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RANKING POWER-65 COLLEGE FOOTBALL COACHES – THE TOP 10!

THE TOP 10!!! These are the cream of the crop in my opinion and the most elite of the elite. What’s interesting about this group is the history they are all chasing. Of the top-10 coaches, there are 5 who have won national championships. Those 5 are Bob Stoops, Dabo Swinney, Jimbo Fisher, Urban Meyer and Nick Saban. Even though they’ve won national titles, they are chasing history in their own way. For Swinney is the prospect of becoming one of the greatest head coaches of all time. For Fisher it’s to stand side by side with Bobby Bowden in Florida State history. For Stoops it is trying to get back to what he achieve in 2000. For Meyer and Saban, their chase is for the crown of greatest college football head coach of all time. I’m of the opinion that Saban already holds the that crown surpassing Bear Bryant, but if there is a coach who could challenge Saban, it’s Urban Meyer. For the 5 guys on this list that haven’t won a national title, you can be sure they know it’s the last thing they need to accomplish to cement their legacy. The previous rankings can be found in the following links:

#50-#65
#40-#49
#30-#39
#20-#29
#11-#19

#10 – Bobby Petrino – Louisville

While it’s certainly permissible to question his off-field behavior, there is simply no questioning what Bobby Petrino can do on the field. He took Louisville to national championship contender the first go around with the Cardinals. He did the same with Arkansas. Now that he’s back in the ‘Ville, he tied Clemson for the ACC Atlantic division championship and had Louisville not lost to Clemson, then the Cardinals would have been the ones playing for the ACC Championship and the Clemson dream season would never have happened. That was year 3 and he’s already ahead of Florida State! Only Clemson and Florida St. have won more games than the Redbirds the past 3 seasons among ACC teams. Only Clemson & FSU has a better conference record. Recruiting has jumped about 10 spots already from the time Petrino took over until now. His foray into the NFL was a disaster and his questionable conduct at Arkansas was a bit concerning to say the least but Petrino has reinvented himself at Louisville and once again is proving to be one of the very best college football coaches in the nation! With Lamar Jackson returning next year, Louisville should be in the national championship hunt.

#9 – Jim McElwain – Florida

Some might think this is too high for McElwain but in his first two years in Gainesville he’s gone 19-8 with a conference mark of 13-3 winning two SEC East division titles with the Gators finishing the 2016 season ranked 14th! What’s remarkable about Florida in McElwain’s first couple of seasons is that they’ve been winning this much without any QB play. In his first season, McElwain had deal with Will Grier getting injured and then relying upon Treon Harris who should have never been under center. Last season he had to rely on a Purdue transfer who couldn’t find playing time with the Boilermakers! That same Purdue squad who has a record of 8-28 over the last 3 years! McElwain is an offensive guy so my guess is that it’s only a matter of time before Florida starts playing the kind of offense McElwain wants. They’ll always be outstanding defensively because of the athletes the Gators can attract to campus. What McElwain has accomplished with having to build up the program the way he wants it is incredible. Granted, they’ve been dominated in the SEC Championship game and the SEC East hasn’t exactly been fantastic, but I think that is more of a reflection on missed opportunity for teams like Tennessee, Georgia & South Carolina than it is on McElwain taking advantage of a weakened division. McElwain is starting to dominate recruiting too and Gators fans can be rest assured that McElwain won’t leave Gainesville for Ohio.

#8 – David Shaw – Stanford

Frankly this might too low for Shaw. Jim Harbaugh might have laid the foundation for the Cardinal in recent times, but what Shaw has done since taking over the program is nothing short of incredible. In his 6 seasons in Pao Alto, Stanford has won 4 Pac 12 North division titles. They’ve won 3 Pac 12 championships. They are a perfect 3-0 in the Rose Bowl and they’ve been to 4 BCS bowls. Shaw is on a 3-bowl game winning streak and in 5 of this 6 years the Cardinal have never finished below 12th in the final AP Rankings with 3 seasons in the top-10! He’s consistently bringing in top-20 classes which is incredible given the academic restrictions that Stanford is under. Even in his worst season, 2014, Shaw still guided Stanford to an 8-5 season with a bowl victory! Stanford had a little trouble getting started last year but finished the year on a 6-game winning streak to get to 10-3 which was the 5th time in 6 years Shaw had Stanford with double-digit wins. Shaw’s 64 wins in 6-years is Stanford’s greatest run in Cardinal football history! It’s going to be interesting going forward with Stanford and Shaw. The Cardinal lost to both Washington & Washington St. last season and Chris Petersen and Mike Leach aren’t going anywhere. I’m a HUGE fan of Gary Andersen at Oregon St. and the Oregon Ducks bring in a guy in Willie Taggart who at the VERY LEAST will have Oregon as one of the most talented teams in the nation. USC is starting to flex and Mike MacIntyre put the Pac 12 on notice last season. The Pac 12 is changing and it’ll be great to see how Shaw adjusts to the changes.

#7 – Bob Stoops – Oklahoma

Arguably the most underappreciated football coach in America. The last two seasons Bob Stoops has lead the Sooners to a 22-4 mark with a 17-1 conference record. He’s won the Big XII both years. He’s finished #5 in the AP poll both years. Got to the college football playoffs in 2015 and then won the Orange Bowl last year with a convincing 35-19 win over Auburn. All of that winning and Stoops still gets flack for not having Oklahoma where they need to be! What’s hurt Stoops in recent times is his inability to win big time games. It’s unfortunate that Stoops won a national title in Norman in his 2nd year back in 2000 because since then the expectation has been a national championship (as it should be at Oklahoma) but the Sooners have come up empty over the last 16 seasons! That’s a long time to wait when you are an Oklahoma fan. Oklahoma did play for the national title in 2004 and 2008 but the Sooners were hammered in the Orange Bowl in 2004 by USC 55-19, and then in 2008 Tim Tebow got the better of them in Urban Meyer’s 2nd national championship. The other knock on Stoops is that he hasn’t recruited at an extraordinarily high level the past few years (although his 2017 class is a top-10 class) and the Big XII has the perception of being “weak” which hurts Stoops to a degree because he’s the big fish in a relatively small pond. I’m not sure I buy into either excuses, but getting hammered early last year by Ohio State wasn’t a good look and Texas hasn’t given Oklahoma too much competition in the Big XII for quite awhile now. Stoops makes a VERY compelling case to be #3 on this list and #7 does seem a bit low to me, but he ended 2016 on an incredible note and the 2017 recruiting was fantastic. Stoops could very well creep back into top-3 status sooner rather than later.

#6 – Jim Harbaugh – Michigan

The last 3 coaches before Jim Harbaugh had the following first 2-seasons record at Michigan:

Brady Hoke: 19-7
Rich Rodriguez: 8-16
Lloyd Carr: 17-8

Jim Harbaugh in his first two seasons has gone 20-6 with back to back double digit win seasons! The only other Michigan HC in Wolverines football history to begin his career with back to back double digit win seasons was Fielding Yost who posted back to back 11-0 seasons back in 1901-1902! What Harbaugh has done at Michigan is nothing short of spectacular. Rich Rodriguez was a complete mess. Brady Hoke was lost and terrible once he got his own players to Ann Arbor. I’m a big Lloyd Carr fan, but outside of the national championship team Michigan had in 1997 where they went 12-0, Carr never had a team lose less than 2 games. Carr also lost more bowl games than he won and in his last 7 bowl games, Carr’s Wolverines teams were 2-5! Harbaugh has come in to one of the most significant, historically relevant programs in college football history, that hadn’t been relevant in almost 20 years and immediately made them a top-5 team. His last two recruiting classes have both been top-5 classes. Michigan is now competing with Alabama, Ohio St., USC, Florida, Florida St., and Clemson for recruits. Some might think ranking Harbaugh at #6 could be a bit too high too fast, but look at his track record at Stanford. Look what he did at San Francisco? Sure he hasn’t won the Big 10 East yet. He hasn’t beaten Ohio St. yet either, but Harbaugh’s entrance into the Big 10 made the Big 10 East immediately the best division in college football with the best rivalry now being amped up to all time historical levels. He’s a master motivator and is just getting started. If he can post back to back 10-3 seasons without any firm foundation in place, what is Michigan football going to look like when Harbaugh has the program firing on all cylinders?

#5 – Chris Petersen – Washington

I think some people thought Petersen might struggle a bit at Washington after leaving the comfortable confines of Boise. Dan Hawkins couldn’t make it work at Colorado after he left Boise State. Dirk Koetter had a much tougher road at Arizona State after leaving Boise State although Koetter has reinvented himself and is now the HC of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and has the Bucs close to playoff contention. The same struggle was thought to follow Petersen to Seattle. Most thought Petersen would turn out well, but that it might take a few years…..yeah it took 3. Petersen’s first two years with the Huskies saw Washington go a combined 15-12 with back-to-back 4-5 conference seasons. In Year 3, Washington would finish the season 12-1 (8-1) with a Pac 12 North division championship, a Pac 12 outright championship and a spot in the college football playoff. The playoff wasn’t spectacular as UW lost to Alabama 24-7, but to be honest, Washington played a pretty tight game against the Crimson Tide despite losing the game. Recruiting is improving under Petersen although it’s always going to be hard to pull kids into dreary Seattle over hot spots like USC, Florida, Florida St., Alabama, Auburn, Clemson, Georgia, Miami-FL, Texas, LSU, UCLA, Tennessee, Arizona State, Arizona and South Carolina. And that isn’t mentioning traditional powerhouse football teams with less than ideal locations such as Penn St., Ohio St., Michigan, and Notre Dame. With that said, Washington should be able to push their recruiting into the top-20 range annually without a problem and that is more than enough talent for Petersen to win and win big with. I think Rick Neuheisel and Don James showed that the Huskies could be relevant on the national stage and Washington is one of those teams that makes college football better when they are winning. The Pac 12 is changing a bit with a lot of incoming young talent as head coaches so Petersen has his work cut out for him, but he’s got Washington ahead of schedule and I don’t think they’ll regress. Washington should be as good or better in 2017 as they were in 2016.

#4 – Jimbo Fisher – Florida State

It’s easy to forget now that Fisher has the Seminoles back at the apex of college football that in Bobby Bowden’s last 5 years as HC, Florida St. posted a combined record of 38-27, finishing outside the final AP-Top 25 in 3 of those 5 seasons and having a losing bowl record of 2-3. Recruiting was way down and some thought that Bobby Bowden was finished and the FSU program along with him. Bowden was finished, but Florida St. wasn’t. Fisher stepped in immediately and led FSU to a 10-4 season, won the ACC Atlantic division title and got a bowl win, giving FSU their first double digit win season in 6 years! Fisher would win the ACC in Year 3. He’d win a national title in Year 4 and play for a another national title in Year 5! Bowden’s last 5 years in Tallahassee saw the ‘Noles go 38-27, but Fisher’s first 5 years in Tallahassee would see FSU post a 58-11 record with a national title and 3 ACC titles! The turnaround was absolutely stunning and put Florida St. back into the ELITE of the ELITE category. Recruiting soared and Fisher has the program humming with no let up in sight. One of the biggest clues that show how good a place FSU is in under Fisher is their last two seasons. Florida St. has had back to back 10-3 seasons finishing #14 in 2015 and #8 in 2016. Those are great if not spectacular seasons, but at this point in Fisher’s tenure, they seem like rebuilding seasons for FSU or disappointing seasons. When you average being a borderline top-10 over a 2-year period and it’s looked at as disappointing, you know you have expectations at an all time high, and Fisher knows he can meet those expectations!

#3 – Dabo Swinney – Clemson

It’s almost impossible to argue Swinney’s success. I’m trying to keep my analysis to the past 5 years and Swinney has enough success those 5 years, but if we stretch Swinney out to his last 6 years, he’s led Clemson to a 70-13 record including a 6-2 bowl record, a national championship, 2 national championship game appearances, 3 ACC championships and 4 ACC Atlantic division titles! It’s a better resume than anyone not named Nick Saban and Swinney can certainly stack up well with Urban Meyer. He has shown he can recruit top-5 classes to Clemson meaning there doesn’t seem to be any weaknesses to Swinney’s arsenal when it comes to head coaching college football. He’s leaped Jimbo Fisher in the ACC Atlantic which is no small feat and he’s keeping Bobby Petrino at bay, which again is no small feat. Swinney was also able to avenge his 2015 championship game loss to Alabama by besting the Tide in 2016 behind QB Deshaun Watson. Swinney has 6 straight 10+ win seasons at Clemson which is a school record. I’d also say that this year Swinney passed Danny Ford as the greatest football coach in Clemson history. The only question now facing Swinney has he moves forward is sustaining that success. The way you become legendary is winning multiple championships the way Nick Saban and Urban Meyer have been able to do. Note that Bob Stoops couldn’t do it. Mack Brown couldn’t do it. Jimbo Fisher hasn’t done it. Jim Tressel couldn’t do it. Steve Spurrier couldn’t do it. Lou Holtz couldn’t do it. It’s not easy. Winning a championship to begin with isn’t easy, but Swinney has about as much momentum going forward as I’ve ever seen and it’ll be interesting going forward to see how much he goes after a historical legacy. He’s a great head football coach. Is he an all-time great?

#2 – Urban Meyer – Ohio State

Speaking of all-time greats……it’s one thing for Dabo Swinney to pass up Danny Ford as Clemson’s best coach of all time. It’s quite another for Urban Meyer to be on pace to make people forget about the legendary Woody Hayes. Meyer has been in Columbus for 5 seasons guiding the Buckeyes after he left a Florida Gators program he won two national championships with. In those 5 seasons, Ohio St. is 61-6 including 3 perfect Big 10 seasons, one perfect season, a national championship, 5 Big 10 division titles and one outright Big 10 championship. In Woody Hayes’s first 5 seasons the Buckeyes were 33-11-2 with one national championship and 2 Big 10 titles. It’s comparable but I’d say Meyer has Woody. It’s hard to knock Meyer’s success. It’s incredible and he’s VERY DESERVING of being #2 on this list. Ohio St. is a machine at this point and there isn’t a team in America that out-recruits Ohio St. other than Alabama, and even then I’d say the Buckeyes Tide have equal talent. The one knock I have on Meyer is that I think he ran from Saban when Saban took over Alabama. I think this is incredible strategy by Meyer, but it also shows to me why you can never put Meyer ahead of Nick Saban unless Meyer just hammers him head-to-head 3-4 times in national championship games. Meyer took over Florida in 2005. Saban’s last year at LSU was 2004 and remember that Saban won a national title in Baton Rouge in 2003. So Meyer came into Florida without Saban at Alabama and the Mad Hatter at LSU. Fullmer goes 5-6 at Tennessee in 2005 and Mark Richt is in Georgia, but he’s not much of a problem for Meyer. Kentucky & Vanderbilt aren’t issues and South Carolina had just hired Steve Spurrier and it’ll take the Ol Ball Coach a little bit of time to get the Gamecocks rolling. Meyer recruits arguably the greatest college football player in history (Tim Tebow) and wins national championships in 2006 and 2008. Saban comes back to Alabama in 2007. Meyer couldn’t have known this. It takes Saban a season to get Alabama rolling but in Year 2, Saban has the Tide at 12-0 and playing for an SEC championship. Tebow is a junior at this time and in the SEC Championship game, Florida beats Alabama 31-20 although Alabama held a 20-17 lead going into the 4th quarter. In 2009, Timmy Tebow is a senior and Florida is expected to win a national championship giving Tebow 3 in 4 years. Florida goes 12-0, but so does Alabama. They meet in the SEC Championship game and instead of Tebow willing Florida to another win, Alabama DESTROYS Florida 32-13 on their way to Saban’s first national title with the Tide. Without Tebow in 2010, Florida slides to 8-5 and takes another beating at the hands of Alabama 31-6 in regular season play. Urban leaves Florida citing health reasons or family reasons or some combination of the two. It’s suspect timing because Alabama would win 2 of the next 3 national championship games with Auburn winning the other. Of course, a year later Urban Meyer takes over the Ohio State team which is conveniently in a conference without Nick Saban.

It’s an interesting story and probably 100% conjecture although it does make some sense. The irony of course is that Meyer comes to the Big 10 East where in 2012, the conference is in turmoil so to speak. Michigan is somewhat of a joke now that they’ve gone through the Rich Rodriguez era and Brady Hoke is screwing up. Penn State is a complete mess due to the Joe Paterno/Jerry Sandusky scandal that is erupting. Bo Pellini can’t get Nebraska figured out and Ohio St. finds itself in the Big 10 Leaders division with Indiana, Illinois & Purdue! Sure Wisconsin is around, but as good as the Badgers are, Meyer has to know that Wisconsin could NEVER keep up with the influx of talent to Columbus with how Meyer recruits. The problem is that it doesn’t stay that way. Two years later the Big 10 welcomes in Maryland & Rutgers and the divisions change. Michigan & Michigan St. come over to the Big 10 East while Wisconsin changes to the Big 10 West. Penn St. rights the ship quick with Bill O’Brien before turning it over to James Franklin. Mark Dantonio is now in the same division as Meyer and lo and behold, Michigan brings in Jim Harbaugh! The Big 10 Leaders division goes from being a laughing stock division that Ohio St. could have dominated for decades to the Big 10 East which is now arguably the most difficult division to play in with 4 of the best head coaches in all of college football.

This bites Meyer a bit. Ohio St. was ineligible for postseason play in 2012, but in 2013 Ohio St. loses the Big 10 championship to Mark Dantonio and Michigan State. In 2014 Ohio St. does manage to win the national championship in the first ever football playoff scenario beating Alabama 42-35 in the semifinals before beating Oregon, but in 2015 they miss the Big 10 title game because of a tie-breaker loss to Michigan St. and last year they miss the Big 10 title game again due to a tie-breaker loss to Penn State! They get to the playoffs last season, but are humiliated by Clemson 31-0 in the semifinal game. Luckily Ohio St. didn’t draw Alabama because shades of 2008-2009 come to mind if that scenario played out again. Saban would have remembered and the outcome for Ohio St., like it was for Florida, wouldn’t have been pretty. I write all of this not to cast doubt on Meyer’s legitimacy. He’s an all-time great legendary coach. Everyone agrees, but I think an overlooked aspect of Meyer’s career is that he’s been fairly strategic in trying to put himself into the best place possible. You can’t knock him on that. Opportunity doesn’t come often and he’s taken advantage of that opportunity by helping it with putting himself in the right situations. That and winning Tebow from Mike Shula during Tebow’s recruitment has done wonders for Meyer’s status.

#1 – Nick Saban – Alabama

G.O.A.T! He’ll eventually tie or pass Bear Bryant’s record of 6 national championships. Saban already has 5 and to be honest he’s probably the greatest coach in Alabama and LSU history. Hell he might be the greatest coach in Michigan State history as well! Saban has been at Alabama now for 10 seasons. In those 10 seasons he’s gone 119-19! The man has averaged 12 wins per season for a decade! He’s won 4 national championships, 6 SEC Championships, 8 SEC West championships and has finished ranked in the AP top-10 for the last 9 consecutive seasons! This doesn’t even account for the national championship he won at LSU, the SEC championship he won at LSU or the 3 SEC West titles he won at LSU. Saban has also won 8 bowl games in this 10 years in Tuscaloosa. Nobody can out-recruit the Tide & Saban. He deals with a lot of coordinator turnover because everyone wants his coordinators to take over their teams! Jim McElwain was his OC. Now he’s the HC at Florida! Kirby Smart was his DC. Now he’s the HC at Georgia! Lane Kiffin was a former HC for USC, Tennessee and the Oakland Raiders and spent the last few seasons as Saban’s OC! Mark Dantonio was on Saban’s staff for 5 years at Michigan St. and he’s now the HC at Michigan State! Jimbo Fisher was on Saban’s staff at LSU. He’s the HC now at Florida State! The one constant is Nick Saban himself. We could go on and on about his accolades but they’ll all point to the same conclusion. Nick Saban is the best football coach in college football right now. He’s also the greatest college football coach to ever live.

May 27, 2017 Posted by | ACC, Alabama, Big 10, Big XII, Clemson, Coaching, Florida, Florida St., Louisville, Michigan, Ohio St, Oklahoma, Pac 12, Rankings, SEC, Stanford, Washington | Leave a comment

RANKING POWER-65 COLLEGE FOOTBALL COACHES – #19 to #11

Now we are inside the top-20! What’s interesting about these guys to me is that all of them could make moves that would land them inside the top-10 if they had a championship caliber season, which for most of them is the last hurdle they need to overcome to get into that very elite category. As I wrote previously picking from #19 to #11 is probably based more on preference, but if you keep reading, there are some very interesting story lines with these guys that could affect their rankings going forward. Every coach/team mentioned here definitely has a story line that will be scrutinized in 2017. If you need to catch up, here are the links the previous articles in this series:

#50-#65
#49-#40
#39-#30
#29-#20

#19 – Bill Snyder – Kansas State

Coach Snyder is a tough one to rank because on the one hand you can argue he’s one of the all time great coaches in college football history. He’s unique in that he got the Kansas State job and kept it for as long as he wanted. He even came back after leaving at the conclusion of the 2005 season. In today’s football world, a coach at a school like Kansas St. would have bolted for another opportunity if they had had the success that Snyder has had at KSU. From 1995-2000, Snyder posted a 63-12 record with a 39-8 mark in Big XII play which included 3 Big XII North titles. Any other coach would have bolted for Georgia or Clemson or Auburn or Miami-FL. What keeps Snyder a bit lower is that he hasn’t won a ton at Kansas St. nationally. He’s never won a national championship. He’s only won the Big XII twice in 25 years of coaching. He’s 8-10 in bowl games. That mostly speaks to the ceiling of Kansas St. football. Snyder came back to Manhattan because Ron Prince lowered the standards. Snyder raised them again, but he can’t quite get KSU to national prominence. His hope was that Prince could do it. His hope when he retires is that the Wildcats get it right the 2nd time.

#18 – Mike Gundy – Oklahoma State

Gundy might be underrated by a long shot. Remember that Gundy has to go up against Oklahoma within his own state and Texas in his own region. Those are two college football Goliaths that are almost impossible to beat on the recruiting trail yet Gundy over the last 7 seasons has failed to win at least 10 games only twice. Gundy is coming off back to back 10-3 seasons and has posted 10-3 seasons in 3 of the past 4 years. Gundy almost won a national championship in 2011. If the Cowboys don’t completely blow it late in the year against Iowa St., then they would have played LSU in the national championship game that year instead of Alabama. The Tide beat LSU 21-0 in a revenge game after LSU beat the Tide earlier 9-6 in Tuscaloosa, but you’d have to think Oklahoma St. would have had a good shot at upending the Bayou Bengals. Oklahoma St. finished #3 in the rankings, but you have to wonder where the program could have been catapulted to had they brought home a national championship. What sticks out about Gundy to me as well is that he almost accomplished what Jimmy Johnson thought was impossible with Oklahoma State, namely winning a title. Gundy is about as Oklahoma St. as you can possibly get. He’ll be there forever if he wants and I can’t see him leaving which makes him quite a bit like Bill Snyder. Because of 2011, I’m not sure there is a ceiling to OK State football, so it’ll be interesting to see if Gundy can get over the hump and win a title.

#17 – Gus Malzahn – Auburn

It’s easy to forget that Malzahn led War Eagle to a national championship game his first season as head coach of the Tigers. That was a tall order beating a Jameis Winston led Florida St. squad so you can’t exactly blame him for losing. Malzahn has caught quite a bit of heat the past couple of seasons because he hasn’t replicated the success of that 12-2 squad from 2013. Malzahn is an offensive savant, but people forget just how good Auburn’s defense was in 2013. They didn’t create a lot of turnovers but they got after the ball quite a bit with quite a few sacks and tackles for loss. The O-line was dominant giving Tre Mason & Nick Marshall plenty of room to run. The defense & O-Line took a step back in 2014 and in 2015 Malzahn really didn’t have a QB as Jeremy Johnson wasn’t the answer. He entered 2016 with the same problems and Auburn struggled early, but when Auburn finally settled on Sean White, they reeled off 6 straight wins and won 6 of 7 after starting 1-2. The season didn’t end well with losses to Alabama & Oklahoma, but losing to Alabama in Tuscaloosa is hardly cause for concern and by season’s end Oklahoma was a top-5 team. Malzahn recruits extremely well and I wouldn’t be surprised to see Auburn really take off. Malzahn has his system in place and there is loads of talent here. Sean White is the unquestioned starter now and I”m willing to bet that Auburn gets back to double digit wins. In the SEC West, that is an incredible coaching job.

#16 – Pat Fitzgerald – Northwestern

What Fitzgerald has done at Northwestern is nothing short of amazing. Over this last 9 seasons, he’s lead the Wildcats to 7 bowl games. In the 114 seasons before Fitzgerald got to Evanston, Northwestern played in a total of 6 bowl games! It’s almost impossible for Northwestern to recruit on any major level unless some kids simply want to wind up in Evanston or have ties to Northwestern. While the Wildcats might not necessarily have it as bad as Vanderbilt because the Commodores play in the SEC, that might change given how good the coaching in the Big 10 is getting. I guess it could be worse and Northwestern could be in the Big 10 East, but Nebraska, Wisconsin & Iowa are pretty darn good. Lovie Smith is recruiting better to Illinois and Purdue & Minnesota just hired solid young coaches. It’ll be interesting to see how Fitzgerald adjusts to an influx of talent in the coaching ranks. He’s never gotten Northwestern to the Rose Bowl the way Gary Barnett was able to but he’s won 10 games in 2 of the past 5 years. Regardless of what happens around him, I have a feeling that Fitzgerald is going to keep winnings games. One thing I do want to mention about Fitzgerald and Northwestern is that if I had to pick any place for my son to go to college and play football, Northwestern would be in the discussion along with Michigan and Stanford. There really isn’t a better compliment to pay a head coach.

#15 – James Franklin – Penn State

From semi-mess to Rose Bowl in 3-years!? Franklin has more than earned ranking this high even if hadn’t took the Nittany Lions to a Big 10 championship in year 3. Franklin didn’t necessarily inherit the mess that descended upon Happy Valley in the aftermath of the Jerry Sandusky scandal, but Bill O’Brien was never going to be a long term solution and bolted for the NFL the first chance he got. Franklin didn’t shy away from the task of making Penn St. nationally relevant again and in just 3 years he had the Lions playing the Rose Bowl for the first time since 2008 and ranked inside the top-10 in the final AP poll for the first time since 2009! Franklin recruited at a high level immediately when taking the job, but he’s been able to sustain that success despite having a couple of 7-6 seasons to start his tenure. That success would only seem to increase the more Franklin wins because as a football purist, there isn’t many places more special to play than at Penn State! The only wild thing about Frankin’s success will be his ability to keep it going. He’s ranked #15 on this list which is fantastic, but he’s just 4th among coaches in the Big 10 East. That division is without a doubt the most feared and difficult division in all off football with Penn St. emerging as a national threat. Michigan St. isn’t always going to have off years and it’ll be intriguing to see what Franklin can do once Michigan, Ohio State and Michigan State are firing on all cylinders. I think Franklin can handle the difficulty.

#14 – Kyle Whittingham – Utah

Did you know that Whittingham is 10-1 in bowl games since taking for Urban Meyer as HC of Utah!? That’s downright amazing and if I’m not mistaken that is the best record of any FBS coach in bowl games that have coached at least 6 of them. All Whittingham does is win football games, but what is most impressive about him is the transition Utah made into the Pac 12. In their last 3 years in the Mountain West, Whittingham guided the Utes to a 33-6 record including their perfect 13-0 year in 2008 which saw Utah finished ranked #2 in the nation! The transition to the Pac 12 was never going to be easy and Utah took some lumps early going 9-18 in conference play in their first 3 seasons. Their next 3 seasons have seen a complete turnaround as Utah has posted a 28-11 record from 2014-2016 with a conference mark of 16-11, winning a share of the Pac 12 South in 2015. A by product of playing in a better conference and winning is that recruiting has massively improved for the Utes since 2014 and the program has a lot more talent on hand to compete with other Pac 12 schools. Last season Utah almost broke through expoentially. The Utes finished 9-4 with a bowl win over Indiana, but their 4 losses came by a total of 19 points! The year before (2015) Utah finished 10-3 with 2 of their losses coming by a combined 15 points. Utah & Whitingham win their fair share of close games as well, but winning a lot more of those games than you lose is a clear indicated of a great coach, which is exactly what Whittingham is.

#13 – Mark Richt – Miami-FL

Richt is another tricky coach because of perception versus reality. There is a lot of sentiment that Richt was somewhat of a disappointment at Georgia despite coaching in Athens for 15 years and averaging 10 wins a season while also averaging a 6-2 conference record during those 15 seasons! Did I mention Georgia plays in the SEC? That’s outstanding but at Georgia that’s only close. During those 15 seasons, Richt won just 2 outright SEC titles and hadn’t one one since 2005 when Georgia parted ways with him after the 2015 season. Richt is a tremendous coach and a tremendous recruiter. There can be no doubt about that, but what’s interesting about Richt’s time in college football is that he got to Georgia in 2001. Urban Meyer got to Florida in 2005. Richt won 2 SEC titles from 2001-2005 and 3 SEC East divisions. It’s also worth noting that Nick Saban was at LSU from 2000-2004 and then at Alabama from 2007 to present. Richt is fantastic. Everyone would agree, but Meyer & Saban and absolute Hall of Fame locks. Saban is arguably the greatest college football coach of all time and Meyer is easily in the top-5 if not #2 behind Saban. Richt’s only real crime is being born at the wrong time, between Saban (9-years later) and Meyer (4-years prior). Richt will do an outstanding job at Miami-FL. Recruiting will be fantastic. He already went 9-4 in his first season and came pretty close to winning the ACC Coastal. He’s not in the Atlantic with FSU & Clemson so the real story here is can Richt take Miami-FL a step further than he took Georgia? Do that and he leaps into the top-10 of these rankings. Stay 10-3 every year and Richt is a top-15 coach for sure, but not quite elite of the elite.

#12 – Gary Patterson – Texas Christian

It took Patterson a couple of years to figure out the Big XII, but once he did, the Horned Frogs started dominating in much the same fashion that destroyed the competition in the Mountain West. From 2014-2015, TCU posted a 23-3 record with a couple of top-10 finishes and a share of the Big XII title in 2014. The 2014 season stung a bit as TCU dropped a 3 points game in Waco to Baylor which nailed their coffin for a shot at the college football playoffs. Florida St. was going to be in as they were 13-0 and defending champions. Alabama was 12-1 and SEC Champs. They weren’t being left out regardless. Ohio St. is Ohio State. At 12-1 they weren’t going to be left out. They had won 11 straight games and was coming off a 59-0 beating of Wisconsin in the Big 10 championship. The one team TCU could have argued against is Oregon, but Baylor might have had a better argument as Baylor beat TCU, but the Bears also lost to West Virginia. The thought was that if TCU can’t win the Big XII outright, should they be in the playoffs? I don’t know who they bump out and I don’t know how TCU would have fared, but that was a tremendous team and Patterson showed that he could take TCU from the Big XII and make them legitimate national title contenders. Last year was a bump in the road for Patterson and the Frogs and you could sense some let down after the Trevone Boykin/Aaron Green/Josh Doctson era ended on offense. TCU has a lot coming back in 2017 and my guess is Patterson jumps back into the top-10 of these rankings.

#11 – Mark Dantonio – Michigan State

I think we can all agree that Dantonio is a helluva football coach and is deserving of this ranking and maybe #11 is too low, but I do think there is a trend here that needs to be looked at because it involved Dantonio going forward. Dantonio really started to up his value as a HC starting in 2010 when he led the Spartans to an 11-2 record with a share of the Big 10 title. From 2010 to 2015, Michigan St. went 65-16 (39-9) with 3 Big 10 titles and 3 Big 10 division titles. Sparty won the Rose Bowl in 2013 and finished ranked in the top-14 in five of the 6 seasons and in the top-6 from 2013 to 2015! The 2010 to 2014 era is significant because of what was going on at Michigan during this time. From 2010-2014, the Wolverines were 38-26 (21-19). Michigan wasn’t Michigan in those 5 seasons and historically speaking, Michigan St. took on the role of Michigan while Michigan took on the role of Michigan State. What happened in 2015? Jim Harbaugh showed up in Ann Arbor! You could argue that the 2015 season showed that Dantonio could handle both Ohio State and Michigan, but that is tough because Michigan St. won a road game over Michigan when the Wolverines game it away. They also beat Ohio St. in Columbus in a game they shouldn’t have and then beat Iowa in the Big 10 championship in a game Iowa should have won. The playoffs exposed Michigan St. a bit when Alabama beat them 38-0, but maybe the Tide would have beat Ohio St. and Michigan by 40 points too! The proof might have come in 2016 when Michigan St. fell off considerably and finished 3-9 with a 1-8 mark in Big 10 play which included losses to Indiana, Northwestern, Maryland and Illinois. Winning those games would have pushed MSU to 7-5 potentially which would have gotten them bowl eligible at least with a shot at 8-5.  Maybe Connor Cook was that important!? Recruiting was down in 2017 for the Spartans while Michigan dominated. The trick with Dantonio is staying relevant while Michigan starts to dominate under Harbaugh. I think geography plays a role here. Auburn and Alabama can coexist as superpowers because they are in Alabama and the southeast. Florida and Florida St. can exist because they reside in Florida. The state of Michigan can’t resemble that type if relationship between it’s two football powers. Is Dantonio an outstanding head coach who can weather a bad year and get right back to the top of the Big 10 East or is he merely a solid head coach who took advantage of Michigan being down?

May 20, 2017 Posted by | ACC, Auburn, Big 10, Big XII, Coaching, Kansas St., Miami-FL, Michigan St., Northwestern, Oklahoma St., Pac 12, Penn St., Rankings, SEC, TCU, Utah | Leave a comment

RANKING POWER-65 COLLEGE FOOTBALL COACHES – #29 to #20

We are now over half way done with the rankings with 36 college coaches in the books. You can probably say this with some certainty about any particular range of coaches ranked thus far, but I especially thought at this point that putting a coach here or there was especially difficult because it probably comes down to preference. I thought this was interesting in terms of recruiting because at this point in the rankings from #16 or #17 to #29 or #30, it probably comes down to a recruit’s willingness to buy into the system and his potential relationship with the coaching staff. At this point we aren’t talking about a recruit choosing between Alabama & Rutgers. It’s more choosing between Iowa and Mississippi State. There probably isn’t a wrong answer. To get you caught up, here are the links from the coaches ranked lower than #29:

#65-#50
#49-#40
#39-#30

Now let’s kick off with #29!

#29 – Kirby Smart – Georgia

Some might think this is a little too high for Smart given that he just came off his first year as a HC in Athens where the Georgia Bulldogs finished a pedestrian 8-5 with a 4-4 SEC record in an SEC East that was far from stellar, but I’d take the opposite approach and say Smart accomplished a tremendous amount in Year 1. Georgia did drop 3 home games it shouldn’t have (Tennessee, Vanderbilt & Georgia Tech), but those 3 losses turn to wins and UGA is 11-2 and not 8-5. That’s a rough argument because it cuts both ways, but I don’t think Georgia is going to have problems winning home games moving forward. The team played extremely well on the road even with Smart instituting his new defensive schemes with an offense that never really had a settled QB position. Throw in Nick Chubb coming back from injury and 8-5 doesn’t look too bad for a first year guy heading up one of college football’s elite blue bloods.

#28 – Clay Helton – USC

Helton may not have been the obvious pick to take the reigns in Troy, but he’s the right pick. It’s difficult to get a feel for Helton, but how can you argue with the results thus far? USC by year’s end was arguably one of the three best teams in football along with Alabama & Clemson. The Trojans ended the year on a 9-game winning streak that saw them finish the season with a 52-49 win over Penn St. in the Rose Bowl. Washington was fortunate that USC lost out on the Pac 12 South because I thought USC would have beat them in the Pac 12 championship game. All Helton has done over the last 2 seasons is go 15-7 with a conference record of 12-3! USC is also back to full scholarship strength for the most part and Helton is making no bones about cashing in. He’s recruiting at an exceptionally high level. High level recruiting. High level coaching. We are about ready to see some incredible wars between USC & Washington. The Pac 12 is bananas and Helton will climb this list by leaps and bounds after 2017.

#27 – Paul Johnson – Georgia Tech

I feel like this is too low for Johnson because he’s an incredible coach but he has a couple of things working against him. He’s a system guy because he runs that triple option on offense and that is going to have a tendency to play poorly when a new crop of players come in. This is essentially what happened in 2015 when GT finished 3-9. QB Justin Thomas returned, but their two leading RBs were freshman. That changed in 2016 when Marcus Marshall & Clinton Lynch returned, but RB Dedrick Mills turned out to be outstanding which gave Johnson quite a bit to work with. That improved the team and GT went 9-4 with a 6-1 record in their last 7 games including road wins over Virginia Tech & Georgia. Johnson doesn’t recruit the kinds of players that a lot of other schools are able to. He’s still won two ACC Coastal division championships in the last 5 years and the Yellow Jackets are a team nobody wants to face.

#26 – Kirk Ferentz – Iowa

Ferentz is probably underrated here, but you can’t help but be a little disappointed in Iowa every time they look like they are going to turn a corner. In 2015, Iowa had a tremendous year finishing with a perfect regular season but lost the Big 10 championship game to Michigan St. and the Rose Bowl to Stanford to put a black mark on an otherwise outstanding season. They followed that up last year with an 8-5 campaign that should have been 10-3. But we’ve seen this before from Ferentz. Iowa was 31-7 from 2002-2004 but followed those 3-years with a 3-year record of 19-18 from 2005-2007! The Hawkeyes finished 11-2 in 2009 but followed that up with an 8-5 season. Iowa has spurts of greatness but they are never sustained. Given the talent disparity between an Iowa and say a Michigan/Ohio State, what Ferentz has done in Iowa City is spectacular, but for some reason it always seems a bit disappointing. Iowa should win 10 games a year.

#25 – Paul Chryst – Wisconsin

The jury is still out on Chryst at this point, but the early returns are nothing short of incredible. Chyrst took over for Gary Andersen once Andersen bolted for Oregon State and the Badgers haven’t missed a beat. In his two seasons in Madison, Chryst is 21-6 with a Big 10 record of 13-4 with a Big 10 West division title in 2016. Chryst hasn’t had the most stable offensive game plan the last couple of seasons. In 2015 he had to deal with the loss of RB Corey Clement. Last he had to break in a new starting QB when Joel Stave graduated. What has been constant for Chryst is having a TREMENDOUS defense led by great coordinators. Dave Aranda was DC for Chryst in 2015 before bolting for LSU in 2016. In 2016, Chyrst hired Justin Wilcox to be DC, but Wilcox is now the HC for Cal. This year, former Badger Jim Leonard, takes over after having studied under both Aranda & Wilcox. If Chryst turns in another 11-win season, he’ll shoot up these rankings.

#24 – Dana Holgorsen – West Virginia

I’m a big fan of Holgorsen and he has the Mountaineers trending in the right direction. In 2014 WVU went 7-6. They improved to 8-5 a year later before having somewhat of a coming out party last season when they finished 10-3 (7-2) which was the best record West Virginia has had in the Big XII under Holgorsen. The interesting thing to see with Holgorsen is if he can continue the trend. Recruiting has dropped just a bit the last couple of years and it won’t be easy with the Mountaineers losing their starting QB along with a couple of their best defenders. It’s always going to be hard to compete with Oklahoma & Texas in conference play, but Holgorsen should have WVU set up enough that if one of the powers slip up, West Virginia should be right there to take advantage. That’s the key at this point. When does WVU get home games against Oklahoma & Texas in the same year and can they be primed to beat both of them?

#23 – David Cutcliffe – Duke

Last year’s 4-8 (1-7) team was disappointing but the 4-years prior to 2016 saw Duke finish 33-20, win the ACC Coastal once and get to 4-straight bowl games culminating in 2015 with their first bowl win since 1960! Before Cutcliffe came along the Blue Devils had never made it to a bowl game in back-to-back years. Cutcliffe did in back-to-back-to-back-to-back! He’s also been able to sell the football program as Duke has climbed out of the 50s and 60s recruiting rankings into the 30s and 40s. Duke is never going to out-talent anybody and the football team will always play second fiddle to the basketball team, but you can’t dismiss Cutcliffe’s coaching chops at all. Putting this guy at a place like Oregon or Florida would be scary given the resources he’d have to run the program. The ACC is getting tougher, but keep in mind Duke was a bit young last year. Cutcliffe is going to have more experience in 2017 and he’ll get the most out of it.

#22 – Mike Leach – Washington State

The Cougars were a completely mess under Bill Doba and Paul Wulff before the PIRATE took over. All Leach has done is get Wazzou back to a bowl game in his 2nd year and then come within a win over Washington of winning the Pac 12 North in year 5 last season. We shouldn’t be surprised. Leach spent 10 years in Lubbock at Texas Tech where he never posted a losing season and won 8-9 games per season. It took him 3 years to get Washington St. headed in the right direction, but over the last two seasons the team is 17-9 with a conference record of 13-5! Imagine if Leach wasn’t giving away games each season to FCS opponents!? Leach is still having trouble selling Pullman to potential recruits, but he never recruited exceptionally at Texas Tech either and it didn’t seem to matter. You can make a legitimate argument Leach should be much higher. Are there really 21 other coaches you’d rather have than the PIRATE himself?

#21 – Dan Mullen – Mississippi State

I’m only looking at the last 5 years of data for each coach, but it’s impossible ignore what Mullen has done over his team at Mississippi State. His only losing regular season was his first and he’s guided the Bulldogs to 7 straight bowl games. It was amazing how good Dak Prescott ended up for the Cowboys this past season, but what might have been even more impressive is Mullen getting the MSU to a bowl game in the year after Prescott left! Those were enormous shoes to fill and Mullen was still able to get MSU to 6 wins. While he’s never really had Hail State close to competing for a national championship, there have been glimpses. The Bulldogs started the 2012 season off 7-0 and reached #13 before faltering. In 2014, Mississippi St. started the season 9-0 and was ranked #1 before losing at Alabama 25-20. He’s never outrecruited anyone in the SEC West, but MS State keeps winning. There is a reason his name ALWAYS comes up when there is a big time coaching vacancy.

#2o – Brian Kelly – Notre Dame

One thing that stands out about Kelly against his recent predecessors in South Bend was his ability to avoid the bad season. Charlie Weis went 3-9 in 2007. Ty Willingham went 5-7 in 2003. Bob Davie 5-6 in 2001, his last season. But then it happened. Kelly turned in a 4-8 performance last year with HORRIFIC losses to Texas, Duke, NC State, Navy and Virginia Tech. All games the Irish should have won which would have made that 4-8 season a 9-3 season with the potential to get a solid bowl win to finish 10-3. Kelly has to be feeling tremendous heat as HC of the Irish. He’s recruited well, but the on-field results haven’t been good. Notre Dame really hasn’t beaten anyone of note and the championship game they played in against Alabama was a complete and total embarrassment! If Kelly can defend Notre Dame Stadium this fall, the Irish have a real shot at 11-1. Kelly needs it or else ND could be looking elsewhere for a head coach.

May 19, 2017 Posted by | ACC, Big 10, Big XII, Coaching, Duke, Georgia, Georgia Tech, Iowa, Mississippi St., Notre Dame, Pac 12, Rankings, SEC, USC, Washington St., West Virginia, Wisconsin | 1 Comment

RANKING POWER-65 COLLEGE COACHES – #39 to #30

Here are the links for the first two installments:

#50 – #65
#49-#40

if you need to catch up. Today we hit the thirties and I think the rankings start to become quite a bit more interesting as we start to hit some pretty big names in the coaching world. Let’s get to it.

#39 – P.J. Fleck – Minnesota

Yeah I’m rowing the boat! It’s difficult to argue Fleck’s track record as a first time head coach at Western Michigan. In his first year he led the Broncos to an 1-11 season. By his 4th year, WMU finished with a perfect 13-0 season before losing to Wisconsin in the Cotton Bowl 24-16. Western finished 29-11 (20-4) in Fleck’s last 3 years as HC. Fleck brings an excitement to Minnesota that Gophers fans haven’t experienced since Murray Warmath led Minnesota to back-to-back Rose Bowls in 1960-1961! You probably don’t even remember those teams unless you were born in the 1940s or early 1950s! It’s hard to argue with his success, but Fleck faces a completely different animal in the Big 10. Iowa, Nebraska & Wisconsin aren’t Ball St., Kent St. and Bowling Green. It’ll be interesting to see if Fleck can raise the ceiling for Gopher football.

#38 – Tom Herman – Texas

The hottest coaching prospect last season who happened to have deep roots in Texas wound up as the new HC for the Longhorns after the university had had enough of Charlie Strong’s leadership. As with Fleck, it’s almost impossible to deny Herman’s track record. He was Urban Meyer’s OC at Ohio State before jumping to the head coaching job at Houston where in his first season, Herman led the Cougars to a 13-1 record and a final ranking inside the top-10! I think Herman is a better fit within the Texas culture than Strong was and he’ll do well. He’s a good solid coach that connects with players and it won’t be long before he’s tearing it up on the recruiting trail once he gets the foundation of the program built. As with Fleck, the road will be a bit tougher. Playing in the American isn’t the Big XII and instead of Tulane, East Carolina and Memphis, Herman will go up against Oklahoma, Oklahoma St., TCU, Baylor and Kansas State.

#37 – Willie Taggart – Oregon

Taggart was an interesting hire for Oregon, but once it was known that Chip Kelly wasn’t coming back to college football, the Ducks had to move on and all Taggart has done as his time as a college football coach is build winners. Taggart played prep ball in Florida and then played his college ball at Western Kentucky where he was an assistant for 8 years before taking the RB coaching job at Stanford under Jim Harbaugh. From there he came back to his alma mater to be HC. He inherited a WKU team that went 0-12 the year before Taggart arrived, but in Taggart’s 2nd year, he had WKU at 7-5. In his 3rd and final year he had WKU bowling. Taggart left WKU to return to his home state of Florida and coach USF where he took over a Bulls team that went 3-9 before he arrived. By year 4 the Bulls were 11-2. Now he is going to attempt to bring Oregon back to the heights reached by Chip Kelly. Unlike Herman & Fleck above, Taggart has hit the recruiting trail hard and it is paying off early. It’ll be interesting to see how Taggart does at an elite program with massive resources. His track record speaks for itself.

#36 – Bret Bielema – Arkansas

The decision to leave Wisconsin for Arkansas was an interesting one for Bielema a few years ago and after the Hogs 2016 campaign, the shine is off of Arkansas’s head coach. Bielema took over a program that was in pretty bad shape after a year of John Smith as HC coming off the Bobby Petrino scandal. Bielema’s first year wasn’t pretty as Arkansas went 3-9 without a win in conference play, but by year 3 (2015), Arkansas 8-5 (5-3) and poised to potentially step into the role of challenger to Alabama in the SEC West. It wasn’t meant to be as Arkansas regressed last season to 7-6 (3-5) with a bowl loss. The 7-6 isn’t completely awful, but the losses were terrible. Arkansas was blown out in all of their losses except a close loss to Missouri which itself was inexcusable. I’m not completely sold on Bielema’s style of offense working in the SEC West, and truth be told, the worst thing for Bielema is having to live up the incredible expectations Bobby Petrino set when he was in Fayetteville. LSU has been dealing with a similar situation after Nick Saban took the Tigers to top-5 status.

#35 – Gary Andersen – Oregon State

Andersen is one of my favorite head coaches in college football and Oregon St. is one of my favorite teams. The two coming together was great for me as I think college football is better when Oregon State is relevant. That’s probably just me, but so what! It’s interesting that I ended up with Bielema and Andersen together as both left Wisconsin for other jobs. Andersen is a helluva head coach. He turned Utah State into an 11-win team with a WAC championship in 4 season. He took Wisconsin to a Big 10 West title in his 2nd year. When Mike Riley left Oregon St. for Nebraska, their was quite a bit of uncertainty surrounding the Beavers program. Andersen came in and struggled his first year going 2-10 (0-9) but in his 2nd season last year, the Beavers improved to 4-8 (3-6) with conference wins over California, Arizona and hated rival Oregon! The scoring defense and scoring offense were also improved by 7 points each. The Pac 12 North is getting scary good with Chris Petersen doing work at Washington, Mike Leach winning at Washington St. and Willie Taggart taking over at Oregon, but something tells me Andersen is going to make life hard for those guys.

#34 – Justin Fuente – Virginia Tech

Absolutely love what Fuente did with the Hokies last season. Fuente had a lot of success at Memphis before taking the Virginia Tech job, but he’s been nothing but spades since landing in Blacksburg. Keeping Bud Foster on staff as DC was a genius move and speaks volumes as to the kind of man Foster is. Fuente also brought a run heavy attack to Virginia Tech which I think works in their favor. The Hokies have always been known under Bud Foster for having a very intimidating, turnover causing, very fast defense that hits exceptionally hard. Keeping those guys fresh and healthy by dominating time of possession is outstanding strategy that Fuente used last year to win the ACC Coastal in his first season where VT finished the year 10-4 and ranked #16 in the AP. Fuente is making deep strides in recruiting already and once the talent is assembled, Virginia Tech is going to be extremely difficult to handle.

#33 – Hugh Freeze – Mississippi

Like Bielema, the shine has dulled a bit on Freeze’s tenure in Oxford. After improving by a win each year for 3 straight years after a 7-6 campaign in 2012, Freeze and the Rebels took a tremendous step back last season finishing 5-7 (2-6). The overall records can also be a bit misleading as Freeze’s 5-year record in SEC play is not even .500 at 19-21. The bigger problem is the controversy surrounding the Ole Miss program and the NCAA violations. Ole Miss has taken a hit in recruiting already and if recruiting dries up for the Rebels then that spells disaster in arguably the most competitive division in all of college football. There is no question that Freeze can make Ole Miss great. He proved that in 2015, but how he deals with a potential fall out from these mistakes will be telling. The best news for Freeze at this point is that he’s still head coach and that QB Shea Patterson decided to stick around. With no bowl eligibility this season, Ole Miss should be playing like a teach with a chip on their shoulder.

#32 – Mike MacInytre – Colorado

You knew it was only a matter of time before Coach Mac had Colorado on the cusp of greatness. When MacIntyre got his first job as a HC at San Jose State, he finished 1-12 (0-8) in his first season as the Spartans leader. In year 3, San Jose St. went 10-2 (5-1) and beat Bowling Green in the Military Bowl! MacIntyre used that success to grab the Colorado job and what he did in Year 4 in Boulder almost defies reality. The Colorado rebuild wasn’t going to be easy. Not by a long shot. MacIntyre’s first 3 years as HC witnessed Colorado post a combined record of 10-27 with a conference record of 2-25!!!! Those were 3 straight last place finishes in the Pac 12 South! Last season, MacIntyre broke though HUGE as Colorado went 10-4 (8-1), won the Pac 12 South and drew Oklahoma St. in the Alamo Bowl. The Buffs posted wins over Oregon, Stanford, UCLA, Arizona, Utah, and Washington State! It was a BANNER year that was dampened a bit by losing 41-10 to Washington in the Pac 12 championship and 38-8 to Oklahoma St. in the Alamo Bowl. Was the breakthrough real, or did Coach Mac take advantage of an unusually weak Pac 12? Oregon was way down. UCLA was down. Arizona St. & Arizona were down. They beat Stanford 10-5 in an ugly contest and drew Utah & Washington St. in Boulder. I’m betting on MacIntyre. I think Colorado is good, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the Buffaloes regressed just a bit in 2017.

#31 – Larry Fedora – North Carolina

This feels low considering it was just two years ago that Fedora led the Tar Heels to an 11-3 (8-0) record that saw the UNC win the ACC Coastal relatively easy. A deeper look though and you come away disappointed just a bit. That 2015 season was smoke and mirrors as UNC finished the regular season 11-1 but didn’t play a ranked opponent all season. They lost to Clemson in the ACC Championship game and then lost to Baylor in the Russell Athletic Bowl. Last season, the Coastal was again ripe for the taking but UNC gags at home to NC State in the season finale 28-21 and loses to Duke in Durham two weeks before 28-27! That seems ridiculous when you consider just how much offensive firepower the Heels had last season. Fedora has had some good seasons in Chapel Hill but no great ones and that task is going to get tougher and tougher now that Virginia Tech is in seemingly good hands with Justin Fuente and Miami-FL now has one of the best coaches in all of college football in Mark Richt. I really like Fedora and believe he can climb the rankings, but at this point it seems as if UNC has missed a couple of opportunities.

#30 – Mike Riley – Nebraska

The problem with Nebraska is that haven’t found anyone that can take the program to the heights that Tom Osborne did. Frank Solich wasn’t horrible actually and had a few top-10 squads in Lincoln, but not enough big time wins against bit time teams. The hiring of Bill Callahan was a disaster and Bo Pelini couldn’t quite get Nebraska past the 9-4/10-4 mark. Now Mike Riley gets his chance. Riley did wonderful things at Oregon St., and I was a bit surprised that he took the Cornhuskers job, but Oregon St. isn’t Nebraska and Riley now has every resource available to him. In his first season Nebraska wasn’t great at 6-7 (3-5) but last year Riley improved to 9-4 (6-3) with a perfect 7-0 record at home. Nebraska was even ranked #7 in the nation at one point after starting 7-0! It wouldn’t last as Nebraska would go on to lose games to Iowa, Ohio St., Wisconsin & Tennessee, but the season was a win. Riley is making big strides in recruiting and I think he’s putting an emphasis on the Black Shirts which is getting back to Nebraska football.

May 17, 2017 Posted by | ACC, Arkansas, Big 10, Big XII, Coaching, Colorado, Minnesota, Mississippi, Nebraska, North Carolina, Oregon, Oregon St., Pac 12, Rankings, SEC, Texas, Virginia Tech | 2 Comments

RANKING POWER-65 COLLEGE FOOTBALL COACHES – #49 to #40

If you missed the rankings for the coaches ranked #65 to #50, you can find it here or just keep scrolling and it’s the post directly after this one. We left off with Arizona HC Rich Rodriguez at #50 so let’s take a look at the coaches landing in the forties.

#49 – Kliff Kingsbury – Texas Tech

I’m not as down on Kingsbury as some people are. He’s heading into 2017 on the hot seat to be certain, but I don’t think it’s been all bad. Texas Tech isn’t the easiest place to win and so far in his 4 years in Lubbock, Kingsbury is 24-26 overall and 13-23 in conference play. Those aren’t tremendous numbers, but if you look at the league historically, the Red Raiders are following Oklahoma, Texas, Oklahoma St., TCU, Kansas St. and West Virginia. That makes them 7th in the league and a good coach at Baylor puts Tech 8th. Kingsbury has yet to record a winning record in conference play, but he recruits fairly well and I think he’s good for the university and the program. If trends hold, he should be in for a 7-9 win season in 2017.

#48 – Dave Doeren – North Carolina State

Doeren didn’t walk into a great situation given how NC State AD Debbie Yow dismissed his predecessor Tom O’Brien. Yow essentially cited lack of enthusiasm for the football program as justification for canning O’Brien, but in O’Brien’s last 3 seasons, NC State went 24-14 (13-11). In Doeren’s last 3 seasons as HC, the Wolfpack have went 22-17 (9-15). Yow wanted a football coach who could bring in Top-25 classes. Doeren hasn’t done that either. With that said, Doeren has been consistently 7-6/8-5 in his last 3 years, but he’s also went 3-5 in conference play those same three seasons. I think a coach can win at NC State & Doeren is doing just that, but he needs a breakthrough season with 9-10 wins.

#47 – Todd Graham – Arizona State

A lot of what I wrote about Rich Rodriguez can be written about Todd Graham as well. Graham is better than this but the Sun Devils have been regressing for a couple of year now. In 2013-2014, the Sun Devils posted a 20-7 record. The last two years that total has dropped to 11-14. Graham has been better than Rodriguez in conference play, but only marginally so. ASU went 8-1 in the Pac 12 South in 2013 and won the division. Just 3 years later they finished 2-7 and this is with USC still somewhat regrouping. Graham has recruited top-25 level classes to Tempe and Sun Devil Stadium can be a bear to play in for opposing teams. ASU was pretty young last year and I think 2017 will see a much improve Sun Devils squad.

#46 – Kevin Sumlin – Texas A&M

Sumlin’s star could have been any brighter after the 2012 season when he took the Aggies to an 11-2 record and a final ranking in the top-5. A&M would beat a #1 ranked Alabama team that year and then go on to humiliate a solid Oklahoma team in the Cotton Bowl. QB Johnnie Manziel wasn’t quite as spectacular in 2013 and the Aggies dropped to 9-4. Life after Manziel hasn’t been promising either as Sumlin has turned in 3 consecutive 8-5 seasons with a slew of QB transfers that can’t help morale down in College Station. Making matters worse is that Texas A&M is 15-17 in SEC play over the last 4 years & Alabama isn’t going away. Life in the SEC West isn’t easy and Sumlin probably enters 2017 on a seat that is heating up.

#45 – Derek Mason – Vanderbilt

Mason has to deal with some of the difficulties of being a HC at a school like Vanderbilt in much the same way that Northwestern, Duke, Stanford and even possibly Virginia has to deal with. Stanford is somewhat of an exception, but Vanderbilt is the only one of those schools playing the SEC which makes their ceiling quite a bit lower. You can’t help but be impressed with Mason so far in taking over for James Franklin. Mason cut his teeth under Jim Harbaugh and David Shaw at Stanford so he knows the drill. His first year in Nashville saw Vandy post a 3-9 (0-8) record. Last year, Mason’s 3rd, Vandy improved to 6-7 (3-5) with a bowl appearance. The rebuild wasn’t as fast as James Franklin coming in, but the Commodores are in good hands.

#44 – Mark Stoops – Kentucky

Like Mason, you can’t help but be impressed by the work Stoops is doing in Lexington. Stoops took over a disaster of a program left behind by Joker Phillips and turned them into a bowl team 4 years later. In Stoops’s first year (2013), UK was terrible going 2-10 (0-8) but last year the Wildcats jumped to 7-6 (4-4) and got a rivalry win over Louisville! Stoops has shown the ability to recruit top-25 level classes to Kentucky which is borderline amazing considering they are surrounded by football blue bloods which is another feather in Stoops’ cap. UK was smart to stick with their HC despite back-to-back 5-7 (2-6) seasons. It paid off in spades last year with UK having their best season since 2009. The talent is there for UK to be even better in 2017.

#43 – Dave Clawson – Wake Forest

Wake Forest hasn’t been relevant since the days of Riley Skinner and Aaron Curry. When Clawson took over in 2014, the Demon Deacons hasn’t had a winning season since 2008 nor had they had a bowl win since 2008. Winning in Winston-Salem isn’t exactly easy which is why it was so amazing what Jim Grobe was able to accomplish with Wake. He couldn’t sustain that and eventually Wake ended up being a sub-.500 team which led to Clawson’s hire. Clawson had to do some rebuilding his first two seasons which saw WF finish with back-to-back 3-9 (1-7) seasons, but the Deacons broke through last year finishing 7-6 (3-5) including a bowl win over a very good Temple squad. That’s solid progress for this program.

#42 – Butch Jones – Tennessee

This is probably too low for Jones. I’m of the opinion that the Vols should have never fired Fulmer, but I’m also not sure Fulmer was going to get Tennessee another national title which should always be the goal in Knoxville. Tennessee made a couple of bad hires in Lane Kiffin and Derek Dooley and Jones was hired to clean up the mess. In his first season UT went 5-7. In his 2nd the Vols went 7-6 followed up by back to back 9-4 seasons. That’s progress, but to a degree Jones’s tenure at Tennessee has been marked by disappointment. In and SEC East where Missouri won a couple of division titles, Tennessee has come up empty despite SC not being very good and Florida being in a holding pattern until McElwain showed up. Is that a missed opportunity? It sure seems like it. Throw in the fact that UT is 14-18 in SEC play during Jones’s stay and he doesn’t look so good.

#41 – Jim Mora – UCLA

Like Jones, I think Mora is somewhat disappointing which is why he’s ranked in the 40s instead of the 20s. Last season was depressing with expectations that weren’t close to being met. The Bruins entered the 2016 season as the odds on favorite to win the Pac 12 South. With Washington thought to still be a year away, with USC still in rebuilding mode and with Oregon headed towards disaster, the conference and potential playoff spot was ripe for the taking. Instead, UCLA turned in a 4-8 season that saw star QB Josh Rosen miss half the season and potential 1st round NFL Pick DT Eddie Vanderdoes turn in an underwhelming season. The talent is here & Rosen is great so there is time for Mora to improve his stock in 2017.

#40 – Pat Narduzzi – Pittsburgh

Narduzzi was a tough one to figure out. On the one hand it seems as if he’s a little underrated. Since coming to Pittsburgh, he’s led the Panthers to a 16-10 overall record with an 11-5 mark in conference play. Last year’s Pitt squad was the best they’ve fielded since Dave Wannstedt took Pitt to a 10-3 final record back in 2009. On the other hand, the team under Narduzzi has also been puzzling. The 16-10 record is nice, but if you have watched Pitt the last two years, it could have been so much more. Last year the Panthers lost 4 games by a total of 18 points! The year before they lost 4 games by a total of 27 points. If Narduzzi can figure out how to win close games, we might be looking at a dominant Panthers team. However, Pittsburgh is also 0-2 in bowl games under Narduzzi’s watch & the defense got worse from 2015 to 2016 despite Narduzzi’s reputation as a defensive wizard. Narduzzi loses a truck load of talent so we’ll see how he responds in 2017.

May 15, 2017 Posted by | ACC, Arizona St., Big XII, Coaching, Kentucky, NC State, Pac 12, Pittsburgh, Rankings, SEC, Tennessee, Texas AM, Texas Tech, UCLA, Vanderbilt, Wake Forest | 3 Comments

RANKING POWER-65 COLLEGE FOOTBALL COACHES – #50 to #65

Let’s get back into action with some college football talk. This marks the beginning of my ranking the 65 Power college football coaches in the nation. I looked all the head coaches from the ACC, Big 10, Big 12, SEC, ACC and Notre Dame. I took the last 5 years and looked at their records, conference records, history, recruiting efforts, bowl records and the overall trends of their team over these past 5 seasons. I’ll go in reverse order starting at the bottom and working my way up by 10 spots. This beginning post will start with the bottom 15. Here we go!

#65 – Chris Ash – Rutgers

Ash didn’t exactly walk into the best situation given the Kyle Flood controversy but in his first year in New Brunswick, the former Ohio St. DC finished 2-10 with a conference record of 0-9. His 2016 recruiting class also ranked #78 according to Rivals meaning talent isn’t pouring into New Jersey either. Most of Rutgers games weren’t even that competitive. In their games against Ohio St., Michigan, Michigan St. and Penn St., the Scarlet Knights were outscored 224-0! The Big 10 East isn’t the easiest division to play in, but good grief Rutgers can’t get HAMMERED like that. Ash probably has a little more rope but another 2-10 (0-9) season might spell disaster.

#64 – David Beaty – Kansas

Beatty has gone 2-22 in his first two seasons in Lawrence with a Big 12 record of 1-17. There has been improvement. Beatty went 0-12 his first season at the helm and improved by 2 games last season to 2-10. He also improved his conference record from 0-9 to 1-8. The powers that be at KU thought enough of that improvement to give Beaty a contract extension through 2021! Beaty did lead Kansas to their first win over Texas since 1938 and they came pretty close to beating Iowa St. and TCU! Recruiting it up a bit and Beaty has a chance to improve this ranking quite a bit. Sure Kansas only won 2 games, but in 2015, their average margin of defeat was 30.8 PPG. In 2016 it was 17.0!

#63 – Barry Odom – Missouri

Almost impossible to replace a HC like Gary Pinkel who had tremendous success at Missouri, but if there is anyone that knows Pinkel it’s Odom. Another positive about Odom is that there can’t possibly be a more dyed in the wool Mizzou Tiger than Odom himself. There will never be a lack of passion for Missouri football coming from the head coach! Odom’s first year as HC wasn’t a great one as the Tigers went 4-8 (2-6). That was the worst record the Tigers have had since 2000 when Missouri went 3-8 the year before Gary Pinkel was hired. Pinkel’s worst record in 15 years was 4-7. Odom has his work cut out for him and he needs to recruit better, but Pinkel did more with less so maybe he can too.

#62 – Bronco Mendenhall – Virginia

Mendenhall is a tough one to evaluate. His first year in Charlottesville was a disaster as the Cavaliers went 2-10 with a 1-7 conference record. I don’t think much was expected of Virginia in Mendenhall’s first season, but Virginia should have been at least comparable to their 2015 version which went 4-8. Instead, they regressed. Sometimes seasons can go sideways and that seems to be the case with Virginia. They shouldn’t have lost to FCS Richmond to open the season. They let road games at UConn and Wake Forest get away from them as well. Those 3 games turning to wins would have at least allowed UVA to get to 5-7. There is a lot of room to move up this season for Mendenhall.

#61 – Lovie Smith – Illinois

Before last season, the last time Lovie Smith coached in the college ranks was 1995 when he was DB coach for Ohio State. He was the head coach for the Chicago Bears and Tampa Bay Buccaneers for 11 years leading the Bears to a Super Bowl in 2006, so it was quite an odd move that Smith would leave the NFL for collegiate football and all the headaches involved with recruiting 16 and 17 year old boys. Smith got a rude awakening his first season. The Illini finished 3-9 (2-7) with one of their wins coming against Murray State. The games weren’t even that competitive and Smith didn’t exactly tear it up on the recruiting trail. With Jeff Brohm and PJ Fleck joining the Big 10 West, it’s not getting any easier.

#60 – Dino Babers – Syracuse

Babers was an assistant coach for almost 30 years before he finally got his shot at Eastern Illinois and made the most of it. He went 19-7 with EIU winning back-to-back Ohio Valley Conference championships. He parlayed that job into the head coaching gig at Bowling Green and did well there too. Babers posted an 18-9 record with the Falcons, winning the MAC East in both years and the MAC championship in 2015. He traded that job for a Power-5 conference job with Syracuse. Unfortunately for Babers, he didn’t do as well at Syracuse as he did with EIU and BG. A 4-8 (2-6) record wasn’t fantastic and Babers didn’t kill it on the recruiting trail either. He still has plenty of time left.

#59 – Justin Wilcox – California

Wilcox has never been a head coach but for the last 11 years he’s been the defensive coordinator for Boise St., Tennessee, Washington, USC & Wisconsin. In those seasons here is how his defenses ranked in scoring defense:

2006: #20 (Boise St.)
2007: #26 (Boise St.)
2008: #3 (Boise St.)
2009: #13 (Boise St.)
2010: #56 (Tennessee)
2011: #36 (Tennessee)
2012: #39 (Washington)
2013: #29 (Washington)
2014: #46 (USC)
2015: #50 (USC)
2016: #4 (Wisconsin)

Clearly Wilcox has a track record of success which is good for Cal because the Bears haven’t had anything resembling a decent defense these past 5 seasons. Losing QB Davis Webb will be tough, but Wilcox will do a good job if he can keep Cal from giving up 40PPG.

#58 – Tom Allen – Indiana

Allen did a stellar job as a defensive coach at Ole Miss and South Florida before coming onto Kevin Wilson’s staff last season as the defensive coordinator. Allen didn’t disappoint, improving the Hoosiers’ scoring defense by 10PPG! That’s good news for Indiana as their problem has always been on the defensive side of the football. Allen has never been a head coach and his ascension to the throne was somewhat odd in light of the dismissal of former HC Kevin Wilson, but I think Indiana is in a much better place with Allen leading the charge than with Wilson, even if Wilson guided the Hoosiers to back-to-back bowl appearances. It doesn’t get any worse than the Big 10 East, but Allen has started recruiting well which is a good beginning.

#57 – D.J. Durkin – Maryland

Durkin’s first year in Maryland doesn’t look horrible when you consider the Terps were 6-6 during the regular season and getting bowl eligible before losing the bowl game to finish 6-7. A deeper look is a little more rough as Maryland started the season 4-0 against garbage competition and then finished 2-6 in their final 8 with wins over Rutgers & Michigan State, two team who combined for a 1-17 conference record. That’s hardly awe inspiring. Maryland also lost to Ohio St., Michigan and Nebraska by a combined score of 149-13. That’s not Rutgers territory, but it’s not great either. Durkin is recruiting well in College Park and he’s in a fertile recruiting ground which makes it easier. Still a lot of room to make up on Ohio St., Michigan & Penn State.

#56 – Ed Orgeron – LSU

I get the pull of Orgeron being a Louisiana native and who in their right mind isn’t in love with the guy, but I wonder if LSU made the right call in bringing their native son back home to head up the Bayou Bengals? For Orgeron, this is a shot at redemption. There is no question that Orgeron can recruit with the best of them and he’s in a prime spot to bring in a top-5 class annually. There is also no question that Orgeron is a helluva defensive coach as well and the Tigers will most certainly have his fingerprints all over their defensive identity. The question will be whether or not Orgeron can pull it all together. He’ll need a strong staff around him, but I have a sneaking suspicion that Orgeron will get it done.

#55 – Matt Campbell – Iowa State

It wasn’t a banner year in Matt Campbell’s first year in Ames has head coach of the Cyclones, but the 3-9 record hid some exciting trends. The Cyclones let a close to Northern Iowa get away from them but they also played Oklahoma, Kansas St., Oklahoma St., and Baylor very close. ISU picked up conference wins over Kansas & Texas Tech, even beating the Red Raiders 66-10 which was Iowa St., most lopsided win since the Cyclones beat Colorado St. 69-0 back in 1980! Campbell is young and energetic. He had tremendous success at Toledo and he has recruiting trending the right direction. There is no reason to believe that Iowa St. can’t be a bowl eligible team on a yearly basis under his watch.

#54 – Matt Rhule – Baylor

Hard to argue with Rhule’s bonafides. His first year at Temple was 2-10. His 3rd year the Owls were 10-4 and AAC East champions. His 4th year they were 10-3 and AAC Champions! The only thing that was tough to argue about Rhule was his taking the Baylor job to begin with. Rhule is a Penn St. graduate and all of his experience is just not east, but east of Ohio! Now he’s smack in the middle of Texas against some HEAVY HITTERS in Texas, Texas A&M, TCU, Texas Tech, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State. That’s not easy, and I’m not even mentioning the inroads that places like Notre Dame, Alabama and LSU have made the Lone Star State. Rhule will definitely have the Bears playing outstanding defense early.

#53 – Will Muschamp – South Carolina

I’m probably being a little hard on Muschamp here seeing how in his first season he took the Gamecocks to bowl eligibility when nobody except the most dedicated Gamecocks fans though SC would do anything but finish in the basement of the SEC East. My only caveat is that South Carolina and Muschamp worked the schedule which allowed SC to finish 6-6 and get to a bowl. Their non-conference wins included those against East Carolina, UMass and Western Carolina. Missouri was in the tank last year and Vanderbilt wasn’t great so there is 5 wins there. An upset win, which they got over Tennessee, was all SC needed. Muschamp will recruit well enough. Let’s see how his 2nd stint through the SEC East goes.

#52 – Jeff Brohm – Purdue

Brohm wasted little time building off of what Willie Taggart and Bobby Petrino did before him at Western Kentucky. Brohm finished his time in Bowling Green with a 30-10 record with a 19-5 mark in Conference USA play. In his last two seasons at WKU, Brohm led the Hilltoppers to a 22-5 mark including 2 bowl wins and a CUSA record of 15-1 which led to back-to-back conference championships. Brohm had Western Kentucky’s offense flying and the Hilltoppers actually led all of FBS in scoring offense in 2016. Brohm inherits a mess at Purdue, but he’ll get the offense rolling and if the defense follows suit, the Boilermakers could definitely start making noise in the Big 10 West.

#51 – Steve Addazio – Boston College

Addazio’s a tough one to figure out. I think what you have to wonder is what kind of ceiling does a program like Boston College really have? Addazio has went 7-6 in 3 of his 4 years on Chestnut Hill and is 1-2 in bowl games. That’s isn’t terrible when you consider that BC plays in the same division as Clemson, Florida St., and Louisville. In reality, BC is probably looking at a ceiling like 8-4/9-3 and Addazio is pretty close to having the Eagles at this mark with some aspect of sustainability. I think he could recruit better to be sure. Boston College should be able to get better players than what they have. Matt Ryan & Doug Flutie showed how good BC can be when they get elite level talent on the roster.

#50 – Rich Rodriguez – Arizona

Rodriguez is better than this but his teams certainly aren’t playing like it. Rodriguez had somewhat of a breakthrough in 2014 when the Wildcats went 10-4 and won the Pac 12 North, but it was colored a bit by a 51-13 loss to Oregon in the Pac 12 Championship game followed up by a 38-30 loss to Boise St. in the Fiesta Bowl. In 2015 the Wildcats dropped to 7-6 and last year Arizona completely collapsed finishing 3-9 with a 1-8 mark in conference play! Arizona’s conference record over the past two seasons is 4-14 and Rodriguez’s recruiting classes have been trending downward. USC seems to be stabilizing under Clay Helton. Colorado is emerging. That doesn’t play well for RichRod in the Pac 12 South.

May 14, 2017 Posted by | ACC, Arizona, Baylor, Big 10, Big XII, Boston College, California, Coaching, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa St., Kansas, LSU, Maryland, Missouri, Pac 12, Purdue, Rankings, Rutgers, SEC, South Carolina, Syracuse, Virginia | 4 Comments

2015 BIG XII PREVIEWS and PREDICTIONS

RANK BIG 12 COMMENTS
#1 OFFENSE: Devastating. TCU averaged 47PPG last season and return 10 starters including Heisman candidate QB Trevone Boykin. The only loss offensively was LT Tayo Fabuluje, but Halapoulvaati Vaitai steps in after being an All-Big XII performer at RT last season. Nine of the projected 11 starters could be all-conference making this offense absolutely ridiculous. Boykin & WR Josh Doctson could be 1st Team All-Americans! RB Aaron Greene also returns after averaging 7.1ypc & rushing for 922yds/9TD in 2014. There simply isn’t a weakness to the offense that I can see. You can make an argument for both Baylor & Ohio St, but in my opinion this will be the most explosive offense in the nation. You knew HC Gary Patterson wasn’t going to come into the Big XII and not win. TCU has arrived & they’ll play with a huge chip after not making the playoffs in 2014. DEFENSE: The Frogs bring back just 5 starters but don’t let that fool you. The D-Line should be outstanding with DEs James McFarland & Terrell Lathan along with DT Davion Pierson. Lathan is a matchup nightmare at 6’5/280lbs while Pierson is a rare DT who can get great pressure on the QB. The LBs take a HUGE hit with losing Paul Dawson & Marcus Mallet. Dawson was a 1st Team All-American & racked up 136 tackles! The secondary also takes on some huge hits with losing S Sam Carter, CB Kevin White & S Chris Hackett! Overall TCU loses 6 of their top-7 tacklers! LB Mike Freeze, S Derrick Kindred & CB Ranthony Texada have some awesome potential & will need to play to it to overcome the defensive losses. It’s Gary Patterson though so you know the defense is going to play well. SCHEDULE: Tougher than it appears. Road games against Minnesota, Texas Tech, Kansas St., Oklahoma St. & Oklahoma! Baylor does have to come to Ft. Worth though. This is a team on a mission. BEST CASE: 12-0; WORST CASE: 9-3
#2 OFFENSE: The offense is INSANE. Baylor returns 9 starters from an offense that scored 48PPG last season! RB Shock Linwood ran for 1252yds/12TD! Backup Johnny Jefferson ran for over 500! WRs Corey Coleman & KD Cannon combined for 122rec/2149yds/19TD! Both return & both averaged more than 17ypc! WR Jay Lee also returns giving Baylor a big guy at 6’3! More devastating? The entire O-line returns intact including 4 senior starters! Coleman & LT Spencer Drango are potential All-Americans. Drango was a 1st Team All-American last season! Amazingly, 10 of Baylor’s projected 11 starters on offense could be 1st Team All-Big XII! The one question on offense is QB. Bryce Petty is with the Jets now so Seth Russell takes over. Russell can play & in Art Briles system, he’ll put up huge numbers. It’s crazy to think Baylor could score 50PPG but they did it in 2013! If Russell catches on fast then look out. DEFENSE: Better than you think. The last 2 seasons Baylor has allowed 24PPG & this is their best defense yet with 9 returning starters! Baylor has 6 players who should be considered for All-Big 12 honors while DT Andrew Billings & DE Shawn Oakman could be All-Americans. At 6’9/290lbs, Oakman could be the #1 overall pick in the 2016 NFL Draft! DT Beau Blakshear & DE Jamal Palmer also return giving the Bears arguably the best D-Line in college football. The secondary returns all 4 starters as well. S Orion Stewart & CB Xavien Howard are the stars here & Howard is huge for a CB at 6’2. LB Taylor Young racked up 92 tackles last year but Baylor does lose LB Bryce Hager who led the team in tackles. This defense is the best Briles has had. SCHEDULE: OOC is a joke. Baylor gets Texas, Oklahoma & West Virginia at home! They do go on the road to TCU which should be a battle for the conference title. This team is fantastic. BEST CASE: 12-0; WORST CASE: 9-3
#3 OFFENSE: As explosive as TCU’s & Baylor’s offenses might be, Oklahoma’s offense might be the most interesting. New OC Lincoln Riley is a proponent of the “Air Raid” offense that Mike Leach ran at Texas Tech. Riley coached with Leach for quite a while in Lubbock so expect the fireworks to be aplenty. New QB Baker Mayfield went to Texas Tech in 2013 & played under Leach disciple Kliff Kingsbury before transferring into Oklahoma. With confidence to burn, Mayfield is already controlling the offense to an incredibly high level. Now throw in the fact that Oklahoma returns RB Samaje Perine (1713yds/21TD in ’14) & their top-4 receivers including Sterling Shepard (19.0ypc/5TD) & you can begin to see just how crazy the Sooners offense might be in 2015! The Sooners do lose 3 outstanding O-Linemen, but the projected starters have 4 seniors & a junior. Seven guys could be all conference with Shepard & Perine being potential All-Americans! DEFENSE: The unit returns 6 starters after allowing an uncharacteristic 26PPG last year. The Sooners return their top-4 tacklers & 5 of their top-7. There is some incredible talent coming back. CB Zach Sanchez could be an All-American. LBs Dominque Alexander & Eric Striker are as good as they come. LB Jordan Evans & S Ahmad Thomas should also play key roles. Keep an eye on the D-Line. OU suffered some losses & will need NT Jordan Wade & DE DJ Ward to step into holes left by departing players. Seven guys are legit all-Big XII players & OU runs a 3-4. Only West Virginia runs a 3-4 so it’s unusual to see. SCHEDULE: Oklahoma is tricky being #3 here because they have the most talent in the conference. OOC at Tennessee is brutal. They also have road games against Baylor & Oklahoma St.! They get TCU at home but a 10-0 start is very possible with TCU/Baylor to end the season! BEST CASE: 12-0; WORST CASE: 5-7
#4 OFFENSE: West Virginia brings back 6 starters from an offense that scored 34PPG in 2014. This is somewhat of a mixed bag but I really Dana Holgorsen as a HC & believe in what he’s doing in Morgantown. Gone is QB Clint Trickett, but Trickett’s decision making could be questionable at times. Skyler Howard is the new starter & the smaller stature QB gives the Mountaineers a more cerebral QB who can also be a running threat. WVU also brings back Rushel Shell & Wendell Smallwood as RBs. They do have to replace WRs Kevin White & Mario Alford. Those 2 are huge losses but WVU runs 4 wide & Jordan Thompson & Daikiel Shorts looks good. The O-Line returns 3 starters, but new LT Sylvester Townes could be dynamic. I think Holgorsen is still finding his way, but Rich Rodriguez showed WVU could be a national player & I expect Holgorsen to do the same. DEFENSE: WVU brings back 9 starters including 9 of their top-10 tacklers. DT Shaquille Riddick & LB Wes Tonkery are fairly big losses, but I think OLBs Nick Kwiatkoski & KJ Dillon are primed for big years. WVU’s secondary returns intact. S Karl Joseph is arguably the best safety in football & gives WVU a legit All-American candidate. Dravon Henry is a solid safety as well, while CB Daryl Worley is 6’2! The one question for WVU will be the D-line. They run a 3-4 so the big guys up front will have to pick it up. JUCO transfer Larry Jefferson could be an interesting 3-4DE who can get to the QB. WVU allowed 28PPG last year but should be better which will go along way if they knock that number down to 22-23! SCHEDULE: OOC is weak & they get winnable games at home against OK State, Texas Tech, Texas & Maryland. So what they get TCU, Baylor & Oklahoma on the road!? I think they can win the other Big XII games & finish 4th! I think the defense comes through. BEST CASE: 9-3; WORST CASE: 4-8
#5 OFFENSE: The Red Raiders return 9 starters from an offense that averaged 31PPG last season. This group is probably the most talented & experienced HC Kliff Kingsbury has had to date. QB Patrick Mahomes was solid last year as a true frosh passing for 1500+yds with 16TD to 4INT. His accuracy needs to improve but there is a lot to like. RB DeAndre Jordan also returns. He ran for 1100+yds last season & is also a threat in the passing game. Tech also returns 6 of their top-7 receivers including WRs Jakeem Grant & Devin Lauderdale. Lauderdale averaged 19.0ypc last year! The O-Line returns 4 starters with 3 seniors who could be all-conference & LT Le’Raven Clark could be an All-American. Watch out for frosh JF Thomas who gives Mahomes a huge target at 6’4. I think Texas Tech gets back to scoring massive amount of points & should be closer to 40PPG than 30PPG. DEFENSE: Remember that the defense was solid in 2008-2009 when Tech was 20-6! Those 2 teams averaged 24PPG allowed so in this type of offensive system, the defense doesn’t necessarily have to be like Alabama’s. Tech returns 8 starters from a unit that allowed 41PPG but there is some talent here. DE Pete Robertson is an all-conference player as is CB Justis Nelson. LB Mike Mitchell is a uber-prospect that transferred in from Ohio St. & is 6’3/230lbs at MLB! DE Braden Jackson is also a solid body up front at 6’4/270lbs! True frosh DT Breiden Fehoko was one of the top DL recruits in the nation. The defense is getting better and the move to a 4-3 defense fits their personnel much much better. Expect big improvement. SCHEDULE: OOC at Arkansas is brutal. The Big XII is tough so no easy games. They draw Kansas on the road which is solid, but they also get Oklahoma St. & Kansas St. at home which I think are must win games for them. I love Kingsbury here. BEST CASE: 8-4, WORST CASE 3-9
#6 OFFENSE: QB Mason Rudolph was impressive in his 3 starts last year beating Oklahoma & then beating Washington in the bowl game. The Cowboys bring back 8 starters from a disappointing offense that averaged a VERY uncharacteristic 27.6PPG a season ago, but Rudolph starting the year under center could be the tonic that turns it around. OSU returns their top-3 receivers as well along with 4 O-Linemen. The problem with OSU last season very much stemmed from inept QB play. JW Walsh was injured & Daxx Garman just wasn’t that good. The RB situation wasn’t great either as Desmond Roladn rushed for 3.8ypc! James Washington & Brandon Sheperd are big time receivers. I think new RB Chris Carson will be a huge upgrade & the O-Line is improved. Rudolph is the big player here, but if plays like he did against Oklahoma & Washington last year, OSU will be flying high. DEFENSE: OSU returns 8 starters from a unit that allowed 31+PPG but I think they’ll show big time improvement this season. DE Emmanuel Ogbah returns along with his team-leading 11 sacks a year ago. The entire secondary returns including leading tackler S Jordan Sterns. LBs Seth Jacobs & Ryan Simmons also return. The D-Line should be solid this year. I like Ogbah but DTs Motekiai Maile & Vincent Taylor are big bodies to clog up the middle & DE Jimmy Bean is a load at 6’5/250lbs. Seven of the projected 11 could be all-conference players while Ogbah will get All-American consideration! Expect a huge improvement from a year ago. SCHEDULE: The OOC is a joke & I feel bad ranking Oklahoma St. 6th but they have road games against both West Virginia & Texas Tech so I have them here which is too low. On the other hand the upside here is INCREDIBLE as they draw TCU, Baylor & Oklahoma all in Stillwater. This is a dark horse playoff team! BEST CASE: 12-0; WORST CASE: 5-7
#7 OFFENSE: Texas brings back 7 starters from an offense that was terrible, averaging 21.4PPG, but I think there is reason to be excited. QB Tyrone Swoopes returns after spending his sophomore season as a starter. Swoopes wasn’t great completing 58% of his passes for 2409yds along with a 13:11 TD to INT ration but the 6’4/250lbs behemoth looks the part & I think will get better. Texas also returns their entire O-Line. RB Jonathan Gray steps in as the starting RB & I think the rushing game will be a bit stronger. UT does lose their top 2 receivers but this is Texas. There is talent everywhere. Have Swoopes improve will go a long way for Texas this season. They’ll be better. DEFENSE: Texas suffers massive losses as the Longhorns lose 6 of their top-7 tacklers. LBs Jordan Hicks & Steve Edmond are HUGE losses. They also lose DT Malcolm Brown who was a 1st Rd. NFL Draft pick & DE Cedric Reed. CB Quandre Diggs is also a big loss. It’s a lot but on the other hand there are a lot of positives. Charlie Strong is a helluva defensive coach & Texas has quite a bit back along the D-Line & the secondary. Dylan Haines & Dylan Thomas are solid DBs while Hassan Ridgeway, Nassan Hughes & Shiro Davis will be solid up front. Strong’s top-5 recruits were all on the defensive side of the ball including #1 LB Malik Jefferson who should start immediately. I think the defense will ultimately come together. SCHEDULE: Strong did an outstanding job at Louisville & I’d expect the same in Austin. There is a lot of talent here. Strong made a HUGE jump at L’Ville in year 3. This is just Year 2, but the road isn’t getting any easier for him. The OOC is brutal with Cal & Notre Dame. UT also has road games against TCU, Baylor & West Virginia. Texas also has Oklahoma in Dallas. I think Strong will improve but Year 2 will be rough & still rebuilding. BEST CASE: 8-4. WORST CASE: 2-10!
#8 OFFENSE: A transition year for the Wildcats offensively. Last year KSU averaged 36PPG en route to a 9-4 season & a top-20 finish but QB Jake Waters (3501yds/66%/22TD) is gone along with WRs Tyler Lockett & Curry Sexton who combined to catch 185 balls for 2574yds & 16TD! TE Zach Trujilo who averaged 20.5ypc is also gone. That’s a lot of talent at the skill position to overcome & RB Charles Jones wasn’t a dominant force on the ground although he did score 13TD. QB Jesse Ertz looks to be the starter & he hasn’t attempted a pass at this level. Jones does return at RB & the Wildcats do return 4 starting O-Linemen. If Ertz can acclimate fast & Jones step up his game, the Wildcats can be decent. FB Glenn Gronkowski (of the Gronkowskis!) is fun to watch. He’s a bulldozer back there. KSU hasn’t averaged fewer than 30PPG since 2009. They might do that this year. DEFENSE: Like the offense, the defense returns 6 starters but loses 5 of their top-8 tacklers from last season including LB Jonathan Truman who led the team with 128 tackles. Other big losses are DE Ryan Mueller & NB Randall Evans. Given their positional importance, those are some big losses but there are also some key pieces returning. KSU returns both corners & Danzel McDaniel is an all-conference cover guy & big at 6’1. I think KSU can get pressure too with DEs Jordan Willis & Marquel Bryant along with LB Elijah Lee. S Dante Barnett was 2nd on the team in tackles last season & DT Travis Britz is an interior linemen who can get pressure. KSU runs the nickle package primarily which is almost required in the pass happy Big XII & despite some losses, I like what they are going here. SCHEDULE: Bill Snyder is an OUSTANDING HC so this feels low but the Big XII is stacked & KSU is in transition. A few winnable games are on the road so this year looks tough. BEST CASE: 7-5; WORST CASE: 4-8
#9 OFFENSE: The Cyclones bring back 8 starters from an offense that scored just 23PPG in 2014. ISU hasn’t had a winning record since 2009, but Paul Rhoads is a helluva coach in my opinion and I think the offense is trending up. Sam Richardson returns at QB & I like what’s he’s doing. He needs to improve his accuracy but Richardson passed for almost 2700yds last season with 18TD. He’s got 4 returning O-Linemen in front of him & some HUGE receivers in 6’6 D’Vario Montgomery, 6’5 Allen Lazard & 6’2 Quenton Bundrage. TE Ben Boesen is 6’5 so teams trying to cover ISU’s passing attack are going to find themselves in trouble especially if Montgomery hits his stride. RB Tyler Brown should be an upgrad too. Lazard has insane amounts of talent & should be a top NFL Draft pick when he comes out in 2017 or 2018. I’d expect some fireworks especially in OC Mark Mangino’s 2nd year. DEFENSE: The D has lost it’s way after having a pretty good run  from 2009-2012. The Cyclones return 6 starters including 4 of their top-6 tacklers to a defense that allowed 39PPG! DE Chris Morrissey is a big loss as is S TJ Mutcherson, but this should be a defense that is improved at every level. ISU’s secondary should be really strong with CBs Sam Richardson, Nigel Tribune & S Kamari Cotton-Moya could be all-conference players. LB Luke Knott was 3rd on the team in tackles & he returns. I’m also excited about the D-Line. DTs Bobby Leath & Demond Tucker are both juco transfers & DE Trent Taylor returns & is a solid talent. This is a lot more like the ISU teams of 2009-2012 where Iowa St. went to 3 bowls in 4 years. SCHEDULE: It’s a tough schedule. They always get Iowa OOC but they also have road games against TX Tech, Baylor, Oklahoma, K-State & WVU! They get Kansas & Texas at home which could be wins, but could surprise. BEST CASE: 7-5; WORST CASE: 2-10
#10 I’ve been keeping up the trend of looking at a team holistically rather than just breaking it down, and with the Big XII, I want to tackle Kansas, the worst program in the conference. What’s interesting about Kansas is what Mark Mangino was able to accomplish in Lawrence. Mangino was 2-10 in his first year at Kansas but had the Jayhawks in a bowl game in year 2 and had Kansas at 12-1 with an Orange Bowl win in Year 6! It’s possible a lot of that had to do with QB Todd Reesing as KU dropped to 13-12 (5-11) after that high water mark of 2007, but it is at least indicative (as in Colorado’s case as well) that Kansas can play competitive football. The Jayhawks might not be able to sustain a top-10 caliber team, but having a program that went to 4 bowls in 6 years is something I think Kansas fans could be happy with. When Mangino had his issues that ultimately got him fired, Kansas was left with a void they haven’t been able to fill. Turner Gil couldn’t figure it out. Neither could Charlie Weis. Now David Beaty is going to give it a shot, but has a HUGE uphill climb as Kansas returns just 7 starters total & the Big XII is as stacked as it’s ever been. What’s interesting here is how immediate anyone can expect a Kansas turnaround. Gil got 2 years which seems ridiculous in retrospect given the state of the program when he took it over. Weis got 3 years although he didn’t fare any better. The big question will be how long Beaty gets as the HC? If it’s 1-2 years then he’s not going to make it because Kansas is looking at a 2-10/3-9 year AT BEST this season and I’m not sure the team takes a big leap in Year 2 or even Year 3. You simply can’t give a coach a 10-year contract and hope for the best (I’m looking at you Indiana), but there needs to be some legitimate signs of improvement. Beaty must recruit like a demon to get this program back on track. BEST CASE: 3-9; WORST CASE: 1-11

 

BIG 12 OVERALL OUTLOOK: This truly is an amazing conference. I think the top-8 teams here really have something to play for & Iowa St. could be a lot better than most people think. Really this is a 3-team race between TCU, Baylor & Oklahoma. I can’t see Oklahoma winning although Kirk Herbstreit has the Sooners winning the Big XII & getting the playoffs! That would be incredible, but to be honest, from a talent standpoint it wouldn’t be all that surprising. That in and of itself is what makes this conference so nuts. Texas & Oklahoma are the two teams that seem head & shoulders above everyone when it comes to talent, but neither team has won an outright Big XII championship since 2010! I think that shows just how good the conference can be. Adding TCU was amazing & you can see how fast Gary Patterson was able to get the Horned Frogs to the top of the conference. What will probably be the most interesting aspect to watch for in the Big XII is what happens with the playoff picture. TCU & Baylor were left out last year and you at least can make an AMAZING argument that TCU was more qualified to get in than Ohio St. who eventually won the championship! This year if a Big XII team finishes 11-1 and gets left out, you can be sure that conference expansion will be a huge discussion as the Big XII will surely have been put on notice that they are being penalized for not having a conference championship game. The big question then will be who joins the conference? There just aren’t that many big time programs that are available. BYU comes to mind, but I’m not sure Boise State is the other option although there isn’t any other choices really when you look at it unless you go UCF or South Florida. Either way, the Big XII is going to have a million storylines this year. It’ll be really interesting to see how the results on the field trigger discussions about the conference off the field. In any case, the conference is going to be incredible to watch in 2015!

August 31, 2015 Posted by | Baylor, Big XII, Iowa St., Kansas, Kansas St., Oklahoma, Oklahoma St., Predictions, Previews, TCU, Texas, Texas Tech, West Virginia | Leave a comment

BIG 12 OUTLOOK WITH 7 WEEKS LEFT

The Big 12 got a lot more interesting last week when West Virginia got the better of Baylor in Morgantown & Kansas St. pulled off a stunner by beating Oklahoma in front of the Sooner faithful. What it ensured is that the Big XII can’t count on an unbeaten team forcing their way into the college football player. What might be even a bit scarier is that Big XII can’t rely on the power of the Oklahoma brand commanding respect even with a loss. Now that the Sooners have 2 losses, the Big XII might be completely shut out of the playoffs unless Baylor, Kansas St. or TCU can run the table and get to 11-1 with significant style points. I’m really pulling for West Virginia to come out of the Big 12. What’s amazing here is that if WVU does a great job and gets to 10-2 & wins the Big XII, they probably won’t make the playoffs, but there is a significant chance that coaching openings at Florida, Michigan & Miami-FL could open up. If that happens, could Holgorsen (assuming WVU does in fact finish 10-2 or even 11-2) potentially leave? If WVU sucks then this is probably not a question, but it’s worth contemplating if some universities think Holgorsen’s star is on the rise, which it is.

That’s all speculation of course. The real stories will be played out in the next 7 weeks, and this conference has a story to tell!

 

TEAM REC WHAT TO WATCH FOR OVER LAST 6 WEEKS OF 2014
5-1 The win over Oklahoma changes everything but now Kansas St. has to hope that the loss to Auburn (in Manhattan by the way) has to be far enough removed for them to make a splash nationally. I think talking about the Big XII title or playoff potential is premature for Kansas State. Let’s remember that they still have road games against Baylor, TCU & West Virginia. Those are all likely losses which means the best K-State can do is finish 8-4 (6-3), but if they can beat Oklahoma in Norman, who is to say they can’t keep winning on the road? If Kansas St. beats Texas & Oklahoma St. at home they’ll move to 7-1 before heading to Ft. Worth with a date with TCU. I think we can start to take K-State seriously if they can upend the Horned Frogs.
5-2 Can West Virginia win the Big XII? It’s not completely out of the question. If the Mountaineers can beat Baylor in Morgantown, then they are a pretty good bet to beat any other conference team at Mountaineer Field. Texas & Iowa St. simply aren’t that good meaning that this weekends game against Oklahoma St. in Stillwater could make all the difference. Unlike Kansas St. who has road games against Baylor, TCU & West Virginia, the Mountaineers play TCU & Kansas St. at home. Where it gets interesting for WVU is if they win out. If that happens they are 10-2 & Big XII champions. They’d need a lot of help getting into the playoffs but the Big XII is right there with the Pac 12 behind the ACC. If SEC West can cannibalize itself & the Big 10 gets a 2-loss team, West Virginia could be in the Final 4!
6-1 The loss to West Virginia hurts but let’s face it, if you were to pick a team most likely to lose a couple of conference games, it probably would be WVU so the loss might not hurt Baylor as bad as it may sound. The best team in the Big XII might very well be TCU & the Bears hold the tiebreaker over the Frogs! Baylor still has just one loss so winning out puts them at 11-1 & in the playoff picture & most likely in the playoffs. That road is a bit tricky because of a road date against Oklahoma, but if Baylor can survive Norman then the loss to WVU might not matter too much. It’s definitely important for Baylor to be West Virginia fans at this point. They need WVU to be good but not too good. WVU losing to TCU would be good. If West Virginia finishes 9-3 to Baylor’s 11-3, it would do Baylor good.
5-2 To be fair to Oklahoma St., they can argue they are a pretty darn good football team at 5-2 with their only losses coming against 7-0 Florida St. & 5-1 TCU. On the other hand, TCU might have exposed the Cowboys for what they are which is a very inexperienced football team. Remember that OSU went 10-3 in 2013 & only had 4 returning starters! They should have been some period of reloading in Stillwater. Even though the Cowboys have just one conference loss, they need to be thinking about bowl eligibility. Oklahoma St.’s remaining schedule is: West Virginia, at Kansas St., bye, Texas, at Baylor, bye, at Oklahoma. Let’s assume road trips to Austin, Waco & Norman are losses. That makes them 5-5 with 2 home games against West Virginia & Texas. Getting to 6-6 is no guarantee for Mike Gundy & his troops.
5-1 The loss to Baylor HURTS but the Frogs got a huge lift from West Virginia when the Mountaineers knocked off the Bears. If TCU wins out & Baylor loses at Oklahoma, TCU will be 11-1 and Big XII champions! Their only loss will have come on a wild 61-58 loss to a team that will likely finish the season out 10-2. The only roadblock for TCU is back-to-back games against West Virginia & Kansas St. on October 25th & November 1st respectively. The game against WVU is in Morgantown which Baylor just learned isn’t an easy place to play. With Kansas & Iowa St. on the schedule, the bowl game isn’t a problem, but one of the most remarkable stories of the year will be if TCU wins out & gets to the playoffs. This is a team that was 4-8 last season & just 2-7 in Big XII play. That’s a helluva turnaround.
5-2 The loss to Kansas St. in Norman basically destroyed any hope Oklahoma had of making the playoffs. With losses to both Kansas St. & TCU, Oklahoma needs massive help to win the Big XII & even with a conference championship, I’m not sure a 10-2 Oklahoma squad would get into the playoffs over an 11-1 Ole Miss or 11-1 Alabama squad if Mississippi St. finished 13-0. The interesting part is that Oklahoma’s tough schedule is finished. They do have Baylor remaining but the Sooners get them in Norman. If OU can hold serve at home they should finish 10-2. They would need TCU & K-State to lose 3 conference games which seems impossible but who knows? Would anyone really be surprised if OU didn’t wind up 11-2 with a bowl victory? They’d be ranked in the top 6-7 but somehow I think Sooner Nation would be disappointed.
3-4 A lost season for Charlie Strong in his first year in Austin. The Longhorns are floundering at 3-4 and at best they can hope for a potential bowl appearance. The problem with that is finding 3 wins in their last 5 games. Texas still has road games against Kansas St., Texas Tech & Oklahoma State. Assuming 2 of those games are losses that would give Texas 6 losses meaning they’d have to win their remaining home games against West Virginia & TCU to get to 6-6 & into the postseason. The best aspect to Texas at this point is watching the progression of the players who will return in 2015 & watching how effectively Strong can recruit at Texas. This isn’t the same Texas program that Mack Brown took over. TCU is in the Big XII now. Baylor has Art Briles & Texas A&M is now in the SEC. It’s still Texas, but life is a bit harder.
3-4 Last season Texas Tech started off 7-0. It’s amazing what a soft schedule will do for you! Texas Tech was able to leverage that easy slate last year to a bowl game they won over Arizona St. to finish 8-5 in HC Kliff Kingsbury’s first year in Lubbock. He might not be so lucky this year. The Red Raiders need 3 more wins to get bowl eligible they have TCU, Texas, Oklahoma, Iowa St. & Baylor left on the schedule! Iowa St. is in Ames so that might not be an easy game. Assuming Texas Tech gets wins over Texas & Iowa St., they’d still need to beat one of the TCU, Oklahoma & Baylor. I don’t see it happening. This team is at best 5-7 and at worst 3-9. I think a major aspect to look for the last few games is the continued progression of QB Davis Webb & I’d keep an eye on the running game which has been very good. Maybe Texas Tech can play spoiler?
2-5 This is a really difficult time for Iowa State. I think Paul Rhoads is a good coach but if Iowa St. can’t get wins against Kansas (in Lawrence) & Texas Tech (in Ames) then it’s possible the Cyclones finish the season 2-10 which is a significant step back in the Paul Rhoads era. There was some thought that Rhoads might have bought himself some time by hiring former Kansas HC Mark Mangino as the new OC and while Iowa St.’s offense does have improved numbers, the defense has been abysmal which has resulted in losses. The remainder of the season isn’t easy at best this team finishes 4-8. Iowa St. isn’t quite in the same category as Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky & Duke in regards to being basketball schools trying to win at football (Duke is actually doing it!) but this has to be a brutally tough coaching gig.
2-5 Speaking of difficult coaching jobs, Kansas has already fired Charlie Weis! Kansas’ remaining schedule isn’t favorable. They have road games against Baylor, Oklahoma & Kansas State! Those are 3 losses right there moving them to 2-8. They get TCU at home which makes them 2-9 meaning all that separates them from a double-digit loss season is a home date against Iowa State! If you are wondering what to watch for from the Jayhawks going forward then I’d just look to see if they can get that Iowa State win which would at least match last year’s win total. The last time Kansas has had more than 3 wins in a season was back in 2009 which was Mark Mangino’s last season as HC! Maybe getting rid of Mangino wasn’t such a good idea in the first place!?

October 22, 2014 Posted by | Baylor, Big XII, Iowa St., Kansas, Kansas St., Oklahoma, Oklahoma St., Playoffs, TCU, Texas, Texas Tech, West Virginia | Leave a comment

2014 BIG XII PREVIEW & PREDICTIONS

RANK B1G EAST COMMENTS
#1 PROJECTED RECORD: 12-0 (9-0); OFFENSE: Oklahoma returns 5 starters from last year’s team which seems like it represent a step back from the 32.8PPG they scored in ’13, but the talent is ridiculous in Norman that Oklahoma’s offense might just improve! QB Trevor Knight carved up Alabama in the Sugar Bowl & replacing Blake Bell & giving stability to the position only helps OU. The O-Line returns 3 starters in Adam Shead, Daryl Williams & Tyrus Thompson who should all be all-B12 players. Keith Ford, Alex Ross & Joe Mixon provide incredible depth at RB while Sterling Shepard, Durron Neal, Derrick Woods & Taylor McNamara make for a dynamic receiving corps. Blake Bell moves to TE & all of these players will be in the running for all-B12! Expect fireworks! DEFENSE: Opposing offenses better strap it up because OU returns 9 starters from a defense that allowed 22.1PPG! That’s impressive considering how offense happy the B12 is! LB Frank Shannon is a potential All-American & I’m excited about the D-Line which returns intact with DE Chuka Ndulue, DE Charles Tapper & NT Jordan Phillips. Phillips is a true 3-4NT at 6’6/350lbs! LBs Eric Striker, Geneo Grissom & Dominique Alexander should be even better. The secondary returns 3 starters in CBs Zack Sanchez & Julian Wilson along with S Quentin Hayes. All are all-B12 candidates! SCHEDULE: OU’s toughest game will be at TCU but they get a week off before that game. They draw K-State, Baylor & Oklahoma St. at home & play Texas in Dallas. There is no reason for OU not to get to the playoffs.
#2 PROJECTED RECORD: 10-2 (7-2); OFFENSE: Baylor averaged a RIDICULOUS 52.4PPG last year en route to the school’s first ever Big XII title! They return 6 starters from that unit including QB Bryce Petty who completed 62% of his passes for 4200yds/32TD/3INT! Petty returns for his senior season & should wind up Baylor #2 all time leading passer! Six of Baylor top-7 receivers return so Petty will have plenty of weapons. The Bears do lose RB Lache Seastrunk who ran for 1177yds/11TD/7.4ypc but Shock Linwood (881yds/8TD/6.9ypc) is ready to step in with Johnny Jefferson & Terence Williams providing depth. Petty is the best QB in the B12 & could be an All-American. WR Antwan Goodley (71rec/1339yds/13TD) is also an All-American candidate as is OT Spencer Drango. If you are being picky you could say the Bears return just 2 along the O-Line, but this team is going to score A LOT! DEFENSE: Baylor returns just 4 starters from the best defense they’ve seen in Waco in quite some time. There are some nice pieces like LB Bryce Hager & the D-Line led by Andrew Billings, Jamal Palmer & Shawn Oakman could be intriguing. Palmer (6’3/250lbs & Oakman 6’9/275lbs) make for a very interesting pair of 4-3DEs. Baylor might look more like they did in ’11 & ’12, but they were 18-8 in that period. If everyone stays, Baylor could be looking at 10 returning starters in ’15! SCHEDULE: Baylor gets unlucky getting Oklahoma on the road. They also get Texas on the road but outside of those two squads, it’s not too bad drawing Texas Tech, K-State & Oklahoma St. all in Waco.
#3 PROJECTED RECORD: 10-2 (7-2); OFFENSE: TCU brings back 8 starters from an offense that averaged 25.1PPG. The last time TCU had more than 7 starters return on offense was 2010 when they scored 41.6PPG & went 13-0! TCU pretty much brings the rest of the offense back. The O-Line returns 3 starters & every projected starter is an upperclassman. RB Aaron Green could be all-B12 & BJ Catalon ran for 569yds/6TD/5.3ypc last season. TCU brings back 5 of their top-6 receivers. The problem for TCU could be at the QB position. Casey Pachall & Trevone Boykin didn’t play well last season. Matt Joeckel has transferred in from Texas A&M & could be in the mix too. If TCU has troubles under center it could be a tough year, but they do return quite a bit. DEFENSE: HC Gary Patterson’s calling card, TCU hasn’t matched their typical dominant self since joining the B12, but that could change this year with 8 starters returning from a defense that allowed 25.3PPG in ’13. The Horned Frogs have DT Chucky Hunter, DE Devonte Fields, S Sam Carter, S Chris Hackett, LB Paul Dawson & CB Kevin White who could all be 1st Team All-B12! Fields & Carter could be All-Americans! DE Terrell Lathan (6’5/280lbs) could be amazing & look for LB Jonathan Anderson. When you have 9 defensive players who could make significant impacts, the defense is great. SCHEDULE: Not bad. They draw Baylor & Texas on the road which is unfortunate & get Oklahoma at home but the Sooners have a bye week. I think this is TCU’s coming out year as a B12 member. They’ll be really good.
#4 PROJECTED RECORD: 8-4 (6-3); OFFENSE: The Wildcats bring back 6 starters from an offense that scored 33.2PPG. QB Jake Waters returns after completing 61% of his passes for 2469yds & 18TD. HC Bill Snyder has always done a great job in Manhattan & it seems like KSU finds a way to average 30+PPG on offense no matter who returns. Waters is a good signal caller & KSU returns 3 of their top-4 receivers including Tryler Lockett who was Waters’ favorite target in ’13. There are some losses. KSU only returns 2 starters on the O-Line but all 5 projected starters are upper classmen. The Wildcats lose RBs John Hubert & Daniel Sams who combined for 1800+yds/21TD so they’ll definitely have to make sure the running game is decent, but they’ll score. Waters & Lockett should compete for 1st team All-B12. Lockett & C BJ Finney could be All-Americans. DEFENSE: The Wildcats bring back 5 starters from a unit that allowed 22.9PPG. Losing LB Blake Slaughter is tough but KSU returns 4 of their top-6 tacklers. DE Ryan Mueller is a beast & could be an All-American. He had 11.5 sacks last year & 18.5TFL! KSU has some other good pieces too in DTs Terrell Clinkscales & Travis Britz, LB Jonathan Truman, CB Randall Evans & S Dante Barnett. The defense looks OK & should be decent which is all KSU really needs. SCHEDULE: Kansas St. gets a very tough break with scheduling as they get road games against Oklahoma, Baylor & TCU. They also have a non-conference game at home against Auburn. If they can pull an upset of 1-2 of those 4 games, they could get to double digit wins.
#5 PROJECTED RECORD: 8-4 (6-3); OFFENSE: Charlie Strong walks into a solid situation in Austin as the Texas offense averaged 29.3PPG last season & returns 7 starters. QB David Ash played well last season before being injured & Texas gets him back. The Longhorns return 7 of their top-8 receivers & their top-8 rushers. RBs Johnathan Gray & Malcolm Brown should compete for All-B12 honors along with WR Jaxon Shipley. The one problem could be the O-Line in that it returns just 2 starters but the talent is RIDICULOUS & C Dominic Espinosa is an all-conference player. Strong inherits a MUCH better situation here than he did at Louisville & he took the Cardinals to the BCS in year 3. This offense will score more than 30PPG. DEFENSE: Strong’s background in defense should serve this team well as the Longhorns return 8 starters from a unit that allowed 25.8PPG in ’13. UT loses their top 2 tacklers in DE Jackson Jeffcoat & S Adrian Phillips but they return 11 of their top-13 tacklers. This is Texas so the talent is crazy & the guy I can’t wait to see is DE Cedric Reed who at 6’6/275lbs is a beast as a 43DE & had 19TFL in ’13. He should be an All-American candidate along with CB Quandre Diggs. If that isn’t enough, 6 other projected starters for Texas could be All-B12. UT returns 6 of their back 7 & I actually think the D-Line is the best part of the defense. Expect big things. SCHEDULE: I’m bearish because of the new coaching staff, but Texas gets BYU, Baylor, & TCU at home with Oklahoma & UCLA on neutral ground. I’ve got them at 8-4 but UT could go 10-2 easy.
#6 PROJECTED RECORD: 7-5 (4-5); OFFENSE: Texas Tech went back to the old Mike Leach passing ways when they hired Kliff Kingsbury & the new HC didn’t waste time. The Red Raiders went crazy with their passing attack & averaged 35.8PPG. What’s crazy is that TT returns 9 starters on offense including QB Davis Webb who completed 63% of his passes for 2718yds & 20TD. Webb was a true frosh by the way! He’s only going to get better. Texas Tech returns their entire O-Line & 6 of their top-8 receivers. Losing TE Jace Amaro hurts quite a bit, but there are a lot of balls to go around. Webb should be a consideration for All-B12 while receivers Jakeem Grant & Bradley Marquez could be all-B12 guys too. The Red Raiders have 3 O-Linemen who could be all conference & this really starts to remind you of the great Leach offenses. LT Le’Raven Clark could be an All-American & I wouldn’t be surprised to see TT score 40PPG. DEFENSE: TT returns 4 starters from a defense that allowed 30.5PPG. Maybe that’s good because better players can come in & contribute but the Raiders lose a lot of experience & production with losing 6 of their top-9 tacklers. Texas Tech has some interesting pieces like DT Rika Levin, DE Pete Roberton & LB Sam Eguavoen but I can’t help but think the defense will be down. SCHEDULE: A weird schedule for the Raiders. They draw road games against Oklahoma St., K-State, TCU & Iowa St. at home. They get home games against Arkansas, Texas & Oklahoma & neutral against Baylor. TT’s season will depend on how they play at home.
#7 PROJECTED RECORD: 4-8 (2-7); OFFENSE: Normally I would be a little concerned about an offense that only returns 4 starters with losing their QB to boot. On the other hand, this has actually happened to Oklahoma St. twice in the last 4 seasons. In 2012, Oklahoma St. averaged 45.7PPG and in 2010 they averaged 44.2PPG! There is no doubt OSU loses some players but they return QB JW Walsh who actually got quite a bit of run time along with RB Desmond Roland (811yds/13TD/4.6ypc) & WR Jhajuan Seales (39rec/571yds/3TD). Roland & Seales could be all-conference. It’s a Mike Gundy led offense so it’ll be potent but I don’t think this is the same as 2012 or 2010, but even if the offense regresses by 15pts they’ll still average more than 30PPG! DEFENSE: If the losses on offense are bad the losses on defense are BRUTAL! The Cowboys lose 8 of their top-9 tacklers! Like Texas Tech, there are some interesting pieces such as DT James Castleman, LB Ryan Simmons and CB Kevin Peterson but there is no way this defense comes close to last year’s unit which allowed just 21.6PPG. Keep an eye on DE Jimmy Bean. The 6’5/250lbs junior had 9.5TFL last year & could have a big year. Same goes for 6’4/270lbs soph Emmauel Ogbah. SCHEDULE: Opening up against Florida St. won’t be pleasant but OSU has bigger problems in conference as they draw road games against TCU, KSU, Baylor & Oklahoma! Home against Texas won’t be easy & neither will games against Texas Tech with a suspect defense! They must win at home to get bowl eligible. Can’t see it.
#8 PROJECTED RECORD: 4-8 (2-7); OFFENSE: Paul Rhoads is a helluva coach in an impossible situation in Ames. The good news on offense is that ISU returns 10 starters including QBs Grant Rohach & Sam Richardson. The bad news is that they return 10 starters from a unit that only averaged 24.8PPG! The only loss on offense is WR Justin Coleman but he’s replaced by true frosh Allen Lazard who at 6’5/215lbs gives the Cyclones a legit high end #1 receiver possibility. The receiving corps is the best part of the offense. Along with Lazard, ISU has D’Vario Montgomery (6’5/212lbs), Quenton Bundrage (6’2/190lbs) & TE EJ Bibbs (6’3/265lbs). It’s a mismatch nightmare waiting to happen if Rhoads can figure out his QB situation & find consistency at the position. The entire O-Line returns intact, but that is tough too because the O-Line only paved the way for ISU to average 3.5ypc & allowed 38 sacks! This offense should be much improved. DEFENSE: ISU returns 5 starters from a unit that allowed 36PPG in ’13! They lose 2 big players in LB Jeremiah George (133tkls) & S Jacques Washington (119tkls) but the other losses aren’t too bad. There isn’t a lot of talent here at all. DE Cory Morrissey should be pretty good, but for the most part this is an undersized & inexperienced defense. That’s not a recipe for success if the offensive minded Big XII. SCHEDULE: Lucky for ISU they get West Virginia at home and that Kansas is also a member of the B12! They do get Texas Tech & Kansas St. at home but I’m not sure the defense can keep it close enough for ISU to steal those.
#9 PROJECTED RECORD: 2-10 (1-8); OFFENSE: After averaging 38PPG in his first 2 seasons in Morgantown, HC Dana Holgorsen’s offense had the wheels come off in 2013 with WVU averaging just 26.3PPG en route to a dismal 4-8 campaign. West Virginia returns 6 from that unit which includes QB Clint Trickett. The offense has a chance to be really good. They lose RB Charles Sims but replace him with Rushel Shell who could be exceptional. WVU also returns their 3 top receivers so if Trickett & QB Ryan Millard can figure out a way to be more accurate & make better decisions, the Mountaineers will be much better than 26.3PPG. The O-Line should be better too as they’ll be in the 2nd year of new O-Line coach Ron Crook’s system. Things are trending up here but the difference between improvement & being excellent is the QB play. DEFENSE: WVU returns 7 starters from a unit that allowed 33.3PPG. There is good & bad associated with that & like the other bottom tier teams in the B12, there are some nice pieces such as LB Isaiah Bruce, LB Nick Kwiatkoski & S Karl Joseph. WVU returns 8 of their top-11 tacklers. I can’t wait to see Gardner-Webb transfer DE Shaquille Riddick! He’s a monster at 6’7/265lbs & could potentially give WVU an exceptional pass rusher from the 3-4 DE spot. SCHEDULE: NASTY! Big 12 teams only get 3 non-conference games so WVU plays a road game against Maryland & a neutral site game against Alabama! They get Texas, OK State & Texas Tech on the road. Luckily they get Kansas at home but play ISU on the road. Tough year.
#10 PROJECTED RECORD: 3-9 (1-8); OFFENSE: The Jayhawks return 7 starters from last year’s unit which scored 15.3PPG! This is a really tough situation to evaluate. Last year QB Jake Heaps was abysmal completing 49% of his passes for 1414yds, 8TD & 10INT. True frosh Montell Cozart was even worse in very limited action meaning Kansas enters the 2014 season without a real viable candidate to play QB. They also lost their best offensive weapon in RB James Sims who rushed for 1100+yds & 7TD last season. WR Nick Harwell & TE Jimmay Mundine are solid players but they need a QB to throw them the football. Cozart is a legitimate dual threat QB so he has the running ability to spread things out and take pressure off his arm. KU does have 3 starters returning on the O-Line with all 5 being upperclassmen. It won’t be a great offense but how can they not improve on 15PPG? DEFENSE: KU returns 9 starters from a unit that allowed 32PPG. Again you could take it that you don’t want such bad players or you could think a year of experience really helped and the defense will be better because of it. The Jayhawks do return 9 of their top-10 tacklers & I’m excited about LB Ben Heeney & CB Dexter McDonald who could be all-B12 players. McDonald is especially interesting because he’s a 6’2/205lbs corner. His counterpart at CB, Kevin Short, is also 6’2. SCHEDULE: Does it really matter? Kansas is 3-40 in conference play over the last 5 years. I have them winning 1 which is a stretch but who knows. Charlie Weis might simply be ill suited to coach NCAA football.

 

BIG XII OVERALL OUTLOOK: I think the conference is Oklahoma’s to lose especially with the Sooners getting Baylor in Norman and always playing Texas on a neutral field. The one hiccup that could occur is a road date against TCU, but as good as the Horned Frogs might be this season, they might have issues at QB. It probably won’t affect them against most teams, but against teams like Baylor & Oklahoma it will and I think that makes the difference. The one aspect of the conference that I’m unsure about is the role that Oklahoma St. plays. I have the Cowboys at 4-8 which would actually be the worst record Oklahoma St. has posted since Mike Gundy’s first year in Stillwater. What is troubling is how their season starts off. I don’t think OSU can beat Florida St., but I have them at 3-3 in their first 6 games which to me puts them in a state of disarray for the second half of the season. On the other hand I think Oklahoma St. could easily be 5-1 after the first 6 which I think propels them to an 8-4/9-3 record. To me I think Oklahoma St. loses entirely too much and I have them losing a shocker to Kansas in Lawrence. The key game to me is Week 4 against Texas Tech in Stillwater. If they win that game then they’ll be set but a loss there I think upends the season. Both teams are on bye weeks prior to this Thursday night tilt and given what TT has returning along with what Oklahoma St. doesn’t have returning on defense & I get the feeling this could be a 63-56 type of game Texas Tech wins on the road. Texas & TCU both have opportunities to win double digit games. I think TCU will anyway but Texas could as well if things go their way. The other interesting storyline is West Virginia. I have the Mountaineers finishing 2-10 and it’s mostly a product of scheduling. Phil Steele says WVU has the 4th toughest schedule in the nation & it’s going to show. I hope the folks in Morgantown are patient with HC Dana Holgorsen. I think he can be an excellent HC but moving to the Big XII has been a tough transition and he needs to adjust WVU’s roster to the more rigorous conference. He knows what it takes so hopefully he can pull a rabbit out of his hat in 2014 or else he can get a little extra time.

August 26, 2014 Posted by | Baylor, Big XII, Iowa St., Kansas, Kansas St., Oklahoma, Oklahoma St., Predictions, Previews, TCU, Texas, Texas Tech, West Virginia | Leave a comment

2014 Big 12: A Look At Predictive Analytics From 2013

It’s always fun to look at the big picture when evaluating college football teams to get an idea of where their season might be headed. There are some advanced metrics that can give us some insight into some of the “luck” that teams will have in the coming season based on these particular stats regression to the mean in most cases. For the discussion below, I use the following:

CLOSE GAMES: Games decided by 7 points or fewer
TURNOVER MARGIN (TO Margin)
PYTHAGOREAN: A theoretical winning percentage based on points scored & allowed; (PS*PS)/((PS*PS)+(PA*PA))
LUCK: The difference between Pythagorean & a team’s actual record

This doesn’t always mean that teams will trend opposite of what they did the previous year. You have to look at context and previous years to get a sense of where a team might be headed in the upcoming season. It also doesn’t mean that regression to the mean will be reflected in the overall record. A team could be 0-7 in close games with a TO margin of -25 and a Pythagorean suggesting they were 2.62 wins better than their win total from the previous season, but if the team is short on talent and has an extremely difficult schedule ahead without many opportunities for home wins, regressing might not mean that much in the win column.

Moving on to the Big 12 here are the overall trends for each team. Discussion follows:

TRENDING UP: Kansas St., Texas Tech, TCU, Iowa St.
TRENDING DOWN: Oklahoma St., Oklahoma, Texas
TREADING WATER: Baylor, West Virginia, Kansas

The Big 12 is really an interesting conference for what could have been. Given how Nebraska & Colorado have fared in the Big 10 & Pac 12 respectively, you wonder if those programs wouldn’t have been better off just staying in the Big 12? You can throw in Missouri here too. Given what Missouri did last year in the SEC, you’d have to think they might have won the Big 12 outright & potentially went 13-0 which would have set up a date with Florida St. in the national championship game! If the Big 12 was making a grab, why not keep their teams & go out and add TCU & West Virginia moving them to 14 teams in some variation. It’s an interesting though made all the more interesting because the Big 12 has quietly become a better conference than the Big 10 & ACC even though at first glance you wouldn’t think so largely because of defections and the downward spiral of Texas over the last couple of seasons. Even Phil Steele rates the Big 12 as the 3rd toughest conference behind the SEC & Pac 12 for 2014!

How did this happen? Mike Gundy showed you can compete for a national championship at Oklahoma St. back in 2011. Art Briles showed you could compete for one at BAYLOR OF ALL PLACES last season! Bill Snyder came back to Kansas St. and Kliff Kingsbury looks like a perfect fit at Texas Tech! If Texas can surge under Charlie Strong then all of a sudden the Big XII is top to bottom a great conference with their only one real weakness being Kansas, but even the Jayhawks should be a pretty good team this year although you might not see it in the W-L column. Can a conference lose some pretty heavy hitters (Nebraska & Missouri) & yet come out ahead? The Big 12 has seemingly done so.

Couple of points to talk about with respect to the trends. Baylor is an interesting team to watch because they are basically treading water yet went 11-2 last season! It’s hard to think Baylor will be as good as they were a season ago, but if Lady Luck has a big year in Waco, Baylor could actually be in the playoff hunt. TCU is the one I’d really keep my eye on. They had horrific predictive metrics last season showing they could be in for a huge step forward in 2014. This is Gary Patterson’s best team in Ft. Worth since joining the Big 12 and the schedule looks favorable. Oklahoma reminds me a bit of UCLA. They have an even better team than their 11-2 2013 squad but their metrics point towards regression. This is true for UCLA and you almost wonder if Oklahoma won’t have a solid 2-year spike in Lady Luck propelling them to a potential national championship in 2014 before the big regressions come in 2015 & 2016.

Teams are listed in descending order of their Pythagorean winning percentage. Following the chart are the raw numbers in each category.

RANK TEAM COMMENTS
#1 It’s hard to finish the season 11-2 with a conference championship & not get a little bit lucky but the Bears weren’t as lucky as you would thing. Yes they were +13 in TO margin but they were just 1-0 in close games & their Pythagorean .832 suggests they were only 0.18 wins worse than their final record. Baylor shows trends of vacillating between TO margins from year to year so I’d expect some regression there, but the luck factor isn’t overwhelming. Baylor really was that good & the defense had A LOT to do with that. The defense will be down this year with just 4 starters back, but I don’t think Baylor will take a step back offensively with QB Bryce Petty under center again. Unfortunately Baylor drew both Texas & Oklahoma on the road so a repeat performance as Big XII champ might not be in the cards, but they could still win 10 games even with regression in TO margin.
#2 The Cowboys had another year dashed because of an unexpected loss. In 2011 the Cowboys were 10-0 when they went into Ames as 27-point favorites over Iowa St. only to come out with a 37-31 2OT loss! That killed their national championship hopes & they ended up 12-1 & ranked #3 in the nation! Last season OSU was a 19-point favorite going into Morgantown & came away with a 30-21 loss! It was only the Cowboys 4th game of the year so who knows how the season would turn but OSU had a chance to win the Big XII title & get to the Fiesta Bowl if they had beaten Oklahoma at home as 10-point favorites. They lost 33-24. OSU should regress this year. They were +15 in TO margin, 1-0 in close games & their Pythagorean of .766 shows they were 0.05 games worse than record. TO margin is key here but OSU returns 8 starters & the schedule is brutal. They could finish 6-6!
#3 Oklahoma is a pretty interesting squad. They look towards significant regression as their TO margin was +9 while their Pythagorean of .689 suggests they were 2.05 wins WORSE than their final 11-2 record. They were the luckiest team in the Big XII according to point differential. They were just 1-0 in close games. Normally you’d think significant regression here & you can’t help but think Oklahoma will regress down, but what’s interesting is that Oklahoma has a better team in 2014 than they did in 2013 and the schedule is a lot more forgiving. The Sooners draw Kansas St., Baylor, Oklahoma St., & Tennessee at home while the game against Texas is neutral. Their toughest road game will be at TCU. What stands out too about Oklahoma is they return 9 starters on defense so expect it to be one of the top units in the nation. Even with regression, this team will dabble with 12-0!
#4 Kansas St. is a team that could rebound in 2014. While the TO margin isn’t significant at ZERO, KSU was 1-2 in close games & their Pythagorean of .678 suggests they were 0.81 wins better than their final 8-5 record. Here is an interesting stat, since Bill Snyder came back to Manhattan, the Wildcats are 13-16 in games they are dogs in! Kansas St. is 12-3 against the spread when they are road dogs! Kansas St. might not be the kings of the Big 12, but they play HARD. Despite the possibility of an uptick in luck in 2014, the schedule hurts K-State quite a bit. They drew Oklahoma, TCU & Baylor as road games & have a non-conference game against Auburn! In the middle of their schedule they a 4-game stretch of @Oklahoma, Texas, Oklahoma St. & TCU! There are 7 wins here & if they can get a couple of upsets & play well at home, Kansas St. could pull an 8-9 win season.
#5 Texas Tech is another team that could benefit from Lady Luck in 2014. Texas Tech was just 1-0 in close games & their Pythagorean of 0.578 suggested they were 0.48 wins worse than their 8-5 final record. Those numbers are pretty inconsequential, but what sticks out is TT was -14 in TO margin. Even more predictive for regression is the fact they are -27 over the last 2 seasons in TO margin! The schedule also works well for the Red Raiders as they draw Texas & Oklahoma as home games & get Baylor on a neutral field. Their toughest game will be a road date at TCU. The offense returns 9 starters including QB Davis Webb from a unit that averaged 36PPG. They’ll be weak again defensively, but Texas Tech just wants to outscore teams. Texas Tech has a chance to start the year 7-0 like they did in 2013, but I think this year they won’t stumble & lose their final 5 games.
#6 Texas is one of the more interesting teams in the nation. The Mack Brown resignation to Charlie Strong entering the foray in Austin is interesting enough but Texas would seem to be a prime candidate for regression. They were 2-0 in close games & +4 in TO margin while their Pythagorean of 0.563 suggests they were 0.69 games WORSE than their final 8-5 record. The problem with saying the Longhorns will regress down is that those numbers aren’t huge in any direction & Texas brings back 15 starters & gets a very serious jolt of enthusiasm with Strong taking over. Texas ALWAYS has incredible talent so that won’t be an issue. Over the past 4 years UT is -3 in TO margin & 8-6 in close games so maybe regression looks a little shaky. The schedule is tough. Non-conference games against BYU & UCLA. Road dates with KSU & OKST. There are 10 wins especially with luck!
#7 If you are looking for a team primed to breakout in 2014 then look no further than TCU. The Frogs suffered bad luck last season going 1-4 in close games with a -2 in TO margin. Their .497 Pythagorean suggests they were 1.96 wins BETTER than their final 4-8 record! All of these signs point up for TCU, but what really helps them is their schedule & who they have coming back. This is HC Gary Patterson’s best team since joining the Big XII with 8 starters returning on both offense & defense. The schedule is decent, getting Oklahoma, Oklahoma St., Texas Tech, & Kansas St. all in Ft. Worth! Baylor & Texas are the two tough road games, but keep in mind TCU was THIS CLOSE to Oklahoma & Kansas St. on the road last year. The final 4-8 record could have been 8-4 & TCU is better this season. Lady Luck is coming & Gary Patterson is a TREMENDOUS HC. They’ll contend.
#8 West Virginia has a mixed bag when it comes to predictive analytics from 2013. They were 2-1 in close games but -4 in TO margin. Their .384 Pythgorean suggests they were 0.61 wins better than their final 4-8 record. None of these really show much & WVU has been fairly stable in recent years. I don’t think things in Morgantown have gone like HC Dana Holgorsen envisioned. The Mountaineers have decreased their win total by 3 games in each year from when Holgorsen took the 2011 team to a 10-3 record. The WVU fan base needs to be patient because this year could be a long one. WVU has non-conference games against Alabama & @Maryland! They draw OU, Baylor, TCU & KSU at home! Potential wins against ISU & TT are road games. This is a superior team to the ’13 version but that schedule is BRUTAL. They’ll need a huge swing in luck to get to 4-5 wins.
#9 Lady Luck should be trending in the right direction for Iowa St. this season, but much like West Virginia, the schedule is set up in a way that the Cyclones might not be able to capitalize on it. ISU was -1 in TO margin & 0-4 in close games. Their Pythagorean of .322 suggests they were 0.87 wins BETTER than their final 3-9 record. These are similar numbers to what TCU brings back. Paul Rhoads is an excellent HC & will get the most out of this steam. With 10 returning starters on offense, ISU should average 30PPG & the defense has nowhere to go but up even with 5 starters returning. What gets ISU is the schedule. They draw Iowa, OSU, Texas & TCU on the road with Oklahoma & Baylor coming to Ames. This team plays extremely hard & even with the schedule could easily get back to a bowl game especially if Lady Luck shines on them, which I think happens for 7-8 wins.
#10 The Jayhawks are a squad treading water. In 2013, Kansas was +1 in TO margin & 1-0 in close games. Their Pythgorean of .188 suggests they were 0.74 games worse than their final 3-9 record. All of these numbers basically show us nothing because they aren’t extreme on any level. With 8 starters back on offense & 9 on defense, this will be the best team HC Charlie Weis has had in Lawrence. The problem for the most part though is that Kansas isn’t up to par with the rest of the talent in the Big 10 and their schedule isn’t kind either. Potential wins against Texas Tech & West Virginia are on the road. They even get a non-conference road game against Duke. Iowa St. does come to Lawrence but unless Kansas can pull some road upsets, this is looking like a 3 win team. This is a senior laden team & Lady Luck could shine making KU primed for delivering upsets.

PYTHAGOREAN WINNING PERCENTAGE

Baylor: .832
Oklahoma St.: .766
Oklahoma: .689
Kansas St.: .678
Texas Tech: .578
Texas: .563
TCU: .497
West Virginia: .384
Iowa St.: .322
Kansas: .188

LUCK

Oklahoma: +2.05
Kansas: +0.74
Texas: +0.69
Texas Tech: +0.48
Baylor: +0.18
Oklahoma St.: +0.05
West Virginia: -0.61
Kansas St.: -0.81
Iowa St.: -0.87
TCU: -1.96

TURNOVER MARGIN

Oklahoma St.: +15
Baylor: +13
Oklahoma: +9
Texas: +4
Kansas: +1
Kansas St.: 0
Iowa St.: -1
TCU: -2
West Virginia: -4
Texas Tech: -14

RECORD IN GAMES DECIDED BY 7 POINTS OR FEWER

Texas: 2-0
Baylor: 1-0
Kansas: 1-0
Oklahoma: 1-0
Oklahoma St.: 1-0
Texas Tech: 1-0
West Virginia: 2-1
Kansas St.: 1-2
TCU: 1-4
Iowa St.: 0-4

July 14, 2014 Posted by | Analytics, Baylor, Big XII, Iowa St., Kansas, Kansas St., Oklahoma, Oklahoma St., Predictions, Previews, Rankings, Statistics, TCU, Texas, Texas Tech, West Virginia | Leave a comment