Forty names, games, teams and minutiae making news in college football (handy rationalizations, excuses, cherry-picked facts and claims of fraud sold separately in the squabbling Big Ten towns of Ann Arbor, Madison and State College):
RISK/REWARD: THE TWO BIG COACHING HIRES OVER THE WEEKEND
Two of the nation’s most coveted coaching jobs were filled Saturday – both arguably top-five jobs, inarguably top-10. The two schools, which have varying degrees of administrative dysfunction to deal with, both courted the same coach for a brief and dramatic time. Their decisions could reverberate through college football for years – or even decades – to come.
Here’s how The Dash sees the fallout:
Texas (1) won the Tom Herman Sweepstakes (2), firing Charlie Strong and locking up the Houston coach late last week after enduring some last-minute competition from LSU.
After first failing to secure Jimbo Fisher and then whiffing on Herman, LSU (3) quickly pivoted and went safe by promoting interim coach Ed Orgeron (4).
So Texas won the skirmish for Herman, and could have the next great college football coach. The 42-year-old has a 22-4 record in two years at Houston, where the record was 16-10 in the two seasons before he arrived. He was a star offensive coordinator at Ohio State prior to that, working with Braxton Miller, J.T. Barrett and Cardale Jones as the Buckeyes won the 2014 national championship.
Has Herman accomplished enough to merit the $5 million salary he’ll get over four years, with a fifth year of more than $6 million, according to the Austin American-Statesman? The money proved to be more sane than the original numbers being speculated upon during the brief LSU-Texas tug of war for Herman: up to $8 million a year. That would have been crazy.
As it is, Herman has established a compelling but erratic track record in two seasons as a head coach: he has slayed some giants and posted some huge upsets, while also having some confounding flops. He has beaten Louisville twice as a double-digit underdog, plus similarly major upsets of Florida State in last year’s Peach Bowl and Oklahoma in this year’s season opener. But Herman’s Houston teams also lost last year to Connecticut as a 10-point favorite, and three times this year as a double-digit favorite against Navy, SMU and Memphis.
Winning when you shouldn’t is great. Losing when you shouldn’t is not. At Texas, Herman figures to have far fewer opportunities to shock the world as an underdog than to be shocked as a favorite.
That said, almost everyone in college football is fully sold on Herman. After the late-term malaise under Mack Brown turned into full-blown misery under Strong, this was the hire Texas had to make.
At LSU, meanwhile, athletic director Joe Alleva has completed a calendar year of bungling his football coaching position. He failed to complete a very public attempt to oust Les Miles last year, then did so in September, and now has replaced him with a guy who has his dream job but is hardly the dream candidate.
Put it this way: Alleva fired a coach with a 114-34 record (.826 winning percentage) as an SEC head coach to hire a guy with a 15-27 record (.372) as an SEC head coach. He fired a guy who was 64-30 in the league to hire a guy who is 7-23 in the league. He fired a guy for not beating Alabama often enough (Miles was 5-7) to hire a guy who is 0-4 against the Crimson Tide.
LSU aspires to win SEC championships. Orgeron lost at home this season to both the SEC West winner (‘Bama) and SEC East winner (Florida).
But, hey, at least Alleva has basketball coach Johnny Jones to fall back on as proof he can hire a big winner.
COACHING CAROUSEL IN LIMBO ELSEWHERE
Checking in on other coaching vacancies or expected vacancies to see where they stand:
Oregon (5) is showing a simultaneous lack of urgency and lack of respect for its current coach, Mark Helfrich.
He’s a presumed goner after his fourth season was a 4-8 dud that ended with the Ducks’ first loss to in-state rival Oregon State since 2007. Helfrich’s record is 13-12 post-Marcus Mariota, at a place that thought it had left mediocrity behind many years ago.
But athletic director Rob Mullens is letting Helfrich twist in the wind, putting off a season-ending meeting until “midweek,” according to media reports. The putative reason for the delay is Mullens’ duties as a member of the College Football Playoff selection committee, which has taken him to greater Dallas on Sunday-Tuesday. However, the committee doesn’t actually meet on Sundays – the work gets done on Mondays and Tuesdays.
If Mullens wanted to resolve things expeditiously with Helfrich, he seemingly could have done that easily enough Sunday morning/afternoon before traveling to Dallas.
There could be a couple of reasons for slow-playing this: Mullens genuinely is still trying to make up his mind what to do; or, more likely, he’s trying to line up his next coach before firing his current one.
With no clear-cut choice, Mullens could be waiting for coaches who still have games to play this week, notably P.J. Fleck at Western Michigan, whose undefeated Broncos play in the Mid-American championship game Friday night. If Oregon wants Boise State’s Bryan Harsin, there wouldn’t seem to be much reason for delay.
While Helfrich would seem to have good reason to feel like he’s been disrespected by his boss, it could be one of those situations where the longer this goes the better his chances of staying would be. If Mullens can’t lock in on a great hire, there is a slim chance Helfrich hangs on.
Baylor (6) has swung its search into action, but this one might take a while as well. For one thing, athletic director Mack Rhoades isn’t a hurry guy – he went through methodical meetings with candidates before hiring Herman at Houston and Barry Odom at Missouri.
Baylor has a lot of money but also a lot of baggage, which could make this arduous. Among the school’s top targets is/was North Carolina’s Larry Fedora, a former Baylor grad assistant, but North Carolina sources have elicited little concern about losing their coach to the Bears. Colorado’s Mike MacIntyre is a Baptist who has never been hotter than right now, with a 10-2 record and a Pac-12 South title, but he stands poised for a significant contract upgrade in Boulder and seemingly would like to enjoy the fruits of his labor before moving on to the next rebuilding project. Rhoades has courted California’s Sonny Dykes twice without landing him, but he might be a tough sell coming off a 5-7 season. SMU’s Chad Morris is considered a rising star in the business, but he similarly would come limping to Waco off a 5-7 season that included giving up 75 points in the finale.
Tulsa’s Philip Montgomery is doing great work in two seasons, but his familiarity with Baylor is more a negative than a positive. He was a top Art Briles assistant, and the school has gone through enough turmoil with staffers loyal to Briles.
Purdue (7) has gone quiet after a lot of conjecture about a quick move following the end of its season Saturday. One report said that Fleck would be named soon as coach of the Boilermakers, but sources told Yahoo Sports Saturday that was inaccurate – he isn’t talking to anyone until after the MAC championship game. It will be interesting to see whether Purdue has competition for Fleck, and from whom.
Western Kentucky coach Jeff Brohm would be in the same no-contact zone as Fleck – he has a game Saturday, the Conference USA championship against Louisiana Tech (coached by Skip Holtz, who has rebuilt his record after being fired at South Florida and could be a candidate himself).
Purdue seemingly could have Les Miles right now. The fact that it does not indicates that either the school or Miles has someone it likes more. Others with Purdue ties have been interviewed for the job, but like Miles would seemingly be in position to be hired by now if they were the choice.
At Cincinnati (8) there could be a $900,000 reason why Tommy Tuberville hasn’t yet been pushed into retirement. A contract extension he agreed to earlier this year calls for a $2.4 million buyout before Dec. 7. On that date, the buyout drops to $1.5 million. At a non-power-five school, that’s not chump change.
A Dec. 7 timetable would suit Brohm, who seems like an ideal fit at Cincinnati: the Louisville native knows the area, is 29-10 overall, has won consecutive C-USA division titles and his offenses have flourished with two different quarterbacks – Brandon Doughty for two years, and now the formerly pedestrian Mike White.
One name to remove from consideration anywhere but his current job is Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly, who put out a statement at 3:37 a.m. Sunday declaring his firm intention of staying in South Bend. While that leaves no wiggle room, it does not change what The Dash reported Saturday night – Kelly had done some exploring of other options.
CHAMPIONSHIP WEEKEND – THE FINAL SPRINT TO THE WIRE
Eight conferences will play their championship games this week, and the Big 12 will chip in a de facto title game disguised as a regular-season meeting. The Dash provides an overview:
Pac-12 (9) The stakes: If Washington wins, it will have a compelling case for inclusion in the College Football Playoff at 12-1, with a 9-1 mark in league games. (The drawback is a non-league schedule consisting of Rutgers, Portland State and Idaho.) If Colorado wins, the Buffaloes likely would be left out behind a second Big Ten team (either Michigan, Wisconsin or Penn State) or possibly even the Big 12 champion. That would mean the Pac-12 would miss the playoff for the second straight season. What to watch: Turnovers. The teams are 1-2 in the Pac-12 in turnover margin – Washington is plus-18 (tied for first nationally) and Colorado is plus-10. Which team can create and easy score or two?
Dash pick: Washington 31, Colorado 24
Southeastern (10). The stakes: Surprisingly small. The Crimson Tide could actually afford a loss and almost assuredly still make the playoff field – although a win that locks up the top seed and a semifinal in nearby Atlanta is motivation in and of itself. Florida cannot win its way into the playoff, but it could still score one of the biggest upsets in school history if it somehow can find the end zone. What to watch: The mismatch of Alabama’s defense and against Florida’s offense. The Tide has not allowed a touchdown in 17 quarters. The Gators have scored just one offensive touchdown in 10 quarters.
Dash pick: Alabama 28, Florida 0
Big Ten (11). The stakes: Nobody knows for sure. The winner will hoist some hardware in the air, celebrate an unexpectedly great season, enjoy doing something that neither Ohio State nor Michigan could do – and then wonder whether that’s enough to make the playoff. (The Dash has clear feelings on that matter.) What to watch: Saquon Barkley against the league’s best run defense. Barkley injured his foot in the Nittany Lions’ East Division clincher against Michigan State on Saturday night, but Monday said he will be ready to play against the Badgers, who are allowing just 101 rushing yards per game and 3.35 yards per carry.
Dash pick: Penn State 27, Wisconsin 24
Atlantic Coast (12). The stakes: Clemson is a win-and-in playoff team, even though Louisville’s late-season swoon now means that the 11-1 Tigers have beaten no one in the AP Top 10. A Virginia Tech upset would knock the ACC out of the playoff. What to watch: Which quarterback will win the day? The Tigers’ Deshaun Watson is a proven big-game talent and a 2015 Heisman Trophy finalist, but don’t sleep on the Hokies’ Jerod Evans. He has a higher pass efficiency rating than Watson (157 to 153), a more productive runner (713 rushing yards to 444) and averages slightly more yards per play (7.30 to 7.22). Evans wasn’t even named honorable mention all-ACC, which might have him eager to show what voters overlooked.
Dash pick: Clemson 30, Virginia Tech 24
Big 12 (13). The stakes: There are bragging rights in the state of Oklahoma, of course, and those are not small things. But beyond that is at least a long-shot hope for a College Football Playoff bid, as the league struggles to stay relevant. What to watch: The Cowboys’ soft run defense against the Sooners’ Samaje Perine-Joe Mixon stampede. Those two have combined for more than 2,300 yards from scrimmage, and Oklahoma State has given up 209 rushing yards per game in conference play. The Cowboys should be justifiably afraid of receiver Dede Westbrook, but stopping the run should be job one.
Dash pick: Oklahoma 49, Oklahoma State 35.
Mid-American (14). The stakes: The 12-0 Broncos are trying to complete the greatest season in school history, record one of the greatest seasons in MAC history and maintain a potential Cotton Bowl bid – all before likely losing their coach to a bigger job. The 8-4 Bobcats are trying to ruin all those things. What to watch: Can WMU maintain focus and simultaneously deflect pressure? The Broncos are the superior team in terms of talent, but they have a ton riding on this game, while Ohio has nothing to lose. Then there is the specter of Fleck leaving, which has been looming in the background all year but growing into a greater reality with each passing game. Now there’s only one left.
Western Michigan 34, Ohio 27.
American Athletic (15). The stakes: If Western Michigan were to lose to Ohio, the winner of this game could land the Group of Five bid to a New Year’s Six bowl, likely the Cotton. Regardless of that, the winner will have a second consecutive season of double-digit victories, something that has never happened for either program in their history.
Navy 32, Temple 30.
Mountain West (16). The stakes: San Diego State (9-3) is shooting for a second straight league title, while Wyoming (8-4) is trying to cap off one of the nation’s biggest year-over-year advancements with a title. If Aztecs running back Donnel Pumphrey reverses two games of limited production and goes over 2,000 rushing yards on the season, he could enhance his long-shot Heisman hopes. What to watch: How does Pumphrey do in the rematch? He was held to a then-season-low 76 rushing yards in an upset loss in Laramie two weeks ago; can the Cowboys hold him down again?
Dash pick: San Diego State 42, Wyoming 31.
Conference USA (17). The stakes: The coaches are trying to make a statement to prospective employers. The teams are trying to continue the programs’ best three-year runs since joining the FBS ranks – Western Kentucky in 2007, Louisiana Tech in 1989. What to watch: Does either team punt? The nation’s No. 1 and 2 teams in yards per play (Tech is 7.68, WKU is 7.51) are also No. 3 and 5 in number of 20-plus-yard plays (Tech 212, WKU 208). In other words, don’t tune in expecting an Iowa-Wisconsin game to break out.
Dash pick: Western Kentucky 61, Louisiana Tech 52.
Why wait until next week for the college football awards to be dished out? The Dash, as usual, beats the rush and distributes some end-of-the-season recognition and rip jobs to the winners and losers of the 2016 season:
Coach of the Year: Mike MacIntyre (18), Colorado. The Buffaloes were picked to finish last in the Pac-12 South, the same place they had finished each of the previous three seasons while going 2-25 in league play. Today, Colorado is 10-2, 8-1 in the league and champions of the South. In his fourth season, MacIntyre’s dogged attempts to transform a once-proud program that had endured 10 straight losing seasons finally paid off.
Also nominated (one per conference): Matt Rhule, Temple; Dabo Swinney, Clemson; Dana Holgorsen, West Virginia; James Franklin, Penn State; Bobby Wilder, Old Dominion; P.J. Fleck, Western Michigan; Craig Bohl, Wyoming; Chris Petersen, Washington; Nick Saban, Alabama; Neal Brown, Troy.
Not Coach of the Year: Brian Kelly (19), Notre Dame. The Fighting Irish’s first seven games were against teams that, by their own recent standards, had disappointing seasons. And yet Notre Dame went only 2-5 in those seven games, four of which were at home. In other words, the schedule wasn’t terribly hard this season … and Kelly’s team still managed to go 4-8, the program’s second-worst record of the last 52 years. Kelly lost close games in every conceivable fashion, and by the end there weren’t enough scapegoats to go around. The head coach had to finally own it. He will begin 2017 among the leaders of the Hot Seat Brigade.
Also nominated (one per conference): Bob Diaco, Connecticut; Steve Addazio, Boston College; Charlie Strong, Texas; Mark Dantonio, Michigan State; Doc Holliday, Marshall; Mike Jinks, Bowling Green; Matt Wells, Utah State; Mark Helfrich, Oregon; Butch Jones, Tennessee; Trent Miles, Georgia State.
Worrisome Coach of the Year: Urban Meyer (20), Ohio State. Given Meyer’s ragged-edge burnout at Florida several years ago, some of his in-game actions were a concern this season. Meyer always spends a good portion of the game bent over with hands on knees watching the action, but there were some occasions at Wisconsin in October when he was doubled over between plays – like he was barely keeping himself upright. Then there was the Michigan thriller Saturday, when Meyer literally sprawled face-down on the turf after Curtis Samuel scored the winning touchdown.
Urban Meyer reacts to game winning touchdown pic.twitter.com/lxV6xdbx56
— Steve Noah (@Steve_OS) November 26, 2016
In the postgame interview, Meyer seemed to be a bit dazed, saying several times when asked about specific plays, “I don’t remember,” or “I don’t know.” Then there was this exchange, as quoted on the Ohio State transcript of the interview:
Q. Did you call the fake punt or was that —
COACH MEYER: I called it.
Q. What was your thinking during that?
COACH MEYER: On the last play, we ran a stretch to the left. It’s a 29 lead is the call, and Curtis scored.
Any more questions about the fake punt? It was – we motioned the tight end across, two backs in the backfield; we expected them to bring their defense and pressure and the left tackle, Jamarco, did a nice job sealing it. Tailback led Mike Weber and Curtis scored, and we won.
Q. You looked more animated than normal. How is your health? You were bent over. You (indiscernible) – is that just part of this game, or how are you feeling?
COACH MEYER: Curtis. (Laughter).
Q. 29 lead has been good to you all this year?
COACH MEYER: 29 leads averaging. Is my pregnant daughter here? Curtis scored and Curtis went to the left and scored.
This should be a season Meyer is enjoying immensely, with a young team that was promising but no cinch to be this good. Hopefully self-inflicted pressure isn’t taking too much out of him.
Finish of the Year: The Central Michigan Hail Mary Lateral (21) at Oklahoma State, Sept. 10. On an untimed down that shouldn’t have happened, the Chippewas completed the single-play stunner of 2016. In Mount Pleasant lore it will forever be remembered as Cooper Rush to Jesse Kroll to Corey Willis – the pass, the catch-and-lateral, the run to score. In Stillwater lore it will forever be remembered as a rob job that might actually keep the Cowboys out of the playoff.
But it should be noted that that officiating gaffe was preceded by another major gaffe, when the crew picked up a flag on Oklahoma State’s go-ahead touchdown with 5 minutes and 12 seconds remaining.
On fourth-and-1 from the Central Michigan 2, James Washington took a jet-sweep shovel pass around the left end of the line of scrimmage. Washington scored but a flag was down and the preliminary signal was holding. After conferring, the officials picked up the flag.
But the replay showed Oklahoma State left tackle Victor Salako tackling CMU outside linebacker Alex Briones as Washington circled left. Salako just reached out and wrapped up Briones’ lower left leg, bringing him to the ground.
So that game had a whole lot of bad reffing. But it was capped off by one incredible finish.
Game of the Year: Michigan-Ohio State (22). When two arch-rival, top-five teams wage a double-overtime battle that is rife with drama and controversy and plays both great and terrible, football fans win. In the ancient history of this rivalry, Ohio State 30, Michigan 27, ranks very near the top.
Fools Gold Game of the Year: Notre Dame-Texas (23). At the time, many of us believed the Longhorns’ 50-47 double overtime victory was the start of something big. Instead it was the beginning of the end for Charlie Strong after a third straight losing season, and the start of an aforementioned 4-8 debacle for the Irish. Lesson re-learned: don’t get too carried away with what happens on Labor Day weekend.
Absurd Game of the Year: Notre Dame-North Carolina State (24). The game was played in the midst of Hurricane Matthew on Oct. 8, which turned Carter-Finley Stadium into a hopeless bog. The only touchdown in the Wolfpack’s 10-3 victory came on a blocked punt return. There were 10 fumbles, although only four were lost. Weirdest of all was Notre Dame’s insistence on throwing the ball 26 times, with predictably awful results: just nine completions for 54 yards, with one interception.
Personnel Change of the Year: Clay Helton pulling Max Browne for Sam Darnold (25). In three games with Browne as the starter, USC was 1-2 and averaged 20.3 points and 323 yards per game. In the nine since with freshman Darnold starting, USC is 8-1 and averaging 37 points and 517 yards per game. And Darnold is second only to Washington’s Jake Browning in pass efficiency in the Pac-12.
Player of the Half Year: Miami (Ohio) quarterback Gus Ragland (26). His story is remarkable: after seeing spot duty in 2015 as a redshirt freshman, Ragland tore an ACL in spring ball and missed the first half of this season. Without him, the RedHawks were 0-6. Since he returned and entered the starting lineup, Miami has gone 6-0 and qualified for its first bowl since 2010 – perhaps saving coach Chuck Martin’s job along the way to becoming the first 0-6 to 6-6 team in college football history. Ragland still hasn’t thrown a college interception in 178 attempts, with 18 career touchdown passes and a 167 passer efficiency rating this year.
Quitters of the Year: Baylor (27), edging out Arizona State. The Bears started the season 6-0 while beating one team that was better than terrible: Oklahoma State. Since then they have lost five straight, the last four of them by 19 points or more, heading into a road game against West Virginia on Saturday. This season was a mess from May onward, when the school justifiably fired Art Briles but kept his staff and married it to stopgap interim coach Jim Grobe. Once some adversity set in, Baylor quickly and completely capitulated, and nobody outside of Waco is shedding many tears for that tainted program – especially the staff that has stubbornly maintained loyalty to Briles.
Disappearing Heisman Trophy Candidate of the Year: Leonard Fournette (28), LSU. He missed five games due to injury, flitting in and out of the lineup throughout the season. Some people have speculated that Fournette spent part of this season trying to save himself for the NFL, but nobody at LSU is saying that. Regardless, the greatest running back talent in school history wasn’t even LSU’s leader in rushing yards or yards per carry – that was his backup Derrius Guice. Fournette will head off to the NFL draft in 2017 without ever sniffing the Heisman.
Freshman of the Year: Ed Oliver (29), Houston. He was the highest-rated recruit in school history and backed up the hype immediately, registering two sacks in the season-opening upset of Oklahoma. From there the 6-foot-2, 290-pound teenager racked up a team-high 19 tackles for loss, and he terrorized Louisville’s Lamar Jackson in another Cougars upset. Will he regret signing with Houston now that Tom Herman is gone? Maybe, but he should have seen that coming long before signing day last February.
Underrated Conference of the Year: American (30). Between Houston, Navy, South Florida, Cincinnati, Connecticut, East Carolina and Memphis, the league hung eight power-five skins on the wall in 2016. Losing Justin Fuente and Herman in consecutive seasons hurts the coaching pool, but if USF holds onto Willie Taggart, Temple does the same with Matt Rhule and Cincinnati revitalizes, this should remain the best non-power-five league in the land by a pretty wide margin.
Overrated Conference of the Year: Southeastern (31). For years the justifiable bully of the block, the SEC has been reduced to one powerhouse and 13 teams ranging from OK to lousy. Offensive issues continue to plague many erstwhile top programs in the league, and up to half the 14 head coaches could enter 2017 on the hot seat. As colleague Dan Wetzel noted Monday, Nick Saban has elevated Alabama but decimated everyone else.
State of the Year: Pennsylvania (32). Its three FBS programs are rolling. Penn State is a surprise Big Ten East champion. Temple is the AAC East champion. Pittsburgh is 8-4 and owns wins over playoff aspirants Penn State and Clemson. All three fan bases actually like their coaches. It’s a great time in the Keystone State.
Not State of the Year: Mississippi (33). Mississippi State and Mississippi both have simultaneous losing records for the first time since 2006. The 5-7 Rebels are seventh and last in the SEC West; the 5-7 Bulldogs are tied for fifth. After shaking off a three-year malaise and going 9-5 in 2015, Southern Mississippi has backslid to 6-6 and third in the C-USA West. And in case no one knew, Ole Miss remains under prolonged NCAA investigation.
Dispiriting Trend of the Year: The death of offense in the state of Florida (34). Current total offense rankings nationally for the seven FBS programs from the Sunshine State: South Florida ninth, Florida State 25th, Miami 54th, Florida Atlantic 73rd, Florida International 100th, Central Florida 107th, and Steve Spurrier University 114th. That’s right, just two in the top 50, in the state that used to be the home of exciting offensive football. The Dash was depressed watching Florida State and Florida flail their way to a 10-3 halftime score Saturday night, 20 years after the two waged a futuristic, spread-the-field Sugar Bowl for the national title.
Unexpected Dumpster Fire of the Year: Michigan State (35). To plummet from 12-2 and the College Football Playoff to 3-9 is shocking. After three straight seasons of 11 or more wins and five in the last six, this was a collapse The Dash did not see coming.
Expected Dumpster Fire of the Year: Rutgers (36). After going 4-8 last year (1-7 in the Big Ten play) and firing coach Kyle Flood, there were hopes for modest improvement under Urban Meyer disciple Chris Ash. Instead, Rutgers got worse – try 2-10, 0-9 in the Big Ten, with losses to Ohio State, Michigan, Michigan State and Penn State by a combined 224-0. While this was quite disappointing, it wasn’t altogether out of character. Rutgers gonna Rutgers.
Transitive Property Powerhouse of the Year: FCS school Eastern Illinois (37). Just because the 6-5 Panthers are No. 166 in the Sagarin Ratings, that doesn’t mean they wouldn’t win the Big 12. Here is your irrefutable proof:
Oklahoma lost to Houston by 10, which lost to Navy by six, which lost to Air Force by 14, which lost to Hawaii by seven, which lost to UNLV by three, which lost to Central Michigan by 23, which lost to Miami (Ohio) by 20, which lost to Eastern Illinois by four. Meanwhile, Oklahoma State lost to Central Michigan by three, which lost to Miami (Ohio) by 20, which lost to Eastern Illinois by four.
As noted above, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State play Saturday for the Big 12 title. Clearly, neither wants any part of Eastern Illinois.
COACH WHO EARNED HIS COMP CAR THIS WEEK
Bob Davie (38), New Mexico. When Davie left the TV analyst life to return to coaching at a level far below his previous stop at Notre Dame, not everyone was convinced it would end well. Five years in, it has gone splendidly. After unexpectedly blowing out Wyoming, the Lobos are 8-4 and tied for the Mountain West Mountain Division title – their first title of any kind since 1997. Coupled with last year’s 7-6 mark, that gives New Mexico its first back-to-back winning seasons since 2004-05.
COACH WHO SHOULD TAKE THE BUS TO WORK
Bobby Petrino (39), Louisville. His high-flying team staggered to two embarrassing losses to end the season – a 36-10 flop at Houston that ended any playoff hopes, then a shocking 41-38 rivalry loss to Kentucky at home Saturday. In those two games the Cardinals showed the lack of discipline that has held them back all season: seven turnovers and 19 penalties. For the year Louisville has committed the fourth-most turnovers in America and the sixth-most penalties. And as the season has turned south, Petrino has reverted to being surly and uncooperative with the media, cutting news conferences short as soon as he hears the question he doesn’t like. Here’s one more he might not enjoy: How good could this team have been if it had all the sloppy mistakes coached out of it?
When thirsty in the Forde household after pressing send on this, the last regular-season Dash of 2016, The Dash is popping the top on a Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale (40), the annual holiday beer from the OG of American craft brewers. Thanks to all for reading all season.