SIDELINES: this week in sports

 

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 Butch Jones was fired on Sunday by the University of Tennessee, ending the rumblings that have been going on for almost two full seasons. Brady Hoke, the former Michigan Wolverines head coach, will serve as interim head coach for the Vols for the remainder of the 2017 season. Now the question is,  who will Tennesse choose to replace Jones? I would be shocked if Brady Hoke was in the mix at all. If he were to win the final two regular season games to get the Vols to a bowl game, it would be plausible, but Tennessee knows they can lure in a bigger name. It’s unlikely that Tennessee will take a second-go with Lane Kiffin, despite his success thus far with Florida Atlantic. Jon Gruden’s name has surfaced before, but anytime he has been asked if he would return to coach, his answer has been unequivocally “no.”

In other coaching news, the rumour mill has tagged Chip Kelly as a potential target for the Florida Gators coaching vacancy. Kelly has said since his firing in San Francisco that he isn’t interested in going back to college football. But, it doesn’t appear he will be getting another chance as an NFL head coach anytime soon. Kelly could probably find his way onto an NFL coaching staff as an offensive coordinator, but he also doesn’t appear as a head coach who is interested in going back to an assistant role. There’s a good chance Kelly will be a serious candidate in Gainesville, but don’t be surprised if Dan Mullen is in the mix as well (a former Florida assistant and currently in his ninth season as the head coach at Mississippi State).

Each week, at least one team seals their fate for the bowl season. Last week, Ohio State’s blowout loss to Iowa decided their fate. The Buckeyes may be looking at the Rose Bowl, but not the playoff. This weekend, it wasn’t just one team whose fate for the three week bowl season was determined, but an entire conference. In Washington’s loss to Stanford, they became a two-loss team, which almost surely ends any hope they had at returning to the playoff for a second-straight season. Washington was the highest ranked two-loss team going into week 11, followed by Auburn, USC, Michigan State, and Ohio State.

Who remains undefeated after week 11? Number-one ranked Georgia was blown out by Auburn. Things get interesting with the playoff rankings now. Georgia is a one-loss team, but Auburn will get Alabama in two weeks — and if Auburn wins — the Tigers would move on to play Georgia again in the SEC championship game. There’s a lot of hearsay going on right now, but, if Auburn can take down Bama, and if they beat Georgia again in the SEC championship, you’ve got an 11-2 team that has three wins over top-5 opponents.

Now take a look at the Big 10 … let’s say for arguments sake that Ohio State wins out and plays in the Big 10 championship game against Wisconsin. Let’s go a step further and say Ohio State takes down Wisconsin in the Big 10 championship. After a crushing win against the Spartans this past weekend, there is a slight chance Ohio State could be back in discussion for the playoff. The question is — does the committee consider putting any two-loss teams in? It would be hard to imagine a one-loss Alabama team get in over Auburn if the Tigers win out. If Ohio State wins out and takes down Wisconsin, how do you justify putting any team from the Big 10 in other than Ohio State?

If Miami (FL) beats Clemson in the ACC championship, you have potentially undefeated Miami, and two-loss Clemson without a conference championship. With Notre Dame’s loss to Georgia and blowout loss to Miami, they are almost surely out of contention for any of the four playoff spots. If all the above scenarios play out, the only team left with one-loss and an almost sure trip to the playoff is Oklahoma. So, who gets in with Oklahoma? My picks are Miami, Ohio State, and Auburn join Oklahoma if all three win their conference championships.

The Leafs seemed to get back on track this week. Though not all of their four wins were pretty, the eight points were. Mitch Marner got back on track helping push the Leafs through their first game against Boston. Frederik Andersen was better each night for Toronto — and stats wise — had his best week between the pipes this season. After it seemed like the Leafs were only falling into a deeper hole, they dug themselves out well.

Alex Anthopoulos is leaving the Dodgers association to become the general manager of the Atlanta Braves. Anthopoulos was instrumental to the Jays success in 2015 — which ended up being his final season as the GM in Toronto when he decided not to return with the club the following season.

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