Daniel Rodriguez

The Fifth Quarter: Week 13 Rewind

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As is the case each and every season, each and every week, any omission below is not on purpose, it’s merely intentional.

THUMBS UP

A righteous salute
Daniel Rodriguez earned a Purple Heart and was awarded the Bronze Star for his military service in Afghanistan several years ago.  Rodriguez moved on to become  a wide receiver at Clemson, walking on to the Tigers football team after serving two tours of duty.  For those of you who aren’t familiar with his heartwarming story, you should be.  For those who are, there’s another chapter to add to it.  In the Tigers’ home finale Saturday, Rodriguez caught the first touchdown of his career, a two-yarder from backup Cole Stoudt less than a minute into the fourth quarter.  The best part?  The touchdown came on a Senior Day that also doubled as Military Appreciation Day.  A bona-fide war hero scores a touchdown on a day that honors the military?  It doesn’t get much better than that.  And, dammit, it got dusty in here when that highlight came across my television screen.  God bless Rodriguez for his service.  And God bless Dabo Swinney for not only giving Rodriguez the opportunity to write this story, but for allowing him to add this on-field chapter to it.

OSU wins, as does OSU
Thanks to a team with the same acronym, Ohio State can stuff the phrase “style points” back in the closet for at least another year.  With Oklahoma State’s win over Baylor, the Buckeyes are now the clear-cut No. 3 team in the country, perched just outside of the Top Two and awaiting a stumble — either on the field or off — by Alabama or Florida State to clear a spot in the BCS title game — provided they remain perfect, of course.  The Bears had been poised to leapfrog the Buckeyes in the BCS rankings with a win over the No. 10 Cowboys, standing just .0013 percentage points behind OSU entering Week 13.  Now, not only has BU lost out on what most certainly would’ve been a No. 3 slotting in this week’s BCS rankings, but they’ve given up control of the conference as well.  That honor, of course, now falls to the “other” OSU.  If the Cowboys can upend Oklahoma in the annual Bedlam matchup Dec. 7, they would claim the Big 12’s automatic BCS bid.  If the Cowboys loses, the winner of the Texas-Baylor game the same weekend — if the Longhorns handle Texas Tech on Thanksgiving and the Bears do the same with TCU two days later — would claim the conference title and the BCS berth.  And if there were a three-way tie?  Oklahoma State, on the strength of head-to-head wins over Baylor and Texas, would win the tiebreaker and the conference title.

Rodney HardrickRose Bowl hot potato
The first nine weeks of the season, Oregon appeared in charge of both the Pac-12 North and No. 2 spot in the country behind Alabama before losing to Stanford in Week 10.  In full control of the North, the Cardinal promptly handed it back to the Ducks a week later with a loss to USC.  A week later?  The hot potato’s back on The Farm… and won’t be leaving.  In a stunning turn of events, Oregon was beaten about the neck and head by Arizona in a 42-16 loss in the desert.  That loss coupled with Stanford’s romp in the Big Game against Cal hands the North division and a spot in the Pac-12 championship game to the Cardinal.  Stanford closed out conference play at 7-2 — they close out the regular season against Notre Dame — while Oregon sits at 6-2.  Even if the Ducks win the Civil War over Oregon State and get to 7-2, the division would go to the Cardinal thanks to the head-to-head tiebreaker.  Stanford also learned its opponent in the conference title game later on in the day: Arizona State, which held off UCLA to wrap-up its first-ever Pac-12 South title.  The two teams met in Week 4, with the Cardinal claiming a 14-point home win.  The Sun Devils have subsequently won seven of eight, with the lone loss coming by three points to Notre Dame.  If ASU beats in-state rival Arizona next weekend, the Sun Devils would host the Cardinal in the Pac-12 title game by virtue of having the best conference record.

Tobacco Road magic continues
Known more for its hardwood success, Duke Saturday continued what’s been a magical and magnificently unexpected season on the gridiron.  After falling behind Wake Forest by 14 early, the Blue Devils fought back for a 28-21 win that maintained their control of the ACC Coastal.  If Duke handles Tobacco Road rival North Carolina next weekend, the Blue Devils will clinch the football program’s first-ever division title and a spot in the conference title game against Florida State.  Already clinched?  Duke’s first nine-win season since Franklin Delano Roosevelt was president in 1941.  If the Blue Devils beat the Tar Heels in the regular-season finale, they would reach double digits in wins for the first time since the school began playing football way back in 1888.  With apologies to Art Briles and Gus Malzahn and a handful of other deserving candidates, David Cutcliffe would get my vote for Coach of the Year.  In fact, in the unnamed COTY award for which I do vote, he will get my nod.  What an outstanding job he’s done.

Andre 2000
As the Heisman stage has seemingly been reset with just two weeks left in the regular/conference championship game season, it’s about time another player from ACC is added to the mix.  In Boston College’s last-second win over Maryland, Andre Williams rushed for 263 yards; over the past three games, Williams has rushed for 897 yards.  That’s the second-best three-game stretch in FBS history, behind only the great Barry Sanders‘ 937 yards.  This hot streak also leaves Williams in hot pursuit of another of Sanders’ records.  Williams is currently averaging 188.5 yards per game, putting him on pace for 2,450 yards on the season; Sanders holds the single-season mark with 2,628 yards, albeit in just 11 games and before stats in postseason games were officially counted by the NCAA.  While Williams would need to average a little over 275 yards in the Eagles’ last two games (regular-season finale, bowl game) to break the official standard, anytime you’re in the same book as Sanders let alone the same paragraph you deserve to be mentioned among the best today’s game has to offer.

Tip of the iceberg?
In Navy’s three-overtime win over San Jose State, Kennan Reynolds rushed for seven touchdowns, breaking by one the single-game FBS record for quarterbacks last set in 2002.  His 26 rushing touchdowns in 2013 are just one shy of the season record of 27, and the Midshipmen still have the regular-season finale against Army plus a bowl game in which Reynolds can shatter that mark.  Reynolds has now rushed for 36 touchdowns in 24 career games; the FBS career mark is 59 by Nebraska’s Eric Crouch (43 games) and Nevada’s Colin Kaepernick (51 games).  The best part about Reynold’s meteoric rise for the service academy and the worst part for future opponents?  Reynolds is just a true sophomore.  Yeah, good luck with that.

No stiff-arm love, but…
For whatever reason — with that reason being he plays in the MAC — Jordan Lynch gets little or no run when it comes to Heisman contenders.  Suffice to say, his stats and his team’s play say he should.  In helping Northern Illinois remain one of six undefeated teams at the FBS level with a division-clinching win over Toledo Wednesday night, the quarterback completed 17-of-22 passes for 202 yards while also rushing for 161 and scoring three touchdowns on the ground.  Lynch has accounted for 38 touchdowns this season — 21 rushing and 17 passing — which leaves him fifth in the country in points responsible for per game at 21.3.  The senior’s also fifth in total offense.  At the very least, Lynch is deserving of a trip to New York in mid-December as he truly is one of the most outstanding players in the country.

THUMBS DOWN

Mike Gundy Art BrilesNovember and the Big 12
In the future, the Big 12 may want to petition to have the month of November scrubbed from the schedule.  Or, at the very least, have November road games involved their unbeatens scrubbed.  On Nov. 18, 2011, 10-0 Oklahoma State went into Ames and lost to Iowa State.  On Nov. 17, 2012, 10-0 Kansas State went into Waco and lost to Baylor.  Now, on Nov. 23 of this year, 9-0 Baylor goes into Stillwater and loses to Oklahoma State.  Three years, three road losses within a week on the calendar that took the Big 12 as a conference out of a shot at a spot in the BCS title game.  That’s simply amazing.  And quite creepy, to be honest.

Lowering the Boom on Muschamp’s tenure
If Will Muschamp somehow survives this, he’ll be the proverbial cat hurtling toward double-digit lives.  Losing to Vanderbilt at home for the first time since 1945 is one thing.  Failing to qualify for a bowl for the first time since 1986 is another.  Posting the football program’s worst record since 1979 is another, as is a six-game losing streak that’s the longest since that same season.  Losing to an average FCS team in The Swamp?  That’s another matter entirely, and a wholly fireable offense if athletic director Jeremy Foley can backtrack from his infamous “thousand-percent” support stance less than a week ago.  Combining everything leading up to and including the loss to Georgia Southern, it’s incomprehensible that a program of UF’s stature would allow whatever it is that’s going on with Muschamp’s Gators to continue on into the 2014 season.  Better to admit the mistake now rather than allowing it to cost you another season.  Just ask Tennessee what that does for you.

Lukewarm Hoke seat?
“Michigan is lackluster in a horrid sense.”  Lather, rinse, repeat.  What’s quickly becoming a lost season for the Wolverines has found a way to dig a new rock-bottom, with UM able to muster just 158 yards of offense in a 24-21 loss to Iowa — and that was with four Hawkeye turnovers attempting to aid the cause.  Averaging 2.1 yards a carry won’t cut it against fair-to-middlin’ Iowa, and it certainly won’t cut it in The Game against Ohio State next Saturday.  I don’t know what needs to be done about UM’s Pop Warner offense; I do know, though, that something must be done.  Losing three of their last five games the way they have screams for coaching heads to roll, especially given the fact that the offense looks light years away from even approaching respectable.  Among the myriad coaching decisions that will be made over the next month or so, the one in Ann Arbor — head, offensive or otherwise — will be among the more fascinating to watch.

John Defense > Johnny Football
If Johnny Manziel were forced to play every game against a John Chavis-coached defense, we never would’ve been able to refer to the Texas A&M quarterback as “the reigning Heisman Trophy winner.”  Manziel’s two worst games as an Aggie read like a quarterbacking horror story: a completion percentage of just over 46 percent, with just one touchdown pass versus five interceptions.  Manziel’s legs were mitigated in those two games as well, with the All-American averaging just 2.8 yards on 29 carries and being shut out of the end zone.  Both of those games came against LSU, including last night’s 34-10 humbling at the hands of Chavis and the Tigers defense.  Manziel’s performance — completing 39 percent of his passes and tossing two picks — in the loss likely put a dent in his hopes for back-to-back Heismans, hopes that had been buoyed by Jameis Winston‘s off-field situation.

Mercy rule
How bad was North Carolina’s 80-20 evisceration of Old Dominion?  Here’s the tweet the former sent out prior to the start of the fourth quarter, explaining how the final period would play out:

I don’t care how bad you’re getting beat, ODU should be embarrassed for either agreeing to a shorter quarter or suggesting it in the first place.  Either way, it was the wrong message to send to the team, regardless of how in over their head they may have been.

TOP 25 TOO-CLOSE-FOR-COMFORT
How ranked teams endured close shaves vs. unranked opponents

— No. 21 Louisville 24, Memphis 17: The Cardinals were cruising, leading the Tigers 24-7, before two fourth-quarter touchdowns turned a comfortable win into one that was closer than it should’ve been.

— No. 22 Oklahoma 41, Kansas State 31:  Up just 27-24 entering the fourth quarter, the Sooners used a pair of touchdowns just 1:08 apart to put enough distance between themselves and the upset-minded Wildcats to hand Bob Stoops a record-setting win.

CFT TOP FIVE
A snapshot look at how my ballot would look Sunday if I, ya know, had a real vote instead of a measly and meaningless preseason poll.

1. Florida State — The damage from the past seven games: Seminoles 402, Opponents 65.  I’d say that’s borderline criminal, but that might not be the best choice of words at the moment. (Last week: No. 1)
Next up: vs. Idaho

2. Alabama — With the final scrimmage out of the way, the stage is officially set for the Mother of All Iron Bowls. All that’s on the line for the Tide is the West’s slot in the SEC championship game, a continued inside track to the BCS title game and state bragging rights for another year.  Nothing major.  (Last week: No. 2)
Next up:

Braxton Miller3. Ohio State — Depending on how things play out the next two weekends, there may not have been a bigger winner in Week 13 than the Buckeyes.  OSU, OSU thanks you. (Last week: No. 3)
Next up: 

4. Missouri — Of the Tigers’ 10 wins, every single one of them has come by at least 14 points.  Their lone loss was by three points in double overtime to No. 12 South Carolina.  With one more win, Mizzou will achieve something fellow SEC newcomer and media darling Texas A&M hasn’t: a spot in the conference championship game. (Last week: No. 5)
Next up:

5. Oklahoma State — You could stump for Auburn or Clemson or Michigan State in this spot and would hear nary a peep from me.  When a team did what the Cowboys did Saturday night, holding the most prolific offense in college football history to 17 points — Baylor came in averaging just over 61 per game — while scoring 49 of their own, that’s enough for me.  Your mileage, of course, may vary. (Last week: unranked)
Next up:

(Dropped out: No. 4 Baylor)

MY HEISMAN BALLOT
If I actually had a Heisman vote, this is what my ballot would look like if it were submitted after Week 13:

1. Jameis Winston, quarterback, Florida State
2. Aaron Donald, defensive tackle, Pittsburgh
3. Andre Williams, running back, Boston College

(Writer’s note: it was tough leaving off players like Northern Illinois’ Jordan Lynch, Fresno State’s Derek Carr and Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel, which is why I don’t envy the job the actual voters have.  At all.)

HE SAID IT
“Ask me a different question.” — Michigan State head coach Mark Dantonio upon being asked by an ESPN sideline reporter if his Spartans had mismanaged the clock at the end of the first half of their game against Northwestern.

HE SAID IT, THE SEQUEL
“It’s embarrassing. … It’s all disappointing.” — Will Muschamp following Florida’s laughable home loss to FCS-level Georgia Southern.

HE SAID IT, THE THREEQUEL
“We got punched in the mouth today and it wasn’t fun.” — Johnny Manziel following Texas A&M’s 34-point loss to LSU.

HE SAID IT, BONUS EDITION
“I’m expecting That Team Up North to bring their A game, and we are certainly going to bring ours. It is going to be an exciting game, my last against them. I’m looking forward to it.” — Ohio State running back Carlos Hyde, on The Game next Saturday against Michigan.

PHOTO/GIF OF THE DAY
Lee Corso.  Giant mascot head.  Firearms of multiple calibers.  Firing said firearms and nearly deafening Kirk Herbstreit.  Need I say more?

Lee Corso Firearms

Lee Corso Firearm 2

The only thing keeping this from being the ultimate headgear selection?  Corso dropping a muffled f-bomb on live TV.

SAY WHAT?
Some quick hits, Larry King-style: A pair of ACC schools, Florida State and North Carolina, set school single-game records by scoring 80 points apiece in blowout wins Saturday… Texas A&M’s four SEC losses the past two seasons had come by a combined total of 19 points; the Aggies lost by 24 to LSU Saturday afternoon… Stanford’s 63-13 win over Cal in the Big Game was the most lopsided Cardinal victory ever in the rivalry, surpassing the 41-0 drubbing in 1930…Three of the five double-digit win seasons Michigan State has recorded in its history have come with Mark Dantonio as head coach… Oregon’s 42-16 loss to Arizona was the Ducks’ worst since 2008, a 44-10 loss to USC… Vanderbilt has beaten Tennessee in back-to-back seasons for the first time since 1925-26… Baylor has not beaten Oklahoma State in Stillwater since 1939 and has not beaten a ranked team on the road since 1991 (Arkansas)… Illinois snapped its 20-game Big Ten losing streak against Purdue, picking up its first conference win since Oct. 8, 2011… Kansas, which halted its 27-game Big 12 streak last week, extended its road losing streak to 24 with the loss to Iowa State; the Jayhawks haven’t won on the road since beating UTEP in 2009.

TRUE STORY
Bob Stoops recorded his 158th career win to take sole possession of the all-time Oklahoma coaching wins record, surpassing the great Barry Switzer.  The former is in his 15th season (197 games) at OU, while the latter set the original mark during his 16 seasons (190 games) in Norman.

FOR STATISTICAL PURPOSES ONLYBrett Smith

— In a weekend full of stat-stuffing performances, Brett Smith‘s might’ve been the stuffiest.  All the Wyoming quarterback did was pass for 498 yards and run for another 142 in a wild 59-56 win over Hawaii, a staggering total of 640 yards of offense.  And, for good measure, Smith accounted for eight touchdowns: seven passing, one rushing.  The offensive yards and touchdowns, suffice to say, set school records.

Derek Carr passed for 527 yards (his high-water mark is 536, set last year) and set a career-high with seven touchdown passes as Fresno State remained unbeaten with a 41-point win over New Mexico.  It was the 18th time in his career he’s topped 300 yards in a single game and the ninth time he’s gone over 400.

— Three Washington running backs topped 100 yards rushing as the Huskies rushed for 530 yards in the 69-27 romp over reeling Oregon State: Bishop Sankey (23-179-3), Deontae Cooper (11-166-2) and Dwayne Washington (11-141-2).  UW averaged 9.1 yards per run on its 58 carries.

—  Washington State’s Connor Halliday threw for 488 yards and four touchdowns as Wazzu beat Utah 49-37 to become bowl-eligible for the first time since 2006.

— North Carolina’s Marquise Williams passed for 409 yards and ran for another 60, setting a school single-game record for most yards of total offense, as the Tar Heels dropped Old Dominion 80-20.  Williams gained just 44 of his 469 yards after the halftime.

Clint Chelf threw for 370 yards and three touchdowns as Oklahoma State upset Baylor and grabbed control of the Big 12 race.  Chelf added a rushing touchdown for good measure as well.

— The first four times Stanford’s Ty Montgomery touched the ball on a play from scrimmage, he scored: three receiving touchdowns and one rushing.  The wide receiver finished the win over Cal with five touchdowns as he added another receiving score.

— Arizona running back Ka’Deem Carey, another one I could’ve easily added to my Heisman list, ran for 206 yards and four touchdowns as the Wildcats shocked Oregon 42-16.

— Brennan Clay rushed for a career-high 200 yards and two touchdowns as Oklahoma pulled away from Kansas State.  The 200 yards were the most by an OU back since DeMarco Murray‘s 208 yards in September of 2010.  Speaking of the first two quarters of that game…

Tyler Lockett— In the first half alone, Kansas State’s Tyler Lockett had six receptions for 206 yards and three touchdowns.  Those scoring receptions went for 48, 30 and 90 yards as the Sooners busted out the highly-controversial “coverage optional” defense.  Lockett finished the game with 440 all-purpose yards: 278 receiving, 162 on kickoff returns.

— Speaking of first halves, Tajh Boyd tossed five touchdown passes in the first two quarters of Clemson’s scrimmage vs. Citadel.  Boyd played into the third quarter, mainly handing the ball off, of what was the senior’s final home game of his prolific Tigers career.  With 102 touchdown passes for his career, Boyd became the 18th player in NCAA history to reach the century mark and the first player in ACC history to do so.

— Iowa’s game against Michigan set a record for coldest kickoff temperature in the program’s history: 18 degrees, according to the Des Moines Register.  The previous low-temp mark was 23 degrees for a Nov. 20, 1926, game against Northwestern.

— With 440 yards passing and five touchdowns in San Jose State’s triple-overtime loss to Navy, David Fales set school career records for passing yards (Adam Tafralis, 7,548) and touchdowns (Steve Clarkson, 56).  He came into the game needing 154 yards to break the former mark and two touchdowns to break the latter.

Blake Bortles passed for 335 yards as UCF moved one step closer to clinching both the AAC title and the conference’s automatic BCS berth with the Thursday night win over Rutgers.  If the Knights beat USF next Friday, UCF will stake claim to its first BCS bowl regardless of what transpires in the regular-season finale against SMU Dec. 7.

Tim Cornett rushed for a career-high 220 yards as UNLV became bowl-eligible for the first time since 2000 with the win over Air Force.  Cornett’s previous career-high was 179 in a late-September game against New Mexico.

Dri Archer rushed for a season-high 138 yards and three touchdowns — on just 15 carries –in Kent State’s win over Ohio.

—  In winless Miami of Ohio’s loss to Buffalo, Austin Gearing completed 5-of-19 passes for 65 yards, no touchdowns and an interception for a pass efficiency rating of 44.5.

Report: Ex-Illini coach Tim Beckman now a volunteer assistant at UNC

CHAMPAIGN, IL - SEPTEMBER 20: Head coach Tim Beckman of the Illinois Fighting Illini protests a call to the officials during the game against the Texas State Bobcats at Memorial Stadium on September 20, 2014 in Champaign, Illinois.  (Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images)
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This one might not go over too well with some/most segments of the North Carolina fan base.

According to a report overnight from the Champaign News-Gazette, former Illinois head coach Tim Beckman has been added to Larry Fedora‘s UNC football staff as a volunteer assistant coach.  Beckman and Fedora have a previous working relationship, having been on the same Oklahoma State staff in 2007.

The Tar Heels have thus far declined to comment publicly on Beckman’s reported addition, and likely for good reason.

Nearly one year ago to the day, Beckman was fired as the head coach at Illinois amidst allegations of mistreatment of players, specifically those who were injured.  Those allegations led to an independent investigation initiated by the university.

The firing came more than three months after a former player accused the coach of “misuse and abuse of power,” while another stated shortly thereafter that Beckman “takes the cake as the worst coach I ever met.”  Athletic director Mike Thomas initially supported Beckman, but the preliminary results of an external review into the accusations forced Thomas into pulling the trigger.

Saying he was “shocked and disappointed,” Beckman labeled the allegations “totally false” in a post-dismissal statement. “I firmly deny the implications in Mike’s statements that I took any action that was not in the best interests of the health, safety and well-being of my players,” the coach stated, adding, “The health and well-being of our student-athletes is of paramount importance.”

To add another layer to this development?  North Carolina and Illinois will face each other Sept. 10 this year in Champaign.  It’s unknown if Beckman will be a part of UNC’s traveling party.

CFT 2016 Preseason Previews: Coaching Hot Seat

Hot Seats
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Like death and taxes, another certainty in life is that, somewhere, a college coach’s backside is feeling a little toasty.

Such is the case as we get set to embark on a sparkling new football season, with a handful of coaches feeling the heat from folks off the field for their collective failures on it. Fair or not, it’s a fact of life in the coaching profession: win or you’re gone, ofttimes with a multi-million buyout serving as a very lucrative parachute.

So, just who is possibly looking at a spot in the coaching unemployment line at season’s end, or sooner? Recent history suggests that anywhere from 15 to upwards of 25 of the nearly 130 head coaches who are on the FBS sidelines when the season begins won’t be there when the calendar flips to 2017.

Last year around this time, our hot seat preview listed six head coaches feeling the heat; just one of the six survived the 2015 season.  The lone exception?  Indiana’s Kevin Wilson.

Below are but a few of the coaches who could be entering a make-or-break season at their respective schools, in order from hottest to slightly less hot.

KEVIN SUMLIN, TEXAS A&M
2015 RECORD: 8-5 overall, 4-4 in SEC
OVERALL RECORD: 36-16, 17-15
Off the field, it’s been an embarrassing last few months for the university in general and the A&M football program specifically.  Two of Sumlin’s assistants were suspended after getting their Beavis & Butthead on at a women’s football clinic, leaving A&M’s president “dismayed, disappointed, angry” over their sexist presentation  and allowing a former head coach at rival Texas to crow he’s “never lost a women’s clinic.”  Another Sumlin assistant made an ass of himself with a social media hissy fit befitting a middle schooler when a recruit had the audacity to decommit from the Aggies.  In February, former A&M quarterback Kyle Allen ripped the football program’s post-Johnny Football culture.  While not on Sumlin’s watch, it wasn’t a good look for the program when a former football trainer claimed in January that coaches pressured him to rush injured players back onto the field.

On the field is where Sumlin is really feeling the heat, though.  In 2012, the first season for both Sumlin in College Station and the Aggies in the SEC, A&M went 11-2 overall and 6-2 in conference play.  Since then, they’ve gone 25-14 overall and, more importantly, just 11-13 in the SEC.

Add it all up, and given the hyper-competitive nature of the SEC West, Sumlin sits on one of the hottest seats in the country.  He does have two potential lifelines.  One, win, and win big, in 2016.  Secondly, and arguably most importantly, his contract, which runs through 2019 and averages in excess of $5 million annually, is fully guaranteed if he’s fired without cause.  That, more than anything, might buy him another season if the on-field struggles — and off-field embarrassments — continue.

CHARLIE STRONG, TEXAS
2015 RECORD: 5-7 overall, 4-5 in Big 12
OVERALL RECORD: 11-14, 9-9
While the hot seat of Strong’s counterpart at a former rival consists of on- and off-the-field issues, the Longhorns’ sidelines boss’ issues rest solely between the lines on game days.  In two seasons with the Longhorns, Strong has gone an unacceptable 11-14 overall and 9-9 in Big 12 play, the worst two-year start for a UT head coach in nearly 80 years.  At Iowa State, those numbers would get you a parade through downtown Ames; at UT, it gets you on the express lane toward the unemployment line.

The good news for Strong is that he’s recruited well enough (seventh in 2016, 10th in 2015, 16th in 2014) that the talent is there to compete in the conference.  Additionally, three of their toughest games in 2016, Baylor, Notre Dame and TCU, will be played in Austin.  Strong has to hope that the combination of a new offensive coordinator (Sterlin Gilbert) and a promising freshman quarterback (Shane Buechele) can revitalize a stagnant offense and show promise for the future — and the defense can sustain its recent level of performance.

If the ‘Horns can’t get to at least eight wins?  It may be three seasons and you’re out for Strong of a handful of boosters get their way.

DARRELL HAZELL, PURDUE
2015 RECORD: 2-10 overall, 1-7 in Big Ten
OVERALL RECORD: 6-30, 2-22
Simply put, Hazell seemingly needs to qualify for a bowl in order to get a fifth season in West Lafayette, and the raw numbers show exactly why.

Of the 30 games the Boilermakers have played in three years under Hazell, they’ve lost 24 of them.  Half of Hazell’s wins during his time at the school have come against FCS programs; in other words, he has a winning percentage of .100 against teams that play at the FBS level.  Think about that number for a second, and let it sink in, and it makes you truly wonder how he made it to the 2016 season to begin with — especially when you consider he has an even-worse .090 winning percentage in conference play.  And it’s not like they’re competitive in the league, either.

In B1G play, Hazell has lost 22 games by nearly 20 points per game (19.8).  17 of those losses were by two touchdowns or more, with exactly half of the losses, 11, coming by 20 or more points.  And the two wins?  By 10 over Nebraska last year, by 11 over Illinois the year before.

It was thought that Hazell’s contract played a role in his getting a fourth season.  If this one’s anything like the previous three, there’s little doubt the athletic department will eat the remaining money owed to Hazell and move on to another head coach.

GUS MALZAHN, AUBURN
2015 RECORD: 7-6 overall, 2-6 in SEC
OVERALL RECORD: 27-13, 13-11
It’d be hard to get off to a much better start than Malzahn did in 2013.  All The Tigers did was run out to a 12-1 record and SEC title before losing to Florida State in the BCS championship game.  Since then?  A steady decline — and a precipitous one when it comes to conference play.

The Tigers dipped to 8-5 in 2014, and then dipped even further the following season to 7-6.  Most worrisome for those in and around the athletic department would have to be a 4-4 record in the SEC in 2014 that turned into 2-6 last season.  In fact, since beating Ole Miss in early November of 2014, Auburn has gone a miserable 2-9 in SEC games.  That’s disappointing for just about any school in the conference.  For a school that resides in the same state as a program that’s won four of the last seven national championships?  It’s downright unacceptable.

The SEC West is the most unforgiving of coaching stops.  If Malzahn doesn’t turn it around sooner rather than later, he will, fair or not, find himself on the outside of the conference looking in.

DANA HOLGORSEN, WEST VIRGINIA
2015 RECORD: 8-5 overall, 4-5 in Big 12
OVERALL RECORD: 36-28, 20-23
An eight-win season staved off the wolves for the moment, but 2016 might be a make-or-break season for Holgorsen in Morgantown.  That was never more evident than when contract talks on an extension between the two sides stalled earlier this year, leaving the coach with just one more year on his contract after this season.

Holgorsen is 35-28 in five seasons with the Mountaineers. Against Big 12 foes, however, Holgorsen is just 15-21.  Since going 10-3 in the final season in the Big East in 2011, WVU is a mere 26-25 the last four seasons. The good news for Holgorsen is that there’s some momentum from a year ago on which to build, with the Mountaineers winning five of their last six games coming off a four-game losing streak against ranked conference teams.  The lone loss in that stretch was a one-point setback at Kansas State, and also included the first bowl win since Holgorsen’s first season.

As rumors swirled surrounding Holgorsen’s future in Morgantown, athletic director Shane Lyons announced back in December that the head coach would return.  As it appears there will be no resolution to the contract issue before the new season kicks off, expect the speculation on Holgorsen’s future to ramp up exponentially if the Mountaineers struggle coming out of the 2016 gate.

MARK STOOPS, KENTUCKY
2015 RECORD: 5-7 overall, 2-6 in SEC
OVERALL RECORD: 12-24, 4-20
It might be a year early to put Stoops on this list, but it shouldn’t be.

At least when it comes to recruiting, Stoops has flamed what passions for football in Lexington exists.  Prior to Stoops’ arrival, UK had just two recruiting classes — 2006 (No. 36) and 2009 (No. 41) — that finished inside the Top 50 nationally since 2002.  Since then, the Wildcats have racked up classes that ranked 34th (2016), 38th (2015), 22nd (2014) and 34th (2013).  That relative recruiting success has, thus far, failed miserably to translate into on-field success, though.

A 2-10 first season with the Wildcats gave way to a 5-7 2014 season, a mark that led to rampant enthusiasm over the future of the football program.  That push forward stalled with yet another 5-7 season in 2015.  Perhaps most distressing to followers of the team is the 4-20 mark in SEC play, a sign that the team is not even remotely ready to compete even in the weaker East Division.

If UK is fine with a .500-ish program that creates some recruiting buzz every once in a while, then Stoops might be their man.  If they’re looking to get to the next level?  2016 may portend whether Stoops can or can’t be that man.  Stoops is signed through the 2019 season, but money, at least in the SEC, should be no object when it comes to the football program.

Houston adds Colorado’s fourth-leading 2015 rusher to roster

BOULDER, CO - NOVEMBER 13:  Running back Patrick Carr #1 of the Colorado Buffaloes runs for a first down past linebacker Porter Gustin #45 of the USC Trojans and defensive tackle Delvon Simmons #52 during the third quarter at Folsom Field on November 13, 2015 in Boulder, Colorado. The Trojans defeated the Buffaloes 27-24. (Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images)
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In early July, Patrick Carr opted to transfer from Colorado.  Nearly two months later, he has a new college football home.

According to Joseph Duarte of the Houston Chronicle, Carr has been added to Houston’s roster.  The running back, at least for the 2016 season, will be a walk-on to the program.

Carr will also spend this season on the sidelines as he will be forced to sit out the season to satisfy NCAA transfer bylaws,.  Then, beginning in 2017, he’ll have three years of eligibility to use the next three seasons.

A three-star 2015 signee, Carr was rated as the No. 49 back in the country by 247sports.com.

As a true freshman last season, Carr was fourth on the Buffaloes with 272 yards rushing on 66 carries.  He also added 52 yards on five receptions.

A statement from CU head coach Mike MacIntyre at the time of his transfer said that “Patrick is a fine young man who needs to move closer to home back in Texas for family reasons.” He was the No. 84 player at any position in the state of Texas coming out of The Woodlands.

Cory Butler-Byrd ‘partially reinstated’ by Utah

SALT LAKE CITY, UT - OCTOBER 10: Wide receiver Trevor Davis #9 of the California Golden Bears catches a touchdown pass in front of Cory Butler-Byrd #16 of the Utah Utes during their game at Rice-Eccles Stadium on October 10, 2015 in Salt Lake City, Utah. (Photo by Gene Sweeney Jr./Getty Images)
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And Cory Butler-Byrd‘s trek out of Kyle Whittingham‘s doghouse has officially commenced in earnest.

Monday, the Utah wide receiver pleaded guilty as part of a plea deal in connection to an incident last month in which he allegedly damaged police property.  The criminal mischief charge will be dismissed if he, among other stipulations, stays clean for the next year.

Butler-Byrd had been indefinitely suspended from the program since the initial incident.  Tuesday, the football program announced in a press release that “Whittingham has reinstated Cory Butler-Byrd to the team for practice and other team activities, effective immediately.”  However, he remains indefinitely suspended from participating in games.

“There is no timetable for his potential return to competition and he will not be available to the media for comment this season,” the release added.

After transferring to the Utes from the junior college ranks, Butler-Byrd began his FBS career as a cornerback.  He began the transition to receiver during the 2015 season, then exited spring practice this year as the starter as a slot receiver for the Utes.

Butler-Byrd started five games last season as a corner/receiver (three at CB, two at WR), intercepting three passes and catching one pass for a 54-yard touchdown.  He also returned eight kicks for 233 yards and a touchdown.