SIDELINES: this week in sports

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The weekend before the first college football playoff rankings are set to be released was anything but predictable. Ohio State topped Penn State 39-38 after going down field twice in the final six minutes of the game to score two touchdowns. JT Barrett threw four touchdowns and completed 33-of-39 pass attempts. I don’t see how Barrett isn’t in the Heisman consideration. Saquon Barkley returned the opening kickoff for a touchdown, but aside from one other run on the night for 36 yards, the Ohio State defence shut him down completely. Barrett came into a game where he needed to be big, and he got bigger.

Matt Campbell’s Iowa State Cyclones took down a ranked opponent for the second time this season after winning a close 14-7 game in Ames on Saturday. The Cyclones are now in first place in the Big 12, and will face WVU, Oklahoma State, winless Baylor and Kansas State in their final four games.

Down south, the Florida Gators fired coach Jim McElwain after losing three straight games (counting this weekend). McElwain was only in his third year as head coach, and in his first two seasons won the SEC east division and went to the SEC championship both years. What surprises me about McElwain is how fast everything transpired. It’s unusual to see college coaches fired mid-season — though it has become more common in the past few years — but only being in his third season, the move seems surprising. Yes, it’s understandable that the Gators were struggling in a year where McElwain had many of his own recruits on the field. It’s understandable that three losses in a row at a school like Florida is something that has been deemed unacceptable. Seeing McElwain fired in the midst of his third season suggests there was much more going on behind the scenes than anyone thought.

When McElwain talked about receiving death threats last week at his press conference, some questioned it, and later in the week, the athletics administration called him out on it because he had no backing. The tricky thing about sports, especially college football, is that the egotistical attitude and rubbing people the wrong way can turn on you fast. Winning — though it seems like everything — isn’t always the be-all-end-all of sports. Even winning can’t save someone who isn’t liked, and winning can’t save you when there wasn’t enough winning.

So now, like in 2014, and in 2010, Florida is back to being in search of someone who will bring them back to the top of the SEC, and who will recapture the energy of the Gator fans.

The World Series is without a doubt fascinating, exciting, thrilling, maybe even something that we don’t have a word to describe it as. But let’s jump to another coach firing. The Yankees dismissed Joe Girardi after ten seasons as manager. Girardi was under high scrutiny after his instant reply gaffe in the ALCS against Houston. It’s funny how in the post-season managers are under higher scrutiny and get punished for the smallest errors. Yet, managers who don’t make the post-season make it safely into next year.

A similar situation to Girardi would be that of Marvin Lewis (head coach of the Cincinnati Bengals) — who has held his post since 2003 — despite losing all seven playoff games he has coached with Cincinnati. Sure, there are some owners in professional sports who are more loyal than others to coaches who have given so much of their time and energy to their organization. But, even if Lewis were to be fired at the end of the season, or the next season, he has had a long tenure with the Bengals, and there is no arguing that he didn’t get the time he needed to try to win a Super Bowl.

The art of coaching/manager changes is all too confusing. Girardi won a World Series and was fired after making it to the ALCS this season. Sure, his tenure was long, and the Yankees are a club that expects you to win in the regular season and to capture post-season championships. But again, someone who has won a lot with his club is now unemployed. It’s instances like this that make it seem like no one is ever safe — everyone is on the hot seat.

Lets talk NFL. Carson Wentz has emerged as the next franchise quarterback — not specific to Philadelphia — but quite possibly the next universally recognized franchise quarterback in the NFL. Wentz — an unlikely star out of North Dakota State University, a division II school, was picked in the first round of the 2016 draft, second overall, to Philadelphia. Wentz wasn’t a starting quarterback in college until the 2014 season, and led the Bison to their fourth straight national championship.

It’s hard for new quarterbacks to shine when they’re surrounded by the likes of veteran quarterbacks like Tom Brady, Aaron Rogers, and Matt Ryan. But, when the time comes for guys like them to retire, to hang up their cleats, Wentz will still be standing and running the offense in Phildelphia. Through the first half of the season, Wentz has led the Eagles to a 7-1 record and has them sitting atop the NFC East.  Wentz is currently second in the league in passing yards (behind Brady), tied with Deshaun Watson for first in passing touchdowns (19), and is seventh in QB rating. Considering who Wentz has to pass to — compared to the likes of other teams — he has done a phenomenal job this season.

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