Forty names, games, teams and details making the news in college football, where McKenzie Milton’s UCF legend continues to grow as Scott Frost’s oeuvre erodes:
A COACH DOWN… WHO’S NEXT?
It’s not expected to be a crazy season in the coaching market, but you never know. Nobody saw Lincoln Riley at USC or Brian Kelly at LSU come last year. And there is a growing trend of mid-season layoffs. (It’s not a big trend, unless the administration has some confidence that the season can be salvaged by a capable interim coach. Otherwise, the message to the players is that the work they’ve done is expendable in favor of a head start on the next hire.)
Given the state of affairs, it’s the Power 5 head coaches who need to keep a cool head in the coming weeks:
Brian Harsin (11), Auburn. The situation: Harsin is 8-7 at Dysfunction Junction, 2-0 this season, with wins over Mercer and San Jose State. Seat temperature: boiling. With the sports director Allen Greene out, Harsin has less administrative protection to keep the power booster cabal off his back and out of his business. They tried to push it back last winter and are freshly empowered to try again when the time suits them. Wheezing past San Jose State by eight didn’t do much to improve the atmosphere.
That said, Harsin has an immediate opportunity to rally some support with Penn State coming Saturday to the prettiest little village on the plains. It’s the third of five straight home games to start the season, and if the Tigers go 5-0 it would be a good stepping stone to a tough roster the rest of the way (six of the last seven opponents are currently 2-0 ).
Outlook: It may take a 2004-level rally at Tuberville for Harsin to keep his job after this season. If he wants to keep it.
Geoff Collins (12), Georgia Tech. The situation: Collins is 10-26 in his fourth season of a total program overhaul, with a predictable 1-1 start to the season – beaten hard by Clemson, then beaten West Carolina. Everyone knew it would be a major undertaking to modernize Paul Johnson’s approach, but it went on long enough with no return on investment to eradicate any patience.
Giving Collins a non-conference roster that includes two SEC opponents (Mississippi on Saturday and Georgia’s annual game at the end of the season) plus a road game against UCF is enough of a challenge. But the ACC is showing muscle early on, which adds to Tech’s difficulty.
Outlook: Over the course of two games, the Yellow Jackets don’t seem able to significantly improve their position – they have a plus-four rotational margin but still closer to 0–2 than 2–0. Collins will need to score unexpected wins to get to 6–6, and then administration will have to decide if that’s enough.
Neal Brown (13), West Virginia. The situation: Brown is 17-20 in his fourth season, 0-2 this year. lose it Fight in the yard guts-style was a rocky start, and after that, with a home loss to the Big 12’s perennial basement dweller, Kansas has the fanbase in a couch-scorching mood – not a Party.
Playing two Power 5 opponents on the road (Pitt and Sept. 22 at Virginia Tech) isn’t the friendliest schedule, though either way the trip is manageable and Mountaineer fans can turn up (and did it against the Panthers).
Outlook: The Big 12 tends to produce a lot of close games, and Brown needs to get on the right side of many in the coming weeks. This will require defensive improvement and a more consistent running game. It looks like a week-to-week situation unless the current losing streak continues.
Carl Dorrel (14), Colorado. The situation: Dorrell is 8-12 in his third season and is trending strongly in the wrong direction. After a massive evacuation through the transfer portal in the offseason, the Buffaloes are 0–2 with an average losing margin of 23 points. Colorado is 130th of 131 nationally in yards allowed per rush and 126th in passing efficiency. Major stakes on both sides of the ball.
This is another hot seat coach facing a perilous non-conference schedule, opening with TCU and road games against the Air Force and Minnesota. The Pac-12 isn’t the killer row, but even a petty-criminal league roster might be too tough for this team.
Outlook: Colorado has lost its way for so long it’s a very tough job, and Dorrell took it on at a time when the Buffaloes had struggled for 13 losing seasons in the previous 14 years. (Losing Mel Tucker after one season was a blow.) Still, this was a retread hire that meets previously set low expectations. You could argue that three seasons is too little time to work on a major rebuild, but you could argue that three seasons is too much if you hired the wrong person.
Herm Edwards (15), State of Arizona. The Situation: Edwards hasn’t done a bad job coaching; he’s 26-19 in his fifth season, 1-1 this year. The biggest problem is persistence NCAA investigation which has already shaken up its staff, led to numerous transfers, reduced recruitment and is likely to produce major allegations.
As for the on-court product: This season’s tenor should solidify over the next four weeks – Eastern Michigan, Utah, at USC and Washington. Next comes an open date. Come back then.
Outlook: It’s hard to find a way through the current predicament that ends with Edwards keeping his job. If he is not fired, the 68-year-old could retire before the group.
ACC coaches (16) who are smiling today but with a bad defeat close to falling back on the hot seat:
Mike Norvell, State of Florida. Beat LSU in New Orleans was a big moment for Norvell, who is 10-13 in his third season. But his late-game decisions contributed to a fumble, which gave the Tigers a chance to steal the win – mismanagement that might have been difficult to overcome had the result been the other way around. As it stands, the Seminoles are playing five consecutive season-defining games against Atlantic Division opponents: at Louisville on Friday, at Boston College, at Wake Forest, at North Carolina State, at Clemson. Win three or more and FSU will have shown tangible progress. Win two or less and the heat will return.
Dino Babers, Syracuse. The Orange are a dominant 2-0, which is not something that has been said for several years. Walloping Louisville in Game 1 was great, followed by an expected rout of Connecticut, which opens up the possibility of a 5-0 start with Purdue, Virginia and Wagner all at home in the next three weeks. Now Babers needs to win close games — he’s 2-7 in one-scored games the previous three seasons.
Scott Satterfield, Louisville. A listless season-opening loss to Syracuse had Cardinals fans jumping in droves, but the fourth-year coach brought some hope back with a UCF road upset. This will improve the atmosphere Friday night for Louisville’s home opener against Florida State, which is shaping up to be a swing game for both teams and both coaches. The school could enjoy some continuity and calm after constant (and costly) turnover and controversy in men’s basketball, but a tough second half of this season looms.
FOUR FOR THE PLAYOFFS
Each week, The Dash projects what the college football playoffs would look like if today was Draft Sunday. The current installment, if The Dash was the one-man selection committee:
Peach Bowl: the best seed Georgia (17) vs. fourth seed Ohio State (18)
The Bulldogs (2-0) embraced their new aerial circus offensive persona, tossing the ball 80 times and running it 57 times in a pair of blowout wins. Quarterback Stetson Bennett has had consecutive 300-yard passing games and hasn’t thrown an interception in his last four outings. Meanwhile, Kirby Smart’s defense is still Kirby Smart’s defense – the Dawgs have allowed three runs in two games. Next for Georgia: in South Carolina on Saturday.
The Buckeyes (2-0) saw their first victory over Notre Dame devalued by the Fighting Irish’s later flop against Marshall. Maybe keeping that attack at 10 points wasn’t such a big feat after all. But the expected offensive firepower materialized last week against Arkansas State, with the Buckeyes averaging 10 yards per play and producing five 20+ yard touchdowns. Next for Ohio State: Toledo Saturday.
Fiesta Bowl: Second seed Arkansas (19) vs third seed USC (20)
It’s about what a team has done, as opposed to what it’s supposed to do, so let’s face it, the Razorbacks (2-0) have the two best wins of the season so far, beating Cincinnati and La South Carolina and never trailing in either game. True to Sam Pittman form, they’ve been an offensive ground operation: 110 rushing attempts and 47 assists so far. Their revenue margin of plus four is the best in the SEC so far. Up next for Arkansas: Missouri State on Saturday, when former trainer and famed Harley-Davidson rider Bobby Petrino returns to Fayetteville.
The Trojans (2-0) sprint out of the gates under Lincoln Riley. They’re averaging 53.5 points per game, ranked second nationally in passing efficiency and first in turnover margin (plus-eight). If you want to name quarterback Caleb Williams as the top Heisman Trophy contender after two games (590 passing yards, 79.6 percent passing, six touchdowns, no interceptions), The Dash isn’t going to argue. But now it’s time to stop playing with academic powers. Next meeting for USC: Fresno State on Saturday.
Dropped last week: Florida.
Also considered: BYU, Kentucky, Alabama, Tennessee, Penn State.