS conversation. There have been some fun moments at FIU — most notably, beating Miami in 2019 — but nothing sustainable enough to suggest a better future. You get the feeling FIU would have been fine staying in Conference USA forever, winning a few games and collecting a check.
But with the latest conference realignment shakeup, FIU is at a low point in its history. Not only is FIU stuck as one of five remaining schools in C-USA — nearby Florida Atlantic, meanwhile, got the call-up to the American — but it’s also a disaster on the field this year.
After an early burst of success under Butch Davis, the 69-year old former NFL and Miami coach, the Panthers have sunk to 1-12 going back to the beginning of last season. They haven’t been competitive the last few weeks, including Saturday’s 38-0 loss to Marshall.
When you combine the massive instability FIU has no control over with a football program hitting rock bottom, it feels like FIU’s institutional desire to compete in this sport will be tested like never before.
TOTALLY REAL AND IRRATIONAL MESSAGE BOARD THREADS
“For older fans…We have our own John Cooper” — themichiganinsider.com
“And if watching our offense isn’t nature’s Viagra, we’re 11th in the conference in recruiting!! Woo hoo!!” — hawkeyereport.com (Iowa)
“Gator Boosters should collectively sue the UAA” — swamp247.com (Florida)
“We are the Dallas Cowboys of the NCAA” — orangebloods.com (Texas)
“We need hard nose coaches that don’t take no crap!!” — gtswarm.com (Georgia Tech)
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Texas wasted money on coaching staff; Iowa was massively overrated