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Texas A&M Football

Around CFB: Coaching casualties already piling up at season's midpoint

October 19, 2021

The college football season is just at the halfway point, and three coaches have already been fired.

Washington State’s Nick Rolovich wouldn’t take the shot. USC’s Clay Helton didn’t get much of a shot. LSU’s Ed Orgeron seemingly took too many shots.

Rolovich, along with four assistants, was fired because he refused to comply with a state mandate and wouldn’t take the Covid-19 vaccination.

Helton was fired two weeks into the season following a 42-28 loss to Stanford.

Orgeron, of course, will leave at the end of the season. His tenure was torpedoed by recent poor on-field performance and poor off-field decisions. Among other bizarre transgressions, he reportedly hit on the wife of a prominent LSU official.

The opening of high-profile Power Five jobs, especially LSU and USC, may result in even more coach movement than usual. As LSU and USC poach successful coaches — as expected — those programs will have to fill vacancies and so on and so on.

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Ed Orgeron joins Gene Chizik as an SEC football coach to not continue just two years after winning a national title.

There likely will be other Power Five jobs that come open, too.

Those that may take a shot on a new coach include:

Syracuse: Dino Babers had an impressive 10-3 campaign in 2018. Since then, the Orange is 9-21. Syracuse is 3-4 thus far this season with road trips to Virginia Tech, Louisville and North Carolina State and home games with Boston College and Pitt remaining. A third-straight losing season is likely. In that case, Syracuse would finish under .500 in five of Babers’ six seasons.

Miami: Third-year Miami coach Manny Diaz is 16-14, but half those wins came last season. Now, the Hurricanes are 2-4 despite opening the season ranked No. 14. Three more losses ensure Diaz’s second losing season in three years. The Hurricanes are now without starting quarterback D’Eriq King and running back Cam’Ron Harris.

Nebraska: Once hailed as the coaching steal of 2018, Scott Frost is suffering through another disappointing year as the Cornhuskers are 3-5. Two of the victories were over Fordham and Buffalo. The remaining schedule consists of nationally-ranked Purdue, Ohio State and Iowa and a trip to Wisconsin. Even if the Huskers break even in those games, they finish with a fourth consecutive losing season under Frost.

Arizona: Don’t count on a change. Nobody fires a coach after one year, right? Sometimes you’ve got to acknowledge a mistake, though. Arizona is 0-6 under first-year coach Jedd Fisch. That includes losses to FCS Northern Arizona, Group of Five San Diego State and struggling Colorado. A winless season is certainly a possibility. But give Fisch a break. He took over a winless Kevin Sumlin team. Still, the Wildcats haven’t celebrated a victory since defeating Colorado 35-30 in October of 2019. That’s 18 consecutive losses.

Texas Tech: The Red Raiders have a respectable 5-2 record, but three of those victories are over Stephen F. Austin, Florida International and Kansas. The rest of the schedule is much more challenging. Three ranked teams remain as well as Kansas State and Iowa State. Tech could finish 5-7 which would be a third straight losing season under Matt Wells.

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Mike Norvell will need to turn things around in a hurry if he hopes to remain as the head coach of the Seminoles. 

Florida State: The (2-4) Seminoles are showing signs of life under coach Mike Norvell with consecutive victories over Syracuse and North Carolina. They will make it three-in-a-row on Saturday against Massachusetts. What then? Clemson, North Carolina State, Miami, Boston College and Florida remain. Lose three more and Norvell (5-10 in Tallahassee) has back-to-back losing seasons. Normally, that’s understandable for a rebuilding project, but Norvell’s predecessor, Willie Taggart, didn’t get through his second season before getting axed for a 9-12 record. If the Seminoles fade down the stretch, how does Florida State administration justify keeping Norvell when they fired Taggart?

Heisman watch (if my ballot was due today)

1a. Bryce Young, Alabama, QB: Another game. Another big performance. Young completed 20 of 28 passes for 348 yards and four TDs in a 49-9 victory over Mississippi State. He’s thrown for more than 300 yards in four games and has thrown multiple touchdown passes in every game. Overall, Young has passed for 2,082 yards and 24 touchdowns.

1b. Matt Corral, Ole Miss, QB: No individual is more responsible for his team’s success than Corral. He passed for 231 yards and two touchdowns and rushed for 195 yards in a 31-26 victory over Tennessee. He’s third in the nation in total offense with 1,728 passing yards and 450 rushing yards. He’s thrown for 14 touchdowns and rushed for eight.

3. Kenneth Walker, Michigan State, RB: The nation’s leading rusher had a pedestrian output (for him) in a 20-15 victory over Indiana. Walker rushed for just 84 yards. However, that raised his total to 997 yards. He’s also rushed for nine TDs.

4. C.J. Stroud, Ohio State, QB: The Buckeyes were open last week. Stroud has passed for 736 and 10 touchdowns in his last two games. Overall, he’s thrown for 1,699 yards and 18 touchdowns.

5. Desmond Ridder, Cincinnati, QB: Ridder had a rather modest performance in a 56-21 victory over UCF. He completed 13 of 23 passes for 140 yards in a touchdown for the unbeaten Bearcats. Overall, he’s passed for 1,444 yards and 13 touchdowns. He’s rushed for 118 yards and three TDs.

Predicted playoff participants

1. Georgia: Proving once again the old adage that defense wins championships.

2. Oklahoma: The Sooners aren’t that good. But it’s unlikely they stumble in the Big 12.

3. Ohio State: Buckeyes looking like their dominant old selves.

4. Cincinnati: This year is crazy enough for a Group of Five team to get in.

Games to watch

USC at No. 13 Notre Dame: A traditional rivalry. USC needs to save its season. Notre Dame needs to stay in the playoff hunt.

No. 8 Oklahoma State at Iowa State: Unbeaten Cowboys are riding high after coming back to beat Texas. Iowa State has been disappointing but is still dangerous.

No. 10 Oregon at UCLA: Possibly a preview of the Pac-12 championship game, but only if UCLA wins.

Clemson at No. 23 Pittsburgh: For all of Clemson’s problems the Tigers are still in the thick of the ACC Atlantic Division race. Pitt is the only unbeaten team in the Coastal Division.

LSU at No. 12 Ole Miss: Long-time rivals have changed roles. LSU trying to play the spoiler. The Tigers are coming off a big victory over Florida. Ole Miss has looked vulnerable the last three weeks.

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Around CFB: Coaching casualties already piling up at season's midpoint

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