On one sideline is Nick Saban, an all-time great college football coach. The Alabama boss is a defensive genius, drill sergeant and master motivator. He’s the modern day Paul “Bear” Bryant.
On the other sideline is Lyle Allen "Butch" Jones, who picked up his nickname long before he butchered the Tennessee program. He’s too clumsy to be the boss of a Taco Bell franchise. Jones is making Lane Kiffin look good.
Obviously, this is an unfair fight. Oddsmakers opened Alabama as a 34-point home favorite over Tennessee, and bettors decided that number was too low. As Saturday’s kickoff approaches, the line has ballooned to 37.
Instead of singing “Rocky Top,” fans of the Volunteers are waiting for the team to hit rock bottom so Jones will be fired. It has been almost a month since Tennessee scored a touchdown, and a 41-0 loss to Georgia is closer than it appears in the rearview mirror.
The list of big games this week — Michigan-Penn State, Southern California-Notre Dame — excludes the coaching mismatch in Tuscaloosa. Tennessee, 0-5-1 against the spread this season, can cover against Alabama only if Saban shows mercy to Jones. Saban has a ruthless reputation, but he does take pity on some outclassed opponents.
This is the time of year to speculate about troubled coaches. Luckily for Mike Riley (Nebraska), Jim McElwain (Florida) and Kevin Sumlin (Texas A&M), this is a bye week. It’s almost time to wave goodbye to Jim Mora Jr. at UCLA. The Bruins, with their soft run defense and shaky quarterback Josh Rosen, are 6-point home favorites over Oregon.
The pressure has eased on Ed Orgeron at Louisiana State after back-to-back wins. But the Tigers are in a tricky spot as 7-point road favorites over Mississippi.
In the offshore world, odds are posted on Tennessee’s next coach. Chip Kelly is the favorite, and he would be a great fit. But it’s about to get worse before the Volunteers ditch Butch for a much better coach.
Saturday’s plays: RUTGERS (plus-10) over Purdue; Syracuse (plus-17½) over MIAMI; BAYLOR (plus-9) over West Virginia; NOTRE DAME (-3½) over Usc; MISSISSIPPI (plus-7) over Lsu; Fresno State (plus-7½) over SAN DIEGO STATE.
Last week: 8-2 against the spread