Silly Season: Sparty hires Smith, Aggies go with Elko

Silly Season: Sparty hires Smith, Aggies go with Elko

With nearly every FBS team completing its regular season on Saturday, the Silly Season is upon us. Let’s get you caught up on what went down over the last 48 hours and what we could see happen in the next few days.

Let’s start in East Lansing, where Michigan State is replacing Mel Tucker with Jonathan Smith, who did a masterful job at Oregon St. over the last six seasons.

The 44-year-old Smith, who released this statement via his X account early Friday afternoon, led the Beavers to an 8-4 record this year. They started 8-2 before losing back-to-back games vs. Washington and at Oregon.

Smith took over in 2018 after Gary Andersen bolted on the program early in the 2017 campaign that ended with a disastrous 1-11 record. In his first year, Oregon St. went 2-10.

The Beavers were money makers in 2019, though, going 5-7 straight up and 8-3-1 against the spread. In Year 3, OSU finished 2-5 SU and 4-3 ATS.

In 2021, Smith led the Beavers to their first bowl game since 2013 and they went 7-6 both SU and ATS. They enjoyed a breakout 2022 campaign, going 10-3 SU and 11-2 ATS with a 30-3 win over Florida at the Las Vegas Bowl.

Smith’s tenure at OSU ends with a 34-35 SU record and a 40-28-1 ATS mark.

With an uncertain future after being left out of the most recent conference realignment moves that began when the Pac-12 unraveled, it won’t be easy for OSU to hire a new head coach. Some potential candidates might include current DC Trent Bray, former Auburn and Boise St. HC Bryan Harsin, former Washington St. and Hawaii HC Nick Rolovich, former Virginia and BYU HC Bronco Mendenhall and current BYU HC Kalani Sitake.

According to multiple reports, Texas A&M appeared to be on the verge of hiring Mark Stoops away from Kentucky late Saturday night, but that didn’t happen. Then late Sunday afternoon, the Aggies hired former DC Mike Elko away from Duke.

The 46-year-old Elko was spectacular in his two seasons with the Blue Devils. He replaced David Cutcliffe, who had gone 2-9 and 3-9 in his final two years in Durham.

Elko led Duke to a 9-4 SU record and a 10-3 ATS mark in his first year at the helm. The Blue Devils won six games by double-digit margins, including a 30-13 win over UCF in the Military Bowl, and all four of their losses came in one-possession games.

Then Duke started 4-0 this year going into a home game vs. Notre Dame. The Fighting Irish held on to win a 21-14 decision, and the Blue Devils saw star QB Riley Leonard go down with an ankle injury late in the fourth quarter.

Nevertheless, Duke spanked NC St. 24-3 without Leonard in its next game. Leonard returned for a 38-20 loss at FSU, but he had to leave the game in the third quarter when his team was leading. Leonard played in a loss at Louisville the following week, but he’s been sidelined since with a toe injury.

Without its star QB, Duke still managed to post home wins over Wake Forest (24-21) and Pitt (30-19) to finish the regular season with a 7-5 SU record and a 6-6 ATS ledger. Some potential candidates to replace Elko could include current OC Kevin Johns, North Carolina DC Gene Chizik, James Madison HC Curt Cignetti, Toledo HC Jason Candle and Tulane HC Willie Fritz.

Houston is looking for a new leader after handing Dana Holgorsen a pink slip. The Cougars struggled to a 4-8 record in their debut season in the Big 12.

‘Holgo’ had two losing seasons, 4-8 in 2019 and 3-5 in 2020, to start his tenure at UH after being hired away from West Virginia. But the Cougars went 12-2 in 2021 and 8-5 in 2022, winning bowl games in both seasons. Nevertheless, UH clearly didn’t like what it saw this season and decided to make a move.

Candidates to replace Holgo could include UTSA’s Jeff Traylor, Colorado OC Sean Lewis and Texas St. HC G.J. Kinne.

Mississippi St. hired Oklahoma OC Jeff Lebby to replace Zach Arnett, who was fired before the end of his first year as HC. Lebby is a first-time HC after previously serving on staffs under Josh Heupel at UCF, Lane Kiffin at Ole Miss and Brent Venables at Oklahoma.

Other vacancies include Syracuse, Indiana, Boise St., UTEP, New Mexico and San Diego St. There was some speculation that Dan Mullen could be in play to replace Dino Babers at Syracuse, but he shot down that notion with a post on his X account.

Indiana fired Tom Allen after seven seasons despite a hefty $20 million buyout. The Hoosiers lost three consecutive one-possession games to finish the year 3-9 SU and 7-5 ATS.

Allen’s best seasons came in 2019 (8-5 both SU and ATS) and 2020 when IU went 6-1 in the regular season and was ranked seventh in the nation going into a 26-20 loss to Ole Miss at the Outback Bowl. However, the Hoosiers went 2-10 in 2021 and 4-8 in 2022.

Candidates to replace Allen could include names like Washington OC Ryan Grubb, South Alabama HC Kane Wommack, Troy HC Jon Sumrall and Alabama OC Tommy Rees. According to The Athletic’s Bruce Feldman, Grubb could also be in play at San Diego St.

Wommack is a former Indiana DC who went 10-3 last season and led the Jaguars to a 33-7 win at Oklahoma St. in September. Sumrall has led Troy to a 22-4 record in his first two years.

Feldman also suggested that a wild card candidate for the Hoosiers could be Jon Gruden, who has connections to the school where his father Jim was an assistant for Lee Corso back in the 1970s.

**B.E.’s Bonus Nuggets**

-It wasn’t all bad news for the Beavers over the weekend. Star RB Damien Martinez announced that he’ll be returning for the 2024 campaign.

-Vandy QB Ken Seals has entered the transfer portal. Seals will have two seasons of eligibility remaining.

-Colorado QB Shedeur Sanders didn’t play in his team’s regular-season finale at Utah due to a fracture in his back that was sustained in a loss at Washington St.

-Florida TE Jonathan Odom has entered the transfer portal.

-Texas A&M QB Max Johnson has entered the transfer portal.