3-point stance: Top coaching candidates

1. The two most intriguing names thus far to fill coaching vacancies are San Jose State head coach Mike MacIntyre and Alabama defensive coordinator Kirby Smart. MacIntyre has coached back east, and California, which fired Jeff Tedford, is less than an hour up I-880. Smart, as Tide head coach Nick Saban’s right-hand man, has learned defense and organization from the master and is a terrific recruiter. By the way, the man who built the modern-day Auburn program, Pat Dye, was a protégé of Bear Bryant at Alabama.

2. Colorado’s decision to fire Jon Embree after two seasons came as the biggest surprise of Black Sunday. The school took a flyer on Embree, a long-time NFL assistant and a former Buff star, because he provided a connection to the glory days of Bill McCartney. Embree began his tenure in the hole dug by his predecessor, Dan Hawkins, and found himself starting freshmen in the Pac-12. McCartney couldn’t have won with freshmen. Neither could Saban, Bryant or any other coach.

3. Recent Heisman winners have demanded the trophy with their play (Cam Newton in 2010, Troy Smith in 2006) or as the bellcow of the best regular-season team (Mark Ingram in 2009, Sam Bradford in 2008). This season, Notre Dame’s best player is linebacker Manti Te’o, whose skills aren’t entirely captured by numbers. Neither Alabama nor Georgia has a viable candidate. The fact that only one top candidate, Kansas State quarterback Collin Klein, is still playing only adds to the mystery.