The Conference USA Championship has existed since 2005 and, thus far, only one program acquired since the league’s mass Sun Belt addition in 2013-14 has reached the game: Western Kentucky in each of the past two seasons.
That’s about to change.
North Texas, a 2013 addition, all but wrapped up the C-USA West title with a 24-23 win at Louisiana Tech. The Mean Green trailed 17-10 at the half and 23-17 in the fourth quarter before going on top for good on a 14-yard Jeffrey Wilson scamper with 6:04 remaining and surviving a missed 53-yard field goal by the Bulldogs with 2:39 to play.
That victory pushed the Mean Green to 5-1 in C-USA play, one game ahead in the loss column of 4-2 UAB and 3-2 Southern miss. North Texas closes conference play with UTEP at home on Saturday and a visit to Rice on Nov. 25 — a pair of teams that are 0-8 in C-USA when not facing each other. And here’s the kicker: thanks to head-to-head victories over UAB and Southern Miss, North Texas needs only one win against UTEP or Rice to clinch its first West Division championship.
In the East Division, a pair of programs with new coaching hires appear on a collision course. Fellow 2013 addition Florida Atlantic, under new head coach Lane Kiffin, claimed significant control over the division with a 30-25 win over Marshall on Friday night.
The Owls are being chased by their South Florida rivals in another 2013 Sun Belt acquisition Florida International, led by a new hire in Butch Davis. The Golden Panthers moved to 4-1 in conference with a 14-7 victory over UTSA on Saturday.
FIU visits FAU on Nov. 18, with the winner seizing the fast track to its own C-USA Championship debut against (most likely) North Texas.
There are already four openings (maybe five) at the FBS level. Depending on how things play out over the rest of this month, one Conference USA program could throw its name into the 2018-19 coaching carousel mix.
According to the Bowling Green Daily News, “Mike Sanford’s future as Western Kentucky’s coach hinges largely on the outcomes of his team’s final two games.” The Daily News reports that, if WKU wins its last two games — vs. UTEP, at Louisiana Tech — Sanford will be retained.
However, if the Hilltoppers drop both of those contests, Sanford is expected to be fired.
“Sanford’s future if the Hilltoppers split those two contests is unclear,” the newspaper added.
Sanford, the former offensive coordinator at Notre Dame, took over a WKU program in 2017 that had won 23 games the previous two seasons under Jeff Brohm before he left for Purdue. In his first season in Bowling Green, Sanford’s 6-7 record was the program’s worst since 2009; the Hilltoppers are currently 1-9, which even if they win out would be WKU’s worst since that winless 2009 season.
It appears yet another head coach will hit the unemployment line in the not-too-distant future.
Citing multiple unnamed sources, the ABC affiliate in Boulder is reporting that “Colorado will part ways with football coach Mike MacIntyre effective at the end of this season.” School officials have thus far declined to comment on MacIntyre’s future with the football program.
Based on a new deal agreed to in January of last year and approved five months later, CU would owe MacIntyre a buyout in excess of $10 million if he’s fired without cause.
In five-plus seasons with the Buffaloes, MacIntyre has posted a 30-43 record overall and 14-38 in Pac-12 play. Coming off a 5-7 season in 2017, the Buffs won their first five games of the season and climbed to 19th in the Associated Press Top 25. However, they’ve dropped five straight since then, with three of the five losses coming by 10 or more points.
Colorado will play its home finale this weekend against Pac-12 South leader Utah before closing out the regular season at Cal a week later. The Buffaloes need to win at least one of those games to reach bowl eligibility.
Right now, there are officially four openings at the FBS level: Bowling Green (HERE), Kansas (HERE), Louisville (HERE) and Maryland (HERE). Last year, 20 FBS jobs came open for one reason or another during the 2017-18 spinning of the coaching carousel.
A few days before a final, final decision needs to be made, it doesn’t appear that Nick Saban is inclined to err on the side of extreme caution when it comes to the triggerman of his high-octane offense.
Late in the third quarter of top-ranked Alabama’s shutout win over Mississippi State, Tua Tagovailoa took a shot to his right knee, the same knee that gave him issues earlier this season, and didn’t return. As a Week 12 date with FCS Citadel looms, conventional wisdom had Saban sitting the Heisman Trophy front-runner and saving him for the annual Iron Bowl grudge match in the regular-season finale.
Essentially, the head coach scoffed in the general direction of that wisdom, stating he has no plans to sit Tagovailoa and that the true sophomore, as well as his teammates, need to do a better job of limiting the quarterback’s exposure to hits.
No,” Nick Saban responded when asked if sitting Tagovailoa is a consideration. “Why would we do that? To say that this is not an important game or he doesn’t need to play? I think we need to do a better job of the people playing around him doing what they’re supposed to do so he doesn’t get hit. And he needs to do a better job of stepping up in the pocket and getting rid of the ball, which he had several opportunities to do. Some of these hits can be avoided just by better execution, and I think that’s what we’re going to focus on, not trying to take a guy out of a game so he can’t improve or do what he needs to do to get better or do what we need to do to get better as a team and develop some confidence in each other.
While Tagovailoa is expected to start — provided, of course, he doesn’t suffer a setback in practice during the days leading up to what’s essentially a scrimmage that counts in the standings — it’s highly likely that his day will consist of, at most, a couple of quarters worth of work.
The Crimson Tide should make short work of Bulldogs as they have beaten FBS teams this season by an average score of 49-13. Against ranked teams, that average is 33-8.
A one-time starting member of Oklahoma State’s secondary has opted to take his leave of Mike Gundy‘s football program.
On his personal Twitter account over the weekend, Thabo Mwaniki announced that, after “thoughtful consideration,” he has decided to transfer from the Cowboys. The defensive back gave no specific reason for his decision to transfer.
The fact that the Denton, Texas, native lost his starting job a third of the way through the 2018 season, however, would likely be a good place to start in looking for his reasoning.
Mwaniki, a three-star member of OSU’s 2017 recruiting class, started the first four games of this year. However, the safety was replaced after Week 4 and never returned to the starting lineup. All told, he played in seven games this season, none of which came the last three weeks.
Last season, Mwaniki started two games for the Cowboys; he was the only true freshman on either side of the ball to start a game for OSU in 2018.