Misery Index notebook: LSU is just mediocre, and Jimbo Fisher's agent robbed Texas A&M

Dan Wolken
USA TODAY

Oregon leads this week's Misery Index after a 31-24 overtime loss to Stanford. Here are the others that made the index, a weekly measurement of knee-jerk reactions based on what each fan base just watched.

Florida: The Misery Index strongly considered putting the Gators No. 1 in this week’s ranking, but was afraid of getting flagged for a false start. Why not? Florida committed eight such penalties in a 20-13 loss to Kentucky, including two on the final drive after reaching the Wildcats’ 5-yard line. Beyond the inexcusable penalties at awful times, it was another one of those head-scratching games from Dan Mullen where his reputation as a great play-caller loses out to his reputation as a poor game manager.

For instance, Gators fans were livid that Mullen didn’t even try to put a drive together at the end of the first half when they got the ball back with 1:46 remaining and was content to run out the clock. This was also a game where it seemed like Anthony Richardson, the exciting redshirt freshman quarterback, should have gotten more than a handful of touches to try and spark the offense.

Instead, Kentucky beat Florida at home for the first time since 1986 by committing fewer penalties and making big special teams plays — which was enough to win despite being held to 224 yards of offense and 1-for-9 on third down.

Missouri: For the last few years, opponents in the SEC have seen Tennessee on the schedule and figured it was pretty much like a bye week except that you had play somebody. But even at the lowest of Tennessee’s lows, you need a minimum level of effort to make sure the Vols don’t get any ideas they might steal one. Unfortunately for Missouri, that level of effort was so far beyond them Saturday, you’d have had to troll the bottom of the Lake of the Ozarks to find it.

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Beyond the pure incompetence, you will struggle to find a more lifeless, disinterested performance by any team this season than the Tigers’ 62-24 loss to Tennessee. To give up 62 points to a team that only attempted 19 passes is almost unheard of in college football, yet Tennessee did it by rushing 59 times for 458 yards.

LSU coach Ed Orgeron

LSU: Since the magical night in New Orleans when Ed Orgeron was on top of the world, LSU has won eight games and lost seven. Reasonable people can argue about exactly what that means, given how many players and coaches who contributed to a national championship left and the COVID-19 weirdness that awaited everyone in 2020. But nonetheless, it seems more and more like the 2019 team was a comet streaking through the sky and that Orgeron’s opportunity to build lasting dominance has passed.

In discussing what awaits Orgeron now, a lot of media types have invoked Gene Chizik, the former Auburn coach who won a national title with Cam Newton and then was fired two years later. But unlike that Auburn program, LSU is unlikely to completely spiral. Instead, the Tigers will just be in a lot of coin flip games, which means they’ll come out on the wrong end sometimes. That’s the simplest explanation for losing to Auburn, 24-19, which hadn’t happened in Death Valley since 1999.

When you can’t run the football at all (32 yards on 25 carries) and your defense gives up a couple of big plays, you’re susceptible to a decent Auburn team executing a late 92-yard drive to steal a win. Paired with LSU’s season-opening loss at UCLA, the trajectory is now clear, pointing toward a mediocrity that is much more sustainable than LSU’s 2019 brilliance. Given their thirst to win titles, LSU probably won’t put up with it for very long. 

Miami: The problem now for the Hurricanes isn’t whether to change coaches — it’s figuring out if there’s a human being walking the Earth who can make this program pop again. Though no announcement about Manny Diaz’s future was made in the wake of a 30-28 loss to Virginia, and we don’t expect one to happen imminently, it is not a remotely hot take to say that Miami keeping Diaz another season would be an admission that football isn’t that important to the school’s administration.

But in the wake of this awful 2-3 start, with one of those wins coming by the skin of their teeth against Appalachian State, deciding to fire Diaz is only half the equation. Who do you hire?

Miami’s going to have to get creative and get comfortable with either an up-and-comer type like Jeff Hafley from Boston College or someone like Liberty’s Hugh Freeze, who has won at a high level before but comes with some baggage.

TRENDING TOWARD MISERY 

Boise State: There was a lot of hand-wringing over the past couple of weeks about which conference the Broncos would call home over the next few years. The American wanted to poach them, and the Mountain West saw it as crucial to keep them. But what if Boise State just isn’t that big of a deal anymore? What if the best days of the blue turf are now in the past?

The reality of Boise’s fading relevance was laid bare in a 41-31 home loss to Nevada, dropping the Broncos to 2-3 in their first season under Andy Avalos. Since 1999, Boise State has lost five games in a season just once. But at this point, it would be a pretty big surprise if the Broncos lost fewer than that this year with road games coming up at BYU, Fresno State and San Diego State.

Texas A&M: Alabama’s dynasty is nothing compared to agent Jimmy Sexton’s dominance over college administrators. If there were a national championship for taking athletics directors to the cleaners, he’d win it every year. This season, Sexton’s hapless opponent was Texas A&M’s Ross Bjork, who agreed to give Jimbo Fisher a new 10-year, $95 million contract that was even more ridiculous than his previous 10-year, $75 million deal that still had seven years remaining.

There was no actual urgency or significance to giving Fisher a new contract, other than the vague possibility that LSU might fire Ed Orgeron and come after him after the season. But with Fisher coming off a 9-1 year in 2020, Texas A&M wanted to flex in front of the mirror and take pictures for Instagram. But at 3-2, including consecutive losses to Arkansas and Mississippi State, the physique is looking a little doughy. Now we know why Fisher and Sexton pushed to get his contract done before the season. If he’d waited until we actually saw this team play, fans would have revolted at giving him this much security. Now, for better or worse, Texas A&M is stuck for the next decade. 

Memphis: The Tigers’ fan base is miffed that they got left out of the Big 12’s most recent expansion, and with good reason. Over the last several years, Memphis has been on par with UCF and Cincinnati and better than Houston, but that didn’t prevent the Tigers from getting left behind in a weaker AAC that they’ll be desperate to leave if the Big 12 ever expands again. Memphis, however, needs to stay good at football if they’re going to make that case. And with the Tigers losing in consecutive weeks to UTSA and Temple, there has to be some concern about the path current coach Ryan Silverfield is leading them on. After blowing a 21-0 lead to UTSA a week ago, the Tigers shot out to a 17-0 lead at Temple before their offense stalled out again in a 34-31 loss.

UConn: This spot on the Misery Index was reserved for the loser of the UConn-Vandy game, a rare non-conference treat between two of the worst FBS programs of the modern era. Though Vanderbilt certainly tried to give this one away, allowing UConn to score a go-ahead touchdown with 1:07 remaining after a fourth-and-18 conversion, the Commodores marched down the field to kick a 31-yard field goal as time expired for a 30-28 win. The Huskies, who are now 0-6, have improved a lot since losing by double-digits to Holy Cross back on Sept. 4 — just not enough to actually close the deal.

Arkansas State: Let’s hope you haven’t forgotten about frequent Misery Index guest Butch Jones. Yes, that Butch Jones — the Champion of Life, the Brick-by-Brick layer, the man with a plan who rolls with a turnover trash can. The former Tennessee coach, who spent a couple of blissfully anonymous years as an intern/analyst/whatever on Alabama’s coaching staff, has resurfaced at Arkansas State.

Though it’s a much lower-profile job than what he had in the SEC, it’s a program that has won a lot in the Sun Belt, devotes significant resources to football and expects to be very competitive. But in Jones’ first year, the Red Wolves have been frequent losers, including 59-33 to a Georgia Southern team that fired its coach last week. Things don’t get easier, with upcoming games against Coastal Carolina, Louisiana, South Alabama and Appalachian State. In other words, at 1-4, there’s a a strong chance Jones will be responsible for Arkansas State’s first losing season since 2010. 

TOTALLY REAL AND IRRATIONAL MESSAGE BOARD THREADS

“The end of this game felt like US/USSR basketball in 1972” - duckterritory.com (Oregon)

“Is Ted Lasso Available for Less Than $9MM a Year” - TexAgs.com (Texas A&M)

“Coach Drink? More like Coach Stink! What are your thoughts” - tigerboard.com (Missouri)

“Congratulations to Dan Mullen, King of Pretenders” - swamp247.com (Florida)

“Athletes all over in the Mtn West but not on our team” - broncocountry.com (Boise State)