I put this in the 'Diary' section because I've addressed in the main page several times already, but I'm still having a difficult time with the kneejerk reaction nationally and, for the most part, regionally against Jeff Bower's dismissal from Southern Miss after 14 straight winning seasons, four conference championships, etc. etc. This is what we can take from those opinions:
1) Bower's record at Southern Miss was very ordinary by the program's historical and contemporary standards.
2) Southern Miss has suffered from steadily diminishing returns throughout the current decade.
3) Southern Miss has consistently underachieved according to national expectations and oddsmakers over the last eight years.
4) In a little more than two months, Larry Fedora delivered the single highest-rated recruit and in all likelihood the highest-rated overall recruiting class in school history.
Saurian Sagacity has up this week a quick look at the highest-rated classes by Rivals over the last four years. This is very similar to the quick and dirty look I put together last month, but includes mid-major rankings, which I did not. Cumulatively, Southern Miss ranks 55th nationally. That's best of any non-BCS team, and USM's cumulative point total, using Rivals' formula, is twice that of the second-best total in Conference USA (Central Florida). Among the teams that rank below Southern Miss in cumulative talent, in this survey's estimation:
• South Florida
• Wake Forest
• Boise State
Kentucky and USF upset eventual top five, BCS-winning favorites and spent part of last season in the top ten, both finishing in or very near the final polls. BYU has won 16 straight Mountain West games and finished in the top 20 two years in a row. Wake Forest appeared in the Orange Bowl in 2006 and won nine games again last year. Boise State and Hawaii have had undefeated regular season and appeared in BCS bowls; Boise trounced USM in a joke of a game that wasn't competitive for a second back in September. Cincinnati, besides being a former C-USA underling that finished last season in the top 25, was the biggest favorite of the bowl season against the Eagles, so much so that a friend called to congratulate me that USM was still in the game in the third quarter.
The 'experts,' such as they are, think Southern Miss has at least comparable athleticism to each of these teams. Yet USM has lost three C-USA games each of the last four years and each time finished at least two games back of the conference champion in one of the weakest conferences in the country. It was the unanimous favorite to win the league last year and finished sixth, with a home loss on national television to Rice (97th in talent over the last four years, according to Rivals) for good measure. USM has not even sniffed the polls.
So why was a call for new blood such a damn mystery? Pay attention, people.