Besides maybe a preview of interesting bowl games this season, I won't be writing about football until January 8, so I thought I'd share my so-called thoughts on the recent head coach hires in the SEC, the best football conference in all of the land.
Mark Stoops, University of Kentucky
Hopes are high in Lexington, and I see this as a good hire. The guy knows defense, which tends to be a perennial issue with the Wildcats on the gridiron. He will not have the talent he had the luxury of having at Florida State, so it may take some time to get the program back to being bowl eligible like it was under Rich Brooks. Stoops' goal of winning the SEC (see link) is what any new coach is going to say, but the stark reality is that the only fellow to lead Kentucky to win the SEC conference was Coach Paul Bryant before he went to Texas A&M. Good luck with that.
Bret Bielema, University of Arkansas
This hire came as a surprise to a number of folks because Bielema already had a good job at a solid university and great place to live (Madison is wonderful). But this former assistant under Hayden Fry at Iowa and a guy many people thought would stay at Wisconsin heads to Fayetteville. The Razorbacks have talent and a solid recruiting base in the South and Texas, so it'll be interesting how well this team does next year. Wisconsin teams are typically noted for their smashmouth running attacks and strong defenses. However, there could be a substantial adjustment period because they'll be transitioning from Petrino's pass-happy/"oley bullshit" defensive teams to something altogether different.
Gus Malzahn, Auburn University
There were all kinds of coaching rumors about this job after Chizik got the pink slip. Malzahn was the engineer of their offense when they had Cam Newton, and he did a good job as a head coach at Arkansas State, a program that seems to have becoming a training ground for big-time jobs. The cloud over this hire is the NCAA has been asking questions down on the plains, so it remains to be seen what kind of allotment of scholarships this head coach will get to play with. I think Auburn will skate, but we'll see. However, it's not like Auburn has a weak base of talent to build a strong team. They recruit well. However, after they rode the comet that was Cam Newton, the last two seasons exposed what Iowa State fans already knew about Gene Chizik.
With both Bielema and Malzahn though, they have to compete in the best college football division in the country, the SEC West. Now with Ole Miss on the rise under the leadership of Hugh Freeze (Watch for them next season) and A&M doing well under Kevin Sumlin, the West is going to be even more difficult.
The Bleacher Report has an article up comparing Bielema and Malzahn that's worth a read.
Coach-to-be-Named-Later, University of Tennessee
This one is taking longer than I expected. First, it was delusions of luring Gruden away from his lucrative and easy job with MNF. Then it was someone else, maybe Chris Peterson or Gary Patterson? Some P dude I think. Or maybe that was the Arkansas hiring cycle -- I don't remember. Then it was Mike Gundy from Oklahoma State, who decided to stay at his alma mater and do the breaststroke in a swimming pool of cash proffered by crazy-rich T. Boone Pickens. Then it was Charlie Strong (probably the best hire out of the whole bunch), but now he's decided to stay at Louisville. And now the rumors are that Butch Davis, Larry Fedora, and Al Golden are possibilities.