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FILE - In this Saturday, Dec. 21, 2019 file photo, Boise State coach Bryan Harsin watches his players warm up for the Las Vegas Bowl NCAA college football game against Washington at Sam Boyd Stadium in Las Vegas. No. 25 San Jose State will face perennial conference powerhouse Boise State in the Mountain West championship on Saturday, Dec. 19, 2020 in Las Vegas. The game is usually played on the higher seed's home field but this year it will be held at Sam Boyd Stadium. (AP Photo/Steve Marcus, File)

Auburn hires a coach

OK, everyone knows I went to Auburn. Heck, they even threw a diploma through my car window after half a decade (and then some) as I was heading back to Georgia.

And Auburn football — at least until this year — has been my favorite team to watch and support. (Side note: The total indifference this year has been staggering. It's like we have the Fandom COVID, but instead of a fever we are tepid and numb and instead of not being able to smell to taste, we are unable to feel — the highs and the lows — of the season.)

Gus Malzahn was fired Dec. 13, a casualty of several things. He was certainly let in the wake of Saban — who isn't — and actually preserved his job and landed that enormous buyout by being better against Saban than any other coach.

But Gus' success in the most intense rivalry in the sport masked an inability to develop quarterbacks, an inability to maximizing opportunities, an inability to evolve offensively with the skill sets and pieces on the roster and worst of all, after eight seasons, an inability to grasp what the expectations are for a program like Auburn.

A program that spends as much, pays the coach as much and forever has had a Trussville-sized chip on its shoulder is simply unwilling to grasp the rationale that a four-loss SEC season is 'solid.'

I think firing him was the right thing for the program. It was the expensive thing for sure, especially for whichever booster/boosters picked up the check. And from what I have heard, here's hoping a lot of folks go buy YellaWood for home improvement projects in the next few months, because Mr. Rane, whose son was a fraternity brother of mine at Auburn, has been very giving to AU athletics through the years.        

But for the 10 days that followed after Malzahn was canned, Auburn looked like it was chasing its tail. It was the college program that emulated former Braves pitcher Paschall Perez's famous night that he took laps around 285 — the perimeter surrounding the city of Atlanta — looking for Fulton County Stadium, which was visible off I-75 downtown.

Heck, a regular reader named Ken, asked me last week, if Auburn had taken a page from the Tennessee playbook on coaching hires, and considering the practice UT has had recently, it is the worst comparable possible to be compared to the Vols in conversations of a coaching search. And had validity.

The decision-makers were reportedly talking to guys as exciting as khaki and with, in truth, a limited potential to do not much more than Malzahn. The guy at UAB. Billy Napier at Louisiana. And those dudes reportedly said, "Thanks but no."

As of Tuesday at lunch, I was trying to take myself into thinking that Kevin Steele was going to be an OK coach. It didn't work, though, and thankfully I can now just hope that the new coach can keep Steele on staff.

Auburn hired former Boise State coach Bryan Harsin, a guy who has been wildly successful on the Smurf Turf in Idaho.

I like the thoughts of what he brings. An experienced head coach with a glorious reputation of success and organization. Does that mean it's a home run? Is he a terrible hire? Is he Malzahn 2.0?

Impossible to know.

But as we have discussed multiple times, the hot names and the can't-miss candidates are as reliable as a scratch-off ticket.

Sure we all knew that Saban was a dunk, but didn't we think Jim Harbaugh was a dunk too?

And for every sizzling coordinator name out there like Kirby Smart, there's Tom Herman behind door No. 2.

And who can forget that Clemson folks were less than thrilled that some guy named Dabo — who had never even been as much as an offensive or defensive coordinator — many moons ago. That turned out pretty good.

So, in a college football year in which the feelings were flatter than a 2x4 — YellaWood, of course — Auburn's coaching changes seemed like the perfect conclusion to the surreal season.      

 

Bowl contest

You know the drill. Well, at least you should and if you don't, feel free to ask.

Our Bowling for Bowls of Bowl Game Success (Bowler Optional) is open to everyone. And like Bluto told Flounder and Pinto about grabbin' a brew, "Don't cost nothin'" to play.

We need your entry — email them to jgreeson@timesreepress.com — by kickoff of the first game listed. Good luck.

Our college bowl picks are 3-2 — BYU rolling to an easy cover and hitting the over — despite a pretty bad beat on the over of Tulane-Nevada last night.

Follow along. Nevada leads 38-20 with a total of 58, which was the exact over/under number. Nevada turns it over on downs at Tulane takes over at its 20 with less than 20 seconds left to play. Nevada dumped a cooler of French fires on its coach — it's the Idaho Potato Bowl, after all — and gets a 15-yard penalty for un-spuds-manlike contact.

A clearly disinterested Nevada team indifferently watched as the Tulane running back scampered 65 yards for the anything-but cosmetic score with seven seconds left for a total-busting 38-27 win.

To the contest

One-point games

New Mexico Bowl — Houston (-11.5) vs. Hawaii

Camellia Bowl — Marshall (-3.5) vs. Buffalo

Gasparilla Bowl — UAB (-4.5) vs. South Carolina

First Responders Bowl — Louisiana (-13.5) vs. USTA

Lending Tree Bowl — Georgia State (-4.5) over Western Kentucky

Two-point games

Cure Bowl — Coastal Carolina (-6.5) vs. Liberty

Cheez-It Bowl — Oklahoma State (-3.5) vs. Miami (Side question: Speaking of bowl names, shouldn't this be the Bowl Full of Cheez-Its?)

Alamo Bowl — Texas (-11.5) vs. Colorado

Duke's Mayo Bowl — Wisconsin (-6.5) vs. Wake Forest

Music City Bowl — Iowa (-14.5) vs. Missouri

Three-point games

Armed Forces Bowl — Tulsa (-2.5) vs. Mississippi State

Arizona Bowl — San Jose State (-7.5) vs. Ball State

Texas Bowl — TCU (-5.5) vs. Arkansas

Five-point games

Liberty Bowl — West Virginia (pick 'em) vs. Army

Cotton Bowl — Oklahoma (-3.5) vs. Florida

Peach Bowl — Georgia (-6.5) vs. Cincinnati

Citrus Bowl — Northwestern (-3.5) vs. Auburn

Outback Bowl — Indiana (-7.5) vs. Ole Miss

Fiesta Bowl — Iowa State (-4.5) vs. Oregon

Orange Bowl — UNC (-6.5) vs. Texas A&M

Gator Bowl — Kentucky (-3.5) vs. North Carolina State

Seven-point games

Rose Bowl — Alabama (-18.5) vs. Notre Dame

Sugar Bowl — Clemson (-7.5) vs. THE Ohio State

National champion pick (no spread) —    
   
Good luck.

NBA's sour debut

It was a row opening night for the NBA.

No fans. We knew that was coming and the ramifications of that on the product.

The first game — Brooklyn-Golden State — was an absolute bloodbath from early on. Yes Brooklyn's good, but wow, that had the drama of a Pauly Shore movie.

The nightcap offered even more issues. With two of the best and most high-profile teams in the league — and L.A. crosstown rivals to boot — Frank Vogel, LeBron and the Lakers surrendered.

On opening night. Game 1, and the Lakers waved the white flag in a fourth quarter that was anything but a runaway.

The Clippers prevailed 116-109 with LeBron sitting out the final 7:51 of the game and Anthony Davis sitting out roughly the final four minutes.

Yes, I am aware of load management. I am aware that the Lakers just finished the championship series a couple of months ago, and likely finished the championship celebrations sometime Monday evening.

But this is Game 1. On national TV. In an era of sinking TV ratings in general and for the NBA in particular, how in the world should anyone involved with the league and its broadcast partners expect any viewer anywhere to care about watching a game when the players and coaches clearly do not care about winning that game?      
 

This and that


— Speaking of the NBA, as some of you correctly noted Tuesday, the NBA on TNT guys are simply the best non-game sports broadcast running these days. And truly it's not close. The crew of Ernie, Kenny Smith, Shaq and everyone's favorite Chuck Barkley was pitch perfect at halftimes and in between games. It was easily the best part of Tuesday's viewing. Chuck and Shaq skewered Kevin Durant's one-word postgame answers, even going back and forth with Chuck asking, "Hey Shaq, how was buying Christmas presents or those needy kids?" And Shaq deadpanning with the energy of a candle "Good." Shaq and Kenny got their go-to barbs on Chuck about not having a title — a go-to as predictable and productive as Abbott and Costello breaking into the "Who's on first ?" routine. And they were direct, fair and professional asking Paul George after the Clippers' win about whether he gets preferential treatment and whether stars should get preferential treatment. It was great.

— According to this, Alabama's iconic and ubiquitous phrase/chant "Roll Tide" and Florida's "Gator Bait" cheer are racist. So there's that.

— You know the rules. Here's Paschall on Heisman frontrunner DeVonta Smith. Here's Paschall's report on the new AU coach. Here's Paschall on JT Shrout entering the transfer portal at UT.  

— Speaking of college football, I thought this was kind of fun. In the Texas state high school playoffs, an Alabama commit is quarterbacking his team against a team quarterbacked by an Auburn signee. Chas, would the Iron Eyes of Texas on that game?

— Here are our picks for tonight: I'll take Georgia Southern plus-6 in the New Orleans Bowl and over 51.5 in the Montgomery Bowl between Memphis and Florida Atlantic.

 

Today's questions

Which way Wednesday starts this way

We pondered this earlier this week, but have your say — Which college coach is the all-timer, across sports, Wooden, Auriemma, Saban?

Which college QB would you select second behind Trevor Lawrence?

Which of the "12 days of Christmas" is the highest number day that you remember exactly?  

On this day, Dec. 23, let's review.

Vincent Van Gogh cut off his ear on this day in 1888. You may have heard that.

Rushmore of worst Christmas songs. Go, and remember the mailbag and the bowl contest.

Be merry, gang.

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