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CFP semifinal ratings up from 2015, still down significantly from 2014

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Considering both games were blowouts it’s hard to know where this particular chicken-egg debate begins and ends, but it’s clear by now that viewers have strongly rejected the concept of College Football Playoff semifinals on New Year’s Eve.

ESPN released viewership data for Saturday’s semifinals on Sunday, announcing that viewership was up 11 percent from last year but not close to making up the 35 percent drop from 2014 to ’15. Birmingham scored a 42.1 rating for Alabama’s 24-7 triumph over Washington in the Peach Bowl, while Columbus led all markets with a 35.1 rating for Clemson’s 31-0 blanking of Ohio State. Columbus and Knoxville out-rated Seattle for the Peach Bowl, while more people watched the Fiesta Bowl in Birmingham (31.3) than Greenville, S.C. (27.9).

Across the nation, the Peach Bowl scored a 10.9 rating, up from last year’s 9.7 in the early time slot but well down from the 15.3 rating of the 2015 Rose Bowl. The Fiesta Bowl scored an even 10.0, up slightly from a 9.9 in the same slot a year ago but still not close to the 15.5 registered by the 2015 Sugar Bowl.

Two consecutive years of blowouts certainly didn’t help matters — margins of victory for the last two years of semifinals: 20, 38, 17 and 31 — but it’s clear now that Bill Hancock‘s grand “paradigm shift” pronouncement of New Year’s Eve semifinals was a gigantic flop.

The semifinal rotation moves back to the Rose and Sugar next year, pushing the games back to their viewer-friendly date of New Year’s Day. After that, the semifinals will move off New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day for the first time, to Dec. 29 in 2018 (Cotton and Orange) and Dec. 28 in 2019 (Peach and Fiesta). The semifinals will not move back to New Year’s Eve until 2021 and ’22.

Southern Miss offensive coordinator leaves to join Georgia staff

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How big is the gap between the SEC and Conference USA? So big that Buster Faulkner would evidently rather be an analyst in the SEC than a coordinator in C-USA.

The Southern Miss offensive coordinator is leaving Hattiesburg to join Kirby Smart‘s staff in Athens. Smart has already hired former Todd Monken (ironically, a former Southern Miss head coach) to be his offensive coordinator, and there are no spots open on Georgia’s on-the-field staff. So, according to Dawgs247, Faulkner will join as an analyst.

While nothing has been announced, Faulkner on Monday confirmed his departure out of Hattiesburg.

“Thank you Coach Hop for allowing me to be a part of something special in Hattiesburg,” he tweeted. “I was able to work with some incredible men on this offensive staff! To the players-I love you guys, thanks for everything. I had a blast working with y’all. I wish you guys the best.”

A former Valdosta State quarterback when Smart was on the coaching staff, Faulkner spent just 2019 at Southern Miss after spending the previous three at Arkansas State. He helped the Golden Eagles fly from 109th to 48th in yards per play.

Kerry Coombs set to return to Ohio State

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Ohio State has an opening for a defensive coordinator and defensive backs coach now that Jeff Hafley is Boston College’s head coach. And Ryan Day has found the perfect guy to fill that role — Ohio State’s old defensive backs coach.

Ever-popular assistant coach Kerry Coombs is set to return to Columbus as the Buckeyes’ defensive coordinator and defensive backs coach, according to multiple reports on Monday. (Letterman Row first reported the news.)

An original member of Urban Meyer‘s Ohio State staff, Coombs coached the Buckeyes’ defensive backs from 2012-17, a period that saw Ohio State rank among the top 13 nationally in pass efficiency defense four times, including 2017. Ohio State immediately slunk to 42nd in 2018, leading to Day’s hiring of Hafley. Ohio State immediately rocketed to first (they were second until LSU shredded Clemson last Monday), which led to Hafley’s hiring at BC and, now, Coombs’ return.

“I told the [defensive backs] last year at this time: ‘I am going to go get the best guy in the country.’ They didn’t know who Jeff Hafley was,” Day said last month. “Now they love him, they’re going to miss him. Going to do the same thing again next year, go get the best there is. You call around to different people that you respect. But usually the people you bring in are people that you know really well and you trust.”

Day spent the past two seasons as the defensive backs coach for the Tennessee Titans, and he’ll now return to a senior role he never would’ve gotten had he not left in the first place.

Phil Snow officially following Matt Rhule to Carolina

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It shouldn’t come as a surprise given he’s spent the past four years working for the man, but Phil Snow is officially following Matt Rhule to Carolina.

The team made the announcement Monday.

Snow had coordinated Rhule’s defenses at Temple and Baylor, and in 2019 became one of the most highly-regarded coordinators in the sport. A finalist for the Broyles Award and winner of the FootballScoop Defensive Coordinator of the Year, Snow would have had options had he chosen to remain in the college game. (Returning to Baylor likely not an option, with Dave Aranda now installed as the top Bear.)

Baylor was the only Big 12 team to hold opponents under 20 points per game and under five yards per play.

He has spent only four years of his four decade coaching run in the NFL, serving as linebackers coach for the Detroit Lions from 2005-08.

“I’ve coordinated in high school, junior college, I-AA, I-A,” Snow said. “My last challenge is the National Football League.”

“I haven’t won a game as a head coach without him as my defensive coordinator,” Rhule said of Snow.

Snow will pair with another hot college name in Joe Brady to serve as Carolina’s coordinator tandem, and Rhule likely isn’t done pillaging college football, either, as reports indicated Monday that Baylor defensive tackles coach Frank Okam will follow Rhule and Snow from Waco to Charlotte.

Ex-Georgia DB Otis Reese lands at Ole Miss

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Lane Kiffin landed a recruit over the weekend in the form of Georgia transfer Otis Reese.

A 4-star member of Kirby Smart‘s 2018 class, Reese appeared in 25 games in silver britches, including all 14 this season. He collected 16 tackles as a Bulldog, though he played primarily on special teams.

“Even in my darkest times, I have always believed, the light would shine & it’s TIME!!!” he tweeted over the weekend.

The Leesburg, Ga., native will presumably compete for playing time in the defensive backfield at Ole Miss.

Barring a waiver, he will have to sit out a year and will first compete for the Rebels in 2021.