Resounding CFP message sent as TCU pounds Ole Miss in Peach Bowl

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If TCU was looking to send a message to the College Football Playoff committee, consider it delivered. And delivered in resounding fashion, at the expense of one of the best the SEC has to offer in 2014.

After jumping out to a 28-0 first-half lead, TCU kept its foot on Ole Miss’ throat the last two quarters and ran away with a 42-3 Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl win.  It’s the largest postseason loss in Ole Miss history, surpassing the 35-3 beating at the hands of Michigan in the 1991 Gator Bowl.

Simply put, the Horned Frogs did everything right and the Rebels did absolutely, positively everything wrong.  The details were gruesome, so I’ll be brief before getting to what people really want to talk about coming out of this game.

The Rebels managed just 129 yards of total offense, with a mere nine of them coming on the ground.  For the game, Ole Miss averaged a microscopic .2 yards its 37 carries, and converted just 3-of-15 third downs.

The last game of Bo Wallace‘s career was one to forget, with the senior completing just under 50 percent of his passes for just over 100 yards and three interceptions.  Add in a fumble, and it was a four-turnover day that Wallace would like to shove down the toilet and flush.

His counterpart, meanwhile, got his 2015 Heisman campaign started a day early as his club also made its case for preseason No. 1.

Trevone Boykin, continuing a season-long trend of outstanding play, tossed three touchdown passes — and three picks, admittedly — and accounted for 253 yards of offense (188 passing, 65 rushing).  Wide receiver Josh Doctson caught two of those touchdown passes.

Now, with that out of the way…

TCU, its fans and some in the media felt the Fort Worth school was snubbed by the playoff committee, and it’s they and not Ohio State that should be preparing to face Alabama in the second national semifinal game in the Sugar Bowl New Year’s night.  Based on their demolition New Year’s Eve afternoon, the Horned Frogs gave the Buckeyes’ detractors some significant ammunition.

Simply for the sake of argument, Ole Miss beat Alabama 23-17 in Tuscaloosa in Week 6.  TCU just decimated the same team that beat the team that’s currently ranked No. 1 in the country on a neutral field and is in the playoffs while the Frogs are on the outside looking in.  And while TCU may have nearly lost a conference game to a really bad team, they didn’t actually suffer a non-conference loss to a really bad team like OSU did at home by double-digits.

Compare TCU’s lone loss to OSU’s: TCU 61-58 at 11-1 and fifth-ranked Baylor, OSU 35-21 in Columbus to 7-6 and decidedly-unranked Virginia Tech.  And then there’s this: TCU 30, Minnesota 7 in Fort Worth Week 2, OSU 31, Minnesota 24 in Minneapolis Week 12.

“Case closed!” TCU defenders scream, and they’re not necessarily wrong. “I don’t think I have to say anything,” head coach Gary Patterson said in the immediate aftermath when asked if it was a statement game.

In fact, they all may damn well be correct.

Then, though, there’s this argument: Ole Miss has been overrated all season long, with their rankings a direct result of the over-inflated opinions of the SEC that really came home to roost in 2014.  The Rebels lost three of the last four games it played in the regular season, with the only win coming against a Mississippi State team that many considered as overrated a their in-state counterparts.  One of the last three losses came at the hands of 7-6 Arkansas to the tune of 30-0, while another came against an LSU squad that limped home to an 8-5 mark. “So what if TCU demolished an overrated Ole Miss,” OSU defenders will say.

“Besides, TCU shouldn’t have lost to Baylor — which is ranked ahead of TCU anyway — and shouldn’t have allowed a really bad Kansas team to nearly pull off the upset in a four-point win in Week 12 if it wanted to guarantee it wouldn’t get politicked out of the playoffs,” the pro-Buckeye slant goes.  “And don’t even get me started on the lack of a conference championship game, which is the real ‘villain’ in this whole lingering debate.”

Whatever side of the Ohio State/TCU/Baylor argument you fall on, though, one thing is certain: what TCU did on the field Wednesday is easily the most impressive performance of the 2014-15 bowl season, and might be the most impressive performance of the entire season, period.  They showed that, regardless of which side of the aisle you sit, they were one of six teams that most certainly deserved one of the four current playoff spots.

Another certainty?  Fans of an expanded playoff sooner rather than later have another viable bullet to load into the chamber.

Son of ex-Old Dominion head coach Bobby Wilder to stay, play sixth season with Monarchs

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A potentially awkward situation for Old Dominion football and one of its players has turned into anything but.  To the credit, it should be noted, of both sides.

In early December, Bobby Wilder stepped down as the head coach of the Old Dominion football team after 11 seasons.  Wilder was the only head coach in the history of the Monarchs program.

Wilder’s son, ODU defensive end Derek Wilder, was “hurt and angry” over what some considered the forced resignation of his father.  In December, after the coaching upheaval, the younger Wilder was granted a sixth season of eligibility he could use in 2020.  Whether that additional year of eligibility would be as a part of Old Dominion football program or another remained up in the air.

A call from Wilder’s replacement, Ricky Rahne, to the man he replaced helped set the wheels in motion for the lineman to return to Monarchs this coming season.  From the school’s official website:

He called me to ask me some questions about the program and the players and that was the first conversation that Ricky and I had about my son,” Wilder said. “He indicated that he wanted Derek to come back.

“I shared that with Derek and he met with Ricky his first week here. Derek really enjoyed talking to him and decided at that point he was coming back.

“He thinks a lot of Ricky and is excited about next season.”

Rahne said he told Derek that “I wanted him back, that I thought he could be a good leader for us.

“Obviously, he’s experienced a lot. He’s had to grow a lot throughout this process. I felt like this would be an opportunity for Derek to go out and play a little bit freer.

“I was excited when he got his sixth year and I am excited that he is coming back.

Because of injury, Wilder the player missed 21 of 24 games in the 2016-17 seasons.  That made the decision by the NCAA to give him another season of eligibility a relative slamdunk.

In 2018, Wilder played in 10 games at linebacker.  This past season, he moved up to the line and played in all 12 games for the first time in his career.  Wilder started 10 of the contests at defensive end, and will be expected to keep that starting job heading into the 2020 campaign.

More signs connecting Charlie Strong to analyst role at Alabama

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At this point, it would seemingly be an upset if Charlie Strong doesn’t land at Alabama football.

In early December of last year, Strong was let go as the head coach at South Florida.  Over the past two-plus months, the 59-year-old Strong has remained on the outside of the coaching profession looking in.  There has been speculation, though, that Strong could be returning to Florida and joining Dan Mullens‘ extended staff as a defensive analyst.

Late last week, however, it was reported that Charlie Strong was in Tuscaloosa visiting with the Alabama football coaching staff.  A few days later, it’s now being reported that Strong is expected back in T-Town this week.  Perhaps as early as tomorrow, according to Matt Zenitz of al.com.

Nick Saban doesn’t have an opening on his 10-man on-field coaching staff.  However, Charlie Strong could conceivably join the Alabama football program as some type of an analyst, ala Butch Jones and myriad others.

Strong has spent the past decade as a head coach.  After going 37-15 in four seasons (2010-13) at Louisville, Strong left to take the head job at Texas.  Three seasons (2014-16) in Austin ended with his dismissal following a 16-21 record.  Strong’s tenure at USF ended after three seasons (2017-19) as well and a 4-8 2019 campaign.

In the last six years of his head-coaching career, Strong posted a 37-37 record.

Prior to that, Strong spent seven years (2003-09) as the defensive coordinator at Florida.  During that time with the Gators, he also coached defensive ends and linebackers.  For four of those seasons, Mullen was UF’s offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach before leaving to take the Mississippi State job.

That was actually Strong’s fourth stint with the Gators.  From 1991-94, he coached defensive tackles (1994) and defensive ends (1991-93).  He also served as outside linebackers coach from 1988-89.  Strong began his collegiate coaching career as a graduate assistant at UF in 1983-84.

Strong was also the defensive coordinator at South Carolina for four years (1999-2002) before moving on to Gainesville that fourth time.  In between the third Gainesville stint and his time in Columbia, Strong was the defensive line coach at Notre Dame from 1995-98.

Kentucky’s Vince Marrow will likely be highest-paid non-coordinator in college football this year

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For Vince Marrow of Kentucky, it paid to be wooed by Michigan State.

After an initial denial, Mel Tucker reversed course and left Colorado to become the Michigan State head coach. Not only will Tucker be doubling his salary in East Lansing, but his salary pool for assistant coaches will be nearly double what he had to work with in Boulder as well.

Marrow was one of the assistants Tucker had hoped to bring to Michigan State, wooing the longtime Kentucky coach and close friend into his new fold. Instead, he opted to eschew the chance to move to Michigan State and remain at Kentucky.

In a non-coincidental move, UK Monday released the details of a new contract agreement signed last Thursday by Marrow. Per that new deal, Marrow, who is tight ends coach while also serving as recruiting coordinator and associate head coach, will be paid $900,000 annually as part of the three-year contract. This past season, Marrow was paid $600,000 in guaranteed compensation.

With Mike Yurcich ($950,000) taking over as Texas’ offensive coordinator after spending 2019 as Ohio State’s quarterbacks coach and Sam Pittman ($900,000) leaving as Georgia’s offensive line to take the head job at Arkansas, Marrow is currently the highest-paid non-coordinator in college football. That statement is based on the USA Today coaches salary database.

Marrow will also have a salary on par with UK offensive coordinator Eddie Gran and slightly above the $875,000 set for defensive coordinator Brad White.

The 51-year-old Marrow has spent the past eight seasons at Kentucky.  He was retained when Mark Stoops took over the Wildcats in November of 2012.

Chris Creighton puts finishing touches on Eastern Michigan staff with three additions

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Eastern Michigan head coach Chris Creighton is ready to go to work with a new staff finally put in place in Ypsilanti. On Monday, Eastern Michigan formally announced the additions of tight ends coach Brandon Blaney, cornerbacks coach LaMarcus Hicks, and quarterbacks coach Mike Piatkowski. A few role adjustments on the staff were also ironed out for the upcoming season.

Blaney joins the Eastern Michigan staff after spending the past two seasons as an offensive analyst for Jim Harbaugh and Michigan. Blaney also has NFL coaching experience as an assistant with the Tennessee Titans and he previously coached at Iowa State, Oklahoma, and Youngstown State. For Creighton, it was a long time coming to be able to land Blaney on his coaching staff.

“I have wanted to work with Coach Blaney since the late 1990s,” Creighton said in a released statement. “I am thrilled that it has worked out for him to join us here at Eastern Michigan. He has been successful at so many different levels. His expertise and genuine care for our players will serve us well.”

Hicks joins the Eagles program after two years at another MAC program, Bowling Green. Piatkowski comes to the program from his most recent job at Indiana, but he has a history with Eastern Michigan. Piatkowski was a graduate assistant on the coaching staff at EMU in 2016-17. Piatkowski also played for Creighton at Drake.

As for returning members of the coaching staff, James Patton is taking on the role of run game coordinator while retaining his role as offensive line coach. Fred Reed will move from coaching the cornerbacks to coaching the safeties, now that Hicks will take on the cornerback coaching. Special teams coordinator Jay Nunez will now also be in charge of coaching defensive tackles.

Eastern Michigan will begin spring football practices on March 10. The Eagles are coming off a 6-7 season that ended with a loss to Pitt in the Quick Lane Bowl.