NCAAF Notebook: Riley, Kelly jump on coaching carousel
What a wild week in the world of college football — "Bedlam," you might say.
Between the conclusion of the regular season and the coaching carousel spinning at full speed, the sport is full of headlines these days.
Let’s take a spin around the country to tackle the top stories of the week in this edition of the NCAAF Notebook.
Lincoln Riley to USC
In the biggest shock of the season, former Oklahoma head coach Lincoln Riley opted to head west, taking the nearly season-long vacant position at USC.
It is a ground-shaking move for both programs, as OU prepares to join the SEC and deeper waters, while USC looks for the right equation to bring itself back to national relevance.
Riley had seen great success at Oklahoma, competing for national championships in the College Football Playoff, fielding Heisman Trophy winners, and developing first-round draft picks year after year.
His move has created ripple effects through both the recruiting trail and the Sooners’ current roster, as big-name players, such as quarterbacks Malachi Nelson and Spencer Rattler, look for spots other than Norman.
The Sooners are sure to feel like they’re scrambling in the wake of Riley’s departure. The now-open position will be highly coveted, but comes with plenty of expectations and challenge.
The Trojans, meanwhile, have to feel a great sense of excitement, as a wave of big recruits set their sights on the lights of Los Angeles.
Brian Kelly to LSU
Following Riley’s announcement, more shocking news came from another traditional power when we learned Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly would be leaving the institution he spent a decade at to take the open job at LSU.
LSU’s last three coaches all won national championships, and the talent pool available in the area gives Kelly an opportunity too good to refuse.
The $95 million base salary plus incentives puts him as the highest paid coach at a public university in the nation.
For Notre Dame, Marcus Freeman is expected to become the new head coach of the program.
For LSU, the pressure to win is already imminent. This is a division with Alabama, Texas A&M, an ascending Mississippi, and new entrants on the horizon from the Big 12.
Kelly will need to rework the offensive line, but that is something he did consistently well at Notre Dame and is surely something that made him an appealing hire for the administration in Baton Rouge.
As coaches dominate the headlines, there is still a ton of football to be played by the nation’s top teams and a playoff bracket to get created.
Michigan’s big upset over Ohio State blew the doors open for the Wolverines to walk through and earn a playoff bid, while Alabama’s narrow victory over Auburn likely gave the Crimson Tide enough wiggle room to earn a bid, regardless of this weekend’s SEC Championship Game outcome.
The rankings now have Georgia, Michigan, Alabama, and Cincinnati as the top four teams in the country. But discussion has swirled around whether a one-loss Oklahoma State team would deserve a bid over Cincinnati, or perhaps a two-loss Alabama.
Oklahoma State still needs to defeat Baylor in the Big 12 championship, but the Sooners would have a Power 5 conference title to their resume, in addition to nice wins against Oklahoma, Baylor, and on the road at Boise State. Their only loss was a 24-21 defeat on the road at Iowa State.
The discussion is warranted, but ultimately it seems clear that Alabama has already earned its spot and Oklahoma State’s resume isn’t strong enough to allow it to jump an undefeated Cincinnati team.
The only way I predict Oklahoma State makes it to the final four is if Michigan or Cincinnati lose outright. If all three teams in question win outright, the current rankings will remain as they are.
Game of the week
This week has multiple games that are must-watch for any college football fan. It’s championship week, after all.
The best game should be in Atlanta for the SEC Championship Game between Alabama and Georgia, but the Big Ten championship between Michigan and Iowa might be the one that is most interesting.
Sun, December 5 2021, 1:00 AM
Michigan hasn’t competed for a national championship in over two decades, despite having 11 national titles to its name. It is one of the proudest fanbases in all of football, and we witnessed last Saturday how much the win against Ohio State meant to the program.
Iowa can make any game interesting, and if Michigan wins the Big Ten title, it will be well-earned.
Will Michigan make things interesting, and potentially devastating, with a letdown following its big victory over Ohio State, or will the Wolverines confidently stride through the doors they blew open against Ohio State and finally compete for another championship?