Following an 11-2 season in 2012, Sporting News rated Florida coach Will Muschamp the nation’s 24th best college football coach. After last year’s 4-8 record that included seven consecutive losses to end the season, Sporting News ranks Muschamp the 48th best coach in all of Division I. If we go by the rankings, then we are to believe that either Muschamp regressed as a coach or perhaps he was a teensy bit overrated the year before because that’s a serious downturn.
It’s hard to imagine that Muschamp took a giant step backward as a coach. After all, there is nothing he could have done about the rash of injuries that decimated his roster last year. Even with all the injuries, the Gators were only a handful of plays away from an 8-4 season. The Miami, Georgia, South Carolina and Georgia Southern games were all decided by six points or less. And while 8-4 still wouldn’t have matched the expectations that were there at the beginning of the season, it’s a darn sight better than going through the first losing season since 1979 and taking one on the chin to Georgia Southern.
Suppose the Gators make one play in each of those four games and go 8-4. Would he have dipped 24 places? Doubtful. But, if you apply the same logic to 2012, there are four games that one play for Texas A&M, LSU, Missouri and Louisiana-Lafayette meant the difference in Florida going 11-1 in the regular season instead of 7-5.
So, should he have been rated #24 after that 11-2 record in just his second year as a head coach? Probably not, but he was a lot closer to being #24 last year than he deserved a 24-place dip in the rankings, particularly considering the circumstances of last year and the fact that he’s taken such corrective measures with his coaching staff. Brent Pease and Tim Davis aren’t terrible football coaches, but they had to go to open the door for new offensive coordinator Kurt Roper and line coach Mike Summers. Had Pease and Davis stayed there probably wouldn’t have been much change in the offensive philosophy. Roper’s scheme is not only a radical departure for Muschamp because of it’s no-huddle, up-tempo style but it’s a better fit for quarterback Jeff Driskel, who after four years finally will be playing in an offense that suits his skill set. When you add in new special teams coordinator Coleman Hutzler, whose track record says he can get the snakes out of the heads of placekicker Austin Hardin and punter Kyle Christy, it tells you that Muschamp is still a work in progress as a head coach.
All coaches go through these moments when they have to reinvent themselves or get left behind. The greatest coach who ever lived – Bear Bryant – admitted that he re-invented himself no less than six times. Take a look at Steve Spurrier. What he was running when he first came to Florida was different than what won the 1996 national championship and he tore up defenses in 2011 going three-wide, two backs and rarely running anything more than a three-man route. Contrast that to what he’s been winning with at South Carolina.
So consider this Muschamp’s first reinvention. It’s not an indication that he dumbed down 24 spots as the Sporting News ranking would indicate, but it is a sign that he’s growing into the job. Let’s see if he’s the 48th best coach in the country when the season ends.
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The top four coaches in the poll should come as no surprise – Nick Saban, Steve Spurrier, Urban Meyer and Bob Stoops. Les Miles (LSU) checks in at #8 which might be a little bit too low when you consider he’s 95-24 with a national championship even though he consistently loses more underclassmen to the NFL than anyone else.
Here is the complete top 10: (1) Nick Saban, Alabama; (2) Steve Spurrier, South Carolina; (3) Urban Meyer, Ohio State; (4) Bob Stoops, Oklahoma; (5) Brian Kelly, Notre Dame; (6) Chris Peterson, Washington; (7) David Shaw, Stanford; (8) Les Miles, LSU; (9) Mark D’Antonio, Michigan State; and (10) Jimbo Fisher, Florida State.
Surprised That They’re This High:
5. Brian Kelly, Notre Dame: He’s a good coach who has won everywhere he’s been from Division II to Central Michigan to Cincinnati and now Notre Dame, but the fifth best coach in the country? He’s top 20, just don’t think he belongs in the top five.
16. Dabo Swinney, Clemson: He hasn’t beaten Steve Spurrier in five years and he hasn’t won a championship in the ACC even when he’s had superior talent. He’s a terrific recruiter and at some point he’ll have a breakthrough championship season. When he wins a championship then he deserves to be in the top 20.
22. Pat Fitzgerald, Northwestern: A lot of folks want to use the high academic standards excuse when it comes to Fitzgerald but while he’s barely breaking even in the Big Ten (55-46 in nine years), David Shaw is winning big at Stanford, which has better academics and plays in a tougher league. Somewhere between 30 and 40 is about right.
24. Bret Bielema, Arkansas: He’s down nine spots from last year. It seems to me that #24 is about 39 spots too high to begin with but we’ll see. Trying to make Arkansas into another Big Ten team while playing in the SEC West seems to be a recipe for a trip to the MAC or the Sun Belt to resurrect a coaching career gone south.
32. Al Golden, Miami: I keep hearing what a great coach he is, but he’s 22-15 in three years in Miami. With all the talent available in Miami and the surrounding area, how can you go 22-15 in three seasons? Unless, of course, you’re really not as good as the hype.
46. Brady Hoke, Michigan: Michigan is 15-11 the last two years and has a chance to post a loser this year. All the talent Rich Rod left behind is gone and the Wolverines are losing with the talent Hoke has recruited. The Countdown to Firing Day clock has begun ticking and Hoke is on the On Life Support List.
56. Bryan Harsin, Boise State: This is just his second year as a head coach. He went 8-5 at Arkansas State last year with the talent Gus Malzahn went 10-3 with the year before. He might be a really fine head coach someday. Just not now.
58. Paul Rhoads, Iowa State: He’s had four straight losing seasons. Sure, it’s Iowa State and Ames makes Starkville look like a resort. Dan Mullen wins in Starkville and he’s coaching in the SEC. Rhoads should be doing better.
Surprised That They’re This Low:
21. Bobby Petrino, Louisville: He’s one of the top 10-12 coaches in the country. It’s his first year at Louisville. He will win immediately. Give him two years to upgrade the talent and he will make life miserable for just about everybody in the ACC.
26. Kevin Sumlin, Texas A&M: At some point he will have a defense that can actually stop people but until he does, he will still win because he’s such a good offensive mind that the Aggies will outscore just about everybody they play.
47. Tommy Tuberville, Cincinnati: Tubs is down three spots from last year after going 9-4. Cincinnati is poised to win 10-11 games in the regular season this year. Wherever he’s gone, Tubs wins. He obviously does something right.
50. Hugh Freeze, Ole Miss: He’s down 13 spots from last year’s ranking, which is a surprise considering he held Ole Miss together and got a bowl game after injuries gutted the defense last year. Depth isn’t nearly the issue it’s been the last two years. Ole Miss is poised to become a consistent thorn in the side to the rest of the SEC West.
55. Dan Mullen, Mississippi State: Dan Mullen has taken Mississippi State to four consecutive winning seasons and bowl games. We measure success at Mississippi State in dog years. One human year is like seven for a dog. A bowl season at Mississippi State is like seven for Alabama. Winning consistently in Starkvegas is about as easy as finding lips on chickens.
62, Kyle Whittingham, Utah: Yes, he’s had two straight 5-7 seasons, but he’s still getting the talent level up to a Pac-12 level after all those years in the Mountain West. He’s still the same coach who went 13-0 in 2008 and beat Alabama in the Sugar Bowl.
The SEC Rankings Top to Bottom (National ranking in parenthesis): (1) Saban; (2) Spurrier; (8) Les Miles, LSU; (13) Gus Malzahn, Auburn; (14) Mark Richt, Georgia; (24) Bielema; (26) Sumlin (37) Gary Pinkel, Missouri; (40) Butch Jones, Tennessee; (48) Muschamp; (50) Freeze; (55) Mullen; (78) Mark Stoops, Kentucky; (93) Derek Mason, Vanderbilt.
Other Rankings of Interest to Florida Fans: (10) Jimbo Fisher, Florida State; (15) Charlie Strong, Texas; (16) Dabo Swinney, Clemson; (18) David Cutcliffe, Duke; (25) James Franklin, Vanderbilt; (31) Larry Fedora, North Carolina; (41) George O’Leary, UCF; (54) Dan McCarney, North Texas; (57) Terry Bowden, Akron; (61) Larry Coker, Texas-San Antonio; (66) Steve Addazio, Boston College; (72) Charlie Weis, Kansas; (80) Willie Taggart, USF; (87) Doc Holliday, Marshall; (116) Ron Turner, Florida International
The Gators difference between 4-8 and 8-4 last year was a touchdown or less in four games. The difference in 11-1 in the regular season in 2012 and 7-5 was a touchdown or less in four games. Did Muschamp regress as a head coach last year or did a combination of injuries and luck simply catch up with him?
Before they went whiny, Chicago was one terrific band that fused rock and roll with jazz for some very cool songs. Their contribution to Altered States of Consciousness Week is “25 or 6 to 4” which is another song that folks who spent a portion of their lives in the 1970s counting flowers on the wall hailed as a national anthem. Robert Lamm has tried to dismiss this by claiming he wrote the song about the time of the day. Uh huh. I had a roommate when I lived in Rocky Mount, North Carolina, who at one time or another put everything conceivable into his body. Carl said it was all about substance abuse. I believe him. This version of the song is from Chicago’s Tanglewood concert in 1970 with Peter Cetera on bass and singing lead vocals and some excellent guitar work by the late Terry Kath to go with those extraordinary horns. What a great band that was before Kath died and the music and lyrics turned totally whiny.