NCAA Football News

Why Urban Meyer's Ohio State Squad Is Only Big Ten Team That Will Miss the BCS

Monday night will be reason to celebrate in Big Ten country, no matter what happens between Florida State and Auburn. That's because the three-letter word, B-C-S, has been most unkind to the majority of B1G schools. 

That is unless you are Ohio State, in which case you may very well be sad to see the BCS gone. 

Sure, recent BCS history hasn't been kind to the Buckeyes either, but who can forget the 2002-03 season and the last national champion to come from the Big Ten?

Despite the B1G not having a national champion since then, no other conference has played in more BCS games than the Big Ten (28), and no other team in the history of the BCS has made more appearances than OSU (10).

However, for the other 11 teams currently calling the Big Ten home, the death of the BCS and birth of the College Football Playoff is a dream come true. 

It's an opportunity to do what the vast majority of the Big Ten still has to do to get respect: earn it on the field.

The ugly truth of the BCS era for the Big Ten is that unless your ranking was followed by the words "Ohio State," your chances of being in a BCS game beyond winning the conference were pretty slim. 

Only three other Big Ten schools made appearances in non-Rose Bowl BCS games—Illinois to the Sugar Bowl once, Iowa to the Orange Bowl twice and Penn State to the Orange Bowl once. 

Notice something missing from those numbers, though? Not a single one of those extra appearances came via this thing called the BCS National Championship game. 

Only the Buckeyes of Ohio State can claim that happening, going to the title game three times since its inception in 1998. 

So, for the majority of teams in the Big Ten, the BCS era wasn't all that welcoming. 

Then again, the Big Ten has also progressively slipped down the totem pole of the college football world. It didn't exactly elevate a ton of teams to become BCS worthy. 

Additionally, the conference didn't help itself out with some archaic rules for selecting teams to BCS games and breaking ties for the conference title (before the 2011 season and start of the Big Ten Championship game).

No season underscored what was wrong with the system the Big Ten and the BCS created more than 2010.

Michigan State, Wisconsin and Ohio State all tied for the conference crown with 11-1 overall records and 7-1 finishes in Big Ten play. By rule, the highest ranked BCS team went to the Rose Bowl, and that meant Wisconsin, at No. 5 in the final BCS standings, packed its bags for Pasadena.

Michigan State, the team that beat Wisconsin, was left out of the BCS entirely as Ohio State was selected for the Sugar Bowl against Arkansas thanks to being ranked one spot higher in the BCS standings than MSU. 

See, the problem with the BCS is that it was never about creating a true national champion. It was a "money first, football second" operation from the very beginning, and Ohio State equalled major cash to the BCS and vice versa. 

Moving forward, the hope is that, with football people making the decisions about who's in and who's out of the College Football Playoff, the annual high school popularity contest will give way to what actually takes place on the field every Saturday.

For the rest of the Big Ten without the "name" of Ohio State or Michigan, that brings hope that results on the field matter more than where some writer or coach (who's likely never seen you play) ranks you.

With the start of division play in 2011 and the Big Ten title game that the 12-team conference began that year, the chances of making a BCS game became better for each of the participants. 

Yet, still, the elusive BCS National Championship game was out of reach for any team that would win the title game not named Ohio State. 

All one has to do is look to the Big Ten title game to see why the rest of the conference can't wait for the College Football Playoff to start. 

This last season saw Michigan State arguably earn its way into the national-championship discussion by beating No. 2 Ohio State in the Big Ten title game. 

It propelled them to the No. 4 ranking in the BCS, which in the new system would've qualified them for the playoff.

One could've argued the win over the Buckeyes was a fluke, until the Spartans went out on the field and proved it again in a Rose Bowl win over No. 5 Stanford. 

Looking forward, the Big Ten Championship game provides the extra opportunity for the rest of the Big Ten, not named Ohio State, to earn its way into the national championship discussion on the field—where it matters most. 

Now the question is: Will anyone be able to step to the plate and take advantage of those opportunities that the new era of college football could provide the rest of the Big Ten?

 

*Andy Coppens is Bleacher Report's lead writer for the Big Ten. You can follow him on Twitter: @andycoppens.

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Louisville Fan Wants to Bring Bobby Petrino Back

As the University of Texas posted on its website on Sunday, former Louisville coach Charlie Strong has bolted for the Longhorns. Now the Cardinals need to start looking for a replacement.

One fan wants a reunion with former coach Bobby Petrino, who coached the Cardinals from 2003 to 2006. The fan posted a sign on the building where athletic director Tom Jurich's office is, asking for Petrino to come back.

Petrino led Louisville to a 41-9 record during his four years as coach.

 

Hat tip to LostLettermen.com for the find.

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Good Riddance BCS: Why the Pac-12 Can't Wait for a Playoff

The last time the BCS Championship is awarded, it will happen in Pac-12 country. But in a finish to the 15 years of BCS football befitting the host conference’s fate, the Coaches Trophy will not go to a Pac-12 team.

In 16 BCS seasons, the Pac-12 played in all of three title games and won only USC’s 55-19 rout of Oklahoma in the 2005 Orange Bowl.

Whether it be the result of perceived league strength or missed opportunities, the BCS was not kind to Pac-12 teams with championship aspirations.

Based on the conference’s various near misses, the expansion of the sport’s championship round to include four teams instead of just two may not be a conference that benefits more from the beginning of the College Football Playoff than the Pac-12.

The quintessential example is USC in 2003, a team that opened the season with a 23-0 rout of Auburn in Jordan Hare Stadium.

USC was voted national champion by the Associated Press, forcing the only split in 16 years of the BCS with Championship Game-winner LSU.

"All I know is the powers that be selected us to be here," LSU quarterback Matt Mauck said per The Los Angeles in January 2004. "They just gave us the national championship trophy. I don't know how you couldn't consider us national champions."

The "powers that be," whether media, coaches poll voters or computers, just didn't quite like the Pac-12. Over the course of the last 16 years, the Pac-12 earned fewer BCS Championship Game bids than the SEC, Big 12 and ACC, and as many as the Big Ten and former Big East.

Before USC's snub in 2003 in favor of Big 12 title game loser Oklahoma, there was precedent for a Big 12 team that failed to win the conference playing for the BCS Championship ahead of the Pac-12 champion. Just two years earlier, Nebraska earned the privilege of being Miami's last victim despite losing in spectacular fashion to Colorado. The Buffaloes later lost the Fiesta Bowl to Oregon.

As the conference’s flag-bearer for much of the BCS era, though, USC accounted for the majority of the Pac-12’s BCS snubs. In 2007 and 2008, USC finished tied in the loss column with at least one of the two championship game participants.

Both seasons, an SEC team got the call while the Trojans went to the Rose Bowl.

The 2008 USC team may be the most egregious exclusion in BCS history. The Trojans boasted the nation's best defense and one of the stingiest units in college football history, and their sole setback was a Thursday night, early-season nailbiter at Oregon State.

Then-USC head coach Pete Carroll refused to politick after wrapping up the 2008 regular season, saying in a press conference he accepted the BCS system for what it was and had no alternative.

With the coming of the College Football Playoff, there is an alternative. But it's on the Pac-12 champion to seize the opportunity.

While USC was on the wrong end of national perception, the Pac-12 teams whiffed plenty, too. In the first year of the BCS, UCLA ran through its regular season slate undefeated, including a dominating win over a top-10 ranked Arizona team. But a hurricane pushed a non-conference date with Miami back to December, and on the regular season's final week, Edgerrin James and the Hurricanes blew away the Bruins' title dreams.

The Trojans also came up on the wrong end of a few perplexing losses that prevented them from punching their tickets to BCS title games—none more perplexing than the 2006 regular-season finale at UCLA.

Stanford, along with Oregon, picked up the mantle USC dropped after it was handed severe NCAA sanctions. At last summer's Pac-12 media day, Cardinal head coach David Shaw touted his team as a playoff team had the system existed in 2012.

Even in a system that invites four teams to play for the national championship, the Pac-12 champion cannot afford the confounding hiccups. To that end, Stanford would have been on the outside looking in in 2013, a campaign in which national pundits lauded the Pac-12 as one of the sport’s strongest conferences.

Because of two road losses, at Utah and USC, Stanford would have been eliminated from College Football Playoff contention. While a three-point defeat to a Top 25 team like USC is not too harsh of a blemish, Stanford’s 27-21 loss at Utah ostensibly scrapped the Cardinal’s championship resume. 

There’s no telling how different the conference’s place in the national landscape might be had it won more championships. Perhaps the groundswell that landed a record nine teams in bowl games and another record five with at least 10 wins would have started earlier.

Regardless, the BCS is soon to be in the past, and the Pac-12 is starting the new playoff era on the right path.

 

Quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.

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Florida State's Crack Coaching Staff Will Be Difference in 2014 BCS Championship

With a month between games, the BCS National Championship Game is an opportunity for coaches to show just how dialed in they are to both the opponent and their own team. When the Seminoles take the field against the Auburn Tigers, Jimbo Fisher, and the tremendous staff he's assembled, will get a chance to show why they are the most underrated commodity in the BCS Championship.

On the Auburn side of things, Gus Malzahn is widely considered a genius, and rightfully so. He's put together a phenomenal system that utilizes his pieces well and elevated a team with three wins in 2012, to a 12-1, SEC Champion and BCS Championship team in 2013. He's found a way to turn a hapless offense into a potent rushing attack, led by a quarterback who did not get to campus until the end of June.

Malzahn deserves praise, but Jimbo Fisher, as the man who revamped the Seminoles' program, also is deserving of ample love on the national scale. First and foremost, it must be acknowledged that Fisher did not just continue Bobby Bowden's success. The program Fisher built at Florida State only resembles Bowden's group thanks to the uniforms. This is, unequivocally, Fisher's team and the program that he built in Tallahassee.

In fact, if one is looking for a comparison, it is not the past Florida State teams, but rather the modern Alabama squads that Fisher's team favors. Which is why the Sunday-to-Friday prep has been phenomenal for the Seminoles and that pregame success will continue during the bowl layoff.

That prep success stems from Fisher's mentor, the best in college football, Nick Saban. Self-scouting and working to break tendencies, while presenting a game plan that taxes the opponent is a Saban staple. Now, Fisher, with a staff loaded with other Saban disciples, gets to show just how ready his staff is to prove Malzahn is not the only coach worth celebrating in this ballgame.

On offense, it starts with Fisher and his talented weapons. The head coach calls the plays and while Malzahn gets celebrated for setting his team up, it is Fisher's team that has the more multi-faceted attack. Look for Jimbo to work the run and the pass to expose Auburn's defense. Although Auburn has a solid defensive line rotation, watch for Fisher to try and limit its substitutions by working tempo at times and keeping his 11 personnel package in the game to run and throw.

The Seminoles offense, which gets all praise for being talented, but none for being well-schemed or for the play calls, will have to show up big against Auburn's vulnerable defense. While quarterback Jameis Winston will draw the celebration, it is Fisher who still makes things go with his decisions and how he's prepared his unit to succeed.

Defensively is where the Seminoles will get a shot to prove that mind-vs-mind Jeremy Pruitt, the defensive coordinator, is ready to match wits with Malzahn. As has been discussed here, look for Pruitt to work to make Auburn uncomfortable. Discomfort, for the Tigers, of course means throwing the football.

Although Nick Marshall has a very strong arm and boasts a completion percentage of 60.4, the fact is Auburn's quarterback has not shown consistency pushing the ball down the field. Pruitt is going to load up the box. Pruitt is going to make Marshall beat him through the air. Pruitt is going to make the genius that is Gus Malzahn, prove to the nation that he can adjust and beat a team that dares him to throw the football.

Jimbo Fisher and Jeremy Pruitt bring some elite level football minds to the table and this final edition of the BCS National Championship Game is far just the "Gus Malzahn is a Genius" show. The Seminoles have a ton of talent on both sides of the ball, but a win on Monday night will be as much about coaches putting them in a position to succeed, as the athletes carrying out the plan.

Fisher and his staff are the edge for the Seminoles. Those men on the sideline and in the booth are why Florida State's been phenomenal all season, and the Seminoles' prep for the title game should be no different.

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GoDaddy Bowl 2014: Key Players in Arkansas State vs. Ball State Battle

The 2014 GoDaddy Bowl will be played on Sunday, Jan. 5 at 9 p.m. ET, and it features two teams in Arkansas State and Ball State that have several top talents you've probably never heard of.

Arkansas State (7-5, 5-2 Sun Belt) enters 4-1 in its past five games. That being said, that loss came in its last game against Western Kentucky. The Red Wolves have been wildly inconsistent this season, though they did play very well against Sun Belt opponents.

Ball State (10-2, 7-1 MAC) is fresh off a 55-14 route of Miami (OH) on Nov. 29. Northern Illinois defeated it 48-27 in the previous week, however. The Cardinals scored 40.1 points per game (12th in the nation) this season. Their lowest point total (27) was matched three times.

The Red Wolves defense appears to have its hands full with the Cardinals' potent offense. Several key players will inevitably step up for each team, and here are the three top threats to keep an eye on.

 

Keith Wenning, QB, Ball State

Senior quarterback Keith Wenning is perhaps the top quarterback in the nation that you've never heard of. The relatively weak conference he plays in is likely the reason why, because his numbers this season were certainly worthy of national attention.

Wenning threw for at least 305 yards in 10 of his 12 games this season. His last game against Miami (OH) was easily his best in 2013, as he totaled six touchdown passes with 445 yards and just six incompletions.

With weapons around him and motivation to perform well in his final game with the Cardinals, look for Wenning to come out slinging. Ball State ranked No. 9 in the nation in terms of passing yards per game, and while most of that can be attributed to Wenning, a good portion of that needs to be attributed to the offensive scheme.

Wenning is in a situation that allows him to air it out with success. Look for him to do more of the same against the Red Wolves.

 

Michael Gordon, RB, Arkansas State

Arkansas State doesn't have a potent offense by any means, but perhaps its best weapon is running back Michael Gordon.

Gordon didn't get a ton of opportunities this season compared to other backs across the country, but he made the most of his chances. His mark of 6.8 yards per carry is evident of his motor and willingness to fight for tough yards.

The 5'9" sophomore is also coming off the best three-game stretch of his season. He totaled 362 yards and four touchdowns against the likes of Texas State, Georgia State and Western Kentucky. Ball State will throw different defensive schemes his way (including stuffing the box with linebackers), but Gordon has the speed and vision to break a few plays open.

The Red Wolves' strategy, according to Eddie Timanus of USA Today Sports, will be to use Gordon to eat time away:

Arkansas State isn't quite as prolific [as Ball State], but QB Adam Kennedy and TBs David Oku and Michael Gordon will try to control the clock as much as possible.

If Gordon can keep up this hot streak, then there's plenty of reason to believe that he'll do more than just play a part in clock management.

 

Willie Snead, WR, Ball State

Junior wideout Willie Snead is by far the best pass-catching option on either side in the GoDaddy Bowl. His numbers this season were superb, even if they were influenced by having Wenning throw the ball his way.

Like Gordon, Snead is hitting his stride of late. He posted 23 catches, 254 yards and two touchdowns in his past two games against Northern Illinois and Miami (OH). With Wenning throwing him the ball, Snead has the potential to keep it going against Arkansas State.

Mark Inabinett of AL.com breaks down Snead's place in Ball State history:

After catching at least five passes in every game this season, Snead stands second in Ball State history with 214 receptions, 2,904 receiving yards and 25 touchdown catches. He already holds the school record for 100-yard receiving games with 13.

Snead is dynamic in the vertical passing game. His speed and great hands make him an ideal target for Wenning over the top of opposing secondaries. His 5'11" frame isn't ideal for jump-ball scenarios, so expect Wenning to air it out when the ball is going Snead's way.

He'll certainly make his presence felt as his quarterback's favorite target.

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Louisville Football: Top 5 Replacements for Charlie Strong

Louisville athletic director Tom Jurich confirmed Sunday what had been reported over the past 36 hours: Head coach Charlie Strong was headed to Texas.

It's a tough loss for the Cardinals and a good, albeit interesting, acquisition for the Longhorns. Strong resurrected a Louisville program that had slipped under former coach Steve Kragthorpe, winning 37 games in four seasons. Strong is an excellent defensive mind and a relentless recruiter. 

It will be fascinating to see how Strong fits at Texas, but don't expect the 'Horns to give up 550 yards rushing—like they did to BYU this season—anytime soon. 

But Louisville should be fine post-Strong. Jurich is regarded as one of the best ADs in the country and money is not an issue for the Cardinals, who will enter ACC play for the first time in 2014. 

Louisville is a good job, and they can get an excellent coach out of all of this. Here are five directions Jurich may go with his upcoming coaching search. 

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6 Best Prop Bets for 2014 BCS National Championship Game

The BCS National Championship Game has been covered from every angle—twice, three times, maybe—which means there’s only one angle left to take. It also happens to be the most important angle of them all. 

Which prop bets should you make?

OK, so maybe it’s not the most important matter of the final BCS game to ever be played. But it will likely be the most entertaining.

Florida State has been bet up to a nine-point favorite against Auburn, at least that’s where the number has settled at most sportsbooks with plenty of bets to come in. The over/under will close somewhere in the high 60s—likely around 68—which means points are forecast in large amounts.

For those looking for other ways to make things interesting, however, the online sportsbook Bovada is here to help with a long list of fascinating prop bets to make things interesting.

As for some of those prop bets that are worth a look, let’s pick some winners. 

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Twitter Reacts to Charlie Strong Becoming Texas Longhorns Football Coach

First he was, then he wasn't, then no one had any idea what the heck was going on. But finally, after a couple days of widespread speculation and conflicting reports, Charlie Strong has left Louisville for the University of Texas' head-coaching vacancy.

Steve Patterson, the university's athletics director, announced the two sides had come to terms on Jan. 5. in a press release. Strong will not be officially introduced as head coach until Monday, but he seemed eager to embark on the new journey:  

I'm excited and my family is excited to have the chance to lead one of the premier football programs in the country. Texas is one of those places that is always on your radar and a program anyone would dream of being a part of because you have a chance to compete on a national level every year. It's special because it has such great history, pride, tradition and passion for football.

Strong, 53, went 37-15 during his four-year stint at Louisville, including a 23-3 record over the past two seasons. A burgeoning giant with the backing of a national television deal, Strong helped the Cardinals recover from the disappointing Steve Kragthorpe era and landed arguably the biggest recruit in school history with quarterback Teddy Bridgewater.     

With Bridgewater entering the 2014 NFL draft and Strong having proven himself able to handle head-coaching duties, going to a program like Texas is a natural next step. Strong takes over for Mack Brown, whose retirement was nearly as big of a fiasco as the school's coaching search.

Though Brown is arguably the second-most decorated coach in school history behind Darrell Royal, the program's struggles late in his tenure led to widespread criticism. Texas had at least four losses in each of the past four seasons, and will likely finish unranked for the third time in four years after losing to Oregon in the Alamo Bowl.

Still, this is the type of dream job coaches rarely turn down. Strong walks in with unprecedented financial backing buoyed by the Longhorn Network and other revenue streams, and should be able to bring the Longhorns back to prominence.

Chris Brown of OrangeBloods.com indicated Strong is the type of choice that should reinvigorate the program:

Retired Atlanta Braves third baseman Chipper Jones apparently has a different sport in mind for his children. While praising the Strong hire, Jones indicated the former Louisville coach is the type of man he wants taking care of his children—should they be good enough to get an offer:

As for the kids to whom Strong was actually responsible, well, that reaction was a little different. He did not meet with his Louisville players before departing for Texas for Monday's announcement, and quite a few Cardinals seemed unhappy with their former coach. Defensive end Lorenzo Mauldin called Strong out for lying and saying he would not leave:

Safety Calvin Pryor thinks that perhaps it's the players—not the coaches—who deserve credit for the Cardinals becoming a national power:

Louisville players aren't going to be the only ones missing Strong. As ESPN ACC noted, the head coach is leaving just before the program makes the move from the American Athletic Conference to the ACC:

On the Texas side of things, reactions were understandably positive. ESPN's Dick Vitale notes that there won't be many excuses—financial or otherwise—for Strong to not build a national title contender:

Roland Smith? He doesn't seem to think too much will change, even if he qualifies it by liking the hire:

At one point, Florida head coach Will Muschamp was tabbed as Brown's replacement in waiting. With the Gators struggling and Muschamp's job possibly in jeopardy with one more bad season, the SEC Logo wants to know whether he could get his old gig back:

On a more serious note, it's obvious Strong has national respect as a football coach. Greg Tepper of TexasFootball.com thinks the hire was solid—even if Strong wasn't the first choice:

No matter what comes next for Strong and the Longhorns, it seems the program's new coach wants to honor the past. Strong went out of his way to mention Brown and his legacy by name, per Sports Illustrated's Pete Thamel:

Whether Strong was a good or a bad hire, Texas fans are likely happy the whole process is over. From Nick Saban to Jim Mora to any number of other suitors, it seemed everywhere the athletic department went it was turned down. Strong, in the end, decided to take the next step.

The only question remaining is whether he's ready. 

 

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Louisville Head Coach Search: Latest Rumors and Buzz After Charlie Strong's Exit

Louisville is searching for a new head football coach after losing Charlie Strong to the Texas Longhorns, and there's already some chatter about who could potentially replace him.

The Longhorns on Twitter announced the news regarding Strong's new position on Sunday, Jan. 5:

Taking over for Strong could be intimidating, as the formidable head coach put together a stellar record during his tenure, as pointed out by SportsCenter Alerts:

Strong rebuilt this program into a national contender, which is what made him such an appealing choice for Texas. The Cardinals suffered through three miserable losing seasons before Strong arrived in 2010, and he turned them into winners.   

Louisville athletic director Tom Jurich talked about what he's looking for in a new candidate, as Dave Miller of the National Football Post relayed:

I’m a big person that believes in fit. I want somebody that fits here. You always say you want somebody who wants to be here. Does that mean five minutes? Five years? Five days? I want somebody who will look at this job as a true destination job, look at it as a long-term process. Somebody that wants to build it the right way and continue to build what Charlie did.

Miller also provided a list of candidates he believes would be a good fit for the Cardinals, including Chad Morris (Clemson offensive coordinator), Kirby Smart (Alabama defensive coordinator), Mark Hudspeth (Louisiana-Lafayette head coach) and others. 

Whoever jumps on board as the new leader at Louisville will be going forward without the program's top player, as quarterback Teddy Bridgewater has declared himself eligible for the 2014 NFL draft, as ESPN's Brett McMurphy reported:

While Louisville may not be as attractive a destination as Texas, USC or some of the other top programs in the country, there's no doubt this open position will be highly desirable for a coach looking to make his mark.

It will be hard following up Strong's act, but the groundwork has already been laid for long-term success.

 

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReed78 

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BCS Championship Game 2014: 5 Bold Predictions for Auburn

NEWPORT BEACH, Calif. — Destiny will battle perfection on Monday night at the Rose Bowl, as No. 2 Auburn will go up against No. 1 Florida State in the VIZIO BCS National Championship Game in Pasadena.

With all of the press conferences, practices and meetings in the books, what better time to step out on a limb and make some bold predictions?

Who will lead the Tigers in rushing? Can they rattle Seminoles quarterback Jameis Winston? Will they successfully stretch the field through the air?

Five bold predictions for the Tigers are in this slide show.

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BCS Championship Game 2014: 5 Bold Predictions for Florida State

NEWPORT BEACH, Calif. — All the hype, all the analysis and all of the discussion is in the books, and it's now time for toe to meet leather in the VIZIO BCS National Championship Game between No. 1 Florida State and No. 2 Auburn.

So what better time than now to step out on that limb and make some bold predictions for the Seminoles?

Head coach Jimbo Fisher brings his team into this game with a target on its back and Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston at quarterback.

Here are five bold predictions for Florida State in the title game.

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Georgia Football: 4 Biggest Concerns Heading into the Offseason

The 2013 season has come to an end and the Georgia Bulldogs could not be happier.

After a fast start to the season with wins over South Carolina and LSU, things turned south with losses to Missouri, Vanderbilt, Auburn and Nebraska.

There are numerous reasons why the Bulldogs had a disappointing season, but what’s done is done and they have to move on.

The 2014 season gives the Bulldogs a new level of optimism because they will have a slew of returning starters coming back. But there are also concerns coming into the season, and it starts with the most important position.

Here’s a look at the four biggest concerns for the Bulldogs heading into the 2014 season.

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Notre Dame Football: 4 Biggest Concerns Heading into the Offseason

It's never too early to commence preparation for a season nearly eight months from its start date.

With Notre Dame's 2013 season officially in the books, now fifth-year head coach Brian Kelly and his staff have developed a full-steam-ahead approach to preparing for the 2014 season, which, by all accounts, is headlined by a definitive goal of qualifying for the first annual College Football Playoff.

The first of a myriad of steps in transforming that goal into reality is addressing the lingering issues surrounding the program.

Aside from putting the finishing touches on their 2014 recruiting class—national signing day is a shade more than a month away—the Irish have a few question marks to address during the course of the offseason.

First and foremost is the state of Notre Dame's defense.

 

Shoring Up the Defensive Line

More than any other position group on the roster, Notre Dame's defensive line will be in need of attention and molding during the offseason.

While defensive end Stephon Tuitt still hasn't announced whether he'll forgo his senior season to enter the 2014 NFL draft, the Irish's defensive coaching staff, particularly first-year defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder, has its work cut out.

The heart of the defensive line is most worrisome, with defensive tackles Louis Nix, Kona Schwenke and Tyler Stockton each having exhausted their collegiate eligibility. One proposed solution to the loss of that trio is VanGorder's preference of four-man fronts, though the obvious retort is the lack of big bodies up the middle.

Thus, the rapid improvement and development of redshirt sophomore-to-be Jarron Jones, Nix's main replacement following the meniscus tear that knocked him out for the remainder of the season, will be a crucial factor in the efficacy of the defensive line in 2014.

However, the most significant factor for the defensive line going forward is Tuitt's decision.

Should the 6'6", 322-pound defensive end decide to return for his senior season, the Irish defense will receive an immediate boost, for Tuitt is the type of defender capable of altering a game through his own sheer dominance.

The Monroe, Ga., native must make a decision prior to Jan. 15, which is the cutoff date for early NFL draft entries.

 

Will There Be Any Controversy at QB? 

The early answer to this question is no, though there isn't such a thing as certainty in college football.

While former starting quarterback Everett Golson seems to be a shoe-in to reclaim his old job, redshirt freshman-to-be Malik Zaire won't go down without a fight through spring ball and fall camp.

Could Zaire legitimately challenge Golson for the starting job? Sure, but it's doubtful Golson would have made the effort to return to Notre Dame if he wasn't given some sort of indirect guarantee that the starting job would be his upon his return to South Bend, Ind.

It's also doubtful that Golson and his family would have spent the exorbitant fees for quarterback guru George Whitfield's instruction throughout the summer and fall semester (per CBSSports.com's Bruce Feldman, Whitfield charges $200 per day for college quarterbacks).

Once spring practices begin in earnest in March, fans and coaches alike will learn whether that investment paid off for Golson.

So, through rational reasoning, it would appear that the starting job at Notre Dame is Golson's to lose. The good news for the Myrtle Beach, S.C., native is that an abundant amount of healthy competition will exist between him and Zaire for the better part of the next eight months.

 

Settling the Pecking Order at Running Back

Aside from the quarterback position, the most thoroughly discussed area of the Irish offense has been at running back.

Without the services of freshman Greg Bryant during the 2013 season, fellow freshman Tarean Folston and junior Cam McDaniel rose to the top of the depth chart, where they remained for the latter stages of the season.

With those two, along with every other back on the depth chart—George Aktinson III, Amir Carlisle and Bryant—the pecking order at the position will be a point of emphasis throughout the preseason.

Will Bryant, a highly acclaimed former recruit out of Delray Beach, Fla., usurp McDaniel on the depth chart and join Folston to form an explosive one-two punch? That remains to be seen, but should it happen, Kelly's recruiting pitch of the two forming a duo similar to that of former Irish backs Cierre Wood and Theo Riddick would ring true.

Regardless of what transpires, Notre Dame possesses more than enough talent at the position, which is a good problem to have.

 

Solving the Depth Issue at Middle Linebacker

Now that fifth-year linebackers Dan Fox and Carlo Calabrese have played their final collegiate downs, questions have arisen regarding depth at the middle linebacker positions they've left behind.

One surefire answer there in the heart of the Irish defense is Jarrett Grace, who had supplanted Fox from his starting position during fall camp. However, Grace was lost for the season after tearing his ACL early in Notre Dame's 37-34 win against Arizona State in Dallas.

His return will be an immediate boost for the Irish defense, though the task of naming his backup, as well as the starter and associated backup next to him, remains an issue.

That conundrum made the commitment of Crete, Ill., native and 4-star linebacker (per 247sports.com) Nyles Morgan such an important pledge for the Irish. It's fair to say that Nyles' decision to join what has been commonly referred to as the #GoldenArmy14 on Twitter is the most significant of the recruiting class.

The 6'1", 225-pound linebacker is a favorite to start alongside Grace when the Irish open the 2014 season against Rice on Aug. 30, with either Michael Deeb or Joe Schmidt providing relief duties.

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Texas Football: Impact of Charlie Strong Hire on Greg Robinson, Major Applewhite

The search for the Texas Longhorns' new head coach is over as the Longhorns announced former Louisville head coach Charlie Strong as Mack Brown's replacement. See Strong's comments in Texas' official press release here

Louisville was 15-21 in the three season's prior to Strong's arrival. In his only head coaching role, Strong led Louisville to a 37-15 record, including two back-to-back double-digit win seasons in 2012 and 2013 and a BCS bowl win over Florida in last season's Sugar Bowl. Strong is known as a dominant recruiter and has helped pick up a tremendous amount of talent from the state of Florida, including quarterback Teddy Bridgewater.

With Strong an official announcement away from being named as the Longhorns' head coach, the future is unknown for current coordinators Major Applewhite and Greg Robinson.

A lot of criticism comes with being a head football coach at a school like Texas. And in today's what have you done for me lately type of mentality, the margin of error, especially when it comes to assistant coaches, is slim to none.

 

Major Applewhite

Applewhite is a household name in many recruits' minds due to his time playing quarterback at Texas from 1998 to 2001. He has been a huge recruiter for the Longhorns and helped land standout talents like Johnathan Gray, Malcolm Brown and Quandre Diggs.

Applewhite has been loyal to Texas since he was given the chance to coach as a graduate assistant from 2002 to 2004. But his time spent as play-caller for the Longhorns has been inconsistent.

To be fair, Applewhite's offense was based around quarterback David Ash's ability to run and throw the ball heading into the 2013 season. When Ash suffered a concussion in Week 2 and sat out for the majority of the year, Applewhite's scheme had to change with quarterback Case McCoy, who did not have the same talents as Ash.

Applewhite's offensive coordinator legacy is still being written. But will Ash's injury be enough of an excuse for Strong to keep him around as play-caller for another year?

Strong is a defensive minded coach, having served as defensive coordinator at Florida from 2003-2009 before accepting the head coaching job at Louisville. Every defensive coach needs a solid offensive coordinator. 

Strong's current offensive coordinator is a familiar face for Texas fans. Louisville offensive coordinator Shawn Watson was the OC at Nebraska between 2007 and 2010, where the Huskers were one of the Longhorns' Big 12 North rivals. Watson, who is also the Cardinals' quarterback coach, has led elite quarterbacks, most recently Louisville's Teddy Bridgewater, who will likely be the first overall draft pick in the 2014 NFL draft.

It's doubtful that Applewhite will keep his current role if Watson follows Strong to Texas.

 

Greg Robinson

Let's be honest for a minute: When Mack Brown fired Manny Diaz—after the Longhorns gave up 550 yards rushing to BYU—and replaced him with Greg Robinson, Robinson walked into a dumpster fire defense.

Texas was coming off of the worst statistical defense in school history in 2013, only to give up 679 yards of total offense to a BYU team that finished the season unranked. But Robinson changed everything within two weeks of being in Austin.

Taking over a team's defense midseason is not an easy job. Taking over a team's defense that was ranked No. 115 nationally in total defense is even tougher. But Robinson did a successful job of turning around the Longhorns struggling unit.

The Texas defense went from allowing an average of 309 rushing yards and 491 total yards against non-conference opponents to allowing 138 yards rushing and 372 total yards per game against Big 12 teams under Robinson.

However, as successful as Robinson was in 2013, his job security is up in the air with Strong taking over the Longhorns.

As defensive coordinator at Florida, Strong's defenses averaged a No. 23 overall ranking throughout his seven seasons, and as head coach at Louisville, the Cardinals were an average No. 10-ranked defense through four seasons. In other words, Strong knows how to consistently build a solid defense.

Strong has kept a familiar face by his side since 2008. Louisville defensive coordinator Vance Bedford coached Florida's defensive backs under Strong between 2008 and 2009, then followed Strong to Louisville in 2010. Bedford is also a former Longhorn defensive back. Strong will likely want to bring Bedford with him to help integrate himself into the school and Texas recruiting.

With Strong's vast defensive resume and his sidekick Bedford in the mix, Robinson's career at Texas could be similar to his time in Austin in 2004: one and done.

 

Follow Taylor on Twitter: @Taylor_Gaspar

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Like Schembechler at U-M, MSU's Mark Dantonio Seems Destined to Stay Home

The chairman of the board of college football coaches in Michigan never thought he’d even consider leaving his school. He was firmly entrenched, his fan base and alumni loved him, and besides, he was a Midwestern guy all the way.

There wasn’t a lot of Texas in Bo Schembechler, except for maybe his moniker.

Schembechler was a Glenn, by birth, and he was Bo in nickname only. The University of Michigan coach wasn’t the cowboy type and never would be.

Schembechler learned his football in Ohio, like so many of the game’s greats, and he was more small town than he was “Texas big.”

But in early 1982, Schembechler had some of that Texas money thrown at him and it gave him pause.

Schembechler had just completed his 13th season in Ann Arbor, and he had come a long way since a newspaper trumpeted his hiring with the headline, “Bo WHO?”

Texas A&M came calling in January ’82. And they came hauling a bagful of cash.

The Aggies were prepared to make Bo the highest paid coach in college football at the time. There was even talk of adding athletic director to his title, or at least after he was done coaching.

A&M offered Bo nearly $3 million for 10 years. Today that’s a drop in the bucket. But in 1982, it was high stakes, Texas Hold ‘Em stuff.

It was close. Bo was tempted. He was never one to use another school to leverage Michigan, but he didn’t have to. U-M athletic director Don Canham made a counter offer, the terms undisclosed.

For several days the newspapers, TV and radio stations played “Will he or won’t he?” in regard to Bo’s future at Michigan, and whether he’d chuck it all for College Station’s money and added power of athletic director.

When A&M reached out to him, Bo was one year removed from finally grabbing his elusive first Rose Bowl victory. In a quirk of scheduling, Michigan actually won two bowl games in 1981—the Rose Bowl on January 1 and the Bluebonnet Bowl in the Houston Astrodome on New Year’s Eve.

A couple weeks after trouncing UCLA in Houston, Bo was approached by the Aggies, who tried to make a play for what would have been the Shot Heard ‘Round the World when it comes to college football.

There was some strong feeling at the time that Bo would leave Michigan, even though Texas A&M didn’t seem like a good fit for him—from a personality standpoint and from a coaching perspective.

Schembechler and Woody Hayes had combined to define Big Ten football in the 10 years they coached U-M and Ohio State, respectively, from 1969-78—before Hayes was run out of Columbus in shame for slugging a Clemson player during a bowl game.

So would Bo actually leave Ann Arbor and his Midwest roots and his CEO status among Big Ten coaches, for a stinking job in Texas of all places?

For a couple days, it was dicey. It was like a patient teetering between life and death in the hospital.

But eventually Schembechler made his decision, and in doing so everyone associated with Michigan football heaved a sigh of relief.

"Frankly, I've come to the conclusion that there are things more important in this world than money," Bo told the press in making his announcement. "For that reason, I've decided to stay at Michigan.”

And stay Bo did—for eight more seasons before retiring from coaching.

Mark Dantonio is, at this moment, the chairman of the board of college football coaches in the state of Michigan. At first he assumed the title by default, after Lloyd Carr retired in 2008. But now, Michigan State’s Dantonio has earned it, fair and square.

Dantonio, without question, currently runs the premier college football program in the state. His 2013 Spartans, Big Ten and Rose Bowl champs, represent his finest hour in coaching.

All of this heady success in the college ranks usually makes you a hot commodity and your name starts to roll off the tongues of the rumor mongers when it comes to available jobs elsewhere.

Another school in Texas has been mentioned as a possible destination for Dantonio.

The University of Texas at Austin has been reported to have wanted Dantonio to fly down and interview for their coaching job, vacated by the resignation of Mack Brown.

Those reports now appear moot, as the school is reportedly on the verge of hiring Louisville coach Charlie Strong to replace Brown.

But Texas’ hiring of Strong, if it comes to be, won’t do a thing to squash rumors of Dantonio going, well, just about anywhere. Such is the case when you become hot stuff.

Only Mark Dantonio can stop the rumors.

Like his basketball counterpart in East Lansing, Dantonio seems destined to be mentioned whenever high profile schools are looking for coaches.

Dantonio, though, is another Midwestern guy. His roots are firm here. The idea of Dantonio leaving for a money grab doesn’t mesh with his persona.

But that won’t stop the speculation.

Again, only Dantonio can snuff out the rumor mongers.

Only Dantonio can tell the media, “I’m not going anywhere. I’m happy at Michigan State and this is my home.”

Of course, there will be those who won’t believe him, even though Dantonio has no track record of flitting from job to job. In fact, he left MSU as an assistant but bounced right back, a few years later, as the Spartans’ head coach.

The fact that Dantonio hasn’t stomped out the rumors might give some Spartan boosters consternation over the coach’s intentions, but like Schembechler, Dantonio appears to be content to be a Michigander and not a Texan, or anything else.

The balance of power in college football in Michigan has unquestioningly swung to East Lansing these days. Dantonio’s program is stronger than ever.

His name will be bandied about, going forward, attached to high profile jobs across the country.

It’s just something Spartan fans will have to live with as being part of the cost of doing business as an elite college football program—which MSU currently is.

Why else would everyone across the lower 48 states want Dantonio to coach at their school?

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Charlie Strong Is a Great Football Coach, but Is He Ready for Texas Politics?

Charlie Strong, who got his first shot as a head coach at Louisville, is now leaving the Cardinals for the big-time atmosphere of the University of Texas. The Longhorns have hired away Strong, who went 37-15 in four seasons at Louisville, to lead their rebounding football program. The move became official with a tweet from Longhorn_FB:

Strong notes, with the press release at Texas Sports, his enthusiasm for the job:

Texas is one of those places that is always on your radar and a program anyone would dream of being a part of because you have a chance to compete on a national level every year. It's special because it has such great history, pride, tradition and passion for football.

This is a great hire for Texas because Strong is a truly solid coach. However, Strong meshing with the politics of the position may present quite a problem.

Strong, who just led the Cardinals on a 12-1 campaign and was set up to transition Louisville into the resurgent ACC, will be trading the bluegrass of Kentucky for the greener pastures of talent rich and just plain regular rich Texas.

But don't let the smooth taste of Austin fool you; there is also some mud that comes with the job. After working with Tom Jurich, the U of L athletic director, how Strong handles that grime is going to be the biggest question mark about him taking the position.

At Louisville, Charlie Strong was simply one thing: a football coach. At Texas, with new athletic director Steve Patterson, the head coach is going to be asked to do so much more than just coach.

Around the nation, every man in Strong's position has to control and work to elevate his program. That means working on things at the schematic level and the week-to-week game-plan level. It also means developing a culture that fosters success, as well as a plan for strength and conditioning, including offseason programs.

Every football coach also needs a recruiting battle plan to get out to schools and get kids interested. It is vital to the program's success that they take the time to build relationships with high school coaches and influential players in recruiting circles.

These are the parts of the job that coaches love doing. They want to game-plan. They want to develop the best players they can. They want to go out and recruit.

Then come the little things that coaches "have" to do for the job: the weekly television shows, the coaches' carousels, the radio spots and the media tours. All things that take coaches away from the true core of the job.  These little things are relatively easily manageable, and coaches know they are a part of the business everywhere.

Enter the next phase of the job, the schmoozing. The ego stroking. The palling around with boosters and power players in an effort to appease them and keep the money train flowing.

This is much more important at some schools (Texas) than others.  Every school has powerful boosters, but all power players are not created equal. At some places, simply winning is enough to keep the checks coming. 

Yet, at places like Texas, winning is merely a start. These folks need to feel the love. In some instances, these folks need to know that the coach "likes" them. They want to feel as though the program belongs to them as much as it does to the coaches and players who spend the majority of their time at the facility.

The nation got to see this ugly side of booster-coach relations at Oregon with Chip Kelly, as the Willamette Week pointed out in December of 2012. The Ducks boosters' frustration with Kelly's aloofness is hardly a unique situation.

Schools with deeper tradition and deeper ties are faced with similar issues, but to a higher degree. Texas certainly fits into this space.  There's a reason the school needed an eight-person search committee: juggling the input and voices to arrive at a choice that pleases the masses.

Strong is moving from an athletic department that insulated him from the outside and allowed him to simply do the coaching element of his job, into a space that wants so much more.

Mack Brown gave the Texas fans plenty of extra. He was a brilliant crowd pleaser who made everyone feel welcomed and as though they mattered to the program. Flipping from Brown to Strong is going to be quite the culture shock for folks.

Keep in mind, as WHAS's Adam Lefkoe pointed out back in 2012, Strong likes to control the message. He likes to be in charge of the media much like guys like Nick Saban, Urban Meyer and Jim Mora. If Strong is displeased with what the media is doing, he's going to make their job more difficult.

Controlling the message at Louisville was relatively easy because people just wanted to win ballgames. At Texas, winning comes first, but information is a must. With the Longhorn Network as part of the package, the reserved and football-focused Strong will be thrust into doing the things that he worked to avoid at Louisville, most notably, giving more access.

More access to his process. More access to his football team. More access to himself. Mack was an available guy, whereas Strong has been less so during his time as a head coach. Juggling that quality with the demands at Texas is going to be the biggest challenge with the new job.

Seeing how much Strong truly wants to do the little things that grease the wheels at Texas is going to be intriguing. The man can coach, but shaking hands and smiling for boosters has never been his forte. If Patterson can insulate the coach from the ancillary elements, things should run smoothly, but if Strong is forced to try and duplicate Brown's efforts, there will be some feathers ruffled.

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Charlie Strong Officially Named Texas' New Head Football Coach

As expected, the Texas Longhorns have a new head coach. The program confirmed the hire of Charlie Strong in a press release on its website:

Charlie Strong named 29th head football coach. http://t.co/w190q2PPeo

— Longhorn_FB (@Longhorn_FB) January 5, 2014

In the release, Strong commented on his exit from Louisville to head to Austin:

I'm excited and my family is excited to have the chance to lead one of the premier football programs in the country. Texas is one of those places that is always on your radar and a program anyone would dream of being a part of because you have a chance to compete on a national level every year. It's special because it has such great history, pride, tradition and passion for football.

Strong will be introduced officially at a press conference at 12 p.m. ET, 11 a.m. local time, via Kirk Bohls of the Austin American-Statesman:

Texas' press conference to introduce new coach Charlie Strong at 11 a.m. Monday. #statesman

— kbohls (@kbohls) January 5, 2014

Pete Thamel of Sports Illustrated has the details on Strong's contract:

Strong's deal will be 5 years and $25 million and they've agreed to work through the $4.3 million buyout.

— Pete Thamel (@SIPeteThamel) January 5, 2014

This was the worst-kept secret in college football, as it was reported earlier in the weekend that Strong would be taking the job. Then, late on Jan. 4, ESPN's Brett McMurphy and Joe Schad reported the head coach met with Louisville's athletic director, Tom Jurich, which was likely about Strong's impending move to Austin:

Charlie Strong informed UL AD Tom Jurich tonight he was leaving UL for Texas a source told @ESPN

— Brett McMurphy (@McMurphyESPN) January 5, 2014

Bleacher Report's Adam Kramer sums up the attitude from the general consensus of college football fans:

Happy for Charlie Strong, bummed for Louisville, hopeful for Texas, glad it's over. The coaching carousel is weird, man.

— Adam Kramer (@KegsnEggs) January 5, 2014

Strong replaces the legendary Mack Brown, who announced his resignation on Dec. 14.

Brown leaves big shoes to fill. His 158 wins over 16 years are the second most in school history, nine behind Darrell Royal's 167. Brown also won two conference championships and one national title.

In the release, Strong talked about taking over for a coach of Brown's stature:

To follow a future Hall of Fame coach like Mack Brown, who built a program that had great success and a reputation of doing it with class and integrity, is extra special. The National Championship, BCS Bowl wins and all he accomplished in 16 years built on the Longhorn legacy and makes it such an exciting place to be.

Coach Brown developed such a strong bond with his players, the lettermen, community and high school coaches in this state, and that's something I hope to build on. He made everyone feel at home. I had the opportunity to speak at the High School Coaches Clinic in Austin a few years ago and Coach Brown introduced Coach (Darrell) Royal, and everyone gave him a standing ovation. Meeting Coach Royal and being around him that day is something I'll never forget.

It was obvious Texas wouldn't waste any time in announcing a new head coach. It was imperative for the Longhorns to begin the rebuilding process as quickly as possible, especially to assure potential recruits that the team's future is in the right hands.

There's little doubt that Strong is one of the best men for the job.

At Florida, he built a reputation as one of the best defensive minds in the country. The Gators suffocated opposing teams en route to two national titles during his time as defensive coordinator.

He took over at Louisville in 2010, where he compiled a 37-15 record over four seasons. The highlight of his time with the Cardinals was a 33-23 win over Florida at the 2013 Sugar Bowl.

Under Strong's stewardship, Louisville saw a marked defensive improvement. Per ESPN Stats & Info:

During his four seasons, the Cardinals were in the top 10 in the FBS in points per game, yards per game, yards per play and sack percentage. In the three years before Strong’s arrival, Louisville ranked 75th or worse in each of those categories.

This season Louisville’s opponents converted an FBS-low 26.7 percent of third downs. Strong’s teams also featured sure tackling. The Cardinals defense allowed just 14 broken tackles, which led all schools from automatic-qualifying conferences this season. Louisville allowed just one touchdown of 20 or more yards this season, fewest in the FBS (Florida State ranks second with three).

Jurich discussed Strong's departure at a press conference, via Chuck Carlton of the Dallas Morning News:

Jurich on Strong to Texas: "I don’t think he went into this thinking he would be head coach at Texas. It evolved into that."

— Chuck Carlton (@ChuckCarltonDMN) January 5, 2014

Strong and Jurich met at Strong's house for an hour last night. "I knew he was going to Texas." Wanted to show his appreciation to Strong.

— Chuck Carlton (@ChuckCarltonDMN) January 5, 2014

It's the perfect tonic for a team that surrendered 550 yards to the BYU Cougars in a 40-21 loss this year. The Longhorns finished 68th in total defense, giving up 224.2 yards a game through the air (52nd) and 183.1 yards a game on the ground (83rd).     

With Strong in the fold, Texas should see immediate improvement on the defensive side of the ball.

Nobody can say for sure whether Strong will be the man to bring the Longhorns back to the summit of college football, but few would seem as well equipped to pick up from where Brown left off. 

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Texas Hires Charlie Strong, Opens Up Florida Recruiting and Terrifies Big 12

If Texas wanted the anti-Mack Brown to lead its football program in a new direction, they certainly got it. 

Following a scattered coaching search that, at one point or another, reportedly included names ranging from Jim Harbaugh of the San Francisco 49ers to Vanderbilt's James Franklin, the Longhorns found their guy. It just took a little bit of waiting. 

It wasn't for Nick Saban, either. Or Jimbo Fisher. Or Art Briles. 

Texas announced on Sunday that Charlie Strong, formerly of Louisville, would succeed Mack Brown, who stepped down last month after 16 seasons with the 'Horns. 

"I'm excited and my family is excited to have the chance to lead one of the premier football programs in the country," Strong said in a statement. "Texas is one of those places that is always on your radar and a program anyone would dream of being a part of because you have a chance to compete on a national level every year. It's special because it has such great history, pride, tradition and passion for football."

Pete Thamel of Sports Illustrated writes that Strong's deal is for five years and worth roughly $5 million annually. Strong's previous deal with Louisville, which was updated a year ago, paid the coach an annual base salary of $3.7 million plus incentives. 

The initial impression is that Texas made a sound hire, even if Strong wasn't the "first" choice. He is one of the hottest young coaches in the country. He has led the Cardinals to a 37-15 record in four years, 23-3 in the last two, and his starting quarterback, Teddy Bridgewater, should be among the first players selected in the 2014 NFL draft. 

Strong has developed a reputation as a great recruiter who connects well with young people. That will be important as he familiarizes himself with the Texas high school scene. His no-nonsense attitude that stems from his history as a defensive coach will be equally as important in Austin as the Longhorns have lacked a championship attitude lately. 

The edge of a Strong team was fully on display in Louisville's last two postseason victories against Florida in the 2013 Sugar Bowl and Miami in the 2013 Russell Athletic Bowl. The Cardinals Floridian laden lineup (roughly one-third of the Cardinals' roster hails from Florida) outscored Florida and Miami by a combined 69-32 in a pair of dominating performances. 

Yet, the amount of respect Florida players showed Strong following the Sugar Bowl was a reflection of his deep ties to the program and the area. He's served four different stints with the Gators as an assistant (1983-84, 1988-89, 1991-94, 2003-09), so he knows many those players as well as those on his own roster. 

Despite the qualities that make Strong such an attractive candidate, he's an outsider to the region. Other than a brief stint at Texas A&M in 1985 as a grad assistant, Strong doesn't have ties to the state of Texas. That doesn't mean he can't entrench himself in one of the most talent-rich states in the country—Brown wasn't rooted in Texas when he came from North Carolina in 1998—but it does bring about an interesting recruiting angle. Pro tip: look for Strong to try and bring Louisville defensive coordinator and former Texas DB, Vance Bedford with him help him make quick in roads in Texas high schools. 

Once he gets to Austin, will Strong continue to heavily mine Florida for players, or will he build his own brand in Texas? Understandably, Brown and his staff recruited the in-state talent almost exclusively. Most likely Strong will utilize a combination of the two.   

As Max Olsen of ESPN tweets, it would behoove Strong to keep Director of Player Personnel Patrick Suddes to help in that department. 

Imagining the 'Horns getting the cream of the Texas and Florida recruiting crops could be nightmare fuel for other Big 12 programs. Though Texas had fallen back into the middle of the Big 12 pack, the terrifying reality is that it is one competent coach away from swiftly ascending back to the top of college football. 

There's no denying Strong embodies that excellence as a coach and recruiter, but he will be out of his comfort zone in Texas. Beyond being transplanted to the southwest, Strong isn't known for being the media-savvy face of the program like Brown was. While the obligations of the Longhorn Network, an ESPN-Texas television partnership, aren't the most important aspect of the job, they are nevertheless a unique add-on to the gig.  

It's not that Strong can't handle those duties, it's just that he's never had to before. Add in the excessive politics and glad-handing of Texas athletics and the surrounding media circus, and Strong has far more to deal with than he ever would at Louisville. How he handles this part of the job will have a huge impact on the Horns' success. 

Of course, Texas and its fanbase want results, something they haven't had to their satisfaction since Brown took the Longhorns to the BCS National Championship during the 2009-10 season. If Strong wins and wins often, the frivolous media and political obligations will, to an extent, take care of themselves. 

And Strong can win at Texas. As Dan Wetzel of Yahoo! Sports opined last month, it's the "kind of job that almost can't be screwed up.

"You can slip about 25 different guys in there, and if they are supported, work hard and don't self-destruct under the pressure, the victories will come," Wetzel wrote. 

No great coach can do it alone, though, and Strong will need a solid group of assistants around him—starting with an offensive coordinator. 

That may or may not be Shawn Watson, who has been with Strong since 2011. Under Watson, Bridgewater has developed into the best pure passer in college football. Louisville's receivers have quietly become an excellent group filled with future pros like DeVante Parker. This past season, the Cardinals averaged 35 points per game. 

However, Thamel tweeted Friday night that two NFL teams have inquired about hiring Watson. 

If Watson were to take another job, Strong will likely face his most important hire right away. Defenses have been stout under Strong, but the ability to score a lot of points, something Texas hasn't been able to do consistently since the departure of quarterback Colt McCoy four years ago, will be paramount in the Big 12. 

The name being floated around in the event Watson does not join Strong is Clemson offensive coordinator Chad Morris. Unlike Strong, Morris has extensive ties to Texas recruiting thanks to 15 years of coaching at the high school level in the state. Morris' potent offenses have made him the highest-paid assistant in major college football at $1.3 million annually, according to USA Today

If there's room in the coaching budget, and there's little reason to think there wouldn't be, it's possible Texas could lure Morris away from the Tigers. The thought of Strong and Morris working together, even if it's in passing, is almost unfair. 

Texas could potentially spend a lot of money on coaches in the hopes that it rediscovers the success it once had, and it appears the program is willing to do that. However, the mixture of money and expectations leaves marginal room for error for Strong, especially as a coach who didn't initially register on many media radars. 

"Splash hires" can be overrated, though. If Strong wins, no one will care how many coaches were offered the job before him or how many turned it down. Brown wasn't Texas' first choice when he was hired in 1998; the university originally wanted then-Northwestern coach Gary Barnett. Yet, Brown went on to claim a BCS National Championship in 2006 over USC and won at least 10 games every year from 2001-09. 

Still, Texas needed a new direction. For all the concerns about Strong and how he "fits" in Austin, the fact remains that he's replacing a coach who fit perfectly—but who couldn't get it done on the field at the end of his tenure. It's only natural for Patterson to want to try something new.  

Strong may be the opposite of Brown, but there's no reason to think yet that he can't have the success Brown once did. 

 

Ben Kercheval is the lead writer for Big 12 football. You can follow Ben on Twitter @BenKercheval

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BCS National Championship Game 2014: Why Auburn's Luck Will Finally Run Out

Few will ever forget the name Chris Davis thanks to his 109-yard return of a missed Alabama field goal. It's a play many believe put Auburn in Monday's BCS National Championship Game against Florida State. 

However, it was just one of a series of lucky plays and fantastic breaks the Tigers got in 2013 to put them in this position. 

First there was the game-winning touchdown in the final 20 seconds against Mississippi State in Week 3. 

Auburn's luck also came through again against Georgia, when two Bulldogs couldn't get enough of a last-ditch heave from Tigers quarterback Nick Marshall. 

As the saying goes, sometimes it's better to be lucky than good.

But while being lucky may have worked against the likes of Mississippi State, Georgia and Alabama, Florida State isn't any of those teams. It will take a lot more than luck to beat the Seminoles for the national championship on Monday night, and the numbers suggest that Auburn's luck will be in short supply.  

See, FSU has the one thing that none of those teams Auburn beat on lucky plays had: defense. 

That's right, for all the hype and Heisman Trophy platitudes around Jameis Winston and the Seminoles offense, the most important ingredient to Florida State's undefeated season has been a stifling defense. 

The Seminoles come into the BCS National Championship Game allowing just 10.7 points per game on the year—No. 1 in the country in scoring defense. But FSU isn't just stingy on the scoreboard; its defense is stingy in all ways: 

If there is one thing those numbers prove, it's that if you're going to beat Florida State, you're going to earn it the hard way. There will be no luck involved in getting points against this defense. Auburn will simply have to out-execute and out-game-plan the Seminoles.

Of course, that's a task that is far easier said than done.  Just ask Clemson, who was supposed to give FSU a game. Instead it turned into a 51-14 pounding. 

In three ACC regular-season games against Top 25 competition, the Seminoles proved to be the most complete team in the country, winning by a combined score of 155-28. Against all four ranked opponents this season, FSU won by a combined 200-35. 

That's about as dominant as you can be, winning by an average of 50 to 8.75. 

Sure, Auburn has a very good offense that can give FSU a challenge, but the Seminoles' track record against high-powered offenses suggest they actually play better against better competition. It's not to say the Tigers aren't capable of being on the same field or winning the game against FSU, but they'll need to actually outplay and not out-luck the best opponent they've faced all season.

Florida State's combination of a talented and efficient offense and a very stout defense won't provide the margin of error for Auburn to be able to create situations in which to get lucky. Come Monday, Auburn will have to instead rely on doing the old-fashioned way—earning it by outplaying its opponent.

 

You can follow Andy on Twitter: @ andycoppens.

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LSU Football: 5 Biggest Concerns Heading into the Offseason

A makeover will inevitably occur on the LSU Tigers offense in 2014. Understandably, the new parts installed in the offensive system could provide Tiger fans with plentiful concerns.

No, the Tigers won't have Zach Mettenberger slinging the rock next season, and if Odell Beckham, Jarvis Landry and Jeremy Hill join him in the 2014 NFL draft, the Tigers will have to look toward multiple freshmen, both redshirt and true.

Anthony Jennings, who will be a sophomore next season, is the favorite to replace Mettenberger, but does his Outback Bowl performance against Iowa suggest he can fill that void properly?

And though much experience was gained on defense in 2013, junior and senior departures have defensive coordinator John Chavis looking toward his bench for eventual substitutes. Should LSU fans worry about any particular position? 

You betcha. Come on inside and embrace the panic.

 

 

 

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