Another college football season is upon us and all will be right in the world in a few short days. Cue up the fights songs, dust off your corn hole boards and fire up the grill. Tailgating season is here to stay! This is by far my favorite time of the year and it all starts this Thursday night when the Hoosiers host Ohio State at Memorial Stadium. There were a few games last weekend, but the real fun doesn’t start until Thursday.
The start of another football season signifies the time of the year where you can have a renewed sense of hope. Hope that your team might just make the College Football Playoffs. Hope that for just one perfectly aligned season, even your team can take home some hardware. Unfortunately, for football fans in the Hoosier state, it’s hard to have much hope this year. The three major football programs in the state are all in transition phases. Indiana and Purdue both in the first season with a new coach and Notre Dame possibly in the last season of their current coach.
Indiana gets the distinct pleasure of opening the season with the Ohio State Buckeyes. A tall task for a new coach. Although he was on staff as the defensive coordinator, Tom Allen was tabbed by Indiana University Athletic Director Fred Glass after their former coach, Kevin Wilson, submitted his resignation in December of 2016. A lot has been made about the reasons why Wilson left, but it seems that he was asked to resign or he’d be fired. Rumor has it that there were issues with the way Coach Wilson handled player injuries.
A tough way to end the year for Indiana who went to back-to-back bowl games and felt like a program really bringing themselves back to relevancy. Nonetheless, Coach Allen will host the Buckeyes on Thursday night for the season opener. Regardless of the how the season goes this year, IU should be happy they get to share the spotlight Thursday night when the #2 team in the country comes to Bloomington. No, the Hoosiers won’t win, but coming off of two straight bowl appearances and getting the Buckeyes to start the college football year at home in primetime should help the Hoosiers continue to build on their recent momentum.
From one school building off of recent momentum to another that has fallen into the doldrums of the Big Team Conference, Purdue hopes to start the rebuild with new Head Coach Jeff Brohm. Coach Brohm joins the Boilermakers after going 30-10 as the Western Kentucky head coach. A former quarterback himself, I’m sure he’d love to be the guy to rejuvenate the “Cradle of Quarterbacks” moniker that has been dormant since Drew Brees, Curtis Painter and Kyle Orton.
The Boilermakers have been as bad as it gets over the last four seasons going 9-39 in that span. They will open the 2017 season against Louisville in Indianapolis at Lucas Oil Stadium. What a way to start the 2017 season for a program that needs to focus on small victories this year. For Coach Brohm, he gets a chance to start his tenure against his alma mater where he played quarterback. If anyone has a shot at reviving the “Cradle of Quarterbacks”, Brohm seems like a good candidate. He claims the Boilermakers will play an exciting style of football that features the quarterback’s strengths. While at Western Kentucky, the Hilltoppers broke 75 offensive records since 2013 under Brohm. The Boilermakers should put some points up in years to come.
Opening the season as the head coach of a new team going up against your alma mater at Lucas Oil Stadium sounds like a dream come true for Coach Brohm. Unfortunately, it will be more like a nightmare. Louisville is a really good team being lead by the 2016 Heisman Trophy winner Lamar Jackson. Saturday probably won’t be pretty for the Boilermakers, but for the first time in the last four years, there should be an obvious direction for this team. They won’t win many games this year, but Jeff Brohm seems like a good candidate to help turn this program around.
Which brings me to probably the most disappointing team of the three understanding what expectations come with the University of Notre Dame. Coming off a 4-8 season in 2016, Brian Kelly’s seat is so hot he could use it as a space heater on the sidelines for another South Bend winter.
In the wake of the embarrassment that was 2016, Kelly revamped basically his entire coaching staff. When you’re as bad as the Fighting Irish were in 2016, a cleaning of house is really the only thing that could happen by keeping Brian Kelly at the helm. Notre Dame Athletic Director Jack Swarbrick should have fired Brian Kelly at the end of 2016. He didn’t and Coach Kelly now has to show Swarbrick that last year was an anomaly.
The cards just aren’t in Kelly’s favor this year. Another year and another starting quarterback. If you’ve watched just a few minutes of Notre Dame football under Kelly you know exactly why. The guy is a quarterback killer. He breaks them down just as quickly as he builds them into a bona fide starter. It’s very difficult for a young quarterback to withstand two years of Brian Kelly let alone four. Somehow, former Irish quarterback Tommy Rees managed to stick around and even came back this year to be Kelly’s quarterback coach. The kid must be a real glutton for punishment.
All kidding aside, Kelly has had a great deal of success in his time at Notre Dame and over his entire coaching tenure. His 149 victories since 2001 are second and third in the FBS to only Bob Stoops and Urban Meyer. The guy can coach, but he will eventually overstay his welcome. Irish fans hope that after going 4-8 Kelly is taking a different approach and could be part of a career resurgence. He certainly does seem to have changed his tone by actually taking full credit for how bad the Irish were last year. Brian Kelly is usually the guy pointing the finger at others, not himself.
The schedule isn’t impossible, but there are a lot of losable games on the slate. If Kelly can wake up the echoes and win 8-10 games this year perhaps the resurrection is possible and he can bring ND back to the forefront of college football. If not, and he only wins 5-7 games this year I’d say the Brian Kelly era ends and the Bob Stoops to Notre Dame chants start to drown Kelly out of a job and out of South Bend.