Starting 11: Coaching Dominoes Season Arrives In College Football
It's inevitable. The only thing more ridiculous than the lack of value associated with college coaching contracts is the e-mails I always receive from fans who are quick to point out the particularly valueless "new extension" that will ensure their coach never leaves.
Until, predictably, he leaves.
I call this coaching dominoes because of the unpredictable ramifications that can ensue from one opening that seems entirely unrelated to your own school yet can end up impacting it immensely. Let's play coaching dominoes in the SEC, for instance. Miami is a big-time job opening. Let's say that the Hurricanes could entice Georgia's Mark Richt -- he played quarterback four years for the Canes from 1979-1982 -- to take their job, a very real possibility. Then what happens? I'll tell you, coaching dominoes are in play.
What would the Bulldogs do to replace Richt? They could do worse than poaching away Dan Mullen from Mississippi State, perhaps tripling his salary in the process. Suddenly you have two SEC changes that have been predicated on another conference's opening. Texas' Will Muschamp would also be in the mix at Georgia. Derek Dooley, despite all the talk you would hear because of his father, would not be a candidate because his mother is presently engaged in a holy war with Georgia president Michael Adams. Don't believe me? She went on Paul Finebaum's radio show and said that if she was found dead somewhere Adams should be the prime suspect. Then what does Mississippi State do? Reach down to Auburn and poach another hot offensive coordinator, Gus Malzahn.
Three SEC programs are fundamentally altered in less than two weeks. Meet coaching dominoes. All this is possible just in the South. And that's without even talking about the king of coaching dominoes, Houston Nutt. Nutt has been mentioned for every job opening in America over the past decade. Just wait and he'll be mentioned for any job opening. I promise you. The enabler of coaching dominoes is the complete absence of contract obligation in college sports. Combine that with the cult of the coach -- it truly matters more than in any sport who is your head coach in college football -- and you have a high demand product coupled with a low supply and no restraints on trade.
No other industry in America permits the talent to so dictate terms. Conan O'Brien had to sit out even when NBC screwed him. Bill Cowher sat out because he was still under contract to his NFL team. Players can't auction themselves off to the highest bidder every year. They're bound to play for the team with the contractual rights. Much further down the talent food chain, even I couldn't just switch radio stations in the offseason without a contractual penalty. Nope, college football coaches have the most power of any talent in any industry in America. If you're good, you're a perpetual free agent who can cash in somewhere new each year.
It's coaching dominoes.
So we're tossing in a few coaching dominoes possibilities into the Starting 11 as we roll through the list today.
1. Boise State's Kyle Brotzman shows us the positive power of the Internet.
By now you've all watched video of Brotzman, Boise State's kicker, missing 25- and 29-yarders at the end of regulation and in the first overtime. What you probably don't know is that Brotzman is just nine points away from setting the all-time NCAA record for points. You also probably don't know that shortly after he missed the two kicks, a Boise State fan started a Facebook page: The Bronco Nation Loves Kyle Brotzman.
At the time of this writing 18,524 people were fans. If you ever doubted how unique Boise was before, go read the postings on the wall. Pretty amazing.
OK, back to cynicism and double entendres.
2. Michigan should have fired Rich Rodriguez for cause last year like I suggested.
You can go back and read that prescient column from November of 2009, right here.
Instead of doing that, saving millions of dollars, and being a year ahead of the transition, Wolverines fans have waited three years to get to seven wins. And the defense has continued to get worse. If you could get Jim Harbaugh, fire Rich Rod before the bowl game. Actually go ahead and call Jim Harbaugh and ask what he prefers, tell him you'll do anything.
That's true even though you'll have to switch back from a spread offense to a pro-style offense. Rich Rod is not the answer. The sooner Michigan fans accede to this, the sooner I don't have to hear my wife grumbling about how awful her alma mater is.
3. The 2010 season was worse for Florida than any Ron Zook year.
And that's not hyperbole.
If they played this Saturday, the only SEC team I feel comfortable the Gators would beat on a neutral field is Vanderbilt. And maybe Georgia just because well, you know, it's Georgia playing Florida on a neutral field. Does anyone have any clue what Florida's offense will look like next year? Who the quarterback will be? Whether Steve Addazio will be trotted back out there to answer the question, what would happen if you actually got to call plays in a real football game?
Florida's program is in shambles right now. If Urban Meyer was stressed after going 25-2, what's his stress level now?
4. After his home loss to Notre Dame, Lane Kiffin is now 19-26 all-time as a coach, 7-5 at USC this year.
That's why I feel certain that after losing to UCLA on Saturday, Jerry Jones will name Lane Kiffin head coach of the Dallas Cowboys for a salary of $8 million a year.
Look deep within your heart, you know this is happening, too. You know it.
5. Auburn offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn will be a head coach somewhere next year.
Remember how I said Houston Nutt gets mentioned for every coaching job? Well, I've gotten all your e-mails and tweets about Nutt to Colorado. If that happens, wouldn't Ole Miss be foolish not to grab Malzahn? And if that does happen and Malzahn turns you down, Ole Miss fans, just, I don't even know what to say. Getting left for Colorado and turned down by an offensive coordinator? Y'all need to just start rooting for Eli's baby to be a boy and get eligible in time for the 2028 SEC season.
As is, Ole Miss, Vandy and Kentucky are now the only three schools in the conference never to make it to the SEC title game. At least y'all beat one of those two teams this season.
But back to Malzahn, someone will be incredibly lucky to get him. Cue Auburn e-mails about how he wants to be your offensive coordinator for life and will never go anywhere. Especially once his new contract extension is finalized.
6. Alabama finished fourth in the SEC west and would win every other conference, save the Pac 10.
Again, not hyperbole. The Tide have been favored in every game this season. They were favored over Auburn. They'd be favored over every team in America other than Oregon on a neutral field. How'd Alabama finish fourth? Because this season's SEC West is stronger than any division in college football history.
Don't believe me?
Five of the top 22 teams in the latest BCS standings are from the SEC West.
That's more than the entire Big East, ACC and Pac-10 conferences have in the top 22 combined.
7. Texas isn't going to a bowl game, and I couldn't be happier.
That's what the yellow pantied team from Texas gets for dodging all challengers in the conference realignment game this past summer. Want a crazy stat? In his previous six seasons at Texas, Mack Brown lost nine games. This year he lost seven.
By the way, is there any college team in America that has less production from its players in the NFL? There's an NFL perception that Brown babies his players so much that they can't adjust to professional life. That babying works in the college game -- witness the Mack clap -- but it doesn't prepare his players for the rigors of life in the NFL.
Ricky Williams, Vince Young ... to hell with coaching, Brown should just open up the highest profile athlete psychology office in the country and deal with head cases. Also, I live in mortal fear that Tennessee Titans owner Bud Adams is going to name Brown head coach next season to deal with Young.
That's not even a joke.
8. Dan Mullen will not be at Mississippi State next year.
Many in college football are tracing the decline of Florida's offense to the ascension of Steve Addazio. I think it's something different, the departure of Dan Mullen. He's that good. Mississippi State has the lowest revenue of any athletic department in the SEC -- much lower than Vanderbilt if you can believe that. State just doesn't have the money to match any substantial offer that another school puts on the table for Mullen.
And in the wake of the Cam Newton mess, don't you really wonder whether Mullen wants to stay in the SEC and reap the whirlwind of that controversy next season? It might make more sense for him to bolt to, say, Miami and recruit in the state he's really familiar with in a much weaker conference.
It sucks for State fans, but Mullen will be gone, maybe even before your bowl game.
9. I actually feel sorry for Kentucky fans.
Not just because Tennessee beat you for the 26th consecutive year -- there are now children in Kentucky who could be elected to the House of Representatives yet have never seen the Wildcats win this game -- but because I get e-mails like this: "After the game my son turned to me and said, 'I just want to see Kentucky beat Tennessee in football before I die ... He is 11.'"
No, the real shame comes from having a coach like Joker Phillips, who chose to punt on fourth and three from the Vols 37, down by seven points in the fourth quarter of a game his team had not won in a quarter century. The punt sailed into the end zone for a touchback, the Cats gained 17 yards in the change of possession, UT took the ball and drove the field for a field goal that effectively ended the game.
Well played, Joker, well played indeed.
10. True or false: if Gus Malzahn was Ohio State's offensive coordinator, the Buckeyes would be in Auburn's position right now.
I think it's true.
Ohio State doesn't know how to use Terrelle Pryor. Conversely, Auburn knows exactly how to use Cam Newton. I've watched both players a ton, and while I think Newton is a better college quarterback, he isn't light years better. Malzahn just knows how to incorporate Newton's talents into the running game and Ohio State doesn't know how to use Pryor in the rushing attack.
This season, Pryor has thrown for 2,551 yards and rushed for 639. Meanwhile Newton's stats are almost identical in the passing game, 2,254 passing, but Newton has run for 1,336 yards. That's nearly 700 yards more production. Are you telling me Pryor couldn't do the same in Malzahn's rushing attack?
Bottom line: Terrelle Pryror has to have watched some Auburn games and wished that Gus Malzahn was his coordinator. Ohio State fans have to have wished the same.
11. Tennessee's Tyler Bray will be the best quarterback in the SEC next season.
Yes, better than Stephen Garcia, better than Arkansas's Tyler Wilson and better than Aaron Murray and that's about all he has to be better than. Seriously, the returning quarterback roster in the SEC is going to be awful. Murray is a bona fide stud, but he's had A.J. Green to throw passes to. Next year, the Bulldogs receiving corps will take a big hit and Murray's stats will as well. You can make an argument for Murray or Wilson, but no one can really argue that these four quarterbacks aren't going to be the best next season. (I'm assuming that Cam Newton and Ryan Mallett are gone).
This year, the Vols haven't been able to pass block or run the football. Both of these traits are kind of important to a quarterback's success. Despite these failings, Bray has thrown for 1,537 yards and 14 touchdowns while starting just four games. Granted those four games weren't against stellar competition, but Bray's receivers are young and dynamic and the offensive line and running game should be greatly improved in 2011.
The Dool-Aid is going to taste pretty good on offense for the Vols in 2011. Now the defense? Well, that may still be awful, but Bray is the real deal at quarterback, perhaps the only real gift that Lane Kiffin left behind for Vols fans.
Follow Clay Travis on Twitter here. With All That and a Bag of Mail back on a weekly basis, you can e-mail him questions at Clay.Travis@gmail.com.