Marc Daniels Monday Notebook: Turnovers, More Turnovers And The $86M Buyout

UCF v Louisville

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The stage was set for UCF. The Knights saw a path back to a New Year's Six bowl sitting at 5-1 and 2-0 in the AAC. But UCF knew there was a challenging stretch of games that included three of four on the road and a slate that included a pair of ranked teams in Cincinnati and Tulane. But the first of the four saw UCF travel to Greenville to face a talented East Carolina team that should have beaten NC State to start the season and lost in overtime to Navy. There was buzz that if Cincinnati and UCF could win Saturday, ESPN GameDay may have returned to Orlando this coming week after making an appearance in 2018 before that matchup between the Knights and Bearcats.

Cincinnati did their part hanging to win on the road at SMU in Dallas earlier in the day. But UCF could not keep up their end of the bargain. The Knights turned it over four times and fell hard to ECU 34-13. Quarterback John Rhys Plumlee had played well for two straight games throwing for almost 700 yards and 6 touchdowns with no interceptions. But in his first out-of-state start, Plumlee struggled throwing three picks and fumbling on a key run deep into ECU territory. The Pirates' quarterback, Holton Ahlers, had not beaten UCF in four previous tries. But on Saturday night he outperformed Plumlee going 30-for-36 for 311 yards while passing for a score and rushing for one.

UCF had turned the ball over just seven times in their first six games and the defense allowed just three points off those turnovers. Plumlee's three first half turnovers led to 17 ECU points. But UCF battled back to make it 17-10 with an early third quarter touchdown. The Pirates faced third and four at their own 42. Needing a stop, UCF's defense saw ECU's CJ Johnson make a sensational catch on a 50-50 ball against UCF defensive back Justion Hodges for a gain of 25. Four plays later East Carolina was in the end zone and the lead was back at 14. UCF punted its next two possessions and never got back in the game.

Now sitting at 5-2, 2-1, UCF still controls its destiny in the AAC. It likely needs to win out to secure a spot in the conference title game but the challenge remains as Cincinnati comes to town this weekend before road games at Memphis and Tulane. There is no game UCF can't win but there are no guarantees it will win every game. Plumlee needs a big bounceback game this week against a tough Cincinnati defense. A win and the Knights could make a run to double digit wins. A loss and the goal of a conference title likely slips away. GameDay or not, Saturday is UCF's biggest game of the year...

Watching twitter while Miami got rolled by Duke and there were angry Canes' fans and defenders of the program. There were many pointing a finger at Manny Diaz for the team he left for Mario Cristobal. And others saying it was Mario's first season and what did people expect. Just a quick reminder that Duke was 3-9 in 2021 and Mike Elko is in his first season at Duke and they are 5-3. The Canes committed eight turnovers in their 45-21 loss that saw Duke score 28 straight points. The Canes now sit at 3-4 and all of the sudden it gets a bit tougher to find three more wins to get Miami to a bowl. 

Cristobal deserves time to build his roster and he's not going anywhere after asn $80M contract. But the Canes should be better. They have dealt with injuries but this was one, along with Middle Tennessee State, where Miami should win and 5-2 is much more acceptable by a fan base who expected the team to compete for a division title...

Texas A&M "money people" felt Jimbo Fisher needed more guaranteed money and they gave him an extension and they gave him millions of dollars to go get talent and in return the Aggies are 3-4, 1-3 and look lost. They fell to an improving South Carolina team on Saturday. They have Ole Miss, Florida, Auburn, UMass and LSU left on the schedule and Jimbo might be hard pressed to find three more wins. But just what are those big donors thinking about the state of the program? This is year five and Fisher has lost at least four games in all but one season. His offense is struggling and he can't find a quarterback to replace Kellen Mond. Fisher has reeled in some big recruiting classes but many wonder what Texas A&M's transfer list might look like after this season and what happens to a highly rated class that is expected to sign in December. But where is Texas A&M to go? If Fisher had 2-3 years left on a contract most think he would be gone by the end of the year, but he has $86M left on his deal. As deep as the pockets are at Texas A&M, no one is buying out that contract. 

After the South Carolina loss Fisher said: “You can’t panic but you have urgency. There’s no panic but you have to have the urgency and the resiliency to fix it and we have to do it as coaches and evaluate and make sure we’re doing the right things in what we’re doing. Making sure our explanations are right and get them in the right situations.”

What else is Fisher supposed to say? But in the "pay-for-play" era your biggest supporters are louder and more powerful than ever. But with $86M left on a deal, Fisher remains as strong as ever in his position, but the room is indeed uncomfortable and holiday parties will be awkward...

Nuggets: ESPN GameDay is headed to Jackson State this weekend and Deion Sanders is the star of the show. With much speculation about Deion's next move, Sanders knows this is a showcase of him and his coaching ability but also his ability to light a fire to a program and bring his flash to lure recruits. Sanders will not take a job he knows you can't win and he won't take a job where a group of boosters dictate who he hires and controls the program. Deion's fame and fortune give him the position to pick the right job. I don't think Sanders will go to Auburn if/when that job opens because he knows others run the program. Not sure Georgia Tech is the place either, despite his history in Atlanta. Wisconsin and Nebraska will not be places Deion goes either. So where? We know the job Deion wants and we know there are fans that want him. FSU sits 4-3 and I think Mike Norvell has done a solid job in building his program. But he faces an interesting final five games. The Noles have Georgia Tech, Miami, Syracuse, Louisiana and Florida. They might win four of those games and finish 8-4. They could also finish 6-6. I don't believe Mike Norvell should be let go if they finish 6-6 but I am not making decisions about FSU and its future. Deion believes he can win a national title at FSU and you know he believes he could recruit at the highest level in Tallahassee. It will be interesting to see how FSU's season finishes and where the Deion rumors swirl...No one mentions TCU among teams that can make the playoff but the Horned Frogs are 7-0 and have beaten four straight teams that were ranked when they played them. At the moment, none of their remaining opponents are ranked( West Virginia, Texas Tech, Texas, Baylor, Iowa State). But if TCU runs the table and sits 13-0 can you really leave them out and take a 12-1 or 11-1 SEC team over them? Then again, TCU saw the playoff committee leave them out in 2014 when they dropped TCU from third to sixth after a win in their final ranking...

Final note: A horned frog is a reptile with scales and claws and produces on land and often found in desert lands.

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