Florida Atlantic hires Tom Herman as head coach

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BOCA RATON, Fla. – Former Texas and Houston head coach Tom Herman will take over at Florida Atlantic as it heads into its first season in the American Athletic Conference.

The hire comes just days after FAU fired Willie Taggart, who went 15-18 in his three seasons with the Owls. Details of the contract with Herman were not immediately available.

“We are incredibly excited to welcome Tom Herman to Paradise,” FAU Director of Athletics Brian White said Thursday. “Throughout the process and the more we talked with Coach Herman, the more it became apparent to me that he was the right person to lead our football program. Beyond his knowledge of the game, which is obvious by his success over the years, he also truly cares about the young people in his program.”

FAU’s final season in Conference USA ended with a 5-7 record and an overtime loss to Western Kentucky. The Owls will be in the American next season.

Herman returns to college football after spending the 2021 season with the Chicago Bears as an offensive analyst.

Herman was 22-4 at Houston, a mark that helped him land the head coaching job at Texas where he went 32-18 with four straight bowl trips in 2017-2020. He also was an offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at Ohio State during the Buckeyes’ 2014 national championship season, as well as stops at Iowa State, Rice and Texas State.

“All the pieces are in place at FAU for us to be successful,” Herman said. “There are already great young men on this team, great facilities, a great location, a great recruiting base and great leadership, all of which are important to building a successful program.”

Sunshine State falls out of the AP Top 25

Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports
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Florida has fallen out of the AP Top 25.

As in the Gators.

And the rest of the state.

The Sunshine State Blues are back. The latest AP Top 25 failed to have a team from the state of Florida on the list for the first time since Nov. 20, 2011. The Gators dropped out, ending a run of 52 consecutive poll appearances.

With that, the state that had 11 AP national championships in a 31-season span from 1983 through 2013 – and none since – was gone from the poll as well.

“We’ve got to play better,” Florida coach Dan Mullen said after Saturday’s 49-42 loss to LSU. “We’ll evaluate it all. We’ve got to coach better, play better, look at our personnel, make sure we’re putting guys in the right position to make plays and get better.”

That may as well be the state college football motto right now.

Sunday marked only the seventh time in the last 638 polls since December 1982 when no team from Florida was ranked by AP voters; the other six times were all in the 2011 season. There won’t be any national championship, almost certainly no conference or even division championships, and at this rate even getting more than one or two bowl bids doesn’t seem guaranteed.

The state has seven FBS teams – Florida, Florida State, Miami, UCF, South Florida, FIU and Florida Atlantic. Of those, only the Gators have a winning record right now, and 4-3 isn’t exactly anything that they’re celebrating in Gainesville these days.

UCF and FAU are 3-3. Florida State and Miami are 2-4. FIU and USF are 1-5. Add it up, and the state is 16-27 this season, on pace for more losses than ever. Plus, five of those 16 wins – and, in Florida State’s case, one of those losses – came against teams from the Football Championship Subdivision, the level that used to be called Division I-AA.

Florida has some of the best high school football in the country and more native players in the NFL this season than any other state.

But the college football statewide, again, mediocre – and that might be too kind a term. Only the Gators and Hurricanes have been ranked this season; Florida reached No. 10, Miami reached No. 14 and those days are already long forgotten.

“There’s a really good team in that locker room,” Miami coach Manny Diaz said after the Hurricanes lost 45-42 at North Carolina on Saturday, the 2-4 start matching their worst in the last 24 seasons. “We don’t have a good record, and we are what our record says we are. I understand that.”

The state’s seven teams are 0-7 against ranked opponents this season, meaning this could end up as the first year without a Sunshine State win over an AP-ranked team since 1975. And this stat might be even more damning: against Power Five opponents, plus Notre Dame, the state’s teams are a combined 4-15 this season – after going 18-14 against those schools in 2020.

“We’re halfway through the season,” UCF coach Gus Malzahn said after his team’s 56-21 loss to unbeaten Cincinnati. “And we’ve got to get better.”

During the statewide appearance streak that started in November 2011, Florida had been ranked 110 times, Florida State 90 times, Miami 59 times, UCF 47 times and USF 21 times.

They’re all on the outside looking in now. And there might not be much hope of getting a Sunshine State team ranked again anytime soon, either – unless Florida finds a way to knock off No. 1 Georgia on Oct. 30.

“We’re all frustrated right now,” Mullen said.

That’s a sentiment shared across the Sunshine State.

Conference USA reschedules 7 games

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Conference USA has rescheduled seven football games that were postponed earlier this season because of COVID-19 issues. All will be played the first two weeks of December.

The updated schedule includes three games on Saturday, Dec. 5, the original date for the C-USA championship game that was previously rescheduled to Friday, Dec. 18.

Games on the first Saturday in December include FIU at Charlotte, Southern Mississippi at UTEP, and Rice at Marshall. There’s one game on Thursday, Dec. 10 — Florida Atlantic at Southern Mississippi — while Marshall is at FIU the next day.

UAB at Rice and North Texas at UTEP are now scheduled for Saturday, Dec. 12.