Big 12: Lane Kiffin
The College Football Playoff selection committee began deliberations on Monday in Grapevine, Texas. Tonight at 7:30 p.m. ET, Arkansas Athletic Director Jeff Long will unveil to a most curious audience the first-ever CFP rankings.
It's a historic time -- and surely chaotic.
Marc Tracy of the New York Times, in assessing the moment, writes that “historians will most likely date the end of the era of good feelings to 7:31.”
With that in mind, some advice for fans from the Big Ten to the SEC:
AUSTIN, Texas -- Let’s get one thing straight: Mack Brown is not Lane Kiffin.
To compare the two coaches would be a laughable exercise. One has won a national title and is the winningest active coach in FBS. The other has a career record of 40-35 as a head coach.
Brown built a powerhouse, has won 150 games at Texas and is now trying to survive a four-year rebuild. The now-fired Kiffin inherited a powerhouse at USC, got hit by NCAA sanctions and couldn't get the job done.
Yet these two coaches have been tied together all season long. This really got rolling when Texas’ horrific loss at BYU fell on the same night that Washington State knocked off the Trojans.
Regardless, Kiffin is now unemployed. His bosses, the ones who said they stood by him 100 percent entering the season, were ready to pull the plug by the third quarter of a 62-41 loss at Arizona State on Saturday.
It’s unlikely the events that are transpiring in Los Angeles this week will sway the leadership at Texas to view Brown’s situation differently. Texas is 1-0 in Big 12 play and seemingly getting better, with a very winnable game at Iowa State up next.
But if the overnight firing of Kiffin can teach Texas fans anything, it’s that there might be no anticipating when enough is enough.
The obvious answer, in the case of Brown, is the Oklahoma game. Give up 62 points in Dallas and it’s all over. But, hey, that was true before this season even began.
By all accounts, USC players were not unhappy with Kiffin’s dismissal. Even athletic director Pat Haden admitted that Sunday. It doesn’t seem like Brown has lost his own locker room, but suddenly more people -- and some of them are rather important -- are coming out of the woodwork to call for his firing.
What occurred Sunday was downright bizarre. Earl Campbell, the greatest player in school history, told a Houston TV station that Brown no longer has his backing.
"Nobody likes to get fired or leave a job, but things happen," Campbell told Fox 26’s Mark Berman. "I'd go on record and say 'Yes I think it's time.’
"I'd just say this, I take my hat off for USC for what they've done. They didn't mess around with it. They just said 'let's do it now.' I think at some point our university's people are going to have make a decision."
The source of those comments are as surprising as the timing. Campbell remains involved in the program, still works out in the Texas facilities and meets with prospects during recruiting events. Texas and Brown have long been strong supporters of Campbell. So where’s this coming from, and why say it now?
As a Longhorns legend, it is his right. Campbell even went ahead and said he’d support the candidacy of former Longhorn and Tennessee Titans defensive coordinator Jerry Gray if Texas does make a change and declared that, quite frankly, he hopes Brown doesn’t stay.
Former Texas quarterback Chris Simms also stepped forward on Friday and said on a Fox TV show that he doesn’t think Brown will return in 2014 and that Texas doesn’t have the talent needed to save this season.
It’s hard to judge how much comments like those matter in the grand scheme of this situation. Losing the backing of alumni is a problem. The only way to silence dissent is winning -- and even if that does happen, will it be enough for Brown?
If the USC and Texas jobs both open up in the same offseason, college football will be in for a serious power shift. Both programs can be the game’s next powerhouses again. They can regain their status among the elite contenders.
Lane Kiffin was trying to get USC back there. Last August, he supposedly had the No. 1 team in the country and the Heisman front-runner. He didn’t win. His time was up.
Mack Brown still has time. If he doesn’t keep winning, it can run out quickly.
There wasn't a ton of Big 12 flavor, but Mack Brown and Bob Stoops came up in favorable spots.
Four coaches -- the most of any candidate -- named Brown the colleague they respected the most. Two more tabbed Stoops. Ohio State's Jim Tressel (3) and Penn State's Joe Paterno (2) were the only other coaches who received more than a single vote.
Collect yourself before reading who they voted as the colleague they respected the least: USC's Lane Kiffin, who received three votes, though most coaches declined to answer.
For those of you in Big 12 country, Del Frisco's in Dallas was named as one of the coaches' favorite out-of-town restaurant haunts.
Tom Luginbill of Scouts Inc. reports that Waco Midway High School safety Ahmad Dixon has again confirmed he will be coming to Baylor after considering Tennessee before the Lane Kiffin coaching change.
Dixon was originally a Texas recruit before opting for the Bears. He's a four-star prospect who is ranked 15th among ESPNU's top 150 players and is the nation's third-highest rated safety. It's not a stretch to say he's the most highly decorated prospect to come to Baylor during Briles' coaching tenure.
His recommitment came even after Dixon's recent recruiting trip to Alabama.
Dixon also seriously considered recruiting offers from LSU, Oklahoma State, Texas A&M, Texas Tech, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Florida and TCU, among others.
The Bears also are celebrating the commitment of linebacker Bryce Hager of Austin Westlake High School. His father Britt, was an All-American linebacker for Texas in the 1980s.
Bryce Hager opted for the Bears' offer of a full scholarship after he was given the chance to join Texas as a preferred walk-on, the Waco Tribune-Herald reported.
“Baylor is an up and coming program, and I really enjoyed meeting the players and coaching staff over the weekend,” Bryce Hager told the Tribune-Herald. “Texas wanted me to come as a preferred walk-on, but that’s not what I wanted to do. I think things are going to work out the way they need to be.”
Even his father, who played nine seasons in the NFL, was excited about his scholarship offer with the Bears.
"I can’t wait to get me some Baylor stuff,” Britt Hager told the newspaper. "Bryce wants to play in the Big 12 and stay in Texas, and I believe Baylor is going to have some great football teams in the next few years.”
Here's a representative example of some of the other missives I've received over the last few days.
Mike Heuertz of Iowa writes: Tim, even with Ndamukong Suh leaving Nebraska, as well as a couple other key defensive players, do you think the Blackshirts will be better next season? And what do you think Nebraska's record will be?
Tim Griffin: I talked with several Nebraska fans during my swing through the state last week who seemed almost giddy about the Cornhuskers’ chances next season.
That being said, the loss of Suh will be huge. I think he can be considered the arguably greatest defensive player in the history of the program. The Cornhuskers also will lose Barry Turner, Phillip Dillard, Larry Asante and the heart, grit and talent provided by Matt O’Hanlon.
Now I can see players like Prince Amukamara, Will Compton, Sean Fisher and Jared Crick getting a lot better gaining experience playing Bo Pelini’s defense. But it might be a little wishful thinking to hope for much improvement from this season -- considering the Cornhuskers’ big defensive personnel losses.
As far as their record, I would expect them to be one of the powers of the Big 12. They have a tricky game at Washington which will earn them a lot of national notoriety if they can win. Texas will be coming to Lincoln, as will Colorado and Missouri. A road game at Oklahoma State doesn’t look as daunting as it could be with the Cowboys breaking in a new quarterback. But an underrated challenge for the Cornhuskers might wait at Texas A&M with Jerrod Johnson and all of A&M’s strong returning offensive weapons back for next season.
Looking at that schedule, I’ll pick the Cornhuskers to go 10-2 and finish as the Big 12 North champion. Considering their returning talent and their schedule, I think that’s a relatively conservative pick.
But as far as next year's team being better than the 2009 version of the Blackshirts, that might be wishing for a little bit much -- even for the Pelinis.
Chris Henson from Salt Lake City, Utah, writes: Tim, a quick addition to the Texas A&M-Oklahoma State tidbit. The Red, White, and Blue Out in 2001 was organized by a group of students first and foremost as a fundraiser for the victims of 9/11. I appreciate you noting this event as it really shows what Texas A&M is all about.
Tim Griffin: Chris, thanks for the clarification. Like you wrote, it was truly an emotional event. There’s a picture of the stadium that is still hung in the press box at Kyle Field of the stadium bedecked for that game. It still gives me goose bumps when I see it.
Travis from Seattle writes: Tim, the players of the decade category has created quite a stir, with many saying, "...well how could X player be off the list." For the most part I agree with your list if you look at it being, who were great players, AND who did the most to influence their team's success, (thus why Graham Harrell is off, being a plug-and-play quarterback in that system although he did do a fine job).
But I propose a different category. Who were the best ATHLETES of the decade? And how about the best competitors, the ones who did everything to try to win. What are your thoughts?
Tim Griffin: You raise a good point about my list earlier being an all-around grouping of all qualities. As far as the best athletes of the decade in the Big 12 from the last decade, in no specific order I would include Ndamukong Suh, Eric Crouch, Robert Griffin, Chris Brown, Vince Young, Seneca Wallace, Dez Bryant, Dezmon Briscoe, Darren Sproles, Danario Alexander (before and after his injury), Brad Smith, Jeremy Maclin, Adrian Peterson, Brian Orakpo, Michael Huff, Earl Thomas, Reggie McNeal, Robert Ferguson, Sammy Davis and Michael Crabtree.
And among the top competitors I’ve seen include Stephen McGee, Crabtree, Colt McCoy, Roy Miller, Joe Pawelek, Jordan Lake, George Hypolite, Todd Reesing, Chase Daniel, Sean Weatherspoon, Matt O’Hanlon, Suh, Josh Fields, Brian Iwuh, Darrell Stuckey, Steven Sheffield, Wes Welker and Kliff Kingsbury. There are many others, but those are just some of the names that come to me off the top of my head. And the fact that Suh and Crabtree made both of those lists is pretty indicative of how exceptional they really were.
Fred Dodge of Annapolis, Md., writes: Tim, in reference to your top 10 jobs in college football. You have a good list, BUT the one caveat that I think goes with this list or any list is context. Most of these are still the "right-guy-for-the-right-place" jobs -- as are coaches. Being a Husker, I lean toward Bo Pelini and Nebraska as my first examples. Bo would not be a good fit for many of these jobs...I just can't see Bo fitting at USC or Florida for example; but I also can't see Lane Kiffin or Pete Carroll being successful in Lincoln. And in my opinion there are only a few guys who can shape a program around their personality. Nick Saban could coach anywhere, Urban Meyer probably could, and Jim Tressel could in most places. But I have a difficult time seeing Mack Brown outside the southeast or southwest and Bo Pelini outside the midwest. All of these guys could still coach, but I think they would struggle in fan support -- and so they would also in recruiting.
Tim Griffin: You make an interesting point, although I think that Pelini would work in more places than you might suspect. He’s a dyed-in-the-wool football coach and would succeed at most traditional powers, although I think his style best suits him at Nebraska. But I could see him being successful in the Southeastern Conference, in the Big Ten or even at Notre Dame. Anywhere they have a deep appreciation for football, I can see Pelini working out.
I think coaches like Bob Stoops, Saban, Meyer and Tressel would work most places. I also think you might include some underrated coaches out there like Mike Riley of Oregon State, Gary Patterson of TCU, Jeff Tedford of California and Chris Peterson of Boise State would be adaptable at almost any job in the country. But it does seem that the smart coaches are the ones who pick places where they are comfortable and have the best chance for success.
Kyle Zander of Fort Hood, Texas, writes: Will Chris Whaley and Desean Hales get playing time for Texas in 2010? I played against Hales in high school and the kid is the real deal, Texas needs to get him involved as soon as possible. And Whaley could help, too.
Tim Griffin: Texas needs to find some help for its running game. Whaley was hurt when he reported to practice last summer and never regained his form. If he’s willing to rededicate himself, there likely is a chance for him to earn some playing time this spring. He needs to have a big spring to get there.
Sales is in a similar situation. The Longhorns have wide receiving talent in players like senior-to-be John Chiles and James Kirkendoll. Malcolm Williams is a big strong receiver who will emerge in coming seasons and should be the team’s featured receiver in 2010. But there are catches – plenty of them -- available for Hales if he can force himself into the mix.
Brett Stamm from Keller, Texas, writes: Tim, love the blog! Keep up the good work! Has Mike Sherman, or will Mike Sherman, or why will Mike Sherman not, consider Dat Nguyen for defensive coordinator? Talk about a guy who has done an outstanding job in his current position and would bring some instant credibility with players and recruits in a program that has pretty much let a proud defensive tradition die with questionable and mediocre hires. This is a guy who was the face of and exemplified the "Wrecking Crew" tradition for four years! Your thoughts?
Tim Griffin: Brett, Dat Nguyen has been a key member of Wade Phillips’ staff as an assistant linebacker coach and defensive quality control assistant with the Dallas Cowboys. But I would suspect that Sherman probably would like for Nguyen to have a little more seasoning and experience calling defenses before he would give him the responsibility of serving as the Aggies’ defensive coordinator.
In a way, Nguyen reminds me a little of Major Applewhite as they develop in their coaching careers. It won’t surprise me if both become successful coordinators and eventually outstanding head coaches. But they need more experience to get there.
Nguyen seems like a natural to join the A&M coaching staff in the future. But I think it might be a stretch to see him as the Aggies’ defensive coordinator at this stage of his career.
That’s all the time I have for today. Thanks again for all of the good questions and keep the letters and e-mails coming. I’ll check back again on Friday.
It's funny, but the stream of e-mails hasn't abated with the end of the season. If anything, more people are interested in what is going on with their favorite teams and players.
Here's a representative sample of some of the better missives I've received over the last couple of days.
Jason from Fort Worth, Texas, writes: First of all, I enjoy reading your blog everyday. Hopefully next season I will see more posts about Baylor winning games. I'm curious if it has been officially determined that Robert Griffin will get a medical redshirt? And if so, do you see him staying at Baylor all four years?
Tim Griffin: Baylor submitted the paperwork for an injury redshirt for Griffin soon after he got hurt. Heath Nielsen, the intrepid associate athletic director for media affairs at Baylor, tells me the Big 12 approved it in November.
It means Griffin will be classified as a sophomore during the 2010 season. I expect him to rejuvenate the Bears’ offense the minute he steps on the field.
And if he played like he did as a freshman and last season, he’ll immediately inject the Bears with the opportunity to challenge for a bowl trip. But I don’t necessarily know if he’ll stay four years. He might develop into a pro football prospect before his eligibility is over. A more likely possibility might be that he elects to compete for the U.S. Olympic team in track and field in 2012.
Johnathan Morrow of Knoxville, Tenn., writes: I agree that the Texas job is more appealing right now and that Will Muschamp probably made the right decision to stay in Texas. But the assumption that the Texas job is better than the Tennessee job could ever possibly be is just that, an assumption, completely void factual information and riddled with bias and speculation.
I firmly believe in the right to express an educated opinion but making predictions from now to the end of time is nothing more than a shot in the dark. Give us some responsible reporting instead of playing this guessing game.
Tim Griffin: Johnathan, thanks for writing and expressing your opinion. But let’s look at the facts in one particular way. I think Tennessee scrambling for its fifth or sixth choice on the coaching job is a pretty good indication of where it ranks among the relative jobs that are out there. By last count -- and this could change after I make this post -- the Volunteers have been turned down by head coaches from Air Force, Utah and Duke (with a Tennessee connection, to boot) along with Muschamp. I can’t see that happening for a top 10 job, and particularly, I could never see it happening for a school like Texas or Florida.
Maybe back in the day when General Bob Neyland was prowling the sidelines, Tennessee was a great job. But in today’s football culture, as we can see by the string of rejections piling up on Tennessee athletic director Mike Hamilton’s desk, it’s certainly no longer the case
W. Jones of Dallas writes: OK, Tim. We get it. You hate Tech. First, saying you "can't understand why" Tommy Tuberville took the Tech job, and now saying Tech is not a top 30 job but OSU is. Careful, your bias is showing.
Tim Griffin: Sorry, W., but I have no axe to grind with Texas Tech. They handled the coaching switch a little haphazardly, but I’ve got a lot of good friends up on the High Plains. It’s definitely one of my favorite stops along the Big 12 and I’ve enjoyed going up there for more than 20 years.
But the reason I placed Oklahoma State over Texas Tech was simple. Oklahoma State now has better facilities than Texas Tech. It’s obvious when you visit Stillwater. And with a deep-pocketed money guy like T. Boone Pickens, the Cowboys have the Red Raiders beat in that category. Take those two items away and Tech would be even with the Cowboys. Tech barely misses the top 30, but is still a step behind Oklahoma State.
Hondo from Houston writes: Tim is it fair to say that Texas will have the best secondary in the country next season? Led by Aaron Williams and Chykie Brown, the Longhorns will have two shutdown corners.
Tim Griffin: Hondo, I might have agreed with you before last week, but the loss of Earl Thomas strips the Longhorns of their best returning defensive player. I do like Williams, who I think could emerge to become a potential Thorpe Award contender by the time he leaves school. Brown is a solid player, too. Nolan Brewster and Blake Gideon will have to emerge at safety without Thomas. They also need Christian Scott to emerge as a potential big hitter. But there’s still a little bit of a question mark at safety before I give the Longhorns the No. 1 position nationally among secondaries, although I expect Muschamp and Texas defensive backs coach Duane Akina to have their group productive during 2010.
David Harris from Joplin, Mo., writes: Hey Tim, is Mike Leach a candidate for the Tennesse position? It seems like he would be a good fit for their program and his scheme would definitely be new to the SEC. What would you think of his chances?
Tim Griffin: I think if Leach was coming off his success from last season, he probably would have had the opportunity to interview with Tennessee by now. But the baggage Leach is carrying after his ouster at Texas Tech will give most athletic directors a lot of pause before hiring him. I think he’s going to have to take a job as an NFL assistant or as a college coach at a smaller-scale program to rebuild his luster as a BCS-level coach.
Leach's offense technically isn’t new in the SEC. He worked as an offensive coordinator under Hal Mumme when Kentucky used the “Air Raid” attack in the late 1990s with Tim Couch at quarterback. That association helped make Couch a Heisman finalist in 1998. Leach then started his Big 12 career the following season as he joined Bob Stoops’ first coaching staff in 1999.
Steve Summers from Arvada, Colo., writes: Tim, what is up with Darrell Scott. Do you expect him to play at Colorado again?
Tim Griffin: Steve, I would be very surprised. I can't see Dan Hawkins allowing him back in the program, although the depth at the position is lagging after Demetrius Sumler announced he was leaving the program earlier this week.
I think Scott could be productive in the right situation. I was surprised that UCLA had little interest in him when news surfaced about his transfer from the Colorado program.
Remember, this was still one of the nation's top running back prospects in the nation in the 2008 recruiting class. If he is in the right situation, I still think he can flourish.
The question for Scott is, where exactly is that place where he can blossom?
Thanks again for all of the great questions. Enjoy the weekend and check back again early next week for another mailbag.
Fans and pundits have castigated Kiffin about his move to a job that has to rank among the top 10 in college football -- even after some of the Trojans’ pending dealings with the NCAA.
Soon thereafter, Texas assistant coach Will Muschamp was thrown into the conversation as a potential replacement for Kiffin at Tennessee. Muschamp, who is the coach-in-waiting at Texas, apparently had the chance to make an unprecedented salary for a first-time college football coach if had decided to lead the Volunteers.
Muschamp opted to stay in Texas, which I believe was a wise choice. The promise of the Longhorns’ top job, even if he has to wait on Mack Brown’s retirement for several seasons, is still is better than the Tennessee job will ever be.
And who can blame Kiffin for trading the life at Tennessee for the glitz and glitter of living in southern California? It seems like an easy choice, particularly because the USC program is a better job.
While I was talking with Nebraska defensive coordinator Carl Pelini last night, we started ticking off an informal list of the best jobs in college football. Here’s my list of the 10 most attractive head coaching positions in college football. Three of them are in the Big 12.
1. Texas: It’s got it all -- facilities, support, tradition and located within a rich recruiting base. Mack Brown has made this the nation’s best job. Muschamp would be crazy to skedaddle to Rocky Top and leave this behind.
2. Florida: Recruiting might be better than Texas and the location provides a beach lifestyle. The only trouble with this job, compared to Texas, is that Florida’s place in the SEC is a little more tenuous than Texas’ place in the Big 12.
3. Ohio State: Tradition, facilities and an unmatched place in the pecking order of the Big Ten. Some coaches would love the weather in Columbus, while snowbirds might see it lacking compared to places like those at the top..
4. USC: “Tailback U” has returned to the top thanks to Pete Carroll’s transformation. This is the football team for a southern California without an NFL franchise.
5. Alabama: Still wondering why Dennis Franchione left Alabama for Texas A&M. Another stadium expansion after this season’s national championship has made this a job that Nick Saban would willingly leave one of the NFL’s flagship franchises to return to. Considering his college allegiance, he’s a smart man.
6. Oklahoma: Bob Stoops might have the best setup in coaching considering he’s working for Joe Castiglione and David Boren. Recruiting will always be a matter of plucking Texas players and Stoops has done a marvelous job at that over the years.
7. Penn State: It will be interesting to see who follows Joe Paterno when he finally decides to hang up his whistle. This is one of the Big Ten’s best jobs with facilities and history to match. It might be daunting to follow Paterno, however.
8. Notre Dame: Still has the attention of NBC and the tradition of college football’s most storied program. Can they find the right coach to return Notre Dame to its place of dominance?
9. LSU: There’s a reason why Les Miles decided to stay here rather than pursue the Michigan job. Rabid talent base and SEC television money make this one special. And you can eat good crawfish any time you want.
10. Nebraska: The only drawback for this job is its lack of a fertile home recruiting area. But other than that, this job has got it all including one of the nation’s most knowledgeable fan bases. It’s the biggest unifier for the entire state as college football is clearly king here.
I would have a few other jobs like Georgia, Tennessee, Oregon, UCLA and Florida State ranked just below these top jobs. Texas A&M would be in my top 20. Oklahoma State -- as long as Boone Pickens is financially priming the pump -- would be in my top 30.
I’m curious what the readers might think in terms of a top 10 of destination coaching jobs? Please feel free to provide your rationale to back up your assertions.
Grab them while they are hot -- just like Will Muschamp's persona among those fans who sing "Rocky Top" Saturday afternoons during the fall.
- The Austin American-Statesman’s Suzanne Halliburton reports that Muschamp plans on being with the Texas program “a long time.” But despite those denials, the CollegeFootballNews.com’s Pete Fiutak still ranks Muschamp as the favorite for the vacant Tennessee job.
- Smith College economics professor Andrew Zimbalist tells the Columbus Dispatch’s Jill Riepenhoff that major-college football could save millions by slashing coaches’ salaries, cutting football scholarships and ending the Bowl Championship Series.
- The Bryan Eagle’s Robert Cessna analyzes how the return of Von Miller will help Texas A&M’s defense.
- Rock Chalk Talk provides an introduction to new Kansas defensive line coach Buddy Wyatt.
- Mark Lazerus of the Post-Tribune of Northwest Indiana references Mike Leach and Mark Mangino as he writes about the fine line between discipline and abuse for coaches.
- As Ndamukong Suh receives the Outland Trophy Thursday night in Omaha, the Lincoln Journal Star’s Steve Sipple explains how the awards presentation ended up in Nebraska.
- The Oklahoman’s Ryan Aber writes about how Midwest City, Okla., running back Tre Porter has re-opened his recruiting after Mike Leach’s firing at Texas Tech.
- Bo Pelini’s 2010 Nebraska team has already caught the attention of national pundits, Mitch Sherman of the Omaha World-Herald reports.
- Iowa State coach Paul Rhoads reflects on his team’s surprising 7-6 season and Insight Bowl triumph with Jake Lovett of the Iowa State Daily.
- The hiring of Lane Kiffin by USC has resulted in several recruits who were considering Oklahoma to switch their allegiances to the Trojans, John Hoover of the Tulsa World reports.
Texas head coach designate Will Muschamp has emerged as the leading candidate for the vacancy at Tennessee, according to various sources across the South.
It might appear far-fetched that Muschamp would leave the Forty Acres for a shot at the Tennessee job, but there are other forces in play that make it seem like it could happen.
For all of the promise of replacing Mack Brown someday in the future, the shot at the Tennessee job might appeal to Muschamp.
First, by any measure, the Tennessee job is a good one. I would include it among the top 12 to 15 jobs in college football when fan support, facilities, conference affiliation and tradition are factored into the equation.
I'd say Texas is among the top three by that measurement. But Muschamp might have to wait several years until Brown retires for that job. The Tennessee job is available now.
Also, Muschamp knows the lay of the land in the Southeastern Conference after playing at Georgia and serving as an assistant at LSU and Auburn. He knows that Urban Meyer's uncertain status at Florida and Georgia's recent downturn make the SEC East winnable on a consistent basis for the Volunteers with the right coach.
Whether he leaves Austin will be determined in the next several days. I would be shocked if Tennessee athletic director Mike Hamilton doesn't try to talk to Muschamp about the job.
Hamilton needs to hit a home run in filling Kiffin's vacancy.
And Muschamp would provide the big splash the Volunteers so desperately need.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
Texas A&M (Big 12 No. 10) vs. Tennessee (SEC No. 10)
Texas A&M's record against the SEC: 0-2
Tennessee's record against the Big 12: 2-3
Previous series: Tennessee leads, 2-0
Most recent meeting: Tennessee, 38-7, in 2005 Cotton Bowl.
Distance between them (according to How Far Is It): 805 miles
Where they should play: Jackson, Miss. (379 miles from College Station, 438 miles from Knoxville)
Who wins: Tennessee
Why: Both these teams are in the unexpected position at the bottom of the conference after years of recent success. Even though Mike Sherman has an edge in coaching experience, the Volunteers simply have better players.
Tennessee preseason All-America strong safety Eric Berry should be able to snuff out whatever Jerrod Johnson and Jeff Fuller would try to produce, and the rest of the Tennessee defense would be able to shut down what the Aggies were trying to do offensively.
Lane Kiffin isn't sure about his quarterback, but it probably wouldn't matter that much against Texas A&M's developing defense. Look for Tennessee's Bryce Brown to outduel Christine Michael in a battle of heralded running backs. And Brown would have reinforcements like Montario Hardesty, Tauren Poole and Toney Williams to be able to dictate the pace of the game and help the Volunteers grind out a victory over the Aggies.
Tuesday: Baylor (Big 12 No. 9) vs. Auburn (SEC No. 9)
The count: SEC, 3-0.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
Texas Tech coach Mike Leach is well-known in the Big 12's area for instigating drama.
Whether he's calling out Stephen McGee, Texas A&M coaches or Big 12 referees or taking Cleveland Browns coach Eric Mangini to task, Leach's controversy-creating skills are legendary well past the borders of the Llano Estacado.
And it received a little national attention when Matt Humphrey of the Orlando Sentinel's College Gridiron 365 blog named him as the No. 7 coach nationally in creating controversy.
Here's what Humphrey had to say about Leach in his ranking:
"This pirate-loving coach gives crazy dating advice and has no trouble mouthing off from his perch in West Texas. One has to wonder if this guy is playing with a full deck."
Texas coach Mack Brown at No. 8 and Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy at No. 9 are the only other Big 12 coaches ranked in the top 10 poll.
Here's what Humphrey had to say about Brown:
"Don't be fooled by the Texas coach's good-natured attitude - he's successfully outmaneuvered other teams for BCS bowl bids, has no shame always pushing his team for national championship game appearances even if they don't deserve it and completely changed the recruiting calendar by locking in all his classes by June."
And about Gundy, Humphrey said this:
"He's a man! He's 40! Or at least he was when he berated Oklahoman columnist Jenni Carlson in 2007. This video never gets old."
Considering the newspaper's circulation area, the list is heavily skewed with SEC coaches. But with the fun that Lane Kiffin has injected in that conference, it might be deserved.
I'm guessing that Bo Pelini is only a couple of big national victories or another sideline eruption away from making a list like this in the near future.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
It's pretty quiet among Big 12 coaches these days after spring practice has completed.
That tranquility is also seen in the t-shirts offered by the Web site firethatguy.com, which has four different complete pages of t-shirts hyping the ouster of professional and college football and basketball coaches around the country.
Louisville coach Steve Kragthorpe, Notre Dame coach Charlie Weis, Miami coach Randy Shannon and Virginia coach Al Groh all have their shirts. New Florida International University basketball coach Isiah Thomas has several shirts available -- even before coaching his first game.
The Big 12 coaches are spared, although the folks at CoachesHotSeat.com still have a heavy Big 12 slant.
Texas A&M's Mike Sherman remains in the No. 1 position nationally and Dan Hawkins of Colorado checks in at fifth. They surround Lane Kiffin of Tennessee at second, Kragthorpe at third and Groh at fourth.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
The Web site Coacheshotseat.com is one of my must reads every day. They always have an interesting spin on various college football topics and a lot of original content.
One post this afternoon was particularly interesting. The Web site ranks the 22 hirings of new FBS head coaches since the end of last season.
Here's a list of hirings of all new Division I head coaches. The ones that are highlighted have Big 12 connections.
1. Dave Christensen, Wyoming
2. Dan Mullen, Mississippi State
3. Rich Ellerson, Army
4. Dabo Swinney, Clemson
5. Brady Hoke, San Diego State
6. Steve Sarkisian, Washington
7. Doug Marrone, Syracuse
8. Danny Hope, Purdue
9. Mike Locksley, New Mexico
10. Ron English, Eastern Michigan
11. Mike Haywood, Miami (OH)
12. DeWayne Walker, New Mexico State
13. Chip Kelly, Oregon
14. Paul Rhoads, Iowa State
15. Gene Chizik, Auburn
16. Gary Anderson, Utah State
17. Frank Spaziani, Boston College
18. Tim Beckman, Toledo
19. Stan Parrish, Ball State
20. Dave Clawson, Bowling Green
21. Bill Snyder, Kansas State
22. Lane Kiffin, Tennessee
It's particularly interesting to look at the difference between former Missouri coordinator Dave Christensen and former Oklahoma State defensive coordinator Tim Beckman.
They believe that Christensen's success bringing his version of the spread to Wyoming will pump new life into the Mountain West Conference. And they compare that to the largely unknown Beckman, who will be challenged to succeed in the balanced Mid-American Conference.
The switch from Gene Chizik to Paul Rhoads appears to be a wash, as Rhoads' hiring is ranked No. 14 while Chizik checks in at No. 15.
But the most interesting comments to me were how the Web site viewed Bill Snyder replacing Ron Prince at Kansas State.
21. Bill Snyder for Ron Prince at Kansas State
"We could have gone either way on the firing of Ron Prince, but bringing Bill Snyder back to Kansas State? No, we cannot understand that move by KSU. OK...Bill Snyder was a great football coach, but that was in another time and another place. Snyder put up some great seasons at K-State, but in his last two years, which happened to correspond to the rise of Texas, Oklahoma, Texas Tech and Missouri in the Big 12, Snyder went 4-7 in 2004 and 5-6 in 2005. There is a reason that Bill Snyder was fired after the 2005 season and that reason has not changed and we believe K-State will regret hiring Snyder because he will not move the football program forward in what has become a much tougher Big 12. Instead of Bill Snyder, we would have hired Buffalo's Turner Gill, Oklahoma's Brent Venables, Illinois Mike Locksley, Missouri's Dave Christensen or even Dennis Franchione over bringing back Bill Snyder and we believe Kansas State will regret this coaching move."
I would criticique Coacheshotseat.com for saying that Snyder was fired after the 2005 season. He actually resigned. But I'm still intrigued by their comments.
It will be interesting to see how Snyder's return to KSU plays out. Either it will be a home run or a colossal flop.
I'm betting that Snyder's work ethic and his return of a veteran group of coaches familiar with the KSU program will work and work to ensure the program's success.
But even that might not be enough, considering the Big 12's strength.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
Top running back Bryce Brown announced his long-awaited decision Monday by accepting a scholarship offer from Tennessee.
Brown chose the Volunteers and new coach Lane Kiffin over a group of finalists that included LSU, Oregon and Kansas State.
Scouts Inc. ranks Brown No. 8 in the ESPNU 150 and he is the second-ranked running back on the list.
Brown has visited Tennessee twice in the past month, including a trip to the watch the Volunteers' first scrimmage of spring practice on Saturday. That's made many observers believe that he could be headed there to join Lane Kiffin's team.
Brown's personal trainer and adviser Brian Butler announced the decision on his Web site potentialplayers.com and also at a press conference in his hometown of Wichita, Kan.
"After long prayer, fasting, and numerous visits, the No. 1 player in the country Bryce Brown decided on where he will play college football," the Web site reported. "The school that he chooses will be Lane Kiffin and the Tennessee Volunteers.
I don't know what fasting had to do with Brown's decision, except maybe make himself a little more svelte after all the recruiting dinners he had ingested over the last several months. And I also found it interesting that Kiffin was placed before the Volunteers in the official announcement.
Brown's decision is a disappointing one for Kansas State coach Bill Snyder, who could have made his rebuilding job a lot quicker by attracting one of the nation's premier backs.
Instead, he'll have to find another featured back on his own roster as he prepares to build the Wildcats back from their 5-7 finish last season -- the fourth time in the last five seasons they have failed to qualify for a bowl game.