Can Lane Kiffin Escape Knoxville? Big Questions for Week 9 in College Football
Top teams face tough road tests, and Tennessee fans gear up for the return of Lane Kiffin. Those are just some of the top stories in what should be another fun week of college football.
Here are the big questions this week:
Is Lane Kiffin the Most Hated Man Ever in Tennessee?
Tennessee fans don’t much like Steve Spurrier or Derek Dooley, but they reserve a special place in the deepest, darkest recesses of their hearts for Lane Kiffin, currently Alabama’s offensive coordinator. Kiffin, who not long ago departed Knoxville for USC after just one season as head coach, is the man that all Vols can agree to hate. It’s gotten so bad that Tennessee political candidates have taken to comparing their opponents to Kiffin in attack ads.
And the feelings apparently go both ways, as Kiffin’s wife, Layla, has gone out of her way to fan the flames this week with her first Twitter post in over 10 months:
Looks like our fan club is excited for our return to Knoxville.
— Layla Kiffin (@LaylaKiffin) October 22, 2014
But I’m sure everything will be fine. The Vols fans will all be calm, sober and respectful when Alabama’s coaches take the field.
Can the Mississippi Schools Keep Rolling?
No. 1 Mississippi State and No. 3 Ole Miss are enjoying their best seasons (and highest rankings) in school history, but can they keep it up with both schools facing tough road tests this weekend? The Bulldogs will take on a 5-2 Kentucky team that was blown out last week at LSU, but whose only other loss came in triple overtime. The Rebels, meanwhile, will take their own chances in a night game at Baton Rouge, never an easy environment.
Even if they can survive this week, neither team has an easy path: Ole Miss turns right around next week to host No. 5 Auburn, while Mississippi State has a November 15 date with No. 4 Alabama circled on the calendar. But if they can keep it up, the season-ending Egg Bowl could be less about in-state bragging rights than a shot at a national championship.
Will We See Todd Gurley Again Soon?
University of Georgia officials have applied for reinstatement of star running back Todd Gurley, who was suspended indefinitely earlier this month for reportedly being paid to sign autographs. Gurley was a leading Heisman candidate before his suspension and, even after missing the last two games, still leads the SEC in rushing with 773 yards and eight touchdowns.
There is no timeline for the NCAA to act, so it’s unclear exactly when Gurley might see the field again. But the NCAA usually likes to see some contrition from players in his situation, so wearing a “Free Gurley” shirt might not help the All-American’s cause:
— Parrish Walton (@ParrishWalton) October 20, 2014
How Bad Will Things Get for Michigan?
Brady Hoke is a dead man walking. The Michigan offense has been going in reverse, ranking 113th nationally in total offense and 110th in passing. And now they get to go on the road against a Michigan State squad that hasn’t given up a touchdown to the Wolverines in two years and held them to minus-48 (not a typo) rushing yards last year.
Michigan State has beaten their in-state rivals five of the last six years, but don’t expect any mercy this time. The Spartans know that, with a weak Big Ten and so many one-loss teams right now, they need some style points to work themselves into the playoff mix. But don’t worry Michigan fans, the season’s almost over.
Does the Road to the Pac-12 Title Run Through Arizona?
Much like their Mississippi counterparts, No. 14 Arizona State and No. 15 Arizona both face tough road tests this week in their efforts to capture a Pac-12 title. The Sun Devils knocked off longtime nemesis Stanford last week and could have starting quarterback Taylor Kelly back from injury as they go against 5-2 Washington. ASU has won eight in a row against the Huskies and has not lost at Husky Stadium since 1997.
The Wildcats head to Pullman to take on a Washington State squad that, while sitting at 2-5, leads the nation in passing yards. Since Arizona ranks just 109th nationally in pass defense, look for this one to be a high-scoring shootout. And, since Arizona and Arizona State have both already won games on Hail Marys this season, don’t be surprised to see one or both of these games come right down to the wire.