SIDELINES: this week in sports

 

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College football

The Ohio State Buckeyes were able to overcome a 14-point deficit against Michigan, taking down the Wolverines 31-20 in The Big House. Though the Buckeyes lost starting quarterback JT Barrett to a leg injury before the end of the first half, freshman Dwayne Haskins took control of the game, helping lead the Buckeye seniors to a 4-0 record against the Wolverines in their career. Wisconsin dominated Minnesota 31-0 to finish their regular season undefeated. Wisconsin is the lone undefeated Power 5 school now, with Alabama falling to Auburn in the Iron Bowl. Previewing the Big 10 championship game in Indianapolis, the Badgers can make the decision easy for the playoff committee with a win, but how easy will that be? Ohio State has been inconsistent this season, but when they’ve been on, they have destroyed opponents. In their twelve regular season wins, Wisconsin only gives up 10 points per game on average, however, the Badgers non-conference opponents were nothing to write home about (Utah State, Florida Atlantic, and BYU). Perhaps the most impressive wins the Badgers had were against Iowa (38-14 win) and Michigan (24-10 win). Ohio State — though its loss to Iowa doesn’t help their case with the CFP committee — has wins against Michigan State, Penn State, and Michigan, and their loss to Oklahoma (who is likely going to end up in the playoff) doesn’t look “bad”. The winner of the Big 10 should get into the playoff, no matter who the winner is.

Auburn handed Nick Saban’s Crimson Tide their first loss of the season in the Iron Bowl after rolling past the Tide at Jordan-Hare Stadium. Gus Malzahn’s Tigers will head to Atlanta, where they will play Georgia for the second time this season. Auburn destroyed Georgia in their regular season matchup on November 11, 40-17. The Bulldogs finished their regular season with wins against Kentucky and Georgia Tech. If Auburn wins the SEC championship, they will likely be the first team to make the playoff with two losses.

Before we get talking about the ACC championship game, let’s talk about where this leaves Alabama. Saban’s team has posted two shutout wins this season (Vanderbilt and Mercer), but aside from their close win over Mississippi State two weeks ago, they haven’t faced too many tough opponents until their loss to Auburn. Yes, the Tide fan base travels well, and it will be hard for the committee to write them off. What has to be considered is this — if Auburn and Ohio State win their division championships, there are very strong arguments for both to get in. The winner of the ACC championship should also get in, seeing as both are only one-loss teams going into championship weekend. Oklahoma will play TCU in the Big 12 championship game, and with a win, will likely secure their place in the playoff as well. With Alabama’s loss to Auburn, what hurts them may not be that they don’t have a strong case (though their non-conference win over Florida State isn’t that impressive, as the Seminoles are now 5-6), rather that every other team has an even stronger one, with a stronger finish.

Clemson and Miami will go head to head in the ACC championship game in Charlotte, North Carolina on Saturday night. Unlike the Big 10, there is certainty that the winner of the ACC will secure a spot in the college football playoff. Can Mark Richt keep the dream alive at the U? Can Dabo do it again with his Clemson Tigers?

 

UCLA

The Bruins made the splash hire that they’ve never really had before. Chip Kelly signed a $23.3M deal over five years, and next season will return to the PAC-12 where he once led a prolific Oregon Ducks team. Though it was rumoured that Kelly would end up in Florida, this seems like the right fit for both UCLA and Kelly.

Nebraska

Mike Riley was fired at the conclusion of the Cornhuskers season after finishing 4-8. Nebraska fans will want to see Scott Frost return to Lincoln and leave his UCF team (who he has led to an undefeated regular season and will play Memphis in the AAC championship).

Arkansas

Bret Bielema was fired as he walked off the field on Thanksgiving after his Razorbacks dropped their final game of the season to Missouri. Though there were some positive moments in Bielema’s tenure with the Razorbacks, they were equally met with frustrating moments. Will Bielema return to a head coaching position next season? His record from his time in Madison helps his case, but his record in Fayetteville is not so pretty.

Ole Miss

The Rebels removed the interim tag next to Matt Luke’s name on Sunday and officially announced him as the head coach. After a heartfelt rant a few weeks ago to his players — where he argued why the Ole Miss players and coaches do have something to fight for (despite their rough season), and an Egg Bowl victory over rival Mississippi State, it seems like the right decision. Before Hugh Freeze, the Rebels had been a mediocre team for years, and their previous few hires didn’t end well. After Freeze’s tenure ended tumultuously, Ole Miss athletic director Ross Bjork has to hope that Matt Luke will lead the program back in the right direction.

Florida

The Gators are bringing back their offensive coordinator from the Urban Meyer era in Dan Mullen. The man who developed Alex Smith (at Utah), Tim Tebow (Florida), and Dak Prescott (Mississippi State) is exactly what Florida needs — a proven offensive mastermind who will bring an up-tempo offense back to Gainesville.

NHL

Mike Babcock

Perhaps the classiest amongst NHL head coaches, Mike Babcock, apologized following the Leafs game last Monday for being a “jackass and disrespectful” in answering a question about lines earlier that day. Here’s the thing, when you coach in the NHL, you can get away with being a jackass and with being disrespectful, even though you shouldn’t be able to. Especially a guy like Mike Babcock, who is coaching one of the most scrutinized professional teams in the world. It is easy to be a jerk and not care. Hats off to the 50 million dollar bench boss for being a class act.

Grey Cup

The Toronto Argonauts, led by the well-proven CFL head coach Marc Trestman, won the 105th Grey Cup on Sunday 27-24. A team that was in last place in 2016 went from atrocious football to a fairytale finish in just one year. Not the typical fairytale, either — the Argos started the season 4-7, and even in the Grey Cup, were trailing by eight with under five minutes to go.  But, with a coach who preached love for each other as a brotherhood and cohesive unit, the Argos pulled off what no one would have predicted. Toronto will get a parade for a championship before 2017 comes to an end, and that’ll only set expectations higher for all Toronto teams for 2018.

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