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Posts Tagged ‘Willie Taggart’

‘Toppers Can Win, Even in (Lopsided) Defeat

I love what Willie Taggart has achieved over two-plus years at Western Kentucky, but I don’t love it that much – you know, enough to pick Taggart and the Hilltoppers to give Alabama much of a challenge on Saturday afternoon. But could it happen? Could Western Kentucky come up and bite the Crimson Tide in the same way it roughhoused with Kentucky for 60 minutes last September, eventually losing, 14-3, but raising the question of whether or not the Wildcats were actually part of the SEC? There’s a chance, seeing that the Hilltoppers did hang with L.S.U. for a half last November.

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    No. 85: Western Kentucky

    Sometime between questioning Kentucky’s manhood and losing by 30 points at home to Indiana State, the Hilltoppers learned how to play a little football. No, that’s not right. Western Kentucky’s growth didn’t occur overnight, all of a sudden, as a result of one momentum-changing win or loss. The program’s growth dates back to its first practice under Willie Taggart more than two years ago – exact date: March, 23, 2010 – and last year’s torrid finish merely represents the end result of many days and weeks in search of a winning formula. Taggart and the Hilltoppers have found the key. It goes a little something like this: run the football. That’s it. Gloriously simple, this, and wonderfully easy to follow. Just run, eroding away at the will of the opposition while keeping your defense off the field. While Sun Belt foes like Arkansas State and Louisiana-Lafayette made noise by reinventing the wheel, W.K.U. took a page out of a decades-old playbook. Beauty points don’t matter when you’ve lost 32 of your last 36 games.

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      Eight Under-the-Radar Coaching Jobs

      Yesterday’s post on Louisville placed an emphasis on the coaching job Charlie Strong did last fall, if not over his first two seasons with the program altogether. Sometimes, as I noted, seven wins means more than just seven wins: Louisville matched its 2010 mark for victories, but doing so when given the team’s sour start and overwhelming youth makes another bowl trip quite the impressive feat for Strong and his staff. Praising Strong’s work in 2011 underscores the idea that the best coaching job in the country is often not done by the coach who wins a national title, or the coach who wins the SEC; often enough, the best coaching job is done by one who takes the youngest team in the country, one that started 2-4, and wins seven games.

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        All These Coaches Want For Christmas Is…

        What I’m expecting for Christmas: socks, books, a sweater and an assortment of home goods. What I want for Christmas: toys — I think I still want toys for Christmas. What I’ll get for Christmas: socks, books, a sweater and an assortment of home goods. I still remember when I got laser tag as a kid; that was special. Now? It’s still special, but more so for the family time than the presents. So I’ve grown up — or grown old, or some combination of the two. And you can’t always get what you want: just ask some of college football’s best coaches, who asked for something they really want and need for Christmas but will likely end up with socks, books — maybe not books, actually — a sweater and an assortment of home goods.

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          Rewarding Taggart, Even if Bowls Won’t

          As noted yesterday, Western Kentucky did not earn a bowl bid despite finishing second in the Sun Belt. In addition, the Hilltoppers beat both Florida International and Louisiana-Lafayette, the two non-S.B.C. champions that earned two of the conference’s three bowl tie-ins, joining Arkansas State. Unfair, to put it lightly. And that Western Kentucky is staying home in December underlines the fact that when it comes to bowl selection, it really doesn’t matter what your final record is, let alone your head-to-head record against those teams also jostling for lower-tier bowl position.

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            Giving Some Thanks for Football in 2011

            This is a time to give thanks. Without further ado, 10 things about college football to be thankful for in 2011:

            1. That Robert Griffin III chose Baylor Griffin III eschewed offers from Tennessee, Nebraska and Houston, among others, to be the crown jewel of Art Briles’ debut recruiting class — and, more than likely, the jewel recruit of Briles’ career. What Griffin III is doing at Baylor, and how he’s doing it, has rapidly become the stuff of legend. And that he opted to play in Waco, for a program long considered a college football wasteland, has led to near universal praise, not the sort of nitpicking lobbed at the rest of football’s elite quarterbacking class — Andrew Luck, for instance.

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              No. 109: Western Kentucky

              Take your time, Western Kentucky. The process of moving from the F.C.S. to the F.B.S. is a slow and laborious procedure, one that involves patience and thoroughness, not speed and impetuousness. Well, maybe a little faster. Just pick up the pace a bit. You’re getting there, come on, one step at a time. Nearly one win at a time, in fact: two to zero and back to two in three years. Alright, if you keep up this pace we’ll see you in bowl play in 2014 or thereabouts — in other words, it’s time to get moving. One real measure of progress, if you put trust in one prognosis: from 120 to 120 to 118 to 109 on the Countdown. Now that’s the type of slow and laborious process I’m talking about.

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                Meanwhile, In the Sun Belt…

                Two straight posts with ellipses in the headline? That’s an awful poor precedent to set. They’re unavoidable in this case, as the ellipses suggest the unknown landscape that is Sun Belt football from the end of one regular season until the start of another: few teams make major noise, and any news that may issue out from a Sun Belt denizen quickly dissipates once a major team from a major conference does anything of consequence. So what’s happening in the Sun Belt as the conference begins to look towards the summer?

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                  The Countdown

                  A bottom-to-top assessment of the F.B.S. landscape heading into the 2012 season.