COUNTDOWN TO FIRING DAY: EDITION FIVE
Saturday marks the midway point of the college football season and unless some coach gets the hook this weekend we’ll head into the second half schedule still looking for the first firing. There are some strong candidates for a negotiated buyout and the obligatory press conference in which they get to thank the AD and school prez for hiring them in the first place, but so far there has been no movement.
There are two schools of thought when it comes to firing coaches. One is that if you fire early enough you can get a head start on landing the next coach. That worked exceedingly well for Florida back in 2004 when UF got the coach it wanted – Urban Meyer – after firing Ron Zook the week before the Georgia game. A second school of thought is to let the season play out and avoid the pressure of hiring the interim coach. When LSU fired Les Miles, Ed Orgeron became the interim coach. Coach O made a strong enough case to have the interim tag removed but usually it doesn’t work out all that well.
So as we hit the sixth week of the season, we still wait eagerly to see who is the first coach to go.
ON LIFE SUPPORT
D.J. DURKIN, MARYLAND: In two weeks the University of Maryland Board of Regents meets to discuss the results of several investigations into Durkin and what has been described as the toxic culture of the football program. You can almost bet the farm that D.J. and athletic director Damon Evans will get pink slipped. The only question is will D.J. be the first to make the Extinct Species List.
LOVIE SMITH, ILLINOIS: The Illini have had an entire week to get ready for their showdown with Rutgers, a game that likely will decide the worst team in the Big Ten this year. Beating Rutgers wouldn’t change Lovie’s On Life Support Status but losing to the Scarlet Knights would have the paramedics standing by with oxygen and a defibrillator because Illinois football would be declared clinically dead.
MIKE JINKS, BOWLING GREEN: When you’re completely upside down with your won-lost record for two-plus years, the last thing you need to do is give up nine touchdowns to a bad Georgia Tech team but that’s what happened last week. It’s back to the MAC this week and while Holy Toledo probably won’t hang 63 points on the Falcon defense, it will indeed get ugly early, dropping Jinksy to 7-23 for his career. Buzzards are circling the football offices.
DAVID BEATY, KANSAS: As bad as it was last week (Okie State torched the Jayhawks, 48-28) that will seem like a walk in the park compared to what is going to happen in Morgantown when Will Grier lights up Kansas for a whole passel of touchdown passes. Grier is averaging four touchdown passes and 350-plus yards per game. He probably will have that much by halftime. Beaty has a 5-36 career record and an AD in Jeff Long who needs to make a splash hire.
ENDANGERED SPECIES LIST
BRAD LAMBERT, CHARLOTTE: Saturday’s game with Western Kentucky is almost must win for Lambert and the 49ers, who will be underdogs in every remaining game on the schedule. The 49ers are 2-3 and 1-1 in Conference USA. Getting to two conference wins would be an accomplishment, but enough of an accomplishment for Lambert to keep his job? Before they fire him, the fine folks at Charlotte might want to give him a ball yard that might not be one of the 20 largest high school stadiums in the state of Texas.
SCOTTIE MONTGOMERY, EAST CAROLINA: The Pirates eked out a win over Old Dominion last week, temporarily easing some of the pressure on Montgomery, who is 8-20 in year three. The next four games are (at) Temple, Houston, UCF and Memphis and the schedule concludes with roadies to Cincinnati and North Carolina State. That has the look and feel of an 8-loss season.
EVERETT WITHERS, TEXAS STATE: Last week’s good news was Texas State didn’t lose. That might have something to do with an open date. It’s back to the grind Saturday when Louisiana-Lafayette comes to San Marcos. This is actually a winnable game. However, if the Bobcats lose, Withers might not make it through October before he is negotiating his buyout.
LARRY FEDORA, NORTH CAROLINA: Coming off a win over Pitt, North Carolina needed to play Miami respectably but that 47-10 egg the Tar Heels laid did nothing for Fedora’s job security. With Virginia Tech and Syracuse next up, Carolina has the look of a 1-5 team that is headed for a second straight losing record. They really don’t like firing people in Chapel Hill, so it’s imperative the Tar Heels have respectable outcomes or else Fedora will be toast.
CHUCK MARTIN, MIAMI (OHIO): The midseason motto for Chucky and the Red Hawks should be, “Maybe we’re 1-4 but nobody’s blowing our doors off.” Maybe that sells in Sheboygan but Miami is the place that’s called “The Cradle of Coaches” because the likes of Paul Brown, Woody Hayes, Ara Parseghian, Red Blaik and Bo Schembechler won a lot of football games. Chucky is 17-37 for his Miami career and losing close games isn’t going to cut it.
RANDY EDSALL, UCONN: Prior to last week’s game with Cincinnati, Edsall fired his defensive coordinator. Obviously it paid huge dividends immediately because the Huskies only gave up 49 points which lowered their season average to 53.4 per game. UConn is giving up a mere 663 yards and 30.8 first downs per game. The Huskies are 35-point road dogs at Memphis this week. To lose by 35 would be a huge improvement. A better improvement would be for UConn to hire a new football coach.
BOBBY WILDER, OLD DOMINION: One week after upsetting then 13th-ranked Virginia Tech, the Monarchs reverted back to their familiar losing ways, dropping a 37-35 decision to a bad East Carolina team. This week, the Monarchs travel to Boca Raton where their porous defense is going to try to stop Florida Atlantic, which is a two touchdown favorite. ODU is 1-4 and there aren’t more than 2-3 winnable games remaining on the schedule.
JIM HARBAUGH, MICHIGAN: The Wolverines had to rally furiously to score a come-from-behind win over Northwestern last week. Michigan is 4-1 but hasn’t beaten anyone that counts in the minds of Big Blue fans. Until Harbaugh can beat Michigan State, Penn State and Ohio State and win the Big Ten East, the faithful aren’t going to be happy.
WILLIE TAGGART, FLORIDA STATE: It’s time for the annual Wide Right Bowl down at Hard Rock Stadium where Miami is a two touchdown favorite. Miami scored four defensive touchdowns against North Carolina last week. FSU can’t run the ball and will be going against a Miami pass defense that ranks #1 nationally. With Clemson, North Carolina State, Notre Dame and Florida still on the schedule, FSU is going to struggle to break even. No matter what happens Willie the T won’t be fired, but a bad 2018 will certainly make it necessary to win 8-9 games at a minimum next year.
PAUL JOHNSON, GEORGIA TECH: This is about the time of year that Georgia Tech typically starts playing well enough that the folks who would like to see Johnson fired have to bite their tongues. Tech is 2-3 with a roadie to Louisville this week. Surprisingly, the Jackets are 4-1/2-point favorites. If Tech loses, the buzzards sitting in the trees outside the football offices in Atlanta will start flapping their wings as they prepare to start circling.
CHRIS ASH, RUTGERS: Rutgers only lost by a touchdown to Indiana last week, which raises hopes that the Scarlet Knights can score a win over hapless Illinois this week. The folks at Rutgers are trying to be patient but Ash is 7-22 in his two-plus years in New Jersey. They remember going to bowl games back when Greg Schiano was the head coach so they know it’s possible to win more than you lose. Nobody believes winning a championship is possible in the same division as Ohio State, Michigan, Penn State and Michigan State. It’s unlikely Ash will get canned this year, but if the Scarlet Knights whack Illinois this week, Illini coach Lovie Smith’s exit will be hastened.
DEREK MASON, VANDERBILT: It was shocking that Vandy struggled to beat a D1AA team last week. This week they go to Georgia where they are likely to get waxed by five or more touchdowns. The wine and cheese folks who are in charge of hiring and firing at Vandy hate it when they have to fire someone, but all of them remember how James Franklin won nine games in consecutive years and went to three straight bowl games. Because of that, their patience with Mason is starting to go thin.
BOBBY PETRINO, LOUISVILLE: Petrino was hired for a second go-round at Louisville by now-fired AD Tom Jurich. Jurich is gone and the Cardinals are just 10-8 since 2017. Louisville fans believe the Cardinals should challenge for the ACC every year and they’re nowhere close. It’s unlikely Petrino would be fired if Louisville posted a losing record this year, but it would put the pressure on to win next year or else.
SOME THOUGHTS ABOUT FLORIDA-LSU
I’m of the opinion that Florida’s defensive performance last week at Mississippi State is a sign of things to come. I think Todd Grantham finally has everyone on the same page and with David Reese in the middle, the Gators are only going to get better on the defensive side of the ball. I think Dan Mullen will have a conservative game plan to minimize mistakes and lower the possibility of turnovers against LSU’s aggressive defense, but at some point he’s going to cut the offense loose when LSU least expects it for a big play that wins the game. I doubt there will be more than 30 points scored in this one but I like Florida winning something like 17-13.
A FEW OTHER RANDOM THOUGHTS: Drew Brees needs only 201 yards this week to pass both Peyton Manning and Brett Favre to become the NFL’s all-time passing yardage leader. The Saints will face the Washington Redskins Monday night … On the witness stand at the college basketball corruption trial, Brian Bowen Sr. said his Christian Dawkins conveyed these offers for son Brian Jr.: $50,000 from Arizona; $150,000 from Oklahoma State with $8,000 for a car and a house; help with housing from Texas and $100,000 and a “good job” from Creighton. Bowen Sr. said the original offer from Louisville was for $60-80,000 but the ante was upped to $100,000 when Billy Preston got $100,000 from Adidas to go to Kansas … The Milwaukee Brewers knocked off the Colorado Rockies, 3-2, in 10 innings in the first game of their National League Divisional Series. In the other NL game, the Los Angeles Dodgers whacked the Atlanta Braves, 6-0. The American League Divisional Series begins today with the Cleveland Indians at the Houston Astros and the New York Yankees at the Boston Red Sox.