Forty names, games, teams and minutiae making news in college football (misery sold separately at Connecticut, which has now lost eight straight against FBS competition after giving up 41 points at home to previously winless East Carolina):
THIRD QUARTER: HOW IS YOUR 2016 HIRE DOING?
When Missouri’s Barry Odom (21) went to the podium and uncorked a geyser of frustrated emotion Saturday, it was a raw look at a coach watching his dream job quickly turn into a nightmare. The Mizzou alum is 5-11 at his alma mater, 3-11 against FBS competition, 2-8 in Southeastern Conference play and trying to figure out how a team with 15 returning starters has been outscored 117-30 in its last three games – all at home.
Odom already has fired his defensive coordinator, DeMontie Cross, two games into this season. In that postgame oration, he seems to sense who many fans want to be next out the door. Odom makes several salient points, most important of which might be the impact of the 2015 campus protests on the ability to recruit at Missouri. But here’s the problem with that – the effects won’t be felt most significantly for another year or two, which means it could conceivably get worse before it gets better. (Which in itself is almost inconceivable, because the program that won the SEC East in 2013 and ’14 is god-awful at the moment.)
In athletic director Jim Sterk, Odom has a boss who did not hire him. While 16 games as a head coach seems far too few to make a declaration, Odom needs to use this bye week to find a way to turn around a season that has five road games remaining. Otherwise, a third year on the job might not be a given.
A quick look at other coaches hired prior to the 2016 season, and how their tenures are progressing:
Closest to the Odom Inferno: Kalani Sitake (22) at BYU. Record: 10-7 overall, 1-3 this year. Eight of Sitake’s 10 victories have come over teams from FCS or teams that finished last year with losing records. Last year every loss was by three points or fewer, but this year the average margin of defeat is 22.3. The competition has been stout, but BYU’s offense is awful: The Cougars are last nationally in scoring offense and 129th out of 130 in total offense. The schedule gets easier, but six of the remaining games are on the road.
Nobody’s Happy: Lovie Smith (23) at Illinois. Record: 5-10, 2-1 this year. Smith has two wins against Power Five competition, and one of those is 2016 Rutgers so it barely counts. After a 2-0 start this year, the Illini were pummeled at South Florida 47-23 – not many expected a victory in Tampa, but competitiveness didn’t seem like too much to ask. The Big Ten schedule awaits, and while it helps to be in the West Division, Illinois might only be favored in one remaining game – against old reliable Rutgers.
Misery, Cont.: Chris Ash (24) at Rutgers. Record: 3-13, 1-3 this year. Ash has one win against an FBS opponent and is 0-12 against Power Five competition. The Scarlet Knights stirred some hope by playing competitively against Washington and Nebraska, but losing to Eastern Michigan was a grim reminder of how far behind the program is after the disastrous end of the Kyle Flood Era. If Rutgers wins again this year, it probably will be considered a surprise. This is a long-haul project.
Glimmer of Hope, Maybe: Matt Campbell (25) at Iowa State. Record: 5-10, 2-1 this year. He’s 2-9 against Power Five competition. This year the Cyclones handled Northern Iowa, which is an upgrade over last year’s loss, and routed Akron on the road. But Campbell has shown he inherited the program’s inherent knack for losing close games, falling in overtime to Iowa and running his record in one-score games to 1-5 as coach of the ‘Clones.
At Least He’s Recruiting Well: Will Muschamp (26) at South Carolina. Record: 9-8, 3-1 this year. The excitement of a season-opening upset of North Carolina State and a road win over Missouri was tempered by a dispiriting home loss to Kentucky and the necessity of a fourth-quarter rally to beat Louisiana Tech by a point. Still, there is sufficient reason for optimism going forward, given the recruiting successes. Muschamp just needs to show he can coach ‘em up.
Corner Turned: Bronco Mendenhall (27) at Virginia. Record: 5-11, 3-1 this year. Mendenhall’s first year in Charlottesville was not pretty, starting with a loss to an FCS opponent and ending in a seven-game losing streak. This year’s results are much better to date, highlighted by a road romp over Boise State last week. The Cavaliers are halfway to their first bowl bid since 2011.
In Love, Conditionally: Kirby Smart (28) at Georgia. Record: 12-5, 4-0 this year. Nobody thought Smart did a great job last year, going 8-5, but that’s ancient history if the Bulldogs continue their current roll. With a win at Notre Dame and a dominant performance against unbeaten Mississippi State, Georgia has 1-2 quality win punch that compares well to most of the nation. Still, there is a lot of SEC East wood to be chopped and little excuse not to win that division. Any stumbles will be met with grumbles.
Could Be King Someday: D.J. Durkin (29) at Maryland. Record: 8-8, 2-1 this year. Maryland got its most exciting win in years to open this season, beating Texas on the road despite a season-ending injury to its starting quarterback. Central Florida supplied a reality check Saturday with a decisive victory in College Park, but recruiting is going very well and the fan base isn’t exactly demanding a Big Ten East title anytime soon. If Durkin stays and produces, they’ll love him.
In Love, Unconditionally: Justin Fuente (30) at Virginia Tech. Record: 14-4, 4-0 this year. Hired to modernize a program that sagged late in the Frank Beamer Era, Fuente has gotten it done very quickly. The Hokies won the ACC Coastal last year, pushing eventual national champion Clemson in the league title game, and then won the Belk Bowl with a memorable rally. That led to a lucrative contract extension. If Virginia Tech beats Clemson on Saturday in Blacksburg, they might start constructing the statue that night.
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