It used to be that coaches were safe during the season but teams were not. Now it’s the opposite.
The College Football Playoff has produced its own “El Nino” effect, the result of high-pressure booster systems colliding with billions of cumulonimbus dollars.
In 1997, Indiana coach Cam Cameron was safer at 2-9 than top-ranked Michigan was after beating Washington State in the Rose Bowl.
Cameron kept his job four more (losing) seasons but Michigan of ’97 lost its No. 1 in the USA Today coaches’ poll, which reversed field and gave its title to Nebraska.
In 2003, Buddy Teevens’ job at Stanford was more secure than USC’s seemingly rock-solid national standing.
Things have changed.
The new four-team playoff system has sprinkled calming dust on the hysterical arguments we used to have this time of year.
The BCS produced questions like:
•How could Florida State get a title-game bid in 2000 over Miami when it lost to Miami?
•How could Nebraska, in 2001, make the championship after a 62-36 loss?
•How could Oregon, the same year, be No. 2 in both polls and not even be No. 3 in the final BCS standings?
•How could Texas deserve, in 2004, a trip to the Rose Bowl more than a California team that had not been there since 1959?
•How did Florida get in over Michigan in 2006 and Alabama win it all in 2011 without winning its own division in the SEC?
The new playoff drama, comparatively, is an income tax filing.
Look at what we’re talking about after this wild weekend of games.
There are 14 job openings (check back in a minute, it could change) in the coaching ranks while the playoff debate is, effectively, closed.
Coaches are getting canned while getting haircuts while Oklahoma is resting comfortably only weeks after a loss to Texas that, in today’s toxic environment, might have also gotten Bob Stoops fired.
The controversy this year isn’t at Alabama, which lost at home to Mississippi. Or at Clemson, which just had to sweat out a win over a South Carolina team that lost the previous week to The Citadel.
The screaming matches have turned to Georgia, which fired Mark Richt on Sunday after he only averaged 10 wins per season for 15 years.
The arguments rage in Baton Rouge, where Les Miles thought he was getting fired only weeks after his team was 7-0 and ranked No. 2.
Never mind that Louisiana State Athletic Director Joe Alleva gave his “move along, there’s nothing to see here” statement on Miles only after the Tigers snapped a three-game losing streak by defeating Texas A&M.
Few will know what might have happened had LSU lost, although one ESPN report claimed Sunday the decision to keep Miles was made during a mature, detached, contemplative stretch of solid play during . . . the third quarter.
Elsewhere Sunday, Rutgers blew out its coach and athletic director, Virginia’s coach resigned and Virginia Tech hired Memphis coach Justin Fuente to replace the retiring Frank Beamer.
All this unfolded while reports swirled that Chip Kelly was in trouble with the Philadelphia Eagles and could be interested in USC should anyone have a mind to reach him via back channel, post-it note or the medium who tried to contact the deceased Harry Houdini every Halloween.
Year 2 could turn out to be less of a mess than last year, when the selection committee made a bold move on Ohio State, at the expense of the Big 12, and it worked out perfectly.
This year’s field will be set if the nation’s top two teams simply do their jobs.
Two leagues already have playoff confirmations. Oklahoma settled the Big 12 issue by pasting Oklahoma State on Saturday. Oklahoma is as solidly cinched as Ohio State was last year after clobbering Wisconsin, 59-0, in the Big Ten title game.
The Big Ten championship game winner, Michigan State or Iowa, is also assured of a spot.
Two positions are reserved for No. 1 Clemson and No. 2 Alabama so long as they win their conference title games this week.
Clemson has only to defeat North Carolina, a team that lost to South Carolina, while Alabama has to beat Florida, most recently held to a safety against Florida State.
Ohio State is out at 11-1, for now, because it can’t even win its own division, but could get back in under certain mayhem scenarios.
Two-loss Florida would make a longshot stink if it defeats Alabama, as would North Carolina if it beats Clemson, even though the Tar Heels’ nonconference schedule was polluted by two FCS opponents.
Expect final arguments for Florida and North Carolina to be summarily rejected by the presiding judges.
Coaching chaos, though, may continue unabated nationally until late December or, locally, until whenever USC Coach Clay Helton loses his next game.
That could be this week, or Jan. 1 in the Rose Bowl, or in next year’s opener against Alabama.
If Helton ends up winning the USC job he has not yet earned, and has not been offered, losing to Alabama in the 2016 season opener could create an untenable, if not intolerable, situation. The school might then have to quickly consider replacing the coach it might, or might not, hire if he defeats, or loses to, Stanford on Saturday.