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Saban vs. Osborne vs. Snyder: NO CONTEST!

For those who have been buried under a rock today, Alabama is the champion of major college football AGAIN.

The Crimson Tide won its fifth title in nine seasons last night, rallying from a 13-point deficit to defeat Southeastern Conference rival Georgia 26-23 in overtime.

Nick Saban has coached at Alabama 11 seasons, which happens to be the exact same length as his combined tenures at Toledo (one season), Michigan State (five) and LSU (five). He has won 127 games at Alabama and 218 overall as a head coach. Saban has now coached six national championship teams, tying him with Bear Bryant for most by any coach. The first was at LSU in 2003.

The 66-year old Saban has an excellent chance to winning more games in 25 seasons as a head coach than Tom Osborne did at Nebraska from 1973-97. Saban needs 33 to surpass “Dr. Tom”, and barring something calamitous, Saban will make it with room to spare. Saban will get to 300 barring something unforeseen, and I would bet on him passing Bryant’s mark of 323, which was the major college record until broken by the disgraced Joe Paterno and later Bobby Bowden.

I am well aware Osborne is revered in the Heartland, but I cannot accept he belongs on college football coaching’s Mount Rushmore ahead of the man in charge in Tuscaloosa.

Sorry,  Husker nation, but Saban runs circles around Osborne in most every way you cut it.

Alabama rarely gets to play weaklings in the SEC like Nebraska did in the Big Eight, and Saban will usually challenge the Tide with a very difficult non-conference game at a neutral site, whereas Osborne loaded up on lesser teams, especially later in his career. Nebraska could pencil in Kansas, Kansas State and Iowa State as sure-fire victories nearly every year before the first day of practice. Osborne never lost to KU or K-State, and very rarely bowed to the Cyclones. Missouri was terrible during most of Osborne’s last 14 years in Lincoln. Colorado had a very dark period in the late ’70s and early ’80s before Bill McCartney arrived. Oklahoma State sank to the bottom after it was hit hard by NCAA probation after the departure of Barry Sanders in 1989. Even Oklahoma fell off its perch following Barry Switzer’s resignation.

The SEC is not 14 powerhouses, but the Crimson Tide has to play three of the stronger programs in the conference every year: Auburn, LSU and Texas A&M. And the Tide will have to play a hard game to win the SEC championship, save for 2011 and ’17, when they won the national title without playing in the SEC championship game.

Saban has learned to do more with less. Coaches cannot work with student-athletes more than 20 hours a week during the season, a restriction which wasn’t in place until Osborne’s last years in Lincoln. Osborne was notorious for three-hour, full pads practices during the season and during bowl preparation, and I have to believe that was a big reason the Cornhuskers often bombed in bowl games. Saban knows when to back off and save his players’ bodies. His practices are fast-paced, but much shorter, and there is nowhere near the hitting Osborne had.

Saban has to deal with strict scholarship limits. When Osborne succeeded Bob Devaney, the NCAA was in its second year of scholarship limits, but it was 105. It was reduced to 95 in the 1980s and 85 in the ’90s. Saban has always had to deal with the 85 limit, except his one year at Toledo in 1990.

Osborne could get any player he wanted in Nebraska, even though Nebraska’s population is so small he had to go out of state. Not only that, but there are no major programs in North and South Dakota, and the two Kansas schools were usually so pitiful that the top players there wanted to escape, either to Lincoln or Norman.

Saban on the other hand has to deal with Auburn within the Yellowhammer State. Whenever he goes recruiting in the south, he’s battling Florida, Georgia, LSU, Texas A&M, Florida State, Miami and others for the big names.

Osborne rarely had turnover on his coaching staff. Saban, meanwhile, has constant turnover, mostly because his assistant coaches are in high demand. Last night, he beat Kirby Smart, who was the Crimson Tide’s defensive coordinator for nine seasons before returning to Georgia, his alma mater. Jeremy Pruitt, Smart’s successor at Alabama, will be coaching Tennessee next season. Jimbo Fisher, Saban’s offensive coordinator at LSU, moved from Florida State to Texas A&M. Will Muschamp, who coached with Saban at LSU and the Miami Dolphins, is at South Carolina after four seasons at Florida. Jim McElwain, the offensive coordinator on Saban’s first two national championship teams at Alabama, coached the Gators for nearly three seasons before being canned last October.

Osborne never wanted to change his offense or defense, until he finally realized the old 5-2 defense he ran was no match for the speed of Florida State and Miami in bowl games. It wasn’t until the Huskers went to the 4-3 that Osborne won a national championship.

Saban, meanwhile, adapts nicely to his personnel. He ran the 4-3 at Michigan State and LSU, but is running mostly a 3-4 at Alabama, although the Tide presents multiple looks which give offensive coordinators nightmares. Offensively, Saban would prefer to play smashmouth, but if he has a gifted quarterback, he won’t be afraid to open it up, like he did with Rohan Davey at LSU and A.J. McCarron at Alabama.

Osborne is one of two college football coaches who is revered like the Almighty Himself in this part of the United States.

Time to compare Saban to the other one.

Bill Snyder, who has coached at Kansas State since 1989, save for a three-year retirement between 2006-08, is already in the Hall of Fame, since there is a rule an active coach can be inducted once he turns 75. Saban will most certainly be inducted five years after he retires or turns 75, whichever comes first.

Nobody will deny Snyder has performed near-miracles at K-State, given how putrid the Wildcats were prior to his arrival. K-State was the only major college program to lose 500 games when Snyder arrived. Since then, Wake Forest has assumed the mantle of the lowest winning percentage among Power Five schools (surprising given how bad Kansas has often been), but the worry is

However, I cannot, will not, must not rate Snyder ahead of Saban. No way.

Saban and Snyder are diametrically opposed as far as scheduling philosophies.

Saban would rather the Tide play all Power Five non-conference opponents, but realizes he does not call the shots in scheduling, and thus has to take on teams from outside the Power Five in order for Alabama to keep its athletic department in the black. Saban is not afraid to take on the big games away from Tuscaloosa, such as facing Florida State in 2017 at Atlanta, or USC in 2016 at Arlington.

Snyder, on the other hand, loves cupcakes so much he could get sponsorship deals from Betty Crocker and Duncan Hines. His scheduling formula is a source of constant ridicule outside of Kansas, as it should be. He attempted to buy his way out of a home game with Auburn after the Wildcats played at Jordan-Hare under Ron Prince, but Jay Jacobs made the buyout financially prohibitive. Snyder tried the same with Miami and couldn’t get out of it. Yes, K-State is starting to schedule SEC schools, but it’s Vanderbilt, Mississippi State and Missouri. I’m not saying it has to be Alabama and Georgia, but LSU and Texas A&M would be a major upgrade.

Saban recruits mostly high school players, young men he can mold and shape over four or five years. Snyder wants the “mature” player, and that’s why K-State almost always signs more junior college players than any other Power Five program. It may be a quick fix, but Saban’s methods have been far more effective.

Outside of recruiting, Snyder’s are so unorthodox that they would never work in Tuscaloosa. Saban is not known as a media-friendly coach in the mold of Mack Brown, Pete Carroll or Steve Spurrier, but Snyder is far worse with the press than Saban. Snyder was the first college football coach to completely shut the media out of practice, tightly limit access to players (there is only a very small window each week to contact players at K-State), and not allow the media to talk to assistant coaches at all. Saban has done that, too, but Snyder was the first and took it to an extreme in a time when there was more open access.

Saban and Snyder are very similar in that they put in very long hours at the office. That’s one regard where Spurrier had it right: work smart, not long.

K-State is dreading the day Snyder retires or dies. It knows it will be an also-ran in the Big 12 once that happens.

Would Snyder have won big at Iowa had he been Hayden Fry’s successor instead of leaving for Manhattan? I doubt it. You can’t argue with the results at K-State, but Snyder’s program is not for everyone.

Saban, meanwhile, won big at two SEC schools, and if he had stayed longer at Michigan State and not been hamstrung with severe penalties early in his tenure at East Lansing, the Spartans would have been elite under his watch. Toledo went 9-2 in Saban’s only season there, so that’s another notch in his belt.

Osborne and Snyder did it at one place. It’s impressive yes, but for Saban to do it wherever he’s been makes him one of the greats.

K-State vs. KU: let’s toast a rotten rivalry!

Sorry for going Howard Hughes yet again. I’ve got to stop that. It’s a terrible habit.

Tomorrow is the latest renewal of one of major college football’s least important rivalries.

That’s right, it’s Kansas State vs. Kansas, live from Lawrence.

This is the 30th anniversary of the Toilet Bowl, when 0-8 K-State and 1-7 KU played to a 17-17 tie in Manhattan. The game was part of an 0-29-1 stretch for the Wildcats which dated back to their 1986 win vs. the Jayhawks, which resulted in rioting in Manhattan’s Aggieville entertainment/alcoholism district for the second time in three years.

As long as the Wildcats play a halfway decent game, they should win by at least 25 points. The Jayhawks haven’t scored in three weeks, and last week, they gained 21 yards against TCU, and all of those came when the Horned Frogs were deep into their third and fourth string. The 21 yards is an all-time low by a Big 12 team since the conference formed in 1996. For a conference known for high-powered offense, that’s beyond pitiful. KU should just have asked Shawnee Mission East, the best high school team in Kansas, to take its place in Fort Worth. I’m sure the Lancers would have done better than 21 yards.

Then again, K-State hasn’t won in a long time, either. The Wildcats have lost their last three and are 3-4. If they lose to KU, then (a) they aren’t going to a bowl game and (b) 78-year old Bill Snyder should retire. Not at the end of the season, but before the bus leaves to return to Manhattan. Problem is, Snyder has NO LIFE outside football and he probably would go insane without the game. Why else did he come back in 2009 after sitting out for three years?

I can see Snyder going the way of Jim Pittman, the TCU coach who dropped dead one Saturday afternoon in 1971 on the sideline in Waco after suffering a massive heart attack. Pittman led Tulane to the 1970 Liberty Bowl and a No. 17 ranking in the final Associated Press poll, although he never beat LSU, no sin considering the Bayou Bengals were a powerhouse under Charles McClendon. Of course, Pittman was handicapped by the myopic decision Tulane made to leave the Southeastern Conference prior to Pittman’s first season with the Green Wave.

FYI–TCU defeated Baylor 34-27 despite the shocking death of their coach.

College football media loves to harp on Nick Saban for being a robot who does nothing but football. But I can’t see Saban coaching into his late 70s. He has stated consistently he wants to spend quality time with Terry, his children and grandchildren without the pressure of football. Snyder has never said that. In fact, Bill wants his eldest child, Sean, to be his successor, something a lot of people in Manhattan don’t like, because Sean has never been a coordinator, let alone a head coach.

Snyder has owned the Jayhawks since coming to K-State in 1989. After losing to KU in 1989 and 1990, Snyder is 21-2 vs. the team from Lawrence, and has won all eight meetings since returning to the sideline in 2009. The Jayhawks have won only four times since 1991: 1992, when KU went 7-5 and won the Aloha Bowl under Glen Mason; 2004, when Snyder’s former assistant, Mark Mangino, led the Jayhawks to a 31-28 overtime decision in Lawrence; and 2007 and 2008, when K-State was being led into the abyss by Ron Prince, who may be the worst coach to patrol the Wildcat sideline, at least since 1967, when Vince Gibson was hired.

Gibson, Ellis Rainsberger, Jim Dickey and Stan Parrish, the four coaches prior to Snyder at K-State, would have done far better than 17-20 in three seasons had they had Prince’s talent. Conversely, Prince would have lost every game by at least 20 points had he had the talent level Dickey and Parrish were forced to work with.

The only good thing I can say about Prince is at least he tried to upgrade K-State’s usually pathetic non-conference schedule, playing a home-and-home with Louisville and going to Auburn. Snyder tried to buy his way out of the return trip by Auburn to Manhattan when he was re-hired, but Auburn jacked up the buyout so high K-State couldn’t afford it. Remember, Snyder is the same man who bought his way out of a game with TULANE when he was hired in 1989. The Wildcats played at Vanderbilt this year, will host the Commodores in the near future, and also play Mississippi State home-and-home. It’s an improvement.

Kansas’ program is about as bad as K-State was when Snyder was hired. Snyder has bitched about that comparison, saying he took over much worse in Manhattan. He claimed KU had periods of success, while the Wildcats had none, prior to his arrival. Yes, the Jayhawks won the Big Eight in 1968 with John Riggins and Bobby Douglass, but after that, KU did next to nothing until the fluke of 2007, when fat fuck Mangino got a break with a horrible schedule.

Right now, Kansas is easily the worst team in a power five conference (ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12, SEC). It’s not close, although Illinois is trying its best to get there, and Oregon State seems hellbent on reclaiming that status, a status it took from K-State when Snyder started winning and somehow relinquished in the Dennis Erickson/Mike Riley years.

David Beaty is a good man, but he is in over his head trying to lead the Jayhawks. He’s like Sisyphus. No matter how hard he tries to roll the boulder up the (Campanille) Hill, it inevitably is going to come back at him faster. Give Beaty credit for taking a job probably very few others wanted, but he’s going to end up like Charlie Weis, Turner Gill, Terry Allen and Bob Valesente–all of whom were fired with miserable records.

Mike Gottfried was on his way to a similar fate, but he got a lifeline when he was hired by Pitt in 1986.

Don Fambrough had TWO bites of the apple, and while he had a modicum of success with David Jaynes in 1973, he flamed out and was fired in ’74. He came back in ’79, but had one decent year (1981) before relapsing in ’82, when he was fired again, this time for good.

Bud Moore had one big moment with Nolan Cromwell when KU ended Oklahoma’s 37-game unbeaten streak (28-game winning streak; there was a tie vs. USC early in 1973) in 1975 (at Norman, no less),  but no way he was going to consistently get the better of the Sooners, Nebraska or even Missouri and Oklahoma State. By 1978, the Jayhawks were 1-10, and Moore was done, too.

Pepper Rodgers, the coach of the Riggins-Douglass team of ’68, saw KU go 1-9 without Douglass in ’69, then bailed for UCLA two years later.

Glen Mason led the Jayhawks to 10-2 in ’95 (with losses of 41-7 to K-State and 41-3 to Nebraska). He originally took the Georgia job after the ’95 season, but changed his mind, stayed one more year in Lawrence, then finally left for Minnesota.

Mark Mangino? Well fat fuck fucked himself good.

I don’t care who wins. I am not a fan of Snyder’s, given his penchant for scheduling cupcakes and loading up on JUCO players seeking a quick fix. I have hated KU since they employed Mangino, whose manners are one step below feral pigs.

Since there can be no tie, I hope KU wins a sloppy game. I don’t want to see K-State anywhere near a bowl. Of course, a KU wins means both goalposts at Memorial Stadium are coming down. That would be FIVE STRAIGHT YEARS at least one goalpost has gone down.

That’s right, even though KU went 0-12 in 2015, the goalpost at the south end of the stadium still was torn down that year. It occurred a few hours after the Royals won Game 5 of the World Series in New York, giving Kansas City its first championship since 1985. The same did not occur at Mizzou, simply because there are more Cardinal fans than Royal fans on that campus (Columbia is halfway between Kansas City and St. Louis).

Then again, K-State fans have torn down the goalposts in Lawrence before, so the goalposts may not be safe even if the Jayhawks lose.

If you don’t live in Kansas and watch tomorrow, shame on you. There’s a hell of a lot better things you can be doing with a Saturday afternoon. I live in Kansas and I know I won’t be watching. Then again, I just might, just for the masochistic value.

LSU is off this week, preparing for its so-called rivalry game with Alabama. To me, it’s not a rivalry. I’ll explain why in an upcoming post.

The Little Apple feels rotten

Saturday was a very bad day to be a supporter of Kansas State. Very bad.

The Wildcats pulled off the trifecta–the wrong way.

The women’s basketball team lost 87-73 to TCU, which serves K-State right, since coach Jeff Mittie dressed his team in black uniforms. Last I checked, black is not an official K-State color. PURPLE is K-State’s only official color, although idiots like Bob Huggins, Frank Martin, Bruce Weber, Brad Hill and now Mittie have taken liberty with the Wildcats’ palette and introduced black. ICK. If Bill Snyder ever brings out the Wildcats with something black, he will immediately be transported to the nearest psychiatric hospital. It isn’t happening.

The men’s basketball team led for much of its game vs. West Virginia, but the Mountaineers got out of Manhattan with an 87-83 double overtime victory. Given K-State’s pillow soft non-conference schedule, these are the type of games the Wildcats have to win in Big 12 play if they are to qualify for the NCAA tournament. There’s no way the Wildcats can hope ot beat Kansas, Oklahoma and Iowa State. They are clearly better than Texas Tech, Oklahoma State and TCU. It’s the games with Baylor, West Virginia and Texas which will tell the tale for Weber’s team.

The Wildcat football team couldn’t keep up with Arkansas, and lost the Liberty Bowl 45-23. The Wildcats got as close as 24-20 early in the third quarter, but the Razorbacks weren’t about to blow this one, given what had happened in September in stunning home losses to Toledo and Texas Tech. K-State frankly didn’t deserve to be in a bowl game, and it showed. The Wildcats finished the year 6-7, and the rumors are flying that Snyder will retire. He reportedly is very upset he has to take his team to Stanford to open the 2016 season. Snyder hates playing big-name opponents in non-conference games, and Stanford, which crushed Iowa in the Rose Bowl, certainly qualifies. At least the Wildcats have nine months to figure out how to stop Christian McCaffrey.

As bad as K-State’s three losses were, Kansas heaped more misery on the purple by routing Baylor 102-74 at Allen Fieldhouse. The Jayhawks will rise to No. 1 tomorrow when the new polls are released, and they will test that ranking immediately when Oklahoma, which defeated Iowa State 87-83 at Norman, comes to Lawrence at 8 p.m. tomorrow for Big Monday on ESPN.

The Big 12’s football fortunes improved significantly after dark.

TCU fell behind Oregon 31-0 at halftime, but even without quarterback Trevon Boykin (suspended) and receiver Josh Doctson (wrist), the Horned Frogs rallied and pulled it out 47-41 in triple overtime, tying the biggest comeback in bowl history. The Frogs tied Texas Tech in 2006, which trailed Minnesota by 31 but won 47-44 in overtime. That game cost Golden Gophers coach Glen Mason his job.

West Virginia picked up another one for the Big 12 by edging Arizona State 43-42 in the Cactus Bowl, played at Chase Field, home of the Arizona Diamondbacks. Mountaineer quarterback Skylar Howard threw for 532 yards and five touchdowns.

The losses by the Ducks and Sun Devils mean the SEC will finish with the best bowl winning percentage this season. The SEC is 8-2 with the Alabama-Clemson national championship game still to come. The lone setbacks for the SEC were Texas A&M (vs. Louisville) and Florida (vs. Michigan).

The NFL’s final week of regular season games will kick off in 10 minutes.

 

The K Zone

The groan you just heard came from Lawrence, Kansas. 

The Kansas Jayhawks have been assigned the Region of Death for the NCAA Tournament, as in the Midwest Region with the almighty Kentucky Wildcats, the prohibitive favorite to win the title for the second time in four years and 10th time overall.

Kansas has only itself to blame for its predicament. Had it not blown a 17-point lead vs. Iowa State yesteday in the Big 12 tournament championship game, in front a virtual home crowd at Kansas City’s Sprint Center, the Jayhawks almost certinaly would have avoided placement in Kentucky’s region, instead going to the South region with Duke as the No. 1 seed. And the Jayhawks certainly would have had more people in Houston that it will in Cleveland should it make the regional. 

Should the Jayhawks beat New Mexico State, it could lead to the dream game–at least as far as the fanbase at another Sunflower State school is concerned. 

Wichita State has tried time and time and time again to play Kansas (and Kansas State) in the regular season, but the Jayhawks refuse. 

I understand Bill Self’s reasoning. First, why would KU want to give up a home game with 16,300 fans for one in Wichita, where Koch Arena seats less than 11,000? Second, It’s a lose-lose propoistion for the Jayhawks. If they win, they’re supposed to, becuase they’re in the Big 12 and the Shockers are in the Missouri Valley. Third, why give Wichtia State a platform to recruit and take away the top blue chips in Kansas away from Lawrence? 

If Wichita State is that hard up to play KU, it should be at least a five-for-one deal, and the game in Wichita would have to be at the larger Intrust Bank Arena downtown, not at Koch. If one of the games is at Kansas City, so be it. But no way KU should go home-and-home with Wichita State.

K-State should not, either. Same reasoning. 

Until Wichita State learns to give a little, it will be stuck where it is. The Shockers are a perch above other mid-majors, but they are not a major school. Not without football. 

KU and Wichita State have played in the NCAA tournament before. In New Orleans. 

The Shockers and Jayhawks each won their second round regional games at the Kansas Coliseum in Park City in the 1981 tournament to advance to the Midwest regional semifinals at the Louisiana Superdome. The other teams in the regional would become bitter conference rivals down the road, LSU and Arkansas. 

The 1980-81 Shockers were the finest team the school produced, until the 2012-13 and 2013-14 units. Coach Gene Smithson had a powerful team led by All-Americans and future NBA players Antoine Carr and Cliff Levingston. Wichita State easily won the Missouri Valley Conference and was seeded third behind LSU and Arizona State in the regional.

KU was a solid, if unspectacular, unit in 1980-81, coached by Ted Owens, an outstanding coach who gets buried behind the headlines created by Naismith, Allen, Williams, Self and Larry Brown before and after him. Owens took the Jayahwks to the Final Four in 1971 and 1974, quite an achievement in the days when only one team per conference qualified for the NCAA tournament. 

The No. 7 seed Jayhawks beat Ole Miss in the first round, then upended the Sun Devils to join the Shockers, Razorbacks and Bayou Bengals in the Big Easy.

LSU fans have developed a healthy dislike for both KU and WSU through the years, but in 1980-81, the first Midwest semifinal was just a time killer before the main attraction.

What a time killer it was. The Shockers and Jayhawks engaged in one of the best games of the tournament, with little brother from the big city coming out on top–barely, 66-65. 

Coincidentally, K-State reached the 1981 West regional final under Jack Hartman despite being the No. 8 seed. The Wildcats shocked top ranked Oregon State in the second round and ousted Illinois in the Sweet 16 before falling to North Carolina, led by James Worthy, in the Elite Eight at Salt Lake City. 

WSU lost the Midwest regional final to LSU 96-85. Smithson would get the program put on major probation by the NCAA and fired, and it took Eddie Fogler several years to pull the Shockers out of the doldrums. It wasn’t until Mark Turgeon came along where WSU finally became a postseason contender year in and year out.

Owens was fired following two bad years in 1982 1nd 1983.  Larry Brown was hired from the New Jersey Nets and took the Jayhawks to five NCAA tournaments in five years, reaching hte Final Four in 1986 and winning it all in 1988. He bolted back to the NBA and the San Antonio Spurs shortly after the championship, well aware the NCAA was about to hammer KU for violations committed under Owens and himself. Roy Williams was left to clean up the mess. 

If KU and WSU meet Saturday in Louisville, the winner could have the unenviable task of taking on the mighty Big Blue from the Bluegrass. At least one team can say they made the Elite Eight if that happens.