Why Jimbo Fisher, Quinn Ewers and USC all have plenty to prove in 2023

While the start of the 2023 college football season is still a long way off, we are thinking about what will be at stake for certain teams, players and coaches.

Can Texas A&M compete for a playoff spot like they did just a couple of years ago? Can DJ Uiagalelei make this work in Oregon? Our correspondents are discussing who has the most to prove.

Which coaches need to prove the most?

Alex Scarborough: It’s tempting to name Nick Saban here. At the end of the season – by Alabama standards – Saban appears ready to change direction, bringing in a more professional coordinator in Tommy Rees to replace Bill O’Brien. And instead of working with a young up-and-coming defensive coordinator, Saban brought Kevin Steele back to the staff for the third time. But does a coach with seven league titles have to prove anything? Probably no. So let’s stay in the SEC and look instead at Saban’s student: Florida’s Billy Napier, who had a tough first season in Gainesville with a 6-7 record and a resounding loss to Oregon State in the SRS Distribution Las Vegas Bowl. The replacement of quarterback Anthony Richardson by Graham Mertz did not inspire much confidence among the fans. And then there was the Jayden Rashada debacle when the four-star quarterback was released from his letter of intent after the NIL deal fell through, according to the Associated Press. Napier needs to win victories on the field and on the way to recruiting in order to steer the program in the right direction.

Chris Lowe: It has a Texas feel to it, like Texas or Texas A&M. Steve Sarkisian of Texas certainly has something to prove as he enters his third season with a 13-12 overall record. But this is Jimbo Fischer’s sixth season at Texas A&M, and Aggie is posting a disappointing 5-7 record after signing with the top college football class. There was a lot of staff turnover on the Texas A&M roster, and some of those who “can’t miss” year-old prospectuses left. The Aggies also plunged into the transfer portal, with offensive coordinator Bobby Petrino taking over from Fischer’s biggest signing of the off-season. It’s a move Fischer hinted at last season that he thinks will help him manage the program. The Aggies were on the cusp of reaching the college football playoffs in 2020. They need a similar run in 2023 or Fischer will be in for a serious sweat no matter how many millions he is owed if Texas A&M fires him. .

Bill Connelly: What about Ryan Day? His Buckeyes have lost six games in four seasons and haven’t finished worse than sixth in the AP Poll since 2013, but it looks like a tipping point for Columbus. Ohio State had beaten Michigan twice in a row, and although their defense had improved overall under Jim Knowles—Day’s third coordinator in four years—he still conceded 500-plus yards and 40-plus points each season. stopping losses to Michigan and Georgia. At the same time, his team is closer than anyone else to beating Georgia in 2022 and should start in the top 3 in the polls. The 2023 season presents both an opportunity and a threat. Ohio could again make some serious noise in the national title race, or could fall behind both Michigan and the rising state of Pennsylvania in the Big Ten hierarchy.

Mark Schlabach: Texas A&M doesn’t pay Fisher $95 million for losing four or more games, but that’s exactly what he’s done for four of his five seasons. In the 2020 season, the Aggies went 9-1 down which were impacted by COVID-19 and have nothing else to show. Texas A&M is 17-9 over the past two seasons combined, and Fisher’s teams are 23-18 against SEC competitors during his tenure. Few FBS schools have spent more on coaching staff and equipment than the Aggies, and their collectives are giving away more money in NIL packs for recruits than anyone else. What do they need to show for this? The locker room problems a year ago were like the end of Fischer’s tenure in Florida, which was a disaster. Now Fischer is bringing in former Arkansas and Louisville coach Bobby Petrino to fix the offense after several high-profile candidates turned down the job. This movement reeks of desperation.

Adam Rittenberg: Brent Venables waited a long time to become a head coach before landing his dream job in Oklahoma. But his debut turned out to be a disaster weeks into the season as Oklahoma lost 31 to TCU and then 49-0 to rival Texas in what was the worst loss in Red River Showdown history. The Sooners finished 6–7 with the most losses since 1998, the year before Bob Stoops took over as coach. OU has had a few subpar seasons by its high standards, but since 1997 and 1998 it hasn’t gone two years without 10 wins. Another non-competitive team would raise serious doubts in Venables as a head coach, especially with Oklahoma heading to the SEC in 2024. Venables is an outstanding coordinator and recruiter, and OU has attracted an impressive number of high school players and transfers. But the team will need results in Year 2, especially in defense, after missing 30 points in a game.

David M. Hale: I think the answer is Fischer, but there are plenty of contenders for this award, so I’m going to argue in favor of Miami’s Mario Cristobal instead. He’s not in danger of being fired if anything goes wrong, but after an absolutely disastrous 2022, all the excitement and energy surrounding his return to his alma mater could be completely wiped out by another recession. Cristobal did a big clean up this offseason, including the exodus of veterans to the portal and the departure of both coordinators (plus a host of other assistants). But he’s also brought in the ACC’s top recruiters, landed some solid transfers, kept Tyler Van Dyke at QB, and hired two intriguing coordinators in Shannon Dawson (offensive) and Lance Guidry (defense) who promise to take both divisions in new directions. If 2023 goes well, Cristobal will rightly be praised for his quick recovery and the “Miami is back” mantra will finally take effect. If not, the whole experiment may seem like it only lasted two years.

Blake Baumgartner: The pressure and expectations placed on Mel Tucker increased exponentially as he took on the case to extend his $95 million contract at the State of Michigan. After winning the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl in 2021 11-2, the Spartans struggled in a 5-7 season last fall. Tucker improved recruiting (high school and transfer portal) to the level it has been in the last few years Mark Dantonio. But the player development that has been so critical to Dantonio’s success (six 10-win seasons, three Big Ten titles, one college football playoff appearance) needs to improve if Tucker is to be more consistent in an ever-tougher conference. . with USC and UCLA joining the big ten.

Kyle Bonagura: Not so long ago, there was a time when Chip Kelly was considered a visionary of American football and one of the best coaches in the sport. That’s why when he returned to UCLA after coaching the Philadelphia Eagles and San Francisco 49ers in the NFL, many expected the Bruins to begin realizing the potential associated with being in one of the the most fertile recruiting regions of the country. . That did not happen. The past year was the Bruins’ best year under Kelly and yet a disappointment, finishing with a loss in the Sun Bowl and finishing 21st in the final AP poll.

Which team has something to prove?

Scarborough: The Texas A&M struggle is well documented, with Alabama trying to reclaim its dominance and Auburn starting over. But I feel there is another team in the SEC West that still has a long way to go: LSU. Yes, the Tigers far exceeded expectations in their first year under Brian Kelly. They played strong, principled football and did not beat themselves. And, of course, they beat Alabama. But they were also wildly inconsistent. A week after defeating Tide, they hit the road and nearly lost to Arkansas. They then inexplicably lost to Texas A&M and then a one-sided loss to Georgia. While they were righting the ship and pummeling the superior Purdue team in the Cheez-It Citrus Bowl, I found myself wondering if LSU is really ready to take advantage of a unit that is in constant motion, especially with Alabama in transition. Will Jayden Daniels take the next step in his development and improve as a passer? The attack should be more dynamic. Can Harold Perkins Jr be the player we saw at the end of the year and team up with a healthy Maason Smith to take defense to the next level? Maybe. There are many young talents on the roster and it will be interesting to see how far Kelly and his team can take the Tigers in their second year.

Short: The 2023 season will be USC’s last in Pac-12 before the Trojans join the Big Ten. As hard as it is to believe, USC has not won a Pac-12 championship since 2017, the only title the Troy People have won since the 2008 season. It can’t be possible for a school with the resources, tradition, and talent of USC to experience such a championship drought, especially in its own league. And when it comes to the national picture, the Trojans have never made the college football playoffs and last played in a BCS national championship game in 2005. With the return of Heisman Trophy quarterback Caleb Williams and Lincoln Riley starting his second season as coach, USC is running out of excuses. The Trojans lost twice to Utah last year, the second time in the Pac-12 championship game. The time has come to overcome this obstacle in 2023.

Connelly: In 2023, Penn State might really like it. After just 11-11 in the 2020-21 season, the Nittany Lions crashed back into the top 10 – their fourth such record in seven years under James Franklin – and they now boast both proven talent and mass…


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