The Top Ten most intriguing coaching matchups of the weekend
1. Mike Leach vs. Gus Malzahn - Somehow this game is getting next to no play nationally, and I don't understand it at all. Sure, it's a pairing of teams that went a combined 6-18 last season. But it's also two of the brightest minds in college football squaring off in a game each club needs to have if they're going the places they think they'll go this season. This one also doubles as the only time a Pac-12 team will play in SEC country this season unless one of them somehow sneaks into the Sugar Bowl.
2. Kliff Kingsbury vs. June Jones and Hal Mumme - Another matchup that needs no explanation, but we're going to give it one anyway. The symbolism in this one is enormous. Two pioneers of the modern passing attack matching wits with the poster boy for the next generation of the Air Raid, both as a quarterback and a coach, in his first game ever. As if that wasn't juicy enough, Kingsbury will go to battle while rotating two true freshmen quarterbacks.
3a. Mike Bobo vs. Brent Venables
3b. Chad Morris vs. Todd Grantham
Grouped together not just because they're be playing doubles against each other on the same field, but because each matchup comes wrapped in the same storyline - a greener than green defense hoping to hang on against a veteran offense loaded with Rabmo-level firepower. One on side it's Tajh Boyd and Sammy Watkins meeting a defense that lists 10 of its 22 two-deep members playing in its first college game (under the lights, on national TV, with 80,000 orange clad whackos screaming at them), complete a secondary who practiced last week with exactly one healthy starter that just so happens to be suspsended this week. On the other side it's Aaron Murray, Todd Gurley and eight other returning starters against a defensive backfield that Dabo Swinney described as such: "Everybody knows [the secondary] is the area of our team that's got to improve the most."
The team that finds a way to make the last stop wins.
4. Bobby Petrino vs. Mark Stoops - It's an SEC team squaring off against a Sun Belt team where the Sun Belt team happens to bring back a better team and a coaching staff with a longer resume, especially at head coach. This is easily the most intriguing of the three games featuring a brand new staff versus another brand new staff (the others being Louisiana Tech vs. NC State and Purdue vs. Cincinnati).
5. Bill Snyder vs. Craig Bohl - Texas Tech at SMU will get most of the Friday night eyeballs since it's on ESPN, but this one is every bit as interesting. Bohl brings in the two-time defending FCS national champions against Snyder's re-tooled defending Big 12 champions. With just eight returning starters, including one on defense, Kansas State is the third-least experienced team in the nation. But it's Bill Snyder, so will that even matter? Meanwhile, North Dakota State rides an impressive three-game winning streak against FBS competition, but none of those teams were K-State.
6. Bret Bielema vs. Mark Hudspeth - Arkansas begins the transition from a Bobby Petrino system that made stars of Brian Brohm, Ryan Mallett and Tyler Wilson to Bielema's style of attack that turned Monte Ball into a Heisman finalist. We're reasonably confident this process will be humming by game 30, but what about game 1? On the other sideline, no one has worked harder this offseason than the Ragin' Cajuns (and that includes the head coach). Hudspeth's teams are known to look for opportunities on special teams (could be a difference maker in this one).
7. Cam Cameron vs. Gary Patterson and Dick Bumpas - Most of the talk surrounding this game has centered on the other side of the ball, but more interesting to us is how quickly Cameron can get Zach Mettenberger into a rhythym and, conversely, how Patterson and Bumpas find ways to rattle the LSU signal caller without their best defensive player, suspended pass rush terror Devonte Fields.
8. North Carolina's offensive staff vs. South Carolina's defensive staff - Larry Fedora, Blake Anderson, Gunter Brewer, Chris Kapilovic, Walt Bell and Randy Jordan have had nearly nine months to make sure something like this doesn't happen:
How will Lorenzo Ward, Deke Adams, Kirk Botkin and Grady Brown use the attention Clowney draws to make the other 10 guys shine?
9. Charlie Strong vs. Frank Solich - National perception demands the Cardinals breeze to 12-0 or this season is a failure. Charlie Strong may not accept that premise, but he's aware of its existence. Now enters Ohio, a team Strong is more than aware could spoil everything in Week 1.
10. Vanderbilt's defensive staff vs. Ole Miss' offensive staff - The Rebels jumped from 11th to fifth in the SEC's passing offense, total offense and scoring offense rankings last season. With most of the principals back from last season, we expect Ole Miss to get off to a fast start in Year 2 under Hugh Freeze. Speaking of fast, James Franklin is already working the referees in preparation for defending the Rebels' tempo.