Extra Points: There's no saving Jeremy Pruitt if Vols fall (again) to Vandy
Each week, college football insider Matt Hayes tackles the biggest topics ahead of this weekend’s college football slate.
Big week for Jeremy Pruitt
An industry source told me this week that Tennessee coach Jeremy Pruitt will get another year to try and turn the program around — as long as the Volunteers beat winless Vanderbilt this weekend in Nashville.
Lose to Vanderbilt, which Tennessee has done 3 of the last 4 seasons – and 1 of 2 under Pruitt – and the Vols will be looking for a new coach, the source said.
“That loss isn’t survivable,” the source said. “Even (Tennessee AD) Phillip (Fulmer) can’t protect him at that point.”
Tennessee is in the middle of a historic 6-game losing streak, and another loss would give this Vols team the longest losing streak in the 129-year history of the program.
The 2 coaches prior to Pruitt – Derek Dooley and Butch Jones – lost to Vanderbilt in their final seasons. After losing 22 straight to Tennessee, Vanderbilt won in 2005 before the Vols won 6 straight.
Then the bottom dropped out of a rivalry that for decades has been one-sided, and currently is a microcosm of the dysfunctional Tennessee program. The Vols have lost 5 of the last 8 games, and within that span are losses in 2012 (Dooley) and 2017 (Jones) that were the last indignity that could be stomached by those respective coaching tenures.
Pruitt’s 3rd season has been disastrous, especially considering the expectations built off a Fool’s Gold 6-game winning streak to finish the 2019 season.
That streak was built on the back of wins against a team that fired its coach (Missouri), a team that contemplated firing its coach (South Carolina), Kentucky, UAB, Vanderbilt and Indiana (which missed a game-winning field goal).
A season later, the Vols have gone 180 degrees, losing 6 in a row – and averaging 15.6 points per game over those losses.
If Tennessee fires Pruitt, it will owe him a $12.8 million buyout.
A King’s decision
The name, image and likeness bill passed by the state of Florida in 2019 could have a big impact on the Miami program in 2021.
A few weeks ago, the Miami staff was convinced QB D’Eriq King would leave for the NFL. But there’s hope the state of Florida’s NIL bill that becomes law in July 2021 could be enough to convince King to stay one more year and earn off his name, image and likeness.
King won’t be a high pick in the 2021 NFL Draft and isn’t among the top 10 quarterbacks. He’s likely a mid-to late-round pick and might have to change positions.
“Ultimately, it comes down to what (King) wants to do,” a Miami staffer told me. “The ability to earn with that (NIL) is definitely a plus.”
The NCAA is expected to pass an NIL bylaw but hasn’t yet. No matter what happens with NCAA legislation, student-athletes in Florida can benefit from their NIL in July 2021.
If King leaves, Miami could lure former UCF star QB McKenzie Milton to Coral Gables. Milton recently entered the transfer portal and wants to play in 2021.
Milton wasn’t going to play at UCF in 2021 and would’ve likely sat behind prolific starter Dillon Gabriel. He is expected to stay in the state of Florida. His family moved from Hawaii to Orlando when he signed with UCF.
Miami plays host to North Carolina this weekend, and a win over the Tar Heels moves the Hurricanes one step closer to a potential New Year’s 6 Bowl – likely the Orange Bowl against state rival Florida (if the Gators don’t reach the Playoff).
Hawkeyes on the move
The quick-change at Iowa has been as improbable as impressive.
The Hawkeyes began the season with back-to-back losses to Purdue and Iowa by a combined 5 points, and an offseason of unrest amid racial strife within the program looked like it has seeped into the season.
Since then, the Hawkeyes, who had enough talent to win the B1G West, have outscored five opponents by 110 points – and have a chance to finish the season with an 8-game winning streak.
Winning 8 in a row would include a win this week against Wisconsin, and a win next week during the crossover portion of the schedule (likely vs. Indiana if the Hoosiers can clear COVID protocols) and a bowl game victory.
Iowa has made the turn after the first 2 weeks of the season because the defense continues to be among the best in the Big Ten, and because quarterback Spencer Petras is playing smarter and protecting the ball.
Petras threw 3 interceptions and completed just 54% of his passes in the 2 losses to begin the season, but has since completed 60% of his passes and has 6 TDs and 2 INTs over the winning streak.
Trojans still alive in Playoff race
USC is trying to make a late push in the College Football Playoff, and there’s at least a road to an argument to earn 1 of the 4 postseason spots.
That argument begins this weekend against crosstown rival UCLA. Win big over the Bruins, and follow that with another big win in the Pac-12 Championship Game (likely vs. Washington or Oregon), and the Trojans can get to the playoff with some very realistic events:
— Alabama beats Florida in the SEC Championship Game.
— Notre Dame beats Clemson in the ACC Championship Game, and Clemson drops out of contention.
— Clemson routs Notre Dame, and the Irish drop out of contention.
USC would then be 1 of 3 teams vying for 2 spots (Ohio State, Texas A&M). Never in the history of the CFP has an unbeaten Power 5 conference champion been left out of the Playoff.
That said, Texas A&M (9 games) would have played more games than USC (6 games), and would have a better win (vs. Florida) that could negate the negative of a 28-point loss (to No. 1 Alabama).