Shamed football coach Bobby Petrino spent several weeks in a very rare October hiking and playing golf with his parents in Montana rather than engineering scoring plays on the sidelines of a football field. Ever since he was famously fired in April as the head coach at Arkansas after being found guilty of a lover’s tryst, Bobby has longed to get back in the college football business and now that job openings are rumored, his name is connected with most.
The problem is that now Petrino “carries more baggage than Delta Air Lines” and, with most programs under close scrutiny, brash Bobby is regarded as a liability hire. The fans want him, the rich boosters do not, and the biggest question of the season is which school will be brave enough – or dumb enough – to take on the motorcycle-riding coach who has had on-field success wherever he’s been.
This week a reporter in Kentucky talked to Petrino’s father who recounted a conversation he had with his son several weeks ago. “I know he wants a job; he needs a job,” Petrino Sr. said by telephone Wednesday. “He told me, ‘I need a job, Dad.’ I said, ‘Well, you must still have some money. You made 31/2 million dollars.’ And he said, ‘Yeah, I do. It’s not the money.’ He just misses coaching so much.”
Right now the Kentucky job is the lone opening in the SEC and Bob Petrino Sr. said his son would be very interested. “I just know this, that he’s interested in Kentucky,” he told writer Adam Himmelsbach of the Louisville Courier-Journal. “He wants to stay in the SEC. That was his life’s goal was to go to the SEC.”
“You know, he made mistakes,” said his dad, “but he couldn’t have gone through any punishment worse than losing his job. He’s missed coaching tremendously.”
Officials at Kentucky – as well as two other SEC schools where vacancies could occur – say Petrino is “not a viable candidate” but – just watch – some school will hire him and it could be soon. His dad said he might jump at the very first offer, too.
That said, here is how I am picking this week’s Top 10 games:
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MIAMI (5-4) at VIRGINIA (3-6), 12 Noon (ABC) – The Hurricanes will hit Charlottesville hard after last Thursday’s stirring 30-12 win over Va. Tech and, with bowl eligibility on the table, look for Miami to scratch and claw in order to stay atop the ACC’s Coastal Division. UVa snapped a three-game losing streak with the 33-6 win over N.C. State, but Miami, a narrow 1-point underdog, has everything to play for while the Wahoos must win the last three games for bowl eligibility. Now consider the fact that 17 of Miami’s 38 scoring drives have taken less than two minutes and seven of those happened in least than 60 seconds! MY PICK? Miami, 37-21.
GEORGIA TECH (3-6) at NORTH CAROLINA (6-3), 12:30 p.m. (ACC Network) —North Carolina, winning five of the last six, is a healthy nine-point pick over floundering Tech and the Tar Heels are just two games away from being undefeated this season at home. Snazzy RB Giovani Brenard is UNC’s top threat and Tech, still smarting from firing the team’s defensive coordinator at midseason, doesn’t have the skill to match Carolina’s attack. With Duke and Georgia waiting in the wings, Tech has a steep hill to climb to be bowl eligible. MY PICK? North Carolina, 35-17.
WEST VIRGINIA (5-3) at No. 13 OKLAHOMA STATE (5-3), 1:00 p.m. (ABC) – Dana Holgorsen lived in a motel for 10 months when he was an OSU assistant before being named as West Virginia’s coach so his return this Saturday ain’t exactly a big event. “We knew he was leaving,” said one bitter Cowboy. So despite WV’s sensational QB Geno Smith, the bigger thing is that West Virginia ranks last in the Big 12 in both scoring defense and pass defense. The thinking is OSU will not have five turnovers like they did in the Kansas State game, losing 44-30, and should generate enough points to cover the 7-point line. MY PICK? Oklahoma State, 32-21.
No. 13 OREGON STATE (7-1) at No. 16 STANFORD (7-3), 3:00 p.m. (FOX) – Here’s an interesting game equation: both of these teams will start reserve quarterbacks against two defenses that mangle a running attack so it stands to reason whichever sub throws the best will win. Stanford leads the country in allowing 55.8 yards per the ground while Oregon State is the fifth stingiest at 91.8. "It's crazy, I mean it is really crazy," Riley said. "(Stanford is) imposing to watch. What they did to USC was very impressive defensively (24 yards total rushing)." Stanford is a scant 4-point favorite, but this one could be a barn-burner. MY PICK? Stanford, 27-17.
No. 15 TEXAS A&M (7-2, 4-2 SEC) at No. 1 ALABAMA (9-0, 6-0 SEC), 3:30 p.m. (CBS) – Alabama’s hallmark defense, yielding a season-high 17 points to LSU last week, is still giving up just 5.4 third-down conversions (second lowest in the nation) so the deal is whether they can stop A&M QB Johnny Manzell with his banner offensive line. If you figure that the Tide beat LSU by 4 and A&M lost by 5 to the Tigers, it is easy to see why Alabama is a 14-pick in Tuscaloosa. Add the fact there is a chance to celebrate the SEC West crown so Alabama will dig extra deep. I repeat: Alabama is the best balanced team I have ever seen and ‘Bama QB A. J. McCarron is a winner. And did you know that Alabama kicker Jeremy Shelley is the only extra-point specialist who has yet to miss in the country? MY PICK? Alabama, 35-14.
PENN STATE (6-3) at No. 18 NEBRASKA (7-2), 3:30 p.m. (ABC) -- Nebraska receiver Jamal Turner, who caught a TD pass from Taylor Martinez with 6 seconds left to whip Michigan State 28-24 last week, told reporters, "We think we're the best in the Big Ten. We're not going to be stopped. We're going to keep going until we accomplish what we want to accomplish, and that's the Big Ten championship. It doesn't matter how much we're down by - 20, 30 points - we're going to keep fighting until we win the game." So with this one in Lincoln and the Cornhuskers winning the last seven, you’ve got to feel good about UN being favored by 7. Bill O’Brien has done wonders at PSU, everything considered, but Nebraska is playing too well. MY PICK? Nebraska, 32-2.
No. 5 GEORGIA (8-1, 6-1 SEC) at AUBURN (2-7, 0-6 SEC), 7:00 P.M. (ESPN2) – In all the years I have watched this great Southern rivalry I can’t remember a nail-biter but once or twice so Georgia giving 15 points makes me itch. Then again, UGa QB Aaron Murray will probably eat the Auburn secondary alive. Watch Georgia’s running game thrive, too, while the Dog defense, which held Florida to 9 points, can stymie the Tigers in a hurry. Will this cost AU’s Gene Chizik his job? There is a better chance of that happening than Georgia lousing up the SEC’s East title. MY PICK? Georgia, 42-10.
VANDERBILT (5-4, 3-3 SEC) at OLE MISS (5-4, 2-3 SEC), 7:00 p.m. (ESPNU) – Vanderbilt has shown solid progress this season and with impressive stats, I can’t see why Ole Miss is a two-point pick. Word out of Oxford is that QB Bo Wallace is questionable and, while coach Hugh Freeze has done a magnificent job, I think guys like Vandy’s Zac Stacy and Jordan Mathews will make the difference. MY PICK? Vanderbilt, 24-17.
No. 3 KANSAS STATE (9-0) at TEXAS CHRISTIAN (6-3), 7:00 p.m. (FOX) – All eyes are on Heisman candidate Colin Klein and, if the dashing KSU QB can’t deal, this could be quite a game of poker. The unbeaten Wildcats, now just three games away from an unbeaten season, are a 7-point pick and, when you realize Gary Patterson’s youthful Frogs are 3-1 on the road this fall, what happens will be fun to watch. I’m thinking Klein will go but if turnovers start happening, this game could be dicey. MY PICK: Kansas State, 45-35.
No. 22 MISSISSIPPI STATE (7-2, 3-2 SEC) at No. 9 LSU (7-2, 3-2 SEC), 7:00 P.M. (ESPN) – LSU has whipped State 19 out of the last 20 games and this could get out of hand early. LSU convinced a lot of people the Tigers are definitely a Top Ten team with the valiant 21-17 loss against top-rated Alabama, while State, a 38-7 loser to Bama the week before, still has a way to go in the SEC West. LSU is a 14-point favorite but look for LSU to come out playing hot and, in Tiger Stadium at night, that counts for everything. MY PICK? LSU, 38-10.
IN OTHER SEC GAMES
ARKANSAS (4-5, 2-3 SEC) at No. 12 SOUTH CAROLINA, 12 Noon (CBS) – With Steve Spurrier going for his 100th win as a Gamecock and QB Connor Shaw now 14-3, the Gamecocks will likely extend their home winning streak to ten against the offensive-minded Razorbacks. The ‘Hog defense, which gave up 52 to Alabama, 58 to Texas A&M, and 30 to Ole Miss, simply can’t contain USC. And with Mississippi State and LSU yet to come, Arkansas ain’t going bowling. Carolina is a 14-point pick but with Shaw throwing well, this could be a blowout. MY PICK? South Carolina, 35-14.
MISSOURI (4-5, 1-5 SEC) at TENNESSEE (4-5, 0-5 SEC), 12:21 p.m. (SEC Network) – Watch Mizzou’s James Franklin – if his strained knee holds true, the Tigers will feast on UT’s suspect defense in a game Tennessee needs to win badly. Dooley’s job is a story point but UT needs an SEC win in the worst way. The Vols are favored by 3 but Mizzou is 10 times better than Troy. UT has Vanderbilt and Kentucky remaining so a bowl invite is still not out of the question. UM has Syracuse and Texas A&M so the Tigers also need two wins to be bowl eligible. MY PICK? Missouri, 27-24.
LOUSIANA-LAFAYETTE (5-3) at No. 7 FLORIDA (8-1, 7-1 SEC), 12:21 p.m. (SEC Network) – The Ragin’ Cajuns have scored well this season – remember the 59-57 A&M show? – but Florida, with its plus-11 turnover margin, isn’t going to let “La-La” spoil a late Homecoming. The Gators are physical, outscoring opponents 138-38 in the second half this season, and you’ve got to know there are few players in Lafayette who could make the varsity in Gainesville. Florida is a healthy 26 ½ point favorite but this one will be a romp in “The Swamp” after Florida has had an extra week to prepare. MY PICK? Florida, 47-15.
IDLE IN THE SEC THIS WEEK
KENTUCKY (1-9, 0-7 SEC) will play Samford in Lexington on Nov. 17.
AND JUST ONE MORE
CHATTANOOGA (5-4, 4-2 SouCon) at WOFFORD (7-2, 5-2 SouCon), 1:30 p.m. (ESPN3) – Two good teams are in the same desperate situation – the winner here is one game away from a share of the Southern Conference title. UTC, losing a three-overtime heartbreaker to Appalachian State, is due and, with the Mocs’ 45-24 win over Western Carolina dove-tailing with the stirring three-game winning streak in midseason, Chattanooga has a viable chance tomorrow. UTC ends the season at home against Elon (now 4-5) next week so – in essence – our Mocs are playing for a ring at Wofford. MY PICK? Chattanooga, 27-24.