Mack Brown

The complicated case of Mack Brown’s legacy

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For as much success Mack Brown led Texas football to during his tenure in Austin, the signs of decline were inevitably too obvious to overlook. As college football continues to evolve into a new era, Texas has a football program that has been falling behind in the Big 12, let alone as a national power. Brown may have won plenty of games, but if Texas was to awake from a slumber, a change was in dire need.

On Saturday evening Brown officially announced his resignation from the program. It was a change many saw coming from miles away back in September, if not before then, but seemed to be put on pause following news Friday night coming out of the banquet that Brown would remain the head coach. Alabama signing Nick Saban to a contract extension added a plot twist to the theme of the week sending the top coach in college football to Austin to lead Texas back to the top. But less than 24 hours later, the tune has changed, and Texas is now back in the hunt for a coach to replace Brown.

Whoever it is that steps in to the role of head coach at Texas will have some big shoes to fill. While the end of the Mack Brown Era in Austin comes on a sour note, missing out on a top 25 ranking to end the season three out of the last four years, Brown did plenty of solid work to get Texas to be a program that sees eight and nine-win seasons as “not good enough.”

From 1980 through 1996, Texas had just four seasons with 10 or more wins. Brown may have taken over at a time when schedules were expanding, but Brown was quick to raise the bar after coming over from North Carolina. In each of Brown’s first three seasons Texas ended the season with nine wins. The bar was not quite set, but the tone was established. Texas was going to be a dominant force in college football.

Six Big 12 South titles, but just two Big 12 titles would come for Brown and Texas. Nine straight seasons with at least 10 wins would follow, with six Big 12 South titles and a pair of conference championships to show for it. Each time Brown led Texas to the Big 12 championship it received a shot at a BCS title. Texas won one of them, with Vince Young helping Brown capture a BCS Championship against USC in one of the best games of the BCS Era.

The 2005 season would end up being the high point of Brown’s coaching career. He would get another crack at it all a few years later, but Alabama was emerging as the true national power in college football under Nick Saban and an injury to Colt McCoy early on would prove to be too much to overcome against a rising Tide.

Much of the success in Brown’s Texas career can be linked to his BCS Championship Game quarterbacks, Young and McCoy. Some might suggest Brown was only as successful as he was because of those two players. That is somewhat silly to honestly consider, but it may not be a coincidence that the most successful stretch of Texas football came with those two under center. There was always much more to those Texas teams, but Young and McCoy were nice luxuries to have on the roster. As it would end up becoming a joke to some, it was Brown’s misses on certain quarterbacks that suggested Brown was no longer on top of his recruiting game.

Robert Griffin III went to Baylor instead of Texas. Johnny Manziel ended up at Texas A&M. Jameis Winston wound up at Florida State. All three Heisman Trophy winning quarterbacks went somewhere other than Texas, but they also did not end up at abut 120 other schools as well, so the idea that Brown whiffed on these three sometimes gets exaggerated.

Some may say the game passed Brown by or he lost the ability to coach in today’s game. In part that may be true. Texas began to have a defense that some teams could expose. The offense lacked enough playmakers and physicality to compete with the top programs. Few programs put that on display the way Oklahoma did in more recent years.

It is not going to take too much for the right coach to turn things around at Texas. The resources are there. The recruiting soil is fertile. Texas can, and should, be a major player in college football’s hierarchy. Brown was no longer the guy to lead Texas in to the College Football Playoff Era. A new leader was needed to make an impact now. But the reason the expectations should be so high in Texas is because Brown raised the bar.

Oklahoma QB Baker Mayfield takes home second straight Burlsworth Award

NORMAN, OK - SEPTEMBER 5: Quarterback Baker Mayfield #6 of the Oklahoma Sooners looks to throw against the Akron Zips September 5, 2015 at Gaylord Family-Oklahoma Memorial Stadium in Norman, Oklahoma. Oklahoma defeated Akron 41-3.(Photo by Brett Deering/Getty Images)
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For the second straight season, Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield has been named the recipient of the Burlsworth Award. Mayfield is now the first player to win the award two times.

The award is given to college football’s top player who began his career as a walk-on player. Mayfield was originally a walk-on player at Texas Tech before eventually transferring to Oklahoma, where he has emerged as a Heisman Trophy candidate and led the Sooners to two consecutive Big 12 championships and one appearance in the College Football Playoff.

Mayfield beat out Washington State quarterback Luke Falk and Northwestern wide receiver Austin Carr for the award. Mayfield will also have a chance to add one more Burlsworth Award to his name next season, as the Sooners passer has already said he will return to Oklahoma for the 2017 season.

The old BCS computers would have served you the same College Football Playoff lineup

NEW ORLEANS, LA - JANUARY 03:  The official Bowl Championship Series logo is seen painted on the turf in the end zone as the Virginia Tech Hokies play against the Michigan Wolverines during the Allstate Sugar Bowl at Mercedes-Benz Superdome on January 3, 2012 in New Orleans, Louisiana.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
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If there is one common criticism of the College Football Playoff model it is that it is left up to humans to determine who should play for the national championship. Bias and allegiances can interfere with the decision-making, unless you believe there really is no bias within the board room when the committee gets together in Dallas every week. Some would prefer the playoff model use some sort of computer system, perhaps one similar to the makeup of the old BCS computer. Well, the BCS computers would have come to the same conclusion for the College Football Playoff if it was used.

The seeding may have been slightly different, with Ohio State staying ahead of Clemson, but the matchups would have been the same as this year’s playoff. Alabama would be the top seed and face Pac-12 champion Washington and Ohio State would have faced Clemson. The Buckeyes would have been the “home” team, although the 2-3 matchup really means nothing other than who gets to decide what uniform color to wear and which team calls heads or tails at the coin flip. Of course, under the old BCS model, there would be just two teams selected to play for the national championship, and that would paired the last two national champions against each other; Alabama and Ohio State. Clemson was the second-ranked team in the final College Football Playoff ranking, with Ohio state finishing third.

It is also worth recognizing the BCS computers would also have awarded Western Michigan the highest-ranking among Group of Five schools, thus sending them to the Cotton Bowl. Western Michigan also would have qualified for a spot in the BCS lineup with the No. 12 ranking in the computer model. Finishing in the top 12 qualified the champion from either Conference USA, the MAC, Mountain West Conference or the Sun Belt for an automatic BCS berth.

Forever a Tiger, LSU RB Leonard Fournette declares for NFL Draft

FAYETTEVILLE, AR - NOVEMBER 12:  Leonard Fournette #7 of the LSU Tigers runs the ball during a game against the Arkansas Razorbacks at Razorback Stadium on November 12, 2016 in Fayetteville, Arkansas.  The Tigers defeated the Razorbacks 38-10.  (Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)
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In one of the least surprising announcements from the world of college football, LSU running back Leonard Fournette has announced he will be heading to the NFL in 2017. Fournette announced with a statement on Twitter he will play in LSU’s bowl game matchup against Louisville and then begin preparing for the NFL.

In his statement, Fournette said he chose to make this decision now as a way to avoid potential distractions leading up to LSU’s Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl appearance.

Fournette has rushed for 843 yards and eight touchdowns this season in just seven games. Injuries got in the way of Fournette’s big hopes for the 2016 season after rushing for 1,953 yards and 22 touchdowns a year ago. Fournette was among the preseason Heisman Trophy favorites. Fournette was a First-Team All-SEC pick in 2015 and a consensus All-American. could the New Orleans native be drafted by the New Orleans Saints? That would be something.

He will now be largely considered one of the top potential draft picks in the 2017 NFL Draft, even though he will head to the NFL coming off some injury concerns and the stock for running backs at the next level has trended downward.

That said, there are going to be some fantastic running backs out there to draft next spring. Fournette joins a running back class that includes Dalvin Cook, Christian McCaffrey, and D'Onta Foreman.

The 10 best and 10 worst bowl matchups, as ranked by F/+

EL PASO, TX - DECEMBER 30:  The Miami Hurricanes kick off to the Notre Dame Fighting Irish at Sun Bowl on December 30, 2010 in El Paso, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
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2016’s most even bowl matchup will happen in El Paso, Texas, while the most lopsided game will take place in Boise, Idaho.

Those on-paper analyses are based on the end-of-the-season F/+ rankings, which are explained here on Football Outsiders. Personally, they’re a go-to for getting a rough idea of how good a certain team is, so why not use them to preview the best and worst bowl matchups?

Here are the 10 best games based on how close the two participants’ F/+ rankings are:

Sun Bowl (+1): No. 25 Stanford vs. No. 26 UNC
Fiesta Bowl (+2): No. 2 Ohio State vs. No. 4 Clemson
Rose Bowl (+2): No. 7 USC vs. No. 9 Penn State
Sugar Bowl (+2): No. 8 Auburn vs. No. 10 Oklahoma
Armed Forces Bowl (+2): No. 51 Louisiana Tech vs. No. 53 Navy

Peach Bowl (+4): No. 1 Alabama vs. No. 5 Washington
Quick Lane Bowl (+4): No. 93 Boston College vs. No. 97 Maryland
New Mexico Bowl (+5): No. 81 New Mexico vs. No. 86 UT-San Antonio
Citrus Bowl (+6): No. 5 LSU vs. No. 11 Louisville
Cotton Bowl (+10): No. 12 Wisconsin vs. No. 22 Western Michigan

Obviously, the two College Football Playoff games (Ohio State-Clemson, Alabama-Washington) are among the closest, but it’s good to see three of the four other New Year’s Six bowls in here as well. The Orange Bowl (No. 2 Michigan vs. No. 13 Florida State) just barely missed the cut.

As for the 10 biggest mismatches:

Famous Idaho Potato Bowl (+71): No. 29 Colorado State vs. No. 100 Idaho
Birmingham Bowl (+61): No. 33 South Florida vs. No. 94 South Carolina
Military Bowl (+54): No. 18 Temple vs. No. 72 Wake Forest
Cactus Bowl (+52): No. 14 Boise State vs. No. 66 Baylor
Miami Beach Bowl (+45): No. 44 Tulsa vs. No. 89 Central Michigan

Arizona Bowl (+38): No. 49 Air Force vs. No. 87 South Alabama
Las Vegas Bowl (+30): No. 20 Houston vs. No. 50 San Diego State
Poinsettia Bowl (+27): No. 30 BYU vs. No. 57 Wyoming
Heart of Dallas Bowl (+26): No. 85 Army vs. No. 111 North Texas
Russell Athletic Bowl (+25): No. 15 Miami vs. No. 40 West Virginia

It’s not surprising three of these games involve top-level Group of Five teams (South Florida, Temple, Boise State) playing 6-6 Power Five teams (South Carolina, Wake Forest, Baylor), given that’s where a lot of bowl mismatches can take place. It was a little surprising to see the gulf between Houston and San Diego State be so significant, though.

But while these matchups may either be close or lopsided, always remember the ironclad rule of bowl season: Weird stuff is gonna happen. One team may not care while the other does, one team may not deal with the elements (especially in the northern bowls) as well as the other, or one team may come in with something to prove while the other team doesn’t. The best-case scenario for us college football fans is that every game is interesting and worth watching, no matter what the on-paper numbers may say.