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CFB's 2006 Coaching Carousel (Part 2)
by Larry Ness - 08/13/2006
Sunday's notes continues my preview of CFB's 2006 coaching carousel. Listed below are six of 2006's new head coaches and the teams they'll lead. See yesterday's notes for the other five.
Kansas State (Ron Prince): Prince is just 36 years old and has never been a head coach at any level (Division I-A assistant these last five years). He was the OC at Virginia most recently and he's known as a great recruiter. He's got big shoes to fill, as Bill Snyder stepped down last year after a remarkable career at Manhattan.
Snyder took over arguably the worst program in the nation back in 1989 and then led the Wildcats to 11 straight bowl games from 1993 through 2003, contending for the national title in four seasons. However, the Wildcats have gone 4-7 and 5-6 these last two seasons, so Prince's timing is pretty good. He's got 17 returning starters and a quick look at the schedule shows his team could easily open 5-1.
The Wildcats open the year with four consecutive home games and get to play Illinois State, Florida Atlantic and Marshall in Manhattan before Louisville comes to town on September 30. They then open their Big-12 schedule with a visit to Baylor and another home game with Oklahoma State. Snyder didn't lead the Wildcats to a bowl game until his fifth season at Kansas State but it's likely Prince will do so in his first year at Manhattan.
Northwestern (Pat Fitzgerald): Randy Walker was about to enter his eighth season as head coach of the Wildcats in 2006. His career record at Northwestern was just 37-46 (41-37-2 ATS) but he had led the Wildcats to three bowls during his first seven years in Evanston, including a Sun Bowl appearance last season against UCLA. The Wildcats had taken on one of the nation's toughest schedules last year and still went 7-5. Even with the loss of QB Brett Basanez, a workable September schedule and 13 returning starters (including super sophomore RB Tyrell Sutton) made it likely the Wildcats would be bowl-eligible again this year.
Then came the sudden death of Walker and on July 7, the naming of 31-year-old Pat Fitzgerald as the team's new head coach. Fitzgerald was a star on the school's two Big-10 title teams of the mid 90s and becomes the youngest coach in Division I-A this year. Who really knows how the program will react but as mentioned earlier, the Wildcats do an a chance to start fast. They open at Walker's old school Miami-Ohio on August 31 and then play home games against New Hampshire and Eastern Michigan. If the team can settle on a QB by then, a Friday night visit to Reno to play Nevada (10-2 at home these last two years), is winnable.
The Big-10 schedule comes next, opening with road games at Penn State and Wisconsin. I'm not sure the team can match it's 5-3 league mark of last year, so opening at least 3-1 (4-0 would be nice) is a must. It will be hard not to root for Fitzgerald and the Wildcats this year.
Rice (Todd Graham): Graham was the DC at Tulsa these last three years, working under Steve Kragthorpe. All Tulsa did in the last three years is go from seasons of 1-10 and 1-11 in 2001 and 2002 to 8-5 in '03 (bowl appearance) plus after a 4-8 year in '04, to 9-4 last year. Last year's team won the C-USA title game and the Liberty Bowl, 31-24 over Fresno State. Graham takes over for Ken Hatfield, who produced just three winning seasons in 12 years.
Rice has some of the most stringent academic standards for its athletes of any Division I-A school, so it's not surprising the school's last bowl appearance came in 1961. Graham has brought in former Texas QB Major Applewhite as his OC and this run-oriented team will try to install a passing offense. Pass offenses with option personnel rarely work, so expect Rice to struggle this year. However, since the team went 1-10 (3-8 ATS) in 2005, things can't get much worse.
Rice opens with cross-town rival Houston on September 2 and if the Owls lose that one (are 9-23 against the Cougars), they'll likely open 0-4, at least. The Owls follow their season-opener with a trip to UCLA, a game with Texas at Reliant Stadium and a visit to Tallahassee to play Florida State. Rice has averaged more than 100 YPG through the air just two times since 2000, averaging 122 YPG in 2001 and a meager 103 YPG last year. This will take awhile.
San Diego State (Chuck Long): Long is best remembered for finishing a close second to Bo Jackson in the 1985 Heisman race. However, he's spent the last 11 years as an assistant, first at Iowa (his alma mater) and recently at Oklahoma, where he was first the QB coach and then the team's OC. He takes over for Tom Craft, who led the Aztecs to a 19-29 record these last four years (22-21-2 ATS). San Diego State last had a winning season in 1998, finishing 7-5 (including a 20-13 Las Vegas Bowl loss to North Carolina).
Long is a good hire for this underachieving program which is the only MWC team since the conference's inception in 1999 that's not gone to a bowl game. Lynell Hamilton (if healthy?) is a talented RB and QB O'Connell should get better under Long's direction. The defense should be much better this year and last year's team was better than its 5-7 mark (outscored conference foes by 22 points). It would be no surprise if the Aztecs were to make it to 7-5 in 2006.
Temple (Al Golden): While UVa's OC Ron Prince takes over at Kansas State, its DC Al Golden, takes over the job at Temple (I'd rather be Ron!). Temple will again play as an independent, moving to the MAC in 2007. Temple is coming off a year in which it went 0-11 and got outscored by an average of 45-10 but the Owls actually went 5-6 ATS in 2005 (now that's trick!). Bobby Wallace went 19-71 in his eight years at Temple, so Golden doesn't exactly have big shoes to fill.
Consider this fact, Temple has not had a winning season in 15 years and has not even topped four wins in a season since 1990. This year's schedule will again be tough but it can't be any worse than last year's, as nine of the team's 11 opponents were bowl-eligible by season's end. Temple averaged a pathetic 9.7 PPG on offense and allowed a dreadful 45.3 PPG on defense. I guess the good news is that only two starters return on the defensive side of the ball.
Temple visits Buffalo (see Buffalo write-up in Part 1) to open the season on August 31 and if the Owls don't win there, the next best chance at a win won't come until a home game with Kent State (1-10 in 2005) on October 7. Wins should be few (and possibly far between) in 2006 but there may be a couple of wins for Golden in his first year.
Wisconsin (Brett Bielema): Like Prince at Kansa State (Bill Snyder), Bielema takes over at Wisconsin for the school's most successful head coach, Barry Alaverz. If not for the sudden hiring of Fitzgerald at Northwestern, Bielema (at 36 years-old), would have the youngest Big-10 coach this season, by 15 years!
Alvarez led the Badgers to 11 bowls in his 17 years, going 8-3 in those games and 118-73-4 in his tenure. Bielema is his hand-picked successor and while he'll have an experienced defense back, the offense loses eight starters from a squad that averaged a school-record 34.3 PPG in 2005. Brain Calhoun is the biggest loss (1636 rushing yards / 571 receiving yards / 24 TDs) but QB John Stocco is back.
Wisconsin needs to start fast, opening with Bowling Green in Cleveland on September 2 (LY's score was 56-42 Wisconsin!) and then home to Western Michigan plus San Diego State. The Badgers open Big-10 play with a road game at Michigan but then play at Indiana plus home to Northwestern and Minnesota. It would come as no surprise if the Badgers start 5-1 this year. Wisconsin won't win 10 games like last year but a winning record and a bowl bid is likely.
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