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Three-Point Stance: Grading the new coaching hires

Rivals National Columnist Mike Farrell is here grading the recent Power Five hires, a comparison of some ACC coaching jobs this season and a ranking of the five conference title game matchups.


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Brian Kelly
Brian Kelly (USA Today Sports Images)

We’ve had a flurry of major coaching hires in college football, with USC and LSU getting into the action the past couple of days. So how do these hires rate?

Brian Kelly, LSU — Reports came out Monday night that Kelly is leaving the Irish for LSU. Kelly took Notre Dame to the title game and playoff with recruiting restrictions at Notre Dame. Imagine what he can do at LSU? He’s a great coach, he develops players and he can recruit. This is a home run and arguably the best hire LSU could make.

Grade: A+

Lincoln Riley, USC — This is an absolute home run from the USC side of things as you couldn’t make a bigger splash in college football than lure the former Oklahoma offensive genius to Los Angeles. He will recruit well there but can he turn things around? It should be easier than we think.

Grade: A+

Sonny Dykes, TCU — Dykes wasn’t very successful at Cal in his last stint in the Power Five but he did a great job at SMU and has established recruiting ties to the Dallas area and throughout Texas. He’s a good fit for a recharge of the TCU brand.

Grade: B

Joey McGuire, Texas Tech — McGuire has high school recruiting ties to Texas as a former legendary coach and did a solid job at Baylor but this is a massive challenge. He’s a good choice for the job but he’s never run a program at this level so there are some concerns.

Grade: C+

Billy Napier, Florida — Napier was known as a good recruiter at Clemson and Alabama and the last two coaches — Jim McElwain and Dan Mullen — didn’t embrace the recruiting challenge in Gainesville. I’m not sold that Napier is ready for this big a step up however so I am wary of this hire.

Grade: C+

Kalen DeBoer, Washington — The former Fresno State coach is rumored to have the job and he’s done some nice things in California with the Bulldogs. This is a huge step up and the competition in the Pacific Northwest is as good as it’s been in ages so this will be a tough test.

Grade: C

Jack Dickert, Washington State — He showed a bit of promise as the interim head coach but this feels like a settling situation for the Cougars and he will have to prove me wrong here.

Grade: C-



Dave Clawson
Dave Clawson (USA Today Sports Images)

I continue my conference by conference coaching comparisons for the 2021 season with the ACC.

Mike Norvell vs. Manny Diaz — This is a great matchup as two former power programs try to get back on track. I give the nod to Norvell here after a disastrous start even though Diaz won more games. Florida State seems to be trending upwards more.

Dave Doeren vs. Mack Brown — The Tar Heels were supposed to be ACC title contenders this season and fell flat while Doeren had his guys ready to play each week and were a win away from winning their division. This was clearly a better job by the NC State coach.

Dave Clawson vs. Dabo Swinney — Let’s be honest, even though Swinney beat Clawson head-to-head he was outcoached by him badly this season. Clemson is loaded with talent and the Tigers were a massive disappointment while Wake Forest is in the title game.

Pat Narduzzi vs. Bronco Mendenhall — Narduzzi is a defensive coach but the job the offense did this season was unexpected and much better than a Virginia team that was also offensively explosive but lacking on defense.

Scott Satterfield vs. Jeff HafleyLouisville was very up and down this season but I didn’t expect a ton from it. I had Boston College as a sleeper for the division and it struggled to replace Phil Jurkovec so give me Satterfield here despite identical records.



Bryce Young
Bryce Young (USA Today Sports Images)

Finally let’s take a look at the Power Five conference title games and rank them from most interesting to most boring.

1. SEC — Did you really think it was going to be anything else? Georgia is clearly the best team in the country, and Alabama is the one team with the talent to keep up with them. The Tide averted near disaster in the Iron Bowl but they will still be easily the best team that the Dawgs have played this season. Can Georgia's defense keep Bryce Young and Co. in check? Given the performance that the Crimson Tide had against Auburn last week the answer would appear to be yes, but don't be surprised if Alabama is able to move the ball better than anyone else has against this generational UGA defense. They're still the fifth-highest-scoring offense in the country and have a top-five rushing defense as well. This is the clash of titans we've been waiting all season for. If Alabama wins, both of these teams will make the playoff. If the Bulldogs can dispatch of them, however, we'll be looking at a playoff without Alabama, Ohio State, Clemson or Oklahoma.

2. Big Ten — Coming into the weekend, all signs pointed to an Ohio State - Wisconsin matchup for the third time in five years. But after both favorites lost decisively, we've now got Michigan vs. Iowa. The Wolverines are in prime position for the No. 2 seed in the playoff if they can run the ball against the Hawkeyes the same way that they did against the Buckeyes. Iowa has somehow made the title game despite having a bottom-10 offense in the country and will have to hope that it turns into a special teams and field position game because that's their only shot at pulling the upset. The Hawkeyes give up less than three yards per carry, eighth in the country, but they haven't faced a rushing attack as strong as Michigan's all season. Winning this game would complete the redemption arc for Jim Harbaugh, and put the Wolverines in contention for their first national title since 1997.

3. Big 12 — The third game with College Football Playoff implications, the matchup between Oklahoma State and Baylor is one that few people, if any, had before the season. But thanks to a strong defense (a genuine novelty in the Big 12), the Cowboys find themselves right in the thick of the playoff conversation. Dave Aranda has done a phenomenal job this season with the Bears in his second year in charge and has ridden a balanced attack and timely turnovers to a 10-2 regular season. It looks like Baylor QB Gerry Bohanon will be healthy enough to go in this matchup after he missed their season finale against Texas Tech with a hamstring injury. Along with the ACC title game (more on that in a minute), this is the most unexpected matchup of the weekend, but one that still brings a ton of intrigue. The Pokes need a convincing win to make the playoff more likely than not.

4. ACC — Raise your hand if you predicted Wake Forest vs. Pitt in this game prior to the season. While there is no chance that either of these teams makes the CFP, this game will be a must-watch if you like offense. Both teams are in the top five of scoring offense and top ten of total offense, and you've got two QB's who are not afraid to air it out. Kenny Pickett has been nothing short of a revelation this season and has a chance to be a Heisman finalist, while Sam Hartman and his cadre of wide receivers, led by AT Perry and Jaquarii Roberson, score early and often. This is only the second appearance in the ACC title game for each of these teams, and Wake Forest's first since 2006. Expect a ton of big plays and a combined score over 100.

5. Pac-12 — The most underwhelming of the title games, the matchup between Oregon and Utah is a rematch of a blowout that was played just a week ago. Neither team is making the playoff, leaving the Pac-12 without an appearance since 2016. Utah has looked much stronger in the past month than Oregon and is definitely the favorite to win this. This is the least interesting game of the weekend by a wide margin. It's hard to get excited by these two teams at this point.