It was not a terribly wild weekend by college football standards, even with a handful of top 25 teams going down. Given some of the lackluster matchups for the upcoming week in the sport, it might not be all that interesting until Thanksgiving either.
But while the games themselves may not lead to all that much interest, there is something else that is happening over the coming the days, weeks and months that will have a profound effect on the sport: it’s coaching search season. From hot seat talk to buyouts to up-and-comers and more, there’s a lot to cover and we’ll swing around the country to address just about every situation at the FBS level.
Of course, things already kicked into high gear on Sunday as Louisville formally made a decision everybody in the industry was expecting in firing Bobby Petrino. It was pretty clear even before Syracuse’s 54-23 drubbing of the Cardinals on Friday that the coach had lost his team and, with the program sliding backwards rapidly, there was little doubt that athletic director Vince Tyra was going to pull the trigger despite a hefty $14 million buyout. The school was already looking for a complete break from the recent scandal-ridden past, and a house cleaning of the football program over the next few weeks will be the final step towards that.
Petrino will be far from the last to go on the coaching carousel however, so after talking with a number of administrators, consultants and agents, here’s a broad overview of who’s firmly on the hot seat, who might go, and who will head into 2019 with a very warm (or cool) seat:
On the hot seat for 2019: Larry Fedora (North Carolina)
Potential situations: Paul Johnson (Georgia Tech), Dino Babers (Syracuse)
All good for now: Steve Addazio (Boston College), Dabo Swinney (Clemson), David Cutcliffe (Duke), Willie Taggart (Florida State), Mark Richt (Miami), Dave Doeren (NC State), Pat Narduzzi (Pitt), Bronco Mendenhall (Virginia), Justin Fuente (Virginia Tech), Dave Clawson (Wake Forest)
While it was basically written in stone that Petrino got the axe, this is far from certain for Larry Fedora. Yes, the record says he’s 4-17 the past two years after that shocking ACC title game run, but there have been plenty of extenuating circumstances going into that winning percentage (including a huge number of injuries and suspensions). His contract requires a $12.2 million buyout, which hardly anybody inside or outside The Triangle thinks Tar Heels AD Bubba Cunningham will pay. There would be a good number of candidates available if the job did come open but the hoops school isn’t too keen on stomaching what it will cost to make a change. Another blowout loss to rival NC State may wind up pushing him out the door but most believe 2019 will have Fedora atop everybody’s hot seat and a move will be made if the Tar Heels can’t get back to a bowl game.
Dino Babers’ name is bound to pop up in a few searches given the way he has turned around the Orange so a potential departure is at least in the back of the minds of those in upstate New York. Paul Johnson has gotten the Yellow Jackets back to a bowl game despite a rash of injuries and the team is playing much better as of late. There was a mix of retirement talk and buyout discussion in Atlanta earlier in the season but if the head coach wants to return, it seems likely he will unless something changes down the stretch.
As for Willie Taggart, he was never truly in danger of getting the plug pulled in Year 1 at Florida State but the heat from the fan base will be quite palpable the rest of his tenure. It doesn’t matter as much as it does at other schools that the Seminoles don’t have an athletic director at the moment but whoever the university hires to fill that role will have to do a good job of cooling the situation off in the coming months. Missing a bowl game is one thing but if there’s not a step in the right direction, things will become much more interesting in Tallahassee in 2019. A big National Signing Day from FSU would go a long ways to helping Taggart right the ship.
7-Step Search Firm says: It goes without saying that Louisville will move quickly to bring favored son Jeff Brohm home as soon as Purdue’s regular season is over. It would be a fairly large surprise if he didn’t wind up coming home to take over the program but a decision will never be easy (see more below). If he decides to stay put or take another job, Troy’s Neal Brown or Appalachian State’s Scott Satterfield will be among the names Tyra will evaluate.
2. Big 12
Could go either way: Bill Snyder (Kansas State)
Potential situations: Matt Rhule (Baylor), Matt Campbell (Iowa State), Lincoln Riley (Oklahoma)
All good for now: Mike Gundy (Oklahoma State), Gary Patterson (TCU), Tom Herman (Texas), Kliff Kingsbury (Texas Tech), Dana Holgorsen (West Virginia)
As many others have reported, Les Miles is the hot name around the Kansas opening but there’s been some thought that Jayhawks AD Jeff Long will still explore plenty of names before pulling the trigger on a program-shaping hire. Complicating things is that while KU is a Power 5 job and Long is well respected, there are a number of Group of 5 head coaches — and it’s a safe bet that the hire will have head coaching experience on his resume — will shy away from one of the most difficult jobs in the country for a more favorable situation. Todd Graham, Willie Fritz, Matt Wells, Jeff Monken and Seth Littrell will be among the names that might get consideration but Miles is somebody who’s been closely connected to the opening. The consensus is that this will be the first open job filled either way.
Bill Snyder won’t be outright fired of course, even as bad as the Wildcats' season has gone, but his situation will always be worth monitoring as his Hall of Fame career looks to be on its last legs. He’ll turn 80 during the 2019 season and just had treatment for throat cancer so retirement questions will linger… until whenever it is that they don’t. If KSU is to ever come open, it seems likely that it is one of the last openings on the carousel.
Matt Campbell is a name that is coming up more and more in both major college and, particularly, NFL searches. There will be real interest in the rising star yet after the way the Cyclones have flipped a switch with Brock Purdy at quarterback. He will only be an option for a select number of jobs though, especially with a $7 million buyout that would be needed to pry him away from ISU. While odds probably favor him remaining in Ames for another cycle, he will have no shortage of suitors and could be the first choice for a number of jobs at the pro level.
Lincoln Riley’s name has been mentioned in conjunction with the Cleveland Browns opening already and he has long been rumored as being somebody the Dallas Cowboys could turn to as well. Odds are still high he remains in Norman for years to come but a conversation with a pro team or two could still happen. Matt Rhule shocked many last year when he interviewed with the Indianapolis Colts and may still be on NFL radars with a weak batch of candidates at the next level and a big number of openings. Everybody else in the conference is in relatively stable hands, especially after Kliff Kingsbury has cooled his seat considerably this season.
7-Step Search Firm says: Kansas would be wise to go after somebody like Matt Wells, who has some regional ties and knows how to bring players to remote areas from places like Texas, California and Florida. He has also been able to tap into transfers and JUCOs too, which should help tremendously in the short term given the state of the roster. Hiring an older coach like Les Miles would generate some interest and help with fundraising, but it’s hard to see things being anything but a slightly improved Charlie Weis redux.
As for Kansas State, the school needs to draw a line in the sand with Snyder. They can make it clear that while his son Sean Snyder may get an interview when the elder coach retires, there will still be a full, independent search conducted and there will be no coach-in-waiting situation. A farewell tour for next season would be a nice send-off unless things don’t get turned around quickly in November with a bowl game. The school doesn’t want their hand to be forced but the noticeable dip in on-field performance may force the administration’s hand sooner rather than later and Snyder’s stubbornness won’t do anybody favors. Brent Venables, Jim Leavitt and Bret Bielema have all already been mentioned as a likely successor.
3. Big Ten
On the hot seat for 2019: Lovie Smith (Illinois), Chris Ash (Rutgers)
Potential situations: Urban Meyer (Ohio State), Jeff Brohm (Purdue)
All good for now: Tom Allen (Indiana), Kirk Ferentz (Iowa), Jim Harbaugh (Michigan), Mark Dantonio (Michigan State), P.J. Fleck (Minnesota), Scott Frost (Nebraska), Pat Fitzgerald (Northwestern), James Franklin (Penn State), Paul Chryst (Wisconsin)
The Big Ten occupies a strange state on the coaching carousel simply because there are a number of unknowns and a firehose of cash coming in from media rights deals.
You can start with the only hard and fast opening at Maryland, where there has been very little information trickling out over the direction of the school’s search or, more importantly, even who will actually be pulling the trigger on a hire. There’s not just the events of the past few months that have made some coaches and agents leery of the job, but also the fact that there will likely be a top-to-bottom house cleaning and new faces from the board of trustees to, well, everybody in the athletic department too. It is still a Power 5 job in an area with plenty of talent but the fact that it’s in the wrong Big Ten division also hampers the attractiveness of the opening. Left unsaid is the involvement (or potential lack thereof) of top booster Kevin Plank and Under Armour.
It seems like everything is on the table at this point, including possibly keeping interim head coach Matt Canada (who may very well be up for other jobs). It seems doubtful there will be much movement on this front until early December.
Things are a bit more complicated at Rutgers, where signs of progress under Chris Ash in his first two seasons have been undone completely with the prospect of a 1-11 campaign that includes only two competitive games. AD Pat Hobbs has been supportive and would prefer to not to make any moves (especially with a roughly $10 million buyout) but the ever-growing fan apathy will only add to the pressure going forward. It’s probably enough to assume a fourth season for Ash but the time to pass around the hat is slowly approaching in Piscataway.
It was doubtful Illinois was actually going to make a change given how invested AD Josh Whitman is in Lovie Smith but that win over Minnesota all but sealed a return for next season. Still, the pressure is on with his buyout being slashed to peanuts in Year 4 and the expectations of at least a bowl game going forward. There will be similar fan pressure on P.J. Fleck, Tom Allen and others but there’s administration support for them and most of the Big Ten coaches at the moment.
You’ll hear Jim Harbaugh’s name mentioned more than ever with regards to NFL openings, especially after this kind of season in Ann Arbor, but odds remain high he stays put as there’s not the ideal situation at the pro level for him to take over yet. At rival Ohio State, Urban Meyer has professed that he will return for 2019 (and beyond) but the health issues he revealed make things even more unsettled after a difficult offseason. It would still be a surprise if he’s not in Columbus for many more years but there are suddenly thoughts of an expiration date on him now and the administration has been fairly aggressive in keeping OC Ryan Day.
As for Purdue, athletics director Mike Bobinski is well aware of the potential to lose Jeff Brohm to Louisville but it certainly sounds like NFL teams are doing some early background work on the Boilermakers’ head coach as well. The school won’t get in a massive bidding war over Brohm but will do what they can to keep him around — and it won’t be an easy fight either. Make no mistake, there’s some talent on the roster and they’ve made some solid facilities upgrades recently. Given how light this cycle could wind up being, Purdue might be one of the two or three best jobs available if (when?) it does come open and would be able to get a quality candidate. Brohm is unlikely to decide until the regular season is over but most industry speculation is that something will end up luring him away from West Lafayette.
7-Step Search Firm says: Maryland would be wise to go up the road and check in to see if Ken Niumatalolo would be interested. He’s been more active in looking to get a Power 5 gig and wouldn’t be scared at the prospect of taking on some of the conference’s big boys. He’ll be able to recruit better talent and his offensive system will be a great equalizer in the league. Maybe more importantly, Niumatalolo will bring the kind of outstanding leadership the school badly needs with his impeccable background. Yes Navy has trailed off recently but he’s the type of proven coach that checks a lot of boxes.
Could go either way: Clay Helton (USC)
On the hot seat for 2019: Mike MacIntyre (Colorado)
Potential situations: Mike Leach (Washington State)
All good for now: Kevin Sumlin (Arizona), Herm Edwards (Arizona State), Justin Wilcox (Cal), Mario Cristobal (Oregon), Jonathan Smith (Oregon State), David Shaw (Stanford), Chip Kelly (UCLA), Kyle Whittingham (Utah), Chris Petersen (Washington)
While the NFL may dictate the number of openings this cycle, several in the industry are looking at USC as a potential market driver as the best job available by a mile should it come open. Prior to Saturday night’s disastrous loss to Cal, there was a growing consensus inside and outside of Los Angeles that Clay Helton will return in 2019 with a staff overhaul. Now that’s a bit more muddled with many boosters pushed over the ledge by the performance of the team this season. There has already been some private lobbying for the job from a few recognizable names too.
While his contract carries with it a relatively high (mid to low eight figures) buyout and the administration is not thrilled over the optics of firing a coach a year after he won the conference, there’s little question that Helton will face a key stretch the next few weeks of this season. While said buyout would make other schools do a double-take, the Trojans do have the money ready to cut a check if USC either loses to UCLA or looks completely uncompetitive against Notre Dame in their finale.
Keep in mind there is added pressure on the school to have a good year in 2019 with a renovated Coliseum set to open and a ton of grumbling already among season ticketholders about that. AD Lynn Swann is playing things close to the vest and is inexperienced in going through this process, but the fact that the university lacks a president guiding the process and instead has boosters driving more of the bus than they ought to doesn’t help Helton’s case.
There could be somewhat of a business decision made in December even if signs were pointing to a return for Helton prior to this weekend.
As for the Buffaloes, Mike MacIntyre’s large buyout (~$10 million) will likely keep him around one more season but a total collapse following their 5-0 start could still prompt AD Rick George to make a move. The two have a working relationship but there are signs of patience wearing thin in Boulder following that miraculous division title two years ago and left over issues from the handling of the Joe Tumpkin situation. The opening would draw plenty of interest but there’s still the view that MacIntyre returns for 2019 with a toasty seat.
Mike Leach very publicly flirted with Tennessee last offseason and his big year in Pullman could prompt another look for schools searching for a jolt. It would take a very unique situation for Leach to be a fit somewhere else and an athletic director would have to be very comfortable and secure in their own shoes to pull the trigger on hiring him. Still, it’s going to be a possibility given the turnover with WSU’s administration in recent years.
The rest of the Pac-12 will be relatively quiet on the coaching search front after a big 2017 on the carousel but there’s been increasing talk of a ton of changes at coordinator out West.
7-Step Search Firm says: The Trojans would be wise to cut bait with Helton as he’s given no indication that he can turn the ship around and is clearly in over his head. There will be plenty of NFL names connected to the gig with Swann calling some of the shots but the school has to avoid going with a Jack Del Rio, John Harbaugh or similar type of name. The Trojans should check in on Penn State’s James Franklin (who might be open to the move) and Iowa State’s Matt Campbell. Matt Wells or Kyle Whittingham would be a great fallback option too.
On the hot seat for 2019: Gus Malzahn (Auburn), Barry Odom (Missouri), Derek Mason (Vanderbilt)
All good for now: Nick Saban (Alabama), Chad Morris (Arkansas), Dan Mullen (Florida), Kirby Smart (Georgia), Mark Stoops (Kentucky), Ed Orgeron (LSU), Matt Luke (Ole Miss), Joe Moorhead (Mississippi State), Will Muschamp (South Carolina), Jeremy Pruitt (Tennessee), Jimbo Fisher (Texas A&M)
For the first time in years, it’s all quiet on the SEC front after an extra active 2017 cycle that saw six head coaches installed at schools throughout the league.
Yes, Gus Malzahn will continually be on the hot seat with his fan base but there was never really a question that he would be back for 2019 on the administration’s end, even before AD Allen Greene dismissed any speculation last week. We’ll see if the calculus changes any next season but that ginormous buyout remains prohibitive and the lack of great candidates to fill the opening are a factor as well.
Mizzou’s Barry Odom all but saved his job this year when he thrashed Florida in the Swamp but the Tigers will be looking for signs of progress post-Drew Lock in 2019. Derek Mason will benefit this season from the transition going on at Vanderbilt with a new athletic director but there will be increased pressure to become a more consistent bowl team going forward.
6. Group of 5
Polishing their resume: Scottie Montgomery (East Carolina)
On the hot seat for 2019: Randy Edsall (UConn), Philip Montgomery (Tulsa)
All good for now: Luke Fickell (Cincinnati), Major Applewhite (Houston), Mike Norvell (Memphis), Sonny Dykes (SMU), Charlie Strong (USF), Geoff Collins (Temple), Willie Fritz (Tulane), Josh Heupel (UCF)
The AAC has turned into a bit of a grooming service for up-and-coming coordinators (and others) who are looking to make a step up to a big Power 5 job but the league doesn’t really have that super-hot name that could jump in 2018. While some like Charlie Strong or Mike Norvell could put their names out for a handful of openings, the expectation many have is that there’s relative coaching stability this offseason for the AAC.
That does not appear to be the case at East Carolina, where Scottie Montgomery would need an upset to avoid a 3-9 campaign for the third straight season. Complicating matters somewhat at the school is that there’s been no progress made in selecting an athletic director so it seems likely veteran Dave Hart, currently a consultant, would head any search. Despite the Pirates' record, it’s viewed as a good opening because of the talent base and fan support so there should be no shortage of suitors when it eventually hits the market.
Money is going to complicate matters at UConn and Tulsa but it goes without saying that Randy Edsall and Philip Montgomery already know the heat is on now and in the future.
Could go either way: Brad Lambert (Charlotte), Mike Sanford Jr. (WKU)
Potential situations: Rick Stockstill (MTSU), Seth Littrell (North Texas), Bill Clark (UAB)
All good for now: Lane Kiffin (FAU), Butch Davis (FIU), Skip Holtz (Louisiana Tech), Doc Holliday (Marshall), Bobby Wilder (Old Dominion), Mike Bloomgren (Rice), Jay Hopson (Southern Miss), Dana Dimel (UTEP), Frank Wilson (UTSA)
There’s a mix of old and young coaches at varying degrees of their career in CUSA and some interesting situations across the league as a result.
Patience appears to have run out on Brad Lambert at Charlotte after six seasons and only a modicum of progress on the field. The school hired a new athletic director earlier this year and will likely be finding a new direction soon. While that situation is fairly straightforward, things are a bit different at Western Kentucky. Mike Sanford Jr. was hired with lots of promise but he’s just 7-16 overall and will be favored to finish with just two wins in Year 2. There’s increased speculation that the Hilltoppers are inclined to cut bait but Sanford’s buyout — $1.2 million plus the resulting staff change — may simply be too prohibitive when the final call is made. That there’s already talk about an opening underscores how interesting things might be when the team’s season is over.
While Seth Littrell and Bill Clark will be picky about any potential moves, their names are bound to come up in a number of openings. Each is still a good bet to remain in place but there will be opportunities they can explore. Rick Stockstill has been in Murfreesboro since 2006 and there’s some chatter wondering if, at a soon-to-be 61 and after 13 years in charge, he will go out on top with an eight- or nine-win campaign in the last year of coaching his son Brent.
And yes, the Lane Train rolls on to Year 3 in Boca.
Already open: Bowling Green
On the hot seat for 2019: Mike Neu (Ball State), Chuck Martin (Miami,Ohio)
Potential situations: Lance Leipold (Buffalo), Frank Solich (Ohio)
All good for now: Terry Bowden (Akron), John Bonamego (CMU), Chris Creighton (Eastern Michigan), Sean Lewis (Kent State), Rod Carey (Northern Illinois), Jason Candle (Toledo), Tim Lester (WMU)
The Falcons were the first to get going on the coaching carousel after canning Mike Jinks and there’s an expectation that AD Bob Moosbrugger will pay a bit more in order to find the right coach to get the program back on track. Interim head coach Carl Pelini will be in the mix if he can get a win or two but will likely be a long shot given his baggage as a head coach. The school is likely to lean offense once again and probably pluck a Midwest assistant coach when they do. Ohio State OL coach Greg Studrawa is an alum, knows the area well and would be encouraged by Urban Meyer to take a job like this. Notre Dame’s Mike Elston has his name thrown around quite a bit for MAC openings if the team doesn’t mind a defensive guy and is probably ready for his own program.
Elsewhere around the league, there shouldn’t be any changes but there will be pressure on guys like Mike Neu to show some progress at Ball State in Year 4. Chuck Martin broke a nine-game losing streak in one-score games against rival Ohio this week (likely assuring another year) but there is a bit of frustration with him going into 2019, especially if the team fails to make a bowl game again.
Lance Leipold’s terrific turnaround job in Buffalo should be enough to get him some looks at the Power 5 level but leaving won’t be easy. Given his age, retirement will always be a possibility for guys like Frank Solich but a 15th season with the Bobcats still seems certain.
Polishing their resume: Bob Davie (New Mexico)
Could go either way: Tony Sanchez (UNLV)
On the hot seat for 2019: Mike Bobo (Colorado State)
Potential situations: Jeff Tedford (Fresno State), Rocky Long (San Diego State), Matt Wells (Utah State)
All good for now: Troy Calhoun (Air Force), Bryan Harsin (Boise State), Nick Rolovich (Hawaii), Jay Norvell (Nevada), Brent Brennan (San Jose State), Craig Bohl (Wyoming)
Even as cash-strapped as New Mexico is, the school is barreling toward a divorce with Bob Davie after a few rocky years on and off the field. The Tony Sanchez experience in Las Vegas was thought to be over as well but a shocking upset of San Diego State over the weekend may be enough to bring him back again. Both schools have new athletic directors who will be conducting their first searches but there could be decent enough interest in the Rebels if it does open given all the stadium things that are going on in the desert. Somebody like USC offensive coordinator Tee Martin could get involved if it does open, as well as a number of assistants out West.
Mike Bobo’s incredible $8 million buyout offers him plenty of security but the seat will be getting much toastier next season and staff changes are all but assured after this year. Jeff Tedford’s incredible turnaround in Fresno may get him another look at a Power 5 gig after the job he’s done and the same could be said for Utah State’s Matt Wells. Rocky Long is still going strong with the Aztecs and could contemplate retirement at 69 next season, but some recent clarity over the team’s stadium situation likely keeps him in the fold for several more years.
Could go either way: Everett Withers (Texas State)
Potential situations: Scott Satterfield (Appalachian State), Joe Moglia (Coastal Carolina), Neal Brown (Troy)
All good for now: Blake Anderson (Arkansas State), Chad Lunsford (Georgia Southern), Shawn Elliott (Georgia State), Bill Napier (Louisiana), Matt Viator (ULM), Steve Campbell (South Alabama)
The Bobcats have been playing much better since mid-October and while there was plenty of talk that Everett Withers was going to be out, it’s possible the school will stay the course for one more year. Still, it’s a bit of a toss-up at the moment.
Scott Satterfield and Neal Brown will get plenty of looks for Power 5 jobs this offseason and both could be ready to leave for the right situation. Joe Moglia’s health (and age) could always force a reevaluation of his situation but it seems very likely he’ll be back in Myrtle Beach.
Could go either way: Mark Whipple (UMass)
On the hot seat for 2019: Kalani Sitake (BYU)
Potential situations: Brian Kelly (Notre Dame)
All good for now: Jeff Monken (Army), Turner Gill (Liberty), Doug Martin (NMSU)
Kalani Sitake and Mark Whipple met each other on Saturday, with the former rallying for a 35-16 win over the latter. The Cougars still figure to get to a bowl game this year but there remains increasing pressure on the coaching staff. AD Tom Holmoe does not want to go through another search given how difficult the position is to fill but BYU wants to see signs of progress going forward, especially when measured against their in-state rivals. As for Whipple, his suspension earlier this season will be a factor in AD Ryan Bamford’s overall evaluation of the program and whether or not there’s been any progress. It gets more expensive to make a move the more games he wins and truly might go either way even if the needle is nudged just a bit more to a return.
There’s also Brian Kelly, who flirted with the NFL after his last undefeated regular season and could do so once again given the number of opportunities at the next level that will come open. This is his ninth year in South Bend and he knows how difficult it can be to keep the program operating at this high level with the fan expectations but there are a handful of jobs that could interest him and entice him to leave the Irish.
7. The NFL unknown
Offensive concepts from college football have been trickling up to the NFL in recent years but the league has seen a relative explosion on Sundays of the types of offenses we’re used to watching every Saturday. As a result, there should be even more interest in college coaches than ever before from NFL owners and general managers. You’ll hear plenty of talk of guys like Lincoln Riley and Matt Campbell getting a look but a host of others will find their name in the mix as well.
With as much as a third of the league possibly coming open, there figures to be massive change from above that filters down to the college ranks at every level, from head coach to coordinators to assistant coaches. The new early signing period has complicated the cycle between the two sides of football but make no mistake, the changeover could result in a number of unpredictable dominoes getting knocked over in the coming months.
Already open: Cleveland Browns
Soon to come open: Dallas Cowboys, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, New York Jets
Potential openings: Baltimore Ravens, Miami Dolphins, Denver Broncos, Green Bay Packers
Stat of the Week
The Scarlet Knights may have been blown out but at least they made history this week:
Tweet of the Week
Superlatives of the Week
Best player: Lil’Jordan Humphrey, Texas
Heisman five: 1. Tua Tagovailoa (Alabama), 2. Kyler Murray (Oklahoma), 3. Gardner Minshew (Washington State), 4. Will Grier (West Virginia), 5. Quinnen Williams (Alabama)
Projected final four: 1. Alabama, 2. Clemson, 3. Notre Dame, 4. Michigan
Team of the week: Tennessee
Honorary Les Miles Goat of the week: Dave Doeren
Quote of the week: “That’s why they call it Bedlam. Lived up to the name.” — Lincoln Riley after escaping against Oklahoma State
Play of the Week
I’m a voter in the FWAA/National Football Foundation Super 16 Poll and will be releasing my ballot here every week. Here’s my ballot heading into Week 12.
3. Notre Dame
7. West Virginia
8. Washington State
10. Ohio State
11. Iowa State
13. Utah State
Best of the rest: Northwestern, Penn State, Utah, Kentucky, Cincinnati, Boise State, Fresno State, Army, Buffalo
Syracuse vs. Notre Dame (Yankee Stadium – Bronx, N.Y.)
A lot of this game hinges on the health of Irish QB Ian Book because the Orange will certainly enter with plenty of momentum. Assuming Book is good to go, something says Notre Dame trades a few scores with ‘Cuse in front of the short porch at Yankee Stadium before the Irish's defensive line asserts its dominance and the run game helps them pull away to win.
Iowa State at Texas
Fire up that channel guide to find Longhorn Network on this one as one of the few ranked vs. ranked team matchups of the weekend. Hakeem Butler and Lil’Jordan Humphrey will be a particular treat at wide receiver but the two defenses in this one will dictate the tone of the game. Both sides figure to score early but then taper off as this one winds up decided by a field goal in Austin in favor of the home team.
Cincinnati at UCF
It would be of no surprise if the AAC champion and Group of 5 New Year's Six bids wind up coming down to this game right here. It’s a classic case of great offense vs. top-notch defense in the American and we’ll lean the former at home in this one, even if things won’t be easy for three and a half quarters in Orlando.
— Written by Bryan Fischer, an award-winning college football columnist and member of the Athlon Contributor Network. You can follow him from coast-to-coast on Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat at @BryanDFischer.