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Forde-Yard Dash: Which Coaches Might Follow Karl Dorrell Out the Door

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Forty names, games, teams and minutiae making news in college football, where the Aaron Judge cut-ins have united warring factions of fans in fuming opposition:

MORE DASH: New World Order | Coach Fights | Trap Games



For the fourth consecutive Sunday, a Power 5 head coach has been dismissed. The only upset is that this time it wasn’t Bryan Harsin (1).

As of Sunday afternoon, Harsin was still the coach at Auburn. There seems to be virtually no chance that remains the case for the rest of the season, and quite likely not the rest of the month. The latest theory is that whoever is in charge at the Most Dysfunctional Little Village on the Plains sends Harsin into the sausage grinder at Georgia Saturday, rather than putting an interim coach in that thankless position, and maybe a change occurs after that. If they choose to extend Harsin’s tenure through a second consecutive road game against an undefeated opponent (Mississippi on Oct. 15), an open date awaits thereafter.

Regardless, this is a “when” question, not an “if.” The only people who would be excited about Harsin as their coach in 2023 reside in Boise, not Auburn.

Harsin and Auburn were never an easy fit, and that was before the booster cabal began sabotaging him. He’s never been given a chance to get established with full institutional “alignment,” as coaches love to say (and he’s currently playing a third-string quarterback), but the on-field returns are not sustainable. He’s 9-9, just 3-7 in his last ten, with lost leads and second-half malfunctions littering the docket. Saturday night was a snapshot of that, with Auburn taking a 17-0 lead in less than 21 minutes and then never scoring again in a 21-17 loss to LSU. Calling a halfback pass in the red zone that resulted in an interception in the fourth quarter did not help the situation.

Auburn is an attractive job if the coach can endure the booster meddling. (A big if, to be sure.) The recruiting territory is fertile, with the state of Alabama flush with talent and the riches of Georgia and Florida nearby. There is an imperative to win, which should lead to full monetary support in terms of salary, facilities and recruiting cash.

It seems like a potential spot for Jackson State’s Deion Sanders. Don’t be shocked if Ole Miss’ Lane Kiffin expresses interest through backchannels. Hugh Freeze is standing by at Liberty, waiting for the phone to ring. But most good candidates would like to know who the new athletic director is going to be first; Auburn has work to do to get its divided house in order.

Meanwhile, Colorado went ahead and fired Karl Dorrell (2), who has been overseeing what is by far the worst Power 5 team in the nation. The Buffaloes are 0-5 overall, 0-2 in the Pac-12. The program is a smoking crater. Saturday at Arizona was the Buffaloes’ closest loss of the season — and the margin was 23 points.

Dorrell was officially dismissed on Sunday.

Dorrell was officially dismissed on Sunday.

Colorado has moved on to its third quarterback of the season, freshman Owen McCown, and he’s shown some promise. But the team is so far from being competitive that quarterback play is just one problem is a towering pile of them. Of greater concern is having the worst rushing defense in the country — and that’s something not easily fixed.

Athletic director Rick George put out a statement after Colorado’s 0-3 non-conference start that acknowledged the extent of the debacle while asking the fans for support and encouragement (and, perhaps tacitly, for donations to pay for a buyout in excess of $7 million). This is the Buffs’ open date, so it become an opportune time to dismiss Dorrell.

Colorado could have a prime candidate in 36-year-old alum Ryan Walters, currently coordinating the No. 1 scoring defense in the Big Ten at Illinois. Walters played for Gary Barnett and Dan Hawkins from 2004-08 and is a rising star in the profession.

Beyond Harsin, who else is a candidate to follow Scott Frost, Herm Edwards, Geoff Collins and now Dorrell out the door?

Scott Satterfield (3), Louisville. Record at the school: 20-22 overall, 12-17 in league play, in his fourth season. This year: 2-3 overall, 0-3 in the Atlantic Coast Conference. The Cardinals are consistently inconsistent, shaky in close games and failing to capitalize on their fifth-year quarterback who has played more than 50 college games.

For the second straight ACC game, the Cardinals gave away a fourth-quarter lead—first against Florida State, then Saturday against a Boston College team that was previously winless against FBS opponents. Satterfield has stood by defensive coordinator Bryan Brown, but the malfunctions on that side of the ball are multiplying: Louisville is last in the ACC in allowing plays of 20-plus yards (32), tied for last at 30-plus (12), last at 40-plus (nine) and last at 50-plus (five). The secondary is a breakdown waiting to happen.

Satterfield looks during the second half against the Virginia Cavaliers at Cardinal Stadium. When the two teams faced off in 2021, Virginia defeated Louisville 34-33.

Satterfield looks during the second half against the Virginia Cavaliers at Cardinal Stadium. When the two teams faced off in 2021, Virginia defeated Louisville 34-33.

To reach bowl eligibility, Louisville has to win at Virginia Saturday and then find three more victories in a back half that includes Pitt, Wake Forest, an undefeated James Madison, Clemson on the road, North Carolina State and Kentucky on the road. Tough climb.

The looming presence here is Cardinals alum and Louisville native Jeff Brohm, who is coaching 2 1/2 hours up the road at Purdue. The school tried hard to hire him away before going with Satterfield as Plan B, and Brohm still has a lot of local fan support. But firing Satterfield now would only increase the awkwardness for Brohm; if he wants the Louisville job he’d likely rather wait until season’s end for it to come open.

Jimbo Fisher (4), Texas A&M. Record at the school: 37-16 overall, 22-13 in league play. This year: 3-2 overall, 1-1 in the SEC. It would take truly stupid money to fire the guy with the most favorable contract in college football, so don’t expect it. But since narrowly missing the College Football Playoff in 2020, Fisher and the Aggies are underperforming everywhere but on signing day.

The home loss to Appalachian State on Sept. 10 was Fisher’s lowest point in College Station, but being hammered Saturday by Mississippi State wasn’t too far behind. The Aggies were shut out in the first half and trailed by double digits throughout the second half. Fisher calls the plays for the lowest-scoring offense in the SEC, which has become a hot-button topic as the flailing continues. At 21.8 points per game, the Aggies are on pace for their worst scoring season since 2001.

Up next: a trip to Alabama, which will be waiting for Jimbo and his team with simmering fury. A&M upset the Crimson Tide last year, then Fisher and Nick Saban had their wild May crossfire, in which Fisher portrayed his former boss as a cheater and a sketchy dude. They patched it up publicly, but rest assured—if Saban can hang 50 on Jimbo, he will.

Texas A&M coach Jimbo Fisher (left) and Alabama coach Nick Saban (right) before the Alabama vs. Texas A&M game in Tuscaloosa, Ala.

Fisher was Saban's offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at LSU for four years.

Three of Fisher’s four full seasons at A&M have finished with four or more losses. This one appears headed for the same territory, at a program that aspires for more. But unless someone with more money than sense steps forward, a coaching change cannot be rationalized.

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Examining some programs performing poorly but not in a position to make a change at the top. Beneath that? Look out.

Big Ten West mainstays (5). Pat Fitzgerald at Northwestern, Kirk Ferentz at Iowa and Paul Chryst at Wisconsin have a combined 49 years as the head coaches at their current schools. They’ve combined to win the last seven Big Ten West Division titles—three for Chryst, two each for Ferentz and Fitzgerald. They are beloved, loyal and have produced some of the best moments in the history of their respective programs.

They’re also having seasons ranging from disappointing to dreadful.

Since beating Nebraska in Ireland, Northwestern is on a four-game losing streak that includes losses to opponents from FCS and the MAC. From the current purview, the Wildcats likely will be underdogs in every remaining game. And this is following a 3-9 season in 2021 and another 3-9 in 2019. Fitz has been reluctant to change staff in the past, but it could be unavoidable if this season ends up even worse than last year.

Wisconsin is an ugly 2-3, with wins over only Illinois State and New Mexico State. The losses are at home to Washington State, by a million at Ohio State and then a home beatdown from Illinois Saturday. The program synonymous with running the ball produced two yards on the ground against the Illini, which is hard to believe. Playing in the weak Big Ten West means there is always hope for a turnaround, but right now the Badgers look like they could have their first losing season since 2001.

Illinois beat Wisconsin 34-10 on Saturday.

Illinois beat Wisconsin 34-10 on Saturday.

Iowa is 3-2, but there is good news to report: the Hawkeyes have risen to 130th out of 131 FBS teams in total offense. That’s largely due to some cosmetic yardage in the fourth quarter against Michigan Saturday, a game in which “Fire Brian” chants were audible on the Fox broadcast during the first half. That would be offensive coordinator Brian Ferentz, the coach’s son, architect of a unit that hasn’t scored a touchdown in the first half of its last five Big Ten games, going back to last year. (In fact, in those five games Iowa’s defense and special teams has scored as many touchdowns as its offense—five apiece.) Kirk Ferentz operates the most stubborn program in the sport, and though that has largely served him well over the decades, he’s testing the patience of his fan base.

The Brents (6). Rookie head coaches Brent Venables and Brent Pry are not off to dazzling starts at Oklahoma and Virginia Tech, respectively. Former Clemson assistant Venables was hailed as the man to fix the pliant defense Lincoln Riley left behind—and so far the Sooners have given up 96 points and nearly 1,200 yards in two Big 12 games, both upset losses. Pry came from Penn State to take over a Virginia Tech program in appreciably worse shape, but it’s gotten worse—the Hokies are 2-3, last in the ACC in yards per play offensively.

Ted Roof was not an inspired defensive coordinator hire at Oklahoma (though truth be told, you know Venables is running the defense). Tyler Bowen is struggling as the offensive coordinator at Tech. Both men need something good to happen for their units in a hurry.


Every week The Dash hands down the way the College Football Playoff should be bracketed on stone tablets, as if today were Selection Sunday. This week’s field:

Peach Bowl: Top seed Ohio State (7) vs. fourth seed Alabama (8)

The Buckeyes (5-0) take over the top spot this week (due to Georgia’s struggles more than anything they accomplished in wiping out Rutgers). Ohio State did continue its metamorphosis into a powerful running team, racking up a third straight game of more than 250 rushing yards and averaging a season-high 7.4 yards per carry. Next up for Ohio State: a struggling Michigan State in East Lansing Saturday.

The Crimson Tide (5-0) recovered from an injury to Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Bryce Young and a second-half rally by Arkansas to beat the Razorbacks 49-26 in Fayetteville. With the Hogs threatening to pull off a huge second-half comeback, Alabama reeled off three running plays of longer than 70 yards to break the game back open. Young’s availability after suffering a shoulder sprain will be of vital importance going forward, particularly when the Tide goes to Tennessee Oct. 15. Next up for Alabama: Texas A&M revenge game Saturday.

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Fiesta Bowl: Second seed USC (9) vs. third seed Georgia (10)

The Trojans (5-0) finally had their first turnover of the season on a Caleb Williams interception, but it didn’t prevent them from a 42-25 victory over Arizona State. The USC defense was not great, but Williams was: he threw for 348 yards and three touchdowns, ran for 44 and another score, and made several jaw-dropping plays while under duress. Next up for USC: Washington State visits the Coliseum Saturday.

The Bulldogs (5-0) stayed unbeaten the hard way, laboring past Missouri in a sloppy performance that knocks them out of the No. 1 seed for this week. Georgia trailed by double digits for a considerable amount of time, not leading until 4:03 remained in the game. The ‘Dogs were a minus-two turnover margin for the second straight game, but Stetson Bennett led a fourth quarter rally to avoid a very bad loss. Next up for Georgia: Auburn Saturday.

Dropped out: Penn State.

Also considered: Penn State, TCU, Kansas, Tennessee, Clemson, Michigan, Mississippi, UCLA.

MORE DASH: New World Order | Coach Fights | Trap Games