Week six's contenders and pretenders

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I’m sure “Separation Saturday” has already happened, but as we move forward with conference play, it’s time to separate the pretenders from the contenders.

CONTENDERS

South Carolina (4-1 overall, 2-1 SEC)

I’m always sort of waiting for the Gamecocks to implode around this time of the year. I can’t tell you how many years the wicked USC of the East has has started 5-1 or 6-2, only to fold like a towel down the stretch.

But, this team looks different. They’re playing better and with a sense of urgency. With Florida and the rest of the SEC East down, there hasn’t been a better time to make a move. South Carolina’s remaining schedule is manageable. They’ll have to avoid a ‘Bama-beatin’ hangover against Kentucky (who proved last night they’re no walk in the park) and overcome back-to-back games against Arkansas and Florida.

I’m not expecting South Carolina to run the table, so the Nov. 13 match-up in The Swamp now takes on some serious precedence if Spurrier’s club is going to carry a tie-breaker over Florida.

Michigan State (6-0 overall, 2-0 Big Ten)

Look at Sparty sitting high atop the Big Ten standings! Not only did Michigan State win against favored Michigan in Ann Arbor on Saturday, but they flat-out handed it to ’em. They also did something no other team’s been able to do so far: contain Denard Robinson. In the Big Ten, defense is king, but Michigan State has been able to defeat teams with great defense and offense.

How the team has responded to Mark Dantonio’s health issues have been nothing short of inspirational. Sparty’s been playing hard and, what do you know, they don’t have to play Ohio State this year. Michigan State will still have to take care of business, though. An Oct. 30 date at Iowa City against the Hawkeyes awaits the Spartans.

Nebraska (5-0 overall, 1-0 Big 12)

The Cornhuskers simply dominated Kansas State Thursday night in every aspect of the game. Granted, it’s Kansas State, but quarterback Taylor Martinez gave a chin-rubbing, Heisman-pondering performance. There simply hasn’t been anyone in the Big 12 who has dominated like Nebraska.

Despite Texas’ struggles, next week’s battle against the ‘Horns in Lincoln should tell us a lot about Nebraska. Texas can’t afford to drop three straight (it would be the first time under Mack Brown), so I expect them to come in to Memorial Stadium playing like a caged animal. A week eight match-up at Oklahoma State is the only real test remaining for Nebraska.

Florida State (5-1 overall, 3-0 ACC)

A drumming in Norman aside, Florida State has played superb football through six weeks. In five wins, the Seminoles have swept past their competition by an average of 31 points and look to be the class of a down ACC.

Their 45-17 dismantling of rival Miami (see pretenders) on national television was more than enough to mention Florida State back among college football’s elite.

Auburn (6-0 overall, 3-0 SEC)

Don’t look now, but Auburn controls their own destiny in the SEC West. With Alabama falling yesterday, the Tigers just need to win out and they’re in the SEC Championship Game. Easier said than done, right?

The next two weeks will tell us a lot about the Tigers. Back-to-back home games against Arkansas and LSU will test the merit of Auburn and quarterback Cam Newton and the Iron Bowl will be in Tuscaloosa this year.

Let’s also point out Auburn just beat South Carolina a week ago who, so I’ve heard, had a big win this weekend …

PRETENDERS

Miami (3-2 overall, 1-1 ACC)

Other than Texas, there may not be a team who, in hindsight, was less deserving of such a lofty preseason ranking than the Hurricanes. Two bad losses to Ohio State and Florida State on national television showed once and for all the the U is not back.

In fact, they’re not even close.

Jacory Harris continues to be inconsistent and his durability has become an issue. I’m not sure how hot Randy Shannon’s seat really is, but to say the Hurricanes have underachieved so far this season is an understatement. For as bad as the ACC has been this year, the Hurricanes still have a shot for a conference title, but they’ll need to get past Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech.

Arizona (4-1 overall, 1-1 Pac-10)

This is a struggle. I’m still not entirely sure what to make of this team, yet. Through four games, the Wildcats were playing with a purpose, but barely got by against Iowa and Cal. That string of good fortune finally caught up with Mike Stoops and ‘Zona lost to a 2-2 Oregon State at home.

If Arizona is really the Pac-10 championship-caliber squad they think they are, they’ll rebound against USC, Stanford and Oregon — their three toughest remaining tests. If they can’t, it’ll be just another year where Arizona finishes the season colder than Tiger Woods’ winless streak.

Florida (4-2 overall, 2-2 SEC)

You know you’re an elite program when 4-2 is tough-goings, but the Gators are having a down year. Period. Florida hasn’t dropped two straight conference games since 2007 and Meyer’s team finished 9-4 that year.

After watching South Carolina get physical on Alabama, there’s an argument that the power in the SEC East has shifted a couple states north. Florida’s offense has struggled and their defense has been gashed a couple of times. As usual, there’s speed on the team, but this season is showing that’s clearly not enough.

Pittsburgh and UConn (5-6 combined, no conference wins)

Weren’t these two supposed to be all that and a bag of chips at the beginning of this season? Wasn’t Pittsburgh ranked and unanimously projected to win the Big East? What happened to Dion Lewis, the returning Big East Offensive Player of the Year? Through five games, Lewis has 206 yards and two touchdowns. I think he had that in one game last year.

UConn was the dark horse — the feel-good, sexy pick after the tragic death of Jasper Howard and solid bowl victory over South Carolina. To date, UConn’s done nothing. After defeating Vanderbilt in week five, the Huskies turned right back around and dropped one against Rutgers, who lost to Tulane.

Come on, man.

Bonus: To Be Determined

LSU (6-0 overall, 4-0 SEC)

Seriously, how does this team keep winning?

Former Notre Dame defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder reportedly hired as defensive analyst at Oklahoma State

JACKSONVILLE, FL - 2005:  Brian VanGorder of the Jacksonville Jaguars poses for his 2005 NFL headshot at photo day in Jacksonville, Florida.  (Photo by Getty Images)
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Staff changes are nearly complete around college football but it appears there is still one hire left to make for Oklahoma State.

According to a report from the Tulsa World, Cowboys head coach Mike Gundy is expected to bring on former Notre Dame defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder as the team’s new defensive analyst.

VanGorder was fired by the Irish last season after a 1-3 start that saw numerous issues on the defensive side of the ball. He later took a defensive analyst spot at Georgia toward the end of the 2016 campaign but apparently was looking for something else this year and ended up in Stillwater.

The move to bring on the coaching veteran gives Gundy and Cowboys defensive coordinator Glenn Spencer a wealth of knowledge on staff for that side of the ball as former OSU defensive coordinator Bill Clay is also a defensive analyst on the staff.

Prior to going to South Bend, VanGorder was a DC at Auburn, Georgia, and South Carolina. He also served as head coach of Georgia Southern for one season and made several NFL coaching stops along the way as well but this will be his first gig with a Big 12 program.

Tommy Tuberville says he would rather be Alabama governor than a head coach again

UNITED STATES - MAY 24:  Tommy Tuberville, head football coach of the Auburn Tigers tees off during the FedEx St. Jude Classic Stanford Pro-Am on May 24, 2006 at TPC Southwind in Memphis, Tennessee.  (Photo by Joe Murphy/Getty Images)
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Those stories about former head coach Tommy Tuberville making a run at becoming governor of the great state of Alabama appear to have some legs.

The ex-Auburn head man and longtime college football head coach talked to WNSP 105.5 FM (in Mobile, Ala.) about potentially mounting a political campaign on Friday and he didn’t exactly shy away from the fact that he was considering entering the fray.

“I’ve been there done that for many many years in college football,” Tuberville told the hosts when asked if he’d rather be governor or a head coach again. “I don’t know what I’m going to do. Talking about this governor thing, I’m kind of testing the wind. But probably be governor, in this time of life. I want to do a little something different and I think I can make a difference if I do decide to run.”

Tuberville added that he is doing some polling on the matter prior to formally beginning any sort of campaign process in order to see how he could potentially do in the race for governor.

The 62-year-old didn’t rule out a return to coaching, joining a TV network or even becoming an athletic director either but it sounds like he has a few political aspirations in mind. Tuberville certainly knows the state well having been at Auburn from 1999-2008 as head coach and leading the team to an undefeated season in 2004. While the fact that he wore plenty of orange back in the day and won six straight Iron Bowls might dissuade certain Alabama fans from voting for him, it appears that the old coach is already laying the ground work for recruiting a few Crimson Tide to his side down the road.

“If you end up running, trying to be the governor, it’s about one big team: The whole state of Alabama,” he said. “When I was at Auburn, I faced quite a few Alabama coaches. You do something on the scale of governorship, you have to have all your friends. I know as many Alabama folks as I do Auburn folks.”

It seems Tuberville is already getting a little political when it comes to appeasing both sides of the aisle in the state of Alabama — and we’re not referring to Republicans and Democrats either.

Wisconsin gives pay raises to head coach Paul Chryst, OC Joe Rudolph

EAST LANSING, MI - SEPTEMBER 24:  Paul Chryst, head coach of the Wisconsin Badgers, reacts on the sideline during the game against the Michigan State Spartans at Spartan Stadium on September 24, 2016 in East Lansing, Michigan.  (Photo by Bobby Ellis/Getty Images)
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There is always a certain rhythm to college football and as sure as the sun rises in the East, the offseason after a good year will result in a handful of raises for various coaches.

Such is apparently the case at Wisconsin this week, as documents provided by the school to the Wisconsin State Journal show head coach Paul Chyrst has received a hefty half million bump in salary this year.

Chryst is coming off a terrific year with the Badgers after guiding them to a surprise Big Ten West title and victory in the Cotton Bowl over previously undefeated Western Michigan. He is now set to earn roughly $3.2 million in 2017 and then see annual raises of $100,000 each year until the end of his contract. The head coach and former Wisconsin player was recently extended by the school through 2022.

That’s not the only raise handed out either, as offensive coordinator Joe Rudolph also received a bump of $80,000 this year to bring his salary to $650,000 in 2017 and 2018.

Despite the pay increases, the two Badgers coaches are still well behind most of their peers at the Power Five level and in the Big Ten especially. At Michigan alone, for comparison’s sake, head coach Jim Harbaugh makes around $9 million a season and pays three different assistants seven figures as well.

Georgia doles out pair of hefty raises to two staff members

MEMPHIS, TN - DECEMBER 30: Head coach Kirby Smart of the Georgia Bulldogs poses with running back Sony Michel #1 of the Georgia Bulldogs and defensive tackle Trenton Thompson #78 of the Georgia Bulldogs after defeating the TCU Horned Frogs at Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium on December 30, 2016 in Memphis, Tennessee. The Georgia Bulldogs defeated the TCU Horned Frogs 31-23. (Photo by Michael Chang/Getty Images)
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Two football staffers at Georgia received a nice raise this offseason, according to documents obtained by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

According to the AJC’s Seth Emerson, Bulldogs running backs coach Dell McGee took home a pay bum of $75,000 recently to put his total compensation at $350,000 per year. 2017 will be his second season with the team under head coach Kirby Smart and is probably worth it alone given the role McGee no doubt had in convincing star tailbacks Nick Chubb and Sonny Michel to return to school this season.

That’s not the only staff member to get a nice raise however as the program’s strength and conditioning coordinator, Scott Sinclair, received an even larger raise of $80,000, according to the same report. He now makes a whopping $300,000 a year.

While you might think the six-figure raises for two staff members is a tad excessive, even for an SEC program, Georgia is saving $125,000 on the base salary of new defensive line coach Tray Scott compared to his predecessor. Given how important McGee and Sinclair will be for one of the SEC East favorites this year, it is probably money well spent for Smart and the administration.