I was fairly ignorant of the world of college recruiting in 2008 when this episode aired. So I can't really say whether a verbal commitment meant more back then than it does now. Here in the far off, futuristic year of 2016, kids flip schools after committing one place or another all the time. That makes the big narrative stakes placed on which school Smash will commit to seem a lot less significant than the episode wants it to be. That said, I can just go with it in terms of what the show is trying to do here.
It's trying to show that Smash has a number of people buzzing in his ear, and as Tami says to Corinna, he's trying to take responsibility for his family the best way he knows how. (As an aside, I would absolutely watch a spinoff of this show featuring Corinna and Tami teaming up to solve mysteries.) You have Corinna herself who's fairly ignorant of the recruiting process beyond the fact that she doesn't appreciate all the glitz and glamor and can see through the shiny promises recruiters come slinging. You have Noellle who's been through this process before with her brother and understands the dance, but is primarily interested in getting Smash the best football situation possible. And then you have Coach, who is once again between them, smart enough to throw factors like playing time at Smash that he hadn't quite considered, but caring enough to tell him to listen to his mother and not make an emotional decision.
What does Smash do then, of course? Make an emotional decision. Contrary to Coach's caution, he doesn't read the fine print (though he brings it up before the recruiter deftly elides it), he doesn't talk to his mom about it; he doesn't evaluate the situation. Instead, he just follows his dreams. There's poetry in that, and the moment where he shows up at home with flowers for Corinna and they embrace is as sweet as FNL gets, but there's also the threat that this will all blow up in his face given how he rushed into things. Once again, however, Smash's slice of the episode is the best part.
The worst part, on the other hand, was Coach Dickie's drama. There's a very interesting story to be told about a coach whose wife gets a terminal diagnosis and tries to balance running a team with his personal issues. This wasn't it. The reveal that Coach Dickie's wife has three months to live doesn't really explain why he was a prick to Coach Taylor and Dillon generally. (There's the hint of an idea that he was running a little emotionally ragged, but that does not account for his more general jerk behavior.) And it comes off as a forced attempt to give the character more depth, in a tacked-on sort of way. Dramatizing it through him tackling Riggins in the middle of a play and then saying "I don't have a game plan for that" is such overwrought nonsense.
In the middle, appropriately enough, is Tim Riggins. His part of the episode is another instance of good moments within bad plots. The entire Riggins-Riggins-neighbor love triangle was poorly-conceived from the start, so it's hard to be too invested in its dissolution. The moment with the neighbor is full of the usual cliches ("You need him too you know" -- ugh), and the reuinion with Billy puts a fine point on how pointless Rigginis wanderer routine was. Even his stealing money from the drug dealer (and getting his finger prints on a gun) seems dumber than even the usual Tim Riggins caveman logic.
That said, the resolution of the Julie storyline shows a certain amount of honor to him which is admirable. Julie continues to be the worst for letting Riggins twist in the wind for so long, but at least she owns up to what happened eventually. Coach's apology to Tim, and acknowledgement that it was very good of him to take the heat for Julie, not to mention everything Coach has asked of him, without complaint. Riggins was one of the worst parts of S1, and he's yet to become a true asset to S2 like his buddy Smash, but this season has still gone a long way toward redeeming him as a character: giving him depth, making him sardonically likable, and turning his stoicism into a boon rather than a hindrance.
Speaking of hindrances, at least now we're going to be rid of Tami's sister Shelley. I think FNL wants us to feel for Shelley here, to make it feel as though, despite her issues, there's some pathos to her being shooed out of the house. The problem is that we've never seen her do anything but be a bad influence on Julie, rankle Tami about how she lives her life, and be a thorn in Coach's side. The sitcom-esque "bad houseguest" tropes of breaking appliances and taping over important footage don't help. Shelley has been a useless character from the start--a walking cliche who only served as a convenient way for the creators to throw a monkey wrench in the already jostled Taylors' home life--and her leaving thus doesn't come with any feeling but celebration.
Any episode with a focus on Smash can't be too bad, but too else much around this one was contrived or thin or just dull.