by | College Football Insider

Rules of Engagement: Embree deserves third season at CU, ND pushing its luck

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Jon Embree's Buffs are in danger of finishing last nationally in scoring offense and defense. (Getty Images)  
Jon Embree's Buffs are in danger of finishing last nationally in scoring offense and defense. (Getty Images)  

Rule No. 6,823: Unless they do something really egregious or show zero promise, struggling head coaches should probably get more than two years on the job.

One of the country's most intriguing head coaching transitions belongs to Colorado, a once-proud program trying to pick itself up from the Pac-12 turf. What does a school do when two years is hardly enough time to build a program, yet the on-field product is approaching historically bad levels?

Jon Embree is 4-18 in his second season, and about the only positive is three of those wins are in conference play. But this year's Buffs (1-8) are actually in danger of finishing dead last nationally in scoring offense and defense. They are ranked 122nd out of 124 Football Bowl Subdivision teams in offense and 124th in defense, sparking a tight race with UMass (124th/123rd) for the dubious 124-124 club. Last week, Colorado was shut out at Folsom Field for the first time in 26 years, 48-0 to Stanford. It's worth noting Embree inherited a mess. The roster has eight seniors. Former coach Dan Hawkins' recruiting efforts were lackluster at best. The Buffs easily have one of the country's youngest two-deeps.

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And then there's this: Save Bill McCartney's successful 13-year run, five Colorado coaches from 1974-2010 have averaged 4.8 years of tenure.

Colorado has one bowl win since 2000. The school could use stability.

Those factors shouldn't fully justify the Buffs' atrocious play. Clearly, the product should be better.

But athletics director Mike Bohn isn't hyperventilating despite a college football fan base with the patience of a Wendy's drive thru customer at 2 a.m.

Bohn said he believes two years is not enough to build a program and has seen enough from Embree to feel good about the future based on observations he's made of his adjustments and strategies from week to week. "It might take a little longer than it might at an institution where they inherited a higher level of talent," said Bohn, also acknowledging the move to the Pac-12 as an adjustment. "We recognize the sense of urgency, and we want to do what we can to provide for Jon's operation with the football program and particularly the fans to understand the importance of their role. Challenging times will require a resilience." It starts with recruiting, where Embree signed the country's No. 36 recruiting class last year according to Rivals.com -- up from the 74th-ranked class the year before. These rankings are an inexact science, but highlight potential.

Colorado's name doesn't carry the same cache as two decades ago, but the Buffs need incremental progress at this point. A seven- or eight-win season in 2013 would be momentous considering the circumstance.

In today's coaching game, however, it's easier than ever to reach the dreaded point of no return. Auburn's there. Purdue's there.

Colorado is not, McCartney says. "He needs time to play the guys he's recruiting," McCartney said. "They've got to quit turning it over."

Rule No. 102: When Scooby Doo's favorite quarterback collides with Darth Vader's favorite defense, the results could be tremendous.

Texas A&M's Johnny Manziel averages 102 rushing yards per game. Alabama hasn't allowed a quarterback to rush for more than 50 yards since Tim Tebow had 63 in 2009 SEC title game, per the Mobile Press-Register's Andrew Gribble.

Need more be said about the intrigue in Tuscaloosa this weekend?

The defense that thwarted Manziel was LSU, which prevented him from extending plays outside the pocket and applied pressure without blitzing.

Alabama is capable of a similar performance, but perhaps Manziel has found ways to improve from three weeks ago in College Station.

Oregon, Kansas State and Notre Dame are hoping so.

Rule No. 838: At least two of these four top-15 teams will fall at some point in the final three weeks.

The Rules Committee sees No. 4 Notre Dame, No. 6 Florida, No. 7 LSU and No. 11 Oregon State as programs susceptible to an upset. If Collin Klein stays healthy, Kansas State will join Oregon and Alabama in the early December undefeated pool.

Notre Dame is harder to place in this category because, when does Irish luck run out when you have the nation's 90th-ranked passing offense?

Four of the Irish's last six games have been decided by seven points or less, which is a credit to Notre Dame's toughness.

And maybe the committee isn't enjoying the Everett Golson experience in its purest form -- with a hammer in one hand and a pink balloon in the other. Golson's collage of costly mistakes and brilliant playmaking, often in the same game, keep the Irish entertaining.

But if the Irish catch USC on a day when the Trojans fulfill their potential, Notre Dame will have to win with the passing game, which is tough to trust right now.

Florida State is surging entering the late-November clash with Florida in Doak Campbell. The Seminoles could catch Florida on an off day.

Mississippi State needs a frustration win to cleanse a two-week pounding at the hands of Alabama and Texas A&M. LSU might still be hung over from last week's loss to Bama in Death Valley. This combination could play in the Bulldogs' favor, if Tyler Russell slings it efficiently.

Rule No. 297,384: Enjoy a good quote.

Here are three that caught the committee's attention early this week.

 "We still haven't played a complete game yet...If we can do that, I think we can be dangerous for anybody." -- Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin

 "Marqise Lee is the best WR I've seen since I scouted Randy Moss." -- Stanford coach David Shaw

 "I'm dancing at two more weddings and we're hoisting that trophy together." -- Colts coach Chuck Pagano, who is in remission from leukemia

Rule No. 502: Joker Phillips is a classy dude. Phillips, who went 12-23 at Kentucky, got less than three years at a place that, at least according to perception, didn't invest enough resources in facilities and recruiting. It's also a place where Phillips spent 23 years as a player and coach. On Sunday, he was fired. But if Phillips was jaded by it all, he hid it well.

"The thing I'd tell Big Blue Nation is I'm part of you," said Phillips at his post-firing press conference Tuesday, according to reports. "I will continue to buy my season tickets."


Jeremy Fowler is a national college football insider with CBSSports.com. Fowler joined CBS in 2012 after covering the Minnesota Vikings for the St. Paul Pioneer Press for two seasons and covering the Florida Gators for the Orlando Sentinel for two years. Fowler is also a contributor to the CBS Sports Network.
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