Chad Morris

James Franklin made the Vanderbilt coaching vacancy more appetizing

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With James Franklin being hired away by Penn State, the search for a new head coach to continue the momentum at Vanderbilt is officially underway. Fortunately for the program, Franklin helped make the job a more attractive one to the next coach.

“There is no question that James Franklin’s outstanding work has helped put Vanderbilt football on the national stage,” Vanderbilt vice chancellor and director of athletics David Williams said in a statement released following Franklin’s departure. “Because of James, Fumi, Shola and Addy Franklin, our program is stronger in every way than it was just a few short years ago.”

Vanderbilt had compiled back-to-back 2-10 seasons before prying Franklin away from Maryland, where he was considered the coach-in-waiting under Ralph Friedgen. Maryland’s loss may have turned out to be Vanderbilt’s gain. Franklin had an immediate impact on the Commodores, winning six games in his first season in Nashville and leading them to back-to-back bowl trips for the first time in program history.

“We have every expectation to hire an outstanding new football coach to build upon the progress that has been made in recent years,” Williams said. He will certainly have some attractive options to consider.

Will Vanderbilt be able to sway a head coach away from their current school to guide their program? The one name to keep a close eye on in this discussion would be Mark Hudspeth, the current head coach of Louisiana-Lafayette. Hudspeth has led the Ragin’ Cajuns to three consecutive 9-4 seasons and has ended the year with a bowl victory each year. If Vanderbilt is looking for a head coach who is ready to take the next step, Hudspeth should be the name at the top of the list.

Hiring a top assistant coach is certainly a path likely to be explored by Vanderbilt.

Alabama defensive coordinator Kirby Smart has the SEC pedigree down and has been mentioned as a potential future head coach when the right opportunity comes along. Clemson offensive coordinator Chad Morris is currently one of the hottest names in the assistant coaching world. So is Michigan State defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi. Vanderbilt could do worse than any of those names of course. Morris would probably be the best fit among the potential assistant coaching candidates.

Whether the next head coach succeeds to the level Franklin managed to do at Vanderbilt or not, or whether the next head coach can build upon the foundation laid by Franklin, remains to be seen. Perhaps the next coach will see Vanderbilt take a step back. Whatever happens, the position is a much more desirable one worthy of consideration by a number of top candidates that may not have given the job much thought four or five years ago. It is still likely to be a stepping stone position as opposed to a destination position, but it is not as slippery as a stepping stone it once was.

WATCH: Michigan breaks out your standard 10-man I-formation

ANN ARBOR, MI - OCTOBER 01: Michigan Wolverines head football coach Jim Harbaugh throws the ball during the pregame warms ups prior to the start of the game against the Wisconsin Badgers at Michigan Stadium on October 1, 2016 in Ann Arbor, Michigan. (Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images)
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Off the field, Jim Harbaugh is an interesting and unique and decidedly different character.  As it turns out, the Michigan head coach is that way on the field as well.

In the first quarter of its game against Wisconsin and facing a second-and-two from the UW six-yard line, Harbaugh and his offensive coordinator busted out the standard 10-man I-formation.  Of course, the Wolverines couldn’t stay in that formation — that nitpicky seven-men-on-the-line-of-scrimmage rule — so they shifted pre-snap to your standard short-yardage set that included three tight ends and a fullback.

Whatever it was and whatever its intent, it was successful as the Wolverines picked up five yards and a first down.  A play later, they scored the first touchdown of the Top 10 matchup.

That formation, though…

As for the game, the Wolverines lead the Badgers 7-0 at the half.

Georgia jumps out to big first half lead over Tennessee in SEC East tussle

ATHENS, GA - SEPTEMBER 10: Jacob Eason #10 of the Georgia Bulldogs passes against the Nicholls Colonels at Sanford Stadium on September 10, 2016 in Athens, Georgia. (Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images)
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Maybe Butch Jones saved his halftime speech from last week.

At least that’s what Tennessee fans hope heading into the locker room down 17-7 at Georgia in a game with massive SEC East implications. The Vols will need a second straight comeback if they’re to remain undefeated and in control of their own destiny in the division.

The Bulldogs jumped out to a big lead behind tailback Sony Michel, who had 72 yards and a touchdown. Despite reports surfacing that he would not play this week, Nick Chubb did get a carry but was mostly limited to a role on the sideline. Freshman quarterback Jacob Eason was efficient is not spectacular, going 6-of-10 for 39 yards.

The Volunteers had a chance to really make this more of a game in the second quarter, but Deandre Baker knocked the ball lose from tailback Jalen Hurd just as he was about to cross the goal line. Georgia recovered for a touchdown and promptly went 80 yards in 10 plays on the ensuing drive for another touchdown (albeit on a fumble recovered in the end zone themselves).

Tennessee did seem to get something moving on offense before halftime, with quarterback Joshua Dobbs marching down the field in nine plays before diving in for a touchdown by the slimmest of margins. It was an encouraging sign for the Vols in a half that was otherwise dominated by their mistakes and Georgia capitalizing on them.

Big Ten defense the story of first half between Michigan and Wisconsin

ANN ARBOR, MI - OCTOBER 01: Michigan Wolverines head football coach Jim Harbaugh and Wisconsin Badgers head football coach Paul Chryst shake hands prior to the start of the game at Michigan Stadium on October 1, 2016 in Ann Arbor, Michigan. (Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images)
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In a battle of top 10 Big Ten contenders, Michigan has managed to get to halftime with a 7-0 lead on Wisconsin. Still, the Wolverines have to be wondering if missed opportunities could come back to bite them.

Michigan has missed two field goal tries in the game so far, with Kenny Allen missing from 31 yards and 43 yards on consecutive Michigan possessions. With the way Michigan’s defense has been playing, however, it may not matter. Wisconsin has struggled to get the running game going with Corey Clement (31 rushing yards on nine attempts) and just 34 rushing yards as a team. That includes negative yardage taken by quarterback Alex Hornibrook, who has been under pressure by the swarming Wolverines defense for much of the game so far.

Michigan’s offense has not been particularly sharp against a tough Wisconsin defense either. The Wolverines are just one-for-five on third down. The only touchdown drive of the half for either team came on a 77-yard, 11-play drive with Khalid Hill picking up the final yard for a score. The key play of the drive was a 22-yard run by Chris Evans.

Michigan had a bit of a scare when big Grant Newsome needed to be helped off the field in the first half. The cart to take him off the field had come on the field but he was able to be removed from the field with some help by trainers to the Michigan sideline. Perhaps the moral support from the entire Michigan roster on the field helped him out.

Texas AD, on Charlie Strong, Longhorn football: ‘I’m evaluating everything’

Charlie Strong
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According to most observers, Charlie Strong was on the hot seat entering 2016.  After the first two weeks of the season, including a huge win over Notre Dame in the opener, most of that talk was silenced; in fact, the running theme entering Week 3 seemed to be “finally, Texas football is back!”

Since?  Not so much.  In fact, we seem to be right back where we started when it comes to Strong’s future in Austin.

First came the loss to Cal in Week 3, which renewed the rumblings.  Following an embarrassing loss to Oklahoma State this weekend in which both the defense and special teams imploded, the calls grew louder and the heat under his seat grew warmer.  For the defensive-minded Strong — and the administration — the crumbling on that side of the ball is especially troubling as the Longhorns have given up an average of nearly 50 points per game (48.7) this season to Power Five teams.

Following the game, UT athletic director Mike Perrin was asked about Strong’s future.  Not surprisingly, it’s not exactly rock solid.

In three-plus seasons, Strong has gone 13-16 overall. Most distressing from the athletic department’s side, he’s now below .500, 9-10, in Big 12 play.

Especially with Houston’s Tom Herman being such a hot commodity, Perrin will face the most significant decision of his tenure in the coming months: stick with Strong for another season and hope the Louisville lightning strikes in Austin, or cut bait and heavily pursue the most desired commodity on the coaching carousel.  Irrespective of anything else, it’s a decision that will define Perrin’s tenure at the school.