Forty names, games, teams and minutiae making news in college football (Hamm’s beer sold separately in Fayetteville, where it was announced that Sam Pittman will be retained as Arkansas head coach in 2024):
Fourth Quarter: Deflection Season
It’s that time of year when coaches start talking to schools about other jobs while pretending they’re not. The established go-betweens (agents and search firms) can only get the involved parties so far before there has to be some communication between the people doing the hiring and the people they’re trying to hire.
When Kirk Bohls of the Austin American-Statesman first reported that UTSA’s Jeff Traylor (32) had a Zoom interview last week with Texas A&M, it put the coach of the Roadrunners on the spot. When asked about it after UTSA’s win over South Florida, Traylor responded with classic coachspeak.
“We had 18 seniors play tonight,” he said. “It’s a shame, really, that that’s what everybody talked about. Any second somebody is talking about Jeff Traylor and not Frank Harris is a travesty toward those 18 seniors.”
At least he didn’t lie. But if Traylor were really interested in avoiding such a “travesty,” he could have declined the interview or requested that it be pushed back until after Senior Night, or after USTA’s regular season Friday against Tulane. Instead he tried to throw the responsibility onto the media for asking very pertinent questions.
Monday was more of the same from Traylor. “There’s nothing to balance,” he said. “This is about Frank Harris and the Roadrunners, and that’s all there is to balance.” Asked again, he said, “We play Friday at 2:30.”
These are the dumb dances of November. Among other coaches who may well be in similar situations this week:
Mike Elko (33), Duke. The Blue Devils end the regular season at home against Pittsburgh on Saturday. They’re 6–5, having lost two straight close games since starting freshman backup quarterback Grayson Loftis in place of injured Riley Leonard. (At the time Leonard was initially injured, in a late September game against Notre Dame, Duke was 4–0.) Elko is believed to be on the short lists at Michigan State and Texas A&M, with Duke doing what it can to keep him.
The Spartans play their last game Friday night against Penn State. Texas A&M plays LSU at noon Saturday. Duke plays Pitt at the same time. Elko has got good options, and those might start clarifying themselves by mid-afternoon Saturday.
Jamey Chadwell (34), Liberty. The undefeated Flames will try to close out a perfect regular season on the road Saturday at 3:30 p.m. against UTEP. Could Mississippi State, which plays Mississippi in the Egg Bowl on Thursday night, be standing by to talk to Chadwell? Liberty also has a spot in the Conference USA title game on Dec. 1, which could complicate any discussions.
Chadwell’s record the past four seasons (three at Coastal Carolina and one at Liberty) is 42–6. The 46-year-old Tennessee native is worth a shot in the SEC.
Jason Candle (35), Toledo. The Rockets (10–1) play Central Michigan at noon Friday, on their way to the Mid-American Conference championship game Dec. 2. Candle, who led Toledo to the 2017 and ’22 MAC titles, could be in play at Syracuse and Michigan State. His recruiting ties in Ohio and Detroit could come in handy at Michigan State. Syracuse, on the other hand, would have to decide whether it wants to grab another MAC coach, after taking Dino Babers out of Bowling Green.
Tony White (36), Nebraska defensive coordinator. In his first season as DC of the Cornhuskers, their points allowed have dropped from 27.6 to 18.7, and yards allowed from 414 to 308. You could (with some justification) wave that off as a product of playing in the worst offensive division since the Single Wing Era, but consider what White did at Syracuse, too: The Orange defense went from 32.7 points and 464 yards allowed in his first season as coordinator (2020) to 23.1 points and 329 yards allowed in his third (’22).
If White doesn’t get the call to return to Syracuse, the former San Diego State coach (2009–17) could be in the mix with the Aztecs, where Brady Hoke is retiring. Nebraska plays Iowa Friday.
Manny Diaz (37), Penn State defensive coordinator. The former Miami head coach is due for another chance, especially after doing good work with the Nittany Lions this year and last. Penn State is second nationally in yards allowed per game and third in yards allowed per play, plus the defense hung tough against both Ohio State and Michigan despite getting no help in those games from an overmatched offense. Syracuse, maybe?
Coach Who Earned His Comp Car This Week
Butch Jones (38), Arkansas State. After starting the season with losses of 73–0 to Oklahoma and 37–3 to Memphis, dropping his record at the school to 5–21, the former Tennessee coach appeared to be in trouble. But the Red Wolves cobbled it back together—brick by brick, you might say—getting to 5–5 heading into a home game against Texas State on Saturday. Arkansas State exploded for a 77–31 victory, perhaps becoming the first FBS team to give up 70 and score 70 in the same season against two different opponents. In that game, the team had four returns for touchdowns: one kickoff, one fumble and two interceptions. The Red Wolves are now going bowling for the first time since 2019.
Coach Who Should Take the Bus to Work
Lincoln Riley (39), USC. Here’s how bad it’s gotten for the Trojans: not only have they lost five of their last six, but the only thing separating them from a potential seven-game losing streak are failed two-point conversions by Arizona (a 43–41 USC win) and California (50–49). Riley was paid big bucks to work a big makeover with a generational quarterback talent, but it’s gone way wrong. Forget just finding a better defensive coordinator—Riley needs to perform a complete culture makeover of his soft program.
When hungry and thirsty in the underrated SEC city of Knoxville, Tenn., The Dash recommends dropping in on Yee-Haw Brewing (40). It’s a nice spot—one of a few the company has in the region—with good food choices and quality beer. Order a Chill Billy IPA and thank The Dash later.