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Tire Fire Alert: Week Eight


Whilst doing my research for the Week Nine installment of the Tire Fires blog, my eyes could not be averted from the potential defensive wreckage in the SEC this weekend. Last week, I pointed to the Missouri-Georgia game with both teams prone to scoring and surrendering big numbers. We’ll continue that trend, but in particular, let’s focus on the atrocious run defenses being trotted out against a pair of teams who are quite efficient on the ground. Nothing silences a large, raucous crowd better than Tire Fire defense being burnt to a crisp by the opposing team’s run game, and that’s exactly what we’re hoping for.

Mike Davis and the Gamecocks gon’ eat…

…when they visit Neyland Stadium at noon on Saturday. Tennessee has been dreadful against the run, especially against competent teams, sitting at No. 80 in rushing defense. Bad news is, South Carolina is more than competent, bordering on Beast Mode. Gamecock partisans have been clamoring for Mike Davis to get more attention on the national scene, and maybe even a bit of Heisman buzz. They claim he’s the best running back in the country, and while I believe that title currently rests with Washington’s Bishop Sankey, they have a case.

Davis is averaging an SEC-leading 123.7 rushing yards per game, only missing the centennial mark once this season, and he’s getting it done on about 18 carries per game. He also co-owns the league lead in rushing touchdowns with nine, tied with LSU’s Jeremy Hill.

Like any proper Heisman candidate, his “put the team on my back” moment came in week four with the Gamecocks down 10 on the road to UCF. In the second half, Steve Spurrier altered his game plan and decided to feed Davis. It paid off quickly, with Davis ripping off a 53-yard touchdown run on the first drive, finishing the afternoon with 167 yards and three scores.

On top of that, don’t sleep on dual-threat quarterback Connor Shaw who’s averaging about 15 carries in his five games of action, good for 4.3 yards per carry. Together, Shaw and Davis account for 11 of the team’s 15 rushing touchdowns.

All of this bodes horribly for a Tennessee team that is giving up 175.7 yards a game. Against teams not named Austin Peay or playing in the Sun Belt, Tennessee is giving up an average of 223 yards per game, a number that sticks them between Air Force and Kent State for 113th in rushing defense.

Against a banged-up Georgia offense, the Volunteers were gashed for 129 yards by Todd Gurley’s freshman backup J.J. Green and even let Aaron Murray scamper for 53 yards. Florida’s green quarterback Tyler Murphy was able to run for 84 yards, and Oregon was able to spread the love around and accumulate 216 yards with eight different ball carriers.

It’s not looking good with the SEC’s leading rusher and a mobile quarterback coming to town. And on the heels of an emotional overtime loss to Georgia, expect the Gamecocks to set the field ablaze.

Texas A&M has a dirty secret…

…well, maybe it’s not a secret, but amidst the Johnny Football hype, the messy Texas A&M defense is often glossed over. The Aggies have given up at least 30 points four times and had FCS Sam Houston State knocking on that door, with the Bearkats scoring 28 in Week Two. Shocker:  They rank at the bottom of the barrel in scoring defense, giving up 32 points a game, bested in the SEC only by Georgia’s mark of 33.7.

Texas A&M is even worse than Tennessee against the run, giving up 201 yards per game, clocking in at No. 104 in the nation and 13th in the SEC.

The defense has become a huge liability, alarming for a team that relies so heavily on its Heisman Trophy winning quarterback, and even more so with the SEC’s top rushing attack coming to College Station.

The Auburn Tigers average 287 yards on the ground, with four different players – including quarterback Nick Marshall – owning 100-yard performances. Gus Malzahn’s return to Auburn has completely reinvigorated the offense and especially the running game. Last year’s side averaged a paltry 86 yards a game and only 2.6 yards per carry. Malzahn has been able to flip that into the aforementioned 287 yards and 6.3 yards per carry, both good for tops a prolific offensive league.

The rushing attack thrives on having multiple play makers to move the ball, but it’s the resurgent offensive line that’s leading the charge. After allowing 37 sacks last year, the Tigers have only allowed four through six games. The Aggies defensive front seven is littered with inexperience, listing 10 underclassmen on their depth chart. They’ve only recorded five sacks on the season failed to tally any last week against Ole Miss.

All of this is to say the Auburn offensive line should be able to dominate. Expect to see a lot of running lanes for Tre Mason, Cameron Artis-Payne and Corey Grant, as well as ample time for Nick Marshall to throw the ball or do his best Cam Newton impression on the ground.

Unfortunately, with a healthy Johnny Manziel, I can’t see Auburn pulling off the upset. But rest assured, there will be a pair of smoldering defenses occupying Kyle Field Saturday. The biggest flames on the field are sure to come from the Aggie run defense.









Fancred Friday


The fine folks over at Fancred have helped us expand the reach of The Solid Verbal by giving us a slick profile page and a direct portal into the passionate minds of college football fans around the world.  So, to express our gratitude, we solicited questions from its growing network of fans for a special Fancred-only mailbag:

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The Reverb Index: Week Seven

As the Reverb Line (408-VERBAL1) continues to ring off the hook, I must make an admission:  I was wrong.  Really wrong, actually.  I thought the uptick in positivity we saw in your calls was a mere blip on the radar. I thought, well… I thought you all were a bunch of cynics.  As the chart below clearly shows, it was no blip.  Last week, an astounding 65-percent of callers were in a good mood. That is just a hair shy of our peak in Week One at 67-percent.

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The Fleming System: The Human Element of Computer Polls

Matrix tut 2

The Game Outcome Measure (GOM) is the central metric used by my rating program to determine how much better the winning team is than the losing team in a specific game played.  The GOM can be designed to reward offensively-oriented teams (by relying heavily on how many points the winning team scores); another GOM definition might favor defensively-minded teams by relying on how few points a team gives up. Still another might ignore the score altogether and just look at who wins the game.

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Shootout Central (10/16)


Ty and Dan make their picks for a week that seems destined to be shootout-y, discuss how Jameis Winston will respond in a hostile setting, and examine Auburn’s potential against Texas A&M.  Plus, a Patriot League Lightning Round, a Tommy Rees vs. Cody Kessler conversation and some off-track betting on Ty’s weekend 5k race.


Upset City (10/14)


Ty and Dan run through a wild week of upsets, discuss the merits of Wisconsin and Virginia Tech, deliberate over Ed Orgeron’s future at USC, and have a listen to your Week Seven Reverbs.


Tire Fire Alert: Week Seven


Welcome to your Week Seven Tire Fire Alert. We do this as a public service, you know.  This week, we’re featuring two God awful teams, a defense that’s about to get trampled underfoot and two more defenses set to feel the wrath of the SEC’s newfound fire power. As always, keep your distance, bring a polarized pair of shades and enjoy the dysfunction.

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The Reverb Index: Your Calls From Week Six

Last week’s slate of games produced some rather interesting calls to the Reverb line (408-VERBAL1).  Surprisingly, callers reversed a season long trend and expressed more positivity.  As you can see from the chart below, last week’s 55-45 good mood / bad mood split was the largest since Week Three.  It will be interesting to see if this is simply a blip on the way to a majority of callers being miserable, or if we might see an actual turn around.  Personally, I’m not sold quite yet.

Week Six Chart

Let’s take a knee for a moment and talk about Lane Kiffin.  (C’mon, you know you want to!)  Kiffin just can’t distance himself from Verballer snark and was featured in just under 10-percent of calls about a player or coach.  Kiffin might want to add this to his resume if he hasn’t already.  Still, in terms of Reverbs, he’s no Urban Meyer.   Meyer was the most talked about entity, showing up in just under 24-percent of such calls.  This was significant, if only because it was the first time a coach was the most popular topic of conversation.  This could be a one-time thing until Art Briles eventually takes the Texas job and lights the Verballersphere on fire.  In the meantime, this is pretty representative of how callers felt about Urban Meyer:


Of course, there were also several players discussed in your calls.  It gave me the warm fuzzies to see how Verballers spread the love—or, um, hate—around, mentioning almost 20 different players.  Some callers are still hung up on Tommy Rees, but Jameis Winston clearly stole the show last week.  Without a doubt, callers talking about the Wonderful Monster were some of the happiest.  His play has some fans looking ahead with confidence (hubris?):


Confidence was in short supply for Ohio State fans.  Ohio State’s fourth quarter comeback win over Northwestern was the most popular game of the week, garnering just under 19 percent of calls. But it would seem Buckeye fans were all about the downside:


Georgia’s overtime win against Tennessee provoked a sizable response from Verballers as well.  Reactions ran the gamut, but it seems the most popular response was to simply mock Georgia for struggling with Tennessee.  One caller even wanted to create a new term:


The Notre Dame – Arizona State and Washington – Stanford games rounded out the top four.  The best part of Notre Dame’s win was that it indirectly triggered a new wave of Lane Kiffin hate:


Finally, the Washington – Stanford game got started so late on the East Coast it had some of you pondering existential questions of college football:


Road Warriors (10/9)


Ty and Dan discuss Oregon’s road test, Northwestern’s let-down spot, Tyler Murphy in Baton Rouge, Texas Comedy Day and make picks for all of the relevant Week Seven action. Plus, darkhorse selection committee candidates, 90s TV families, rival Clemsonings, and inconvenient baby showers.


Introducing The Fleming System

Matrix tut 2

Since its inception in 1998, the best argument for the BCS has been that college football fans love debates.  You know it’s true.  Everyone loves a good fight.  SEC people fighting with Big 12 people fighting with Pac-12 people fighting with computers fighting with humans fighting with Condoleeza Rice and Mark May.  Nobody can agree on much of anything, which of course, makes everything somewhat interesting.

Still, the BCS is a better system than the one before it.  And in an effort to settle some pre-BCS debates, Patrick Fleming created his own computer ranking system,The Fleming System (TFS), in 1994.  Now, with our help, he’s rolling it out to a larger audience in hopes of answering some questions about the 2013 season and, hopefully, figuring out ways to make it even better.  (We’re serious about this.  Leave comments.)

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Late Night (10/6)


Ty and Dan reflect on Stanford’s big win over Washington, Georgia’s scare at Tennessee, Florida State’s beat down of Maryland, and Ohio State’s miracle front door cover.  Plus, a full recap of all the other relevant action in Week Six and your spirited Reverbs.


Tire Fire Alert: Week Six


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:

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.