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While much of the focus around these parts may have been on Penn State’s regular-season finale loss at Michigan State, it was quite an eventful day around the world of college football. Between intense rivalry games having an impact on division, conference, and playoff scenarios and teams battling for bowl eligibility, there was a lot going on in Week 13 of the college football season. Among the schools fighting to become bowl-eligible was Old Dominion, coached by former Penn State offensive coordinator Ricky Rahne.
And in his first season on the sideline with the Monarchs, Rahne is hoping to take Old dominion to a bowl game. And how Rahne’s program got there is quite a story to tell.
First, Rahne was hired to be the new head coach of the Old Dominion program following the conclusion of the 2019 season. Unfortunately for Rahne, he would have to wait longer than anticipated to coach his first game in Norfolk, Virginia. Old Dominion made the decision to not play a college football schedule in 2020 due to concerns revolving around the COVID-19 pandemic. Old Dominion was one of three FBS programs that chose not to play any college football in 2020, joining UConn and New Mexico State in that decision. That put a pause on the debut of Ricky Rahne as a head coach, although he issued a statement at the time remaining committed to the future of the program.
Old Dominion returned to the field this fall, of course, and for a while, it looked like a team that took a year off from playing football. Old Dominion was blasted by Wake Forest and Liberty in two of their first three games of the season, although few would have guessed at the time Wake Forest would be playing in the ACC Championship Game back in Week 1. Rahne got his first coaching victory in Week 2 with a win against FCS Hampton, but the Monarchs started the year off on a 1-6 start to the season. While the first two losses were in blowouts, Old Dominion kept things close in losses to Buffalo, UTEP, and Marshall before suffering a 23-point loss at home to Western Kentucky.
Playing in a bowl game looked like a near impossibility after the 1-6 start to the season. Had Old Dominion lost just one more game, they would have been ineligible for postseason play per NCAA postseason regulations requiring a minimum of six wins to play in a bowl game.
But that’s the thing. Old Dominion didn’t lose another game.
A 23-20 victory against Louisiana Tech at home was the start of a seemingly unlikely five-game winning streak that culminated with a 56-34 victory over Charlotte in the final game of the regular season to clinch bowl eligibility.
— ODU Football (@ODUFootball) November 28, 2021
Rahne is likely taking Old Dominion to its second bowl game in program history, and its first since the 2016 season. The school moved up to the FBS level from FCS in 2014, when it made the quick jump into Conference USA during a time of significant conference realignment changes around the country.
Rahne is now in a position to have the second winning season in Old Dominion’s brief time as an FBS program, but the Monarchs will have to win their bowl game to do so. And whether or not they will get that opportunity remains to be seen.
Wins by LSU, Memphis & West Virginia makes it 83 bowl-eligible teams for 82 bowl spots, meaning a 6-win Group of 5 team will not go bowling
— Brett McMurphy (@Brett_McMurphy) November 28, 2021
There are 82 bowl spots to fill this season, and 83 teams clinched bowl eligibility. That means unless one team pulls out of the bowl season, some program is going to be left at home. And it’s not going to be one of the 13 bowl-eligible teams from the SEC staying home. It’s going to be a Group of 5 program, and Old Dominion could be on the chopping block.
There is still a decent chance Old Dominion will get to play in a bowl game somewhere, and perhaps we will learn more in the coming days. Bowl game matchups will be made official no later than Sunday, December 5.
We’ll be keeping an eye on Rahne’s Old Dominion program.
Charles Huff has Marshall bowling too
Ben Queen-USA TODAY Sports
Another former James Franklin assistant is also taking his program to a bowl game. Charles Huff, who left Penn State and his role as a running backs coach and special teams coordinator to join former offensive coordinator Joe Moorhead at Mississippi State in 2018, just wrapped up his second season as head coach at Marshall. Huff will also be taking his program to a bowl game following a 7-5 season.
This was Huff’s first season as head coach of the Thundering Herd, who came up short of winning the Conference USA East Division crown this fall. Huff did win the head-to-head matchup with Rahne earlier in the season, as referenced above.
We’ll watch to see where Huff will be coaching in the postseason as well.
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