Wednesday, October 1, 2014

NCAA Football Weekend Primer: Heads Could Roll

Florida coach Will Muschamp (left) and Michigan coach Brady Hoke (right) are in dire need of a win this week.
By Joe Parello (@HerewegoJoe)

We had our first major college football head coach firing earlier this week, as the inevitable failure of Charlie Weiss at Kansas finally met its predictable end point.

After compiling a 6-22 record in just over two years of work at KU, including an abysmal 1-18 mark in Big 12 play, Weiss was relieved of head coaching duties at the major college level for the second time in five years. The supposed "offensive guru" was also fired from Notre Dame in 2009 after his Irish squads limped to a 16-21 record over his final three years, after qualifying for BCS Bowl games in his first two seasons.

Weiss getting the ax in Lawrence certainly wasn't a surprise, and there are several other coaches that could get canned sooner rather than later. So, I know we've got a great slate of games this weekend (more on that later), but let's take a look at all the guys coaching for their jobs over the next few days.

Coaches Feeling the Heat (and who they're playing this week)

In Must-Win Mode:

Michigan's Brady Hoke at Rutgers
Florida's Will Muschamp at Tennessee

Here are your two "dead men walking," but I actually think Muschamp can still find redemption. After a horrific last 11 games, and the Stephen Morris controversy, Hoke may be a lost cause, and a defeat at Rutgers would probably only push his inevitable firing up a few weeks. But, if Muschamp's Gators pick up a road win against the Vols, then win two out of three against ranked opponents (home vs a vulnerable No. 15 LSU, home vs beaten up and overrated No. 24 Missouri, in Jacksonville vs bruised No. 13 Georgia), he could spend another year frustrating Florida alums and Gainesville townies.

Trouble in Paradise:

Miami's Al Golden at Georgia Tech
UCF's George O'Leary at Houston
FIU's Ron Turner vs FAU

Muschamp isn't the only guy in the Sunshine State feeling the heat (ha, get it, because it's warm there?). The Canes have had zero swag under Golden, and another slip back toward the middle of the ACC could mean he'll need to do something big down the stretch to save his neck. How big? I don't want to say he'll need to beat FSU, but it wouldn't hurt.

O'Leary, meanwhile, is coming off a Top-10 season that culminated in a Fiesta Bowl win, but his Knights are 1-2, and he's facing a lawsuit from a former coach alleging bizarre racist behavior. He's quietly done a great job during his time in Orlando, but this growing program doesn't need a scandal, and if he drops one at mediocre Houston, then fails to make a bowl, UCF could ditch him in favor of a younger, cleaner name.

Turner was a bizarre, retread hire for FIU two years ago, and his 1-11 debut didn't exactly inspire confidence. Still, the Panthers have already doubled that total this year, and opened C-USA play with a convincing win over UAB. His seat has cooled a bit, but a loss against equally pedestrian rival FAU could remind everyone why he was never the right choice for the job.

Small Time in the Big Ten:

Purdue's Darrell Hazell and Illinois' Tim Beckman vs each other (at UI)
Indiana's Kevin Wilson vs North Texas

The states of Indiana and Illinois have some great coaching drama, though none are likely to be chopped this week. Beckman is in just his third year at Illinois, and Hazell just his second with the Boilermakers, but neither has done much to show dramatic improvement thus far. Beckman at least got the Illini a conference win last year… Against Purdue. That Purdue team went 1-11, and may have been the worst team in Big Ten history during Hazell's first season.

Whichever coach loses this game won't be done right away, but this game could ultimately be the one that seals either of their fates down the road. Not a lot of potential Ws left on the schedule for either program.

Wilson, meanwhile, cooled his seat a bit two weeks ago with a road win against Missouri, but came back down to Earth last week with a 22-point home loss against Maryland.

Wilson's teams have shown flashes, particularly on offense, but they've been hot and cold thus far this year, knocking off the reigning SEC East champions, while losing to a Big Ten also-ran and Bowling Green in the same month.

A loss to North Texas, a bottom-half C-USA team, would probably require a miraculous finish to the season for Wilson to survive.

Heartland Heartache:

Iowa State's Paul Rhodes at No. 21 Oklahoma State
Texas' Charlie Strong vs No. 7 Baylor
West Virginia's Dana Holgorsen vs Kansas

Rhodes has actually fared pretty well against in-state rival Iowa, going 3-3 against the supposedly superior Hawkeyes since arriving in Ames, but has struggled against everybody else, going 25-36 against all other teams in that span.

Rhodes is a Cyclone through and through, and the students and boosters love him, but at some point, you need to do something on the field.

Charlie Strong is in his first season at Texas, and it's ridiculous to think his job's in danger… Or is it? Texas is about as crazy as any place in America, and if the Longhorns are again blown off the field, like they were in a 41-7 loss to BYU, some people might begin seriously stirring the pot for another coach to land in Austin.

Holgorsen is a renowned offensive guru, but back-to-back losing seasons have the faithful restless in Morgantown. The Mountaineers have shown flashes, playing national powers Alabama and Oklahoma respectably, along with edging Maryland, but a loss to lowly and coach-less Kansas could erase a lot of good will.

Game of the Week

No. 3 Alabama at No. 11 Ole Miss

The Crimson Tide are coming off an uncharacteristically sloppy home win over Florida that saw Bama lose three fumbles and throw an interception. Despite coughing up the football left and right in the first half, the Tide, led by sensational receiver Amari Cooper and suddenly lethal quarterback Blake Sims, put up 672 yards of offense on the Gators, the most Florida has surrendered in school history.

Alabama played about as sloppily as it could, and it still scored 42 points and racked up insane yardage against a talented Gator defense. Ole Miss, meanwhile, is coming off four straight blowouts against lesser competition. The Rebels have the nation's third-best scoring defense, but teams like Vanderbilt, Memphis and Louisiana-Lafayette haven't exactly prepared the Ole Miss defense for what Bama will bring to the table. Still, Alabama hasn't seen a quarterback like Ole Miss' Bo Wallace, or a receiver duo like the Rebels' Laquon Treadwell and Cody Core either.

Sneaky Good Game of the Week

No. 6 Texas A&M at No. 12 Mississippi St.

Hard to say this one is sneaky, seeing as it features a pair of ranked teams from the SEC, but dammit, the slate is so good this week, there are no sneaky games, just good ones.

A&M surprisingly needed overtime to top Arkansas at home last week, while Mississippi State was announcing its arrival to the rest of the nation with a stunning win at then-No. 8 LSU. Each team brings in a Top-20 scoring defense, but look for offensive stars to steal the show as TAMU quarterback Kenny Hill (17 passing TDs in four games) and Mississippi State signal caller Dak Prescott (Over 1,300 combined yards and 14 combined TDs)  both have the ability to beat teams with their arms and legs.

Two great offensive minds clash as Mississippi State's Dan Mullen and A&M's Kevin Sumlin match wits, and it will be on those aforementioned defenses to come up with critical stops down the stretch.


But first, here's your Stone Cold video of the week.

Ok, here we go. Home team in CAPS.

Marshall (-17.5) over OLD DOMINION

Old Dominion has actually done better than expected in its first year as an FBS program, going 3-2 to start the year, including a nice road win against Rice.

Still, the Monarchs could barely hang in a home loss to Middle Tennessee State last week, and Rakeem Cato and Co. will come into this one looking not only to win, but also to earn style points as they hope to grab the "Group of Five"'s marquee bowl slot.

Expect Marshall to put on an offensive show, and I doubt the Monarchs can keep up.

No comments :