The coaching dominos in college football fell fast on Sunday, as they often do this time of year. The effects will be visible well into December, with powerful programs at the furious center of things and everyone else somewhere down the line, hoping to ride the momentum to a better place.
The biggest change thus far: Georgia’s decision to part ways with Mark Richt, who in 15 seasons averaged a hair under 10 victories and won about 70 percent of his games in the big, bad Southeastern Conference. The Bulldogs played in five SEC championship games under Richt, but they haven’t won a league title since 2005. That, combined with some recent high-profile big-game no-shows, meant it was time for a change in Athens.
Virginia Tech stole Justin Fuente — one of the hottest names in coaching — from Memphis. Mike London got the boot from Virginia.
Iowa State filled its vacancy exactly one day after the final game coached by Paul Rhoads. The Cyclones hired Matt Campbell from Toledo, where he used to be Tim Beckman’s offensive coordinator. Campbell would’ve made a lot more sense for Illinois than Beckman ever did, but that’s neither here nor there.
Given Illinois’ colossal screw-up of not having an athletic director in place at such a critical time, it’s best that it hired interim coach Bill Cubit and didn’t try to go toe-to-toe with the rest of the schools looking for new football leadership. Mom-and-Pop Illinois would’ve gotten nowhere fast in that fight.
There isn’t much drama as we await Tuesday’s release of the latest playoff rankings. Clemson, Alabama, Oklahoma and Iowa should all remain in the top four, though it’s possible the selection committee will move Alabama into the No. 1 spot and drop Clemson to No. 2.
The real issue is: Which other teams still have hope of getting into the final four? It’s a short list.
Michigan State: The Spartans will take Iowa’s place in the playoff — zero question about it — if they beat the Hawkeyes in Saturday’s Big Ten title game.
Stanford: The Cardinal have two losses but tons of quality wins. If they beat USC (again) in the Pac-12 title game, they’ll be a good bet to get the nod should Clemson (ACC title game) or Alabama (SEC title game) fall.
Ohio State: If Clemson or Alabama goes down, Buckeye Nation will try to shout down anyone who dares suggest the 11-1 defending national champs shouldn’t be the No. 4 seed. Meantime, better root like crazy for USC, too.
North Carolina: The Tar Heels are 11-1, with 11 straight victories. If they beat 12-0 Clemson, shouldn’t they, as a one-loss Power Five league champion, be rewarded? That’s UNC’s argument, and it’s a good one. Alas, probably not good enough.
My top five, in order, if I were voting today: Derrick Henry, RB, Alabama; Deshaun Watson, QB, Clemson; Baker Mayfield, QB, Oklahoma; Dalvin Cook, RB, Florida State; Christian McCaffrey, RB, Stanford.
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