Over the past few seasons, The Solid Verbal has spoken, retroactively, about the most egregious weekly performances in the world of college football. These lowlights, referenced lovingly as “tire fires”, have become a regular part of the podcast, as well as the sport’s lexicon. In late 2011, EA Sports felt compelled to add a “Tire Fire Offense” badge to its NCAA 12 video game, offering a small pat on the back to gamers with poor offensive aptitude. In real college football, though, tire fires should never be considered notable or noble achievements. Fans around the country, from Iowa to… Iowa, need some forewarning in order to steer clear, or at least stock up on flame retardant gear. Thankfully, as technology has advanced, so has our ability to spot danger well in advance. Starting today, you’re officially on notice…
We’re doing things a little differently this week because FIU is playing Southern Miss. You see, this is an epic battle between the two worst teams in the country, and thus, it needs the full-spread tire fire treatment. There’s little positive – or anything at all – to be gleaned from the games either team has played this year, so it’s hard to predict what we’ll actually see on the field. What I would anticipate is the strange and discombobulated: Wacky turnovers, paper defenses and offenses throwing up all over themselves. Conference USA at its finest, you guys.
Tire Fire Game of the Year…
…potentially. As we start to get into the meat of the college football season there have been loads of tire fire-worthy performances, and yet, we find ourselves with a pair of familiar friends in FIU and Southern Miss – two teams we’re well aware of as being in the dregs of college football.
To gain an even greater perspective on how dreadful these teams are, here’s our man Bill Connelly breaking it down in a mere 51 characters:
Oh wow. Southern Miss has lost 16 games in a row … and is a 16-point favorite versus FIU.
— Bill Connelly (@SBN_BillC) October 2, 2013
As I’ve mentioned before, I had the displeasure of watching FIU in the flesh. It is akin to watching that damned Kuwaiti tire field slowly burn. Two weeks ago Teddy Bridgewater and Louisville added to the flames with a 72-0 victory, mostly by being a superior team. FIU didn’t help matters with its own brand of lame-duck play calling. David J. Neal of the Miami Herald chronicles the FIU’s first two harrowing drives:
Incomplete pass. Second play: I-formation line plunge for 3. Third and 7: badly camouflaged draw play, loss of 4. Punt.
Get the ball back. First play, poor freshman Silas Spearman III overrun for a loss of 1. Second play: Four Louisville players overrun Spearman for no gain. Two false start penalties and it’s third and 21. Caldwell on a draw play for 5. Punt.
The conversation between FIU president Mark Rosenberg and athletic director Pete Garcia after the game must have been truly delightful. Not only did they witness their carcass of a football team get beaten down and sliced up for pizza toppings behind a 27-yard offensive performance, but with 19:10 left, the clock never stopped burning.
After the game, Charlie Strong said he and Turner discussed implementing a running clock in the second half with the Panthers down 38-0 at the half. Turner denies this conversation occurred, though, I can hardly blame him for wanting to get back to Miami as soon as possible.
Nevertheless, a game with a running clock between two FBS teams is rare. Like “we thought this thought this animal was extinct” rare. The two most recent occurrences of this: Oklahoma’s waterboarding of Texas A&M 77-0 in 2003 and Auburn roasting the Kansas Jayhawks 56-7 in 1988.
Mario Cristobal must be satisfied as he comfortably watches from Nick Saban’s Death Star in Tuscaloosa. His irrational, ego-fueled firing by Pete Garcia has as much to do with the Panthers’ current debacle as the play on the field does. It’s always satisfying to know college administrators are just as inept as the rest of us.
And that’s just FIU. Lest we forget about Southern Miss, which may be a double-digit favorite but remains a spectacular disaster in its own right. Southern Miss last won a game on Christmas Eve 2011 to cap off a 12-win season. Afterward, Larry Fedora rode off into the sunset and the Golden Eagles have spiraled into an 0-16 hole.
Here’s a really sad quote from senior defensive lineman Khyri Thornton that embodies the whole Southern Miss experience:
“(My teammates) ask me all the time, they want to know how it feels to win,” Thornton said. “They ask me every day, ‘How does it feel to get a ring? How does it feel to be in the spotlight and have fans come to the games, and everybody’s parading you and congratulating you?’”
It’s pretty bleak situation when these guys have no idea what it feels like to win or to have people even show up to watch their games. They might get half of what they’re looking for on Saturday with a victory over FIU, but don’t expect to see many people at The Rock in Hattiesburg after last week’s game.
Much like FIU’s previous outing, Southern Miss got trounced at Boise State 60-7 in a game that included two blocked field goals, two interceptions and a lost fumble on a punt return. FIU using a running clock to expedite a beating? That’s historic. But three special team miscues and two turnovers? That’s a textbook Tire Fire performance.
Overall, this game feels like a passing of the torch. If FIU can’t win this game, it likely won’t be able to win another one for the rest of the year. Southern Miss will still continue to be absolutely awful, but at least it can break the losing streak and pass on the worst team in the country label to the Panthers. I think the Golden Eagles actually win this one handily, as it doesn’t seem like FIU even wants to play football anymore.
Bring your fire extinguisher, it’s definitely going to get weird down in Hattiesburg.