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Towson football coach Rob Ambrose out after 13 seasons Farewell, Coastal, the ACC’s always unpredictable division TCU’s run, Oklahoma’s struggles highlight changing Big 12

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TAWSON, Maryland – Towson has announced that football coach Rob Ambrose will not be returning next season.

Special groups coordinator Lyndon Johnson will take over as coach, the school announced on Monday. The search for a new coach will begin immediately.

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Ambrose spent 13 seasons as head coach, going 76-76. Towson achieved the FCS title in 2013 and also made the playoffs in 2011 and 2018 under Ambrose. In total, he spent 26 years with the program.

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The Tigers have won their last four games of the season, maintaining a 6-5, 4-4 record in the Colonial Athletic Association game.

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CORAL GABLES, Florida – Goodbye ACC Coastal. And good riddance.

Every summer, every league in the country hosts some kind of pre-season media gathering, including a conference on the Atlantic Coast. These events always play out the same way: coaches downplay expectations, quarterbacks praise their offensive line and receivers, and savvy reporters walk away with a notebook full of ideas for the season.

There is also a pre-season poll predicting how the season will go. And in the Seashore, such an exercise turned out to be completely useless, useless and often completely wrong.

North Carolina’s Coastal Division victory this season – the division’s last season in the ACC – came as a surprise to 89% of voters, which honestly shouldn’t surprise anyone, since the one constant in America’s wackiest division over the past decade has been that voters rarely knew what would happen. In the last 10 seasons of the ACC Division, voters have predicted the coastal winner exactly twice.

“The culture, whatever we call it, of this team was, ‘We’re going to find ways to win, and we’re going to make sure we’re all in the game, and we’re going to make sure we’re playing.’ hard every week, and we’re going to do the little things we need to do to win.” – North Carolina Coach Mac Brown said. “And for some reason, this team did it.”

His team finished third in the pre-season poll with 18 out of 164 possible votes. Clemson, as expected, emerged victorious in the Atlantic; The Tigers received 111 votes.

The Tar Heels’ path to this ACC title game was the same as Coastal’s. Someone showed up, and rarely was it the command everyone was expecting.

Over the past decade, the only team to win the Coastal and receive over 50% of preseason votes was Miami in 2017—the first and only time the Hurricanes have won an ACC championship in the divisional era that began in 2005.

Duke went to the title game in 2013 from Coastal while Pitt represented Coastal in 2018. These teams combined did not receive a single pre-season vote for first place. A year ago, Pitt again won the Coastal – exactly one vote for the first place in the preseason.

“Ratings mean nothing,” Coach Pitt. Pat Narduzzi said at the end of last season. “They matter at the end of the year. If you say that at the end of the year you are in the top 20, top 10 or top 5, whatever it is, it means something. Until the end of the year, it really doesn’t mean anything.”

Oh how Coastal proved it.

Duke was last selected at Coastal in 2013. Last. The Blue Devils started that season 0-2 in ACC play. The rest of the way they went 6-0 to win Coastal.

Who knows what will happen? Duke’s then coach David Cutcliff asked at the end of that season.

The answer was almost none.

The Atlantic Division made voters look smarter. With the almost yearly dominance of Florida State or Clemson, the team that represented Atlantic in the ACC title game finished first or second in the preseason poll 14 of 17 times in the bi-division era. (The ACC had no divisional games in 2020 when the format temporarily changed due to the pandemic.)

The Coastal Division made voters look… well, not smart.

In the last 10 years of bi-divisional play, voters favored the Atlantic champion 61% of the time in pre-season voting. During the same period, voters chose the champion of the coast correctly 15% of the time. Take away Miami’s win in 2017 and that figure drops to 9%.

And Miami’s success, or lack of it, since joining the ACC is a big part of the reason coastal voters don’t have a great track record. The Hurricanes have been selected to win the Coastal Championship six times during the divisional era. One day they made it to the ACC title game; they would have gone again if it weren’t for unauthorized post-season sanctions linked to the scandal surrounding cheater ex-booster Nevin Shapiro in the early 2010s.

In my defense, freshman coach Miami Mario Cristobal cringed from the start that the Hurricanes have high hopes this season.

“From day one, we made it very clear what we are doing here and what we are building here,” Cristobal said. “Our history has shown that we do not sell the dream. We do not sell false hopes. We sell a real track record in what we’ve done, where we’ve been and how we’ve done it.”

The second year of the Cristobal era will come in 2023 without a split in the ACC.

The new plan, adopted by the league’s athletic directors and faculty athletic representatives over the summer, will be what the league calls the 3-5-5 model and will take effect from the 2023 season.

All 14 football members of the ACC will have three regular scheduling partners and will play at these schools each year. They will meet with the other 10 schools every other year; five one year, five the next. This means that each ACC team will play all conference opponents home and away at least once every four years.

ACC continues its championship game. Instead of pitting the division champions against each other, the top two teams in conference winning percentage will compete in a title game.

And there will be a poll next summer. Maybe it will be easier to predict the future.

NORMAN, Oklahoma – Changes are underway in the Big 12 – even before Oklahoma and Texas go to the Southeast Conference.

Fourth-seeded TCU replaced the Sooners as a Big 12 team in contention for a place in the college football playoffs. Oklahoma won the conference and made the playoffs in 2015 and 2017-19. This year the Horned Frogs (11-0, 8-0 Big 12) have secured a place in the conference title game and are positioned as a league playoff team. On Saturday, TCU hosts Iowa State in the regular season finale.

Kansas State’s No. 15 (8-3, 6-2) became a surprise contender for another spot in the championship game after being voted fifth in the league. The Wildcats will go for a title game if Texas No. 24 loses to Baylor on Friday. If Texas wins, Kansas State will need to beat rival Kansas on Saturday night to qualify.

Meanwhile, frequent contenders Oklahoma and Oklahoma State are out. The championship game, which takes place on December 3, will be the first since the game returned in 2017 without an Oklahoma team. And defending champion Baylor can only spoil it by knocking out Texas (7-4, 5-3) for the title.

TKU coach Sonny Dykes said the changes are a sign of the strength of the Big 12. The Horned Frogs will play in the title game for the second time.

“Sometimes people brush it off by saying, ‘Well, the league stinks,'” he said. “Well, if the league stank, it looks like it would be the same team that was there every year. I remember a time in the Big 12 when Oklahoma was in the championship almost every year.”

Oklahoma won the title every year from 2017 to 2020 and fought for the championship all the way to the regular season finale last season under coaching. Lincoln Riley. But the Sooners – chosen to finish second in the league – are 6-5 after replacing Riley. Brent Venables.

Oklahoma has three conference losses by seven points or less. Venables said there are no easy games in the league.

“The quality of coaching, the quality of the game does not allow this,” he said. “Right now we just don’t have room for error on our side of the ball. It was difficult, that goes without saying. But I like a good challenge. And every week was a good test.”

Oklahoma State reached the title game last year and looked poised to come back after opening the season with five straight wins. But the protector Spencer Sanders suffered a shoulder injury and the Cowboys’ season went into decline. A less-than-healthy Sanders behind a worn-out offensive line threw four interceptions in a 28-13 loss to Oklahoma last Saturday.

“I mean, I could be very obvious and say that if we don’t injure the guys, it will help,” Oklahoma State Coach. Mike Gandy said. “Yes, but I mean, try to be nice. Just beat up some guys. So, unfortunately, we lost a few guys.”

Even Texas making a title game would be out of the ordinary. Since the return of the tournament, the Longhorns have only reached the championship game once, and they have not won a championship since 2009.

No matter what, the second-placed team will have at least two defeats, and possibly three. As an example of the depth of the Big 12, Iowa State – TCU’s opponent on Saturday – is in last place in the league standings but leads the conference in defensive scoring and overall defense and is ranked eighth nationally in both categories.

“It says exactly what this league is… that it’s really good from top to bottom and there’s a ton of parity and it’s very, very difficult with the schedule you need to get through in this league to get through unscathed.” – Dykes said.


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