First and 10 - Coaches excelling in year one
Published: Monday, 12 November 2012 16:17
by Zach Barnett
First-year coaches are in position to win over half of 11 available FBS conference championships. We'll start off this week's edition of First and 10 by examining each situation and what they need to happen to win their respective conference crowns.
1. Kyle Flood has Rutgers three wins away from a likely Orange Bowl berth. Flood, a six-year veteran of Greg Schiano's staff and former Rutgers player, has taken a good situation and improved upon it. Rutgers ranks fifth nationally in scoring defense at 13.4 points per game, and have allowed an average of just 10.3 points in Big East play. In a similar scenario to Flood's first year on the Rutgers staff, when Rutgers knocked off No. 2 Louisville 28-25 on a Thursday night, the Scarlet Knights and Cardinals will likely square off for a spot in the Orange Bowl on the final Thursday night of the season. Flood has a chance to cap his inaugural season by leading Rutgers to its first BCS game.
2. Tim DeRuyter needs one win to clinch Fresno State's first conference title since 1999. Ironically, 1999 was the first season of Mountain West Conference football, a league Fresno State was originally excluded from. After multiple rounds of conference realignment musical chairs, DeRuyter has the Bulldogs in position to win the MWC crown in their debut season in the league. All that's needed is a win over Air Force on Nov. 24.
3. Matt Campbell and Toledo can play their way into the MAC Championship. The Rockets stand at 5-1 in conference play, one game behind 6-0 Northern Illinois in the MAC West. On Wednesday night Toledo will travel to DeKalb, Ill., to battle the Huskies for the top spot in the division. Campbell needs three wins to give Toledo its first MAC title since 2004, Campbell's second season as a 24-year-old graduate assistant at Bowling Green.
4. Gus Malzahn has Arkansas State on the cusp of back-to-back Sun Belt crowns. After dropping his first conference game, Malzahn has led his team to five straight victories and the top of the Sun Belt standings. The Sun Belt doesn't stage an official league championship game, but the unofficial Sun Belt Super Bowl will probably be December 1 when Arkansas State visits second place Middle Tennessee.
5. Jim L. Mora can be the king of college football in Los Angeles. The Bruins haven't beaten cross-town rival USC since 2006, but a victory on Saturday would wrap up its first non-sanction aided Pac-12 South championship and likely send the Bruins to Autzen Stadium for the second straight year for the conference title.
6. Kevin Sumlin needs a lot of help, but his Aggies aren't out of the SEC West race. Assuming Sumlin's team beats Missouri on November 24, Texas A&M likely needs two massive upsets - Auburn over Alabama and Arkansas over LSU - to win the tiebreaker atop the SEC West. It's a longshot, but at this time three months ago no one Texas A&M a chance to win in Tuscaloosa, either.
7. Due to no fault of his own, Urban Meyer can't win this year's Big Ten title. But if they weren't on probation, his Ohio State squad would undoubtedly be the runaway favorites at this point of the season. The 10-0 Buckeyes would also be square in the middle of the annual debate for the top two BCS spots. Meyer and co. will have to wait until next year.
8. The final WAC championship could be decided Saturday in Ruston, La. One of the unfortunate consequences of the game of college football musical chairs is that the WAC will close up shop as a football conference after this season. But in typical WAC fashion, Saturday's game between 4-0 Utah State and 4-0 Louisiana Tech will be nothing but entertaining, setting up one of the best good-on-good match-ups of the year. The Bulldogs average 53.4 points per game on offense, while the Aggies surrender just 13.5 a game, a gap of almost 40 points.
9. Congratulations to Charley Molnar and Massachusetts. The Minutemen earned not only their first win of the season on Saturday, but their first win as an FBS program in topping Akron, 22-14. That leaves Southern Miss as the only FBS team in search of its first win.
10. In case you missed it. The Division II, Division III and NAIA playoff brackets were announced on Sunday. The FCS playoff bracket will be revealed this Sunday at 1:30 p.m. ET on ESPNU. Best of luck to all involved.