Tag Archives: Les Miles

Les Miles And Ole Miss Are A Perfect Pairing

The big news in college football is about Hugh Freeze. Nope. The NCAA and its list of allegations didn’t catch up to Freeze. At least not yet. His “misdialing” an escort service is what proved to kill his career at Ole Miss. And now the Rebels are looking for a new head coach.

Matt Luke is serving as interim head coach as Ross Bjork begins the not so long search process. Being a month away from the 2017 season means that the pickings are slim. Due to that time constraint, the perfect candidate may seem like a long shot. This ideal candidate would need to have a sparkling image to go along with the ability to coach top-shelf talent. And in the perfect world, this candidate would bring enough name recognition to piece the 2018 recruiting class back together.

What if I suggested Les Miles as the perfect candidate for Ole Miss? Would he be someone you’d be interested in?

It has been reported that Miles has been in contact with Ole Miss. It’s no secret that he’s wanted back in coaching ever since LSU cut him loose. And with the season looming, who else with a national championship pedigree is going to be available or interested in the cleanup job at Ole Miss? The timing couldn’t have been better for Freeze’s escapades to surface if you’re Miles.

Miles does come with a certain amount of baggage. But it’s not NCAA baggage or $100-for-an-hour-in-the-backseat type of baggage. The baggage that Miles comes with is an inability to find and develop a quarterback. The last few offenses that Miles had at LSU were offensive. And that was with Leonard Fournette in his backfield.

Freeze’s strong suit just so happens to negate the offensive coaching deficiencies of Miles. Freeze was a magical recruiter. Was it always on the up-and-up? We’ll let the NCAA’s kangaroo court decide that. But Freeze will have left Miles with a stud of a quarterback in Shea Patterson. All Miles would have to do is hire an offensive coordinator to hand Patterson over to. And this time the offensive coordinator has got to be better than Cam Cameron.

Miles could win right away at Ole Miss provided he hires the right offensive coordinator and then gets out of his way. A name that I would like to see considered if Miles lands in Oxford is Dave Christensen. Christensen is now a consultant at Arizona State so he’s arguably available and his abilities as an offensive coordinator can’t be ignored. Just look at what he did as Gary Pinkel’s offensive coordinator at Missouri. Give his offense a quarterback like Brad Smith or Chase Daniel and his offenses will hum. Patterson and Miles would do just fine with Christensen as their offensive coordinator.

As far as the potential contract is concerned, Miles holds all the leverage. Miles could basically name his price, and if Bjork is smart, he’ll say yes. Remember, there is money for a new football coach since Freeze gave up his buyout when he resigned rather than being fired. At the age of 63, Miles could sign a 5-7 year contract with a clause that lets him walk away if the NCAA does end up hammering the football program.

Ole Miss needs a football coach. Miles wants a job and would be the best available candidate for most jobs. It’s now up to Bjork to make it happen.

Comment on this story in our free forum.

E-mail Seth at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @SethMerenbloom.

Photo: Wikipedia Commons

Five Way Too Early Predictions for SEC Football in 2017

I know we still have a while to go until we get our beloved SEC football Saturdays back, but I just can’t wait. SEC football is on my mind all the time. So here are just a few of my recurring thoughts about this coming season.

Georgia will be the team to beat in the East

Let’s be honest, Kirby Smart’s first season in Athens was a little underwhelming. The worst moment of the season for the Dawgs had to be that last-minute loss to the Vols at home. Just when Jacob Eason had led them down the field to take the lead, Josh Dobbs and Jauan Jennings connected for an unbelievable Hail Mary. I fully expect Georgia fans to be able to put that pain behind them next season. Eason will have more experience, the defense will have more experience, and coach Smart will also have more head coaching experience.

South Carolina will have more than one good upset win

This past season wasn’t particularly impressive for South Carolina in its first year under Will Muschamp. But, the Gamecocks did manage to get a pretty nice upset win over the Vols. They were a huge part of why Tennessee never made it to Atlanta. The Gamecocks showed promise in most games, even many of the losses. The only game they might want to erase from memory is that Clemson thrashing at the end of the season. But with another year under Muschamp’s guidance and with his recruits coming in, I anticipate two upset wins out of the Gamecocks this season.

Butch Jones will get run out of Knoxville

This call may be a little early. But with all his press conference clichés, I think this might be the year Tennessee fans grab their pitchforks and run Jones out of town. Heck, after that Vanderbilt loss to end the regular season my dad had decided not to renew his season tickets for 2017. Guess he doesn’t want to be part of another championship of life. Or maybe he just doesn’t have that five-star heart. All this being said, the Vols may be in trouble next season. Their defense is a huge question mark and now they have a question mark starting at quarterback too. Just ask the Gators how well that second question mark works out in the SEC.

Alabama will win the West…again

No other team was truly a tough match for Alabama in the West last year, with the biggest challenges coming from LSU and Ole Miss. Ole Miss later lost star quarterback Chad Kelly to injury and its season tanked. The Rebels were more of a pretender than an actual contender. LSU had a slow start, but ended up in some good games under then-interim (now head) coach Ed Orgeron. But at the end of the day, Alabama was still dominant in the SEC. Alabama dominated all the way until the national championship game that it lost to Clemson. That loss may sting, but with quarterback Jalen Hurts having more experience, I expect Alabama to be number one in the West and headed right back to Atlanta again in December. Also, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that Alabama still has Nick Saban.

But LSU will make it close

The LSU Tigers had arguably one of the most interesting seasons out of the entire SEC in 2016. Les Miles was fired and replaced on an interim basis by Defensive Line Coach Ed Orgeron. Orgeron led the team to a 5-2 finish (after starting the season 2-2 under Miles). Additionally, LSU dominated Louisville and its Heisman-winning quarterback Lamar Jackson in the Citrus Bowl. On top of all this, Orgeron put together a top ten recruiting class in his first time recruiting as LSU’s head coach. With Orgeron leading, talent returning, and talent coming in, the Tigers are poised to finish second in the SEC West and maybe even give the Crimson Tide a run for its money.

You can email Kristen at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter @KristenBotica.

Image courtesy of Sean Davis, Flickr.

Best and Worst of 2016: SEC

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to heaven, we were all going direct the other way – in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.

Charles DickensA Tale of Two Cities

Ain’t it so?! Dickens nailed it as a preface to our first annual “Best of, Worst of” here at Campus Pressbox. This week we will take a look at the best and worst of the 2016 SEC football season.

There will be no particular template or structure that I will utilize in sharing this with you. I, obviously, did not see all of the games that were played in the SEC, however I do have an opinion on these matters and that is the way it is done on our website. We are all about opinions.

Let us proceed!

Best game.Tennessee at Georgia. October 1st . Georgia leads by 10 points entering the fourth quarter, falls behind, and comes back to take the lead with 10 seconds remaining. Yet, somehow, the Bulldogs manage to allow the Vols to run a short kickoff back for a decent gain and also tack a five-yard offside penalty on top of it. Mary was then hailed and she responded, in spades, as time expired.

Watch here.

Worst game.Florida at Vanderbilt. Same day as UT at UGA, folks!  That Dickens guy was pretty darn prophetic, huh? The score was zip-zip at the conclusion of the first quarter and it went downhill from there. Two touchdowns were scored and the teams combined for 501 yards of total offense. Final score: Florida 13, Vanderbilt 6. U-gly!

Best Coach. Nick Saban. Love him or hate him, he got it done again in dominant fashion. A 12-0 regular season record and another SEC Championship was tacked on to his resume.

Worst Coach. Butch Jones. No one got less out of more than the chief of the “Champions of Life.” Everyone had Tennessee winning the SEC East and some had them in the College Football Playoff. The Vols wound up in the Music City Bowl with an 8-4 record.

Best Coaching Hire. Kevin Steele, defensive coordinator, Auburn. He moved, laterally, from LSU to the Plains. The results? Auburn’s best defense since the Tommy Tuberville era. The Tigers were downright salty with a lethal combination of seasoned veterans and talented newcomers, giving up a mere 15.6 points per game.

Worst Coaching Fire. LSU’s complete bungling of Les Miles’ dismissal. The gruesome process began near the end of the 2015 season and continued through the Tigers’ last second loss at Auburn. A comedy of errors.

Best Uniforms. This selection, a tie, is highly subjective but you just cannot beat Auburn and LSU. The two sets of Tigers are both resplendent in burnt orange, navy blue and white, and purple, gold and white, respectively. Home or away.

Worst Uniforms. Here we go again. Poor Tennessee. The smokey grey gear that they pull out on Rocky Top, occasionally, is truly tough on the eyes.

Best and Worst Attendance. The Texas A&M Aggies averaged 101,917 fans per home game. Vanderbilt, again, shows up in the worst category averaging 31,242 for the season. To add insult to injury, there are, often, more fans supporting the opposing team than black and gold clad spectators in NashVegas.

That’s it, boys and girls! Now we turn our attention to February 1st and the conclusion of the first of three sports seasons in the Southeastern Conference, recruiting. Soon to follow is spring practice. And then? A mere four plus months remain until we kickoff the 2017 season!

More best and worst from Saturday’s Down South.

Is the Big Ten Better Than the SEC Right Now?

It’s the age-old question that college football fans from the North and South love to quibble over because who doesn’t want to have bragging rights that their conference is undisputedly, top-to-bottom the best college football has to offer? Some say it’s still the SEC because Alabama won the national title this past season and is in prime position to claim it again in January. They also point to the depth and competitive balance of the conference and say its teams as a collective whole are a better product. At least they don’t have Rutgers or Maryland. Sigh. Fair enough.

However, others believe there’s been a shift in conference supremacy and that the Big Ten has surpassed the SEC with its coaching and quarterbacks.

Back in 2010, Auburn became the fourth SEC school to win a national title in five seasons and the league featured five national championship-winning coaches in Nick Saban, Les Miles, Urban Meyer, Steve Spurrier and Gene Chizik. In addition, James Franklin arrived at Vanderbilt, Mark Richt had won two league titles at Georgia and Bobby Petrino led a solid Arkansas program. Fast forward to the end of the 2016 season. Out of those eight coaches, Saban is the only one who remains and the SEC athletic directors have replaced those championship-caliber coaches with unproven leaders who have struggled.

Now, it’s the Big Ten that’s filled with solid coaching commodities, from Meyer building a powerhouse at Ohio State to Jim Harbaugh at Michigan, Paul Chryst at Wisconsin, and Franklin at Penn State. Moreover, Mark Dantonio, Kirk Ferentz and Pat Fitzgerald have been fixtures of stability at their respective programs. And don’t forget in the only regular Big Ten-SEC matchup this season, even with lesser talent and by far, much less expectations, Wisconsin led by Chryst in just his second year, outcoached an LSU team that had national title aspirations and was headed by the SEC’s second-best coach, Les Miles.

In terms of quarterbacks, I think it’s safe to say this year, the Big Ten’s signal callers were better. While he wasn’t Heisman Trophy-caliber worthy as once expected, J.T. Barrett was still really solid, as well as Trace McSorley, Wilton Speight and Clayton Thorson. However, for the SEC, with its consistent misses under center, more of its teams have been searching for the easy fix, courting junior college players and graduate transfers hoping to get a Russell Wilson. But instead, they’ve found John Franklin III and Greyson Lambert. The number of transfers being used at SEC schools is incredible. I find it even more ironic that the SEC gets all the high-profile, five-star quarterback recruits and are using Purdue rejects at flagship schools. Danny Etling won the LSU job and Austin Appleby guided Florida.

There are valid points to the argument the Big Ten is better than the SEC, and depending on how you look at it, the conference just may be better. But as much as it pains me to say it as I’m a staunch Big Ten supporter, I find it hard to make an argument that our conference is clearly above-and-beyond better than the SEC. Right now while there is more parity in the Big Ten at the top and it has more high-ranked teams than the SEC with four teams finishing in the top eight of the final College Football Playoff rankings, the bottom half of the conference really brings down the Big Ten compared to the SEC and hurts the Big Ten’s depth.

Bottom line is the SEC as of today owns the national title and to me, it’s all about the hardware. Could that change in a few weeks? Absolutely. But as for now, as of today, I’d give the edge to the SEC…just barely.

E-mail Mike at  or follow him on Twitter @MDeuces2051.

Image courtesy of Wikipedia

A Coach’s Guide to Keeping SEC Fans Happy

It seems like there are always coaching rumors out there. Between angry fan bases tired of their current coaches and fan bases hoping to hire a top candidate, coaches are always a hot topic. But what can coaches do in their current jobs to keep fans happy? More specifically, how can SEC coaches keep their fans happy?

We’ve said goodbye to a couple long-time coaches over the past year, Georgia’s Mark Richt and LSU’s Les Miles. Now, fans in the SEC East are displeased with a couple of coaches that really haven’t done anything except be pretty darn successful. The two coaches that come to mind are Tennessee’s Butch Jones and Florida’s Jim McElwain.

Using these four coaches, I’m going to set forth some simple guidelines that should help keep these finicky SEC fans happy.

1. Get top recruiting classes.

Butch Jones has done well recruiting while at Tennessee, with fans (like my dad) excited over many of the players he’s brought in. Jim McElwain has only brought in two classes, but has gained a name amongst fans because of all the three-star recruits he brings. Both Georgia and LSU averaged top ten classes over the past five years, but both Richt and Miles were fired. Okay, so maybe recruiting won’t save your job. But as McElwain knows, not recruiting the best players will make people mad at you even if you are successful.

2. Hire and/or fire the right coaches.

This one is big. McElwain brought in Doug Nussmeier to be his offensive coordinator at Florida. This hire has drawn all sorts of criticism from Gator fans since the Gator offense still looks pretty miserable. Even many of those who want to keep McElwain (and fans should want to keep him) are calling for him to get rid of Nussmeier. Jones, who is also drawing criticism from the fans, is getting heat for some of his coaching hires. After the way the defense has played this season, it seems like Bob Shoop as defensive coordinator may not have been the best hire for Jones even though he was touted as a “great get” for the Vols.

3. Keep your players out of trouble.

In some instances, this may not actually be a priority. Just look at all the Baylor fans that want former coach Art Briles back. But overall, keeping players out of trouble is important. If your team is making headlines because of the crimes the players commit off the field, then nobody is going to be able to pay attention to what the team does on the field. Keeping these young men out of trouble also gives them a much better shot of succeeding at the next level. As we’ve all seen with Johnny Manziel, bad behavior in college can turn into bad behavior once you’re a professional. And if things get bad enough, you can lose your job.

4. Don’t just win your division.

This is where I’m really looking at you, Gator fans. Jim McElwain came in to a pretty decent program with a solid defense but an abysmal offense. In both of his first two years at Florida, he has managed to navigate the Gators to the SEC Championship Game as the East Division Champions. In his first year, the Gators actually swept SEC East play. But apparently for some spoiled and/or delusional fans, just winning the division isn’t enough. And maybe it isn’t enough in the grand scheme of things, but in the first two years that kind of success is unprecedented. Literally.

5. Beat your rivals.

I cannot say this enough. Beating your rivals is possibly the most important goal to keep in mind as a head coach, aside from those big rings. But we’ll get to those. One thing Les Miles was struggling with lately was beating LSU’s biggest SEC West rival, Alabama. And maybe there isn’t a coach out there who could really beat Nick Saban. But fans were willing to try to find one. On the other hand, Jones finally beat two of Tennessee’s three biggest rivals this year. The Vols claimed their first victory over the Gators since 2004. The Vols also beat the Bulldogs for the second year in a row. So even with losses to South Carolina and Vanderbilt, Jones did accomplish some goals this season. Beating Florida and Georgia may not have gotten them the SEC East Championship, but it did get the fans some bragging rights. And that is really Coach Jones’ saving grace after an otherwise disappointing season.

6. Win rings.

Miles and Richt are great examples of why this guideline matters. In his entire time at Georgia, Richt only had less than eight wins in one season. He won the SEC East and the SEC multiple times. But one big thing Richt could never do was taking home a big championship. As I’ve previously said of him, he’s always the bridesmaid but never the bride. Close but no cigar. Miles did bring a National Championship home to Baton Rouge once. And I’m sure Tiger fans will always be grateful for that. But he struggled to make it back to the big game once Saban emerged as the best coach in all of college football. And for the LSU football program, this was unforgivable. Miles was a consistently good coach, but the school let him go to try to find a coach great enough to give Saban a run for his money. Then LSU hired Ed Orgeron… Interesting choice given exactly why Miles was let go, but that’s another story for another day.

7. Don’t use clichés as staples in your pressers.

This last one is something that may not seem important to everyone, but the way a coach presents himself and represents the program at press conferences is extremely important. Most recently, Jones completely violated this guideline. And consequently, #VolTwitter exploded. Talking about his team a little over a week ago he said, “They’ve won the biggest championship—and that’s the championship of life.” Is he a motivational speaker or a head football coach? I get it—the young men did well for themselves. Amen! But you can’t use lines like this to avoid taking ownership of the fact that you have failed to bring a National Championship, SEC Championship or even SEC East Championship to the program. If you don’t accomplish your goals, acknowledge it instead of sugar-coating it. Show the players, fans and recruits that you still want to win actual championships.

 

Bonus: Beat Nick Saban.

This one needs no explanation. Just beat Nick Saban. Somebody, please do it.

 

This list is obviously not comprehensive, but in using two former and two current SEC coaches as examples, I would like to think I’ve pin-pointed some important guidelines for keeping fans happy. Some fans (Hi, Gators) may never be satisfied, but that doesn’t mean a coach can’t do everything in his power to try to appease them. Coaches Miles and Richt: I’m sorry the fans gave up on you because good wasn’t good enough. Coaches Jones and McElwain: I’m rooting for you. We’re all rooting for you.

You can email Kristen at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter @OGKristenB.

Photo: Sean Davis, Flickr

The Sunday Morning Notebook: Another Afternoon Edition

This week of college football wasn’t nearly as exciting as the last, but there were definitely some shakeups in the college football world, including a tough Thursday night for a potential playoff squad and a big program firing (or not) that we all saw coming.

Enjoy a slightly later version of the Sunday Morning Notebook.

 

Louisville Falls from Playoff Contention

Not only that, but Lamar Jackson may have lost his chance at a Heisman after his Cardinals lost to Houston, 36-10, on Thursday.

Jackson, who was the presumed front-runner for the Heisman trophy, completed less than half of his passing attempts for 211 yards and a touchdown.  However, his 33 rushing yards were the fewest he’s totaled in a game all season even though he tallied the second highest carry total of the season.

The loss definitely exposed Louisville as a team that is dependent on the success of one player (Jackson).

The loss also adds a second to Louisville’s season total.  The Cardinals won’t be playing for an ACC Championship, so they can say goodbye to any hope of getting a playoff bid.

Notes:

  • Jackson’s 95.4 quarterback rating is the lowest rating he’s received all season and the only time his rating has been under 100.  He also failed to record more than one touchdown for just the second time this season, and the second time in two weeks.
  • Houston stormed out to a 31-0 halftime lead.  That’s a pretty staggering stat considering Louisville hasn’t trailed by more than 18 points all season.
  • Houston won its eighth game of the season and moved to 2-0 against top 10 teams.  We’ll talk more about UH Head Coach Tom Herman in a second.

 

Strong’s Time at Texas Coming to an End

 The story of the week was that University of Texas boosters desperately wanted head coach Charlie Strong fired and Houston HC Tom Herman hired.  That decision was made easier when Texas lost to Kansas.  Why? Because Kansas had a 23 game FBS losing streak and hadn’t beaten Texas since 1938.

Shortly after the game, strong was fired. Or was he? Yeah, he was. Wait… No, he wasn’t. Sources. Sources. Sources. Twitter…Sigh.

Either way, Strong is more-than-likely on his way out, which means Texas will need to find a new coach.  The most likely candidate- Tom Herman.

Notes:

  • Herman has a great résumé.  He led Ohio State’s offense to a Big Ten and National Championship in his last season as OSU offensive coordinator.  In two years as Houston’s head coach, Herman has amassed a 22-3 record with a conference championship and bowl victory.
  • If Texas can’t lure Herman, they may have to look to Les Miles, who is currently trying to figure out what to do in retirement.
  • Honestly, if Herman doesn’t work out, the Texas program will look even more silly than it already does.  Strong didn’t have enough time to develop a program at Texas and is probably still the best option for them, despite being fired.  I’d wager a decent amount of money that Strong will find success at another program.

Other Notes:

-Ohio State barely escaped East Lansing with a victory, and Michigan struggled as well.  The weather was terrible in both instances and each team’s struggle should not negatively impact their spot in the standings. That means we get to see a 2v3 matchup next week in Columbus.

-Clemson clinched a spot in the ACC Championship with its win over Wake Forest.  If the Tigers can win out, they should have no problem getting into the playoff.

-The fourth playoff spot is still in question.  If it isn’t Washington, it may very well be a second Big Ten team.  Ohio State, Michigan, Wisconsin and Penn State are all sitting in the AP Top Ten.

 

E-mail Evan at or follow him on Twitter @evanskilliter.

 

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

The Sunday Morning Notebook: Afternoon Edition

Please pardon my tardiness and please enjoy this week’s notebook.

 

Clemson Escapes Tallahassee

Deandre Francois did exactly what a quarterback can’t do on a fourth down with the game on the line – he took a sack.  That turnover on downs secured a 37-34 victory for Clemson to help the Tigers stay undefeated on the season.

Week-by-week, Deshaun Watson’s Heisman hopes continue to waiver.  His performances have been excellent, but his solid and consistent numbers are not staggering enough to earn him consideration for the award.

Last week, Watson’s performance was only average by Heisman standards (378 yards, two touchdowns, an interception, 35 rushing yards and a touchdown).  Yesterday, Watson completed 27 of 43 passes for 378 yards, two touchdowns, and two interceptions.  He also rushed for 52 yards.

Watson still doesn’t stack up to Lamar Jackson. Jackson has thrown for more yards and a higher passer rating. They’ve also thrown the same amount of touchdowns.
We can officially count Watson out for the trip to New York for the Heisman ceremony.

Notes:

  • Florida State’s final drive was possibly the worst final, comeback-attempt drive a top 25 team has ever had.
    • The drive started on FSU 21-yard line.
    • The first two plays each resulted in a first down.  A third-down holding penalty on the fifth play of the drive created a third and 23 from FSU’s 40 yard-line, but Francois completed a 26-yard pass to Travis Rudolph for the first down on the Clemson 34, which should have set up a game-tying field goal.
    • However, two different FSU linemen moved early on consecutive plays, pushing the Seminoles back ten yards and out of field goal range.  Francois threw consecutive incompletions, then took a sack on 3rd and 20.  After an FSU timeout, Francois took another sack on 4th and 32.
    • To recap: Florida State committed three penalties for -20 yards and gave up two sacks for -33 yards, including one on fourth down that ended their attempt to tie or win the game.
  • Dalvin Cook has been outstanding.  Cook rushed 19 times for 169 yards and a season-high four touchdowns, including this 70 yard TD run.  After three sub-100 yard games to start the season, Cook has averaged 168.2 rushing yards and nearly two rushing touchdowns per game. He’s 5th in the nation in rushing yards and 10th in touchdowns.
  • Clemson should cruise through the rest of its regular season schedule with matchups against Syracuse, Pitt, Wake Forest and South Carolina remaining.

 

Washington Remains Unbeaten

Washington may be the most balanced team in the country.  Jake Browning is a solid passer/decision maker and Myles Gaskin is electric (he averages 6.5 yards per carry).  At the same time, the Huskies’ defense has been stout, helping the team win games by an average of 30.4 points per game.

Browning passed for 186 yards, two touchdowns, and an interception, and Gaskin rushed for 151 yards and a touchdown on 19 carries.

Utah’s effort should not go unnoticed, however.  Quarterback Troy Williams threw for 163 yards, two touchdowns, and no interceptions.  Joe Williams carried the ball 35 times for 17 yards and a touchdown.  24 points are the second most points any team has scored on Washington all season.

Utah’s defense also held the Huskies’ offense to its fewest point total of the season.

Notes:

  • It’s very likely that the Utes and Huskies meet each other again in the Pac-12 championship game.  Utah is currently second, behind Colorado, in the Pac-12 South.  The two will meet in the last week of the season, which will likely decide the South champion.
  • Washington is tied with Washington State for first place in the North.  Washington will play Cal, USC, and Arizona State before a match-up with Washington State during the last week of the season, which could very well decide the North champion.

 

Cornhuskers Can’t Complete Comeback 

Many would consider Nebraska and Wisconsin to be the Big Ten’s third and fourth best teams. They surely played like it yesterday, as Wisconsin staved off a Nebraska comeback to beat the ‘Huskers 23-17 in overtime.

This was a defensive battle as neither team was able to get much going on the offensive end.  The only impressive offensive performance of the day came from Wisconsin’s Dare Ogunbowale.  Ogunbowale rushed for 120 yards and a touchdown on 11 carries (10.9 YPC).

Notes:

  • Nebraska still controls its own destiny in the Big Ten west.  It is currently ahead of Wisconsin with a 4-1 mark in the conference, but the Cornhuskers still have Ohio State to get through.  Wisconsin has a much more favorable remaining schedule (Northwestern, Illinois, Purdue, Minnesota).

 

Other Notes:

-Jimbo Fisher wasn’t happy with the referees.

-Les Miles really wants a new job.

-Boise State lost to the only team that can pull off a brown and yellow uniform combo.

Evan Berry is very fast

-Texas probably has no idea what to do with Charlie Strong. Just when it seems Strong will be axed, he wins a game like yesterday’s upset of Baylor.

-Notre Dame upset Miami but somehow still looked bad.

 

E-mail Evan at or follow him on Twitter @skilliter.

Photo: Flickr, Phil Roeder

A Look Ahead- The Impending Coaching Carousel

We’re not even halfway through the college football season, but it’s never too early to start talking coaching moves. Especially this year, as we’ve already seen one high-profile head coached fired and the proverbial hot seat growing increasingly warmer for many more.

Here is a look at the status of a few big-time coaches that will likely be on the move during the offseason (or sooner):

Les Miles- Formerly LSU

Miles has already been fired by LSU this season after an 18-13 loss to Auburn. Many saw it coming. Some thought he would be let go last season, and it wasn’t until late in 2015 that Miles was told by Athletic Director Joe Alleva that he would keep his job and head back to LSU in 2016.

Miles is 141-55 during his coaching career, and 8-6 in bowl games. He’s won one national title, two SEC championships, and three SEC Western Division championships.

He’s expressed interest in returning to coaching soon, leaving no doubt that he will be leading a program in 2017.

Tom Herman- Houston

Unlike the rest of the coaches that will be mentioned in this article, Herman has no chance of being fired from his role at Houston.  However, his return is not likely.

After an incredibly successful stint as Ohio State’s offensive coordinator, highlighted by a National Championship in 2014, Herman took over the Houston program in 2015. He led the Cougars to a 13-1 record, American Athletic Conference Championship, and Peach Bowl victory in his first season.

The Cougars were upset by Navy Saturday, but that won’t stop big programs from heavily pursuing Herman. He’ll be the hottest commodity on the market when the coaching carousel really gets spinning.

LSU has already inquired.

It’s very likely Herman will take the money and run when this season ends.

Charlie Strong- Texas

Before Strong took over the Texas program in 2014, Longhorns fans had seen just three sub-.500 seasons since 1990.  In his first season, Strong’s Longhorns finished 6-7.

In 2015, 5-7.

After two straight victories to start this season, Texas has lost three straight games while giving up an average of 48 points to the opposition.

Texas is growing impatient.

However, even though Strong is struggling to find success in the Big 12, he did successfully orchestrate the turnaround of a Louisville program that was crumbling under the Steve Kragthorpe era.

Louisville under strong:

2010- 7-6, bowl win

2011- 7-6, Big East Championship

2012- 11-2, Big East Championship, won Sugar Bowl

2013- 12-1, won Russell Athletic Bowl

It has been tough sledding at Texas, but Strong has a very impressive resume and shouldn’t have a problem securing employment if let go by the Longhorns.

Mark Helfrich- Oregon

After two successful years in Eugene to begin his head coaching career, due largely to the foundation Chip Kelly built, Helfrich’s Ducks finished 9-4 in 2015.  That was a tough pill to swallow for a fan base that hadn’t seen a four-loss season since 2007.

What’s more, it’s been a rough start to 2016.  The Ducks are on a four-game losing streak, capped by Saturday’s 70-21 loss to Washington at home.  Oregon hasn’t given up 70 points in a game since 1941.

Thanks to Nike, Oregon is one of the most recognizable brands in college sports, and that brand is in danger of seeing its first losing season in 11 years. Helfrich won’t last if that happens. With the lack of success on his resume, Helfrich likely won’t be in charge of a major program in 2017.

Notable Coaches on a Cooler Hot Seat

Clay Helton, USC– Helton’s Trojans came away with a tough win against 21st ranked Colorado Saturday night, which threw some water on the fire under Helton.  USC’s athletic department hasn’t been sure what direction they’ve been headed the last few seasons, but they need consistency before they will begin to see success.  You never know what will happen in Southern California, though.

Brian Kelly, Notre Dame– Kelly has had success almost everywhere he’s gone.  Kelly boasts a 228-84-2 overall record as a head coach, and despite a 2-4 start to this season, he’s 57-27 during his tenure with the Irish.  However, Notre Dame is a proud program with a history of success and if Kelly doesn’t get them back on track, he may be shown the door.

Gus Malzahn, Auburn– Malzahn’s Tigers went 12-2 in 2012 in his first season at the helm.  Since then, Auburn has been in decline, winning eight games in 2013 and seven in 2014. This season the Tigers are off to a 4-2 start, including two big wins against LSU and Mississippi State.  Malzahn may be on the coolest hot seat of them all, but if the Tigers don’t finish this season with seven or eight wins he could be in trouble.

Jim Mora, UCLA– Mora hasn’t had a losing season at UCLA, but he hasn’t been particularly impressive either.  UCLA is another program with a rich history, and after a 3-3 start to this season and the meat of the Pac-12 schedule in front of him, Mora could be in trouble.

Less Notable

Mark Stoops, Kentucky

Steve Addazio, Boston College

Derek Mason, Vanderbilt

James Franklin, Penn State

Darrell Hazell, Purdue

Pat Fitzgerald, Northwestern

Also, don’t forget, Jim Tressel’s show cause is up this year. He may not want to get back into coaching, but it’s certainly a fun prospect to entertain.

With just over half of the season yet to be played, some of these coaches may fall off this list and some may hop on before the end of the year.  One thing is for certain, though; we are in for a bumpy, wild ride.

Buckle up.

E-mail Evan at or follow him on Twitter @skilliter.

Photo: Neon Tommy, Flickr

Comment on this and every article by becoming a Campus Pressbox Insider.

LSU Is Bad and So Is Ed Orgeron’s Commerical

LSU, you are a mess. I don’t know how the Tigers are even functioning as a team right now.

First off, Les Miles was fired. It’s not that he should have kept his job or anything. Miles shouldn’t be coaching but he shouldn’t have been coaching at LSU this season in the first place. I mean, really? The administration tried to fire him last season and decided they’d rather not have the students riot. Clearly, the relationship wasn’t working out, so why bring him back at all? They should have cut him in the offseason and avoided all this nonsense.

What are you left with now? A head coach in Ed Orgeron who thinks it’s a good idea to try to change the offense before facing Florida, one of the best defensive teams in the SEC and the nation. The best part? The last time Orgeron was in the SEC, his last team at Ole Miss was pretty awful on offense. Ole Miss finished the season ranked #108 in scoring offense, #111 in total offense, and #112 in passing offense in 2006. Man, that’s who I want to be giving my team offensive advice.

If that doesn’t do it for you, he also appeared in a local car commercial. I’m not sure if there’s a pact with the devil you have to sign when you have a local car dealership but they have some of the worst commercials. This one’s no exception either. If you didn’t distrust him before, you definitely should now. Seriously, local car commercials are the worst.

But I digress. You’ve got a guy who was fired for having a terrible offense giving advice to your team that has a terrible offense. LSU is ranked 116th in passing yards per game and 98th in scoring. For the math majors out there, there are 128 teams which means… yeah, that’s real bad.

LSU already had to bench their quarterback, Brandon Harris, and are now starting a transfer from Purdue. In case you don’t follow the Big Ten or read my work regularly, Purdue is not very good. That’s me being nice to Purdue because I’ve been really mean to them lately.

A bad offense and a transfer quarterback who lost the starting job at Purdue, but at least LSU has Leonard Fournette, right?

Wait, wait, wait.

The best running back in the SEC isn’t even going to play? Come on, man. This isn’t even fun anymore. You’re just making it too easy, LSU.

Hey, at least the weather’s on LSU’s side! UCF has already canceled its game against Tulsa thanks to Hurricane Matthew. Georgia and South Carolina might be postponed as well, so LSU has a shot! You had a game changed from a road matchup to a home game against South Carolina last year, so maybe this one can be postponed or even canceled!

How sad is it that LSU probably has a better chance of getting this game canceled than actually winning? Florida is ranked 4th in points allowed, so if you factor in the current LSU offensive woes, how do you come to any other conclusion? If Miles were still there he’d pull something crazy out of his hat and the game would still be played.

LSU is a hot mess right now and is going to remain a hot mess until they can find a new coach. It won’t matter for this weekend, though. Miles might not be a great coach anymore but he had that weird “it” factor. Crazy things happened when he was on the sidelines. Orgeron doesn’t have that and it’s going to show this weekend. Well, that and the fact that LSU just isn’t very good this season.

E-mail Tim at [email protected].

Image courtesy Flickr via Creative Commons

Comment on this and every article by becoming a Campus Pressbox Insider.

Can the Oregon Ducks Come Out of their Downward Spiral?

Success can be a difficult thing to attain. It can also be a difficult thing to hang onto. If you doubt that, just ask any Oregon Ducks fan right now. There are more Duck fans flying off the bandwagon than there are actual ducks heading south right now. What has happened to the Oregon Ducks?

Depends on who you ask.

I believe it has come down to recruiting and the inability to develop a quarterback, but not Mark Helfrich.

Let’s start with recruiting.

The Ducks don’t recruit the type of player they have in the past. The lack of playmakers on the team is apparent to anybody that watches Oregon games. Players like Marcus Mariota, Ed Dickson, Jonathan Stewart, and Patrick Chung aren’t walking through the doors of the football facilities at Oregon anytime soon.

From 2010-12 the Ducks put together recruiting classes that ranked in the top-15 nationally. Let’s also remember that this was during the Chip Kelly years. The recruiting classes that Kelly put together had an average of 10 players that had a four-star rating attached to their name. Getting that many quality players for three years was bound to make a difference for the Ducks. Here’s the issue though:

Since 2013, the average rank of Oregon’s recruiting classes has been 21st. The amount of four-star players has dipped to seven on average, and the Ducks have only had two five-star players since 2013.

Let’s face the reality that coaches face. Talented players make their coaches look brilliant, but when the talent is running thin, that same coach doesn’t look so amazing anymore.

For the Ducks to get back to what the Ducks were a few seasons ago, they have to hit the recruiting trail harder. Oregon has to sell the University of Oregon much better. The mistake I think the Ducks make is that the their coaches believe that players are just lining up to come to Eugene. They are not lining up anymore. Not that they really were.

Oregon is not Ohio State or Alabama.

Secondly, since Marcus Mariota took his Heisman Trophy playmaking skills to the NFL, the Ducks haven’t had any consistency at the quarterback position. It’s hard to replace a legend at a school, but you need to at least have a plan in place to find someone to fill that role.

The logical choice may have been Jeff Lockie, but he came in and looked like he had never played football before. He was dreadful. Vernon Adams Jr, a graduate transfer, came from Eastern Washington University and played pretty well, but injuries hurt Adam’s overall effectiveness with the Ducks.

You would think the Oregon coaching staff would have a redshirt-freshman who might be able to take over the offense for the next few seasons.

Nope.

Oregon went fishing in the graduate transfer waters again, bringing Dakota Prukop up from the depths of Montana State. What has he provided?

Well, Prukop hasn’t been great, but he hasn’t horrible either. In effect, he has been a game manager. Prukop isn’t throwing for an insane amount of yards per game, but he’s not Jeff Lockie either.

With Oregon’s recent struggles, some have questioned whether or not Prukop can stay in his starting role. Some media types and fans want the Ducks to see what freshman Justin Herbert can do.

The most popular player on the team is always the back-up quarterback. However, Herbert has not taken any meaningful snaps and people want this young kid thrown out onto the field against the Husky defense this weekend? If you do that you risk his confidence being shattered into a thousand pieces. The Washington defense is nothing to take lightly. Put Dakota Prukop out there. It’s the smart move to make, Oregon.

Lastly, the coaching always comes under fire when things don’t go well. Especially considering the fragile mental state of most Oregon fans. The program has not been relevant for long, but the program acts like they have been around forever. This little downturn with their win/loss record is a reminder that you have to work hard to keep the talent coming.

Should Mark Helfrich be fired?

No.

Who do the Ducks think will come to Eugene? Not Les Miles or Tom Herman. Mark Helfrich is not Urban Meyer or Nick Saban, but those type of elite coaches are the exception, not the rule. I don’t see a better candidate available for this program.

The Oregon program has always wanted their football coach to represent the school in a classy way, positively represent the state of Oregon, and to conduct his life with integrity. To anybody outside the state of Oregon that may be hard to understand, but that is how it’s always been. Mark Helfrich does those things.

This is Helfrich’s first season of losing and now people want him gone. You want to fire a coach with a 35-11 record? That translates to a 76% win percentage. Yeah, that makes lousy sense. The tendency to have these knee jerk reactions is a symptom of social media. A quick fix is not going to change anything for Oregon. Helfrich knows the game and he relates to his players well. Helfrich is the guy for this football program.

You know what changes things for football teams? Talent. Recruit playmakers, Oregon. You got great talent to come to the little town of Eugene before. You can do it again.

Image: Courtesy of Mike Wilson

Email Mike at mike (dot) wilson (at) campuspressbox (dot) com or follow Mike on Twitter @pigskinopinion