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If you're a soap opera fan, look no further than Chapel Hill, N.C. to get your fix of late-summer drama.
Since mid-July, the North Carolina football program has been at the center of an NCAA investigation involving college football players and agents. Last week, a second bomb was dropped, when North Carolina announced that they were conducting another investigation - this time into possible academic misconduct involving a tutor and football players.
With less than a week before the No. 18 Tar Heels kick off the 2010 season against the No. 21 LSU Tigers in the Chick-Fil-A Kickoff Game in Atlanta, Ga., neither investigation has wrapped up. Some reports have more than 10 players North Carolina Players having questionable status. It's unlikely that any of the players involved, including stud defensive tackle Marvin Austin, would be allowed to play until the investigations are complete.
"We're working as hard as we can with the NCAA to bring those things into resolution," said UNC athletic director Dick Baddour last week. "It's a difficult situation for Coach and the players to prepare. We're proceeding with this as fast as we know how. Coach [Butch Davis] has got to make some assumptions about how he prepares for the game."
The forgotten man in this situation is Les Miles. The embattled LSU head coach will stand opposite Davis on Saturday night in the Georgia Dome with less drama on the sidelines, but just as much at stake both personally and professionally.
Miles enters 2010 entrenched on the proverbial hot seat. After two mangled two-minute drills in 2010, and posting the worst offense in the SEC (305 yards per game), Miles has jumped the shark. In order to stay employed, he has to contend for the SEC West title, and showing the SEC that he can tame the mighty UNC defense - arguably the best defense in the ACC - would set the tone for the season and take a lot of offseason heat off of his shoulders.
But what happens if LSU loses to North Carolina?
It's not like it's farfetched, even considering all the uncertainty on the Tar Heels' roster. According to Covers.com, North Carolina moved from a 1.5 point favorite to a 1.5 point underdog (depending on where you looked) when news of the academic impropriety investigation leaked out last week.
So what does that say? It says that Las Vegas doesn't appear to have a lot of faith in LSU even if they're playing a depleted North Carolina roster - and Vegas' bottom line depends on being right.
While the situation in Chapel Hill has direct impact on Butch Davis and the Tar Heels, Les Miles could wind up as the biggest loser in this mess. Expectations can be dangerous, and with so much drama going on at UNC, the general public seems to think that LSU's chances to upset the Tar Heels has improved. With all the uncertainty on North Carolina's roster, it has made this game even more critical for Miles. If LSU falls to a UNC team with a depleted roster on Saturday night, the temperature on Les Miles' seat will go from hot to sizzling within a matter of a few hours.
Barrett Sallee covers the SEC for www.CollegeFootballNews.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter at @BarrettSallee
Click here for the 2010 Three & Out archive
2010 Column Archive:
UNC's Problems Could Hurt Les Miles – August 31, 2010
Predicting The SEC – August 23, 2010
Top Five Games Inside The SEC – August 22, 2010
Ranking The SEC Out-Of-Conference Games – August 21, 2010
SEC Roundtable Discussion Part IV – August 10, 2010
SEC Teams In The Coaches Poll – August 7, 2010
Ranking The SEC Head Coaches – August 2, 2010
SEC Media Days: Day 3 Recap – July 23, 2010
SEC Media Days: Day 2 Recap – July 22, 2010
SEC Media Days: Day 1 Recap – July 21, 2010
SEC Roundtable Discussion Part III – July 13, 2010
SEC Roundtable Discussion Part II – June 21, 2010
Auburn Gets The Last Laugh – June 10, 2010
Realignment – What Should The SEC Do? – June 9, 2010
SEC Roundtable Discussion Part I – June 7, 2010
Richt On The Hot Seat? – June 3, 2010
Auburn Dismisses Redshirt Freshman RB – May 21, 2010
SEC Hires of the Decade – The Bottom Five – May 14, 2010
Top 5 SEC Hires of the Decade – May 5, 2010
Georgia In A Gray Area – April 26, 2009
Taunting Rule Goes Too Far – April 16, 2009
Memorable SEC Press Conferences – February 20, 2009
2010 Early SEC Picks, Part 2 – February 18, 2009
2010 Early SEC Picks, Part 1 – February 16, 2009
Florida Reaches For DC – February 12, 2009
Vols Go West For New DC – February 3, 2009
Early 2010 SEC Predictions – January 31, 2010
Chizik Doing It Right – January 21, 2010
Georgia's DC Debacle – January 12, 2010
SEC Bloggers: Do Over – January 8, 2010
Trouble In Baton Rouge – January 2, 2010
Meyer Calls A Reverse – December 27, 2009
Urban Meyer's SEC Legacy – December 26, 2009
End Of The Season Accountability – December 26, 2009
Ranking The SEC Bowl Games – December 18, 2009
2009 SEC Superlatives – December 13, 2009