Gary Andersen

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Utah State boosters may get their way with Gary Andersen as head coach

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Utah State’s search for a replacement for Matt Wells could be crossing the finish line soon with a familiar face. Gary Andersen, the former Utah State coach, is reportedly the favorite to land the job of some boosters with significant influence on the program. Bruce Feldman of The Athletic suggested donors could have their way via Twitter on Friday night, and a report published by Steven Godfrey of SB Nation Saturday morning shares a similar tone.

Andersen, who was previously mentioned as a strong possibility to return to Utah State following the departure of Wells to Texas Tech is currently an assistant head coach and defensive assistant at Utah, a job he took this year. After coaching at Utah State from 2009 through 2012 as the head coach, following four seasons as defensive coordinator prior to that, Andersen accepted a head coaching offer at Wisconsin and coached the Badgers for two seasons. His final game with the Badgers was the 2014 Big Ten championship game, when Wisconsin was squashed by College Football Playoff-bound and eventual national champion Ohio State. Andersen left the Badgers to coach Oregon State, where a three-year run was cut short in early October 2017 as Andersen agreed to leave the remaining $12 million owed to him on his contract on the table. That was later explained by texts in which Andersen threw some assistants under the bus.

Given his previous experience at Utah State, it stands to reason the Aggies and Andersen could potentially benefit from having a comfort level with each other. Anderson won just four games in each of his first two seasons as the head coach at Utah State in 2009 and 2010 but the Aggies grew to win seven games in 2011 and completed an impressive 11-2 season in 2012 that culminated with a victory in the Potato Bowl. It was the first bowl victory for the program since winning the 1993 Las Vegas Bowl as a member of the Big West and just the second bowl victory in program history.

But considering the suggestions Utah State had a good list of potential candidates for the job still to work through, reportedly including Rich Rodriguez, Matt Canada and Mark Helfrich according to SB Nation, it is interesting to see the boosters essentially convince the university to bring the search to a close with Andersen as the front man. Perhaps Andersen would have been seen as the top candidate at the end of the search anyway, but to not even go through with interviews for some notable names is a surprising development.

Utah State reunion with Gary Andersen is buzzing

AP Photo/Morry Gash
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With Matt Wells leaving Utah State for a chance to be the head coach at Texas Tech, the possibility the Aggies welcome back former head coach Gary Andersen has been a trendy idea in the coaching rumor mill. However, it may be too early to suggest the reunion between the school and former coach is going to be the end result right now.

A report by Football Scoop said Andersen, who is currently an associate head coach and defensive assistant at Utah, is planned to be hired by Utah State. The return to Utah State seems to make sense given how successful Andersen was with the program prior to his leaving for Wisconsin, which turned out to be a disaster. But conflicting reports suggest Utah State is still in the early stages of a national search for . anew head coach and although Andersen is expected to be connected to the search, no decision is imminent at this time.

Anderson compiled a record of 26-24 at Utah State from 2009 through 2012, but it is worth recognizing Andersen’s first two seasons on the job were used to establish a foundation with back-to-back four-win seasons. Utah State won seven games in 2011 and followed that up with a record of 11-2 in Andersen’s final season before being hired away by Wisconsin. Andersen coached the Badgers to a 9-4 record in his first season with a loss in the Capital One Bowl and an 11-3 record in 2014 that was marred by a blowout loss to Ohio State in the Big Ten championship game. Andersen left the Badgers after the Big Ten championship loss and before the bowl game to take a head coaching job at Oregon State.

Sportswriter says Wisconsin hiring Gary Andersen was “colossal mistake”

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With Wisconsin on a bye week this weekend, it was a good time to reflect on the Badgers through the first 10 games of the season. There have been some close calls for Wisconsin, including a 23-21 win at Nebraska and a 31-24 victory at Maryland, but the Badgers have lost just twice and those losses have come against a surging Alabama Crimson Tide and surprisingly undefeated Iowa Hawkeyes squad on pace to appear in the Big Ten Championship Game. One sportswriter in Wisconsin says the first year under Paul Chryst already helps show the program is on more solid ground than it was under his predecessor, Gary Andersen. He’s not wrong.

“While understandable given how UW has generally steamrolled lesser opponents in recent years, such concern is unfounded,” Tom Oates of Madison.com says of Wisconsin’s season to date. “If anything, people should be encouraged about the future because the program is headed in a better direction today than it was a year ago at this time.”

When Bret Bielema left Wisconsin for Arkansas, athletics director Barry Alvarez opted to bring in Andersen from Utah State to take over the program. Andersen was coming off a 11-2 season with the Aggies, with one of those losses coming at Wisconsin (16-14) and a victory in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl. By most accounts, it was a solid hire for the Badgers, and in fact it was. Wisconsin went 9-4 in Andersen’s first season in Madison and 10-3 the following season, which ended in a 59-0 loss to Ohio State in the Big Ten Championship Game. Between the Big Ten title game blowout loss and the bowl season, Andersen skipped town and headed west to take over at Oregon State after Mike Riley accepted a job offer from Nebraska. That led Wisconsin to bringing Chryst home after the former Badgers player and assistant coach got some head coaching experience at Pittsburgh. The benefit of hindsight has allowed Oates to suggest the entire hiring of Andersen was an error.

“Instead of laughing derisively as Andersen’s losses pile up, they should be thanking him profusely for realizing what has become apparent in the 11 months since he left: His hiring at UW was a colossal mistake.

Please, don’t misunderstand that. UW athletic director Barry Alvarez hired a good coach in Andersen, he just hired the wrong coach. Andersen has solid credentials and is a great guy, but he was a bad fit for UW. It’s as simple as that.”

Some programs benefit from having a coach in place that truly understands the program and what it takes to lead it on and off the field. Chryst is about as close to home as Wisconsin could have gotten from the start, and perhaps the wait was worth it as Chryst got seasoned as a head coach at Pitt before returning to Wisconsin. Chryst may not be a flashy guy that will serve up a handful of quotes to fill sportswriters’ columns, but he gets Wisconsin from top to bottom and is a very good fit for the program.

CFT 2015 Preseason Preview: Pac-12 Predictions

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As the 2015 season draws near, we peek into our crystal ball and guess project how each of the five major conferences will play out. Today, we will be examining the home of the defending national champion, the Big Ten. 

And while we’re at it, check out some of our other Power Five conference predictions HERE (ACC) and HERE (Big 12) and HERE (Big Ten) as the CFT team continues to take its month-long glimpse of the upcoming season.

PAC-12 NORTH

1. Oregon (Last year: 13-2, lost to Ohio State in College Football Playoff national championship game)

First thing’s first, replacing Marcus Mariota is not exactly easy for Mark Helfrich. The Heisman Trophy winner from a year ago leaves big shoes to fill. Fortunately, Oregon added one of the top quarterbacks in the nation to transfer schools this offseason with Vernon Adams leaving FCS powerhouse Eastern Washington to join the Ducks (he is now listed as the starter). The transition will go well enough for Oregon’s offense to continue making big things happen, especially with Royce Freeman looking to join the young crop of running backs expected to have a big season. The good news is Adams has a pretty solid offensive line back with starting experience, but road trips to Michigan State and Arizona State will be tough to return home with wins. Oregon finishes the season with two wins, which puts last year’s national runner-up on the fringe of the playoff conversation at the end of the season.

2. Stanford (Last year: 8-5, beat Maryland in Foster Farms Bowl)

Stanford will once again be Oregon’s biggest threat in the Pac-12 North this season, while Washington takes some time to rebound and Cal’s defense a major work in progress. Defense will be the consistent key to the Cardinal this season even though it returns just a small handful of starters from last season. The biggest concern for Stanford last season was a slow-starting offense. The offense finally started to click at the end of the year and must get off to a better start this year. Kevin Hogan has nearly his entire starting offensive line back this fall, and Stanford should have a decent running game to work with. Stanford gets Oregon at home and an early road trip to USC could be a toss-up.

3. Washington (Last year: 8-6, lost to Oklahoma State in the Cactus Bowl)

I still believe good things are coming to Washington under Chris Petersen. I just think this is a step back before the Huskies start stepping forward. There are just too many holes on the roster right now after losing a load of talent to the NFL. Give Petersen some time though and Washington should be an improved team in 2016. This season could get off to a rough start on the road against Boise State and a home game against Utah State. Good for the Mountain West Conference. Not so good for the Pac-12. Washington also gets USC, Oregon and Stanford in consecutive weeks in the middle of the year. Ouch.

4. California (Last year: 5-7)

No win total will justify how fun this team will be to watch this season. The offense is there with Jared Goff leading the offense. The defense is a different story, as it will struggle to slow down anybody. Cal suffered some close calls last season. Getting to six wins is not impossible if the Bears can get off to a fast start. I’m just not sure if they will do that. A 1-3 record before hosting Washington State is what I’m seeing in the cards, and that cannot happen if Cal is to go bowling this season.

5. Oregon State (Last year: 5-7)

Mike Riley left for Nebraska, and he may have taken the good vibes with him this season. In steps Gary Andersen, fresh off a 59-0 beatdown at the hands of Ohio State in the Big Ten championship game last year. Andersen is a good enough coach to make Oregon State do some good things, but his defense returns just two starters and he inherits an unstable quarterback situation lacking in experience. They may be up and down in the first half of the season but they run into a wall starting with, believe it or not, Colorado.

6. Washington State (Last year: 3-9)

The Mike Leach experiment at Washington State may come to a close soon if things do not show promise and progress this season in Pullman. After winning just three games last season, the Cougars added some junior college experience to the roster this season. If Leach can channel his inner Bill Snyder (whom Leach once called a sorcerer), maybe the Cougars can scratch together enough wins to reach the postseason. I’m not sure I see enough of those wins though, especially in Pac-12 play.

PAC-12 SOUTH

1. Arizona State (Last year: 10-3, beat Duke in Sun Bowl)

The Sun Devils do few things extraordinarily well, and getting out of the Pac-12 South unscathed will be difficult for every team in the division. So it must be the schedule, right? You may actually like Arizona State’s chances in the opener against Texas A&M in Houston, and they get USC at home a few weeks later. Tough road tests at UCLA and Utah before the bye week are not automatic losses, although those games could spell trouble. Fortunately for Arizona State,they score an upset at home on a Thursday night after a bye week against Oregon (setting up an eventual rematch in the Pac-12 championship game) and they will not lose again in the regular season. Quarterback Mike Bercovici finds a comfort level with receiver D.J. Foster as the Sun Devils put a streak together at the perfect time. While all that is happening, cannibalism within the division will help place Arizona State on top of the pile.

2. USC (Last year: 9-4, beat Nebraska in Holiday Bowl)

The Trojans were tabbed the media preseason favorite at Pac-12 media days. Sure, USC looks attractive, but don’t we need to see some more consistency out of Cody Kessler and to see Steve Sarkisian win a big game before buying into the hype? Throw in the fact this is a tough division, is anybody sure USC gets out of it without a couple of losses along the way? That said, they are in the running for the Pac-12 South crown, but I do not see them getting by Arizona State on the road the week after hosting Stanford. I have USC splitting those two games, but it could just as well end up being an 0-2 setback heading into the bye week (sure, I suppose it could also be 2-0). I also think USC comes back from South Bend with a loss to Notre Dame and a road game at Oregon is a probable loss as well.

3. Utah (Last year: 9-4, beat Colorado State in Las Vegas Bowl)

Utah is my wild card team in the Pac-12 South this season because they play what may be the best defense in the division, if not the conference. Utah will be extremely difficult to beat at home, but three tough road games ultimately hold Utah back from reaching the Pac-12 championship game (Oregon, USC, Arizona). I do think things get off to a good start at home against Michigan, spoiling Jim Harbaugh‘s debut as head coach of the Wolverines, and the next week against Chuckie Keeton and Utah State. They even get a chance to knock off Arizona State at home in the middle of the season. Potential is there, but the offense needs to keep its foot on the gas to make any run.

4. Arizona (Last year: 10-4, lost to Boise State in the Fiesta Bowl)

After coming up small against Boise State in the Fiesta Bowl last season, the Wildcats still look to be moving forward. Anu Solomon is one of the top quarterbacks in the conference and should be ready for a big season with Caleb Jones back as his go-to receiver. The offensive and defensive lines have some holes to plug, but the Wildcats have linebacker Scooby Wright III at linebacker to pick up the slack in the middle of the defense. What I do not like about Arizona is the schedule. Arizona plays 12 straight games without a bye week. It will be a grind, but Arizona is capable of being in the hunt in this crazy division and may be welcoming that bye week at the end of the season if things fall into place again this fall. I think the final four games could be hitting a wall for Arizona though, as I have them losing three of the final four games (three of the final four on the road).

5. UCLA (Last year: 10-3, beat Kansas State in the Alamo Bowl)

The Bruins were the trendy pick last summer. Now it seems we are taking a much more scaled-back stance on UCLA. But why? UCLA returns a ton of starters from a year ago and has added a new defensive coordinator in Tom Bradley that should help. The talent is there with just one key position to address; quarterback. If Josh Rosen can step right in and have an impact, UCLA will be a contender in this competitive division. But freshmen, even the great ones, can make mistakes. Rosen has the hype, and there is a good chance to get comfortable early on with home games against Virginia and BYU and a road game at UNLV. UCLA can play itself into controlling the fate of the Pac-12 South coming down the stretch, but back-to-back road games at Utah and USC to end the season is not an easy draw.

6. Colorado (Last year: 2-10)

Colorado is not going to return to its 1990s powerhouse form in 2015, but we should see some signs of continued progress with the program under Mike MacIntyre. Colorado has a chance to enter October with a winning record, which would be a promising start. The Buffs return nine starters on defense and six on offense, so the hope is experience helps develop some talent to continue being competitive. Colorado lost some close calls last season. If they can turn a couple of those close games the other way, Colorado and a bowl trip is not out of the mix. Seriously.

PAC-12 CHAMPIONSHIP GAME

Oregon over Arizona State

Oregon remains my team to beat, and they could be hitting a stride just at the right time by the time the conference championship game comes around. Oregon would be playing in the title game for the third time in five seasons while Arizona State would be in the game for the second time in three years. Oregon’s offense once again leads the way, but Arizona State gives them a run.

Oregon State’s Gary Andersen says speed separates Pac-12 from Big Ten

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Earlier in the day in Chicago new Nebraska head coach Mike Riley was asked about the difference between the Pac-12 and the Big Ten, to which the nicest coach in the world shrugged off the notion of the two conferences being too different. His replacement at Oregon State, former Wisconsin head coach Gary Andersen, has a different take on the subject.

“Well, the speed,” Andersen replied when asked the same question at the Pac-12 media day event Friday. “If you want to talk about something that is different. This is without question, and I’m looking from afar through a TV screen or a big jumbo screen we have in the offices that we watch film from and on the TV.

“[T]his league has what we like to call juice,” Andersen explained. “It is fast. There are a lot of guys that make one mistake and you’re going to pay the price quickly. On the defensive side it is the same way. There are elite pass rushers that are fast and quick. There are linebackers that can run on the back end that I believe can make up for a lot of problems that — it’s hard to solve with a pen in your hand, but genetics take over and make you some special plays.”

Prior to taking the Wisconsin head coaching job in 2013, Andersen was the head coach of Utah State. During his tenure at Utah State he coached against one Pac-12 team, in which he emerged victorious over Utah in 2012.  In his two seasons with the Badgers in Madison, Anderson lost on the road against Arizona State (in bizarre fashion). So he does have some first-hand experience coaching against the Pac-12 to compare with his brief experience in the Big Ten (which did not end well). Andersen also thinks the Pac-12 lacks credit as a tough conference, physically.

“I never hear people talking about this league is tough-minded. I know it’s not the class, flashy thing to talk about, right, anyway, with the offensive and defensive lines,” Andersen said. “But the fact of the matter is they’re well coached. They’re tough kids. They play with leverage and play with great technique. That is something that jumped out on me on film because I look for that stuff.”