Note: South Carolina – LSU game has been moved from USC to LSU. We have updated the spreads for that game below.
Deja vu in the Big Ten?
We have stated it earlier in the season, but at this point in the season, the Big Ten race looks eerily similar to the 1969 Big Ten season. Of course, there are differences, especially in the way the game is played today as compared to 46 seasons ago, but there are enough similarities that it has heightened our enthusiasm toward watching the Big Ten games.
For a little background, our PiRate Ratings began about this time 46 years ago. It was about four games into the season (10-game seasons for most, 9-game season still for Ohio St.), that we looked in the newspaper to discover the entire top ten was undefeated and untied. Our founder thought, “how can you determine which of these 10 teams is really the best?”
He began looking at comparative scores and how easily or difficult each win was. That is how the PiRate Ratings started. At first, no numerical rating was awarded; it was strictly who is better than who.
Ohio State entered the 1969 season after becoming the surprise 1968 National Champion. The Buckeyes had knocked off unbeaten USC with Heisman Trophy winner O.J. Simpson the previous year. Coach Woody Hayes’ team was predominately a group of sensational sophomores. Beginning the 1969 season, the Buckeyes were the clear-cut number one team.
Purdue was also a pre-season top 10 team entering 1969. The Boilermakers were coming off three consecutive 8-2 regular seasons (with a Rose Bowl win in 1966-67 to make it a ninth win). Purdue had the top quarterback in the conference in Mike Phipps, and many experts believed he was the best passer in the nation and certain first QB to be picked in the next NFL Draft.
Michigan had finished the 1968 season with a 50-14 pasting by Ohio State. Worse than the final score was that the Buckeyes led the Wolverines 44-14 late in the fourth quarter when outstanding fullback Jim Otis barreled his way into the end zone for a touchdown. Up 50-14, Hayes decided to punish the hated rival to the north and go for two points. Bill Long, the 1967 starter who lost his QB job to Buckeye great Rex Kern attempted to pass to Bill Pollitt but overthrew him, and the try was unsuccessful. The Wolverines had to deal with this defeat for a year, and they vowed to get their revenge.
Michigan began 1969 with a new head coach in fiery Bo Schembechler, who had already enjoyed success as a 6-year head coach at Miami of Ohio. Schembechler favored shortening games with a tough defense that stopped the run and rushed the quarterback, while grinding it out with a power running game and play-action passing game on offense.
By now, you should be able to see the similarities. The 1969 Ohio State team began the season as the obvious number one team with a group of more than two dozen junior stars. Purdue figured to be the top challenger to Ohio State with a great quarterback and an exceptional coach in Jack Mollenkopf, who had built the Boilermaker program up to national prominence, even taking PU to the top spot in the polls for a couple weeks in the past.
Michigan was not picked to contend for the top three spots in the Big Ten with a new coach, with a new philosophy, and a lot of new personnel.
The one substitute in this similarity to 2015 is to change Purdue to Michigan St. Here is what you have in 2015.
Ohio State is the runaway number one choice as the season begins and continues. Michigan State with outstanding coach Mark Dantonio and top quarterback Connor Cook has risen to national prominence and is the top contender. Michigan with fiery new coach Jim Harbaugh with years of past experience is the team nobody picked to contend, coming in behind Penn State in the preseason pecking order for number four in the East Division.
Now, add another little fact to the similarity. The 1969 Wolverine team fell early to a team from another power conference, said team then going on to win that conference and play in the Orange Bowl. Missouri beat the 1969 Wolverines. UM was written off after that defeat, but Missouri won the Big 8 title and played in the Orange Bowl.
2015 Michigan lost at Utah to begin the season. With the Utes now 4-0 and nationally ranked after winning by four touchdowns at Oregon, that UM loss in Salt Lake City does not look so bad. With consecutive shutout wins, the Wolverines surely look like a Schembechler team. Harbaugh did play for Bo in Ann Arbor.
The Wolverines have a tough game this week against unbeaten Northwestern. This one could see less than 20 total points scored, and a 0-0 score late in the game would not be surprising. It is homecoming in Ann Arbor. Michigan better not be looking ahead to the next game for the Paul Bunyan Trophy against the Spartans, because this NU team owns a win over Stanford, and they do not fear the Wolverines.
The Big Ten is going to continue to be the most interesting conference until things play out. With Iowa still undefeated, the races in both divisions will be fun to watch.
Next Coaches to move to Power 5 Conference Teams
There appears to be future openings at teams in Power 5 Conferences. Depending on who you believe, there could be a half-dozen openings in the big time.
Illinois figures to look for a new full-time coach, but if interim Bill Cubit continues to perform well, this job may not be open. Paul Rhoads is in serious jeopardy at Iowa State. Virginia’s Mike London faced a much too difficult schedule, and he has virtually no chance of guiding the Cavaliers to a winning record. Darrell Hazell might have secured his spot at Purdue had the Boilermakers been able to close the deal and upset Michigan State, but Hazell is likely to be fired at the end of this season if Purdue finishes in the West Division basement again.
Then, there are some big name coaches at big name schools that have the fans, alums, and boosters complaining. Charlie Strong at Texas is probably safe because the Longhorns have a long list of folks still on the payroll and no longer. If the Longhorns lose by 30 points this week to Oklahoma and then lose to either Iowa State or Kansas, Strong could find himself in some trouble.
Maryland’s Randy Edsall has never really endeared himself to the Terrapin community, and the Terps could seek a new coach next year, especially if UM loses to Rutgers and finishes last in the Big Ten East.
While we don’t believe it is possible, there are no rumblings to replace Butch Jones at Tennessee, after the Volunteers blew their third 14-point lead of the season in a loss to Arkansas. Losses to Georgia, Kentucky, Missouri, and Alabama would leave the Vols at 5-7, and in the same boat they were when they fired Derek Dooley after three seasons.
Al Golden is in some hot water at Miami, even though he has had to deal with a lot of sanctions from the previous regime. The Hurricanes should be bowl eligible this year, but this school has not traveled to bowls in large numbers in recent years. Golden probably keeps his job unless the ‘Canes collapse and finish below .500.
Virginia Tech’s Frank Beamer may be sent out to pasture in a manner similar to Bobby Bowden. The Hokies have not contended for ACC honors in recent years, and the fans in Blacksburg are ready for something new. They may get it.
The ole ball coach is not completely safe at South Carolina. Steve Spurrier’s Gamecocks fell from 11-2 to 7-6 last year and could drop below .500 this year. A homecoming loss to Vanderbilt in two weeks could seal his fate.
With a lot of possible job openings, which Group of 5 coaches appear to be ready to move up to the big time? Let’s take a look league by league.
American Athletic Conference
Justin Fuente is the current darling of the mid-major football world. The Memphis coach has won 12 consecutive games, and the Tigers are now more of a football than basketball school. Fuente comes from the Garry Patterson coaching tree, and he could be the leading candidate should the Iowa State job become available. Memphis fans like to believe that their team can move up to the Big 12 and become big-time, thus being able to keep Fuente, but that is not likely to happen in the next six months, and job openings with his name at the top of the list will be available.
Tommy Tuberville is 61 years old, so a little bit of age discrimination could creep into his attempts to move back to the big time. He begged to get out of Lubbock and took the Cincinnati job as somewhat of a step down from Texas Tech. We could see where Virginia might have an interest in him, after David Cutcliffe has done so well at Duke.
Matt Rhule has done wonders at Temple. Several schools could look toward him. Rhule has NFL experience and could also become a candidate for a couple pro jobs.
East Carolina’s Ruffin McNeill creates a lot of excitement with his wide open offense. The Pirates have consistently averaged 35-40 points per game and have been bowling four of his five seasons in Greenville. ECU is in contention in the East Division this year, and if they win the crown, McNeill could vault above many others for job openings, like at Virginia Tech or Maryland.
Houston’s Tom Herman is a first year head coach. It would be a major surprise to see Herman leave after one year, but if the Cougars run the table and earn the New Year’s Six Bowl allocated to a Group of Five member, he might not ever be this hot of a commodity. The former Urban Meyer assistant could be on the radar of several schools.
Maybe the best recruiter in the land resides in CUSA. Marshall’s Doc Holliday would draw interest from any Big Ten or ACC school with an opening. Holliday might prefer to stay in West Virginia, but the job in Mogantown does not appear to have any openings in the near future.
Jeff Brohm is just in his second season at Western Kentucky, but the Hilltoppers are fun to watch, and they win. WKU went should earn back-to-back bowl games, and Brohm could field multiple offers at the end of the season.
With a last name of “Holtz,” if the team you coach has consistent success, you are going to eventually get an offer to move up. Skip Holtz has produced winners at East Carolina and now at Louisiana Tech. His dad started out small at William & Mary before moving on to five big time schools.
The MAC tends to produce more Power 5 head coaches than any other league, mostly ascending to the Big Ten. There is no shortage of future Power 5 possibiities here. Let’s start with Toledo’s Matt Campbell, who has guided the Rockets to wins over Arkansas and Iowa State this year. He may be the first option at the first Big Ten opening this year.
Rod Carey has done quite well at Northern Illinois despite the Huskies not faring so well this year. Still, Carey has produced 12 and 11-win seasons in Dekalb, and NIU has become the new “Cradle of Coaches.”
Dino Babers is already 2-0 in the Big Ten this year, and Bowling Green hopes to go undefeated in the MAC as well. Babers’ offense is another one of those wide-open high-scoring outfits that fans love to watch.
Mountain West Conference
The Boise State coach is always going to be a hot commodity. Bryan Harsin guided the Broncos to the Fiesta Bowl in his first season in Potatoland, and the Broncos are in contention for another New Year’s Six Bowl again this year.
Former Notre Dame coach Bob Davie has slowly built the New Mexico program up to where the Lobos could sneak into a bowl this year. Davie’s teams have consistently led the nation in rushing among teams not using the triple-option offense. He could be an option at an Iowa State, Virginia, Maryland, or Purdue.
Sun Belt Conference
There are no real candidates in this league at the current time, but should Paul Johnson retire at Georgia Tech, Georgia Southern’s Willie Fritz could be the best option, and we do mean to use “option” as a double entendre. Fritz’s option offense is totally different than the option offenses used at Tech, Army, Navy, or Air Force. He likely will never be a serious candidate at any successful Power 5 program, but at a Georgia Tech, Purdue, Vanderbilt, or Kansas, this type of philosophy could turn things around.
This Week’s Ratings
|40||North Carolina St.|
|91||San Jose St.|
|95||San Diego St.|
|127||New Mexico St.|
|32||North Carolina St.||110.5||112.3||109.4||110.7|
|78||San Diego St.||93.9||99.2||94.8||96.0|
|79||San Jose St.||94.3||97.5||94.7||95.5|
|126||New Mexico St.||73.9||75.2||74.1||74.4|
PiRate Rating By Conference
|American Athletic Conference|
|Atlantic Coast Conference|
|North Carolina St.||0-1||4-1||110.5||112.3||109.4||110.7|
|Big 12 Conference|
|Big 12 Averages||110.6||105.0||110.3||108.6|
|Big Ten Conference|
|Big Ten Averages||107.0||105.6||106.5||106.4|
|Mountain West Conference|
|San Diego St.||1-0||2-3||93.9||99.2||94.8||96.0|
|San Jose St.||1-1||2-3||94.3||97.5||94.7||95.5|
|New Mexico St.||0-1||0-4||73.9||75.2||74.1||74.4|
|Sun Belt Averages||81.5||83.8||82.2||82.5|
This Week’s Spreads
|This Week’s Games|
|Thursday, October 8|
|Friday, October 9|
|Virginia Tech||North Carolina St.||2.9||-0.8||4.1|
|Saturday, October 10|
|Ole Miss||New Mexico St.||53.5||45.6||51.2|
|Western Kentucky||Middle Tennessee||9.0||9.3||10.9|
|Western Michigan||Central Michigan||11.1||6.4||10.2|
|Boston College||Wake Forest||8.8||9.3||8.2|
|Georgia St.||Appalachian St.||-18.2||-23.0||-20.5|
|Northern Illinois||Ball St.||9.3||9.4||8.5|
|Texas Tech||Iowa St.||17.9||12.0||18.6|
|Colorado St.||Boise St.||-20.6||-17.6||-22.1|
|Texas-San Antonio||Louisiana Tech||-18.5||-13.6||-18.2|
|West Virginia||Oklahoma St.||6.3||2.7||5.5|
|Florida St.||Miami (Fl.)||8.9||9.0||7.2|
|UNLV||San Jose St.||-9.6||-10.4||-9.1|
|Fresno St.||Utah St.||-9.5||-2.2||-11.3|
|Hawaii||San Diego St.||-1.9||-5.3||-2.6|
|FBS vs. FCS||Week 6||PiRate|
|North Texas||Portland St.||-7|
|New Mexico||MWC||CUSA||New Mexico||vs.||Rice|
|Las Vegas||Pac-12||MWC/BYU||Oregon||vs.||Boise St.|
|Camellia||MAC||SBC||Northern Illinois||vs.||South Alabama|
|New Orleans||CUSA||SBC||Louisiana Tech||vs.||Appalachian St.|
|Idaho Potato||MAC||MWC||Akron||vs.||Utah St.|
|Boca Raton||AAC||MAC||Miami (FL) *||vs.||Ohio U|
|Poinsettia||MWC||Army||San Diego St.||vs.||Minnesota *|
|Bahamas||CUSA||MAC||Western Kentucky||vs.||Bowling Green|
|St. Petersburg||AAC||CUSA||East Carolina||vs.||Florida Int’l.|
|Heart of Dallas||Big 12||CUSA||Western Mich. *||vs.||Southern Miss.|
|Independence||SEC||ACC||Mississippi St.||vs.||N. Carolina St.|
|Foster Farms||Big Ten||Pac-12||Nebraska||vs.||California|
|Quick Lane||ACC||Big Ten||Pittsburgh||vs.||Indiana|
|Armed Forces||Big Ten||MWC||Illinois||vs.||Air Force|
|Russell Athletic||ACC||Big 12||Florida St.||vs.||West Virginia|
|Texas||Big 12||SEC||Texas Tech||vs.||Missouri|
|Birmingham||AAC||SEC||Memphis||vs.||Middle Tennessee *|
|Music City||ACC/Big Ten||SEC||Penn St.||vs.||Kentucky|
|Peach||N. Y. 6||N. Y. 6||Baylor||vs.||Notre Dame|
|Ouback||Big Ten||SEC||Iowa||vs.||Texas A&M|
|Citrus||Big Ten||SEC||Michigan St.||vs.||Ole Miss|
|Rose||Big Ten||Pac-12||Ohio St.||vs.||Utah|
|Fiesta||N. Y. 6||N. Y. 6||Oklahoma||vs.||Houston|
|TaxSlayer||ACC/Big Ten||SEC||North Carolina||vs.||Georgia|
|Liberty||Big 12||SEC||Kansas St.||vs.||Tennessee|
|Alamo||Big 12||Pac-12||Oklahoma St.||vs.||USC|
|Cactus||Big 12||Pac-12||Boston College *||vs.||San Jose St. *|
|* = At-large selection due to contracted conference not having an eligible team for this slot|