NCAA Football News
It’s always fireworks when the Oklahoma Sooners and Texas Longhorns tangle in Dallas.
Last season, the Longhorns shocked their rivals, upsetting the then-unbeaten Sooners, 36-20. It only goes to show that records are nothing but numbers when it comes to heated rivalries.
Will Texas surprise Oklahoma again? Or will the Sooners get sweet revenge?
Here’s everything you need to know about Saturday’s matchup.
Where: Cotton Bowl
When: Saturday, October 11, noon ET
Live Stream: Sooner Sports
Listen: Sooner Sports Radio Network
Betting Line: Oklahoma (-14), per Odds Shark
It’s not an act you want to follow, but Week 7 has no choice but to roll up its sleeves and dive right in.
Following an upset-driven, chaos-infused weekend of college football, we are back at it once again, still processing what we observed. While it would be unreasonable to demand an encore of Week 6 magnitude, this stacked slate of games seems more than capable of following accordingly.
The AP Poll has a much different look and feel this week, which is understandable after 11 of the top 19 teams added a tally in the loss column. With the rankings rebooted, we’re continuing our weekly tradition of picking all games featuring Top 25 teams against the spread.
Given the magnificent carnage, last weekend’s 10-6-1 pick performance will suffice. We can do better, however, and that’s the plan this week. Of course it is.
All spreads are courtesy of Odds Shark unless noted otherwise.
If the 2-4 Brady Hoke-led Michigan Wolverines are looking for a new leader, a Super Bowl-winning coach might be available. Well, that's if old media guides are to be believed.
While San Francisco 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh is a popular name who may be available after the 2014 season, Jon Gruden is another potential candidate to keep an eye on.
In Gruden's college profile at the University of Dayton, he revealed that he wanted to coach the Wolverines. Of course, he never did, instead starting out at the University of Tennessee in 1985 as a graduate assistant and finishing his career as a head coach with Oakland Raiders (1998–2001) and Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2002–2008).
He won Super Bowl XXXVII with the Bucs for the 2002 season and has a career head coaching record of 95-81.
Gruden, 51, hasn't coached since 2008 with the Buccaneers, and he currently works for ESPN as an NFL analyst.
Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com
Brady Hoke needs a miracle to save his job.
As he prepares his team for a night home game vs. Penn State, Hoke stands inches from the point of no return, teetering between his passionate desire to lead the Wolverines to a new era of dominance and a dismal 4-10 record over the past 14 games that threatens to end his tenure.
But he was doomed the moment he arrived in Ann Arbor—done in by his new boss and the people he brought in to build his offense.
Bungled Coaching Search
Both had Michigan ties and had success as college coaches. But years of media leaks that Miles was the coach-in-waiting for Michigan had taken a toll on his credibility. The leaks were coming from somewhere and it certainly wasn’t Ann Arbor. An observer could easily conclude that the drip of rumors was a tactic to help Miles earn a steady stream of contract upgrades. Michigan was a bargaining chip that served Miles well.
Harbaugh was a different matter. He played quarterback for Bo Schembechler, had a successful career in the NFL and returned to the college game, eventually leading Stanford back to national prominence. He was slightly tarnished by a drunk driving incident (something that Michigan was sensitive to in the wake of Gary Moeller’s public meltdown), but the incident was well in the past.
Brandon’s slow-motion firing of Rodriguez resulted in a media blitz that had reporters tracking down every private plane leaving Michigan in an attempt to decipher where Brandon was conducting his coaching search. While only six days passed between Rodriguez’s firing and Hoke’s hire, the rumor mill had churned long enough to give the impression that he was anything but the first choice. He certainly wasn’t the first choice of most fans who craved a candidate with a higher national profile.
Hoke and Brandon embarked on a national tour to woo Michigan fans and alumni, and for the first year everything went better than could be expected. Michigan went 11-2 while Brandon basked in the renaissance of Michigan football.
But what Brandon intended as a systematic coaching search damaged Hoke's stature among many fans; something that would bubble to the surface as the team failed to repeat the success of his first season. And Brandon, who had taken a very public role during Hoke’s first successful season, now finds himself inextricably linked to Hoke as the program falters.
No Offensive Identity
One the main questions facing Hoke in his first season was how he would deal with star quarterback Denard Robinson. Robinson had decided not to transfer, giving Hoke something Rodriguez didn’t have during his first season—a quality experienced quarterback.
Robinson wasn’t a good fit to lead a power-football offensive attack which required a quarterback who could keep a defense honest by being able to throw downfield. Robinson’s stature made it hard for him see past his linemen when throwing long. He also didn’t have the best throwing mechanics. What he did have was incredible acceleration and cutting ability that made him a dangerous weapon running the ball. During Hoke’s first season (2011), offensive coordinator Al Borges installed an offense that made use of Robinson’s talents and Michigan went 11-2.
The problem was that Robinson was a unique talent whose skills were best utilized running behind a line anchored by center David Molk. Molk, who won the the Rimington Trophy as the best center in the country in 2011 and was also the Big Ten offensive lineman of the year that same season, would be sorely missed after his graduation.
The Michigan offense relied on Robinson, who was practically impossible to replace, and Molk, who was one of the best offensive linemen in the recent history of Michigan football.
The next season (2012), Borges tried and failed to mold Robinson into a more conventional quarterback by having him move under center. The offense stumbled as Robinson tried to run less and pass more. The offensive line struggled to replace Molk, and as the season progressed, Robinson’s legs once again became the focal point of the offense. The wear and tear took its toll and he was injured for much of the season, eventually being knocked out off the Nebraska game.
Backup Russell Bellomy was crushed in relief of Robinson and Devin Gardner, who had moved to wide receiver, was rushed back to start at quarterback the next game vs. Minnesota. He would split duties with Robinson for the rest of the season.
Michigan finished 8-5, losing three more game than in Hoke’s first season.
The 2013 season began with Devin Gardner at quarterback, and Michigan finally appeared ready to unleash the power running game that Hoke had been promising since his arrival. But problems on the offensive line caused Borges to scrap planned offensive changes to again rely on his quarterback as the primary running attack—this time Gardner instead of Robinson. And once again, the quarterback took a beating, leaving him on crutches after the Ohio State game. Unlike Robinson, Gardner had the stature and throwing arm to make plays downfield, but his Achilles' heel was bad decision-making which resulted in 11 interceptions.
Hoke fired Borges and brought in Doug Nussmeier from Alabama as offensive coordinator for the 2014 season. So far the results have been disastrous. Nussmeier has tried to deploy a solid running game but has been hampered by a poor offensive line. The Michigan offense lives and dies by its quarterback—as Devin Gardner continues his frenetic turnover pace with no apparent backup quarterback in sight.
Questionable Talent Upfront
Michigan's problems stem from a lack of development on the offensive line, which is ironic since Hoke has preached from day one at Michigan that success starts upfront.
But Michigan’s best players on the offensive line under Hoke—center David Molk, tackle Taylor Lewan and tackle Michael Shofield—were already on the team when Hoke arrived. Hoke and his staff have not recruited and developed any elite offensive linemen during his tenure. The offensive line problems have hampered both Al Borges and now Doug Nussmeier in their attempts to install offensive schemes that weren’t so dependent on amazing quarterback play.
It’s a vicious cycle—the more pressure on Gardner, the more he tries for big plays, which leads to more turnovers. Once again, there is no backup ready to replace him if he gets injured or falters. The running attack stalls as different linemen miss assignments every game.
Persistent Offensive Problems Sink Hoke
Brady Hoke started in a hole thanks to Brandon’s drawn-out decision to fire Rodriguez. It made them both look bad. Hoke had the luxury of inheriting a roster with more talent than the one Rodriguez did, but was unable to develop quarterback talent or offensive linemen.
The lack of player development has hampered the installation of any offense based on running the ball from the backfield.
The problems are almost the inverse of those of Rodriguez, who could put together a strong offense but whose defense was a disaster.
Hoke squandered talented recruiting classes by not making enough changes on his coaching staff to generate better player development.
When Hoke is fired, people will blame whatever record Michigan ends up with this season. But the seeds of his demise were planted before he came to Ann Arbor by an athletic director who was more concerned about making himself the story during the coaching search. Hoke is front and center taking the blame after every loss, which is fitting since he is responsible for the failure of his staff. It’s an example that David Brandon could learn from.
Phil Callihan is a featured writer for Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted, all quotations obtained firsthand
Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com