As USF’s football coaching search continues, here are five names to watch this weekend because of their potential ties to the Bulls or their impact on the coaching carousel as a whole.
1. Auburn interim coach Cadillac Williams: Topping Western Kentucky would make him 2-1 and boost his resume. He probably needs to beat Alabama next week to become a serious full-time candidate for the Tigers (which would have a ripple effect across the nation). But does the former Bucs first-round pick deserve consideration elsewhere … like USF?
2. South Alabama coach Kane Wommack: A win at Southern Miss would improve his Jaguars to 9-2 in his second year, equaling the wins his predecessor (Steve Campbell) had in three years. That’s enough to warrant consideration from bigger Group of Five jobs, perhaps including USF.
3. Navy coach Ken Niumatalolo: He’s the winningest coach in program history but is 10-22 in the last three seasons. A loss to UCF would mean another losing record in AAC play and raise more questions about his future.
4. UNLV coach Marcus Arroyo: The former Bucs assistant started 4-1 but is 4-6 against a bad Hawaii team. A defeat would doom the Rebels’ bowl chances and, perhaps, his tenure.
5. Wisconsin interim coach Jim Leonhard: His 3-2 record got a stain with last week’s 24-10 loss to Iowa. If he beats Nebraska and Minnesota to finish the season, the long-term job is likely his. If not, the Badgers will be one of the market’s top open jobs, leading more dominoes to fall in the industry.
Lamest time window: Mid-afternoon. The schedule looks soft until primetime, but these are the weeks that usually deliver drama.
11: Why not start the day early with Navy at No. 17 UCF (ESPN2)?
Noon: Winning at Baylor will not be a given for No. 4 TCU (Fox), while Illinois’ elite defense will be one of the biggest tests yet for No. 3 Michigan (ABC).
2: Upsetting No. 19 Kansas State could bring West Virginia coach Neal Brown some job security (ESPN+).
3:30: I don’t think Miami can knock off No. 9 Clemson (ESPN), but it feels like the likeliest upset of this time slot.
4: Iowa-Minnesota (Fox) is huge in the Big Ten West race and one of the conference’s best trophy games (Floyd of Rosedale, a bronze pig).
5:30: Blowing out Georgia Tech would be huge for the longshot playoff hopes of No. 13 North Carolina and the Heisman Trophy campaign of quarterback Drake Maye (ESPN2).
7: Can South Carolina be a tricky road trip for No. 5 Tennessee (ESPN)?
7:30: Enjoy one of the last showdowns between Oklahoma and No. 24 Oklahoma State (ABC) before the Sooners’ move to the SEC puts the Bedlam rivalry on hiatus.
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8: The Pac-12′s playoff hopes hinge on No. 7 USC beating No. 16 UCLA (Fox).
10:30: Of course one of the Pac-12′s games of the year gets an after-dark time slot (No. 10 Utah at No. 12 Oregon, ESPN).
Local of the week
Arkansas receiver Matt Landers (St. Petersburg High)
The former three-star recruit started his career at Georgia, transferred to Toledo and has finally taken off with the Razorbacks. He leads Arkansas with 663 receiving yards — 17 more than he had in the last three years combined. He’ll be in for an even bigger role after Armwood High alumnus (and FSU transfer) Warren Thompson quit the Razorbacks this week.
AACtion in Orlando
UCF and Navy both have top-10 rushing attacks despite very different approaches; the Knights are based on speed and can ramp up the tempo, while the methodical Midshipmen are one of the nation’s slowest offenses. Can Navy slow things down enough to dent the Knights’ AAC title hopes?
Rose Bowl shootout
UCLA and USC both have top-12 scoring offenses, averaging almost 82 points per game combined. Both have scoring defenses that rank outside the top 50 nationally. That means their showdown in Pasadena should be an exciting, high-scoring contest — their first meeting as ranked teams since 2014. It’s also a matchup of some of the top offensive prospects in the next NFL draft: USC receiver Jordan Addison and UCLA running back Zach Charbonnet.
Eye on the NFL draft
Receiver Quentin Johnston has been a major figure in TCU’s emergence as a playoff contender. The 6-foot-4, 215-pound Texas native is the Horned Frogs’ top target (45 catches, 716 yards) and has scored a touchdown in each of his last five games to make himself a potential first-round pick.
The annual Florida A&M showdown with Bethune-Cookman in Orlando has an extra local angle because of Rattlers coach Willie Simmons’ potential candidacy at USF. His team has won eight games in a row behind what it calls a “Dark Cloud Defense,” which is in the top 35 in the Football Championship Subdivision against the pass and rush.
FSU has won three consecutive games by at least 25 points and should extend that streak to four by blowing out Louisiana. If that happens, it will be FSU’s longest blowout streak since a nine-game stretch during the 2013 national title run. It’d also tie for the fourth best in team history (five games in 2000 and 1993).
“A parent is very free and welcome to pick up their son if they are not happy with their playing time at the University of Miami. I guess that’s my philosophy.” — Hurricanes coach Mario Cristobal
By the numbers: Week 12
.769 — Louisiana’s winning percentage under Billy Napier
.455 — Louisiana’s winning percentage in the year before and after Napier. The Ragin’ Cajuns enter FSU 5-5 under first-year coach Michael Desormeaux
548 — Career tackles by Troy’s Carlton Martial, who passed Northwestern’s Tim McGarigle last week for the most in NCAA history
7 — Consecutive conference wins for UCF in the Bounce House
9-1 — Lincoln Riley’s record at USC, the best by a Trojans coach since John Robinson (1976)
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