Did the Fiesta Bowl Tell Us Anything About Thursday?

January 6, 2009

Once again, a Big 12 offense has underperformed its expected value based on its and its opposing defenses’ play all year. Texas projected to score 36.5 points, but ended up with only 24.

Kansas is still the only Big 12 offense to exceed its expected point value, and again, it was against a cratering Minnesota team. Oklahoma projects to get about 38 points, and I wouldn’t call it a stretch to think that Florida could hold the Sooners under that if they show up ready to play as a D.

Run defense was an early talking point in the game, as someone on Fox’s research staff pulled out the gem that the Longhorns had seen the fewest rushes of any defense. This tidbit was to point out how pass-heavy the Big 12 was this season.

I looked it up, and the NCAA stats that are currently available include all games through the Sugar Bowl. Even with everyone getting their bowls counted and Texas not, UT did indeed face the fewest rushes. They saw 317 runs against them, with second place being TCU who saw 355 rushes.

What about percentage though? Maybe Texas just didn’t see that many plays run against it thanks to its great offense being on the field a lot.

Well, Texas saw the lowest rush percentage too with opponents running just 40.5% of the time against them. The strong Texas D-line combined with a really young secondary was probably the reason behind this. The pass-happy Big 12 did help some, but it’s not the whole story.

Kansas, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, and Missouri all ended up in the bottom ten of opponents rush percentage along with Texas, and five teams in the bottom ten is a trend, not an outlier. Even so, Alabama and Iowa from the quarterback-challenged SEC and Big Ten were also in the bottom ten. Florida clocked in at 21st-lowest opposing run percentage.

The conference doesn’t explain it all. The fact these teams (Iowa excepted) got up big early and often meant that opponents were forced to pass more often. That’s a main reason why who finishes a game with the most passing yards is generally a poor predictor of who won the game, while the team that rushes for more yards is a much better one.

The fact that Texas’ players didn’t see a power rushing attack all season had more to do with Beanie Wells’ early success than a flat lack of running plays in general. Will Muschamp has seen plenty in his day, and he knows what to do against them, but it’s different when you experience it in a live game. Besides, the fact that Wells is simply a gifted back had something to do with it too.

So what about Thursday? The fact that Oklahoma saw a relatively low number of rushing plays probably means nothing either. Florida has actually seen fewer, at 411 to the Sooners’ 425. OU also saw a power-oriented rush attack against TCU and did fine, holding the Frogs to 2.9 yards per rush. TCU doesn’t use option the way Florida does and certainly doesn’t have a power-running quarterback like Tim Tebow, but the Oklahoma defense does get to go up against the monstrous Oklahoma offensive line in practice.

It’s basically a non-issue, even if it is a nice bit of trivia.

As has been reported, Florida’s defense is much higher in the national rankings than Oklahoma’s is. It is also considerably higher than Texas’ defense too, and the ‘Horns tied for holding OU to its lowest point output of the year.

Florida’s defense is practically even with where Ohio State was going into this game, and we saw that the Buckeyes held Texas to 17 points for more than 59 minutes.

Florida’s offense is considerably better in just about every quantifiable way than Ohio State’s is. Yes, that even includes rushing as the Gators rush for more yards a game and at 5.96 to 4.59, they get almost a yard and a half more per rush.

Throw all those together and mix them around and it points to a Florida win. In reality though, will it blend? We’ll find out.

In the game of Will it Blend, Tom always wins.

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Some BCS Final Score Projections

December 31, 2008

Just for the record, here are my projections for the first four BCS games. They were arrived at via the same method I used for the hypothetical BCS title game scenarios and to project a 35-21 Florida win in the SEC title game (which would have been 34-20 if Phillips didn’t miss his field goal).

I’ve run several bowl games, and it seems to be more accurate for good teams. It projected a 21-17 Boise State win over TCU (actual final: 17-16 TCU win, five total points off), but also a 34-31 Central Michigan win over FAU (actual final: 24-21 FAU, 20 total points off).

Anyway, I’ve used the absolute number projections rather than the percentages because time and again they are the more accurate ones. If you’ve read up on how this works, that has meaning to you. If you haven’t, then don’t worry about it.

Rose Bowl: USC 25 – Penn State 21

Orange Bowl: Cincinnati 19 – Virginia Tech 18

Sugar Bowl: Alabama 25 – Utah 24*

Fiesta Bowl: Texas 37 – Ohio State 18

For what it’s worth, this method has always projected the scores too high except for the obvious outliers (take a bow, Notre Dame) in every bowl I’ve run them for so far.

A bonus pick for tonight: Georgia Tech 31 – LSU 30 in the Chick-fil-A (Peach) Bowl.

*Originally said 25-23, but I noticed an error on the spreadsheet. It now says 25-24 because I don’t want to predict a tie, but since the raw numbers are Alabama 25.29 – Utah 24.93, it technically projects a 25-25 tie.


It Ends with a Whimper

September 14, 2008

Yup. Turns out the best game of the weekend was Friday night.

The Buckeyes’ fall goes on the Ohio State defense in my mind. Sure Todd Boeckman wilted under pressure like a malnourished begonia. But we knew he’d do that, so the goal had to be to keep the pressure off of him.

Jim Tressel came out in the second drive with a little vintage late-’90s Spurrier action, rotating Boeckman and Terrelle Pryor on nearly every play. It worked until the red zone, when USC rebuffed OSU’s attempts at getting in the end zone, but a field goal left Ohio State with a 3-0 lead.

At that point, the Buckeyes were in good shape. The offense had moved the ball well, and the tough, senior-laden defense was now playing with a lead. They had landed the first punch in the only game all those seniors returned to school for.

Oops. It became 14-3 almost before you could blink as the Trojans knifed their way through Ohio State’s defense with startling ease. Now it was different. Now there was pressure. Now, it was time for Boeckman to self destruct.

The next three drives went like this: missed field goal, Boeckman interception returned for a touchdown, Boeckman lost fumble. It became obvious fairly quickly that Pryor was only around to make one read and run, since he missed some open receivers regularly. The game was put on the senior quarterback, and he sure played like one. Provided your frame of reference is Chris Rix or Anthony Morelli, of course.

USC played like the calm assassins they normally are, but (I can’t believe I’m saying this) they weren’t really challenged much in this game. OSU opened with a jab, USC countered with a right hook, and the Buckeyes hit the mat never to get up.

Somehow you knew the Ohio State offense would struggle without Chris Wells, but the inevitable conclusion is that Wells is the offense. Robiskie and Hartline are no Ginn and Gonzalez, and Boeckman sure is no Smith or Krenzel.

The good news for Ohio State is that the Rose Bowl is still out there. Only Penn State, and to a lesser extent Wisconsin, look like a serious contender for the conference throne for now.

Still, this season is lost for the Buckeyes. They said constantly before the game that it’s not about the top 10, it’s national title or bust. Well, bust it is.


All 2008 Picks In One Place

August 23, 2008

I don’t think I’m going to have time to write up the rest of my picks in as much detail as I did with the ACC and Big 12. Instead, I am just going to reveal them all now. I will also be showing you how my selections fit with the expected outcomes based on ten years of BCS games and my opinion of the upcoming season.

Before we dig into the picks, I have some numbers to share with you. Numbers aren’t as juicy as picks are, of course, but they form the basis of these predictions.

The first bit is about BCS at-large teams. Since 1998, the BCS has had 24 at-large teams. I’m fudging a bit; the BCS Busters (Utah, Boise State, and Hawaii) had auto-bids, as did Nebraska and Oklahoma when they made the championship game without winning the Big 12. Just humor me for now.

Of those 24 at-larges, 20 have had the opportunity to return to the BCS the next season. Six of them were able to do it; fourteen were not. Since only 30% of BCS at-larges return the next season and we had four at-larges in 2007, we should expect that only one of them comes back this season.

The other important set of stats comes from my analysis of the preseason consensus. Based on that, we would expect there to be four BCS teams that were picked to be first in their division/conference, two that were picked second, one that was picked third, and one from all the rest.

That only adds up to eight teams though, and there are ten BCS spots. I have already said that I think this is a “season of titans” as it were, so to fill in those final two spots I am using two more teams that were picked to finish in first place. That makes a total of six teams picked first in their division/conference in the BCS. Also to fit in with that theory, I expect there to be no BCS Busters in 2008.

The preseason consensus, which appears to be about final at this point, can be found here.

One final point to keep in mind is that only one team–the 2003 Oklahoma Sooners who got a championship game automatic bid–has lost its conference championship game and still made the BCS.

Onto the picks!

ACC

Championship Game: Clemson over Virginia Tech

At-Large: None

BIG 12

Championship Game: Oklahoma over Missouri

At-Large: Texas Tech

BIG EAST

Champion: West Virginia (over second-place Cincinnati, third-place USF)

At-Large: None

I see West Virginia this year in a similar situation as Miami in 2002-03. This is perhaps the last big hurrah for a while since it will be extremely tough to replace Pat White. White will make up for other shortcomings on offense, and DC Jeff Casteel returns from last year’s staff to field a defense that is always better than people think it is.

I really like Cincinnati’s chances to finish second. The Bearcats won ten games last season, and two of their three losses were by one score or less. Replacing Ben Mauk will be difficult, but Brian Kelly is a good coach and a good quarterback developer. The defense will carry them to second place.

USF has talent in key areas, but I just don’t think Matt Grothe is consistent enough to carry them to second place in the conference. There’s just something about him I don’t trust.

BIG TEN

Champion: Ohio State

At-Large: Michigan State

Ohio State should be the best team in the country. It has 19 starters coming back from a team that went to the national title game. The Buckeyes have considerably more talent and depth than anyone else in the conference.

Picking Michigan State is rather curious. If you remember though, I have to have someone who was picked beyond the top three of its conference. The Spartans are that team, having been picked sixth in the Big Ten.

All six of MSU’s losses were close last season, making them a prominent member of the potential risers club. They have a great senior tailback in Javon Ringer, and if there’s a conference where you can ride a senior tailback to success, it’s this one. The offensive line is big, QB Brian Hoyer is a veteran, and Mark Dantonio’s coaching will keep the defense solid.

Illinois will fall back to earth without Rashard Mendenhall, I have little faith that Jay Paterno’s “Spread HD” will amount to much, and Bret Bielema’s teams have played to the level of their opponents so much it scares me. The Rose Bowl will need someone to replace the Buckeyes, and I think the Spartans just might be the in best position to get the bid.

Plus, the Big Ten has put more teams predicted to finish below third in the conference into the BCS than any other league. It would stand to reason that the Big Ten would be the most likely conference to produce that surprise team this year.

PAC-10

Champion: USC

At-Large: Arizona State

USC looks more vulnerable to me this season than it has in years. The defense will still be great, believe you me. The offense just won’t be overwhelming as it was in the 2003-05 run, and that is what made those Trojan teams nearly invincible.

Mark Sanchez may be good, but he is no Carson Palmer or Matt Leinart. Just being John David Booty will be enough to win the conference, and I think he can be that. USC gets the benefit of the doubt until it falls.

Arizona State was a year early by winning ten games a season ago. Serious questions persist about the offensive line, and the schedule is tougher with Georgia coming to town. However, Dennis Erickson is still the second-best coach in the conference, and there’s enough continuity to think that the Sun Devils will enjoy another great season.

SEC

Championship Game: Florida over Auburn

At-Large: Georgia

Florida and Auburn were almost mirror images of each other last year. If Florida could only have had a defense to go with its offense, the Gators could have been contenders. If Auburn could only have had an offense to go with its defense, the Tigers could have been contenders.

The offseason of training should make Florida’s defense much improved, and Auburn’s offense showed a lot of promise in its bowl game under new OC Tony Franklin. LSU has so much talent everywhere that they cannot be dismissed, but I don’t think Andrew Hatch is as good as Matt Flynn was. That assumption is the main deciding factor for picking the Tigers from the Plains over the Tigers from the Bayou.

Georgia returns most everyone important from last season. I have some concerns about the team though. Can Mark Richt really keep up the special motivational tactics all season long? If he doesn’t, can the team find the fire inside? The ’Dawgs certainly couldn’t at the beginning of last season.

Will Matthew Stafford really make the leap everyone is expecting? Can another patchwork offensive line come together to have great results? Most of these questions are probably “yes” answers, but I still have UGA finishing second in the SEC East because I think Florida will beat them. I will get into that more around the time of the game, but for now just know I am assuming a Gator win on November 1.

BCS BOWL APPEARANCES

I will use the BCS selection process that I outlined recently to explain why I have everyone going to the bowls they’re listed in.

BCS National Championship Game: Ohio State over Oklahoma

These are the two teams I think have the best shot at going undefeated. Ohio State has the better team, something it didn’t have in 2007, and it will have the motivation of needing to prove the world wrong, something it didn’t have in 2006.

Oklahoma sleepwalked through its two recent BCS games, but it won’t this time. The Sooners don’t have quite the same depth that OSU has though, and the waves of fresh Buckeye players will help decide the game.

For the first time since 2005, we should have a close, entertaining national title game.

Rose Bowl: USC over Michigan State

USC comes in as the tie-in Pac-10 champion. To replace the No. 1 Buckeyes, the Rose Bowl will select Michigan State (ranked between 12 and 14 in the BCS) and get its traditional matchup. The result will be similar to last year’s game as the nation once again howls for the Rose to forget its historical matchup and set up a good game.

Fiesta Bowl: Texas Tech over Arizona State

To replace the No. 2 Sooners, the Fiesta Bowl will take the hometown Sun Devils. It was not able to take them last season because of the Orange taking Kansas; that left the Fiesta with the choice of auto-bid West Virginia or auto-bid Hawai’i.

The Fiesta gets the next choice as well, being first in the rotation this season, so it will take the nearby Red Raiders for the excitement factor. It also will not want a rematch, which is the result of taking Georgia, and it will not want to take West Virginia two years in a row.

The game will be a shootout, and I will take Tech since Mike Leach always seems to do well in bowl games.

Sugar Bowl: Florida over West Virginia

Florida comes as the tie-in SEC champion. The Sugar will take West Virginia so as not to set up a rematch of the Florida-Georgia game.

This should be an exciting game as the poster boys of the spread option, Pat White and Tim Tebow, battle it out in the Superdome. Both offenses will give the defenses fits, but Florida’s stable of playmakers is so much deeper than West Virginia’s is that I have no choice but to take the Gators.

This would be a really, really fun game though.

Orange Bowl: Georgia over Clemson

Clemson comes as the tie-in ACC champion. The Orange Bowl cannot believe its luck that it gets to take Georgia as its at-large team. Both teams are regional powers that will snap up tickets as fast as the bowl can print them.

This is also a historic rivalry game for the schools, though one that hasn’t been played regularly in a while. For that reason, it will be a very hard-fought game with a lot on the line for the fans. Georgia simply has the better team though, so I expect the ’Dawgs to take it in the second half.

In Summary

I have six teams that were picked as first place finishers in the preseason consensus: Clemson, Oklahoma, West Virginia, Ohio State, USC, and Georgia. I have two teams that were picked as second place finishers in the preseason consensus: Florida and Arizona State. I have one team that was picked as a third place finisher in the preseason consensus, Texas Tech, and one from below that, Michigan State. Georgia is the one returning at-large from last season.

All of the BCS games look good except for the Rose Bowl. Most even have an enticing storyline to go along with a good matchup. I feel really bad for leaving Missouri out, but I can’t ignore the history on teams that have lost their conference title games. Subbing the Tigers in for the Red Raiders is still plausible and could also make for a great game.

For what it’s worth, I also expect Ohio State’s Chris Wells to win the Heisman, followed by Chase Daniel, Tim Tebow, and Pat White.

That is over 1,900 words of predicting up there. That’s way more than enough. It’s about time that we actually had some games in what looks to be another outstanding college football season.


Jim Tressel Attempts To Set The Record Straight On The Big Ten

July 22, 2008

On Monday, July 21st we got the first installment of ESPN’s College Football Live series in anticipation of the 2008 season. I know that many people dislike ESPN for one reason or another, but it’s hard to argue with having a 30 minute college football show every weekday.

We also know that the season can’t be that far away if the Mothership’s marketing machine is roaring to life. I think we can all agree that the season being close is a Good Thing, surpassed only by the season being here.

Anyway, they decided to bring out some big guns of controversy to kick off the season. One was Tim Tebow, who is either a saint or the most overexposed and overrated quarterback in years depending on who you ask. The other was the head coach of Ohio State, Jim Tressel.

After some pleasantries, including Tressel giving his best Jacques Clouseau impression, Jessie Palmer went right to the topic that has set message boards and comment threads alight all spring and summer long:

Palmer: “The Big Ten last year went 3-5 in bowl games. Ohio State obviously has lost the last two national championship games. What do you say to critics out there who say the Big Ten is a weak conference?”

Tressel: “Well, I think anyone that’s ever played against the Big Ten would refute that. The Big Ten is not a weak conference; it’s a strong conference.

Did we lose the last two national championship games? Yes. Did we lose the last two Rose Bowls, which is a BCS venue? Yes, and that gets the most notoriety so I think you have to look in the mirror and say, ‘If you want respect you have to win those games.’

I don’t know if you ever get respect in debates. You get respect in action, and 2008’s on the way.” (emphasis mine)

I like the way Tressel did that. He did not give in, but he didn’t dismiss the critics either. He acknowledged the fact that losing on the biggest stages alters perceptions more than anything else does.

Given how politically polished that statement was, it’s no wonder people still call Tressel “The Senator.” The 2008 season is indeed on the way, and he knows that all the bluster in the world during the offseason will never carry as much weight as what happens on the field.

Hopefully, this statement from the Sweatervest can serve as the final word in the overplayed, overhyped, and overdone debate over the strength of the Big Ten this offseason. I have little hope that it will, but a guy can dream, can’t he?


Coaching Analysis: Jim Tressel

July 7, 2008

He has accumulated many nicknames over the years, from the Senator to CheatyPants McSweaterVest. He has also accumulated many wins, conference titles, a national title, and two spectacular flameouts in the past two BCS title games.

He is Jim Tressel, head coach of Ohio State and one of the more controversial figures in the sport.

He would seem an unlikely candidate for the role of controversy. He wins a lot but seldom via embarrassing blowouts. He speaks out in public only on rare occasions. He projects an image of a conservative, almost introverted college professor who is more likely to give a lecture on economics than a pregame motivational speech.

He also has earned that second nickname listed above thanks to a string of off the field incidents that range from player arrests to guys taking money from boosters. They date back to his time at Youngstown State, and a New York Times article from the week before his game against Florida outlines the major stories if you’re interested.

One thing that can’t be denied regardless of affiliation is that the man wins a lot of games. Through seven seasons in Columbus, he has won a national title, four conference titles, and appeared in five BCS bowl games. He is one of only two coaches, along with Bob Stoops, to have made three BCS championship games; however, they are also the only two coaches to have lost two of them in a row.

Ohio State has won the Big Ten three years in a row, and it appears to have the best team going into 2008. That means Tressel is threatening to turn the Big Ten into what Pete Carroll has made the Pac-10: one team on top and everyone else playing for second place.

Here is Tressel’s record broken down by site. This table does not include games against I-AA teams.

Jim Tressel at Ohio State
Site Wins Losses Totals
Home 44 5 49
Away 24 8 32
Bowls 4 3 7
Totals 72 16 88

Overall, that’s pretty impressive. That’s a winning percentage of .818, which is about as good as anyone can do over an extended period of time. The bowl record obviously could use some work, but I’ll get into more of that later. The home record isn’t quite as good as I had expected, but two of those five losses came in Tressel’s first year.

Here is Tressel’s record broken down by site. As always, first tier opponents are teams that had a winning percentage of .750 or better, second tier were .500 to .749, third tier opponents were .250 to .499, and fourth tier opponents were .249 and below.

Jim Tressel at Ohio State
Tier Wins Losses Pct. Avg. Scored Avg. Allowed
First 9 9 .500 23 24
Second 31 5 .861 28 15
Third 28 2 .933 33 13
Fourth 4 0 1.000 31 6

The obvious: he wins a lot of games, beats the teams he should beat, but doesn’t win by gaudy scores. This much we knew. The two losses to third tier teams, if you were wondering, were to five-win teams in his first year on the job.

That said, the 9-9 record against the top tier surprised me.

Prior to the last two BCS title games, Tressel had a reputation for being one of the best big game coaches in America. He could be counted upon to win the big games, one of the few in the country who were trusted to do so. Yet toss out those two championship game fiascoes, and he’s a good but not great 9-7 against that top tier.

One of those seven other losses was to Vince Young in 2005, which is entirely understandable. Two more were to Illinois’ miracle 2001 squad and Lou Holtz’s one good South Carolina team in Tressel’s first year, which are also understandable.

He also had a loss to Joe Paterno’s last great Penn State team (the 11-1 team in 2005), Kirk Ferentz’s last great Iowa team (his 10-2 team in 2004), and the sole loss to Michigan in 2003 (which can’t be complained about given the outcome of every other Michigan game). Overall, it’s hard to blame him for those.

However, guys don’t get reputations for being a great coach on the biggest stages based on understandable losses. I have to conclude that his big game rep was built on beating Michigan year in and year out and his 4-1 bowl record through the 2005 season.

Perhaps that should be enough to qualify a coach for that status, but perhaps we shouldn’t have been so surprised to see the losses to Florida and LSU. Given that LSU was almost certainly the better team from the start of 2007 and the overwhelming talent on Florida’s defense, those losses were also understandable (though the final scores were not).

I mentioned Bob Stoops earlier, and now I want to bring him up again. He and Tressel have many similarities, most notably their winning the national title in their second years and then going on to lose two BCS title games in a row. I wanted to see though, just how similar their records are.

So, here are the records of Stoops in his first seven seasons and Tressel side by side.

Stoops and Tressel, through 7 Seasons
Stoops Tressel
Record 74-16 72-16
Bowl Record 4-3 4-3
BCSCG Record 1-2 1-2
vs. 1st Tier 14-7 9-9
vs. 2nd Tier 27-7 31-5
vs. 3rd Tier 26-2 28-2
vs. 4th Tier 7-0 4-0
Nat. Titles 1 1
Conf. Titles 3 4
vs. Rival 5-2 6-1
Heismans 1 (J. White) 1 (T. Smith)

BCSCG means BCS Championship Game. For Stoops, “Rival” means Texas; for Tressel, “Rival” means Michigan.

Their records aren’t just similar, they’re eerily close. Just about as close as Mack Brown and Phil Fulmer through ten years.

Stoops was better against the top tier, but Tressel was a little better against the second. Otherwise, everything is basically the same down to getting blown out in the national title game with their Heisman-winning quarterbacks.

It gets even spookier when you line up the year-by-year records of each from best to worst:

Records by Year
Stoops Tressel
13-0 14-0
12-1 12-1
12-2 11-2
12-2 11-2
11-2 10-2
8-4 8-4
7-5 7-5

It can’t get any closer than that, can it? Have a look at the year-by-year records for Oklahoma and Ohio State if you want to reconcile the differences in number of games for each season, though most have to do with Oklahoma playing in the Big 12 title game.

This second section was mainly for fun, since there’s not a lot that can be gleaned from it. It’s a remarkable coincidence that these two coaches in different conferences in different time periods with fairly different philosophies can do almost the exact same thing over such a long period of time.

It just goes to show that football success takes all types, and that even high levels of success can be matched elsewhere. Will Tressel go into as big a bowl tailspin as Stoops did? It’s just one of the many interesting subplots that will make the 2008 college football season great.


The Guys Who Follow College Football’s Coaching Legends

May 9, 2008

We’ve all heard it a million times: “You don’t want to be the guy who follows a legend; you want to be the guy who follows the guy who follows the legend.”

It makes intuitive sense, and it certainly would seem true. Urban Meyer is the guy who followed the guy who followed the legend at Florida, and things have worked out quite well for him so far. Then again, Bill Callahan was the same at Nebraska, and the fans were ready to run him out of town two years before he finally got the axe.

To see how true this adage is, I’ve looked at some coaching legends and the guys who followed them. They are as follows, in chronological order from when the legend was hired:

OKLAHOMA

Legend: Bud Wilkinson, 1947-63, 145-29-4 (.826); 3 national and 14 conference titles

Follower: Gomer Jones, 1964-65, 9-11-1 (.452); 0 national or conference titles

Next: Jim Mackenzie, 1966, 6-4 (.600); 0 national or conference titles

This is somewhat of a bad example to start off with, since Mackenzie sadly passed away due to a heart attack after his first season.

Jones definitely had a difficult time following Wilkinson though, having not been able to break even in his two years. Wilkinson is the coach who led Oklahoma to its famed 47-game winning streak, and he failed to win the Big 8 title in only three of his 17 years.

AUBURN

Legend: Shug Jordan, 1951-75, 175-83-7 (.674), 1 national and 1 conference title

Follower: Doug Barfield, 1976-80, 29-25-1 (.536), 0 national or conference titles

Next: Pat Dye, 1981-92, 99-39-4 (.711), 0 national and 4 conference titles

Jordan held the job for 25 years and the stadium is named after him, but his .674 winning percentage is lower than any of the other legends on this list. Barfield followed him up with 5 forgettable seasons, with 8-3 being the best record he posted.

Dye had the most success in his tenure of the three, though he was forced out of his coaching and AD position when it was revealed that assistant coaches and boosters had paid a player. He still is fondly remembered, though, as the field at Jordan-Hare stadium was named after him in 2005.

OHIO STATE

Legend: Woody Hayes, 1951-78, 205-61-10 (.761), 5 national and 13 conference titles

Follower: Earle Bruce, 1979-87, 81-26-1 (.755), 0 national and 4 conference titles

Next: John Cooper, 1988-2000, 111-43-4 (.715), 0 national and 4 conference titles

Earle Bruce did an admirable job in following Woody Hayes after Hayes’ unexpected meltdown and firing. He did not see the same success however, though he nearly won the national title in his first year.

John Cooper is a goat in OSU annals, having posted a 2-10-1 record against Michigan and having presided over numerous academic and discipline problems.

TEXAS

Legend: Darrell Royal, 1957-76, 167-47-5 (.774), 3 national and 11 conference titles

Follower: Fred Akers, 1977-86, 86-31-2 (.731), 0 national and 2 conference titles

Next: David McWilliams, 1987-91, 31-26 (.544), 0 national and 1 conference title

Akers did a much better job than McWilliams did. Akers caught flak though for losing bowl games and in his final few years having bad records against Oklahoma and Texas A&M.

McWilliams’s 1990 SWC championship year looks like a fluke in light of the rest of his seasons, with the 7-5 record in his first year being the second-best record he had.

ALABAMA

Legend: Paul Bryant, 1958-82, 232-46-9 (.824), 6 national and 13 conference titles

Follower: Ray Perkins, 1983-86, 32-15-1 (.677), 0 national or conference titles

Next: Bill Curry, 1987-89, 26-10 (.722), 0 national and 1 conference title

Perkins left the New York Giants to coach at his alma mater, and he left four years later to take a rich contract with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. An incident where a former player that he had recruited claimed he was paid led to the school being placed on probation in 1995.

Curry was doing well in his three years, though he was 0-3 against Auburn. He didn’t like the contract offered to him in 1990, so he left to coach Kentucky.

GEORGIA

Legend: Vince Dooley, 1964-88, 201-77-10 (.715), 1 national and 6 conference titles

Follower: Ray Goff, 1989-95, 46-34-1 (.574), 0 national or conference titles

Next: Jim Donnan, 1996-2000, 40-19 (.678), 0 national or conference titles

Neither Goff nor Donnan panned out for the Bulldogs. They both failed to win even an SEC East title, and both were used as Florida’s whipping boy. Goff is perhaps most famous for being called “Ray Goof” by Steve Spurrier.

MICHIGAN

Legend: Bo Schembechler, 1969-89, 194-48-5 (.796), 0 national and 13 conference titles

Follower: Gary Moeller, 1990-94, 44-13-3 (.758), 0 national and 3 conference titles

Next: Lloyd Carr, 1995-07, 122-40 (.753), 1 national and 5 conference titles

Moeller is a controversial figure for Wolverines due to his messy departure following a drunken altercation at a restaurant. Some argue his best years were already behind him; some argue that he was trying to modernize the program and that Carr won his national title with Moeller’s players.

Carr is one of the few followed-the-guy-who-followed-the-legend guys who actually won a national title. His legacy will remain mixed due to his futility against Jim Tressel and the loss to Appalachian State.

BYU

Legend: LaVell Edwards, 1972-2000, 257-101-3 (.716), 1 national and 19 conference titles

Follower: Gary Crowton, 2001-04, 26-23 (.531), 0 national and 1 conference title

Next: Bronco Mendenhall, 2005-present, 28-10 (.737), 0 national and 2 conference titles

Crowton won the MWC his first year with Edwards’ players, but failed to reach .500 in his remaining three years. Mendenhall has put together consecutive 11-win seasons, winning the MWC title each year. His 2008 team is expected to contend for a BCS bowl.

NEBRASKA

Legend: Tom Osborne, 1973-97, 255-49-3 (.836), 3 national and 13 conference titles

Follower: Frank Solich, 1998-03, 58-19 (.753), 0 national and 1 conference title

Next: Bill Callahan, 2004-07, 27-22 (.551), 0 national or conference titles

Solich is probably the source of the modern “You don’t want to be the guy who follows a legend” movement, having been fired after a 9-win season. Callahan ended up being a disaster, and will probably be despised by Husker fans forever.

FLORIDA

Legend: Steve Spurrier, 1990-2001, 122-27-1 (.817), 1 national and 6 conference titles

Follower: Ron Zook, 2002-04, 23-14 (.622), 0 national and conference titles

Next: Urban Meyer, 2005-present, 31-8 (.795), 1 national and 1 conference title

Zook was doomed from the beginning, having been a fallback choice for the coaching position and having never been a head coach before. He won games he shouldn’t have, but lost games he shouldn’t have too. He also presided over an explosion of off-field issues, including Zook himself being involved in a fight at a frat house. Some Florida fans still defend him, but the overall sentiment is that his hiring was a mistake.

After doubts about his offense abounded in his first year, Meyer solidified his position in his second by winning a national title. Some fans are uncomfortable with his highly aggressive recruiting tactics, which have drawn scrutiny from other coaches and the NCAA, but otherwise Gators are more than happy with his job so far.

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Following a legend, regardless of place in line, is not easy. Only Pat Dye clearly surpassed his legendary predecessor’s accomplishments, but his departure was not the stuff of legends.

None of the followers distinguished himself after leaving, though Earle Bruce had a nice run with Iowa State before coaching the Buckeyes. Ron Zook still has time to carve out his legacy at Illinois.

The book is still open for Mendenhall and Meyer, but both appear to be in good shape. Despite their records, most of the coaches in that coveted “guy who followed the guy who followed the legend” role didn’t fare much better than the guy who did follow the legend.

There is some truth to the adage, but in the end good coaches will succeed in good situations regardless of who came before.