Forty names, games, teams and minutiae making news in college football (heart medicine sold separately in Ames, where five out of 10 games have been decided by three points or less):
WE HAVE THIS UPDATE: TEXAS IS NOT BACK
Beware the fan base that reads too much into a non-playoff bowl victory. When Texas (31) handled a sulking Georgia team last year in the Sugar Bowl, a fan base exhausted by a decade-long malaise went ahead and proclaimed it: the Longhorns would be back as a national power in 2019. The Top 25 voters, addicted to brand names, bought in, ranked them in the top 10 entering the season despite significant losses on defense.
Everyone was, once again, wrong. Texas is not back, not close to back, and there is no reason to believe it will be back until proving it in games that actually matter.
After losing to Iowa State Saturday, the Longhorns are a pedestrian 6–4 and a pedestrian 4–3 in the Big 12. They are 23–14 overall under Tom Herman (32), and 16–10 in the league. While that is certainly an improvement over the Charlie Strong body of work (16–21, 12–15 Big 12), it is nearly identical to the last three seasons under Mack Brown (33), which were considered major disappointments. Brown was 25–14 overall, 16–11 in the league.
It also puts Herman pretty much in line with the other Big 12 coaches not named Lincoln Riley who have been in the conference since 2017. Oklahoma State’s Mike Gundy is 24–12, 13–12; TCU’s Gary Patterson is 23–14, 14–12; Iowa State’s Matt Campbell is 22–14, 15–10; and Baylor’s Matt Rhule is 17–18, 11–14.
With nearly a three-year body of work, there is no discernible difference between the Longhorns under Herman and the rest of the upper-middle class of the Big 12. Everyone is chasing Oklahoma in a muddled pack.
Thing is, there is supposed to be a difference between Texas and the rest of the upper-middle class. The recruiting rankings suggest that there should be. The tradition screams that there should be. The results aren’t there.
Even the game-by-game results reinforce the fact that Texas is not operating on a different level. Under Herman, 15 out of 26 conference games have been decided by one score or less. Average score of the Horns’ Big 12 games this season: Texas 32.9, opponents 32.4. Three of the past four have been decided by a field goal on the final play.
Currently, Baylor is the Lone Star State team putting together a special season. Texas has a chance to do damage to that Saturday in Waco, and to keep its own conference title hopes alive. But anything short of a surprise Big 12 title game appearance and upset of Oklahoma will be viewed as coming up short in 2019.
None of this means Texas will never be back under Herman. It does mean that the Longhorns have a long way yet to go. And it means that they should have to prove they’re back before saying they’re back.
DO NOT HIRE THE INTERIM GUY
At Florida State, the Odell Haggins (34) candidacy is underway.
The Seminoles fired Willie Taggart a couple of weeks ago. The coaching carousel absurdity commenced immediately, with reports quickly surfacing that a deal was all but done with former Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops. Deion Sanders’s name even popped up. Meanwhile, the Seminoles won a couple games and the players started lobbying for their interim coach to get the job full-time.
The only person who can compare to the popularity of an untested backup quarterback is a lightly tested interim coach who has the backing of the locker room. Haggins won over some people with a nice win at Boston College, a cold-weather game where a lot of people expected the Seminoles to mail it in after Taggart’s dismissal. That was followed with a perfunctory win over FCS Alabama State, ranked No. 229 in the Sagarin Ratings.
And so the familiar refrain began—keep the beloved “program guy” who cares about his alma mater and has the admiration of the players.
Only problem: comfort hires like that don’t often work.
For every Ed Orgeron (35) at LSU, there are four that don’t work out. Say, for instance: Clay Helton at USC, Randy Shannon at Miami, Bill Stewart at West Virginia and Bobby Williams at Michigan State. Helton is likely on his way out after being tabbed to replace Steve Sarkisian; Shannon was fired in four years after replacing Larry Coker; Stewart only lasted three seasons after replacing Rich Rodriguez; and Williams made it less than three full seasons after succeeding Nick Saban at Michigan State.
Florida State is a good job. Unless the school screws it up, the Seminoles will get a good coach. The interim/comfort coach is rarely that guy.
CONSIDER CASTING YOUR HEISMAN VOTE FOR …
Hagen Meservy (36), junior offensive guard for Ohio. Otherwise known as The Cartwheeling Lineman.
You probably saw his Heisman-worthy play last week in the Bobcats’ 37-34 loss to Western Michigan. Lined up as a decoy wide receiver in a funky formation, Meservy flashed his hands like he was waiting for a pass, then indulged himself in a cartwheel while quarterback Nathan Rourke was throwing the ball to the other side of the field.
The Dash put in a request to talk to Meservy about his moment of gymnastics fame and glory, but the call never materialized. The Bobcats are playing Tuesday night at Bowling Green, and clearly that game is too serious to interrupt Meservy’s laser-like focus.
(Every bit as likely: Meservy’s 75-year-old coach, Frank Solich, wasn’t going to sign off on any extra publicity for his flippant offensive guard.)
Regardless: this was the first known mid-play cartwheel in FBS history, and absolutely the first mid-play cartwheel by a 300-pounder. May the video live forever.
STAT OF THE WEEK
Maryland (37) has made one field goal all year, and attempted just four. No FBS team in the last decade, at least, has gone an entire season making just one field goal.
Joseph Petrino made a 31-yarder against Minnesota. He’s missed from 42, 29 and 37. He’s been good kicking extra points, making 34 of 35, but not so good further out.
Last year, Petrino was 12 of 14, setting a school freshman record for accuracy. Seems he’s lost accuracy and confidence, while his new head coach has lost interest in kicking field goals.
Under Mike Locksley, the Terrapins have been much more likely to go for it on fourth down this season, attempting it 20 times after just 10 all of last season.
COACH WHO EARNED HIS COMP CAR THIS WEEK
Troy Calhoun (38), Air Force. His Falcons are 8–2, bouncing back from consecutive 5–7 seasons, and remain in the mix for a Mountain West divisional title. Calhoun, in his 13th season at the Academy, has 95 career wins—two away from moving into No. 2 on the school’s victory list.
Amazingly, Air Force has had just five head coaches in the last 60 years. The shortest tenure? One 3–8 season in the late 1970s for a guy named Bill Parcells. Not sure whatever became of him.
COACH WHO SHOULD RIDE THE BUS TO WORK
David Cutcliffe (39), Duke. Everybody loves Cut, and The Dash is no exception. But that was a spectacular stink bomb his Blue Devils left in Wallace Wade Stadium Saturday, being routed 49–6 by a 4–6 Syracuse team. It was Duke’s fourth straight loss, and making it even worse was the attendance of 16,286. That’s the smallest announced crowd since 2006 and smallest of the Cutcliffe Era.
When hungry and thirsty for something completely different in the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and Saint Paul, The Dash recommends a visit to Moscow on the Hill (40). Not surprisingly for a Russian restaurant, the vodka drink list is voluminous. Try a Sputnik—a horseradish-flavored martini—and pair it with the Zakuski platter of meats and spreads, then the beef stroganoff. Thank The Dash later, comrade.