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CFB's 2006 Coaching Carousel: Part 1

   by Larry Ness - 08/12/2006

Their were a total of 23 schools which entered the 2005 season with new head coaches last year (see Wednesday's Notes in the archives on how they fared). There were only 10 new hires this year but then with the tragic death of Northwestern's Randy Walker over the summer, this year's "coaching carousel" grew to 11. In a special weekend edition of Ness Notes, I'll preview all 11 schools and coaches.

The 23 coaching changes of last year broke down like this. There were 10 schools bringing in coaches with previous experience and 13 schools which were giving their 'guys' their first head coaching job at the Division I-A level. Among this year's group of 11 changes, just two schools have hired guys with previous head coaching experience.

The short list includes Dan Hawkins, who left Boise State to take the Colorado job and Dennis Erickson, who's had numerous college and NFL jobs (most recently as the 49ers head coach) and this year makes a return visit to Idaho (coached there from 1982-85). What follows is this year coaching changes, listed alphabetically by school.

Boise State (Chris Peterson): Peterson has been Boise's OC the last five years and he's been an integral part of a team that's averaged 41.3 PPG during that span, including an impressive 48.9 PPG in 2004. While the school's best-known as a passing team, it should be noted that the Broncos have ranked in the top-25 nationally in rushing yards for three of the last four years. Boise saw two 31-game winning streaks end in last year's 9-4 (6-5-1) season.

It's 31-game WAC winning streak ended on November 12 at Fresno State (27-7) and the school's 31-game home winning streak ended in the MPC Bowl, when Boston College held on the beat the Broncos on their famed "Blue Turf", 27-21. Since 1999, the Broncos are 45-2 SU at home and 30-11 ATS. Looking ahead to this year's schedule, Boise opens at home on a Thursday night with Oregon State (note: Boise is 1-10 SU and 2-6-1 ATS all-time vs Pac-10 schools).

Other tough spots will be at Utah on 9/30, a home rematch with Fresno State on November 1 (prior to LY's loss, Boise was 4-0 SU and ATS vs Fresno since 2001, outscoring them 166-84)and at Nevada on November 21 (Wolf Pack tied with Boise for last year's WAC title at 7-1 and have gone 10-2 SU at home in 2004 and 2005). There's little reason to believe that the Broncos will miss a beat with Peterson in charge.

Buffalo (Turner Gill): Gill spent 17 years at Nebraska as its QB (three years) and then in various roles as an assistant. The Cornhuskers record during that time was 176-38. So Buffalo will certainly be a "shock to the system." The Bulls joined Division I-A in 1999 and have won a total of just 10 games, never winning more than two MAC games in any year. After an 0-11 1999 season, the team won twice in 2000 and three time in 2002 before going a combined 5-41 (18-25-1) these last four seasons.

Last year's 1-10 team (6-5 ATS) averaged a meager 10 PPG while allowing 29.7 PPG. However that total was down from the three previous seasons, in which the defense allowed 31.9, 37.1 and 34.7 PPG. Turner will be installing new schemes on both sides of the ball this year and has the second-fewest returning starters of any MAC team, so don't expect too much more from Buffalo this year.

Two games of note are the team's opener on August 31 at home vs Temple and an October 21 visit to Ohio U. In Temple, the Bison face a team which went 0-11 last year and will bring a 12-game losing streak into the game and Ohio is coached by Frank Solich. Solich is a former Nebraska player and long-time assistant plus was the team's head coach from 1998 through 2003 and Gill worked as one of his assistants during that time.

Colorado (Dan Hawkins): Hawkins spent the last five years at Boise State compiling an impressive 53-10 mark. His .841 winning percentage is No. 1 among active coaches and his 53 wins are fourth-most ever by a coach in his first five seasons at a major school. He dominated the WAC while at Boise, going 37-3 and winning four league titles.

He takes over a Colorado team which has won three Big-12 North titles in the last four seasons but one which has nowhere near the talent of Big-12 South powers Texas and Oklahoma. Hawkins is a great hire but he has just five returning starters on offense and anywhere from six to eight on defense. The Buffs open with Montana State but then face Colorado State on September 9.

The favorite in this game is just 1-9 ATS the last 10 years and it's back at a neutral site (Invesco Field) after two consecutive years of playing in Boulder (Colorado won both games by three points in non-covers). Colorado visits Georgia on September 23 (Hawkins took Boise there last year and lost 48-13!) plus plays in Norman on October 21 and Lincoln on November 24.

Idaho (Dennis Erickson): Erickson is just 40-56 in six seasons as an NFL head coach (four years with the Seahawks and two with the 49ers). However, he's 145-56-1 in the college ranks with stops in Idaho, Wyoming, Washington State, Miami and Oregon State. He won two national titles in Miami and led Oregon State to an 11-1 season and BCS Bowl (41-9 Fiesta Bowl win over Notre Dame) in 2000.

In his second tour of duty at Idaho, he takes over a team that's gone 11-47 these last five years and 23-29-2 ATS. Erickson has wanted to get back in the college ranks since being fired by the 49ers in 2004 but many schools shied away because of his past problems with the NCAA. However, this was a "no-brainer" for Idaho, which brings in a "big-name" coach. Erickson will take his Vandals to Pullman on September 9 to face Washington State (he coached there from 1987-88) and to Corvallis on September 23 to play Oregon State (1999-2002).

Middle Tennessee State (Rick Stockstill): Stockstill has been a 17-year assistant at the Division I-A level, 14 years at Clemson (under Danny Ford, Ken Hatfield, Tommy West and Tommy Bowden). He's spent the last two years at South Carolina, under Lou Holtz and Steve Spurrier. He takes over a team that many felt was as talented as any team in the SBC last year but the Blue Raiders went just 4-7. In fact, the team is just 17-29 (21-23) the last four years.

The team hung tough at both Alabama and North Carolina State last year and went into Vanderbilt and beat the Commodores 17-15, a loss that kept Vandy from its first bowl bid since 1982. Nine offensive starters return and I wouldn't be surprised if the Blue Raiders posted their first winning record since going 8-3 in 2001. However, the Blue Raiders may have to pull off an upset in one of these games to pull that off. They are at Maryland (9/9), at Oklahoma (9/23), in Nashville to meet Louisville (10/6) and at South Carolina (11/18).

Part 2 will follow on Sunday.

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