You’ve finally made it. After decades of toiling away for low pay, long hours, and the sort of nameless serfdom that is low-level paper pushing, you’ve now secured a seven-figure gig with a blue blood giant of college football. I’m guessing you wouldn’t want to fall off the summit you spent your life climbing, right?
Well, the same applies to college football coaches. Brian Kelly, James Franklin, and Gus Malzahn spent varying decades building the sort of experience, reputation, and connections that allowed for the current positions as the leaders of three of college football’s power programs: Notre Dame, Penn State, and Auburn.
With great power and pay comes great expectations, however. All three of these once heralded hires now find themselves sitting atop three of the hottest seats in the country, with any and all expected to be fired, perhaps before season’s end. Obviously, in a game in which an oblong shaped ball can bounce either way, this is the pinnacle of football coaching pressure.
Call me crazy, but we’re over 60 percent on our last 20 college football picks, and I want a guy who NEEDS to win, not the one who wants to. These are multi-million dollar losses for the aforementioned coaches, so I want my money riding on the team whose leader is biting his nails even more than I am. Fake punts, fourth down conversions, endless blitzes, and fiery speeches abound, here are three coaches that have to win, and you need to believe in:
Notre Dame vs. NC State
Line: ND -1
If you would’ve told me the spread on this game would be one point in August, I’d have laughed my way to the ATM. How quickly things change. The Irish have suffered three losses, perhaps most notably a humiliating home defeat at the hands of Duke, without their starting quarterback. Brian Kelly, who perpetually seems moments from combustion, has already fired his defensive coordinator, halted his idiotic quarterback carousel, and claimed “every position is up for grabs” in practice this week.
The Irish responded with a spread covering win last Saturday (thank you) against lowly Syracuse, in which the new-look defense still surrendered a pathetic 33 points. But Notre Dame is extremely talented, humming on offense, and playing an NC State team that has signed fewer Top 100 ranked recruits since 2010 than Notre Dame did in 2016 alone. I’m serious.
Notre Dame will overwhelm the overmatched and inexperienced Wolf Pack, amassing over 500 yards of total offense, and saving their beleaguered coach another week.
Pick: ND 52 – NC State 30
Maryland vs. Penn State
Line: Maryland -1
This is an outrageous spread, though after watching James Franklin call timeout on 4th & Goal at the 1 down 28-0 against Michigan to…kick a field goal, I am convinced he might be ready to chalk Happy Valley up as a loss and start looking for his next Vanderbilt. Maryland, though, is horribly overvalued in this line. Their best win of the season is an overtime victory gift wrapped by the Fighting Dan Regesters, during which the UCF Knights fumbled an astonishing five times. The only Power 5 team Maryland has defeated is Purdue, perhaps the worst team in America.
This will be first year Coach DJ Durkin and his first-year starting quarterback’s first road game outside of the raucous atmospheres of FIU and UCF. Penn State will cram over 100,000 people into the nation’s only stadium featuring a memorial to a man that covered for pedophiles, more than triple the capacity of lowly FIU. The Nittany Lions, with perhaps the best two-headed running back monster in the nation led by Saquon Barkley, will run wild on a thin Terrapin front in a game Franklin absolutely must win.
Pick: PSU 30 – Maryland 24
Auburn vs. Mississippi State
Line: Auburn -3
Mississippi State is the worst team in the SEC West and Gus Malzahn needs to hire a moving company if the Tigers lose on Saturday afternoon. In reality, I’m guessing he could organize a group of students and or alumni to ship him out of town pro bono, but they might be slightly less delicate with his fragile possessions. Auburn is coming off of a de facto bye week, smashing Louisiana-Monroe at home mid-season (SEC scheduling is so odd) after ending the Les Miles era in Baton Rouge the weekend before.
Auburn is the far more talented team, and this is the only matchup of the SEC slate in which Shaun White might actually be an advantage at the quarterback position. Malzahn needs to stop playing musical chairs with his quarterbacks and allow White to settle into what will be a low scoring game, spelling him on rare occasion for the Franklin run package, a weapon against what is one of the least athletic defenses in the conference.
Dan Mullen has got to be about through with the limitations placed on his program in Starkville, and this is perhaps the worst team of his entire tenure. Malzahn and the vaunted Auburn defense have to win, and they will easily.
Pick: Auburn 30 – MSU 17.
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