Big Picture: Maryland job is nice gig in tough neighborhood
As we reported Sunday morning, Randy Edsall was told by Maryland brass that he’s out, which means there are two Big Ten programs looking for new head coaches. Illinois had let go of Tim Beckman on the eve of the season.
Maryland is an intriguing job. It’s a strong academic school in a very underrated recruiting region. It has a powerhouse big booster/alum in its corner in Under Armour’s Kevin Plank. Major facility upgrades are on the way. The bad news — and this is a big hurdle — is the fact the Terps play in the Big Ten East, which is now shaping up as one of the toughest divisions in college football with Urban Meyer, Mark Dantonio, Jim Harbaugh and James Franklin all leading big-brand programs.
Last week on The Audible, Stew Mandel and I talked about the Chip Kelly Factor and how the shadow of the former Oregon coach has been cast over several big college programs that could have coaching vacancies. I still maintain that Kelly can and will win in the NFL (he did win 20 games in his first two seasons), and he just got personnel control this offseason. Even if his Eagles do go on to have a bad year, I’m not sure it’d be a three-and-out for him. But IF Kelly were coming back to the college game, I threw out the wild idea that Maryland and Plank would make a big financial play to lure him down the road to College Park. I think that’s pretty remote, though.
Here are some more viable options I suspect the Terps will kick the tires on.
Former TCU assistant Justin Fuente has resurrected a dismal Memphis program and seems ready to make the jump to a Power 5 program. So does Toledo’s Matt Campbell, who has the 5-0 Rockets up to No. 22 in the polls, thanks to a Sept. 12 win at Arkansas. Both are offensive guys, and I suspect that’s the direction the school wants to go after the Edsall era. There are other mid-major coaches primed for a move to a bigger program who also may get a look: Air Force’s Troy Calhoun, a 49-year-old former NFL offensive coordinator whose team beat both Boise State and Jim McElwain’s Colorado State program last year despite dealing with the Academy’s strict restrictions; Bowling Green’s Dino Babers, a 54-year-old Art Briles disciple who is 31-15 in four seasons as a head coach; Western Kentucky’s Jeff Brohm, a 44-year-old former NFL QB who is 13-6 and has the No. 14 offense in FBS; James Madison’s Everett Withers, who is 52 and has gone 15-4 after he was 7-6 as UNC’s interim coach; and Temple’s Matt Rhule, a 40-year-old former Al Golden offensive coordinator who has Temple 5-0.
Houston’s Tom Herman, 40, is in his first season as a head coach after a terrific run as Urban Meyer’s offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at Ohio State, and his stock is soaring. UH is 5-0 and No. 6 in the nation in scoring. I’d expect Maryland to look very closely at him, but I’m skeptical he’d be willing to make this jump.
● Saddest sight from Saturday’s games was the shots of Georgia star Nick Chubb. On Sunday, coach Mark Richt announced that the running back is out for the season due to a knee injury, which will require surgery in about two weeks on multiple ligaments but not his ACL.
Chubb is a great talent and one of the best players in college football. Seeing him in so much pain reminded me of a conversation I had with former UGA assistant Mike Bobo over the summer. The new CSU coach couldn’t stop raving about Chubb’s character. "It’s rare. He’s so humble,” Bobo said. “I think he made Todd Gurley better just by the way he works.”
Rare indeed to hear that kind of talk about a guy who was a true freshman impacting a superstar upperclassman.
● Obviously, the drama around USC was the big talk Sunday in college football, with embattled coach Steve Sarkisian showing up to work in the morning in no shape to lead his team. Hours later, AD Pat Haden announced Sarkisian was taking a leave of absence. As I wrote, there are a lot of folks surrounding USC who felt like this is a move Haden should’ve made two months ago to try to get Sarkisian more help.
To some inside USC, Sarkisian’s Salute to Troy incident in August wasn’t taken seriously enough by Haden. (Sarkisian reportedly apologized to his players and did up-downs as punishment, according to quarterback Cody Kessler.) “They run it like a damn country club,” said one USC booster in late August. “It’s an embarrassment."
Sources tell FOX Sports there were times where his players had smelled alcohol on Sarkisian’s breath at practice in the past. Sunday morning’s incident perhaps marks the last time Sarkisian will be coaching the Trojans. It seems a long shot he would return to lead the program after he comes back from his leave of absence — especially given the circumstances of the past seven weeks.
As if things weren’t bad enough for USC, Sunday also brought word that standout center Max Tuerk is out for the year with torn ligaments in his knee. Certainly not the kind of news the Trojans needed with a visit to arch-rival Notre Dame up this week.
● TCU star Trevone Boykin boosted his Heisman stock with his team’s comeback win at Kansas State. He has led go-ahead fourth-quarter scoring drives in each of TCU’s past two road games, and both came in the final two minutes. Boykin’s go-to guy Josh Doctson had eight receptions for 155 yards and two touchdowns in Saturday’s 52-45 win vs. KSU. The one-time Wyoming Cowboy has 10 touchdown grabs on the season, just one shy of the school record 11 he had last year. He’s had multiple touchdown catches in four consecutive games.
Speaking of TCU, with North Texas canning coach Dan McCarney don’t be shocked if UNT gives a close look to Horned Frog offensive coordinators Doug Meacham and Sonny Cumbie for the vacancy.
● Hats off to new Tulsa coach Phillip Montgomery. Tulsa moved to 3-2 with a comeback win against Louisiana-Monroe Saturday during a game in which Tulsa set an AAC record by running 107 plays. In the previous two seasons, Tulsa had won only five games combined.
● Stat of the Day: Courtesy of “Countdown to Kickoff” stat guru John Hadley — this week is the first time since December 1999 in which neither USC nor Oregon is ranked in the AP top 25.
● Stat of the Day, Take II: The nation’s two leading pass rushers, Penn State’s Carl Nassib (10 sacks) and Wisconsin’s Joe Schobert (nine sacks) both started out as walk-ons.
● Stat of the Day, Take III: Texas had a terrific win over OU in the Red River Rivalry. As Longhorns former long-time SID John Bianco noted, Charlie Strong’s run defense in his two games against the Sooners has allowed an average of 85 rushing yards and one TD per game. In OU’s other games over the past two seasons, the Sooners are averaging 249 yards and three TDs on the ground.
● Stat of the Day, Take IV: Baylor wide receiver Corey Coleman has 13 TD receptions in five games. Of the 56 FBS teams that have played five games this season only nine have more TD catches than Coleman.