December 08, 2015 - Greg Gabriel
The College and NFL Football Weekend Review
College Football The Conference Championships went just as expected with Alabama winning the SEC, Michigan State winning the Big Ten, Clemson winning the ACC and Stanford winning the PAC 12. If there was a surprise it was that Iowa played Michigan State a lot closer than I thought they would. That said, Kirk Ferentz and his staff do as good a job as any preparing his team for big games. Iowa might not have the talent that Michigan State had, but they just might be the best coached team in America. I also felt that North Carolina gave Clemson a better game than many had anticipated. Just as Oklahoma saved their best football for the last half of the season, so did North Carolina. The Tar Heels deserve a much better Bowl game than the Russell Athletic Bowl against a faltering Baylor. As for the playoff pairings, I like both games and I felt the seeding was perfect. Some people felt that Oklahoma should have been the third seed over Michigan State. Their feeling was the Committee wasn’t going to let Oklahoma play in Dallas which would have been very close to home. In my opinion, that thought process is nonsense! The Big Ten this year was a FAR superior conference to the Big 12, and Michigan State winning that conference deserved the higher seed. Had Iowa won the Big Ten, my thinking would have been the same. While Big 12 fans won’t agree, their conference is the worst of the Power 5 top to bottom. As for the other top Bowl games, I feel the Fiesta Bowl with Notre Dame playing Ohio State and the Rose Bowl with Stanford playing Iowa are the best ones. Both of those games have teams that were close to being in the playoff. If the playoff had been an eight team affair, Iowa, Stanford, Ohio State and Notre Dame would most likely have been the additional four teams. The NFL If it wasn’t clear to everyone, Carolina is the best team in the NFL this year. They may not be the most talented in the league on paper but they are far and away the best coached team. Head Coach Ron Rivera does an outstanding job keeping his club with the right mindset. They take one game at a time instead of just waiting for the playoffs. One of the keys to Carolina’s success is their coaching staff. These guys don’t get enough public credit for the job they do. Once the regular season is over, it is expected that there will be a number of job openings at both the Head Coach level and the General Manager level. Carolina has three coaches who may be on interview lists for Head Coach Openings. The three are Offensive Coordinator Mike Shula, Defensive Coordinator Sean McDermott and Assistant Head Coach/Secondary Coach Steve Wilks. Shula has spent over 20 years in the league as a position coach and a coordinator. The job he has done for Carolina is nothing short of outstanding. Since Shula has been running the Carolina offense he has always had to overcome serious injuries to players at key positions yet this team just keeps on winning. Carolina has won the NFL South three straight years and Shula is a huge reason why. He also gets the credit for the development of Cam Newton. Newton is one of the few college spread quarterbacks who have had success in the NFL. Newton’s play this year could very well earn him NFL Player of the Year honors and much of the credit for that play has to go to Shula. Sean McDermott has been a top Defensive Coordinator for years. Like Shula, McDermott has had to overcome many injuries each year/week in order to get his players ready to play. In 2014, the Panther defense was rated second in the league. McDermott is smart and well organized as well as a strong leader. He will be atop many teams potential head coach lists. Steve Wilks is the unsung star of the group. Wilks has spent 10 years in the NFL all as a secondary coach with Chicago, San Diego and Carolina. This is his first year as Assistant Head Coach. At the college level, Wilks has been both a defensive coordinator and a head coach. He spent three seasons as the defensive coordinator at FCS East Tennessee State and was the Head Coach at Division II Savannah State in 1999. In all three NFL stops, Wilks defensive backs have been very aggressive and have done a great job creating turnovers. Wilks also does an outstanding job developing players. At Chicago, he was the one who got Pro Bowler Charles Tillman to get to a high level. At Carolina he has developed Josh Norman. Norman who is only in his fourth season just may be the best corner in football right now. Being that he is a former fifth round draft choice, the development of Norman speaks highly of Wilks skills as a coach. While it is difficult for a coach who is not a coordinator to get a head coaching interview, don’t be surprised to see Wilks name come up next month.