Originally Published: November 24, 2013

Time to assess the three-year experiment results

By Chantel Jennings | ESPN.com


Patience might be a virtue, but for those in the coaching profession, it's not necessarily a luxury granted.

With impatient fan bases, expectant athletic departments doling out big money and teams needing to deliver on promises of bowl wins and brilliant seasons, the third year is often a benchmark.

By the third season, the excuse can no longer be that a coach doesn't have his players or his system in place. He can no longer be considered a newbie to the conference, because there are certainly less-experienced coaches around. He's judged by his record on paper and his product on the field.

For third-year coaches Brady Hoke or Will Muschamp, that's too bad, because the records aren't good. And the products might be worse.

Kevin Ellison
AP Photo/Phil SandlinWill Muschamp could only watch as Georgia Southern ran past Florida.

Muschamp's Florida Gators dropped to 4-7 this weekend after a 26-20 loss to Southern Conference opponent Georgia Southern, marking the program's first loss to an FCS team.

Yes, Florida is dealing with a slew of ailments (nine season-ending injuries, 20-plus starters missing at least part of a game). In that regard, it's hard not to feel for the Gators. But it certainly can't be an excuse, especially considering Georgia Southern has lost 19 scholarship players (of an FCS-level 63 scholarships) to injury this season.

It's quite the changeup for a Florida fan base that enjoyed an 11-2 season in 2012.

At this point last season, the Gators were preparing for what was to be their fourth top-10 opponent of the season. Florida was 2-1 already in those matchups and would finish 3-1 after beating Florida State.

Now they enter the Florida State game with a should-be-fourth-string quarterback leading a sputtering offense and fans missing Ron Zook and his 17-14 record against BCS teams.

But maybe they can find empathy with Michigan fans.

The Wolverines went 11-2 in Hoke's first year. Maybe they were spoiled. Maybe the schedule was stacked in the Wolverines' favor. Maybe something was "owed" to Michigan after three years of Rich Rodriguez (who isn't doing too badly at Arizona right now in his second season).

Hoke's Wolverines lost to Iowa 24-21 on Saturday and with an impending game against Ohio State -- a team that seems to be a heavy, heavy favorite in nearly every matchup on paper -- Michigan is trying to answer questions in seven days that it could take seven months to fix.

If they lose, the Wolverines will finish 3-5 in the Big Ten this season -- the same record Rodriguez finished with in his third year at the helm of the team.

Under Hoke, Michigan has a 26-11 record (15-8 Big Ten), but in marquee matchups, it has faltered. The Wolverines are 1-2 against Michigan State, 1-1 against Ohio State and 1-1 in bowl games, and they have yet to win two consecutive road games.

And their product -- an Al Borges-led offense that has finally implemented a non-Denard Robinson quarterback -- has seemed to regress this season with Devin Gardner, which has fans calling for firings as well as a the starting of true freshman QB Shane Morris and his other young teammates, the ballyhooed recruits of Hoke.

Maybe Hoke's and Muschamp's shortcomings this season wouldn't seem so bad if their teams and fan bases hadn't already experienced success in those coaches' tenures, if they had gradually built rather than delivering in their first or second seasons.

Or maybe it wouldn't seem so bad if there weren't coaches out there proving that it's certainly possible to build a team -- combining one's own recruits with a previous coaches' players and implementing new schemes and expectations -- in just three seasons.

Brady Hoke
AP Photo/Charlie NeibergallBrady Hoke hasn't been able to find the 11-2 magic of his first season at Michigan.

Hoke's team might've gotten the better of Minnesota this season, but the Wolverines certainly must be happy they don't have to play the Gophers at this point in the season. Jerry Kill has his team playing its best football of the year.

In three years he has taken a team that was 3-9 in 2010 and turned it into an 8-3 bunch that will finish at least .500 in the Big Ten for the first time since 2005.

And Vanderbilt's James Franklin, who took over the Commodores after a two-win season in 2010, took care of business against Muschamp's Gators and Georgia in the same season, a program first. Saturday night, Franklin and the Dores defeated in-state rival Tennessee for the second year in a row, something Vandy hasn't accomplished since 1925-26.

Vandy can end the year 8-5 with a win over Wake Forest at home on Saturday. With a bowl win, the Commodores would finish with back-to-back nine-win seasons.

So it is possible. Maybe not easy. But definitely possible -- Kill and Franklin are proof that the three-year expectation isn't completely out of reach.

Patience for Hoke and Muschamp might not be completely gone, but it's wearing thin. The longer the records and product don't improve, the more their explanations are going to sound like excuses.

Oregon no longer needs to fret Rose Bowl

By Ted Miller | ESPN.com

TUCSON, Ariz. -- If you wanted to floridly imagine a cosmic wrath exacted on Oregon on Saturday by the slighted Rose Bowl in Arizona's 42-16 whipping of the Ducks, you would note that the Wildcats were clad head-to-toe in rosy red while they posted their first win over a top-five team since 2007.

It would be ridiculous, of course, to further belabor De'Anthony Thomas' and Josh Huff's controversial musings last week about not being excited about the possibility of playing in the Rose Bowl because they had their sights set on the national title game, but the karmic symmetry is impossible to ignore.

Turn your nose up at the Granddaddy? Fine, how do you feel about the Alamo Bowl? Or maybe even something a little lower on the Pac-12 bowl pecking order?

"The way that was phrased is not representative of the way anybody feels," Oregon coach Mark Helfrich said. "That had nothing at all to do with this."

Completely true. What did matter was the Wildcats playing an outstanding game in all three phases and the Ducks looking sloppy and uninterested while getting thrashed.

"Very sluggish in every phase. That's 100 percent my fault," Helfrich said. "I have to figure out exactly which levers to pull and buttons to push."

There were a lot of notable negative landmarks for Oregon. This was the Ducks' first loss to an unranked team since 2009. The 26-point margin of defeat was their biggest since losing 44-10 to USC in 2008. After four consecutive BCS bowl berths, the Ducks will be playing before the New Year this postseason. Stanford wins the North Division for the second consecutive year.

To read Ted Miller's full story, click here.

Ted Miller | email

ESPN Senior Writer

MSU, OSU form desirable pairing in Indy

By Adam Rittenberg | ESPN.com

EVANSTON, Ill. -- There are few seasons where rivalry week in the Big Ten feels like an afterthought, but this is one of them.

Can we fast-forward to Dec. 7 already?

The matchup just about every impartial observer wanted in the Big Ten championship is taking place: Ohio State versus Michigan State. It's the Buckeyes' explosive offense against Michigan State's suffocating defense. It's a blossoming Spartans offense against a young but talented Buckeyes defense. It's Urban Meyer against Mark Dantonio. And unlike the first two Big Ten title games, it's a pairing we have yet to see so far this season.

It's also a team with potentially a 24-game winning streak and national title hopes (Ohio State) against one trying to go to the Rose Bowl for the first time in a quarter-century (Michigan State).

So we have to endure Week 14, which will provide the standard rivalry fare, including, of course, Ohio State visiting Michigan. But there's a sizable gulf between those programs right now.

The Game takes place Saturday at Michigan Stadium. The Game Everyone Wants To See takes place the following week at Lucas Oil Stadium.

Go ahead and find a better conference championship game out there. Florida State-Duke? Love what David Cutcliffe has done, but I'll pass. The Pac-12 championship should be fun, but it will feature teams with multiple losses. The SEC title game will display plenty of future pros, but next week's Iron Bowl is far more compelling.

The Big Ten isn't the nation's best league, but it has the nation's most exciting title game.

To read Adam Rittenberg's full story, click here.

Duke just one win away from ACC title game

By Andrea Adelson | ESPN.com

Before the 2013 season began, ACC watchers believed the Coastal Division could go a number of different ways. Indeed, four teams received first-place votes in preseason polling in July.

None of those teams was named Duke.

Now, with one final week left in the regular season, the Blue Devils -- not Miami, or Virginia Tech or Georgia Tech or North Carolina -- sit in control of the Coastal Division. After a hard-fought 28-21 win over Wake Forest on Saturday, all Duke needs to do is beat North Carolina next week in Chapel Hill to win the Coastal Division outright, secure its first trip to the ACC championship game and earn a date with Atlantic Division champ Florida State.

It sounds so simple, right?

And yet, this will be perhaps the most pressure-packed game Duke football has played in its modern history, against a surging archrival that put up 80 in a victory over Old Dominion on Saturday. Both teams enter the game on long winning streaks -- Duke has won seven straight; UNC has won five straight to become bowl-eligible after a horrendous 1-5 start.

If Duke falters, well, the door remains open for several other Coastal contenders. Miami beat Virginia 45-26 on Saturday to keep its slim division hopes alive. The Canes need to beat Pitt on Friday, and then have Duke and Virginia Tech lose.

Virginia Tech must beat Virginia next week to have any shot at the crown. Georgia Tech, already in the clubhouse with a 5-3 mark in the ACC, needs Virginia Tech to lose to have any chance.

A five-way tie atop the division remains possible. If North Carolina beats Duke, and Miami and Virginia Tech win, then they would join the Jackets at 5-3 in division play. Virginia Tech would win in a five-way tie based on its 5-1 Coastal Division record.

Got all that?

To read Andrea Adelson's full story, click here.

Oklahoma St. rolls Baylor to control Big 12

By Jake Trotter | ESPN.com

STILLWATER, Okla. -- With nine minutes still to be played, America's top offense finally had enough.

So instead of going for another seemingly hopeless fourth-and-long, Baylor called its record-setting offense to the sideline and sent out the punt team. On the other side of the field, sensing the capitulation, Oklahoma State defensive coordinator Glenn Spencer began hopping up and down, slapping the helmet of any defender passing by his general vicinity.

The 10th-ranked Cowboys always believed they could knock off fourth-ranked Baylor. But nobody, from "College GameDay" guest picker Marcus Smart to the Cowboys themselves, thought they would put the mighty Bears away before the fourth quarter.

Yet, Saturday night before a sold-out Boone Pickens Stadium, Oklahoma State did exactly that, pummeling Baylor into submission 49-17 to ensure the Big 12 title will go through Stillwater.


"We weren't intimidated," said Cowboys linebacker Caleb Lavey. "And we were able to shut them down."

No defense had slowed the Bears down all year, much less shut them down.

Baylor came into the night leading the nation with 61 points per game. After three quarters in Stillwater, the Bears had managed a single field goal.

"The Baylor offense deserved to get the pub it was getting," Lavey said. "So being able to keep them off the board in touchdowns until the fourth quarter says a lot about this defense. Our defense did a great job."

Great doesn't do it justice. The Big 12's best defense was dominant.

To read Jake Trotter's full story, click here.

Jake Trotter | email

ESPN Staff Writer

Week 13 Takeaways: Coaching carousel

By Travis Haney | ESPN.com

With 31 first-year FBS coaches in 2013, I really did think we were going to have a relatively quiet coaching carousel this go-round. Now all of a sudden, Florida, Nebraska, Texas and USC could all potentially be vacant at the same time. Michigan might soon be headed that way, too, and possibly Texas A&M and South Carolina (with other coaching dominoes to follow).

That's where the Week 13 Takeaways begin on the strangest Saturday of the season. Favorites fell, Heisman contenders struggled and, man, was it cold. The chill made it even to Baton Rouge, where LSU shut down Johnny Manziel in a way we have never before seen.

1. Muschamp could be in trouble in a busier-than-expected coaching carousel season

I had been in Will Muschamp's corner, believing crippling injuries this season (QB Jeff Driskel and DT Dominique Easley among them) had created an impossible situation for Florida to win Southeastern Conference games. But losing to a Southern Conference opponent? That's different.

Georgia Southern didn't complete a pass Saturday, but it did win a game at Florida. It was the Gators' sixth consecutive loss, bringing their record to 4-7. Welcome to rock bottom in the Swamp, which has had all the energy of a puddle for the better part of two months.

And now AD Jeremy Foley, university president Bernie Machen and the school's big-money donors are in a strange spot. They had all publicly supported Muschamp and his staff, but that was before Georgia Southern. Losing to Georgia Southern seemed unfathomable. It's still difficult to figure out how that could happen, considering the talent on both sidelines and the fact that UF played South Carolina tough the week before.

Is there any way Muschamp could still keep his job, outside of upsetting FSU? I talked to one AD on Saturday, and he said he thought the injuries might still be a compelling enough reason to give the staff another season.

To read Travis Haney's full story, click here Insider.

Travis Haney

ESPN Staff Writer

• Insider national college football writer since 2012
• Graduate of the University of Tennessee


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