The Charlie Strong era at Texas is over. If not today, tomorrow, it’ll be soon. No later than right after Thanksgiving.
The Longhorns’ unthinkable 24-21 overtime loss to Kansas on Saturday sealed the deal, if the die wasn’t cast before. Losing to the lowly Jayhawks in many ways is worse than losing to an FCS team. At least an upset by an upstart, lower division program would be a shock. A loss to Kansas just makes you numb.
Let’s begin with the historic nature of the loss. It was the Jayhawks’ first win over Kansas since 1938, when FDR was in his second term as president. It snapped the longest losing streak in FBS (nine), the longest conference losing streak in FBS (19), and the longest losing streak to FBS teams (23).
After the game, Strong all but admitted it was over. The press conference was painful to watch, to say the least.
The most painful part of the Strong post game presser.
“Do you know what this means for your future?” pic.twitter.com/MRNuTko8au
— Casey Keirnan (@CaseyKeirnan) November 20, 2016
Charlie Strong is a good man. He’s a good coach. And he had great intentions when he arrived in Austin. He recruited well. He got the kids to play hard. And he cleaned up a country club culture that had permeated the Longhorns program in the latter part of the Mack Brown era.
But Strong simply was just a bad fit at Texas in much the same way Rich Rodriguez was a bad fit at Michigan when he was at the helm in Ann Arbor from 2008-10. The boosters never fully got on board with Strong. He was not a splashy hire. And he simply didn’t win enough.
Strong never found an offensive identity for his team in his three seasons in Austin. He finally has a top-shelf quarterback in freshman Shane Buechele, but his emergence is not going to be enough to save Strong’s job. But more problematic, the defense, which is what made Strong’s reputation, has gone from mediocre to woeful. The Longhorns gave up at least 34 points in six games this season, at least 45 in four.
With only TCU remaining in the regular season, Strong will need to win that game just to get Texas bowl eligible. His three-year mark of 16-20 will make him the first Texas coach since Jack Chevigny (1934-36) to finish with a losing record.
With Houston’s Tom Herman just down the road and available, it’s almost inevitable for Texas and its influential boosters to want to make a move, sooner than later. Herman is young (41), runs an exciting offense, and has proved his chops in big games as victories over Florida State, Oklahoma and Louisville over the last two seasons can attest.
As for Strong, he’ll land on his feet. This isn’t a man being run out of town because of scandals, turning a blind eye to player misbehavior or NCAA violations. It won’t be a surprise to see Strong return to the SEC, where he spent a considerable amount of time as an assistant, or get a job at a place like Cincinnati or Purdue.
But at Texas, it was just a bad marriage. It’s time for both parties to move on.
Game of the Week
Wyoming 34, San Diego State 33: The Aztecs drove 99 yards in the game’s final 1:07 and scored a touchdown on the last play when Quest Truxton caught a 23-yard pass that was initially ruled incomplete. But San Diego State decided to go for 2 to win the game and the pass attempt was snuffed out. The Cowboys’ thrilling win snapped the Aztecs’ 17-game conference winning streak (longest in the nation) and kept their hopes alive to win the MWC Mountain Division, setting up a rematch with San Diego State in the title game.
Player of the Week
Sefo Liufau, Colorado: In a matchup of Pac-12 division leaders, Colorado scored the game’s final 17 points to hold off Washington State. Senior quarterback Liufau outdueled the Cougars’ Luke Falk, passing for 345 yards and running for another 108 and scoring three TDs. The Buffs need to defeat Utah to claim the Pac-12 South title next week and make an unlikely appearance in the conference title game, against the winner of the Apple Cup.
Make no mistake, the Big Ten’s inclusion of Rutgers in 2014 was nothing more than a money grab, designed to reel in cash for the BTN from the New York metro market. It certainly wasn’t for the Scarlet Knights’ football prowess. This season, Rutgers has lost to Michigan, Ohio State, Michigan State and Penn State by a combined score of 224-0 after the Nittany Lions’ 39-0 rout Saturday. Rutgers gained a total of 382 yards and gave up the equivalent of 1.3 miles.
Projected committee rankings
1. Alabama, 2. Ohio State, 3. Michigan, 4. Clemson, 5. Washington, 6. Wisconsin, 7. Penn State, 8. Oklahoma, 9. Colorado, 10. Louisville, 11. Oklahoma State, 12. USC, 13. Florida, 14. Auburn, 15. Florida State.
Top Group of 5 teams: Western Michigan, Boise State, Navy, Houston, San Diego State
Projected New Year’s Six bowl matchups
Fiesta Bowl (CFP semifinal): Ohio State vs. Clemson
Peach Bowl (CFP semifinal): Alabama vs. Wisconsin
Rose Bowl: Washington vs. Michigan
Sugar Bowl: Florida vs. Oklahoma
Orange Bowl: Louisville vs. Penn State
Cotton Bowl: USC vs. Western Michigan