Forty names, games, teams, and minutiae that make headlines in college football, where the pink cards keep flying every Sunday:
QUARTER ONE: THE IMPLOSION OF THE DEATH STAR IN FLORIDA
Florida (1) it did not usually reside in the upper echelon of the Southeastern Conference dysfunction classifications; When you share a league with Auburn, LSU, and Tennessee, the cream of chaos rises to the top and stays there. But with the shot of Dan mullen (2) On Sunday, the school has now had back-to-back soccer coaches go from good to missing in the space of just a few weeks.
In 2017, the Gators were coming off back-to-back SEC East titles and had a 3-1 start to the season. They then lost to LSU and Texas A&M by three points combined, and the third-year coach Jim McElwain (3 years) it came out with a vague reference to “death threats” directed at the coaches and their families. When Florida administrators tried to follow up on that with McElwain, his response lacked specificity and led to a statement from the school distancing itself from the coach and putting him on the clock. With a 22-11 record and Eastern titles in each of his first two seasons, McElwain was suddenly on a thin layer.
Then came the Kirb Stomping – Georgia 42, Florida 7, at the Cocktail Party game. The next day, McElwain left. He could have been fired at the end of the season no matter what happened against Georgia, but that was an accelerator.
Fast forward four years and the situation feels similar. Dan Mullen arrived after flirting in Florida with Chip Kelly and Scott Frost, and quickly seemed like one of the best third-choice hires in the recent history of college football. The Gators finished 29-9 in their first three seasons and won the SEC East last year, giving Alabama its toughest test on the road to the national championship.
That moved into a close loss to Alabama in September with a rebuilding team. After beating Tennessee, Florida went 3-1 and everyone looked pretty happy, as did McElwain’s 3-1 start in 2017. Then the Mullen Era went from solid to dizzying: an unexpected loss to Kentucky; a superficial beating from Vanderbilt; and an upsetting loss for an LSU team that had been in disarray.
At 4-3, the complaints mounted, but Mullen’s job still seemed secure. Then he got his own Kirb Stomping: Georgia 34, Florida 7. The talent gap was stark. After that, Mullen kept adding fuel to his own fire: he blew out recruiting questions, shut down media access, brought an uncaring team to South Carolina for an embarrassing beating, a firing of defensive coordinator Todd Grantham who killed him. led to a full defense. collapse against FCS Samford, which Mullen then tried to spin as a “big win”. His tenure was collapsing like a shack in a hurricane.
Missouri provided the last gust of wind on Saturday, winning 24-23 in a game marked by the audacity of Eli Drinkwitz and the reluctance of Mullen. The end result was Florida’s first season with two SEC wins since 1986, and at 2-6 it was the school’s worst winning percentage in the league since 1979.
Drinkwitz then trolled Mullen at the post-game press conference, covering his head with his hood and brandishing a lightsaber while saying, “May the Force be with you.” That was a callback to the 2020 Halloween game between the teams, when Mullen made a post-game appearance in a Darth Vader outfit, flaunting his villain vibe that came after stupidly calling fans to “pack. The Swamp “during the depths of the pandemic.
While these two Florida-Missouri games have provided some fine theater – and perhaps finally gave Missouri an appearance of an SEC rival – Mullen’s choice of role proved prescient. Darth Vader and his Death Star seemed all powerful for a time, then they were met with their demise.
None of Florida’s last three head coaches – Will Muschamp, McElwain and Mullen – made it to 50 games at work. That’s something that no other SEC school can currently say. Surprisingly, Gainesville has become the conference capital of turnover, turbulence and dysfunction.
WHO’S NEXT IN FLORIDA?
Despite that state, this should be a Cadillac job when it’s working properly. And there are reasons to expect that status to return, as Florida is poised to open an opulent new facility that should ameliorate the much-discussed recruiting shortage. A quick look at potential candidates and the problems that exist with each of them:
Billy Napier (4), Louisiana. There’s a lot of buzz around the 42-year-old Ragin ‘Cajuns coach, and given the number of high-level openings, the premise that it’s too big of a jump from Sun Belt to Power 5 is fading. Someone has to take these jobs, right? Why not a guy with a 38-12 record, three straight 10-win seasons, and SEC experience as Nick Saban’s assistant from 2013-16? Napier helped Alabama land some of its biggest stars of the last decade, and Saban’s field is considered well enough that they don’t like the idea of having him at the same conference. The downside: In addition to the Sun Belt class jump, Napier has close ties to McElwain.
Lane Kiffin (5), Mississippi. There is a faction of Florida boosters eager to ride the Lane Train. He has led the Rebels to a 9-2 record in his second season, with a fan-friendly offense and a willingness to chase the league’s big dogs. Kiffin is also the recruiter Mullen is not, and he places great importance on chasing the best talent he can get. The downside: Kiffin and sporting director Scott Stricklin are a mix of water and oil, and if Stricklin isn’t forced to turn up the pressure, this would appear to be a tough sell. The last two Florida head coaches have been high-maintenance guys with a propensity to say something worthy of shame: Does the school really want a third straight game like that?
James Franklin (6), Penn State. He won in a much tougher spot in the SEC than Florida, and then followed up with a successful tenure at Penn State (although this year has been a bit disappointing). Florida has never had a full-time black football head coach, either. The downside: Would you leave, and would Florida be your first choice if you did? Franklin’s clock may be ticking at Penn State, but he has hinted that a new engagement with the school may be near. All eyes are on a Penn State compensation committee meeting scheduled for Tuesday.
Dave Clawson (7 years), Wake Forest. Like Franklin’s success at Vanderbilt, what Clawson has done in a place like Wake should make winning at Florida look easy. He’s also at the forefront of offensive football, playing well in a school that once won national titles with the innovative attacks of Steve Spurrier and Urban Meyer. His personality, demeanor, and attitude would fit well with Stricklin’s. The downside: Is Clawson the guy who beat Kirby Smart and Nick Saban for the best recruits? That has never been his game.
Bob Bows (8), Television analyst. Before becoming a national championship coach at Oklahoma, Stoops was Spurrier’s very popular defensive coordinator during some of Florida’s glory days. Stoops enjoyed his time at school and could make it to the top of this list if he’s interested in being a coach again. The downside: Are you interested in being a coach again? Stoops has had many opportunities in recent years and so far he has turned them all down.
Luke Fickell (9), Cincinnati. If anyone has established himself as the next great college football coach, it’s Fickell. He is 42-6 in the past four seasons and is one win away from his second consecutive undefeated regular season. The downside: Fickell is focused on the Midwest and might not harbor the desire to coach in the SEC. And if you want to leave what has been your geographic footprint for life, USC could be the destination. There’s also a belief that he won’t even have conversations about other jobs while the Bearcats are chasing the college football playoffs, and after Saturday they’re more involved than ever. That could delay recruiting and transitioning the program until at least January. (Still: if it’s a 10-year home run, it’s worth waiting and sacrificing an early signing period.)
Dan Lanning (10), Georgia defensive coordinator. If you can hit your nemesis where it hurts and hire an untested rising star, do you? While Smart is a head coach who prioritizes defense, there is no question that the 35-year-old Lanning has left his own stamp on the Bulldogs’ historically great defense. That unit is still on track to have the largest difference between the points allowed and the national average score in FBS history; Georgia is currently allowing 7.5 points per game and the national average score is 28.7, a difference of 21.2. (Alabama 2011 has the current mark at 20.1). And that scoring defense would be even lower this week if it weren’t for a Charleston Southern pick-six touchdown to avoid a shutout. The downside: Lanning obviously hasn’t been a head coach and is even relatively new to coordinator status. This would be a Gators bet.
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.