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Tire Fire Alert: Week 13

The finish line is in sight, folks. Each week the stakes get higher as the BCS picture and conference races come into clear view. Fortunately, for our purposes, that also means lots of low/no-stakes matches on the other end of the spectrum. This week, we have a positively putrid match at the bottom of the Big 12, as well as a slew of “body bag” games with the big boys that ain’t nobody got time for. Which is why we’re here: to inform. Here is the the blazing tire heap for week 13.

The Big 12 bottom feeder edition…

… of this week’s Tire Fires is a primetime matchup between Kansas and Iowa State, two teams that have long been swallowed up by flames. Seriously, this game will be nationally televised on Fox Sports 1, so you know we’re in for some fun.

Last week Kansas pulled an “upset” over a dysfunctional, four-win West Virginia team to win its first conference game since 2010. The last team they beat in conference play? Colorado, who now carries on the Tire Fire tradition in the Pac-12. It’s been that long.

Against the Mountaineers, the Jayhawks matched their season high in points with 31.  The last time Kansas flew to such heights?  The first week of the season against South Dakota, an FCS side that is currently 4-7 in its tier of college football. The South Dakota game aside, Jayhawks hadn’t scored more than 20 points in any contest and were getting torched on the regular. The Big 12 schedule had the Jayhawks face the top five teams in the league over a period of six weeks, getting drilled in each of those contests.

The players deemed Charlie Weis worthy of a Gatorade bath after they dispatched the Mountaineers, but even all of the liquid it takes to engulf Weis won’t put out the flames on this Tire Fire side.

On the other hand, Iowa State should feel so lucky its disaster of a season finally intersects with Kansas. At the moment, the Cyclones have exactly zero conference wins and only one victory in the third week of the season. This week and next (at West Virginia) are prime opportunities to avoid a shut out in conference play.

The Cyclones looked a little bit frisky in the early part of the season, staying competitive in their first five games and losing by no more than eight points. Then, Iowa State got railroaded by Baylor and it’s been ugly ever since. Things are so hopeless that some Iowa State blogs have nearly abandoned football coverage. Can you blame them?

The fiery Paul Rhoads is typically good for one big-time scalp a year, especially if the citizens of Ames get all hot and bothered, making Jack Trice Stadium a furnace. Saturday would normally be the proper stage for such a scalping—a nationally televised home game at night—but unfortunately the opponent isn’t as high profile and who knows what kind of turnout they’ll get. Nevertheless, this game is BIG. When you’re entrenched in a free fall of a season, getting any win is huge.

From the outside-looking-in, a desperate slugfest between two pretty evenly matched squads could be mildly entertaining. An emptying of playbooks? Atrocious defensive displays? A completely scorched field.

Pre-Rivalry Body Bag Games…

… are a tradition unlike any other, and they litter this week’s slate. As you might note, they’re strategically scheduled before some of the biggest rivalries in the game: Alabama v. Auburn, South Carolina v. Clemson and Florida State v. Florida. It’s a (mostly) delicious looking slate, but, like all fine meals, an appetizer is needed to whet the diners’ whistle. Thus, we have body bag games.

In the SEC, they’re no stranger to this sort of setup. Alabama always feasts on a FCS side the week before they face Auburn and this year is no different, as Chattanooga will head to Tuscaloosa for a paycheck and napalm shower. We know the Mocs are going to get throttled, the only question is by how much? In the past four years, Bama has rolled its Auburn appetizers by averaging 50 points, while its opponents average seven. Woof.

A bit farther north, South Carolina’s annual preparation for Clemson comes by snacking on some home state small plates in the form of Wofford, the Citadel and, this year, Coastal Carolina. While the Gamecocks haven’t been quite as prolific as Alabama in these games, the last three have been resounding wins with an average margin of victory of 27.6 points. It must be good eatin’, because South Carolina has won four in a row against the Tigers.

Dabo Swinney and Clemson seem to have caught onto the recipe for success in these rivalry games and decided to schedule the Citadel as their hors d’oeuvre before taking on the Gamecocks. In years past, the game before South Carolina was an ACC contest, which they’ve handled well given their recent success, but it’s a whole different animal. There’s little comparison between a de facto scrimmage and a conference game with postseason implications. It’s tough to speak to the Citadel’s prowess on the football field, but I don’t believe it to be a stretch to lock up Clemson against a sub-.500 Bulldog side.

Florida State has also caught a whiff of what the SEC is cooking up before a rivalry game and, like Clemson, scheduled Idaho before facing Florida. In recent years the Seminoles have gotten a conference body bag game in the form of playing Atlantic Division foe Maryland, but this year they’ve strayed, inviting the Vandals to Doak Campbell. Idaho might literally have the worst defense in the entire country, giving up 45.7 points, 202 rushing yards and 329 passing yards per game. It’s even more embarrassing when you realize they play teams like Arkansas State, Wyoming, Texas State, Old Dominion and Temple. The Seminoles are averaging about 53 points on the season and are primed to make the Vandals look like insects on fly paper, after which they will incinerate said paper.

And then there’s Florida.  It’s possible they might end up looking the part of the Tire Fire and get carried out of Ben Hill-Griffin in a body bag when they take on a 6-4 Georgia Southern team. The Gator offense has looked downright Weis-ian during its five-game losing streak, hitting its peak with 20 points against Georgia and bottoming out with six points against LSU. Thankfully for Florida, well… even they can’t screw this one up.  If they do, Gators fans will be the ones lighting themselves on fire.

 

Taylor Schwink hails from Maryland, but his college football fandom was forged during his time Morgantown, WV, where he witnessed the Mountaineers gag on a shot at the national title. He’s a connoisseur of sport and is capable of growing one of the finest beards you’ve ever seen. Follow him on Twitter @CTSchwink or listen to him spout Terrapin nonsense on Red Shell Radio.