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The College Football Report: Sheldon The College Football Head Coach Serial Killer Strikes Even Amidst Legitimately Intriguing Bowls Season

Sheldon The College Football Head Coach Serial Killer continues to carve a swath through the ranks of programs large and small. Some coaches have received a stay of execution pending the outcome of an upcoming bowl game while others will be lame ducks - expected to coach out the postseason before bowing under the ax.

Of course, amongst all of distractions a few Legitimately Intriguing Bowls took place this week before the Saturday smorgasbord of games on New Year's Day.

Terrapin Station
Last week, we observed how a number of minority candidates had secured positions coaching for BCS schools. Vanderbilt (Vandy - imagine!) may have spurred a number of other schools into action by hiring former Maryland offensive coordinator (and head-coach-in-waiting) James Franklin. Layoff Season's hottest property (Auburn OC Gus Malzahn) turned down the offer, but some speculate that Malzahn is holding out for a plum job and accompanying big bucks.

In our season preview, we called for Maryland to be among the "be among the worst teams in any BCS conference" in 2010 (whoops!) but instead Ralph Friedgen took the Terps to an 8-4 record and a berth in the Military Bowl. Friedgen survived well past our predicted over/under date (November 15) and his Terrapins hardly resembled the 2-10 squad from 2009.

In doing so, Friedgen rightly earned ACC Coach of the Year honors (for the second time) but new MD Athletic Director Kevin Anderson canned him anyway - effective after the bowl game. After Franklin (and his seven-figure buyout clause) departed for Nashville - along with a number of other assistants - Anderson saw an opportunity to cut Friedgen.

When announcing Friedgen's firing on December 20, about a month after stating that the coach would return in 2011, Anderson made the usual comments about the best interests of the team and "moving the program from good to great." We can't see anything inherently wrong with his reasoning. But what's wrong with "good"?

Apart from a strong run from 1974 to 1985, Maryland has only won a conference championship once in recent memory - in 2001, Friedgen's first season. When Florida State joined the ACC in 1991, the balance of power shifted sharply to the south and Maryland slipped further down the ranks in 2004 with the addition of Miami and Virginia Tech. Friedgen led Maryland to a 42-36 record in the ACC and a 5-2 mark in bowl games. Seems to us like significantly raising expectations might be unrealistic - and wonder if top candidates such as Malzahn and former Texas Tech coach Mike Leach feel the same way.

After watching Malzahn dance around with Vandy, we can't help but wonder if the top candidates are coyly killing time before jobs open up at places like Michigan, Stanford and LSU. As for his soon-to-be former coach, he would like to coach somewhere next year. Go for it, Ralph. We doubted you, but after this season you deserve another shot. In the words of Terrapin freshman (and ACC Rookie of the Year) QB Danny O'Brien: "Football is a crazy business."

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For some icing on the cake, Maryland (-7.5) blew out East Carolina 51-20 in Wednesday's Military Bowl presented by Northrop Grumman. The Terrapins shared the spotlight with an Andros HD-1 - a remote-operated robot which was called upon to deliver the game ball and appeared during a brief in-game video segment about its use defusing IEDs.

Featuring the Andros - also part of the inspiration behind Pixar's WALL-E - was a clever move by Northrop, in that it briefly put an animatronic face on a huge ($30+ billion) player in the military-industrial complex.

Harbaugh's Hot Hand
On the opposite coast, former Bears QB Jim Harbaugh may have his pick of at least two job openings.

Although Harbaugh guided Stanford to the Orange Bowl and a 11-1 record, coaching for The Cardinal can be tough. Perpetually hampered by high academic standards and at odds with perennial Pac-10 (now -12) powers like USC, Harbaugh may be seduced by the dollars and power of the NFL.

After the San Francisco 49ers dismissed Mike Singletary, speculators immediately mentioned Harbaugh's name as the best local option. But a potential opening at his alma mater Michigan may keep Harbaugh in the college ranks.

And speaking of dancing, Harbaugh has been two-stepping around a $3 million contract extension to stay in Palo Alto, further fueling the rumor mill. Add to the mix the reports that Rich Rodriguez's buyout clause from Michigan drops to only (!) $1.5 million after January 1, and we'd be willing to lay heavy action on RichRod's ouster and replacement by Harbaugh before the BCS National Championship.

Agents and Coaches
For some great reading on the role of sports agents in the hiring process, we recommend Bruce Marshall of Vegas Insider and The Gold Sheet.

In Marshall's December 19 update, he examined how super-agent Jimmy Sexton (who represents Nick Saban, Steve Spurrier, Gus Malzahn, and many others) has been pulling the strings at places like Vanderbilt and Texas.

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And to keep track of who has landed where, we have repeatedly gone back to College Football Poll's ongoing updates on coaching changes available here.

The Beachwood Bowl Series . . .
. . . continues here.

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Game: The Ticketcity Bowl
Time: Saturday, January 1, 11 a.m. ESPNU (Dallas, TX)
Teams: The Northwestern Wildcats vs. The Texas Tech Red Raiders (-9)
Comment: Northwestern hasn't won a bowl game since 1949. The Red Raiders are going to their 11th consecutive bowl game, led by senior QB Taylor Potts.

This season also marks the 11th consecutive year that Tech's QB has thrown for 3,000 yards or more. That means that Texas Tech has thrown for more than 18 miles in the past 11 seasons. Texas Tech calls Lubbock home. Northwestern is situated in Evanston. The (World Famous) Beachwood Inn is 17.9 miles from the Evanston campus. And there's nary a Beachwood within 18 miles of Lubbock. We'll take the points!

The Sports Seal Says: Northwestern 27, Texas Tech 35

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Game: The Capital One Bowl
Time: Saturday, January 1, 12:00 p.m. ESPN (Orlando, FL)
Teams: #16 The Alabama Crimson Tide (-8) vs. #9 The Michigan State Spartans
Comment: Several close associates of The College Football Report will be rooting for Sparty today. And why not? The #9 team in the country are underdogs by more than a touchdown.

Michigan State missed the Rose Bowl when they finished ranked below Wisconsin in the BCS standings despite having defeated the Badgers 34-24 in Week Five. And a bad loss to Iowa cost Michigan State a shot at the Rose Bowl, possibly even a national title.

Bama, on the other hand, began the season as the defending national champion with last year's Heisman winner in the backfield. Even so, the Tide lost three conference match-ups. So why now are they so heavily favored? The SEC was good this year, but not that good.

The Sports Seal Says: Michigan State 27, Alabama 24

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Game: The Outback Bowl
Time: Saturday, January 1, 12:00 p.m. ABC (Tampa, FL)
Teams: The Florida Gators (-6.5) vs. The Penn State Nittany Lions
Comment: We can't muster up much energy for this one. We blame Tampa. Who lives in Tampa? Do you know anything interesting about Tampa, apart from the Buccaneers? Neither do we. Tampa isn't much - by itself, it ranks as only the 54th largest city in the U.S. (When people refer to Tampa, they are often thinking of the Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater region, which as a Metropolitan Statistical Area, boasts 2.7 million residents. That's a lot of people who have convinced themselves it's okay to live in Tampa.) The city flag looks as though it was designed by a deranged preschooler. Don't get us started. When it comes to Tampa, we vote no. Can we bet on the number of Tim Tebow references in the game instead?

The Sports Seal Says: Florida 17, Penn State 14

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Game: The Progressive Gator Bowl
Time: Saturday, January 1, 12:30 p.m. ESPN2 (Jacksonville, FL)
Teams: #21 The Mississippi State Bulldogs (-3.5) vs. The Michigan Wolverines
Comment: Denard Robinson will single-handedly win this game. Why? Because Mississippi State couldn't handle Cameron Newton in Week Two - well before he got his legs under him - and failed to prove in their 38-31 loss to Arkansas (in double overtime) that they can outscore a team to win. Seeing a theme here? We may parlay all the Big Ten teams in action today.

The Sports Seal Says: Michigan 31, Mississippi State 28

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Game: The Grandaddy of Them All, The Tournament of Roses, yes, that's right it's Keith Jackson and The Rose Bowl Game, Presented by . . . Vizio
Time: Saturday, January 1, 3:30 p.m. ESPN (Pasadena, CA)
Teams: #5 The Wisconsin Badgers vs. The Texas Christian University Horned Frogs (-3)
Comment: TCU will be out to embarrass the BCS, the NCAA, the Wisconsin Badgers and anyone else the coaching staff can name in the pregame speech.

The Sports Seal Says: TCU 41, Wisconsin 23

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Game: The Tostitos Fiesta Bowl
Time: Saturday, January 1, 7:30 p.m. ESPN (Glendale, AZ)
Teams: The University of Connecticut Huskies vs. #7 The Oklahoma Sooners
Comment: Boomer. Sooner.

The Sports Seal Says: Oklahoma 34, UConn 17

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Mike Luce brings you the world's greatest college football report in this space every week. He welcomes your comments.


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