UCLA Firing Likely Won't Be Football Season's Last

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The announcement clanked into inboxes at 2 p.m. ET and was posted shortly afterward by UCLA football's Twitter account: "UCLA head football coach Jim Mora has been relieved of his duties." And with that, the coaching carousel really began to crank.

Rumors to follow.

Mora's firing was mildly surprising maybe only in that UCLA hosts California on Friday to end the season, so his termination came a few days earlier than anyone expected. But UCLA was only the first of several jobs that will almost certainly open in the next few days.

Changes are expected at Arkansas and Nebraska. There's a high possibility Texas A&M will let Kevin Sumlin go.

Added to the jobs already open (Florida, Tennessee, Mississippi, Oregon State) — as well as the vacancies that could be created when coaches start moving to fill those jobs — and it's apparent the hiring season could be as chaotic as we've seen in a few years.

UCLA's move was widely taken as a sign the Bruins are jumping into the race for Chip Kelly, the hottest available free agent. He's also been linked to Florida. If Arizona State opened, would he be interested in relocating to Tempe?

Expect plenty of speculation and rumors to ensue, though it might be hard to top what's already out there. Last week, some Florida fans were so convinced Kelly was about to be named the Gators coach, they tracked an airplane and watched a live webcam of the stadium entrance, figuring they'd see Kelly very soon. (He didn't show up.)

And none of that can top the goofiness Saturday, when Calhoun's, a Knoxville restaurant, issued an apology for spreading a rumor (or in Twitter parlance, a #Grumor) that Jon Gruden was eating at its establishment along with Peyton Manning — presumably a prelude to being announced as Tennessee's new coach.

An ESPN spokesman subsequently tweeted: "For those wondering, Jon Gruden is actually 2,500 miles away from Calhoun's ... in Seattle prepping for (Monday Night Football)."

(Some Vols fans probably thought that made for a nice smoke screen.)

Stay tuned.

Mayfield apology tour rolls on

After Oklahoma's 41-3 victory at Kansas, Baker Mayfield opened his postgame interview session with an apology. It seemed genuine enough. But if we're counting, it's the third we've heard from the Sooners star quarterback since last spring.

There was the incident in Fayetteville, Ark., when he was arrested after he ran from police. He planted that flag at midfield of Ohio Stadium after beating the Buckeyes.

Both times, he issued apologies and seemed contrite. And then Saturday, Mayfield was caught on camera yelling profanely at the Kansas sideline and making a lewd gesture.

"That's not who I am," he said in the postgame interview session, apologizing to children and parents, to Kansas and Oklahoma fans and anyone else.

He sounded contrite. Again. But at this point, who should we think he is?

Mayfield is a fabulous player — the clear catalyst in Oklahoma's push toward the College Football Playoff — and he has an even cooler story. A large part of his success in morphing from an unwanted walk-on to perhaps college football's most dynamic, most valuable player has been fueled by an emotional edge. His defiant I'll-show-you reaction to snubs, real or perceived, is an obvious factor in his performances.

Saturday began when the Jayhawks team captains pointedly declined to shake hands during the pregame coin toss, setting the tone for a game that was chippy from the outset.

In the first half, defensive back Hasan Defense delivered an egregious cheap shot well after Mayfield had thrown a pass. Both sides exchanged trash talk throughout. But unsportsmanlike conduct by the other guys doesn't excuse Mayfield's actions.

And here's another thing: Mayfield is a fifth-year senior. He's not new to the spotlight. If it's not enough just to do things the right way — to keep your emotions in check and be that example you spoke of afterward — how about recognizing that when you're in the fishbowl, everybody sees when you don't?

"The cameras are always on me," Mayfield said. "I've got to be smart. That's not something I want to do."

The Football Four

Each week, we select the College Football Playoff as though it began next week. (Note: It does not begin next week. But the week after that? We'll know.)

1. Alabama — After a little scrimmage against Mercer, the Crimson Tide head to Auburn for a showdown to decide the SEC West. The winner gets Georgia in the SEC championship game.

2. Oklahoma — An easy if chippy victory at Kansas, and we're all talking about Baker Mayfield — but not the touchdown passes; it's his sideline antics. Those aside, the Sooners have the best set of wins (at Ohio State, at Oklahoma State, TCU) of any contender.

3. Miami (Fla.) — The Hurricanes pulled away from Virginia late (and the Turnover Chain for a touchdown played a big factor), scoring 30 points in a row to remain on track for everything. An ACC championship game matchup with Clemson is secured, but first a road game at Pittsburgh.

4. Clemson — Zero trouble with The Citadel. Up next, another in-state matchup. Win at South Carolina — not necessarily an easy task — and the Tigers are positioned to win their way into the Playoff again.

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November 20, 2017


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