Tom Fornelli: ‘Michigan Is Best Team In Big Ten’

Steve Sarkisian has taken a leave of absence as USC’s head football coach, this after arriving intoxicated at team facilities Sunday.

Sarkisian has reportedly had issues with alcohol for several years. In addition to an embarrassing incident at a preseason booster event, Sarkisian was reportedly under the influence during a 42-14 win over Arizona State on Sept. 26 and may have been drunk during flights home from road games.

Needless to say, Sarkisian’s leave of absence is a black eye for the Trojans (3-2, 1-2) – not to mention the entire athletic department.

“If your assistant coaches and your players are aware of this, there’s simply no way (athletic director) Pat Haden couldn’t have been aware of this,” CBS Eye on College Football analyst Tom Fornelli said on CBS Sports Radio’s Tiki and Tierney. “Now, trying to judge if he took the right steps to handle it, I don’t know. It’s a really delicate situation that really doesn’t have anything to do with football – although it obviously (is having) a direct correlation and a direct effect on the football team itself and his ability to serve as the coach of that football team, or else they wouldn’t have forced him to take a leave of absence.”

While Sarkisian’s future at USC is in doubt, so too is Haden’s.

I think Pat Haden is in a very sticky situation himself, simply because if USC was winning football games right now and maybe living up to the hype that gets placed on this team every year, maybe he could survive this,” Fornelli said. “But I just feel like everything that’s going on with Sarkisian and the fact that USC isn’t winning Pac-12 titles and isn’t having great seasons since Haden took over . . . I don’t think Pat Haden is long for his job either.”

While USC is sputtering, No. 12 Michigan (5-1, 2-0) is rising. The Wolverine have allowed just 14 points in their last five games combined and have reeled off three consecutive shutouts.

“I really believe Michigan can beat both Michigan State and Ohio State this year,” Fornelli said. “I wrote before this week’s game against Northwestern that so far up to that point in the season, I believed Michigan (was) the best team in the Big Ten so far. Ohio State was kind of slacking off and sleep-walking. Michigan State is a team that really so far this season (hasn’t been impressive). The Oregon win looked really good when it happened, but since then, Oregon is now 3-3. It doesn’t look nearly as impressive, (and Michigan State struggled) with Purdue in the fourth quarter (and) nearly lost to Rutgers on the road Saturday night.”

Michigan, meanwhile, has been throttling opponents.

“It’s not just the fact that they’ve shut out three straight opponents,” Fornelli said. “The defense has been on the field for 42 consecutive possessions without allowing a single point, which is remarkable when you think of it that way. You look around the Big Ten, and yes, Ohio State has more talent and is really not playing up to its billing, but I don’t think this Michigan team is playing as well as it could be yet simply because the offense isn’t clicking on all cylinders.”

Fornelli thought Michigan would be competitive by the end of the season, but Jim Harbaugh has transformed the program almost overnight.

“I think they’ve already reached that point,” Fornelli said. “I think it’s kind of proven that for all the faults that Brady Hoke and that coaching staff had in Ann Arbor the last few years, bringing talent to Ann Arbor wasn’t one of them. It’s just now Michigan finally has a coaching staff that knows how to get the most out of that talent and to put that talent in the right spots. This is a very good Michigan team.”

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