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The Spread Offensive: Top-10 Showdowns on Tap

Jesse Siegel

Siegel covers college football, college basketball and minor league baseball for RotoWire. He was named College Sports Writer of the Year by the Fantasy Sports Writers Association.

I get touchdown celebrations. I understand the euphoria of crossing the goal line, slapping hands with your teammates and finding a way to express yourself. If I ran college football, it would be more like the XFL. Let the players celebrate all they want. Use props. Get the crowd involved. There's nothing like letting off a little steam with The Worm or The Dab. The NFL has been famously called the "No-Fun-League" because of the crackdown on celebrations, among other things.

Well, the NCAA could stand for "No Celebrations At All," because almost any demonstration whatsoever draws a flag these days. Imagine being a student-athlete: "So you're saying I'm not getting paid for this, AND I can't even enjoy myself?" It's a travesty.

I understand touchdown celebrations. I do not, however, understand dropping the ball before the goal line. It's an epidemic. DeSean Jackson started it. Why didn't it end right there? Maybe I'm finally getting old. Maybe I didn't Google a hidden meaning before writing this article. But what's the point? How is it cool to NOT score a touchdown? You know, the rules dictate that the ball has to break the plane of the end zone to count. So technically, it's a premature celebration.

And how is it even a celebration? It's not even like a mic drop, or a phantom explosion upon the ball hitting the ground. You have failed to score a touchdown for no apparent reason. When Deion Sanders high-stepped into the end zone, at least he held onto the ball. That was showmanship. This is just sloppy.

Maybe I'm becoming old and cranky. Maybe I don't understand "kids" these days. I get touchdown celebrations. What I don't get is dropping the ball before scoring. Next time, drop the ball into the ref's hands and hit the crowd with the Running Man or the Sprinkler. At least then you've done something to deserve a celebration. Even if you'll get flagged for it.

This Week's Edition of the Coaching Carousel:
The plight of former LSU head coach Les Miles has been a curious one the last year or so. I'll start by saying nobody really knows the truth about the rumors during LSU's final home game of the 2015 campaign. Miles was all but fired by halftime of that game against Texas A&M. Ah, the wonders of the Twitter-verse. Miles was then rescued by his players, lifted onto their shoulders and carried off the field and through the tunnel as the Tigers left the field at the end of regulation during a rousing comeback win. That all but forced the hand of LSU athletic director Joe Alleva, who sheepishly had to say that "Les Miles is our football coach" in a press conference following the game.

Fast forward to 2016, and the Tigers have national championship aspirations. Then LSU starts the season 2-2. The squad has no quarterback and star running back Leonard Fournette is battling an ankle injury. Miles is canned.

While the Tigers will throw wads of cash at Jimbo Fisher or whoever else they think can resurrect their storied program, it begs the question: Was this situation mishandled? Certainly the leaking of the supposed firing last year was a huge mistake; it left the AD with egg on his face. But clearly the writing was on the wall, Miles did not deliver, and he was let go.

Now LSU has to worry about recruits jumping ship, finishing the 2016 campaign and hiring a new coach, which likely won't happen until December or January. Which gives a new head coach about a month or two until National Signing Day in February.

The point of my rambling? If you wanted to fire Les Miles, you should have fired him last year. Miles is a terrific coach and will find a new job in short order. He'll be eating grass on a new sideline near you soon. For what it's worth, Miles was 114-34 at LSU. However, it must have been difficult to coach knowing the ax was coming down for the better part of a year.

Being a head coach can be cruel, and is largely performance-based. "What have you done for me lately?" is the common refrain. However, now the Tigers find themselves in flux and a position that could have been avoided if Miles was canned at the end of last season. Certainly more than one person has a say; the trustees, etc., but Alleva let public opinion win, and now LSU is in a worse position than it was in November 2015.

Top-10 Showdown Weekend

Let's turn our attention to teams with less instability. Do you like Top-10 matchups? Then have we got a college football weekend for you. Three games have College Football Playoff implications, pitting teams ranked inside the top 10.

Louisville at Clemson

Obvious Storyline:
Deshaun Watson vs. Lamar Jackson.

OK, so the two quarterbacks technically will not directly play against each other. Nevertheless, all eyes will be on the young men under center. Watson may have been the Heisman favorite coming into the season, but Jackson is the frontrunner now. He scored seven more touchdowns last weekend; Jackson has not had a game in 2016 with less than five scores. Yes, you read that correctly. Meanwhile, Watson finally looked the part of a contender last weekend against Georgia Tech, throwing for 304 yards and two TDs.

Most Critical Group:
Clemson Front Seven

The defense of the Tigers held the vaunted triple-option of the Yellow Jackets to just 95 yards last weekend, en route to yielding just 124 yards of total offense. The Tigers will need a Herculean effort to keep Action Jackson contained. Louisville has not scored less than 59 points in a game this season.

Prediction:
Jackson sliced and diced the stout Florida State defense, and this Clemson unit lost some pieces from a season ago. Until I see someone stop him with my own eyes, I'll have to go with the Cardinals. 45-31.

Wisconsin at Michigan

Obvious Storyline:
These two teams are mirror images of each other. Ferocious defense, run-based offense and essentially game managers at quarterback. Both coaches also played at their respective schools. Chryst was a quarterback at Wisconsin from 1986-1988, while Harbaugh piloted the Wolverines from 1983-1986.

Who does it better? Jim Harbaugh gets the pub, but it might be time to start taking the Badgers seriously after wins over Michigan State and LSU. Meanwhile, Michigan's only blemish was a poor first half against Colorado; the Wolverines still won the game going away.

Heisman Watch:
Jabrill Peppers

Peppers is making his case as the most valuable player in the nation due to his ability to impact the game on offense, defense and special teams. His versatility is a mammoth asset.

Prediction:
Wisconsin has been doubted every step of the way in 2016. Do the Badgers have another defensive stand in their bones? The Badgers allow just 11.8 points per game, which is seventh in the country. The Wolverines surrender only 13.8 points per tilt, which is 13th. In a low-scoring slobber knocker, the Wolverines come out bloodied but victorious, 16-13.

Stanford at Washington

Obvious Storyline:
Are the Huskies for real? Washington was hyped coming into the season and is undefeated at 4-0. The Huskies struggled at times at Arizona last weekend, and admittedly have not faced a squad quite like the Stanford Cardinal. Nevertheless, the Cardinal have been good, though not spectacular, through three games in 2016. A road win against UCLA is never easy, though, and the Cardinal will have to go on the road again in a hostile environment in the Pacific Northwest.

Team Identity:
Christian McCaffrey finally appears to be getting into a groove for Stanford, but he accounts for such a large portion of Stanford's offense. Certainly an injury to C-Mac would be devastating, though he has proven more than capable of shouldering the load despite being on the small size for a running back.

The Huskies have gotten some inspired play from quarterback Jake Browning, but U-Dub would also like to run the football with great frequency. Myles Gaskin is the bell cow, but watch out for junior Lavon Coleman, who broke loose for 181 yards and a touchdown as the Huskies racked up a staggering 352 rushing yards against the Wildcats last weekend.

Prediction:
The winner of this clash has the inside track toward being the cream of the crop in the Pac-12, and begging for a possible College Football Playoff berth, something the West has been excluded from since its inception. Stanford wears it better, David Shaw will have a few tricks up his sleeve and the Cardinal will roll by a score of 35-13.