There are going to be a lot of disappointed fanbases in the next few weeks. Dan Mullen became the latest big-name coach at a big-time program to be shown the door, as Florida decided it was time to move in a different direction. While the midseason parting of ways could be seen coming, it still felt like a shock to the system considering where Florida was at this time a year ago.
Mullen wasn't even the only coach fired Sunday, even if he was the one grabbing the headlines. Troy fired Chip Lindsey, too, meaning there have now been 14 coaches fired at the FBS level and it isn't even Thanksgiving. While four of those jobs (Georgia Southern, Texas Tech, UMass and UConn) have already been filled, there are likely to be even more openings coming as teams finish their seasons on Thanksgiving weekend. It also happens that three of the top-20 jobs in the country -- I'll let you argue amongst yourselves whether it should be top 15 or top 10 -- happen to be open right now, as Florida joins LSU and USC. Outside of those three, there are another four Power Five gigs currently available.
Those are seven jobs that will be attractive to a lot of coaches, but there's a significant problem: Which coaches are going to fill those jobs? I took Economics 101. I learned about supply and demand. Right now, there's a far greater demand than there seems to be a supply capable of filling it.
Seriously, take a look at the coaching candidate lists written not just on this site, but every site, the moment a job comes open. They all have the same core of five to six names. Once you've read one, you've read them all.
There just aren't a lot of proven commodities available at the moment. Jimbo Fisher has said as loudly and emphatically as he can that he's staying at Texas A&M. James Franklin was a candidate for both USC and LSU when those jobs came open (seemingly years ago at this point), but Penn State has cooled off down the stretch and indications are he'll be signing an extension to stay in Happy Valley.
Louisiana's Billy Napier is another excellent option. He seems ready to tackle a Power Five gig and is on the shortlist for plenty of openings, but he's only one coach. Luke Fickell might be on the verge of reaching the College Football Playoff with Cincinnati and has been extremely picky already. There's no guarantee he'll even entertain job offers for another six weeks. Maybe Matt Campbell will decide he's done all he can do at Iowa State, and now is the time to move on, but still ... he can only choose one school. Lane Kiffin can't coach at every job in the southeast, either, though I wouldn't put it past him to try.
This is how a head coach who is 16-14 over his three-season career is reportedly on the precipice of receiving a new $95 million contract that could alter the coaching salary landscape and make agents rich beyond their wildest imaginations. I don't mean that as a shot at Michigan State's Mel Tucker, whom I believe can win a lot of games at a Power Five program. It's just that $95 million is a lot of money for a coach who hasn't proven it yet, and it's also a sign of how Michigan State feels. Not just about Tucker, but about the pool of available candidates should he decide to leave East Lansing.
And it's how I already know there will be a lot of disappointed fanbases talking themselves into coaches who hadn't appeared on their lists. But that doesn't mean your school won't make a great hire! If your school has an opening, take solace in the fact that "proven" coaches tend to have the same hit rate as the "unproven" kind. And no matter who you hire, if they don't win a national title in the next 12 months, you can just fire them and start again.
Heisman Moments of the Week
I am a Heisman voter, which means two things: First, they truly will let anybody vote on the award. Second, there are never fewer than two rifle scopes trained on me, ready to take action if I even hint for whom I'm going to vote.
I'm willing to take that risk after Saturday's action. The entire season has had several candidates, but nobody ever took the reins. That's why Saturday's game between Ohio State and Michigan State had some added significance. It wasn't simply a top-10 showdown between two teams fighting for a conference title and possible playoff berth. It was a head-to-head showdown of sorts between two Heisman hopefuls in Michigan State running back Kenneth Walker and Ohio State quarterback C.J. Stroud. Stroud won it handily, throwing for 432 yards and six touchdowns in the first half, while Walker was held to 25 yards by the Buckeyes defense. The performance was enough to vault Stroud to the head of the pack, as sportsbooks across the country changed their odds to reflect him as the favorite. (Caesars Sportsbook has Stroud at -220.)
Then the Alabama game started, and Bryce Young threw for a school-record 559 yards and five touchdowns as the Tide had a much tougher test against Arkansas than the Buckeyes did against Michigan State. Now, everybody who spent the last few months debating over which defensive player could be the one to finally break through and win the award will spend the next two weeks dissecting Stroud and Young.
Large Human Touchdown of the Week
Speaking of defensive players people were trying to talk themselves into as Heisman candidates ... did you see Georgia's Jordan Davis on Saturday? It turns out Davis knows how to do more than stop the run. He studied his opponent's tendencies so effectively that now he knows how to use their weapons against them. How do you stop the run of the man who stops the run?
Typo of the Week
I don't know why I find the word "Ritgers" to be so amusing, but I do. It's fun to say out loud. Go ahead and try it if you don't believe me. Ritgers.
Oh, and I'm not sure how lucky I'd consider myself if I had to watch a Rutgers-Maryland game.
Coordinator of the Week
Do you know who Jim Knowles is? Don't worry if you don't, because most college football fans outside the Big 12 don't. I wasn't familiar with him before he joined Mike Gundy's Oklahoma State staff as defensive coordinator, either. Knowles spent years as an assistant at places that don't get much attention and went only 26-34 in six seasons as the head coach at his alma mater, Cornell, before joining David Cutcliffe's staff at Duke.
When Gundy hired him to run Oklahoma State's defense, the move didn't cause much of a ripple outside Stillwater. It turns out it might've been the best decision Gundy's ever made.
Oklahoma State won 47 games from 2013 to 2017, but the defense always let them down when they needed it most. In those five seasons, the Oklahoma State defense allowed an average of 31 points per game in Big 12 play. When Knowles joined the scene in 2018, things actually got worse. Much worse. The Cowboys allowed 37.6 points per game in the Big 12 that year and finished the season 7-6. In 2019, the defense took a significant step forward, allowing 28.1 points per game, and last season that number again dropped to 24.1. This season, it's down to a ridiculously low 13.1 points per game.
Knowles' defense is the primary reason Oklahoma State is 10-1 with a legitimate shot at beating Oklahoma in Bedlam next week for the first time since 2014, as well as appearing in its first Big 12 Championship Game.
Best Use of an Official of the Week
I love everything about this fake field goal that Arkansas ran to score a touchdown against Alabama. I love the decision to run it. I love the jump-pass aspect of it. And, more than anything, I love that it uses the umpire as a screen. I don't know if this was part of the play design, but it very well could've been and I hope it was. It's not like offensive coordinators don't consider the positioning of the officials when they run all those crossing routes.
Personal Foul of the Week
UCLA not only laid an epic 62-33 beatdown on rival USC Saturday, but the Bruins discovered new ways to pick up personal fouls. After rushing for a four-yard touchdown to put the Bruins ahead 28-10 late in the first half, Dorian Thompson-Robinson stopped to sign an autograph for a young fan and was penalized for it.
Did you notice the color of the shirt and hat the kid was wearing? They were red because it turns out that this young DTR fan is also a USC fan. Yep, 12-year old Declin Manz wanted the autograph because DTR tossed him a glove two years ago in this same game. At this rate, you have to wonder what colors young Declin will be wearing the next time UCLA visits The Coliseum.
Declin Manz, 12, a lifelong Trojans fan, wanted to get UCLA quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson’s signature on a hat at halftime because DTR had thrown him a glove at the Coliseum two years ago. So when DTR scored, Declin gave him his hat and got the memory of a lifetime. pic.twitter.com/DW852PS1SX— Ben Bolch (@latbbolch) November 20, 2021
Complaint of the Week
Can television networks please start sending announcers to games again? I understand that COVID had a terrible impact on how networks could broadcast games last season and a lack of live sports hurt the bottom line everywhere. Still, I fear that the lesson networks learned from the experience wasn't "this makes our broadcasts worse" as much as it was "hey, we can save some money!"
But, make no mistake, it does make the broadcasts worse. The viewer is cheated when announcers are in a studio 2,000 miles away from the game. Too many times this season I've seen critical penalties called, which the announcers have no explanation for if they're even aware of them in the first place. And it's not their fault. Survey every play-by-play or color analyst in the country and I guarantee you they'd all prefer being on-site than in a studio. They're people who take pride in their work and realize they can't fulfill their jobs to the best of their abilities this way. I understand why a network might be hesitant to send a whole production team to a mid-week game in a smaller conference, but I've routinely seen it happen with much larger games on Saturday. Networks are paying billions of dollars for the right to broadcast the games, but then treat them like they aren't worth their attention or time. That doesn't seem like a sound business model.
Stock Advice of the Week
BUY -- Miami QB Tyler Van Dyke: I don't know what Miami will do with coach Manny Diaz. Depending on who you talk to, he's either back next season, or he's going to be fired after the Duke game. Whatever happens, I'm already more optimistic about Miami in 2022 than I have been at any point in 2021, and it's all thanks to Tyler Van Dyke.
Van Dyke was a four-star prospect in Miami's 2020 class that was somewhat forgotten after Jake Garcia committed to the Canes in 2021. He wasn't forgotten by this Miami coaching staff, though, because they turned to Van Dyke as D'Eriq King's replacement, and it is looking like a wise decision. After a couple of rough performances in his first two starts against Virginia and North Carolina, Van Dyke settled in to throw 325 yards and four touchdowns in a 31-30 upset over NC State. A week later, he threw for 426 yards and three touchdowns in an upset win over Pitt. After throwing for 357 yards in a 38-26 win over Virginia Tech this weekend, Van Dyke has thrown for at least 300 yards in five consecutive games. Van Dyke's five games of at least 300 yards passing are the most any Miami QB has thrown in a single season since Ken Dorsey in 2002. Nobody had managed even four since Brad Kaaya in 2016.
BUY -- Wisconsin RB Braelon Allen: I'm required by law to tell you that Braelon Allen is only 17 years old. This comes as a surprise to most people because you don't see many 17-year olds rushing for more than 1,000 yards, particularly in a Power Five conference. After rushing for 228 yards and three touchdowns in Wisconsin's 35-28 win over Nebraska, he's at 1,062 yards and 12 touchdowns on the season. Those numbers are strong enough on their own, but become even more impressive when you consider Allen wasn't the team's featured running back until October. Allen had only 12 carries in Wisconsin's first four games, but has averaged 21.3 carries and 144.7 yards per game since. Allen was playing linebacker in high school not long ago (again, 17), but it looks like he's the next great Wisconsin running back.
BUY -- East Carolina HC Mike Houston: I started the column by talking about the lack of coaching candidates, so why not add one to the board that I haven't seen get a lot of consideration? Mike Houston is in his third season at East Carolina and the Pirates have steadily improved each year. Houston inherited a program struggling to adapt to life in the American Athletic Conference after moving from Conference USA, going 22-39 in its first five seasons in the AAC, including a mark of 12-28 in the conference.
In Houston's first season, the Pirates' struggles continued as they went 4-8 and 1-7 in conference. They took a step forward last year, though, going 3-6 overall and 3-5 in the AAC. This season the Pirates are 7-4 and 5-2 in the AAC after beating Navy Saturday. That's improvement every season so far, and that was a common theme for Houston's stops at Lenoir-Rhyne (three conference titles in three years), The Citadel (a 2015 conference title) and James Madison (a national title and two conference titles in three seasons).
If I'm Virginia Tech -- or any P5 job -- I'd be taking a long hard look at him. And if I'm East Carolina, I'm doing everything in my power to keep him.
College Football Playoff Projection of the Week
- Ohio State
Until the next Monday After!