What the AAC Race Might Mean for Scott Frost, Nebraska and the New Year's Six

This week's #DearAndy college football mailbag has a distinctly American flair—as in the American Athletic Conference, where three Top 25 teams harbor big-time bowl hopes and the nation's hottest coaching candidate could have a tough decision to make at year's end.
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There’s a new athletic director at Nebraska, but the Cornhuskers have the same football coach. What happens now? I also answer questions about realistic expectations for Florida, the American’s chances to get a team into the New Year’s Six, the possibility of two SEC teams making the playoff and possible landing spots for Chip Kelly. On to the questions…

From Rick: There have been moose sightings in Nebraska over the years. How with this other Moos fare by comparison?

It depends. If he’s the Bill Moos who went to Key West and convinced Mike Leach to come coach on the Palouse, he’ll do very well. If he’s the Bill Moos who kept rolling over Washington State basketball coach Ernie Kent’s contract as a reward for losing by grotesque margins, then he won’t do very well at all.

The measuring stick for success for Moos at Nebraska will be what he does with the football program. At the moment, he has to decide whether to retain or fire head coach Mike Riley. After what has transpired so far this season, there seems to be only one logical decision. (Perhaps Riley can go back to Oregon State, which opened last week when Gary Andersen quit.) If Moos decides to fire Riley, he’ll need to make a great hire. Everyone can say what they want about the other sports, but football will determine how successful Moos’s tenure is. Most Nebraska fans are well aware that the Cornhuskers are never going to recreate the ’90s, but Nebraska can—and should—be what Wisconsin is now. It would be up to Moos to find the coach who can give Nebraska its own football identity and get the program on the proper level.

From @ikeyo_1985: Scott Frost is projected to leave a more talented team, better recruiting base and easier conference for... Nebraska? [Answer linked here, and in the video atop this story.]

From Matthew: What are realistic annual expectations for Florida fans (not specific to this year)? Compete for SEC titles annually? Every few years?

Florida fans are America’s most spoiled because they went from never winning the SEC to winning it six times from 1991 to 2000 and from never competing for the national title to winning it three times between ’96 and ’08. Still, they have reasons to have high expectations. The sheer amount of talent in the state should allow Florida, Florida State, Miami, South Florida and Central Florida to be good all at once. The realistic annual expectation at Florida should be to compete for the SEC East every year, to compete for the SEC title every few years and—since the SEC champ is always in the national title hunt—to compete for the national title every year. This last one also requires beating Florida State at the end of the season. That isn’t going to happen every year, but these programs should be peers.

The current staff met the first expectation in its first two seasons by winning the SEC East. But even though the Gators made the SEC title game, it would be a stretch to say they competed for the SEC title. It never felt like they had a chance against Alabama in either game. Two games against Florida State without an offensive touchdown haven’t helped, either. This is why Florida fans were down on Jim McElwain even before this season began and have now transitioned to “We’ll help you pack” status even though McElwain’s previous success and buyout figure suggest he isn’t going anywhere even if this season is a total disaster.

From Doug: Do I really see three American Athletic Conference teams in the Top 25? Do any of them have a chance at a New Year’s Day game? [Answer linked here, and in the video below.]

From John: How can voters still put USF over UCF? Preseason ranking bias should be gone by now. UCF has stronger opponents and more convincing wins.

If only there were some way South Florida and Central Florida could meet on the field and decide which team is better. Oh, wait. There is.

From Jay: If Bama and UGA are undefeated going into SEC title game, do both advance to CFP? [Answer linked here, and in the video below.]

From Jake: Chip Kelly should begin looking for a home in…

It’s not Knoxville, because the real estate market there is apparently insane. If the Internet is to be believed, Jon Gruden has been spotted looking for houses in Knox County at least 17 times since November 2008, and he still hasn’t bought one. Kelly might want to start checking around Westwood, though. A guy getting bought out by two different NFL teams might be the only person who can afford a house within two miles of UCLA’s campus, so Kelly would be set.

In all seriousness, UCLA or Arizona State feel like the best fits for Kelly, who wouldn’t enjoy the harsh spotlight of a big SEC job but would enjoy easy access to excellent athletes. The problem is those jobs would need to open. Jim Mora’s buyout at UCLA remains big ($11 million) and AD Dan Guerrero isn’t known for spending a lot of money. Meanwhile, Todd Graham can save his job with a few more wins like the one against Washington last weekend. If the Sun Devils have suddenly learned how to play defense, they could be dangerous.