Coaches’ Poll Votes

December 8, 2008

Since this is the final poll, the coaches’ votes are public. There are here, courtesy of the poll’s sponsor, USA Today. Urban Meyer voted Florida No. 1, Oklahoma No. 2, Alabama No. 3, and Texas No. 4. Mack Brown had Florida No. 1 and Texas No. 2. Bob Stoops did not have a vote.

The eight coaches to vote for an Oklahoma-Texas rematch were Iowa State’s Gene Chizik, North Texas’ Todd Dodge, Colorado’s Dan Hawkins, Nebraska’s Bo Pelini, Missouri’s Gary Pinkel, UTEP’s Mike Price, Purdue’s Joe Tiller, and Ohio State’s Jim Tressel (!).

All except Tiller and Tressel, both Big Ten coaches, are either Big 12 coaches or coach in the Big 12 footprint. Good to know that SEC-Big Ten relations are doing so well (see below) and that Tressel is completely over the game from two years ago.

Texas Tech’s Mike Leach also had Florida No. 3 as the rematch folks did, but he had Oklahoma at No. 1 and his own Texas Tech Red Raiders No. 2.


  • Leach and Baylor’s Art Briles have Texas at No. 5
  • Both Steve Spurrier and Ron Zook have Oklahoma No. 1 and Florida No. 2
  • Every SEC coach with a vote except Spurrier had Florida No. 1
  • Where other coaches in Florida had the Gators: FIU’s Mario Cristobal and FAU’s Howard Schnellenberger had them at No. 1, while FSU’s Bobby Bowden, USF’s Jim Leavitt, and UCF’s George O’Leary had them at No. 2. Miami’s Randy Shannon did not have a vote this year.
  • Bobby’s son Tommy got to keep his vote despite losing his job, and he voted Florida No. 1
  • Not one single Big Ten coach had Florida at No. 1. Tiller and Tressel had the Gators at No. 3, and Wisconsin’s Bret Bielema, Michigan State’s Mark Dantonio, Michigan’s Rich Rodriguez, and Zook all had Florida at No. 2. Florida got 26 of the 61 first place votes, so by percentages, UF should have got 2 or 3 first place votes from the Big Ten voting bloc.

A Note on Dabo Swinney

December 2, 2008

As long as I am going to take Tennessee to task for its questionable hire, I might as well add Clemson in too.

Dabo Swinney is going to take over as the full-time head coach. His principle qualifications appeared to be that he is young, he is energetic, he knows Clemson, and most importantly he is not Tommy Bowden. It also doesn’t hurt that keeping Dabo means C.J. Spiller is sticking around for another season. Probably.

According to the linked article, his primary accomplishment was firing OC Rob Spence and deciding to give the ball to James Davis and Spiller more. Not to heap on the snark, but everyone who looked at Clemson’s situation could see that having a banged up Cullen Harper sling it around the field was a bad idea and that giving the ball to the two most talented players on the offense was the right thing to do.

So as we near the Dabo era, I think it’s worth digging up a table I made back before the season when I was doing coaching record analysis. I have updated it to add 2008.

Clemson Season Splits
Year First Half Second Half Beat SC? Overall
1999 3-3 3-3 Y 6-6
2000 6-0 3-3 Y 9-3
2001 4-2 3-3 N 7-5
2002 3-3 4-3 Y 7-6
2003 4-2 4-2 Y 8-4
2004 2-4 4-1 Y 6-5
2005 3-3 5-1 Y 8-4
2006 5-1 3-4 N 8-5
2007 4-2 5-2 Y 9-4
2008 3-3 4-2 Y 7-5

If I scrambled up the years and didn’t label them, you would not be able to pick 2008 out from the bunch. OK maybe you could have found the one of the two years with only 12 total games and seven wins, but you get the point. Nothing particularly stands out about 2008 relative to the rest of the Bowden Era.

This is Dabo’s task: make a row in the table that doesn’t blend in with the others. I don’t know if a guy who was out of coaching as recently as 2002 is the right one for one of the four ACC schools that truly cares about football in the way that Big 12 and SEC schools do.

We’ll see, but I have a feeling the next three seasons in the upstate of South Carolina will probably not stand out from anything else you see here.

A Tale of Two Tommys: Tuberville and Bowden

June 14, 2008

As an addendum to my piece on Tommy Bowden from yesterday, I’m adding another comparison. Last time, I used Bob Stoops, who has been at Oklahoma the same amount of time Bowden has been at Clemson. The idea was to give a baseline of a top coach to contrast Bowden’s record against.

It occurred to me today though that there might be another coach who had been at his school the same amount of time, and sure enough, there was: Tommy Tuberville. Like Bowden, he signed up with his band of Tigers in 1999.

They have a fairly similar record, with Tuberville averaging just one more win a year than Bowden does at Clemson. They both have an undefeated, conference-winning season (Bowden’s was at Tulane) but after that, they combine to have just one season of fewer than three losses (2006 Auburn). Bowden has been on the hot seat for about half a decade, and Auburn nearly replaced Tuberville with Bobby Petrino late in 2003.

The difference is that Tuberville’s undefeated, conference-winning season was in the SEC in 2004. Ever since that year, he has garnered a reputation of being an excellent big game coach. Let’s take a look at his record to see how he has done.

Tommy Tuberville at Auburn
Site Wins Losses Totals
Home 44 14 58
Away 24 15 39
Neutral 1 1 2
Bowls 5 3 8
Totals 74 33 107

As with last time, games against I-AA teams have been thrown out. The two neutral site games are SEC championship games. Tuberville’s home record is slightly better than Bowden’s is, and his road record is noticeably better.

Here is his record broken down by tier. As a refresher, a top tier team finished the season with a winning percentage of .750 or better, while a second tier team finished the year between .500 and .749, inclusive.

Tommy Tuberville at Auburn
Tier Wins Losses Pct. Avg. Scored Avg. Allowed
First 12 18 .400 18 23
Second 26 15 .634 23 20
Third 28 0 1.000 34 12
Fourth 8 0 1.000 42 12

What immediately jumps out is that Tuberville is much better against the first tier teams than Bowden is, and he has yet to lose to a third or fourth tier team. Their records against the second tier are almost exactly the same.

The question though is whether something changed fundamentally in 2004 or not. That’s the popular theory anyway, that he transformed into one of the best big game coaches. With that in mind, here is his record from 1999 to 2003. The bottom two tiers have not been analyzed individually since Tuberville has not lost to a team that finished the year below .500.

Tuberville, 1999-2003
Tier Wins Losses Pct.
First 3 14 .176
Second 15 25 .375
vs .500+ 18 39 .316
Overall 35 24 .593

Tuberville just simply was not that good against decent or better teams. He was about the same against the first tier as Bowden has been, but he only won three of every eight games against the second tier teams. After six solid seasons of this kind of performance, it comes as no shock that the Auburn administration was looking to replace him.

Now, his record from 2004 to the present day.

Tuberville, 2004-07
Tier Wins Losses Pct.
First 9 4 .692
Second 11 5 .688
vs .500+ 20 9 .690
Overall 39 9 .813

It certainly appears that Tuberville’s new reputation is well-founded. His .692 winning percentage against the first tier is even better than Bob Stoops’ .630 mark.

His performance against the second tier isn’t quite as good as Stoops’ is, but it evens out thanks to the fact Tuberville hasn’t lost to any third tier teams while Stoops has lost to three of them. Tuberville’s overall winning percentage is basically the same as Stoops’ overall winning percentage (.814).

However, what separates Tuberville, who’s been to just one conference title game in the four seasons since 2004, from Stoops, who has been to six in his nine years, is performance against the top of their divisions.

OU and Texas have been the top two teams in the Big 12 South almost every one of the last nine years, and Stoops is 6-3 against the Longhorns. In the last three seasons, Tuberville lost to the eventual SEC West champ each of those years. Basically, while Tuberville has been better at winning big games, he just has had some trouble winning the right big games.

What this evidence appears to suggest is that it is possible for a coach to transform from being lousy against good teams to being great against good teams. For Tuberville, it took six years on the job as a head coach to make the change. It has now been eleven years as a head coach and nine in a major conference for Tommy Bowden.

If you like symmetry, it was the final year of having Cadillac Williams and Ronnie Brown that Tuberville made his change. We’re now coming up on the last year of James Davis-C.J. Spiller combo at Clemson. Will Bowden make the same transformation that Tuberville did? It’s just another subplot to watch for in the 2008 college football season.

Putting Tommy Bowden in Perspective

June 13, 2008

I have been toying around with the idea of projecting the winner of every college football game in 2008. It’s a fool’s errand I know, but it would be fun, it’s something to do during the long offseason, and it would give me something semi-solid to base a preseason top 25 on.

I went ahead and started going alphabetically in the conferences, beginning with the ACC. I got all the way to the second team on the list before running into one of the biggest conundrums of 2008: how good will Clemson be?

Tommy Bowden has been there since 1999, and he hasn’t won a conference title yet. He has the longest tenure of any I-A coach who hasn’t won his conference. I don’t know about every guy who has ever run a program, but it seems unlikely that many coaches suddenly get better after nine years on the job.

In my prior piece about following coaching legends, the only legendary coach on there who didn’t win at least six conference titles was Shug Jordan at Auburn. He had only one SEC title in his 25 seasons on the plains, but it came in his seventh year. Tommy Bowden has obviously passed that point already.

With that in mind, I went ahead and took a look at his record. Here it is broken down by site, in glorious PivotTable-o-vision:

Tommy Bowden at Clemson
Site Wins Losses Totals
Home 39 16 55
Away 23 21 44
Bowls 3 5 8
Totals 65 42 107

These totals exclude games against I-AA schools. He wins about 71% of his home games, is roughly even on the road, and he’s not so great in bowls.

What about his opponents though? Here’s another table, with his opponents broken down by tiers. The fourth tier is made of opponents with a winning percentage of .000 – .249, the third is for teams with a winning percentage of .250 – .499, the second is for teams with a winning percentage of .500 – .749, and the fourth is for teams with a winning percentage of .750 – 1.000.

Tommy Bowden at Clemson
Tier Wins Losses Pct. Avg. Scored Avg. Allowed
First 4 21 .160 17 27
Second 28 17 .622 27 22
Third 22 3 .880 36 18
Fourth 11 1 .917 44 17

He’s awful against the best teams, wins two thirds of them against pretty good teams, and he cleans up against bad and mediocre teams. The one loss against a fourth tier opponent, if you’re curious, was a 16-13 loss to 2-9 Duke in 2004.

An interesting angle is to think of it this way: in 13 of Clemson’s 21 losses to first tier teams, the opponent would have dropped back into the second tier had the Tigers defeated them. Winning those games would have made Bowden a more respectable 4-8 against college football’s top tier.

A common refrain I’ve heard about Clemson under Bowden is that the team usually gets off to a bad start but gets bailed out by beating either Tommy’s dad at FSU or South Carolina. It’s a nice idea to think his daddy was gifting wins to keep Tommy employed, but Clemson has played FSU in the second half of the season only five times. The Tigers went 2-3 in those games.

As for the bad start/good finish/beat South Carolina theory for Bowden keeping his job, here’s what the record shows:

Clemson Season Splits
Year First Half Second Half Beat SC? Overall
1999 3-3 3-3 Y 6-6
2000 6-0 3-3 Y 9-3
2001 4-2 3-3 N 7-5
2002 3-3 4-3 Y 7-6
2003 4-2 4-2 Y 8-4
2004 2-4 4-1 Y 6-5
2005 3-3 5-1 Y 8-4
2006 5-1 3-4 N 8-5
2007 4-2 5-2 Y 9-4

The narrative about beating FSU to save his job holds true for 2005 only, since Bowden’s other second half win over FSU came in 2003. The narrative about beating South Carolina to save his job does appear to ring true, since he is 7-2 against the Gamecocks. The whole bit about slow starts also holds water, as Clemson has lost fewer than two of its first six just twice in Bowden’s tenure.

To give a point of reference, I tried to find a coach who has won his conference, is considered to be one of the best, and who has been at his school about the same amount of time Bowden has been at Clemson. Turns out there is such a coach: Bob Stoops. He has been in Norman the same nine years that Bowden has been in Clemson. Here is his record at OU:

Bob Stoops at Oklahoma
Site Wins Losses Totals
Home 53 2 55
Away 27 11 37
Neutral 12 4 16
Bowls 4 5 9
Totals 96 22 118

Stoops’ lone I-AA opponent is not counted. The neutral site games are the annual Texas game, any Big 12 championship games, and one Kansas game played in Kansas City. Here is his win percentage against the four tiers:

Bob Stoops at Oklahoma
Tier Wins Losses Pct. Avg. Scored Avg. Allowed
First 17 10 .630 28 23
Second 36 9 .800 35 19
Third 28 3 .903 37 15
Fourth 15 0 1.000 47 7

Stoops basically does to the first tier what Bowden does to the second tier. Even with his famous struggles in BCS games post-2000, he is still very good against the top teams in college football. Of those 10 losses to first tier teams, only one would have dropped back to the second tier had Oklahoma won. The first tier teams the Sooners have lost to are well-entrenched there.

The clearest difference between the Bowden and Stoops is the home record: they both have 55 home games against I-A opponents and Bowden has lost 16 of them while Stoops has lost two. The next clearest difference is the performance against the top two tiers. That’s the difference between greatness and an conference also-ran: protecting your home turf, winning games against your peers, and winning some that you maybe aren’t supposed to win.

There is good news for Clemson though. In 2007 the Tigers posted a winning record in both halves of the season for just the second time under Bowden. Plus, Clemson has the best quarterback in the ACC in Cullen Harper. Most importantly, it’s not clear that more than one or two teams on the schedule will be a first tier team. Clemson averages three games a year against the top tier, and surprise: Clemson has yet to lose fewer than three games in a season under Bowden.

Alabama has a shot at 9-3 if you believe in second year magic under Saban, and Wake Forest might get there too. Boston College figures to take a step back without Matt Ryan, and Virginia will do the same without Chris Long. There is no Virginia Tech on the schedule, and I think FSU will still be down in 2008. Even if the Tigers go 3-2 against those opponents listed here, it’ll almost certainly be enough to win the division as long as one of those wins is over Wake Forest.

If Tommy Bowden is ever going to win an ACC championship, or at least a division title, this figures to be the year. He has the best quarterback and best two running backs in the conference. The schedule looks very friendly with only four road games, and it doesn’t appear to have more than one or two of the kinds of games he normally loses.

This is it for Tommy Bowden; it’s doubtful that he can survive failing to win the ACC Atlantic even if he does beat South Carolina. Taking care of the rival only buys you so much time. Good or bad, 2008 will define Tommy Bowden’s coaching career.

Bowden Bowl 9

September 4, 2007

My goodness, what a horrid game. FSU came out completely flat and looked like a helpless team in falling behind 21-0. Then, a snap over the punter’s head by Clemson led to a momentum change in FSU’s favor which led them to a deficit of just 6 at 24-18. Then, it became an epic battle between Tommy Bowden’s proclivity to give away games and Drew Weatherford’s uncanny ability to get sacked in the worst possible times.

ESPN’s Lou Holtz and Mark May didn’t have their A games either when it came to picking the winner in this stinkfest.

The most exciting part of this game was watching the students run on and off of the field as the final play was reviewed and the stadium announcer told them to get off of it. Now, maybe the Clemson students were just looking for an excuse to rush the field, but a word to Tiger fans: beating FSU doesn’t mean much anymore.

The GameDay guys both missed it too.

The FSU defense only looked fast and nasty for about 10 minutes on the game clock. Players were routinely missing tackles, leading to numerous stat boxes showing that something around 80-85% of Clemson’s rushing yards came after the first contact. The FSU offense wasn’t much to speak of either. FSU had only 1 first down in the first half. Drew Weatherford had only one good drive, and the Noles couldn’t run for most of the game. So much for Jimbo Fisher and Rick Trickett coming in and having an immediate impact. There was a priceless shot of Jimbo right before halftime talking to Weatherford from the booth looking like he couldn’t believe what he was seeing, and not in the good way.

Jimbo Fisher, center, had no idea what he was getting into. Then again, which is worse: working at FSU, or working for Les Miles?

Hopefully this will put to rest the idiocy that FSU is a good team. I was surprised to see such a smart guy as Phil Steele predict that FSU would compete for a national title this year. In addition, the Semis were names as the most underrated team by the BlogPoll roundtable, though that was heavily influenced by Mr. Steele. I still don’t understand why because as I pointed out on my rankings, while many coaches are new it’s still the same old players who went 7-6 last year on the field. Add on to that bit the fact that offenses usually struggle under new offensive coordinators, and any talk of FSU deserving to be ranked – much less be a title contender – are absurd.

As it is, I know why the ACC puts Florida State on Labor Day evening. It’s because it has the strongest brand in the conference and probably drives the best viewer ratings (I don’t have any stats to back that up, but it’s a pretty safe guess). It’s a risk though, since FSU has been in decline and has offered up some truly eye-scarring games the past couple Labor Day evenings. It may be time to pick someone else to feature. You know, someone who will likely finish over .500 in the conference.

On a side note, bravo to ESPN for the revamped on-screen graphics where the each team’s timeouts appear under its name and the relevant stats for the relevant players appear above the score after each play. It managed to add two very useful things without adding clutter or annoying sound effects. A lot of people around the net hate ESPN, but you have to give it credit for the new graphic.


September 23, 2006

A good catch by my brother. He’s in Orlando, and sometimes listens to Terry Bowden’s unintentionally funny radio show on the ESPN affiliate down there. He apparently said that there are people who want him to go coach Miami. He also said that if he did, he’d take Jeff Bowden away from FSU to be the receivers coach to make both programs better.

Certainly Jeff is a problem up in Tallahassee. So is Lorenslow (or is it Slowrenzo?) Booker. And probably Drew Weatherford. And a lot of guys. Most of all, it’s Bobby’s fault for leaving his overmatched son in the offensive coordinator’s job for too long, and for slipping on recruiting. FSU used to have the best atheletes in the nation. Now, they probably would be outrun by Louisville or West Virginia on both sides of the ball. They’d go 5-6 in the SEC like Tennessee did last year. So would Miami, probably. As for Terry at Miami, please. These people are joking, right?

As I had predicted last Saturday, Tommy Bowden got some more charity from Bobby in their game last week. Tommy Boy can do some recruiting (see C.J. Spiller) and always wins just enough games to keep his job. He’ll never top his undefeated season at Tulane with Shaun King, but he at least plays in one of the weaker BCS leagues. Clemson might win the division not for being good, but for not being pitiful. If FSU can win the ACC with three conference losses, so could Clemson.

Maybe FSU can get rid of Jeff by sending him off to replace Chuck Amato at NC State. Maybe Terry could put together two straight coherent hours on the radio. Maybe Bobby could learn the names of his players. Or maybe that’s waaaay too much about Bowdens for one sitting.