AP Photo/The Orange County Register, Bill Alkofer

BCS Championship coaches took different routes to Pasadena

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Jimbo Fisher and Gus Malzahn were each hired to do one thing; restore the pride in their respective programs. Each wasted little time in building a national championship contender, although they took different paths to getting to Pasadena, California for the chance to bring their programs t the top of the college football world.

Fisher is a branch off of the Nick Saban coaching tree. He served as the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at LSU under the current Alabama head coach, but he remained in Baton Rouge when Saban decided to answer a call from the NFL’s Miami Dolphins. Now under Les Miles, Fisher made a name for himself as LSU’s offensive guru and helping to make quarterback JaMarcus Russell a top NFL draft pick (kindly forget how that all played out). As Fisher built up his resume at LSU, it was becoming clear Fisher was going to be given a chance to serve as head coach one day.

That path to becoming a head coach hit a road block in 2006. Fisher interviewed for an opening at the UAB, but his contract offer was vetoed by the University of Alabama System Board of Trustees. Saban, now back in the SEC after flaking out with the Dolphins, wanted to bring Fisher back on to his staff at Alabama. Fisher instead took an offer from Florida State to perform the same coaching duties, but this was more than a simple lateral move. Florida State went the extra yard to name Fisher the coach-in-waiting under Bobby Bowden. Bowden announced his resignation at the end fo the 2009 season. Fisher got to work right away by re-energizing a sleeping giant of a program. Fisher’s leadership in recruiting efforts showed immediate results and Florida State started building the foundation for long-term dominance in the ACC that had long been absent in Tallahassee.

The results of that first recruiting class under Fisher will now get a chance to demonstrate how far the program has come. Six starters for the Seminoles on Monday night were a part of the first recruiting class under Fisher as head coach. that includes strong safety Terrence Brooks, linebackers Christian Jones and Telvin Smith as well as wide receiver Kenny Shaw and fullback Chad Abram.

In Fisher’s first year on the job at Florida State, Auburn was making a run for the first BCS championship in school history. Gene Chizik had surprised many by building a championship caliber program at Auburn, but the biggest asset on the sidelines was perceived to be offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn, who had served his time as a high school coach and college assistant coach at multiple stops. Malzahn quickly became a hot commodity as Cam Newton was playing his way to a Heisman Trophy in Malzahn’s offensive system. During that championship season for Auburn, Malzahn was named the top assistant coach in college football with the Broyles Award. Now a highly attractive option as a head coach, Auburn offered Malzahn a nice raise to keep him around.

Over time it was clear Malzahn was not going to be sticking around for long as an assistant coach. Whether it was a conflict of power or just a matter of getting out and giving head coaching a shot, Malzahn jumped at the opportunity to coach Arkansas State in 2012. It worked out extremely well for Malzahn, leading the Red Wolves to a  9-3 record and a Sun Belt Conference championship. As Auburn continued to falter the pressure was on Auburn to make a coaching change. That meant the end of the line for Chizik, leaving the door wide open for the assistant who was adored for his work within the program.

Malzahn was named the head coach of Auburn in December 2012, and he quickly went to work to put together a staff he felt comfortable working with. Although the optimism was high for the new Malzahn era at Auburn, few could have imagined how rapid the turnaround would be. Auburn was 3-9 in 2012 and immediately turned in a 13-1 season under Malzahn, knocking off rival and top-ranked Alabama in unbelievable fashion, running away with the sEC championship against Missouri and getting a chance to lay claim to one last BCS title on behalf of the time SEC.

On Monday night, the two paths will cross in what could easily be an epic showdown between two of college football’s top coaches today.

Last call! Orlando bar gave out 15,000 free beers during UCF’s 0-12 season

Chad Banschbach
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It was a long season for fans of the UCF Knights, but at least one bar may have been the biggest loser of all. Orlando bar The Basement committed to giving away free beer during UCF football games after starting the season with four losses. The free beer promotion would continue until the Knights won a game, which of course never happened. USF demolished UCF on Thanksgiving night to bring an end to a dreadful 0-12 season in Orlando. So, what was the final tab?

An estimated total of 15,000 free beers were given away to patrons during UCF games this season, and the promotion is expected to continue into the 2016 season.

“We thought the next two games after we came up with the offer were our most winnable games of the season,” Jake Whitacre, marketing director for The Basement, said in a local TV interview. “Once we lost those two we realized we had really gotten ourselves into a hole.”

Whitacre said the bar still ended up making money thanks to customers buying other beverages in addition to receiving free beer.

If you were curious, UCF opens the 2016 season at Michigan unless they fill a scheduling vacancy on September 3.

Broyles Award finalists may include your team’s next head coach

Alabama Football Spring Practice Day 8
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If your favorite college football program is in the market for a new head coach, you may want to pay close attention to the Broyles Award. The award honors the top assistant coach in the nation, and its list of finalists for the 2015 season’s award was announced on Monday. It includes some names that will likely be a head coach in due time, some as early as this season.

Alabama defensive coordinator Kirby Smart, Baylor offensive coordinator Kendal Briles, Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables, North Carolina defensive coordinator Gene Chizik and Oklahoma offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley are the five finalists for the award. A few have been connected to various coaching carousel headlines and rumors already. Smart is pegged as a possible candidate for either the Georgia or South Carolina vacancy. Venables has been connected to some rumors as well and Chizik, of course, has previous head coaching success worth noting as well.

Last year’s winner, Tom Herman, won the award as Ohio State’s offensive coordinator and now he is the rising head coach at Houston. Pittsburgh head coach Pat Narduzzi won the award the previous season as Michigan State’s defensive coordinator. The year before that saw Notre Dame assistant Bob Diaco win the award. He is now the head coach at UConn. Other past winners of the award that have gone on to become a head coach include Gus Malzahn, Kevin Wilson, Norm Chow, Randy Shannon, Mark Mangino, Ralph Friedgen and David Cutcliffe. You can also add Chizik’s name to that list. The 2004 Broyles Award winner later went on to be the head coach at Iowa State before returning to Auburn as head coach. He and Smart are looking to be the first two-time winner of the award.

The Broyles Award winner will be announced on Tuesday, December 8.

Navy’s Army-Navy Game uniforms won’t give up the ship


Navy lost a chance to play for the American Athletic Conference this past weekend with a road loss at Houston, but the Midshipmen will still get a chance to close out the regular season with a win. They will be doing so in quite a unique style.

On Monday, Navy took to social media to show off their specially designed “Navy Fleet” uniforms and hand-painted helmets that will be worn for the annual Army-Navy Game next week. We have seen individually hand-painted helmets before, but never quite like this. The helmets to be worn will pay tribute to seven historic battleships in the United States Navy, and each player will have a different ship on their helmet depending on their position.

Here is the helmet design breakdown, as explained by Navy:

  • Linebacker: Cruiser- Provides anti-air defense and packs the biggest punch of Naval surface ships representative of the linebackers on the Navy football team
  • Defensive Back: Destroyer- Known for significant fire power, speed, and anti-missile defense as are Navy’s defensive backs
  • Wide Receiver: Submarine- Predominantly utilized as blockers, wide receivers play a key role in driving the Navy rush attack, taking on a stealth-like persona as they blend into the rhythm of the offense but bring significant fire power when called upon, just like a Naval submarine
  • Lineman: Amphibious Assault Ships- Just as a lineman’s job is the create a hole for a running back or linebacker, these ships are utilized to establish the “beach head” that enables the invading force to gain access and ultimately accomplish their objective
  • Quarterback: Aircraft Carrier- The QB of the Naval Fleet, the aircraft carrier is the ultimate decision maker; the “quick strike” weapon of the Naval fleet
  • Running Back: Littoral Combat Ship- Like running backs, these fast and nimble ships can navigate through both crowded shallow and deep waters
  • Kicker/Special Teams: Minesweeper- Much like the specific task of the Navy special teams, this small ship has a unique mission of identifying and eliminating mines

Compared to some of the uniforms Navy has worn in the past for the Army-Navy Game, these are certainly more unique. I’m personally a fan more of some of the more recent uniforms worn, but I certainly cannot wait to see what these uniforms look like in person.

Army and Navy square off in Philadelphia on Saturday, December 12.

Report: Michigan QB Jake Rudock could play in bowl game

Jake Rudock
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We do not yet know which bowl game Michigan will be playing in this bowl season, but the outlooks appears promising for quarterback Jake Rudock and his chances to play in the postseason game.

Rudock was knocked out of Michigan’s weekend loss to rival Ohio State after being on the wrong end of a Joey Bosa takedown. The play ended up spraining an AC joint in Rudock’s non-throwing shoulder, according to a report by Dan Murphy for ESPN.com. Murphy reports Rudock is expected to still be healthy enough to play for the Wolverines by the time a bowl game comes around.

Rudock has been a steady addition to Michigan’s offense under new head coach Jim Harbaugh. The Iowa transfer came to Ann Arbor and won the starting job and has been a rock for the offense. In 12 games, Rudock completed 64 percent of his pass attempts for 2,739 yards and 17 touchdowns with nine interceptions.

Michigan should be playing in a New Years bowl game in the Big Ten line-up. Which bowl game may have to be sorted after figuring out which Big Ten team (or teams) will be participating in the College Football Playoff and Rose Bowl. The winner of this weekend’s Big Ten Championship Game between Iowa (Rudock’s previous school) and Michigan State will be very likely to be in the four-team playoff. The loser will likely head to the Rose Bowl to represent the Big Ten. Ohio State’s possibility of sneaking into the playoff appears to be quite a long shot that would require both Clemson and Alabama to lose this weekend in their respective conference championship game, but the scenario is still on the table. After those three are sorted, Michigan will be one of the top Big Ten bowl participants.