Been awhile. With a “lifetime move,” surgeries on both arms and restrictive braces subsequently attached to them for the long recovery process, yours truly has been a bit remiss on here.
But it’s time to ease back into it a bit, and, with that, what better topic to touch on than college football — my favorite.
In fact, let’s hit on a few things within that realm — hit or miss style.
So, without further ado …
HIT: Temple hiring Manny Diaz as its new coach
The Owls, and anyone who happens to support them, had to be reeling pretty bad after Geoff Collins opted to bolt for his “dream job” at Georgia Tech after seeming to grow some program roots in North Philly a mere two years into his first head-coaching gig. That continued the pattern set by Al Golden, who jumped ship for what he figured were greener pastures in Miami after five years at Temple.
Steve Addazio followed with a two-year stint before taking his “dream job” at Boston College, and then Matt Rhule headed to Baylor after his own five-year run on Broad Street.
With the Owls’ job being Diaz’s first as the top dog, most worry about when he’s going to leave, since, hey, it’s inevitable.
Here’s the thing, though — why bother worrying? The program is better now than when Golden left … and when Addazio left … and, gasp, even better than when Rhule left. The reason being all those guys, as well as Collins, along with some major cash flow directed its way by the school’s administration, elevated the program every step of the way the last decade and change.
True, it’s not the “end game” destination spot. Not yet. But it is a destination spot. For people who see potential — both in themselves and Temple. You think Diaz was unhappy in Miami. Dude is a native. His dad was mayor of the city. He’s had great success as defensive coordinator there the past couple years. Had he stayed, he likely would have replaced Mark Richt as the Hurricanes head coach.
But — cheesy, retro reference to an old commercial — he chose Temple.
Yo, Diaz wasn’t the only name out there interested in the position, either. There were other prime-time coordinators in the college game inquiring about the job, including a proven head-coaching commodity at this level in Greg Schiano, currently the defensive coordinator at Ohio State.
Plus, coaches are not the only ones with vision when it comes to Temple. Recruits are more “ready for prime time” with the Cherry & White than ever before. Say what you want about Addazio and Collins, but they rocked on the recruiting front, and Rhule was pretty damn good, too.
Diaz? Aside from directing the country’s second-ranked defense at Miami this fall, he obviously connects with people. Within two days of his taking the Temple reins, six recruits bailed on their commitments to the Hurricanes.
At this point, Temple, and athletic director Pat Kraft, have proven that they have “hire a head football coach” down pretty good. They’re 4-for-4 in my book dating back to Golden’s hiring in 2006 — with the Owls 73-53 in the last 10 years, two conference title-game appearances, one conference title and a seventh bowl game coming up later this month.
What makes anyone think Diaz will break that pattern of success?
MISS: Illinois extending Lovie Smith
Sorry, but at some point AD Josh Whitman has to accept that his helacious cut at recapturing Illini glory with a name somewhat beloved in not-exactly-next-door Chicago was nothing more than a whiff. Smith is 9-27 in three years at the helm, including just 4-23 in Big Ten play, and, no, the program does not appear to be on the upswing — aside from fundraisers buying into what Whitman is selling.
The on-field product, mostly, is just bad, if not overmatched … and that falls on Smith, regardless of whether coaches he chose stick it out with him or not.
The one thing you thought Smith would have brought to the program was some cachet, with the thinking it would convince a few more blue-chippers to head the Illini’s way. That really hasn’t happened.
Frankly, anyone making a case that the program was in better shape under Tim Beckman, even as he was being run out the door prior to the 2015 campaign, wouldn’t exactly be off-base. Illinois went 12-25 in his three years, and improved every season, culminating with a bowl appearance in his final season. Even Bill Cubit’s 5-7 hiccup in 2015 was better than anything seen during Smith’s current term.
Besides, neither of those guys — individually or combined — would be costing Illinois the $4 million per year that Lovie does.
HIT: Oklahoma quarterback Kyler Murray winning the Heisman
With apologies to Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa and Ohio State’s Dwayne Haskins, and their fans, the voters got it right.
As good as the latter two were, and for the most part they were awesome, they did show themselves to be human at times — either for long stretches in games (Haskins vs. Penn State, Nebraska and Michigan State) or entire games (Tagovailoa vs. Georgia).
Murray did not.
He was superb throughout. Plus, he brings an athleticism to the position that is rare. Not only was he the nation’s top-rated passer, he also ran for 892 yards and 11 touchdowns.
Numbers wise, he tops both rather easily. Total yards. Total touchdowns. You name it.
But, really, the true measure is this — take either of those other two off their teams and Alabama probably goes 13-0 this fall and Ohio State 12-1 just the same. Take Murray off Oklahoma? Sooners would be lucky to have won 10 games, never mind find themselves in the national semifinals against Tagovailoa and the Crimson Tide.
MISS: Florida’s 2-for-1 offer to play Central Florida
This may be one of the most arrogant, out-of-touch discussions seen outside of the White House briefing room.
Depending on which way the wind blows, the Gators are willing to host the Knights in Gainesville twice in exchange for one neutral-site contest … or, gasp, a game in Orlando.
How generous it is of Florida, AD Scott Stricklin and head coach Dan Mullen to present such a “wonderful opportunity” to UCF — a program riding a 25-game winning streak, owner of two straight conference titles, and, ahem, a higher national ranking than the Gators.
The Knights currently check in at No. 8 in the country and Florida No. 10. That comes on the tail of last season’s final ranking of No. 6 for UCF … and, what was the Gators’ again?
Oh, yeah, they weren’t ranked. At all.
Programs that go 4-7 usually are not.
Thing is, we all get it. Florida is old school. It has the history. It’s in the SEC. It has the 85,000-seat stadium. UCF is new school. It plays in a league that is not the SEC. It has a 45,000-seat stadium.
But it’s coming on, and, frankly, has had the better team two years running now. It even beat one of Florida’s SEC rivals, Auburn, in the Peach Bowl to cap last season.
It might be wise to show UCF a little respect — because it has been earned.
Just a tad more. Maybe even offer a 3-for-2 (three home, two away), or even a 2-1-1 (two home, one away, one neutral). Or even just one game — at Gainesville or a neutral site.
That’d be something.
At least knock it off with trying to shame UCF into accepting your current offer, Florida.