Here are five things the 2014 football season taught us:
1. IT’S NOT GOOD ENOUGH TO SKIM BY: There was a time when head coaches were gauged by winning records. We’re not talking about 9-win or 10-win seasons, but finishing a game or two above .500. A coach who could keep his head above the .500 mark by a game or two used to know his job was safe for another year. No longer. Just skimming by isn’t good enough anymore. Will Muschamp had three winning seasons out of four at Florida but 28-21 got him fired. Bo Pelini won nine or more games in each of his seven seasons at Nebraska but 67-27 got him fired. Tony Levine went 8-5 in 2013 and followed that up with a 7-5 mark in 2014. He’s no longer gainfully employed at Houston. Think back to the 1960s when Ray Graves went 70-31-4 with only five bowl teams in 10 years and no championships. That kind of record would put Graves on the hot seat in today’s football culture. The moral of the story: If you can’t get your team in a bowl games every year and consistent championship contention within four years, you might be walking college football’s version of the green mile.
2. SHOW ME THE O: It’s a sign of the times that Alabama averaged 490 yards per game this year with an up tempo offense that spread the field. Nobody self-evaluates more than Nick Saban, who took a look at where Bama was and where the rest of the country was going and then made a drastic change in offensive philosophy following a 12-2 2013 season. Saban brought in Lane Kiffin to handle the offense, which some people thought was like handing the keys to the Caddy over to the cabana boy, but it’s worked out just fine. Alabama would not be in the college football playoff without Kiffin coming in and radically changing the way Alabama did things offensively. When Saban hired Kiffin there were folks in the media who questioned if Lane could last until August. When Alabama named Blake Sims the quarterback, everyone said that Kiffin would be gone in a year. Well, those folks were wrong. Kiffin exceeded expectations and proved he can flat out coach by turning Sims into a championship level quarterback.
3. SHOW ME THE O, PART II: It’s said that defense wins championships and that might prove true in the college football playoff because whichever of Alabama, Oregon, Florida State or Ohio State can get a few stops will probably be crowned as national champ. Take a look at what the final four teams did offensively: Alabama averaged 37.1 points and 490.5 yards per game while giving up 16.6 points and 312.4 yards. Oregon averaged 46.3 points and 546.2 yards per game while giving up 413.8 and 22.5 points. Florida State averaged 34.8 points and 434.7 yards per game while giving up 378.3 yards and 23 points. Ohio State averaged 45.2 points and 507.6 yards per game while giving up 328 yards and 21.2 points. It could be argued that there isn’t a great defense among the final four. It’s great to have a terrific defense, but you better know how to get people in space and get them the ball. That is a trend that isn’t going to end any time soon.
4. EVEN IN A DOWN YEAR, THE SEC IS STILL THE BEST: Alabama is the closest thing to a great team the SEC produced this year and yet the Crimson Tide has as many or more flaws than any Nick Saban-coached team since that first year in Tuscaloosa in 2007. Even with all the flaws, most experts say that Alabama is the most complete team in the country. What that probably means is even when it’s not as great as the Alabama teams we’ve come to expect the previous seven years, the Crimson Tide is still as good or better than everyone else in the country. While most would argue successful that Oregon, Florida State and Ohio State belong in college football’s final four, does anyone think any one of those four teams could have run the table to knock off Alabama for the SEC West championship?
5. THE RICH WILL GET RICHER: What does it tell you about the Southeastern Conference when Ole Miss and Mississippi State can offer million dollar raises to their head coaches and throw in another million to upgrade their assistant coach and staff salaries? It should tell you that the SEC Network money has somewhat evened the playing field, allowing schools that would have lost Hugh Freeze and Dan Mullen just five years ago to offer contracts competitive with just about any school in the nation. At the top of the SEC money food chain, a school like Florida can pay $6.3 million to buy out its head coach, pay $5 million of a $7 million buyout to get a new coach and then pay the new coach something like $3.7 million a year, all without a significant dent in its bottom line. It is estimated that the additional first year revenue from the SEC Network for each school will top $25 million. To put that in perspective, a school like Mississippi State will go from a $60-something million athletic budget that barely cracks the top 40 nationally to top 15-20.
At least one very credible source is reporting that the folks who think it’s a done deal that Will Muschamp emerges either at Auburn or South Carolina as defensive coordinator might have to step back and take a deep breath. The rumor that Muschamp might emerge as the head coach at the University of Houston seems to be growing legs by the minute. Muschamp and his family just returned from a Caribbean vacation and he’s expected to make a decision about where he will be coaching next year within the next 3-4 days.
PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) is asking University of Nebraska athletic director Shawn Eichorst to discipline defensive end Jack Gangwish because he killed a raccoon. Gangwish saw the raccoon, stopped his truck and wanted to take a pic. When he got close, the raccoon bit him on the calf. Gangwish used a wrench from his truck and killed the raccoon. Fortunately for Gangwish the raccoon didn’t have rabies.
But that didn’t stop the president of PETA, Ingrid Newkirk, from writing Eichorst, stating: “It’s time for acts of cruelty to animals committed by players to be taken extremely seriously, and with violence in football culture now under the microscope, this is the time to address the issue.”
1. Tulsa hires Phil Montgomery: Tulsa is going back to its high-powered offense roots by hiring Baylor offensive coordinator Phil Montgomery to replace the fired Bill Blankenship. It’s a smart hire by Tulsa and a good move by Montgomery, who is going to be some power school’s head coach someday. When Montgomery gets 3-4 years of head coaching experience under his belt he will be somebody in the power conference’s no-brainer choice for a head coach.
2. JUST SAY NO: Michigan’s wish list began with Jim Harbaugh, Les Miles and Dan Mullen, whom all have reportedly just said no. They tried David Cutcliffe of Duke but he also let it be known that he’s quite content with the building job he’s doing in Durham and has no interest in Michigan. Apparently Michigan’s latest interest if Jon Gruden’s younger brother, who coaches the Washington Redskins. The Redskins are going nowhere (and probably won’t as long as Little Danny Snyder owns them) and Jay Gruden doesn’t get along with RGIII, who Little Danny invested all that money in. Gruden would be smart to take the Michigan job. As nuts as they are at Michigan, they aren’t even in the same league as Dan Snyder.
3. BARRY ALVAREZ WILL COACH Wisconsin IN THE BOWL GAME: Wisconsin AD Barry Alvarez will handle the head coaching duties when the Badgers face Auburn in the Outback Bowl on New Year’s Day. The last time he coached a bowl game was 2013 when he took over the team for the Rose Bowl after it was announced then head coach Bret Bielema was bolting for Arkansas. Alvarez will probably set his sights on hiring Pitt head coach Paul Chryst, a former Wisconsin QB who spent seven years as Wisconsin’s offensive coordinator (2005-07) including two years for Alvarez, or Darrell Bevell, a former Wisconsin QB under Alvarez who is now the offensive coordinator for the Seattle Seahawks. Those guys might be very interested but before they return to Madison they better make Barry open up the checkbook. For as big an athletic budget as they have at Wisconsin, Alvarez notoriously underpays his head coaches and assistants.
4. AD RESIGNS, NORM CHOW BACK AT Hawaii: Hawaii AD Ben Jay resigned effective in June, citing he can’t figure out a way to handle UH’s yearly athletic department deficit, estimated at $3 million this year. One thing that Jay could do to reduce the deficit is hire a new football coach, but instead of doing the obvious – Norm Chow is 8-29 in three years – he decided to keep Chow around for one more year. As long as Norm Chow is the coach Hawaii is going to lose and will struggle to put 25,000 into a 50,000-seat stadium.
When the Big 12 Conference looks itself in the mirror and asks how is it that neither Baylor or TCU got into the college football playoff, it can point fingers at commissioner Bob Bowlsby and whoever contracted Baylor’s non-conference schedule (SMU, Northwestern State, Buffalo). Bowlsby’s dumber than dumb move of changing the rules from head to head winner is conference champ to co-champs to try to boost TCU’s chances backfired. Baylor finished strong with an impressive win over Kansas State the final weekend but the lack of a conference championship and that pansy non-conference schedule allowed Ohio State to jump into the #4 position.
Baylor isn’t going to help itself in the next few years. Here are the non-conference opponents through 2019:2015: At SMU, Lamar, Rice
2016: Northwestern State, SMU, at Rice
2017: Liberty, UT-San Antonio, at Duke
2018: at UT-San Antonio, Duke, opponent to be announced later
2019: Incarnate Word, UT-San Antonio, Rice
Do you think athletic directors have too much of a quick trigger finger when it comes to firing football coaches these days?
The Electric Flag only lasted a couple of years, but the music was revolutionary. Mike Bloomfield put together a group with musicians such as Barry Goldberg and drummer Buddy Miles and the result was rock and roll meets jazz, soul and blues. Their “Long Time Coming” album in 1968 was considered a real breakthrough. This is the old Howlin’ Wolf standard “Killing Floor” from that first album.