Florida State beat every team it played and nobody else can say that.
Under normal circumstances, that ought to be enough to keep playing for a national title. But with a six-team logjam with only four national-playoff spots available, it’s time for the selection committee members to toss out all conventional thinking and vote based on one parameter.
Each member needs to ask herself or himself: Which four teams are the best in the nation?
Based on that, here’s how I would vote:
1. Ohio State: Nobody had a more impressive victory this season than the Buckeyes’ 59-0 domination of a good Wisconsin team that features the nation’s best running back, Melvin Gordon. And the Buckeyes did it with their third-string quarterback.
Heisman hopeful Braxton Miller lost his entire season to injury. J.T. Barrett played his way into Heisman contention before going down with an injury. Cardale Jones led the Buckeyes to the Saturday night romp of the Badgers.
2. Oregon: Leading Heisman candidate Marcus Mariota (38 touchdown passes, two interceptions) passed for 300-plus yards for the seventh time in Friday’s 51-13 blasting of No. 7 Arizona. Nobody has more speed than the Ducks.
3. Alabama: The Crimson Tide defense is second to none.
4. Baylor: The Bears defeated TCU, always the best tie-breaker.
Florida State didn’t lose a game but probably would have lost a couple if it played in the SEC or Big 12.
Those are my four best teams in the nation and that’s how I would vote. That’s not how I think the committee will vote. The six teams are so close, so let the screaming about the need to expand the field to eight begin.
Best guess on how the committee will seed the first playoff: 1. Alabama, 2. Oregon, 3. Florida State, 4. Ohio State. Nick Saban and Urban Meyer coaching in one semifinal, last season’s Heisman Trophy winner, Jameis Winston going against Mariota, this season’s Heisman favorite in the other semi.
No matter what the committee decides, two schools will be furious and will have plenty to back up their feelings. If this were an eight-team playoff, two schools would feel fortunate to join the six college football teams that stand at the front of the class. This season's outrage will make the eight-team format arrive sooner even than no doubt secretly planned, which is why I'm happy two schools' fan bases will be furious starting today and ending maybe never.
Many across the country might have asked, “Who is David Beaty?” upon learning that Kansas has identified him as its first choice to become next football coach at a school coming off its worst five-year record in history.
High school football coaches in talent-rich Texas need not ask the same. That is the No. 1 reason why KU athletic director Sheahon Zenger chose the Texas A&M recruiting coordinator/wide receivers coach to lead the program.
Zenger is gambling that Beaty, who has just one year of college experience as offensive coordinator, can woo Texas talent to Lawrence better than any KU coach ever has.
Beaty, 44, is a 1994 graduate of Lindenwood College in St. Charles, Mo., where he led the team in receptions for three consecutive seasons.
He played football and soccer at Garland (Texas) High, so maybe he can finally recruit a placekicker he can trust in games.
He first became a head coach at North Dallas High in 2001, where he finished with a 6-4 record. From there, he went to MacArthur High (2002-05), where he went 33-11 in four seasons as head coach.
Next up was the first of two stints at Rice, where he was wide receivers coach in 2006 and 2007.
Beaty joined Mark Mangino’s staff at Kansas for the 2008 and 2009 seasons as wide receivers coach. Turner Gill did not retain him, but brought him back to KU a year later, after Gill’s first wide receivers coach left for Texas.
Beaty wasn’t out of work for long and was brought back to Rice as OC in 2010, when the Owls finished 52nd in the nation with 28.7 points per game, 64th in total offense with 374 yards per game and 64th with 215.9 passing yards per game. He left for Texas A&M after one season.
Beaty has a reputation for being good with generous boosters and fans in general. He and wife, Raynee, have two daughters, Averie and Alexa.
Minnesota coach Jerry Kill has a strong record for turning around losing programs. He is a native Kansan, from Cheney to be exact. He played college football in Kansas (Southwestern). He coached college football in Kansas at Pittsburg State and Emporia State. Plus, he has a colorful personality.
In short, if Kansas decides it would rather have an experienced head coach than interim head coach Clint Bowen, Kill would be the perfect choice to tackle the challenge of reviving a football program that just finished its worst five-year stretch in history.
Kill, 53, is in his fourth season at Minnesota and has the Golden Gophers (8-4) headed to a bowl game for the third season in a row.
Everywhere Kill has coached, he steadily produces better records from year-to-year.
Saginaw Valley State: 6-4, 7-3, 7-3, 9-2, 9-2.
Emporia State: 5-6, 6-5.
Southern Illinois: 1-10, 4-8, 10-2, 10-2, 9-4, 9-4, 12-2.
Northern Illinois: 6-7, 7-6, 10-3.
Minnesota: 3-9, 6-7, 8-5, 8-4.
Now that he has Minnesota moving in the right direction, why would he want to take on an even bigger challenge in trying to get Kansas back into bowl games when playing a schedule that features facing every Big 12 team every season?
Excellent question. But if he is interested in the job, don’t look for him to coach the Gophers in a bowl game before moving. He left Northern Illinois without coaching in a bowl game and took most of his staff with him when he headed to Minnesota, including defensive coordinator Tracy Claeys, who made a strong impression when he took over as acting head coach when Kill took a leave of absence as he recovered from seizures. Kill four times suffered from seizures on game days, but has not had any such issues this season.
Claeys, from Claeys Center, also is a strong candidate for a head coaching job.
If Sheahon Zenger decides that Clint Bowen is not the best man to reverse the fortunes of a football program in the midst of its worst five-year record and saddled by a 2015 roster woefully thin in quantity and quality, look for the following in the background of the coach to whom Zenger turns:
1 - A leader with a background working on offense.
2 - A coach who knows the Big 12’s most fertile recruiting areas of Texas and Oklahoma and would have concrete ideas on how to assemble a staff that has well-placed contacts.
3 - A man with experience leading a turn-around program.
4 - Inside knowledge of what works and what doesn’t in the KU football program.
Third-year Memphis coach Justin Fuente never worked for the KU football program, but he meets all the other criteria.
Fuente, 38, inherited a program that had a 5-31 record in the previous three seasons and, according to the Associated Press, had 51 scholarship players upon his arrival, a figure similar to what KU will have this spring.
Typically, it takes at least three years to show positive signs when starting in such a deep hole. The Tigers (8-3 overall, 6-1 in the American Athletic Conference) are riding a five-game winning streak. Unless upset by UConn on Saturday, the Tigers will win the conference and have their first-game winning streak since 1969. Fuente went 4-8 and 3-9 in his first two seasons at Memphis.
His three losses this season: At UCLA, 42-35, at Ole Miss, 24-3, at home vs. Houston, 28-24.
A native of Tulsa, Fuente played quarterback at Union High and then at Oklahoma. He won the job and lost it a couple of times with the Sooners and then transferred to Murray State, where he excelled.
Fuente was hired by Illinois State as quarterbacks coach in 2001. By the time Zenger was hired as ISU’s AD, Fuente was the offensive coordinator. He left there for TCU.
He doesn’t have the Kansas ties that Clint Bowen, Ed Warinner and David Beaty bring to the job interview, but Utah State head coach Matt Wells does have similar passion, a trait the past two KU football bosses lacked, and he has experience as a head coach.
Wells has been at the school four seasons, worked as offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach in 2011, and was recruiting coordinator/quarterbacks coach in 2012. He is 18-8 as a head coach, not including his five seasons spent as Navy’s head coach of the junior varsity squad (1997-2001), a secondary job to working as an offensive assistant.
A native of Sallisaw, Oklahoma, Wells, 41, played quarterback for Utah State, from which he graduated in 1996. After Navy, he spent five seasons at Tulsa (2002-2006), where his duties included recruiting coordinator. Two seasons at New Mexico, a year at Louisville, back to New Mexico for one season and then off to his alma mater to coach for Gary Andersen. During his time as Andersen’s OC, Utah State amassed impressive passing numbers.
Does the geography make sense? The off-the-cuff answer would be no. A deeper probe suggests Wells did a nice job of either maintaining or rekindling the Texas recruiting ties he established during his time at Tulsa. Nine players on the Aggies roster are from Texas.
Consider for comparison purposes that Chad Morris, the highest-paid assistant coach in the nation who came to college football after 16 years as an extremely successful high school football coach in Texas. He works for Clemson, which does not have a single player from the Lone Star state on the roster. Morris and Ohio State offensive coordinator Tom Herman are considered the leading candidates at SMU, but Herman might be in play at Florida as well.
Wells has gained a reputation as an outstanding recruiter and has handled the transition from assistant coach to head coach well.
Ohio State lost four starting offensive linemen, including three NFL rookies, from last season’s team. It showed in a 35-21 loss to Virginia Tech in the season opener for both teams.
That seemed like a distant memory when the Buckeyes went into East Lansing and buried then-No. 8 Michigan State, 49-37, nine weeks later.
Clearly, Ohio State offensive line coach and co-offensive coordinator Ed Warinner knows how to develop linemen. He knows offense, period. As he showed in three years at Kansas with Todd Reesing at quarterback, he also knows how to coordinator a pass-happy offense.
Everywhere else he has been, the lines he has coached produced big rushing numbers. The Buckeyes rank 14th in the nation with 263.1 rushing yards per game.
Warinner coached on offenses that led the nation in rushing at Army (three times) and at Air Force. He worked twice for Mark Mangino, first as offensive line coach and then after returning from Illinois he was offensive coordinator. With Reesing standing short and playing tall and Warinner coordinating the spread offense and calling the plays, KU had its three best offenses in history in terms of yards per game and passing yards per game.
He spent two years at Notre Dame and has been at Ohio State the past three seasons.
Warinner has worked under head coaches Brian Kelley and Urban Meyer, considered two of the best in the business. At Michigan State, he worked as a graduate assistant for defensive coordinator Nick Saban, who stands at the top of his profession.
Starting with 2007 at Kansas, the teams for which Warinner has worked the past eight seasons have posted a .740 winning percentage.
Can he recruit? Rivals.com thinks so and named Warinner a 2014 Rivals Top 25 recruiter.
Warinner’s daughters, Madisyn and Merideth, worked at the KU football complex.
Warinner has proven all can as an assistant coach and is primed for his first head-coaching job. His chances would be better of that happening at KU if not for Bowen making such a good impression thus far. Sometimes, possession is nine-tenths of the law.
Finally, Charlie Weis’ strategy of recruiting transfers from four-year schools has significantly upgraded one unit of the Kansas University football program.
Receivers Nick Harwell (Miami of Ohio) and Nigel King (Maryland) have had a chance to show their talent since Michael Cummings took over at quarterback, halfway into Clint Bowen’s first game as interim head coach, at West Virginia.
Sophomore Montell Cozart played the first four games and half the fifth game, so he and Cummings both have started four-and-a-half halves.
Cummings faced tougher competition (West Virginia, Oklahoma State, Texas Tech, Baylor, Iowa State) than Cozart (Southeast Missouri State, Duke, Central Michigan, Texas, West Virginia). The remaining three games (TCU, at Oklahoma, at Kansas State) give Kansas the toughest remaining schedule in the nation, according to computer rankings.
A look the quarterbacks’ numbers:
Cozart...... 64-128-701-50.0%-5.48-5................ 61-128
Cummings 94-158-1,160-59.5%-7.34-5............ 103-142
Now a look at the top three receivers, including senior tight end Jimmay Mundine:
Harwell In halves started by Cozart: 16-121-2
Harwell in halves started by Cummings: 21-280-2
Mundine in halves started by Cozart: 10-119-0
Mundine in halves started by Cummings: 23-281-2
King in halves started by Cozart: 6-92-0
King in halves started by Cummings: 17-276-0
Since Cummings took over at quarterback, Mundine (281), Harwell (280) and King (276) are within a five-yard span in reception yardage totals, an indication of how well Cummings has spread the wealth.
Before Harwell and King came to KU, the Jayhawks didn’t get much production out of transfers Dayne Crist and Anthony McDonald of Notre Dame, Jake Heaps of Brigham Young and Josh Williams of Nebraska. UCLA transfer T.J. Millweard remains third on the quarterback depth chart.
A pair of players who took advantage of the rule that enables graduated players to transfer without sitting out a year have done well after leaving Kansas. Defensive back Tyler Patmon played well for the Oklahoma State Cowboys and recently had a pick-six for the Dallas Cowboys.
Andrew Turzilli, who clocked the second-fastest 40 time on the team, ranking behind only Tony Pierson last spring, has used his speed to make big plays for Rutgers. He has just eight catches for the Scarlet Knights, but three of them have gone for touchdowns and he’s averaging an eye-popping 38.1 yards per catch. Four of his receptions have gone for 36 yards or more and he had a 93-yard TD catch vs. Tulane and an 80-yard catch against Michigan.
Turzilli’s a big target and deep threat, but the way Harwell and King are playing for KU, he would have had difficulty finding playing time.
The temptation for any hot-shot assistant college football coach is to take the first head-coaching offer that comes along, especially if it’s in a glamour conference such as the Big 12.
But with Kansas projecting to have such a weak roster for next season and with so little success in the past five seasons, it will be difficult for any coach to recruit top prospects and win games right off the bat.
A hot coaching prospect’s star fades faster than that.
Baylor coach Art Briles’ remarkable turnaround has been driven by an offense that perennially ranks among the best in the nation.
Philip Montgomery, 42, worked under Briles at Stephenville High, at the University of Houston and for the past seven seasons at Baylor, where he has been the Bears’ offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach for the past three seasons.
At Baylor, Montgomery always has the offensive mastermind Briles as a resource, a talented quarterback, fleet wide receivers, talented running backs and an efficient offensive line.
Going from that to the talent at Kansas might be a shock to his system.
Then again, Montgomery has had a front-row seat to Briles’ path from coaching a program with a losing tradition to one that is a perennial power on a national level.
Working for the charismatic Briles, Montgomery has remained in the shadows. He doesn’t appear to enjoy being dragged out of his comfort zone and interviews are not in his comfort zone. He doesn’t do very many of them. That begs the question of whether he would enjoy all that comes with being the head coach, the face of the program. If Montgomery has a colorful personality behind his stoic veneer, he would have to remove the mask as head coach at Kansas, which doesn’t sell out its football games and needs all the promotion it can get.
It also is a bit more of a risk taking a coordinator who works for a head coach whose strength is on the same side of the ball. In contrast to Montgomery, TCU's Doug Meacham works for Gary Patterson, a coach with a revered defensive mind.
On the positive side, Montgomery knows what a good quarterback looks like, having tutored Case Keenum and Kevin Kolb at Houston and Robert Griffin III, Nick Florence and Bryce Petty at Baylor. Those are great ties to talk up in a visit with recruits.
Another plus: More than 20 head high school football coaches in Texas either played for or coached for Briles, so their first call when they coach or play against an extremely talented sophomore, goes to Briles. He can’t take everybody. Maybe Montgomery would get the second call and upgrade the caliber of Texas recruits heading to Kansas.
TCU ranked 88th in the nation in scoring offense in 2013 with 25.1 points a game and ranks second now with 48 points per game. Same head coach. Same quarterback. Different offensive coordinators.
Doug Meacham and former Texas Tech quarterback Sonny Cumbie were hired in December as co-coordinators to install the Air Raid offense invented by Hal Mumme and made more famous by Mike Leach and then Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel.
Meacham, 49, was hired away from Houston, where he spent one season as the OC. Before that, he spent eight seasons as an offensive assistant at Oklahoma State, his alma mater. He landed that job after coordinating offenses at Samford, Henderson State, Jacksonville State, Georgia Military College.
As an offensive lineman for Oklahoma State, he earned all-conference honors, started 35 consecutive games and blocked for Thurman Thomas and Barry Sanders.
Meacham, 49, “is going to be the next hot guy and be a head coach,” Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy told the Oklahoman in the days leading up to TCU’s 42-9 rout of the Cowboys.
Horned Frogs junior quarterback Trevone Boykin threw seven touchdown passes and seven interceptions and averaged 6.8 yards per attempt in 2013. This season, Boykin has thrown 22 touchdowns, four interceptions and averaged 7.8 yards per attempt under the tutelage of Meacham and Cumbie.
Meacham never has been a head coach. Could he handle the multi-tasking required? Does he have the right demeanor to establish discipline, etc., or is he just an offensive guru? I don’t know, but if you’re doing a comprehensive search, you might as well put him on your long list and try to find the answers to those and many more questions.
Meacham has recruited Texas and Oklahoma and with Houston spanned the country seeking the right fits for the Air Raid offense.
Let me start with a disclaimer: When I write about potential fits for the Kansas University football coaching job, which might not even come open if Clint Bowen shows he’s the best man for the job, I’m not saying athletic director Sheahon Zenger is considering the coach. I’m just turning over every stone as would any AD searching for a coach.
Today, let’s consider the profile of the youngest of the 128 Football Bowl Subdivision head coaches.
His name is P.J. Fleck. He is 33. And his Western Michigan football team that went 1-11 in 2013, his first year, is 6-3 and in contention to win the Mid-American Conference title. Fleck is one of three former NFL players (South Carolina’s Steve Spurrier, Texas Tech’s Kliff Kingsbury heading an FBS program.
A wide receiver at Northern Illinois, from which he graduated in 2004, Fleck compiled one statistic as an NFL player when he returned a punt 10 yards for the 2004 San Francisco 49ers.
Enough about his playing career, it’s his fast rise as a coach that has generated headlines.
He first worked as a graduate assistant for Jim Tressell at Ohio State in 2006. From there, he went to Northern Illinois and worked as wide receivers coach (2007-09) and recruiting coordinator (2009) and gained a reputation as an energetic, effective recruiter. Fleck spent the next two seasons working for Joe Novak for one season, current Minnesota coach Jerry Kill for two. Next, the ambitious Fleck went to work at Rutgers (2010-11) for Greg Schiano and followed Schiano to the NFL and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2012).
Western Michigan, a Mid-American Conference in Kalamazoo, hired Fleck on Dec. 18, 2012, charging him with the task of rebuilding the program. Nobody had any right to expect him to deliver this quickly.
Western Michigan ranks 37th in the nation with 457.1 yards of offense per game and 36th with 34.6 points per game.
Fleck turns 34 on Nov. 29, which seems awfully young to tackle a Big 12 job. Then again, Ara Parseghian was 32 when he left his MAC job at Miami of Ohio for Northwestern, Woody Hayes 36 when he left Miami for Ohio State and Glen Mason 37 when he left Kent State for Kansas.
A native of Sugar Grove, Illinois, Fleck’s recruiting contacts are in Big Ten country, not Big 12, which didn’t stop Mason from doing well at Kansas.
Turner Gill came to Kansas from Buffalo, a MAC school, and went 5-19 in two seasons.