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The Weekly Primer Struggles with Optimism

On the difference between optimistic and pessimistic football coaches, plus a preview of the Week 3 games

NCAA Football: South Carolina at Missouri Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Mizzou Talking Points Walkthrough

Allow me, if you will, some words of self-indulgence. I am humbled and honored that my dumb words are allowed to appear on these electronic pages, alongside the remarkable statistical insights of Messrs Connelly and Morrison. I enjoy the sport and enjoy writing about it but have very little to offer in the way of actual, hard-hitting analysis that those two provide.

And while I am a firm believer in Bill’s statistical work -- and am myself sabermetrically inclined -- I will also admit to holding steadfast beliefs in my heart either in the face of or the void of statistical evidence.

After last Saturday’s Missouri game, I have a new belief, rooted in emotion and statistically unfounded: that the optimistic Barry Odom will never beat Will Muschamp or his pessimistic ilk.

Odom has shown himself to be very optimistic about how football is played, and Muschamp is one of the most pessimistic coaches currently leading a major college football program. As such, Muschamp will always prove victorious, unless a sizeable talent and/or execution gap favors Missouri.

Odom is an optimistic coach in a generally pessimistic profession. He has handed his offense entirely over to Josh Heupel, who believes in dictating tempo and run-pass option plays and putting playmakers in space and warp-speed, no-huddle drives. This is insanely optimistic.

Defensively, Odom is committed to playing young players, using blitz packages, and quick-fix turnarounds. He believes high-level performance is just around the corner, just a few tweaks away.

Muschamp is a pessimistic coach, an apprentice of our era’s leader in pessimism. Their preferred footballing formula is: no mistakes, ever; no risk-taking, ever; no tricks, ever. Just slowly pounding away until your opponent makes the slightest mistake and then spending the rest of the game bleeding that mistake dry.

This is football as siege warfare, and it is historically successful and mind-numbingly boring. Optimistic football can not defeat pessimistic football without a clear talent and execution advantage.

Were I a South Carolina fan, I might be begging Will Muschamp to spice things up with a little football optimism in the name of entertainment. As a Missouri fan, I would love to see Barry Odom add an element of pessimism to ensure some victories.

Keegs’s Poll Top 5* Games Of The Week

  1. Clemson at Louisville, 8 PM ET, ABC -- This is a rematch of one of the most memorable games from last season. Kelly Bryant has filled the sizeable shoes of Deshaun Watson, and Clemson’s nasty front four is somehow even nastier. Last week they ate Jarrett Stidham’s lunch, this week they will be coming for Lamar Jackson’s. Jackson has started in a manner that makes last year’s Heisman campaign seem like child’s play, and he will need that to continue if he wants to single-handedly deliver a Louisville victory. Louisville has struggled with energetic defensive lines in the past; one need not go too far in the memory bank to find footage of Ed Oliver wreaking havoc in the Cardinals’ backfield. Will we see a replay of Louisville’s struggles with Houston, or a replay of their shootout with Clemson?
  2. *Um, so, yeah. That’s it. That’s the list. This is a tough week.

For the Obsessive

There are a few games this week that do not deserve to trod on the hallowed ground of the Keegs’ Poll, but I will still point you in their direction. These are not treasured matchups, just potentially interesting ones, and the discerning consumer will keep an eye on them.

At noon, there is Oklahoma State and Pittsburgh. Pat Narduzzi’s Pitt team has yet to prove itself the giant-slayer they were in 2016, but they have had only one chance (last week against Penn State). Oklahoma State is a playoff possibility; the potent Pokes are a well-oiled offensive machine led by star receiver James Washington. A slip-up here would be devastating for the Cowboys but not surprising for the astute student of the game.

In the evening, Louisiana State will travel to Starkville for a potentially fun game. Mississippi State has looked explosive in two blowout wins over cupcakes, and their first test is about as real as it gets. It’s possible LSU will be sitting on the Bulldogs about twenty minutes into this game, but even if that is the case you still get to watch Derrius Guice!

Arizona State and Texas Tech will collide at Jerry World. This stadium is the perfect setting for such a beautiful, stupid, overwrought, monstrous game. This game might end on Monday. I would like to say this game will be exciting, but I won’t promise that. It will definitely be eventful, though. Events will happen in this game.

For the Completist

For the love of Christ, don’t watch these two stupid games. Speaking of Christ, Notre Dame travels to Boston College in a game that you should have to confess if you watch. Just offensive drudgery and punting and sacks on second down and meaningless, meaningless, says the teacher, everything is meaningless!

Kansas State against Vanderbilt will be just as hideous, without any blasphemous jokes to make. This game will just be three hours of undersized dudes smashing into each other. I imagine this game will competitive to the end; that is no guarantee of entertaining football. If you ever read a book about college football history and wonder why campus administrators wanted to ban the sport, this game might give you some insight into their worldview.