Maryland fires Friedgen, may have Leach in its crosshairs

AUSTIN, TX - SEPTEMBER 19:  Head coach Mike Leach of the Texas Tech Red Raiders during play against the Texas Longhorns at Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium on September 19, 2009 in Austin, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

Ralph Friedgen has been fired as Maryland’s football coach according to He’ll receive $2 million to cover the final year of his contract and he’ll leave the program after compiling a 74-50 record in 10 years at his alma mater.

ESPN also reports that former Texas Tech coach Mike Leach is Maryland’s top choice to replace Friedgen.

Leach has already had discussions with potential members of a Maryland coaching staff and has the strong support of Under Armour, the Baltimore-based athletic apparel company run by a former Maryland player, sources told ESPN’s Joe Schad. Maryland considered hiring Leach after last season but it would have cost too much to terminate the contracts of Friedgen and former coach-in-waiting James Franklin and hire Leach, a source told Schad.

Leach and Maryland were discussing a deal last year that could have paid him in the range of $2.5 million a season. It is believed Maryland will try to complete a deal with Leach as quickly as possible, a source told Schad.

Leach would be an interesting fit because Maryland always has talent. I don’t think recruiting would be an issue although it may take a couple of years for Leach to compile the players to run his offense. We’ll see if the Leach-Maryland marriage comes to fruition over these next couple of weeks now that Friedgen has been let go.

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College Football Week 13 Primer

Top 25 vs. Top 25:

Sam Bradford
No. 2 Texas Tech at No. 5 Oklahoma, 8:00 PM ET ABC
Raise your hand if you don’t appreciate what the Big 12 has given us this year and I’ll come over and punch you square in the mouth. The Big 12 has handed us game of the year matchups virtually every week this season and this week is no exception. Many college football pundits have had this Saturday circled on their calendars as the day when Texas Tech finally falls. Oklahoma has stumbled only once this year (vs. previously top ranked Texas on October 11), but outside of that no other team has come close to knocking them off. The Sooners have averaged over 50 points a game, but they’ll take on a much-improved Red Raider defense this week in Norman. OU is going to score points, but can they stop Heisman hopefuls Graham Harrell and Michael Crabtree? No defense in the nation (not even Texas) has slowed down the dynamic duo yet and it’s hard to believe that anyone will at this point. Still, the Sooners will be looking to avenge last year’s 34-27 loss to Tech in Lubbock. In that game, No. 4 ranked OU lost Sam Bradford early in the first half and allowed Crabtree to haul in 12 passes for 154 yards and one touchdown. Oddsmakers have established Oklahoma as a 7-point favorite, but one has to believe that this is going to go down to the wire.

No. 14 Brigham Young at No. 7 Utah, 6:00 PM ET
No love for the Mountain West – this one won’t even be shown on national TV despite huge ramifications for the Utes. A MWC title and a possible BCS at-large bid is on the line in this game as Utah has another opportunity to justify their high ranking. Before being upset by TCU, BYU expected to be where Utah currently is – ranked in the top 10. The Cougars will have to overcome a stingy Utes defense that is damn near impossible to run against, yielding just 3.0 yards per carry. The onus for BYU in this game will be on quarterback Max Hall to carry the offense, while the Cougar defense will have its hands full with Brian Johnson. Considering this will be yet another tightly contested game, the Utes should be prepared. They’ve got five wins this year by seven or fewer points, including their nail biting 13-10 win over TCU three weeks ago. Oddsmakers have made BYU a 6.5-point underdog.

No. 15 Michigan State at No. 8 Penn State, 3:30 PM ET ABC
How sad is it that in the same week of Ohio State-Michigan, this is the best matchup in the Big Ten. Penn State’s win over Indiana may have looked like a blowout, but the Lions struggled with Hoosiers in the first half. Truth be told, PSU’s offense hasn’t looked that impressive in weeks. After reaching the end zone 12 times threw the air in their first fives games, the Lions have managed just five touchdown passes in their last six contests. The Spartans struggled in their last Big Ten statement game (a 45-7 drubbing at the hands of Ohio State on October 18), but Brian Hoyer (548 yards, 5 TDs in two games vs. PSU) has really stepped up of late and is putting together a nice season. Of course, all eyes will be on RB Javon Ringer. Ringer is third in the nation in rushing and if MSU’s massive offensive line can open up holes for the small back, Sparty will have an opportunity to keep PSU’s spread offense off the field and possibly walk away with an upset. Penn State is a 14.5-point favorite at home.

No. 20 Pittsburgh at No. 19 Cincinnati, 7:00 PM ET ESPN2
The job head coach Brian Kelly (who I suggested should be a candidate to replace Phillip Fulmer at Tennessee) has done this year in Cincinnati despite losing three quarterbacks has been remarkable. To keep the Bearcats afloat in the Big East is outstanding it speaks volumes about Kelly being a true winner. Speaking of the Big East, first place is on the line in this game as Cincy will try to avenge its 24-17 loss to PITT last year by throwing early and often. The Panthers have struggled against teams with like to attack downfield and Tony Pike has played very well lately in Kelly’s offense. The mission is clear for Cincinnati: Win the next two games at home and claim the Big East title. PITT is a 5-point underdog.

Upset Watch:

Graham HarrellNo. 2 Texas Tech at No. 5 Oklahoma, 8:00 PM ET ABC
As previously mentioned, there’s a ton of folks waiting for the Red Raiders to fall this year, but I’ve already bought into the hype. No defense has even remotely slowed down Harrell or Crabtree and while Bradford and the OU offense can go toe to toe with anyone, I say Tech walks away with a straight up upset. Of course, they may need to score 60 points to win.

Other Notable Games:

Michigan at No. 10 Ohio State, 12:00 PM ET ABC
This could be the worst Michigan-Ohio State matchup in the history of this rivalry. If the Buckeyes don’t beat the Wolverines by more than four touchdowns, Jim Tressel should resign. Michigan has never found a way to stop a mobile quarterback, so Terrelle Pryor should find life pretty easy this week at the Horse Shoe.

Florida State at No. 25 Maryland, 7:45 PM ET
Does any team want to win the ACC? The Terps have provided some great upsets this season, but they don’t seem to fare well when favored. Still, their rushing attack matches up well against a solid Seminole front seven and this is one of the more underrated matchups of the week.

No. 21 Oregon State at Arizona, 7:00 PM ET
The Beavers can still punch a ticket to Pasadena this year, but they’ll need to get past a Wildcat team that gave USC fits a couple weeks ago.

Week 12 College Football Primer

Top 25 vs. Top 25
Tim TebowNo. 25 South Carolina at. No. 4 Florida, 3:30 PM ET CBS
After they were shocked by Ole’ Miss and turned in a lackluster performance in a win over Arkansas, the Gators trounced LSU, Kentucky, Georgia and Vanderbilt in convincing fashion. Nothing against the three teams ranked higher, but Florida might be the best team in college football right now. Tim Tebow has resurrected his Heisman candidacy after rushing for five touchdowns and accounting for 424 total yards in the Gators’ 51-31 win over the Gamecocks last year. But Steve Spurrier’s squad has been one of the hottest teams in the nation over the past couple of weeks. The rotation of Stephen Garcia and Chris Smelley at quarterback has lifted South Carolina and the defense has played inspired. This is a better matchup than most think, although it’s highly possibly that Florida could roll with how well they’ve played over the past month. Expect the Gators to use this as another statement game leading up to their huge battle with Alabama in the SEC Championship Game December 6.

Upset Watch:
Maryland TerpsNo. 16 North Carolina at Maryland, 3:30 PM ET ABC
The Terps have clearly been a different team at home than on the road where they’re 4-0 and averaging 25.5 points per game as opposed to 1-3 and 11.75 PPG on the road. Maryland has also won five straight against ranked opponents the past two years and still control their own destiny in the ACC Atlantic. Three wins in their final three games would send the Terps to the ACC title game, which is amazing considering this was the same team that got drubbed 31-0 by Virginia. If Maryland is going to pull off the upset they’ll need to get Da’Rel Scott and Davin Meggett going in the running game because putting the ball in the air against the Tar Heels is a risky proposition. UNC has one of the best ball hawking defenses in the nation and has forced opponents into mistakes all season. If the Terps play things close to the vest offensively and rely on their defense to win the game, an upset could be in the making.

Other notable games:
Mississippi State at No. 1 Alabama, 7:45 PM ET
It’s highly unlikely the Tide lose focus against a 3-6 Mississippi State team, but the Bulldogs did pull off one of the better upsets of the year when they crushed previously No. 13 Vanderbilt 34-3.

No. 3 Texas at Kansas, 12:30 PM ET
The Longhorns try to keep in the national title hunt while the Jayhawks look to end the season as quickly as possible.

No. 10 Georgia at Auburn, 12:30 PM ET
This is one of the more underrated rivalries in the SEC.

“Jekyll and Hyde” Maryland strikes for another upset

Chris TurnerOver the past couple years, the most two-faced program in college football has to be the Maryland Terps. One week they’re losing to Middle Tennessee State and the next they’re beating a ranked California team. Then another week they get crushed 31-0 at Virginia, only to bounce back and rout the No. 21 team.

That No. 21 team in the nation was (emphasis on was) the Wake Forest Demon Deacons, who laid an egg in College Park on Saturday, falling to a near flawless Maryland team, 26-0. Terps’ QB Chris Turner was impressive in the victory, completing 28 of 41 passes for 321 yards and a touchdown, while junior wideout Darrius Heyward-Bey hauled in 11 catches for 101 yards and a score.

Getting back to Maryland’s inconsistencies – they have to be the most perplexing team in the ACC. They obviously have enough talent to compete and they continue to be incredibly tough to beat at home, but for some reason they can never get over the hump. Whether the blame falls on the coaches for not getting their team focused week in and week out or the players just aren’t executing, the bottom line is that the Terps are good enough to be ranked every year, yet continue to underachieve on so many levels.

Surprised by all the upsets in college football? Don’t be.

As I’m sure some of you were this past Saturday, I sat on my couch in utter amazement at what I was watching go down in college football.

Maryland beat Clemson?

Navy is on top of Wake Forest??

Mississippi might knock off Florida???

USC lost to Oregon State????

Oregon State-USCOkay, so we knew that last outcome because it happened on Thursday night. And we shouldn’t have been that surprised when upsets happen in college football because, well, upsets happen in college football.

But the reason they’re happening this year is more prevalent than in years past: From smaller to big-time programs, the talent level is better across the nation.

Ole’ Miss isn’t afraid to walk into Gainesville these days because they have players like Jevan Snead and Shay Hodge that can compete with Tim Tebow and Percy Harvin. The Beavers could care less that the Trojans are the top ranked program in the nation not just because they beat USC in Corvallis two years ago, but also because quarterback Lyle Moevao and freshman running back Jacquizz Rodgers can play for just about any team in the nation.

Granted, Florida is going to beat Mississippi on most Saturdays and that’s why the Gators were No. 5 in the nation and the Rebels weren’t anywhere near the top 25 coming into weekend. Voters are often clueless, but they’re competent enough to recognize that the Gators and Trojans have more overall depth and talent than the Rebels and Beavers. But the fact of the matter is that the mid-level programs have caught up dramatically over the years.

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