Forty names, games, teams and minutiae making news in college football (tickets – not press credentials – sold separately to LSU fanboy and press box bad boy Bobby Hebert (1) ):
'TIS THE SEASON
Leaves fall, weather changes, coaches get fired, the message boards are sizzling with news that Jon Gruden/Steve Mariucci/Fielding H. Yost has agreed in principle to take every major opening in the nation. That's after his wife was seen in (fill in the college town) checking out real estate, of course. Done deal.
That's November for you. This year is no different.
In the real world, two jobs – Kentucky and Idaho – are officially open. There are many more to come – though not as many as last year, when a dizzying 27 jobs turned over. The Dash takes stock of where the carousel is headed:
Schools that have fired their coaches, or will in the very near future:
Arkansas (2). Coach on his way out: John L. Smith. Why: Stopgap spring hire who didn't get it done, going 4-5 when he needed to be 9-0. From the moment the Razorbacks lost to Louisiana-Monroe Sept. 10, this was over. How good is the job: The Dash views the SEC in three tiers, with Alabama, Florida, LSU and Georgia on top; Texas A&M, South Carolina, Auburn, Arkansas and Tennessee in the middle; and Missouri, Mississippi, Mississippi State, Kentucky and Vanderbilt on bottom. Arkansas can pay, has nice facilities and a great fan base – but not a deep in-state recruiting base. Plus, you have to play 'Bama and LSU every year. But of the jobs that will be open this year, it may be the best one.
Boston College (3). Coach on his way out: Frank Spaziani. Why: It's been a steady downward slide, from 8-5 to 7-6 to 4-8 to this year's 2-7. Came into the season in trouble, and the Oct. 6 loss to Army probably sealed the deal. The only chance to alter inevitability might be for Spaziani to pull a Coughlin/O'Brien miracle and ruin Notre Dame's season Saturday. And even that may not be enough. How good is the job: It's the ACC, so anyone can win – and BC did, going to consecutive league title games in 2007-08. But the Northeast locale is a recruiting disadvantage when competing against teams from the South, and facilities and fan support are only OK. Program somehow had 12 straight winning seasons from 1999-2010, but don't expect to see that happen again very easily.
Idaho (4). Coach on his way out: Robb Akey. Actually was relieved of duty in October. Why: He was 3-17 in his last 20 games, and 20-50 overall. Even at Idaho, that's not good enough. How good is the job: If your worst enemy is a college football coach, this is the job you'd wish for him to get.
Kentucky (5). Coach on his way out: Joker Phillips, whose firing was announced Sunday in typically awkward Mitch Barnhart fashion – at the tail end of a 900-word open letter to fans. The letter included a comically pensive picture of Barnhart, which led to this lampooning by Spencer Hall. As of Tuesday morning, Barnhart still hasn't answered any questions about the decision, which is his second major hire to end quickly and badly at UK. (Other: Billy Gillispie.) Why: Phillips has a 12-23 record after inheriting a program that had five straight winning records under Rich Brooks. Fans gave up on Phillips three weeks into this season, after losses to Louisville and Western Kentucky. How good is the job: Program is SEC in affiliation only, languishing well behind most of the league in terms of commitment to football. Yet many fans still believe they're getting Chris Petersen (inevitably spelled "Peterson") or Gruden.
Purdue (6). Coach on his way out: Danny Hope. The Dash has been told that third-party feelers are going out, whether Hope has been informed or not. Why: When the high-water mark in a tenure is a 7-6 season and narrow victory in the Little Caesars Bowl – and the other three seasons are all losing records – that's not good enough at a place that had enjoyed long-term respectability under Joe Tiller. Hope was an uninspired choice from the beginning, after middling success at FCS Eastern Kentucky, and a 0-5 Big Ten record this year seals his fate. How good is the job: Purdue has a reputation for being cheap – part of the reason Boilermaker basketball coach and alum Matt Painter nearly left for Missouri in spring 2011. If it stays cheap, this job will continue to slide in the Big Ten hierarchy.
California (7). Coach on the rocks: Jeff Tedford. Why: Did a nice job building the Golden Bears from doormat to contender, but diminishing returns in recent years have led to fan fatigue – especially with Stanford thriving across the Bay. Tedford is just 23-25 since 2008. How good is the job: The California address is nice, but this isn't USC and there is a lot of competition for the in-state talent. Not sure how deep the pockets are, either. Mid-tier Pac-12.
Auburn (8). Coach on the rocks: Gene Chizik. Why: Because less than two years after winning the national title, the place is a mess. Bad losses, staff turnover, recruiting volatility and other issues have the program feeling like it's imploding. Doesn't help to have Alabama on a ridiculous roll, either. How good is the job: It's well-established that Auburn will give a coach whatever he needs to win. It's also well-established that Auburn will mercilessly devour anyone who doesn't win all the time. If you're a coach who gets a thrill from riding tigers, go for it. Just don't fall off.
Tennessee (9). Coach on the rocks: Derek Dooley. Why: In 34 games coaching the Volunteers, Dooley doesn't have a single quality victory. He's 0-15 against ranked opponents. If the Vols hadn't pulled out an absurd, 55-48 victory over Troy last Saturday, he might already be gone. How good is the job: Similar to Arkansas. Great facilities, great fans, they'll pay – but where do you get players and how do you get ahead in a league full of sharks? Will still get quality candidates.
UTEP (10). Coach on the rocks: Mike Price. Why: Contract is up at the end of this season, and nobody is rushing to offer him a new one. After an initial flurry of success, UTEP has gone back to being UTEP on his watch – this is the Miners' seventh straight losing season. How good is the job: Not very. The solace is that most of Conference USA is comparably feeble.
Colorado (11). Coach on the rocks: Jon Embree. Why: The Buffaloes took a chance on a very inexperienced coach and the result has been a 4-18 record, with this year's team far worse than last year's. Eleven years after playing in a BCS bowl, Colorado is the worst team in a big-six conference, being outscored by 30 points a game. How good is the job: Iffy. There is a spectacular campus to sell, but not enough in-state recruits to sell it to. And there aren't enough big-dollar donors willing to push Colorado forward in the facilities arms race.
Wyoming (12). Coach on the rocks: Dave Christensen. Why: A 20-27 record is a problem, but Christensen really pushed himself onto the hot seat with his profane tirade at Air Force coach Troy Calhoun last month. F-bombing a service academy coach after a close loss has led to booster backlash aimed at the athletic department, according to emails obtained by the Casper Tribune. Beating rival Colorado State four years in a row might be the only thing that saves Christensen now. How good is the job: Among the toughest in the nation, but the program has had its moments – including two bowl bids under Christensen.
Other jobs to keep an eye on: Connecticut, South Florida, Georgia Tech, North Carolina State, Maryland, Southern Mississippi, UNLV, Central Michigan, New Mexico State.
On the off chance that the rumors are not true, and Jon Gruden, Steve Mariucci and Fielding H. Yost are not taking every available job, The Dash has a short list of coaches who figure to be pursued for whatever ultimately comes open:
Charlie Strong (13), Louisville. Record: 23-12 in third year with the Cardinals. This season: 9-0 and ranked ninth in latest BCS standings. Potential jobs: Arkansas, Tennessee, Auburn. What it would take: The allure of playing for a national championship in an elite conference that recruits the South. Lacking that, Strong has everything he could want in Louisville – including a Heisman Trophy-quality quarterback in Teddy Bridgewater and a young team that could conceivably compete at the highest level next year.
Butch Jones (14), Cincinnati. Record: 20-13 in third year with the Bearcats. This season: 6-2. Potential jobs: Arkansas, Tennessee, Kentucky. What it would take: Cash and a potential BCS bid to dangle even if you don't win your league. Jones also could stay and have a quality team next season.
Tim DeRuyter (15), Fresno State. Record: 7-3 in first year with the Bulldogs. This season: 7-3, with losses to Boise State, Tulsa and Oregon. Potential jobs: California, Colorado. What it would take: Probably not much, other than a commitment to provide the necessary resources to succeed in the Pac-12.
Sonny Dykes (16), Louisiana Tech. Record: 21-13 in third year with the Bulldogs. This season: 8-1, with a two-point loss to Texas A&M. Potential jobs: Kentucky, Arkansas, Tennessee, Auburn, Purdue. What it would take: If it's Kentucky, where Dykes was once a graduate assistant coach, a commitment to upgrade facilities and assistant salary pool. The others should already have what most coaches are looking for.
Kirby Smart (17), Alabama. Record: 0-0 as defensive coordinator for the Crimson Tide. This season: Undefeated and ranked No. 1, though the wins all go on Nick Saban's record. Potential jobs: Arkansas, Kentucky, Tennessee – Saban may shoot him if he left for Auburn. What it would take: A deep desire to lead his own program and accept some struggles and eventual losses, as opposed to winning big for the foreseeable future as Saban's right-hand man.
Dave Doeren (18), Northern Illinois. Record: 19-4 in second year with the Huskies. This season: 9-1 and leading the MAC West. Potential jobs: Purdue, anything else that may open up in the Midwest. What it would take: Boilermakers likely would have to pony up more cash than they're paying Hope. Doeren, who is a former Wisconsin assistant, probably wouldn't mind sticking around for the senior year of quarterback Jordan Lynch, but the Huskies lose a lot of other key parts.
And then there is Bobby Petrino. Auburn bungled hiring him once, in one of the more obnoxious displays of duplicitous behavior in recent history (by all involved parties). The two seem made for each other – but there likely will be multiple suitors for the disgraced offensive savant.
One of the major manifestations of the great money grab in college football are conference championship games. They're often bad matchups and can be as harmful to the league's best teams as they are helpful, but because they're profitable – and because leagues are adding teams to add TV revenue – they go on.
This year, the potential exists for some division winners who are flat-out bad teams muddying up the proceedings. The prime candidates:
ACC (19). The Coastal Division is a swamp. The leaders in the loss column are Miami and North Carolina with two apiece, but the Tar Heels are ineligible for postseason play and the Hurricanes are reportedly considering self-imposing a postseason ban as part of an ongoing NCAA investigation sparked by Yahoo! Sports' reporting. That next group, with three league losses, consists of Duke (6-3), Georgia Tech (4-5) and Virginia Tech (4-5). It's conceivable that Georgia Tech could go 5-7 and still be the divisional representative, playing for a BCS bowl berth.
Big Ten (20). The Leaders Division is void of quality leadership, with undefeated Ohio State and second-place Penn State both ineligible for postseason play under NCAA sanctions. Wisconsin (6-3, 3-2) is next in line, but don't forget about Indiana. The Hoosiers are 4-5 overall, 2-3 in the league, losers to both Ball State and Navy – and in control of their own destiny. If they beat the Badgers in Bloomington Saturday, they'll own the tiebreaker and could conceivably win the division at 5-7 and play for their first Rose Bowl berth since 1967.
Pac-12 (21). There are several scenarios in which a Pac-12 South team with four league losses makes the title game, presumably to serve as cannon fodder for Oregon. UCLA is the division leader right now at 4-2 but still must play USC and Stanford. The Trojans are 4-3 but still must play the Bruins and 3-3 Arizona State. And the Sun Devils close the regular season at rival Arizona. Regardless of who wins the South, an anticipated high-powered league championship game that rivals the SEC's is out the window.
With all four title-contending unbeatens (sorry, Louisville) surviving last week, the elimination watch has been sharpened. We are down to 14 chances for the Big Four to be beaten – three apiece for Kansas State and Notre Dame, four apiece for Oregon and Alabama.
The sternest test for all four will not come this weekend – but that doesn't mean this is a Saturday without risk. Three of the unbeatens go on the road, and the fourth faces a ranked opponent. The Dash takes a look at the chances for a season-wrecking upset:
Notre Dame (22) at Boston College. The line: Fighting Irish by 19. Clearly, the Eagles don't seem good enough to win – but neither did they seem good enough in 1993 to shock unbeaten Notre Dame, or in 2002 to do the same. Still, both those teams finished the year 9-3, and this BC team may be lucky to go 3-9. Barring a minus-three Notre Dame turnover margin like last week against Pittsburgh, it's hard to imagine the Eagles getting this done or even coming close.
Kansas State (23) at TCU. The line: Off the board. The unexplained injury to Wildcats quarterback Collin Klein is why Vegas has taken the game off, and it remains the single biggest reason for K-State anxiety. Coach Bill Snyder said Monday that Klein "seems fine," without offering any further insight (which is par for the Snyder course). The other dynamic here is that TCU has won 15 straight November/December games, including a double-overtime triumph at West Virginia last week. The Horned Frogs are playing with a freshman backup quarterback whose accuracy has declined three straight weeks, so he'll need to reverse that trend. If Klein plays and is OK, it's hard to see a rolling K-State locomotive being stopped. If he's not OK, this could be interesting.
Oregon (24) at California. The line: Ducks by 28. A frustrating Cal season has had one shining moment: the Bears' upset romp of UCLA in Berkeley. That was aided by six Bruins turnovers, including four interceptions by their redshirt freshman quarterback. The Ducks also have a redshirt freshman quarterback – but expecting him to throw four picks is like expecting lightning to strike twice. The way Oregon has been savaging teams, this would be one of the biggest upsets in league history.
Texas A&M at Alabama (25). The line: Crimson Tide by 13½. If the game weren't in Tuscaloosa, The Dash could see a possible upset. The Aggies are explosive and playing well right now, and no amount of Saban lashings and exhortations can prevent an emotional drop-off from an epic Saturday night in Tiger Stadium. Plus there is the physical toll of that game – it was a classic LSU-Alabama slobberknocker, and a lot of Tide players will be wincing their way through this week. But a huge crowd could help pick up the emotional slack, and freshman Johnny Manziel has been turnover-prone in a couple of games. Alabama will prevail in a close one.
ELECTORAL COLLEGE, FOOTBALL VERSION
Tuesday being election day and all, we're fully familiar with how the electoral college works – basically, some states are more important than others. That's based on population, and that's why we've heard endlessly about the most populous battleground states like Ohio and Florida and Pennsylvania in recent weeks.
But it got The Dash thinking: Which states are the most important in college football terms? Which states have won the most, per capita?
So The Dash devised a formula that awarded points for BCS bowl appearances over the 14-year history of the BCS. Each state got one point for a BCS bowl appearance, two points for a victory in that bowl, five points for a championship game appearance and 10 points for a championship game victory. Then we divided the total by the 2011 population of that state.
The result – points per million residents – tells you which state has experienced the most gridiron glory, pound per pound.
The four states winning the most:
Oklahoma (26). BCS Dash points: 33 (31 from Oklahoma and two from Oklahoma State). Population: 3.8 million. Points per million: 8.7.
Alabama (27). BCS Dash points: 34 (22 from Alabama, 12 from Auburn). Population: 4.8 million. Points per million: 7.1.
Louisiana (28). BCS Dash points: 29 (all from LSU). Population: 4.6 million. Points per million: 6.3.
Oregon (29). BCS Dash points: 17 (15 from Oregon, two from Oregon State). Population: 3.9 million. Points per million: 4.4.
The four states winning the least per capita (states without an FBS football program excluded):
New Jersey (30). BCS Dash points: 0. Population: 8.8 million. That's on you, Rutgers.
Massachusetts (31). BCS Dash points: 0. Population: 6.6 million. Boston College was the lone FBS representative until Massachusetts moved up this season – and has proceeded to go winless.
Arizona (32). BCS Dash points: 0. Population: 6.5 million. This is one of four states with multiple FBS programs (Arizona and Arizona State) that have failed to play in a BCS bowl. The others: Mississippi, Nevada, New Mexico.
Missouri (33). BCS Dash points: 0. Population: 6 million. Mizzou, shafted out of the 2008 Orange Bowl, remains on the outside looking in.
LAST INTERCEPTION POOL UPDATE
The duel continues. Like that World Series of Poker event last week on ESPN, this one just will not end. The update:
Alabama's AJ McCarron (34) now has launched 204 passes for the season without an interception. He'll face a Texas A&M defense that has seven picks.
Louisiana Tech's Colby Cameron (35), the other combatant, has lived much more dangerously. He's thrown 358 passes without a pick. Next up is a trip to Texas State, which has 10 interceptions for the season.
In an effort to finally have a winner, The Dash is suggesting opposing defenses place life-sized cutouts of Dashette Priyanka Chopra (36) in the secondary to distract the quarterbacks. May the most focused man win.
COACH WHO EARNED HIS COMP CAR THIS WEEK
Mike MacIntyre (37), San Jose State. He's in his third year at what has traditionally been one of the hardest places to win in America. After a 1-12 debut season, the Spartans improved to 5-7 last year. This year they're 7-2 after routing Idaho, with one of those losses by three points to Stanford. San Jose has a chance to go to just its second bowl since 1990.
COACH WHO SHOULD TAKE THE BUS TO WORK
LSU's Les Miles (38), who thought it was a splendid idea to send 180-pound kicker Drew Alleman in search of a first down on a fourth-and-13 fake field goal against Alabama. Talk about tying a pork chop around a guy's neck. It actually worked out well – Alleman was neither killed nor maimed on the play. But he did lose two yards against a defense that was watching for fakes (Nick Saban knows who you are and what you're about, Lester).
Miles backed up that great call a few minutes later by having Alleman attempt a 54-yard field. His career long is 44. Neither Les' math nor Alleman's kick were very good, and the resulting miss gave 'Bama a short field to drive for a touchdown right before halftime.
So it wasn't a great night of special-teams decisions for Les. But his ears are refreshingly wax-free.
PUTTING OUT AN APB FOR …
… Former Wisconsin defensive line great Tim Krumrie (39). Anyone with information on the whereabouts of the guy who anchored the middle for the Badgers from 1979-82, then played for the Cincinnati Bengals – and suffered a gruesome broken leg – please apprise The Dash.
Meanwhile, The Dash is perplexed to report receiving zero tips on the whereabouts of last week's APB subject, former Alabama kicker Alan McElroy. Y'all are slackin'.
When hungry in the peerless eating city of New Orleans, The Dash recommends a repast at Maurepas Foods (40). The cheese selection is deluxe. So are the sweet potatoes. The stone-ground grits are a religious experience. And the short ribs, chicken and sausage all are strong as well. Have an Omer Belgian Blond Ale with the meal and thank The Dash later.
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