- This week's #DearAndy mailbag previews the potential decisions ahead for the Group of Five's hot coaches—two of which happen to play each other this weekend. Plus, how exactly can both Alabama and Georgia get into the playoff?
Florida’s divorce from Jim McElwain has started the coaching carousel spinning. That has generated a lot of questions…
From @TheFamousNickH: How screwed is Nebraska if we don’t get Frost? Burn down Memorial?
It’s not the end of the world if Nebraska doesn’t get Scott Frost. There are a few coaches capable of making the Cornhuskers what they should be (basically Wisconsin, but with a different offense). Because the Central Florida coach is a former Nebraska great and a link to the Tom Osborne era, he’s an obvious fit. But assuming the Cornhuskers part ways with Mike Riley at the end of the season, they could find themselves in competition for their former quarterback.
If Florida athletic director Scott Stricklin isn’t only looking for a sitting Power 5 head coach, then Frost is an intriguing possibility. He already revitalized one program in the Sunshine State and seems capable of recruiting the area. If it came down to Florida or Nebraska for Frost, it would be similar to 2004 when Utah’s Urban Meyer had to choose between Florida and Notre Dame. Meyer had been an assistant in South Bend and had called Notre Dame his dream job, but a cold analysis of the two programs led him to believe that he could win a national title more easily at Florida. He then won two in the next four seasons. The fact of the matter is that because of its lack of a natural recruiting footprint, Nebraska is a much tougher job than Florida. If it came down to Tennessee against Nebraska for Frost, that ease-of-recruiting gap closes considerably but still favors Tennessee.
So to whom would Nebraska turn if Frost isn’t available? Watch this clip.
Iowa State’s Matt Campbell would fit beautifully in a state that shares his ethos. His buyout is huge ($9.4 million), but fortunately Nebraska is rich.
Mississippi State’s Dan Mullen also has the skill set to succeed at Nebraska. He’s great at unearthing recruiting gems and developing quarterbacks. He runs a unique offense. He also may be a target of other schools in the SEC, or he may just decide that $4.5 million and an excellent returning roster are reasons to stay in Starkville. But he’d be a great fit at a place that has some of the same recruiting challenges he faces now but much less strenuous competition in its division.
From Trevor: Would Frost pick Florida over Nebraska? [Answer linked here, and in the video atop this post.]
From Hud: Kevin Sumlin must finish at 8–4 to keep his job. Unless. If he beats UNM (of course) AND LSU and finishes at 7–5, would beating LSU be enough?
From Rick: Would Chad Morris be an upgrade in College Station?
I’m not sure 8–4 will allow Sumlin to keep his job. The Texas A&M administration has seemed ready to move on from him for a while. This has created an uncomfortable situation that wasn’t fair to Sumlin—who has recruited admirably considering his own school’s attempts to kneecap him. A loss to Auburn on Saturday that bears any resemblance to the loss to Mississippi State last week probably would seal the deal.
As for the second question, I’m not sure who would be an upgrade in College Station. Historically speaking, Texas A&M hasn’t been much more successful than it has during Sumlin’s tenure. The ingredients for a great program (money, passion, excellent high school players nearby) are all there, but so far no one has been able to wake this particular sleeping giant. The list of coaches that we know are capable of giving the Aggies what they want is very short, and most of those coaches aren’t leaving their current jobs. Perhaps Florida State’s Jimbo Fisher might after getting savaged by his fan base for a lone bad year among a bunch of excellent ones, but that still feels like a remote possibility.
Morris should make an excellent Power 5 coach someday. He’s an excellent recruiter; he landed Deshaun Watson for Clemson. He also has proven he can raise a program from the depths. I saw SMU in person in June Jones’s last season, and it’s a minor miracle that Morris has been this successful to this point. But ADs at Power 5 schools will look at his 13–19 record at SMU and wonder how they sell that to their fan bases. This is very shortsighted thinking that doesn’t take into account how bad SMU was when Morris got there, but it will be an issue. He may need another year there. Or he may beat Frost’s UCF team on Saturday and they can become co-Hot Group of Five Coaches.
From Michael: If Bama and UGA both make the SEC championship game undefeated, what are the scenarios that get them both into the playoffs?
A league is going to get two teams into the playoff at some point, and given the way Alabama and Georgia are playing, this could be the year. But it would still require some help from other teams.
The most obvious scenario is the ACC, Big 12, Big Ten and Pac-12 all have two-loss champions. That would make the idea of including a 13–0 SEC champ and a 12–1 SEC runner-up much more palatable to the committee. The runner-up likely would have to be Georgia because Alabama wouldn’t have a signature non-conference win like the Bulldogs’ win at Notre Dame. The Crimson Tide tried to schedule one of those, but Florida State has not cooperated this year. (And given the past seven years, what were the chances of the Seminoles having a season this bad?)
But if the champions of the other leagues look similar to the way they’ve looked in the previous three years of the playoff, it will take a very specific situation. Notre Dame must finish 11–1, which would make Georgia’s victory against the Fighting Irish the best non-conference win in the country and possibly the best win anyone has. Notre Dame’s schedule is tougher than most, and a one-loss Fighting Irish team would have wins against Michigan State, USC, NC State, Miami and Stanford. Also, Alabama must beat Georgia in a very close—a controversial finish or overtime would help a lot—SEC title game. It doesn’t work in reverse. If an undefeated Georgia beats an undefeated Alabama, then the Crimson Tide would probably just be left out. But if Alabama won close against the Bulldogs, the committee would have a very hard time dropping 12–1 Georgia (with a 20–19 win in South Bend on Sept. 9) below 11–1 Notre Dame. That could squeeze out the champions of two other leagues and put Alabama, Georgia and Notre Dame in the playoff.
From Hank: Where does the eye test end and wins actually matter? A three-loss Bama would still be favored to beat undefeated Wisconsin. Does that mean Bama would be in? [Answer linked here, and in the video below.]