Texas A&M football’s $120M coaching change, plus QBs hit transfer portal and CFP rankings

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Syracuse was the latest job to come off the market yesterday when the Orange hired Georgia defensive backs coach Fran Brown as their coach. Plus, Stewart Mandel loves Michigan State’s Jonathan Smith hire.

Here’s what else is happening in college football Until Saturday …

Almost $120 Million

How much will this cost Texas A&M?

Mike Elko was introduced as Texas A&M’s coach on Monday, so I took some time to crunch the numbers and figure out how much money A&M is committing to spend for its transition away from Jimbo Fisher. Without discrediting Elko — he’s a good hire after all — it is silly to think these dollar signs revolve around dropping a coach who went 6-4 in 2023 (before being fired) to one who went … 7-5.

  • As we broke down previously, Fisher’s record-breaking buyout will cost A&M $77,562,500 and won’t be paid off until 2031 (eight annual payments of $7,271,484 starting in 2024).
  • Elko signed a six-year deal (through Jan. 31, 2030) worth $7 million per year (Fisher departed with a $9.15 million annual salary). Elko’s contract includes a pile of incentives, but we won’t include any of those in this calculation.
  • The total amount Texas A&M will spend on this head coaching change is $119,562,500. Yup, that’s the amount of Elko’s total salary for six years ($42 million) combined with Fisher’s total buyout.

This all means that during the next seven years, Texas A&M is guaranteed to spend $17 million per year on its head coach in some capacity. Talk about expensive! (And we haven’t even gotten to the assistants.)

New CFP Rankings

Ohio State drops out of top four

The penultimate College Football Playoff rankings dropped yesterday. Here are the top four teams:

1. Georgia (13-0)

2. Michigan (13-0)

3. Washington (13-0)

4. Florida State (13-0)

The next two teams are:

5. Oregon (12-1)

6. Ohio State (12-1)

Michigan had a case for No. 1. Based on the biggest wins, the Wolverines beat now-No. 6 Ohio State while Georgia’s best win came against No. 9 Missouri. But if we go solely off ranked wins, Washington has the best of them all against No. 5 Oregon. That said, I’m not surprised with how the top four shook out, and plenty of question marks will be answered during championship weekend (but that all-undefeated Playoff bracket sure looks pretty).

As for the Buckeyes, they lost control of their destiny for the first time this year after falling to Michigan last week.

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Ryan Day is 1-3 against Michigan as Ohio State’s coach. (Scott W. Grau / Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Mandel’s Mailbag

What does Jonathan Smith bring to Michigan State? — Matt P.

It’s a great hire for the Spartans.

Smith is one of the most underrated offensive coaches in the sport, particularly when it comes to the running game. Oregon State has had the second-best rushing offense in the Pac-12 (by yards per carry) in three of the past four seasons. He was the OC for Washington’s 2016 Playoff team and helped develop Jake Browning into an NFL quarterback. DJ Uiagalelei didn’t suddenly morph into Bo Nix upon transferring from Clemson this season, but his yards per attempt went up from 7.2 to 8.7.

Smith proved to be a program-builder at Oregon State, which was on death’s doorstep when Gary Andersen quit during the 2017 season. Smith steadily improved the Beavers from 2-10 to 5-7 to (throwing out 2020) 7-6 to 10-3. They slipped back this season to 8-4, but they’re still a top-20 team.

And Michigan State feels like a particularly good fit because, much like Oregon State, it needs to be a good development program. Mark Dantonio took a lot of two- and three-star prospects to Big Ten championships. When he retired, the school tried to do it differently with Mel Tucker, thinking his SEC experience would lead to better recruiting and a higher ceiling. Save for landing Kenneth Walker in the portal, that did not work. Michigan State is never going to out-recruit Ohio State/Michigan/Penn State. Smith should adhere more closely to the Dantonio formula.

The one big concern is that Smith hasn’t worked east of Idaho. I’m sure there will be some comparisons made to Mike Riley going from Oregon State to Nebraska. No one can say for certain whether any hire will work, but the two aren’t similar. Riley was on the back end of his career; Smith is on the rise.

Read the full mailbag here.

Drama in the Portal

Departures heat up, Michigan State hit hard

The transfer portal officially opens on Monday, and quarterbacks around the country — including Kansas State’s Will Howard and Miami’s Tyler Van Dyke — have entered the mix. An interesting storyline is developing in East Lansing, Mich., as all three Spartans quarterbacks (Noah Kim, Katin Houser and Sam Leavitt) have put their names in the portal.

I was most interested in Leavitt, a freshman who ranked as the Class of 2023’s No. 1 player in Oregon by On3. In an exit interview with Rivals.com, Leavitt was candid about his feelings toward new Spartans coach Jonathan Smith, whom the university hired away from Oregon State on Saturday. Despite being from Portland and getting offers from the Pac-12’s Washington and Washington State, Leavitt wasn’t offered by Smith and Oregon State.

“I felt slighted by that,” Leavitt said. “Why would they like me now when they didn’t like me before?”

On a chance of returning to Michigan State, Leavitt said, “I’m kinda just done.” Roster turnover is common under a new coach, but Leavitt’s comments suggest an added level of frustration. Now Smith, a former college quarterback, will have to dip into the portal to find his team’s new leader on offense.

Quick Snaps

Delaware, the home of the Fightin’ Blue Hens we discussed yesterday, officially announced its plan to join Conference USA beginning in the 2025-26 academic year.

Washington won a motion to keep Washington State and Oregon State from sole control of the Pac-12 in an ongoing legal battle about the conference’s revenue and future.

Colorado co-offensive coordinator Sean Lewis is a top target for San Diego State’s coach opening, program sources told The Athletic.

Lastly, Bobby Petrino, Arkansas’ coach from 2008 to 2011, is returning to the Razorbacks as their offensive coordinator. We’ll circle back to this soon!

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(Top photo of Mike Elko: Grant Halverson / Getty Images)

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