Posted on: January 20, 2011 3:51 pm
Posted by Jerry Hinnen
College football fans love to chatter about which of the 11 FBS conferences is best. They get much less excited to discuss which of them is worst, though for the few who do, this past bowl season provided some quality fodder when the two leagues generally considered the FBS's weakest -- the MAC and Sun Belt -- squared off in three different bowl games. The Sun Belt came out ahead 2-1, with Troy dominating Ohio and FIU winning a 34-32 barnburner over Toledo. (MAC champion Miami (Ohio) did cruise past Middle Tennessee State for the Midwestern league's victory in the MAC-SBC "Challenge.") Case closed?
Not even close. This week the College Football Blog reviewed all 22 (or 21, if you don't count Dana Holgorsen at West Virginia) new head coaching hires in our Headset Reset series , and that review turned up something interesting about the Sun Belt and the MAC: namely, that the MAC is making much stronger coaching hires.
First, look at the MAC's new coaches : two of them are coordinators from two of the 2010 Big Ten co-champions; one was the offensive coordinator and highest-ranking assistant for Urban Meyer's national-title winning program at Florida ; one was a longtime position coach and ace recruiter for Ohio State; and the "weakest" of the hires on paper, Ball State's Pete Lembo, is a 40-year-old coach with 10 years of successful head coaching experience on the FCS level already under his belt.
Contrast that with the Sun Belt's three choices: one a promotion from within the Arkansas State staff, one a potentially past-his-prime Florida position coach, the other the Mississippi State wide receivers coach.
All three of those hires could prove to be shrewd (it's not as if Dan McCarney and Mark Hudspeth don't have quality head coaching experience to draw on, and Hugh Freeze has been knocking on the door of his own head coaching gig for years). But if the MAC is to the Big Ten as the Sun Belt is to the SEC, then you'd have seen the SBC hiring the SEC equivalents of Don Treadwell or Dave Doeren (pictured at right), well-regarded college-first coordinators like Manny Diaz or John Chavis or Mike Bobo. That's not happening. In fact, the only 2010 SEC coordinator to take a head coaching job this offseason went to ... Temple.
(As an aside, this might also be an indication of the relative strength of the Big Ten and SEC; where SEC schools are willing to pay top dollar to retain their best assistants and keep them out of the clutches of smaller schools, the Big Ten watches the likes of Treadwell and Doeren walk away.)
The Sun Belt's bowl performance was nice. But until they show they can land the same caliber of coaching talent as their Midwestern counterparts (or, more easily, the WAC says its official goodbyes to Nevada, Fresno State and Hawaii) they should continue to be regarded at the bottom of the FBS conference barrel.
Tags: Arkansas State, Ball State, Big Ten, Dan McCarney, Dana Holgorsen, Dave Doeren, Don Treadwell, FIU, Florida, Fresno State, Hawaii, Headset Reset, Hugh Freeze, John Chavis, MAC, Manny Diaz, Mark Hudspeth, Miami (Ohio), Middle Tennessee State, Mike Bobo, Mississippi State, Nevada, Ohio, Ohio State, Pete Lembo, SEC, Steve Addazio, Temple, Toledo, Troy, Urban Meyer, WAC, West Virginia
Posted on: January 18, 2011 2:31 pm
Edited on: January 18, 2011 2:31 pm
Posted by Jerry Hinnen
"Headset Reset" is the College Football Blog's series reviewing the 22 new head coaches in the FBS and what they'll need to accomplish in their new jobs to succeed. In this edition: the four new head coaches in Conference USA and the Sun Belt .
BILL BLANKENSHIP, Tulsa
Why him? Former Tulsa quarterback was promoted from running backs/special teams coach to maintain 10-3, top-25 status quo. For 2011, Blankenship needs to: find a replacement for departed offensive coordinator Chad Morris, who took the same position at Clemson after being passed over the Tulsa head job; the right hire could turn Tulsa's nine returning offensive starters (including quarterback G.J. Kinne and all-purpose weapon Damaris Johnson) into another double-digit win season. By 2014, Blankenship will need to have: won a C-USA title. For all of the Golden Hurricane's offensive fireworks under Todd Graham, their only league championship came back in 2005 under Steve Kragthorpe. Chances Blankenship gets what he needs? Fair-to-middling. Tulsa's points-happy brand should be strong enough to keep them near the top of the league standings (provided Blankenship doesn't blow the OC hire), but will simply promoting a position coach really be enough to get them over the hump?
DAN McCARNEY, North Texas (pictured)
Why him? Far and away the most recognizable name among the new C-USA/SBC hires, the 57-year-old McCarney spent 12 successful seasons as Iowa State's head coach before supervising the defensive lines at South Florida and Florida. For 2011, McCarney needs to: just offer some kind of hope. The snake-bitten Mean Green (4 losses in 2010 by total of 13 points) have won only 13 games in six seasons. By 2014, McCarney will need to have: found some semblance of a defense. UNT hasn't had too many problems offensively, but they won't accomplish anything until one of the nation's worst defenses is brought up to code. Chances McCarney gets what he needs? Decent. McCarney may be a little too long in the tooth (and the program may have decayed too badly) to bring back the Mean Green's early-Aughts glory days, but the old pro should have the defensive chops to at least bring UNT back to respectability.
HUGH FREEZE, Arkansas State
Why him? Former Ole Miss assistant made famous by The Blind Side was promoted from offensive coordinator after leading Red Wolves to better than 400 yards per game, vaulting them from 95th to 43rd in total offense. For 2011, Freeze needs to: get to .500. Disappointing 4-8 records the last two seasons earned Steve Roberts a pink slip, but with Ryan Aplin back at quarterback and better luck due after going 1-5 in one-possession games in 2010, there's no reason (other than a revamped offensive line) Freeze can't get the Red Wolves back to 6-6. By 2014, Freeze will need to have: established ASU as an upper-tier Sun Belt program. Getting past Troy and up-and-coming FIU won't be easy, but there's nothing stopping the Red Wolves from joining in the SBC mix. Chances Freeze gets what he needs? Good. Freeze knows his way around the Arkansas and Tennessee recruiting scenes and has a sharp offensive mind; those traits alone should be enough to get the Red Wolves back to the postseason (for the first time since 2005) sooner rather than later.
MARK HUDSPETH, Lousiana (formerly UL-Lafayette)
Why him? Before taking a job on Dan Mullen's staff at Mississippi State , Hudpseth excelled as the head coach at Division II North Alabama, going 66-20 in seven seasons. For 2011, Hudspeth needs to: right the ship. A series of near-misses at a winning season under Rickey Bustle dissolved in a 3-9 disaster in 2010; a simple step in the right direction will be enough for one of the FBS's most tradition-deficient programs. By 2014, Hudspeth will need to have: earned a bowl bid. The Ragin' Cajuns have never taken part in FBS postseason play. Chances Hudspeth gets what he needs? Not bad. There's room to be upwardly mobile in the Sun Belt, and despite a relatively bare cupboard, Hudspeth has quality head coaching experience at only 42 years of age.
Tags: Arkansas State, Bill Blankenship, Chad Morris, Clemson, Conference USA, Damaris Johnson, Dan McCarney, Dan Mullen, FIU, Florida, G.J. Kinne, Headset Reset, Hugh Freeze, Iowa State, Louisiana, Mark Hudspeth, Mississippi State, North Alabama, North Texas, Ole Miss, Rickey Bustle, Ryan Aplin, South Florida, Steve Kragthorpe, Steve Roberts, Sun Belt, The Blind Side, Todd Graham, Troy, Tulsa, UL-Lafayette
Posted on: November 9, 2010 12:01 am
Edited on: November 9, 2010 12:13 am
Posted by Adam Jacobi
The latest BCS rankings are out, and there's not much to be surprised about; Auburn is No. 1, Oregon is No. 2, and TCU is No. 3. In the human polls, Oregon's easily the top-ranked team. and anyone who actually watches the games can see why: the Ducks play football at an undeniably higher level than anybody else in college football. It's that simple.
Ah, but this column is not to argue that Oregon deserves the top spot in the BCS rankings over Auburn; not only is that argument obvious, it's immaterial, because it wouldn't alter the BCS Championship Game in any way. No, the real issue here is that as of right now, Auburn doesn't belong in the national title game; TCU does.
Here's the deal. First off, there is no single-game performance Auburn has under its belt this season that is as impressive as TCU's 47-7 dismantling of Utah at Rice-Eccles Stadium. Yes, Auburn beat LSU by a whole touchdown after rushing for 440 yards. Auburn also played every single non-conference game at home, against Chattanooga, UL-Monroe, Arkansas State, and Clemson (who, not surprisingly, took Auburn to overtime and likely would have won at Clemson). Auburn's best road win? 17-14 over Mississippi State. The fact that Auburn has gotten away with such scaredy-cat scheduling is a testament to the water carried by SEC apologists more than any serious examination of the Tigers' schedule. Auburn's strength of schedule is 40th in the Sagarin ratings. Granted, TCU's is 62nd, but that's not exactly the chasm of competition that any college football fan south of the Mason-Dixon would have you believe.
Second, and more to the point of deserving the No. 2 ranking: TCU would beat Auburn, and maybe by double-digits. Sure, TCU has never seen an offense like Auburn's or a quarterback like Cam Newton. By the same token, the Auburn offense has never seen a defense like TCU's, which is head-and-shoulders above everybody else's -- even LSU's.
In fact, between the two teams' offensive and defensive units, there's only one spot of mediocrity, and that's Auburn's defense. The Tigers gave up 43 points to Arkansas at Auburn -- and most of those points were to the Razorbacks' backup quarterback. The Auburn starters gave up two first-half touchdowns to Chattanooga, 16 first-half points to Arkansas State, 34 points to Kentucky, and 31 to Ole Miss. What's more likely: TCU puts up 30 on the Auburn defense, or Auburn scores 30 on TCU's? There's no way Auburn's the right answer there.
Look again at the Sagarin ratings linked above. TCU is ranked second. Auburn is fourth. In terms of the predictor (which uses point differential, which is strictly verboten in the BCS), TCU is still second. Auburn? 11th. On a neutral field -- like, say, a bowl game -- TCU would be favored in this matchup. Why? Because right now, TCU is better than Auburn.
Of course, this is all academic; as Dennis Dodd has correctly pointed out, if Auburn wins at Alabama two weeks from now then dispatches its SEC East opponent for the conference crown, the Tigers will likely have proven that they deserve the BCS Championship Game berth. Those are both big ifs; Auburn hasn't proven itself as a serious title contender away from Jordan-Hare yet. The Tigers win both of those, and they've earned a top spot. Until then, though, the TCU Horned Frogs deserve the title shot -- not Auburn -- and it would thus be erroneous to act disappointed if the Tigers stumble and "let" TCU into the BCS Championship spot they've earned so far.
Also, it's obviously worth mentioning that the fact that this debate even needs to take place at all is ludicrous; there should be a four-team playoff. A plus-one, if you will. TCU and Auburn deserve to settle this score on the field, and Auburn fans deserve to watch the real title contender through 10 weeks prove its mettle.
Posted on: October 27, 2010 4:15 pm
Edited on: October 27, 2010 4:37 pm
Posted by Tom Fornelli
Unless you're a fan of Florida Atlantic football, you probably have no idea who Dave Lamont is, and I can't blame you. I had no idea who Lamont was until about five minutes before I started writing this post, but I can tell you that he's now one of my favorite play-by-play guys in college football.
Move over, Pam Ward! There's a new man in town.
You see, Dave Lamont and I have quite a few things in common. Neither of us are big fans of quarterbacks taking shots to the head while carrying the ball after they've already slid and ended the play ... which is exactly what happened to FAU quarterback Jeff Van Camp during a game against Arkansas State last week, and Lamont got a bit angry over the lack of a penalty flag.
The other thing we have in common is that we're willing to fight anybody in the press box, anytime, anywhere. Bring it on, beat jockeys.
Unfortunately, Lamont and I stop having things in common here, as he has since apologized to everybody in the press box since making the remarks, though he's saving his apology to Sun Belt commissioner Wright Waters until he sees him in person this weekend. I wouldn't apologize for anything because I'm right stubborn.
Hat tip: SBNation and Spencer Hall, whom I wouldn't fight, even if I saw him in a press box staring me down. Not because I'm scared, but because he bought me a beer once.
Posted on: October 23, 2010 10:39 pm
J. Darin Darst
2. Circle your calendars for a showdown next weekend of the two best teams in Conference USA next weekend -- East Carolina at UCF. The Pirates have won three in a row and are averaging 38 points per game over that stretch. Meanwhile, UCF has the conferences best defense, which has allowed only 11.6 points over its three-game winning streak. The winner of this game should decide the East Divison in the conference and will be the favorite to win the C-USA crown and that Liberty Bowl berth. It's going to be a great matchup in Orlando. What a weekend you could plan -- watch UCF take on East Carolina and after the game head on over to Universal Studios for Halloween Horror Nights.
3. How good is this Hawaii team? Utah State was supposed to be a sleeper team and hung with Oklahoma, but all Hawaii did was blast them 45-7. Bryant Moniz ... has anybody else outside of Hawaii heard of this guy? He only leads the nation in passing yards and finished Saturday with another 389 yards. The biggest question we all want to know is, can the Warriors (6-2) give Boise State a game? We are going to find out soon enough -- at Boise on Nov. 6.
4. Who is the Sun Belt's second-best team? Since the conference has two bowl bids this year, somebody has to grab that second spot, right? Louisiana-Lafayette looked like it might finally grab a bowl bid, but ended up losing at home to Western Kentucky 54-21. The Hilltoppers hadn't won a game in close to three years. Maybe its Arkansas State? The Red Wolves are now 3-2 in the conference and played Troy really close (Lost 35-28). Big game for Arkansas State on Nov. 2 as it takes on Middle Tennessee. FIU was off this week, but it is 2-0 in Sun Belt play. Will somebody please step up in the coming weeks!
5. Miami (Ohio) isn't all that great and the fade is beginning. Sure the RedHawks were 3-0 in the conference, but just lost to Ohio, a key game in the East Division. They now have three of their final four games on the road, including next week at Buffalo. I'm not sure they are going to be able to win the division. Ohio and Temple are much better teams and with the conference only getting three bowl bids, Miami (Ohio) is most likely going to be left out. Meanwhile, Northern Illinois is making a HUGE statement in the West as it has now won five in a row. Get ready for the game on Nov. 9 against Toledo, which will likely decide who reaches the MAC title game.
Posted on: September 4, 2010 9:13 pm
Posted by Adam Jacobi
Sure, it's just Arkansas State, but if Florida transfer Cam Newton's first two quarters as an Auburn Tiger are any indication, Auburn is in for a heck of a season this year.
In the first half, Newton threw for 100 yards, ran for nearly 150 more, and scored four touchdowns--2 on the ground, 2 in the air. Three of his touchdowns came from at least 36 yards out.
Auburn leads Arkansas State 35-16 early in the second half.