The college football season is still months away from kicking off, but the fear that the season could legitimately be in jeopardy could be growing from the coaching community.
“There is a fear of ‘would we have a season?’ ‘Would we have a partial season?’ ‘What does a partial season mean,'” North Carolina head coach Mack Brown said in a report published by The News & Observer in North Carolina on Monday. “There is a great concern because of the remedy that comes in with football.”
Brown, like every other football coach in the country, is currently working through this unique situation that sees football coaches trying to do as much work as possible without the ability to have any close contact with each other and players. The ACC has shut down all spring athletic activities, including spring football practices and games, and every other conference and the NCAA has enacted similar decisions in the interest of the health and safety of as many as possible As a result, the question of when things will return to normal continues to be a mystery to everyone.
“The biggest problem is you’re not sure when it ends, and we can’t get those answers at this point.”
And therein lies the problem. With continued updates from the nation’s top health officials and those beyond the borders beginning to suspect social distancing measures may be recommended for extended periods of time, the scenarios continue to inch close to the start of the college football season. Those concerns have been expressed around the college football world as officials and conferences must look farther down the line to see what can and cannot be done.
Virginia head coach Bronco Mendenhall has discussed the possibility of the upcoming season not being able to start on time. Playing games in stadiums with no fans is certainly one option, although ADs have been quick to point out the economics of that option don’t exactly add up in anyone’s favor. This is part of the reason why some college football coaches have begun to do their part to spread the word about the urgency of this pandemic, including LSU head coach Ed Orgeron (HERE) and Texas head coach Tom Herman (HERE).
According to NBC News, citing information and data from the World Health Organization, there have been over 35,054 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the United States, with 448 confirmed deaths as of about 12:30 pm eastern on Monday (those numbers have since been updated and continue to rise).
Week 0 is scheduled for August 29. The clock is ticking.
It appears North Carolina was satisfied with the return of the Mack. Mack Brown and UNC have agreed on a one-year contract extension, the school announced Saturday evening.
Brown is now under contract with UNC through the 2024 season as a result of this contract extension.
“Mack’s return has had an outstanding impact — not just in Kenan Stadium, but throughout the Carolina community,” UNC AD Bubba Cunningham said in a released statement. “Our students are winning on the field and doing well in the classroom, our fan base is energized, and we are all excited about building on the great successes of this season.”
“I want to thank the Board of Trustees, Chancellor Guskiewicz, Bubba and the athletics department for their great support,” Brown said. “You could really see things come together. Our fans have stepped up filling the stadium each week. I love what we’ve been able to do with our facilities and the excitement around the program has given us the opportunity to have one of the top recruiting classes in the country. North Carolina is a wonderful place and everyone can tell we’re building something special here. I’m having a great time.”
Brown coached UNC to a record of 6-6 this season, his first back on the sidelines since last coaching at Texas in 2013 and his first season back at UNC since 1997. Brown’s Tar Heels were the only team to give Clemson much of a battle this season as well, and UNC is heading to the Military Bowl to face the Temple Owls later this month. UNC has now won a bowl game since the 2013 season. Brown’s last bowl victory with the program came in the 1996 season with a win in the Gator Bowl (UNC played in the Gator Bowl game the following season but Brown left the program prior to the bowl game to take over at Texas).
It’s that time of the year again when we are regularly reminded that Alabama head coach Nick Saban has never lost to an assistant coach during his coaching career. That perfect streak will once again be put on the line this weekend when the top-ranked Crimson Tide make their way to College Station, Texas to face the No. 24 Texas A&M Aggies. Texas A&M, of course, is coached by Jimbo Fisher. You guessed it. Fisher is a former assistant to Saban.
Fisher has gone 0-2 against his former boss, including last season’s loss in SEC play. Last season marked the first time Fisher faced Saban as a coach of an SEC West Division foe. His previous loss to Saban came while coaching at Florida State when the No. 3 Seminoles opened the 2017 season with a 24-7 loss to No. 1 Alabama in the season opener in Atlanta, Georgia. The most-hyped Week 1 game in quite some time ended up being far from able to match the preseason hype. Florida State hasn’t exactly been the same since and may still be trying to recover from that game.
The odds always seem to be in Saban’s favor, as he generally has the best team in every matchup against his former assistants, and that should once again be the case this weekend. Is Saban due for a loss against an assistant? Perhaps. It’s hard to win so many games before taking a mild hit somewhere along the way, even if by a fluke. Fisher may have Texas A&M working to be a viable threat to Alabama, and maybe playing at home helps, but the Aggies have already lost one game at home to Auburn so it doesn’t seem like this may be a difficult destination for Alabama.
Brett McMurphy of Stadium notes Saban has lost to just nine active coaches. Active coaches with victories against Saban are Les Miles (Kansas; 3), Hugh Freeze (Liberty; 2), Gus Malzahn (Auburn; 2), Dabo Swinney (Clemson; 2), Mack Brown (UNC; 2), David Cutcliffe (Duke; 1), Kirk Ferentz (Iowa; 1), Kevin Sumlin (Arizona; 1) and Kyle Whittingham (1; Utah). Only four of those coaches (Malzahn, Swinney, Ferentz, Whittingham) are at the same program today as they were when they topped Saban. Swinney and Brown, of course, have victories against Saban in the national championship game (Brown in the BCS and Swinney twice in the College Football Playoff).
Is Fisher going to be the first former Saban assistant to beat his old boss? We’ll find out this week. If not, we may be waiting for Kirby Smart to get another crack in the SEC Championship Game.
Over the course of a 20-game winning streak, there are bound to be some close calls. On Saturday in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, No. 1 Clemson (5-0, 3-0 ACC) had one of the closest calls of their current 20-game winning streak as the Tigers held on to escape an upset bid by North Carolina (2-3, 1-1 ACC), 21-20. Clemson came up with a stop on a two-point conversion attempt in the final minute of the game and prevented UNC from coming up with an onside kick to grab the win.
North Carolina did a good job of keeping Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence off his mark for most of the night (Lawrence was 18-of-30 for 206 yards and a touchdown), but he delivered a perfect pass to give Clemson its first lead of the game in the fourth quarter with a pass to Tee Higgins.
UNC had an answer, however. Freshman quarterback Sam Howell led the Tar Heels on a 16-play drive and 75 yards to get on the doorstep of the end zone in the final minutes of the game. Javonte Williams pushed the ball in for a touchdown to cut the Clemson lead to one. Head coach Mack Brown didn’t hesitate and was ready to go for two and the win. But Clemson was ready for the play and was all over Howell on the run.
After the win, Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney praised the effort by the Tar Heels and admitted to being out-coached by Brown. Swinney also said his team is not entitled to win and still has to go out and earn their wins just like everybody else.
Clemson now continues to extend its winning streak to 20 games, a school record. After getting next week off, the Tigers will host Florida State. North Carolina will visit Georgia Tech next week. The Yellow Jackets are coming off a 24-2 loss at Temple.
It’s been a long time coming for UNC head coach Mack Brown. In his first game on the sidelines since the 2013 season, Brown coached his Tar Heels to rally past South Carolina in the Belk College Football Kickoff Game in Charlotte, 24-20. It is the first time Brown has won a game since a Thanksgiving game between Brown’s Texas Longhorns and Texas Tech in 2013. On top of that, Brown got the win against his former assistant Will Muschamp, who was once named the head coach in waiting at Texas under Brown.
South Carolina had a 13-3 lead in the second quarter and took a 20-9 lead into the fourth quarter. But UNC kept grinding away and the defense rattled Gamecocks quarterback Jake Bentley. Bentley was intercepted twice in the final minutes of the game, both times by Myles Wolfolk, and he fumbled the football on the final play of the game. That ball was returned for a touchdown, but the game was already cemented in the win column for UNC.
For UNC, it was really the defense that led the way. South Carolina had just three third-down conversions in 13 tries and every possession after going up 20-9 ended with a punt or turnover the rest of the game for South Carolina.
Freshman quarterback Sam Howell got the start for UNC and he was solid in his Tar Heel debut. Howell passed for 245 yards and two touchdowns without an interception. Running back Javonte Williams went over the century mark to out-rush his South Carolina counterpart Tavien Feaster.
And here’s a fun little nugget. Brown has now won three consecutive games at UNC. Brown left UNC for Texas after the 1997 season, after UNC had gone 10-1 in the regular season. That season ended on a three-game winning streak with victories for UNC over Clemson, Duke and Virginia Tech (in the Gator Bowl, years before Virginia Tech was an ACC member). However, Brown did not coach the Tar Heels in the Gator Bowl because he left for Texas after accepting an offer from the Longhorns.
Brown will look to score his fourth consecutive win at UNC next week when UNC hosts Miami in an ACC Coastal Division matchup. Miami was off in Week 1 after opening their season against Florida in Week 0 (and losing to the Gators).
South Carolina will hope to get in the win column next week with a home game against Charleston Southern.