COLUMBIA, Mo. — Kirby Smart and Barry Odom have a few things in common. They were born 11 months apart — Odom turns 43 later this month, Smart turns 44 two days before Christmas — and they're both head coaches at their alma mater. Smart played defensive back at Georgia from 1995-98; Odom was a Missouri linebacker from 1996-99.
They were hired three days apart in 2015: Odom on Dec. 3, Smart on Dec. 6.
They both succeeded widely successful head coaches who had been in place for exactly 15 seasons: Gary Pinkel was 118-73 at Mizzou from 2001-15; Mark Richt was 145-51 at Georgia from 2001-15.
They’re mutual admirers, so much that Smart likes to borrow concepts from Odom’s defense, even though the two coaches run different base schemes.
“We always study what they do because we are always trying to get better and they do different things than we do,” Smart told reporters Monday in Athens, Ga. “We are not like philosophically built the same as them. Yeah, stop the run, don't let them score, don't give up big plays, turnovers — we’re all the same there. But schematically, they are different from us, and we are always trying to steal ideas from them. I have a lot of respect for them and the way they play defense."
That’s about where the comparisons end. Smart has Georgia positioned for a third straight SEC East Division title and two years ago guided UGA to the College Football Playoffs. Mizzou has gone to two bowl games under Odom’s watch but is mired in a disappointing year four.
Smart’s Bulldogs have swept all three head-to-head matchups with Odom’s Tigers and are 14 ½-point favorites in Saturday’s game in Athens.
We thought the bye week would be a good time to revisit the Class of 2016 head-coaching hires in the Power Five conferences, a group that included, of course, Odom and Smart. Mizzou was one of 14 Power Five programs that made coaching changes between the 2015 and 2016 seasons. Nine of those 14 are still in place. (We’re counting USC’s Clay Helton among the nine even though he went from interim coach to head coach late in the 2015 season.)
The other five have already been fired or stepped down for one reason or another: Maryland’s D.J. Durkin (10-15 in two seasons), Minnesota’s Tracy Claeys (9-4 in one season), Miami’s Mark Richt (26-13 in three seasons), Rutgers’ Chris Ash (8-32 in three-plus seasons) and Baylor’s Jim Grobe, who went 6-6 as interim coach in 2016.
Here’s a look at the nine still in place, listed in order or winning percentage:
Kirby Smart, Georgia
Records: 39-11 overall … 22-7 SEC regular-season … 11-8 vs. AP ranked teams … 12-3 road games … 1-1 in conference title games … 2-2 bowl & playoff games.
Record since start of 2018: 18-4
Last three recruiting class rankings (2017-19): No. 3, No. 1, No. 2
The skinny: Smart is the cream of the 2016 crop. He inherited a healthy but slipping program that had gone 28-11 in the three seasons prior to his arrival from Alabama. He’s the only Class of 2016 coach to lead his team to the College Football Playoffs. On the downside, Smart has dropped six games when favored, including last year’s Sugar Bowl loss to Texas, but the worst of all was this year’s home loss to South Carolina, a 26-point underdog. He’s recruited as well as any coach in America, and UGA’s grip on the SEC East got tighter with Saturday’s win over Florida.
Clay Helton, USC*
Records: 31-17 overall … 23-10 Pac-12 12 regular-season … 9-11 vs. AP ranked teams … 9-11 road games … 1-0 conference title games … 1-1 bowl games.
Record since start of 2018: 10-11
Last three recruiting class rankings (2017-19): No. 4, No. 4, No. 20
The skinny: Helton was 5-1 as USC’s interim coach in the second half of the 2015 season, after which the Trojans removed the interim tag … and USC promptly lost their final two games. He survived a five-win season in 2018 but seems to be on shaky footing every time the Trojans lose. Most alarming, the Trojans aren’t recruiting like an elite program any more. Their current crop of commitments for 2020 ranks just No. 64 nationally. Helton's seat is considered as hot as any coach in America.
Justin Fuente, Virginia Tech
Records: 30-18 overall … 17-11 ACC regular-season … 4-8 vs. AP ranked teams … 11-7 road games … 0-1 in conference title games … 1-2 bowl games.
Record since start of 2018: 11-10
Last three recruiting class rankings (2017-19): No. 26, No. 24, No. 26
The skinny: The Hokies slipped under Fuente’s watch last season — including a loss at 27-point underdog Old Dominion — then slogged through a slow start this year but have won three in a row to stay alive in the woeful ACC Coastal Division. Mike Norvell’s success as Fuente’s replacement at Memphis strips some luster off the job Fuente did there from 2012-15, but a strong finish this fall could cool some of the heat in Blacksburg.
Will Muschamp, South Carolina
Records: 26-22 overall … 15-16 SEC regular-season … 2-13 vs. AP ranked teams … 6-11 road games … 1-2 bowl games.
Record since start of 2018: 11-11
Last three recruiting class rankings (2017-19): No. 21, No. 18, No. 17
The skinny: Based on recruiting rankings, the Gamecocks have underachieved under Muschamp’s watch. They peaked with a nine-win season in 2017 and now have squandered any momentum from a big win at Georgia with back-to-back losses to Florida and Tennessee. Sitting at 4-5, Muschamp is staring at a second losing season: The Gamecocks still play Appalachian State, at Texas A&M and Clemson. A pink slip would come at a high price: Muschamp has one of the steepest buyouts in the country, more than $19 million.
Matt Campbell, Iowa State
Records: 24-22 overall … 16-16 Big 12 regular-season … 5-9 vs. AP ranked teams … 10-10 road games … 1-1 bowl games.
Record since start of 2018: 13-8
Last three recruiting class rankings (2017-19): No. 52, No. 55, No. 46
The skinny: With the job he’s done at Iowa State, where resources are far limited compared to other schools in the Big 12, the 39-year-old gets linked to a lot of jobs —and that won’t change this offseason, especially if a blueblood or two come open. (Hello, USC?) Iowa State was just 8-28 in the three years before Campbell arrived from Toledo — and he’s since beaten every team in the Big 12 but Texas.
Barry Odom, Missouri
Records: 24-22 overall … 12-16 SEC regular-season … 1-7 vs. AP ranked teams … 6-12 road games … 0-2 bowl games.
Record since start of 2018: 13-8
Last three recruiting class rankings (2017-19): No. 43, No. 43, No. 37
The skinny: Odom has the same record as Campbell, but the Cyclones have been better in league play, won more games away from home and more against ranked teams. Just when Odom gains some traction the Tigers trip over their tails, including three losses this season to double-digit underdogs. He helped stabilize a program that was recovering from campus strife when he took over, and he’s since absorbed NCAA sanctions, but just when the Tigers appeared poised to become a regular in the Top 25 and an SEC East contender, bad habits resurfaced: listless play on the road, penalties, special teams implosions.
Bronco Mendenhall, Virginia
Records: 22-25 overall … 12-18 ACC regular-season … 1-7 vs. AP ranked teams … 6-16 road games … 1-1 bowl games.
Record since start of 2018: 14-8
Last three recruiting class rankings (2017-19): No. 58, No. 59, No. 39
The skinny: The Cavaliers are on the upswing after some lean years. The program won just 11 games in three seasons before Mendenhall arrived from BYU. Now they’re in the driver’s seat to win the ACC Coastal.
Dino Babers, Syracuse
Records: 21-25 overall … 10-20 ACC regular-season … 4-8 vs. AP ranked teams … 6-13 road games … 1-0 bowl games.
Record since start of 2018: 13-9
Last three recruiting class rankings (2017-19): No. 54, No. 51, No. 55
The skinny: After back-to-back four-win seasons, the Orange caught fire last year, went 10-3 behind Babers’ explosive offense and looked like the ACC’s next-best thing. Not so much this fall. At 3-6, Syracuse will have to sweep Duke, Louisville and Wake Forest to get back to a bowl.
Lovie Smith, Illinois
Records: 14-31 overall … 7-26 Big Ten regular-season … 1-11 vs. AP ranked teams … 4-14 road games.
Record since start of 2018: 9-12
Last three recruiting class rankings (2017-19): No. 46, No. 54, No. 53
The skinny: Despite some key injuries, Illinois has a three-game Big Ten winning streak for the first time since 2007 and needs one more victory to qualify for its first bowl game in five years. That’s how you get yourself off the hot seat. The first three years of the Lovie regime was mostly terrible, but a 7-5 finish isn’t out of the question.