Pac-12: Butch Jones

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- Saturday's game at Bryant-Denny Stadium was a dud. It seemed like who was watching was of greater concern than what they were actually watching at times. In the end, Alabama walloped Tennessee 45-10 for the school's 50th all-time win over its SEC East rival.

But the greater context of the game was more significant. Tennessee, for better or worse, served as a piņata for both No. 1 Alabama and No. 2 Oregon this season, offering a rare common opponent to examine. When you consider the fact that no other top-five team has faced a common opponent with Alabama, the Tennessee games grow more interesting.

So who looked better against Butch Jones' Volunteers? Well, the answer to that question is tricky. The scores -- Alabama won by 35 points and Oregon won by 45 -- are misleading. The Ducks jumped to a 38-0 halftime lead and continued their manic pace on offense, scoring three third-quarter touchdowns. The Tide, too, got out to a big 35-0 halftime lead, but instead cruised in the third and fourth quarters, scoring one touchdown and a field goal.

Oregon ran 67 plays on offense to Alabama's 65, and the Ducks were more efficient. Marcus Mariota threw for 456 yards and four touchdowns and helped generate 687 total yards of offense. AJ McCarron, meanwhile, threw for 275 yards and two touchdowns. All told, the Tide put up a respectable 479 yards of offense. But in fairness, the difference in first-half offense -- Oregon put up 350 yards to Alabama's 292 -- was not as noticeable.

The teams' third- and fourth-down efficiency numbers were nearly identical. Alabama converted on 7 of 11 third downs and moved the chains on its lone fourth-down attempt. Oregon, conversely, was 6 of 13 on third downs and picked up a first down on its only fourth-down attempt.

Both teams ran for an average of roughly 5 yards per carry and both forced a turnover on defense.

The defenses offered little separation, though. Oregon gave up a touchdown to Tennessee in the first quarter and the Vols held the ball for 34:18. Alabama, meanwhile, didn't give up points until a third-quarter field goal and the Vols didn't score a touchdown until early in the fourth quarter when the game was well in hand. Tennessee generated about the same offensive output against Alabama as it did against Oregon -- 322 yards to 316.

Truthfully, if you're looking for who the better team is -- Alabama or Oregon -- based on their common opponent, Tennessee, you're looking too hard. Both Alabama and Oregon beat up on Tennessee badly and both looked like title contenders in the process. Alabama's traditional pro-style offense, largely viewed as weaker than Oregon's fast-paced attack, held its own by comparison. Meanwhile, Oregon's defense, traditionally thought of as inferior to Alabama's historically dominant defense, was just as good by comparison, too.

If you're an Oregon fan you can focus on the Tide's one turnover against the Vols. An Alabama fan would point out that his team committed only four penalties and didn't allow a single sack while Oregon committed twice as many penalties and allowed twice as many sacks.

But leave the film study to the coaches if the two teams do wind up meeting in Pasadena for the BCS National Championship in January. We've got a long way to go until then.

Mariota dynamic in Oregon blowout win

September, 14, 2013

EUGENE, Ore. -- Tennessee led 7-0, and Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota was just 2-for-8 throwing the ball. Uh-oh. Ducks are in trouble, and Mariota's early-season accuracy issues might be a long-term problem.

[+] EnlargeMarcus Mariota
Jonathan Ferrey/Getty ImagesWith a career-high 456 passing yards, Oregon QB Marcus Mariota might have vaulted into the Heisman race.
Then ... KABOOM! Oregon went all Oregon on the Volunteers because Mariota went all Mariota.

The Ducks scored the next 59 points and rolled to an easy 59-14 victory because Mariota completely befuddled the Vols defense, completing 23 of 33 throws for a career-high 456 yards with four touchdowns. He also rushed for a score.

Those sorts of numbers supporting the nation's No. 2 team clearly put the "H-word" in play. As in Heisman Trophy. Obviously, Mariota has to be excited about such talk.

"Not really," he said. "That's individual accolades, and that's something we don't talk about around here. That's outside noise to me."

That could sound like canned talk, PR-smart, faux humility. Perhaps, but in that case, Mariota would need to be a heck of an actor, because his humility seems like an authentic response, his standard gear. Oregon folks who repeatedly praise it, in fact, sometimes want Mariota to adopt a little bit more swagger as the guy fronting the nation's best offense.

Oregon had 658 yards through three quarters, and the bench was cleared with four minutes remaining in the third. That's the most an SEC team has allowed through three quarters over the past 10 seasons. The Vols’ 45-point margin of defeat was their worst since 1910, a 48-0 loss to Mississippi A&M.

“I think they are very deserving of where they’re ranked," Tennessee coach Butch Jones said. "I think they’re very well deserving of all the accolades that they’ve received. They have tremendous, tremendous skill. Anytime you have a quarterback who can throw the ball and run the football, you’re always a gap short, you’re always a man short."

While the Ducks defense deserves more than just a tip of the cap, as it also was in complete control, Mariota is rapidly evolving into a super-elite player, an All-American and Heisman candidate and potentially the best quarterback in program history.

"Marcus is a stud," first-year head coach Mark Helfrich said. "I wouldn't trade that guy for anything."

The truth is the accuracy concerns were probably a bit overblown (who ... me?). While Mariota was completing just over 50 percent of his throws over the first two games, the bigger issue was drops. They were an issue during the start against the Vols, but once Mariota and his receivers synced up, the scoreboard spun like a Vegas slot machine.

"I guess we can complete a pass again," Helfrich quipped. "I haven't even looked at the numbers."

The numbers Helfrich would look at are glowing: the first 400-yard passing game for a Ducks QB since Kellen Clemens in 2005 and the third-most in school history. "I'll take that," Helfrich said.

Mariota had 350 yards passing at the break, so he easily could have pushed into ludicrous territory if the Vols had kept things closer. He also extended his string of throwing at least one touchdown pass to 16 games, which is third-best among active quarterbacks.

Of course, it wasn't just Mariota. The Ducks rushed for 216 yards -- pedestrian by their standards -- and two players eclipsed the 100-yard receiving mark. Josh Huff had six catches for 125 yards, including a 54-yard TD, and true freshman tight end Johnny Mundt hauled in five passes for 121 yards.

Mundt? He got so many touches because starter Colt Lyerla, who's battled the dropsies, did not play. Asked after the game why Lyerla was held out, Helfrich said, "Circumstances." He then assumed his best Chip Kelly stance when he assured the media that was a specific, one-word description.

While Mariota and Oregon's explosiveness will stock the highlight reel from this game, it's worth noting that Oregon owned both lines of scrimmage against an SEC team, one that was supposed to have one of the nation's best offensive lines.

“I thought Oregon did a great job at the line of scrimmage," Jones said. "We pride ourselves on being a physical, blue-collar football team and I thought they won the line of scrimmage battle, and that can’t happen.”

The preseason question was how would Oregon look under Helfrich after Kelly bolted for the NFL? After a 3-0 start where the Ducks outscored opponents 184-27, the answer appears to be, "Exactly like they did under Kelly."

While all that might be true, it’s Mariota who has taken a step forward. That should worry the teams on the Ducks schedule.

Oh, and some not on the schedule as of yet -- as it was the Oregon fans chanting, when this contest was no longer in doubt, "We want Bama!"

Oregon wants style points vs. Tennessee

September, 14, 2013
EUGENE, Ore. -- Folks across the country want to know what Oregon's high-powered offense would look like against an "SEC defense," a term that makes folks wretch on the West Coast. Well, they get to see that today in Autzen Stadium as the Ducks face Tennessee, a holder of one of those SEC national titles during the BCS era.

Of course, this isn't Tennessee circa 1998. That was three coaches and a lot of dispiriting losses ago for a proud program that is trying to right itself under new coach Butch Jones, who was at Cincinnati last year.

Tennessee has gone 28-34 since 2008. That's the worst five-year stretch for the program in the modern era.

Still, the Volunteers are not devoid of talent, particularly on the offensive line, which is among the nation's best units. The Vols welcome back four of five starters from 2012 and all four are good. Junior left tackle Antonio Richardson, most particularly, is a beast.

The matchup with the Oregon defensive front is where this game turns.

An oddly tenacious stereotype is that Oregon is small and quick on defense. Er, no. The Ducks are big and athletic. In fact, Oregon's defensive front is as big as any in the country. The two-deep on the defensive line features seven players 6-foot-4 or taller, including three taller than 6-foot-7. The interior tackles go 314, 299, 297 and 296.

Unlike a lot of schools, by the way, Oregon uses accurate heights and weights.

But the question on Oregon's defense is not the line, which is talented and deep. It's at linebacker. There are three new starters. They have played pretty well thus far, but the Vols will offer up the best blocking unit they will face until the visit to Stanford on Nov. 7.

That said, the Vols don't have a lot of skill players. Quarterback Justin Worley isn't terribly mobile, so he's lucky to have a great line in front of him. He'll need a consistent running game because he's not going to light up one of the nation's best secondaries, particularly on the road. He passed for 104 and 142 yards in the first two games, albeit against lesser competition.

On the other side of the ball, it will be interesting to see if quarterback Marcus Mariota and the Oregon passing game take a step forward. The early results have been mixed, with the typically accurate and efficient sophomore missing some passes in the first two games.

Tennessee has switched back to a 4-3 from a 3-4, which is the reverse of what most coaches do when facing a bunch of uptempo, spread offenses like Oregon's. Of course, the Vols are thinking SEC play, not Pac-12. But that might be an issue here in Autzen.

Finally, there's perception. Oregon is a national title contender, one that is favored by four touchdowns. If Oregon takes care of business and wins by that much or more, then mission accomplished. Style points matter in these intersectional games between AQ conferences.

But if the Vols make a game of it and at least keep things close, there will be more than a few chortles down South about SEC superiority -- as in, "The Duckies can't even whip one of our bottom-feeders."

Pac-12 lunch links: Utah's new go-to WR?

September, 12, 2013
Howl, howl, howl, howl! O! you are men of stones:
Had I your tongues and eyes, I'd use them so
That heaven's vaults should crack.
We continue our series taking a closer look at each Pac-12 team's nonconference schedule.


Nicholls State University, Aug. 31
  • Coach: Charlie Stubbs (6-27), fourth year
  • 2012 record: 1-10, 0-7 Southland
  • Returning starters: nine offense, eight defense
  • Offensive headliner: Running back Marcus Washington, an all-league honorable mention pick last year, led the team in rushing with 598 yards and rushed for six touchdowns. He averaged 76.5 all-purpose yards per game last year.
  • Defensive headliner: Linebacker Chris Bermond finished second on the team last year with 64 tackles (36 solo) and posted two tackles for a loss with a pair of pass breakups.
  • The skinny: Assuming there are no acts of God, we'll see NSU in the season opener this year. It has a lot of players returning, but anyone who saw it against Oregon State last year saw the talent differential between the Southland squad and an upper-tier Pac-12 team. And we're going to go out on a limb and call Oregon upper tier.
at Virginia, Sept. 7
  • Coach: Mike London (16-21), fourth year
  • 2012 record: 4-8, 2-6 ACC
  • Returning starters: seven offense, seven defense
  • Offensive headliner: Tailback Kevin Parks returns after leading Virginia with 734 rushing yards and five touchdowns last year. He also caught 24 balls for 189 yards.
  • Defensive headliner: Defensive end Jake Snyder was tops among the team's defensive linemen with 44 stops last year and second with 2.5 sacks.
  • The skinny: Virginia is looking for a new quarterback after the departure of both Michael Rocco and Phillip Sims. It also lost leading tackler Steve Greer (122 tackles), so there are some holes to fill on both sides of the ball. The Cavaliers have been up and down in London's tenure, going 4-8 in Year 1, 8-5 in Year 2 and then 4-8 last year.
Tennessee, Sept. 14
  • Coach: Butch Jones, first year
  • 2012 record: 5-7, 1-7 SEC
  • Returning starters: five offense, eight defense
  • Offensive headliner: The Volunteers lost a lot on offense from last year, but running back Rajion Neal returns as the rushing leader after posting 708 yards and five touchdowns.
  • Defensive headliner: Linebacker A.J. Johnson, who was second-team All-SEC last season, returns after posting 138 stops last year -- tops on the team -- to go with 8.5 tackles for a loss and a sack.
  • The skinny: A lot of UT's all-league offensive players from last year are gone, including tight end Mychal Rivera and receivers Justin Hunter and Cordarrelle Patterson. Also gone is quarterback Tyler Bray. That said, the Vols do have a fairly experienced offensive line, headlined by tackle Antonio Richardson. This is Tennessee's return trip from the 2010 matchup, which Oregon won 48-13.
Thoughts: Over/under on the amount of minutes Marcus Mariota will play in all three games? Ninety minutes? No real threats here and Oregon's starters should be well rested heading into conference play on Sept. 28 when they host Cal. Nicholls State University has been an under-performing FCS squad, Virginia is rebuilding with new offensive and defensive coordinators and Tennessee is starting anew with Jones (once thought to be the next head coach at Colorado). This provides a nice cushion for the Ducks as they transition to game day under new head coach Mark Helfrich. Anything less than a 3-0 start is almost unimaginable.

You can see the rest of the series here.
We know that it's probably going to take some time for Mike MacIntyre to get things off the ground at Colorado. After a difficult first two seasons in the Pac-12, that's seen the Buffs win just four games over that span, head coach Jon Embree was fired after 2012. That paved the way for MacIntyre, who helped turn San Jose State into a Top 25 team.

He chatted with ESPN senior writer Ivan Maisel about the big building project ahead of him. It's a great read as MacIntyre talks about how he's been down this road before.

Here's what he told Maisel:
"Every person, when I told them I was thinking about taking the job," MacIntyre said of San Jose State, "there wasn't one person, not one person out of the 100 I asked, who told me I should take the job. And then when we were successful, I had people call me and tell me, 'I thought we'd never hear of you again. I thought your career would be over as a head coach when you took that job.'"

The story also talks about how Butch Jones and Gary Andersen both passed on Colorado -- meaning MacIntyre took on a job that that scared others off.
"I just think that sometimes when you're not being successful in any business or any organization, you kind of isolate and make assumptions about other people," MacIntyre said. "I think in any business or corporation or team, once you knock down barriers and knock down walls, and start being vulnerable, then you can grow. And that's what we are working on now."

You can read all of Maisel's story here.

CU needs MacIntyre's passion, enthusiasm

December, 10, 2012
Mike MacIntyre's first news conference as Colorado's coach wasn't filled with details and information -- few introductory pressers are -- but it did present a man who is clearly thrilled to be in Boulder. His enthusiasm probably matters more than it would at most places because things have been pretty dreary for the Buffaloes for some time now.

"I think as you get to know me, you'll say one thing about Mike MacIntyre," he said. "He has passion."

That passion was one of the big reasons he got hired to be San Jose State's head coach three years ago. The reason he's in Boulder now is his plan to transform the Spartans from a college football afterthought into a ranked team worked.

Said Colorado athletic director Mike Bohn, "There is no question that we have hired a football coach that all Buffs can stand shoulder-to-shoulder with."

MacIntyre, 47, whose San Jose State team finished 10-2 and is preparing to face Bowling Green in the Military Bowl on Dec. 27 in Washington, D.C., acknowledged that Colorado has a ways to go to become competitive in the Pac-12. Colorado hasn't posted a winning record since 2005. It has won three or fewer games four times since 2006. And the program has been doing a bit of morose navel gazing since it controversially fired Jon Embree, a former Buff player, after just two seasons and then was publicly spurned by its first choice, former Cincinnati coach Butch Jones, who's now at Tennessee.

MacIntyre's enthusiasm might part some of those dark clouds.

"Yes, we've got a long way to go," he said. "But I've been there before and I know what to do."

Some hits from the news conference.
  • MacIntyre said he's going to run a pistol offense and a 4-3 defense that spends a lot of time in a 4-2-5 set against spread teams. He said the offense wants to incorporate a downhill running game that facilities an effective play-action package, and he compared his defensive scheme to TCU's.
  • He said he's going to bring a number of his coaches from San Jose State, but he will also interview the Buffs' current staff left behind after Embree's firing. He left open the option of retaining coaches who were with the program this year. He also strongly implied he's got some guys in mind who aren't on either staff.
  • He met with the current team for the first time on Monday. "I could tell they are hurting," he said. "And they should be."
  • He signed a five-year deal to coach the Buffaloes. He will make $2 million a season, which is more in line with Pac-12 coaches. Embree was the Pac-12's lowest paid coach at about $750,000.
  • MacIntyre also said that certain guarantees were made about facilities upgrades, though he provided no specifics. "Everything is in [his contract]," he said. "There has been a commitment made to do that and it will happen."
  • He said his recruiting focus will be in Colorado and California. He was less enthusiastic about Texas.

Colorado taps Mike MacIntyre

December, 10, 2012

It might be a blessing in disguise that Butch Jones spurned Colorado last week and then emerged at Tennessee.

Colorado has hired San Jose State coach Mike MacIntyre, sources told on Monday, and that feels like a better fit.

MacIntyre, 47, transformed a moribund program into a 10-2 bowl team this season, one that is ranked 24th in the BCS standings.

After San Jose State went 2-10 in 2009, MacIntyre took over and went 1-10 his first season. The Spartans jumped to 5-7 in 2011 and now will play in the Military Bowl on Dec. 27 in Washington, D.C.

So MacIntyre won't be surprised by what he is getting into. Colorado hasn't posted a winning record since 2005. It has won three or fewer games four times since 2006.

[+] EnlargeMike MacIntyre
AP Photo/Tony AvelarCan Mike MacIntyre bring smiles to Colorado's struggling football program?
Terms of MacIntyre's contract were not available. Last week, Colorado offered Jones, then the coach at Cincinnati, a five-year deal worth $13.5 million, according to multiple reports. MacIntyre's deal figures to be less than that.

MacIntyre will replace Jon Embree, who was fired after going 4-21 in two seasons.

MacIntyre was born in Miami, the son of a coach, George MacIntyre, who was Vanderbilt's head coach from 1979-85. He's also a defensive guy whose specialty is the secondary. From 2003-07, he coached defensive backs in the NFL (Dallas and New York Jets). NFL experience gives a guy credibility on the recruiting trail. He was Duke's defensive coordinator for two years before coming to San Jose State.

This is a great profile from Mark Purdy of the San Jose Mercury News of MacIntyre. It's notable how MacIntyre turned his focus to conditioning and recruiting.
MacIntrye, meanwhile, organized a plan to have he or one of his assistant coaches meet and personally shake the hand of every single high school football coach in California. MacIntyre also organized "traveling San Jose State camps" at high school fields in San Diego, Bakersfield, Los Angeles, Ontario and Sacramento. They were one-day clinics that cost $40 for players to attend -- but also served as evaluation sessions. The high school coaches were encouraged to send along any player they thought had college potential.

"California is like four states in one," MacIntyre said. "It was a way for us to spread the word about San Jose State. If we sign 20 players in a recruiting season, at least 17 or 20 of them have been at our camps."

The new recruiting effort, plus the conditioning ramp-up, made the Spartans far more competitive in 2011. MacIntyre was also able to keep his coaching staff stable. Although San Jose State finished with a 5-7 record, late season victories over Navy and Fresno State created momentum moving forward.

San Jose State's two losses came to Pac-12 champion Stanford, 20-17, and 20th-ranked Utah State, 49-27. It finished the season with strong wins over BYU and Louisiana Tech.

California just hired now former Louisiana Tech coach Sonny Dykes.

MacIntrye not only has experience as a head coach, he has the right experience that matches Colorado's needs.

He knows what a desperate program looks like. It doesn't frighten him. And based on what he did at San Jose State, he just might have the cure.


Lunch links: Sonny days ahead for Cal

December, 6, 2012
All you have to do is follow three simple rules. One, never underestimate your opponent. Expect the unexpected. Two, take it outside. Never start anything inside the bar unless it's absolutely necessary. And three, be nice.

Jones says 'No' to Colorado

December, 6, 2012
The Colorado coaching search continues as Cincinnati's Butch Jones has declined an offer to replace Jon Embree in Boulder.

It has been reported that Jones was offered a five-year, $13.5 million deal this week.

So what's Plan B? From the Boulder Daily Camera:
Colorado officials are likely to contact San Jose State coach Mike MacIntyre or Fresno State coach Tim DeRuyter, though DeRuyter has been a head coach for only one year and might not have the experience CU desires in its next head coach.

Athletic director Mike Bohn and his bosses have a list of targets that also could include former Cal coach Jeff Tedford, but its unclear if Tedford would have interest in the job. Earlier in Colorado's search process, a source who had spoken to Tedford said the coach viewed Colorado as a difficult place to win. Tedford was fired at Cal three weeks ago after the Bears finished the season 3-9.

It's never good to get publicly turned down by your first choice. And based on a false report from one newspaper that Jones had accepted the offer, this was a very public rejection.

But Buffs fans shouldn't get too worked up. Arizona State and UCLA both had bumbling coaching searches last year and things appear -- at least based on Year 1 -- to have turned out OK.

MacIntyre and DeRuyter are probably better fits anyway than Jones, who has no West Coast experience.

Pac-12 lunch links: Buffs on Jones watch

December, 5, 2012
Orr would be crazy to fly more missions and sane if he didn't, but if he was sane he had to fly them. If he flew them he was crazy and didn't have to; but if he didn't want to he was sane and had to. Yossarian was moved very deeply by the absolute simplicity of this clause of Catch-22 and let out a respectful whistle.

Cal, Colorado coaching updates

December, 5, 2012
Cincinnati coach Butch Jones remains Colorado's top choice to replace Jon Embree -- he reportedly has a firm offer from the Buffaloes -- but his decision might have been delayed by the surprise opening at Rose Bowl bound Wisconsin.

Jones is a Midwest guy, and the departure of Bret Bielema to Arkansas might intrigue him enough to pass on the Buffs.

What might be the Plan B? From the Boulder Daily Camera:
Sources said they wrote at least one new name down on a dry-erase board. CU officials would be interested in talking with Fresno State coach Tim DeRuyter, San Jose State coach [Mike MacIntyre] and at least one other possible candidate whom they only began to consider Tuesday.

CU has either ruled out or been told there is no reciprocal interest from candidates such as Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen, Wake Forest coach Jim Grobe, Brigham Young coach Bronco Mendenhall and Utah State coach Gary Andersen.

As for California, the lead name is Louisiana Tech coach Sonny Dykes, the former offensive coordinator at Arizona. There have been reports that he and San Jose State's MacIntyre interviewed with Cal officials over the weekend. The Bears also reportedly talked to Kent State coach Darrell Hazell, but he's been hired by Purdue.

Of course, as Arkansas has taught us, don't be surprised if names that aren't bouncing around in media reporters suddenly appear when the ink dries on new contracts.



Lunch links: Should Barkley play?

December, 4, 2012
I'm rolling thunder, pouring rain; I'm coming on like a hurricane.

Lunch links: Dykes to Cal? Jones to CU?

December, 3, 2012
I will smash your face into a car windshield, and then take your mother, Dorothy Mantooth, out for a nice seafood dinner and never call her again.

Pac-12 links: Butch Jones to Colorado?

November, 30, 2012
Happy Friday.