There is nothing like new beginnings, and the anticipation that comes with a new college football season is similar to that feeling that many of us had on Christmas Eve as children as we anxiously awaited to see what ‘Ole Saint Nick had left under the tree. The opening game for college head football coaches must be filled with all kinds of thoughts as well, from anticipation to anxiety and probably some fear as well, but if a coach has done all that can be done, then there is little left to do but play the games. As is the nature of the competitive society that we live in, there are some head football coaches that REALLY cannot afford a loss in their opening game, and thus we look at some of those coaches and what they face in Week 1.
A head coach that has already lost a key opening game:
Mike Price, UTEP – Price and the Miners already laid an egg on Thursday with a loss to Buffalo, and no doubt the pressure is increasing on Price to get the UTEP football program back on track. Price is 25-24 (.510) in now his fifth season in El Paso, and UTEP has Texas coming to town next Saturday. It is already hot in south Texas, but the temperature is rising even more….
12 Coaches that will face LOTS of heat on their derrière if they lose their opening game:
1. Tommy Bowden, Clemson – If there is any coach that cannot afford a loss on opening day it is Tommy Bowden at Clemson. Bowden is entering his tenth season at Clemson, and has recruited a very talented group of players onto this ’08 team, but there is no excuse in the world for Bowden and the Tigers to lose to a second year coach that took over what was nothing less than a demoralized football program when Saban arrived in Tuscaloosa in January of 2007. Bowden has everything going for him in this game, and a loss to Alabama in a game that Clemson should not only win, but dominate what is an undermanned Crimson Tide team is not only necessary for the Tigers, the ramifications of a loss are almost to dire to consider. Tommy Bowden enters Saturday night’s game against Alabama ”Oh so very close” to being on the Hot Seat in front of the entire nation, and we will be very interested to see if Bowden can step-up and prove he deserves to be mentioned with the best coaches in the game. Lose to Bama, and it might lead to the entire season unraveling for Clemson, and we are going to be fascinated to watch how Bowden and his team perform under the pressure of the national spotlight.
2. Les Miles, LSU – Les Miles has done an incredible job taking over for Nick Saban at LSU, but he cannot afford a loss against a very good Appalachian State team today. People say the Alabama fans are demanding, but the LSU fans really do not tolerate losing well, and a loss to start the ’08 season, even against a good I-AA team, could mean storm clouds ahead for the Tigers. (Besides Hurricane Gustav that is….)
3. Dave Wannstedt, Pitt – Wannstedt faces a no-win situation in week 1 with a very good MAC team in Bowling Green visiting Pittsburgh, and loss in this game would put Wannstedt in a very perilous situation, very early in the season. This game against Bowling Green is MUST WIN for Dave Wannstedt.
4. Joe Glenn, Wyoming – Frank Solich brings his Ohio football team to the great western plains of America, and this is just flat-out a game that Joe Glenn and the Cowboys cannot lose. Glenn needs to get some momentum going for the ’08 season, and an opening week loss would lead to more questions, more problems, and an even hotter rear-end. Play hard Cowboys!
5. Ralph Friedgen, Maryland – One of the best playcallers in the game of football, Ralph Friedgen, has handed over the playcalling to his offensive coordinator James Franklin, and there better not be much rust for the Terps in their opening game matchup with a very good I-AA team Delaware. Friedgen cannot afford to lose to any teams he is supposed to win anymore, and an opening game loss to the Hens would get the ’08 season off to a terrible start. The pressure is already on Friedgen, and a loss to Delaware would really heat things up in College Park, Maryland.
6. Tommy Tuberville, Auburn – Questions abound about Auburn’s new offensive and defensive coordinators, and the Tigers have a very interesting game against La. Monroe, the team that beat cross-state rival Alabama less than a year ago. Auburn should come out fired-up and ready to play in this game, but if things don’t go right and La. Monroe finds a way to pull off a huge upset, things could get very ugly, very quickly on the Plains. The Auburn fans are feeling slighted lately, with all of the attention that Nick Saban and Alabama are getting, and every Tigers’ fan wants their team to explode out of the blocks in the ’08 season, and anything less than a convincing win in week 1 will be a disappointment. A loss to La. Monroe would be an unmitigated disaster for Tuberville and Auburn.
7. Tim Brewster, Minnesota – If they is any coach in the country that cannot lose his opening game, it is Tim Brewster at Minnesota. Jerry Kill brings his new Northern Illinois team to Minneapolis, and if a first year coach at a MAC school can beat a second year coach at a Big Ten school, then there are serious problems, and we mean really serious problems in River City. The bottom-line: Tim Brewster and the Gophers MUST BEAT Northern Illinois or…..Brewster’s rear-end will be hotter than a sidewalk in Atlanta in the middle of August.
8. Mack Brown, Texas – Even though Mack Brown and Texas are reeling off 10 win seasons on a regular basis, Brown and the Longhorns know that something is not quite right in Austin. The Longhorns have gotten soft, and they sometimes looked in ’07 like the passion to play the game of football was not there anymore. A renewed spirit by the Longhorn players in the ’07 bowl game against Arizona State was a start, and a convincing win against FAU in the ’08 opener would be even better. What we would love to see from the Texas players is some passion, some fire, and a desire again to play the game of football. It is time for the Longhorns to hit somebody instead of getting hit, and what better place to ignite that fire than against a very good FAU team in the opener. Have the Texas football players lost their fire to play the game of football? We are about to find out.
9. Jeff Jagodzinski, Boston College – Jagodzinski had a great first season at Boston College with Matt Ryan at the helm, but now he has to prove he can win at BC without a NFL first-round QB under center. An opening game against MAC team Kent State at a neutral site in Cleveland, Ohio provides the perfect venue to launch the post-Ryan era at BC, but a loss to Kent State and everyone is going to be asking the same question: Was it Jagodzinski or Ryan that was responsible for BC’s 11 wins in ’07? That is a question that Jagodzinski needs to answer in the affirmative for him in week 1 with a convincing win over Kent State in the opener. A loss to Kent State by BC and the heat will begin to be turned up….
10, Jeff Tedford, California – Jeff Tedford and the Bears open the season against a very good team in Michigan State, but after a disastrous ’07 season for Cal down the stretch, it is time for Tedford and Cal to prove that they actually play the game of football in the “fruitcake” town of Berkeley (Please get those idiots out of the trees!). Several times last year we wondered if some of the Cal players really gave a damn about playing the game of football, but the stories coming out of the Cal fall camp seem to be saying that the entire team is back on message and ready to play the game again. It is time for the Cal football team under Tedford to go out and hit someone, to make something happen, and most of all to win football games. Is Cal a serious football program or was Tedford’s first few years in Berkeley just a fluke? Win or lose to Michigan State, that question must be answered today vs. the Spartans. Lose badly to Michigan State, and the questions will begin about Tedford’s control of the Cal football program.
11. Mike Bellotti, Oregon – Bottom Line: Mike Bellotti and Oregon CANNOT LOSE to Ty Willingham and Washington. If Oregon does find a way to lose to an undermanned Washington team at home in Autzen Stadium, then that will be the beginning of the end of the Bellotti era at Oregon. The Oregon football program is like that Big Wheel that many of us rode around as children: Makes a lot of noise, but doesn’t get us very far, and it will be interesting to see if the Oregon players will actually show up to play every game in ’08, or if they will take a couple of games off this season, like they have in many recent years. Do the Duck football players want to play the game of football, or do they want to play chess and backgammon? That is a serious question that must be answered, because too often in recent years the Oregon players and football program talk a big game, but then fall flat on their face. Lose to Washington, and Mike Bellotti will have one of the Hottest Seats in the country come Tuesday morning.
12. Mike Sanford, UNLV – The true Hot Seat game of the day as Hot Seat coach Mike Sanford of UNLV takes on Hot Seat coach Brent Guy of Utah State. Bottom Line: Mike Sanford and the Rebels cannot lose this game. If UNLV does lose to Utah State, the UNLV administration might as well start looking for a new head football coach, because there is just no excuse in the world for UNLV to drop this game against Utah State at home.