SIDELINES: this week in sports

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As we near the end of the college football regular season, things only heat up from here with conference championship trips on the line and more coaching changes.

Going into the final weekend of the season, two conference title games are already decided. With Ohio State and Wisconsin in the Big 10, and Miami and Clemson in the ACC. USC has clinched their division, but will have to wait to see how the Washington State versus Washington game finishes. If Mike Leach’s team can pull out a win, they will advance to face USC in a rematch — after having beaten the Trojans 30-27 on September 29. Georgia has clinched the SEC East division and will go head to head with the winner of the Iron Bowl.

Sitting in playoff spots after week twelve are Alabama, Miami, Clemson, and Oklahoma. Undefeated Wisconsin is still on the outside looking in, ahead of two-loss Auburn, Georgia, and two-loss Ohio State.

Wisconsin plays Minnesota this weekend in what should be an easy win for the Badgers, which would put them at 12-0 heading into the Big 10 championship game. Ohio State goes into rivalry weekend against Michigan, and if the Buckeyes want any shot at the college football playoff, they will need to leave Ann Arbor with a win.

UCLA fired head coach Jim Mora on Sunday after six seasons with the Bruins. While many consider Chip Kelly to be a frontrunner for the UCLA job (as well as the Florida job — or any power five head coaching gig) the Bruins may be better served to follow the trend of many programs in hiring an up-and-coming coordinator. Florida is a program more likely to go with a high-profile name and proven coach (like Kelly), not many SEC programs hire coaches who haven’t been a head coach before (Saban — former LSU and Michigan State coach, Gus Malzahn — Arkansas State, Bret Bielema — Wisconsin).

With the final weekend of the regular season  upon us, the speculation begins about who will be relieved of their duties as head coach. Let’s take a look at the programs that have had disappointing seasons.

North Carolina

The Tar Heels are 3-8 heading into their final game of the season against North Carolina State, with their only wins coming against Old Dominion, Pittsburgh and West Carolina. Larry Fedora has been in Chapel Hill since 2012, and just two years ago, his team came just nine points shy from winning the ACC championship and making it the the college football playoff. Though the 2016 season was still successful, this season has been a bust. Fedora should be safe, with the great work he has done with the program, but there are likely to be changes coming for a team that has dropped to the bottom of their league standings.

Arkansas

The talk has already begun that Arkansas is going to pursue Gus Malzahn to replace Bret Bielema, though Bielema has not been fired yet. The Razorbacks are 4-7, and will face Missouri this Friday to finish off the regular season. Though some of their losses have come at the hands of strong SEC teams (Alabama, Auburn, Mississippi State), their four wins have come against Florida A&M, New Mexico State, Ole Miss and Coastal Carolina. Not exactly something to write home about.

Texas A&M

Kevin Sumlin hasn’t done a bad job in College Station, but it’s hard to see him staying with the Aggies after the hate mail and questionnable support from boosters this season. Sumlin started his tenure with an 11-2 season and a Cotton Bowl victory over the Oklahoma Sooners. Since, Sumlin has led the Aggies to a 9-4 season, three 8-5 seasons, and with a win this weekend would end 8-4 in the regular season. The Aggies have won three bowl games and lost two. There’s no denying the program has had success, but when you run a program that is compared to the likes of Saban and Alabama, 8-5 seasons don’t cut it. Sumlin will land on his feet if he is let go, and many schools will be vying for his services.

Nebraska

Mike Riley’s predecessor was fired with an above .700 win percentage. That’s just how the college football world works. Though the SEC has shown to be more dominant this year than any of the prior college football playoff seasons, the Big 10 has always been a highly competitive conference. Riley improve in his second season — taking a 6-7 team to a 9-4 record in 2016 — but the Cornhuskers are 4-7 this season, and lost at home to Northern Illinois (a Mid-American Conference team).

Let’s switch gears to the NFL.

The Cleveland Browns have started both seasons 0-10 under head coach Hue Jackson. It seems bizarre to have a coach go 0-10 to start his first two seasons and be back for a third year, however, it also seems bizarre that Cleveland would be in search for a new head coach again. The Browns have had six different head coaches since 2005. The franchise has struggled for many years. The last head coach to leave with an above .500 winning percentage was Marty Schottenheimer. Don’t recognize that name? Well, he coached in Cleveland form 1984-1988, so that might have something to do with it.

Sean McDermott defended his choice to bench Tyrod Taylor this past weekend against San Diego and go with rookie quarterback Nate Peterman — despite Peterman throwing five interceptions and being replaced by Taylor in the second half of the game. The Bills now sit at 5-5, after starting 5-2, heading into their matchup against Kansas City this weekend.

Another struggling team sitting at 5-5 are Jason Garrett’s Dallas Cowboys, who were blown out by Phildelphia this past weekend. Though Dallas looked to be hitting their stride when they won three in a row against San Francisco, Washington and Kansas City, they’ve been held to under ten points in their previous two contests. The Cowboys have a quick turnaround this week as they play host to San Diego on American Thanksgiving this Thursday. Will they be able to keep their playoff hopes alive?

NHL

The Toronto Maple Leafs — in a routing of Montreal at the Bell Centre this past weekend — notched their sixth straight win. Auston Matthews didn’t waste anytime in his return to the lineup Saturday after missing four games — netting two goals on the night to help lead the Leafs past the Habs.

The Vegas Golden Knights continue to surprise people, sitting at 12-6-1 on the year and currently in second in the pacfic division. Despite already having used five different goalies only one fourth of the way through the season, Gerard Gallant has his team rolling.

 

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