Week 5 CFB takeaways Chilly hot seats, Big 12 newcomers, Coach Prime's Pac-12 Network debut

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Week 5 CFB takeaways: Chilly hot seats, Big 12 newcomers, Coach Prime’s Pac-12 Network debut.

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By this time last year, five Power 5 head coaches had already faced the axe due to underwhelming on-field performances. Nebraska’s Scott Frost was shown the door after Week 2, followed by Herm Edwards of Arizona State after Week 3, Geoff Collins of Georgia Tech after Week 4, and Karl Dorrell of Colorado and Paul Chryst of Wisconsin after Week 5 losses. These early-season firings had become somewhat of a trend in college football in recent years, with both UConn and USC parting ways with their coaches, Randy Edsall and Clay Helton, respectively, by mid-September 2021.

There are several reasons why schools choose to make these mid-season coaching changes. Fears about a decline in season-ticket renewals, major donations, or recruiting woes often contribute to these decisions. Additionally, schools hope to find a spark by appointing an interim head coach. However, the most significant factor in recent years has been the rise of the transfer portal. Athletic directors now feel compelled to act swiftly to secure a head coach before the transfer window opens. Last year, the portal opened on December 5, just a day after the College Football Playoff field was announced and two weeks before the early signing period for high school recruits – the previous de facto deadline for hiring new head coaches. Assuming a similar timeline for the transfer portal this year, schools should ideally have a head coach in place by December 4.

However, as of now, there have been no head coaches fired for poor performance this season. The only vacant positions are at Northwestern and Michigan State, and both of these departures were due to off-field issues rather than on-field struggles. Furthermore, it appears unlikely that other head coaches will face termination for performance-related reasons in the coming weeks.

Some coaches who started the season on the hot seat have managed to turn things around. Neal Brown at West Virginia has guided his team to a 4-1 record and is receiving votes in the Associated Press Top 25. Eli Drinkwitz of Missouri, who lacked a signature win in his first three seasons, boasts an impressive 5-0 record with a top-15 victory over Kansas State. Even Jeff Hafley, despite a rocky start, saw his Boston College team play competitively and secure an ACC win over Virginia.

This doesn’t imply that there won’t be any firings in the near future, or that all the mentioned coaches are entirely safe. However, they seem to be relatively secure in their positions for now. Some other situations around the league may warrant attention, such as Houston’s challenging transition to the Big 12 and Indiana’s decision to relieve their offensive coordinator of his duties after a 2-3 start.

The focus in the college football world may shift to the coordinator carousel, with concerns arising around defensive performances at USC and LSU, as well as offensive struggles at Pitt. As we conclude Week 5 and anticipate Week 6, these storylines will undoubtedly continue to evolve.

AP voters are backing away from Georgia. Kind of.

The reigning champions have been somewhat lackluster in their performance over the course of five games, despite maintaining an undefeated record. The Bulldogs secured victory in their initial five matchups, boasting an average winning margin of 25.6 points. However, their first-quarter performances have raised concerns, with a mere total of 17 points scored, mirroring the number of points conceded in the opening quarter. It’s worth noting that Georgia narrowly escaped defeat against Auburn, largely thanks to the standout efforts of their versatile tight end, Brock Bowers.

Given their narrow escapes against SEC opponents and sluggish starts in several games, it comes as a surprise to some that the Bulldogs still hold the top spot in this week’s AP poll. In comparison, several teams ranked lower than Georgia have notched better wins and appeared more cohesive in their first five games.

This sentiment seems to resonate with some AP voters as well. Last week, after a 28-point victory over UAB, Georgia received 55 first-place votes. However, following a close seven-point victory over Auburn, their first-place votes dropped to 35. In the same span, Michigan gained 11 more first-place votes, while Texas secured eight additional votes. Florida State even managed to snag a first-place vote.

The Longhorns could experience a significant climb in the rankings next week if they can overcome their Red River rival, Oklahoma. This could potentially catapult Texas from the third position to the coveted number one spot, given the Sooners’ current 12th-place ranking. Texas already boasts one of the standout victories of the season, a Week 2 triumph over Alabama, which has gained prominence following Alabama’s strong start in SEC play.

Shifting our focus to the Big 12, the newcomers from AAC realignment, including Cincinnati, UCF, and Houston, have encountered early struggles in their maiden season in the conference, collectively posting an unimpressive 0-6 record in league play. Notably, UCF suffered a painful defeat after squandering a 28-point lead in a 36-35 loss to Baylor at home.

Transitioning to new leagues or competition levels can be challenging, but these initial difficulties are somewhat surprising, considering the previous success of these programs in the AAC. All three of these teams participated in New Year’s Six bowl games as the highest-ranked Group of 5 champions, with Cincinnati even making a College Football Playoff semifinal appearance in 2021. These struggles are compounded by coaching changes and the adjustment to a more demanding schedule, featuring Power 5 opponents with robust offensive and defensive lines.

In contrast, BYU appears to be adapting more effectively to its new competition level. The independent Cougars have notched a 1-1 record in the Big 12 and secured a noteworthy victory over Arkansas during nonconference play. While there’s much talk about the average age of BYU’s roster due to missions for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, their experience may serve as a crucial advantage. Moreover, BYU’s previous scheduling, which included matchups against four to six Power 5 opponents annually during their independent status, seems to have prepared them well for the transition.

Switching gears, the Pac-12 Network is set to feature Colorado’s game against Arizona State, marking the Buffs’ first match this season not airing on Fox, ABC, or ESPN. The Pac-12 Network, known for its limited national distribution, poses challenges for viewers to find compared to other conference networks. Despite this, Deion Sanders and his Colorado team have become a major attraction in college football, drawing in more than 10 million viewers for their game against Oregon and over eight million for their comeback victory against Colorado State. Fans who have recently embraced Colorado football will face a new test this weekend as they attempt to locate the Pac-12 Network on their television sets.

In NCAA transfer portal news, the organization is expected to vote on shortening the window during which the transfer portal is open each year. Currently set at 60 total days per year for each sport, the portal window may shrink to either 45 or 30 days. The challenge lies in determining the optimal timing for these windows, considering the busy December schedule for college football, high school prospect signings, coaching changes, and the introduction of the expanded 12-team College Football Playoff next year. A shorter window could simplify roster management and reconstruction for coaches, as data suggests that a significant portion of transfers occur within the initial five days of the portal being open.

In other updates, Iowa quarterback Cade McNamara’s status remains uncertain after suffering a left knee injury, potentially sidelining him. Washington receiver Rome Odunze, although taking a hit during an onside kick, is reportedly doing well and is expected to recover ahead of a top-10 showdown with Oregon. Additionally, NC State is making a change at quarterback, with MJ Morris set to start in place of veteran Brennan Armstrong in their upcoming game against Marshall, in the hope of sparking the Wolfpack’s 3-2 season.

Reference

theathletic.com/4923988/2023/10/03/college-football-hot-seats-coaching-carousel/

www.nfl.com/news/what-we-learned-from-week-5-in-the-pac-12-0ap2000000251671

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