Before we get to the MUST WIN games for Coaches in Week 4, we first must talk about the game last night between West Virginia and Colorado that CU won in overtime. There were several crucial mistakes by West Virginia throughout the game with the Buffs, but the clock management by WVU’s Bill Stewart at the end of regulation play was absolutely baffling to us. Bob Hertzel of the Times West-Virginian recaps the time management fiasco at the end of regulation better than we can, but basically Stewart had two timeouts that he could have used when his team was near midfield, which would have given his team an opportunity to move closer to kick a long field-goal (even though the West Virginia FG kicker missed a chip-shot in overtime, he reportedly has a big leg and could possibly kick up to a 70 yard field-goal). We are still baffled to what Bill Stewart was thinking, because West Virginia had a very good chance to win the game in regulation if they had aggressively used their timeouts and tried to work themselves into FG position. With the loss to Colorado, WVU and Stewart are now 1-2 and they have a very tough rivalry game up next with Marshall next Saturday. Bill Stewart will be under a lot of pressure this week and will be asked to explain how a team with so much talent could start out 1-2, and the heat will only keep rising if the Mountaineers lose to the Herd. Needless to say, with the Big East schedule just around the corner, the Marshall game next Saturday will be a MUST, MUST WIN for Bill Stewart and the Mountaineers.
Now on to the 21 Coaches that have MUST WIN games as we head into Week 4. So far this year the Coaches have been winning their MUST WIN games at about a 70% clip which says a lot for Samuel Johnson’s quote about “the mind being focused!” Now on to the analysis of the Coaches that have MUST WIN games in Week 4:
1. Sylvester Croom, Mississippi State – After an opening week loss to La. Tech and a 2 point offensive performance at home against Auburn, the pressure is now on Sly Croom to prove that a coach in his fifth year at an SEC school can beat a coach in his first year at an ACC school in Paul Johnson at Georgia Tech. Sly Croom is 18-32 (.360) in his fifth year in Starkville and after an 8-5 record and bowl win in ’07, the Bulldogs need to keep moving forward in ’08, but a loss to the Yellow Jackets would drop the Miss. State record to 1-3, with almost the entire SEC schedule left to play. It is time for Mississippi State to step up and get a big win on the road against Georgia Tech, because LSU in Baton Rouge is up next for Sly Croom. Beating Georgia Tech is a MUST! Play hard Bulldogs!
2. Tim Brewster, Minnesota – Brewster and Minnesota are off to a nice 3-0 start to the ’08 season, and before the Big Ten schedule gets underway, there is a pesky little game with FAU to get by, and to keep the momentum going this is a MUST WIN game for the Gophers. A trip to Columbus to play Ohio State is up next for Minnesota, and a loss at home to Howard Schnellenberger’s FAU team would be a major downer after getting the season off to such a fast start. Beating FAU is a MUST! Play hard Gophers!
3. Tom O’Brien, NC State – Tom O’Brien’s Wolfpack team is off to a 1-2 start in ’08 with their lone win over William & Mary and now they have Skip Holtz’s undefeated East Carolina team coming to town, and this is a MUST WIN game if O’Brien hopes to possibly stop the ’08 season from turning into a total disaster. The next 4 teams on NC State’s schedule are: South Florida, Boston College, Florida State, and Maryland, and O’Brien does not want to enter the game again against USF next week at 1-3, so a win over the Pirates is a MUST! Play hard Wolfpack!
4. Jim Tressel, Ohio State – There were some very odd rumblings in Columbus this week, including a combination of confusion, disarray, questioning, and a real worry that the wheels might be coming off the mighty Ohio State Buckeyes football program. The Buckeye players didn’t bother to show up in the second-half against the Trojans last Saturday, which is a kind way of saying they QUIT, and as we all know, if you will quit once under adversity, you will quit again. Ohio State is loaded with talent and they should be able to crush lowly Troy, but there are some real concerns that Troy could come into the Horseshoe and pull off the win. If Ohio State plays its game and the Buckeye players come out and act like they care about the uniform on their backs, this should be an easy win, but if the Buckeyes come out flat…….not only could they lose this game, they might just implode for the rest of the ’08 season. Jim Tressel has never had to play a game after his team got whipped by one of the top teams in the country, since the other two whippings were in the last game of the season, so Tressel must now deal very directly with the fact that he has a football team that played with no heart, no passion, and worst of all, like they didn’t even care that they were getting whipped by USC. If Tressel cannot rally the Buckeyes for what should be an aggressive and focused performance against Troy where they come out and show the home fans that they are determined to redeem themselves, then there is a very real problem in River City and that problem will be right in the lap of Jim Tressel. Beating Troy is a MUST! If the Buckeyes lose, the beginning of the end of the Tressel era in Columbus may start unfolding before out eyes. Play hard Buckeyes!
5. Dave Wannstedt, Pitt – After an opening week loss to Bowling Green at home, Wannstedt and the Panthers bounced back against Buffalo, but they are facing another key game this week as Big Ten team the Iowa Hawkeyes coming calling in Pittsburgh. With a game against Syracuse next Saturday, Wannstedt must be thinking that if can beat Iowa he can get his team rolling before he gets into the meat of the Big East schedule, and this makes Iowa a very key game for Pitt in 2008. Iowa is playing a little better than last season, but all of their wins have been at home, and this game on the road in an unknown stadium will give Pitt a huge leg-up that the Panthers must take advantage of often and early. This is a huge game for Wannstedt and Pitt and is a MUST WIN to get the momentum moving for the rest of the ’08 season. Play hard Panthers!
6. Kirk Ferentz, Iowa – Kirk Ferentz needed a 3-0 start to the season and he got it with a big win over Iowa State in week 3, and now Ferentz and the Hawkeyes face a pivotal game on their schedule against Pitt, especially if they want to do something more than average in 2008. With the Big Ten schedule getting underway next Saturday against Northwestern, a 4-0 record after the Pitt game would be HUGE for Ferentz and the Hawkeyes, and Iowa needs to play the Pitt game with the same intensity that they did against Iowa State this year and in Big Ten games in the past. Pitt has had some problems in the past when they have faced teams playing with a lot of passion at Heinz Field, and the Hawkeyes need to come out take it to the Panthers. Iowa can help the Big Ten make a statement with a win over Big East team Pitt, and a win would send the Hawkeyes soaring into the Big Ten schedule with an undefeated record. Play hard Hawkeyes!
7. Stan Brock, Army – There have been some strange reports coming out of West Point about some Army football team members that were none to happy with some comments that Stan Brock made after the loss to I-AA New Hampshire. It is not that easy to quit the football team at Army though, and it seems they have worked out some of the problems, but after a 0-2 start, a loss to Akron in their third game would be a terrible opening to the ’08 season. Beating Akron is a MUST for Stan Brock and Army, but especially with a trip to College Station to play Texas A&M looming next Saturday.
8. Mike Stoops, Arizona – After starting 2-0, Mike Stoops and Arizona went to Albuquerque last week and got beat by New Mexico, and now they have to quickly turn around and travel to the Rose Bowl to play Rick Neuheisel and UCLA. Everyone knows by now that the Bruins got blasted 59-0 by BYU last Saturday, and Arizona now knows how they can effectively go about attacking the Bruins. Mike Stoops is on the Hot Seat and he has to have a winning record in 2008 and take his team to a bowl game so that he can make a legitimate argument to keep his job, and this is the type of game that Stoops must win if he wants to get some momentum back for his team this season. UCLA is wounded and Arizona should win this game, and they MUST WIN this game. Play hard Wildcats!
9. Greg Robinson, Syracuse – What can one really say about Greg Robinson at Syracuse when in his fourth year on the job that a game against I-AA Northeastern is a MUST WIN. That about says it all, because if Syracuse cannot beat Northeastern they might want to go ahead and sell all the football equipment, put up the uniforms, deflate the footballs, and just have the university focus on the Orangemen basketball team. Beating Northeastern is MUST for Greg Robinson. Did we just write that? Sadly, yes we did…..
10. Greg Schiano, Rutgers – After starting with two very tough teams at home in Fresno State and North Carolina, Greg Schiano’s Rutgers team is 0-2 and facing a very scrappy Navy team in a MUST WIN situation with Big East conference play looming. The Big East is shaping up to again be very competitive inside the conference and a 0-3 start to the ’08 season would be next to being impossible to recover from. Beating Navy is a MUST for Greg Schiano and Rutgers, so play hard Scarlett Knights.
11. Mike Sherman, Texas A&M – Mike Sherman opened his head coaching career at Texas A&M with a devastating loss to Arkansas State, but the Aggies rebounded in week 2 with a very good win on the road against New Mexico. Now before Big 12 play gets underway, Sherman and the Aggies host the improving Miami Hurricanes in College Station and this is a MUST WIN for A&M as they get ready for conference play. Miami is going to bring a lot of speed to College Station, and their defensive coordinator (Bill Young) will be familiar with how to play against Big 12 opponents from this time on the Kansas staff. This should be a great game between two teams that badly want and need a win, and it will be interesting to see if Sherman can rally the Aggies for a much needed win. Play hard Aggies!
12. Randy Shannon, Miami – Randy Shannon’s Miami team looks to be improved over his first season at the helm, and after playing in one of the toughest places in the country at The Swamp against Florida, the Hurricanes now travel to College Station to play in another tough spot, A&M’s Kyle Field. Miami seemed to handle the big crowd at Florida pretty well, but the ‘Canes will be tested again with the Aggie fans who badly would like to see their team beat Miami to get Mike Sherman back on track. With the ACC schedule looming and North Carolina up first next Saturday, Shannon surely does not want to be looking at three straight losses when Butch Davis brings his Tar Heels team to Miami. Beating Texas A&M is a MUST WIN for Randy Shannon. Play hard Hurricanes!
13. Mike Bellotti, Oregon – Mike Bellotti has the Ducks off to a nice 3-0 start, including a good win at Purdue, but all that can come crashing down if Boise State comes into Autzen Stadium and beats Oregon. Chris Peterson is starting a freshman QB and Autzen is not the ideal place to start a youngin’, but if you are going into the fire you might as well go in whole hog. The Oregon fans are getting a little antsy as they look South and see what Pete Carroll has done and is doing at USC, and with a game against Washington State up next, a win over the Broncos would more than likely send the Ducks into the game with USC undefeated at 5-0. Besides everything else going on with this game, Chris Peterson used to be on Bellotti’s staff at Oregon, and the mentor never likes to lose to a pupil. Beating Boise State is a MUST for Bellotti and Oregon. Play hard Ducks!
14. Phil Fulmer, Tennessee – Phil Fulmer faces about his tenth MUST WIN game in about the last five years at Tennessee, but this time the MUST WIN game is against the Gators. Even if the Tennessee fans are not thrilled with Fulmer, they hate the Gators, and there is nothing more in the world they would like than to send Tim Tebow and the Gators back to Gainesville with a loss. This game between Tennessee and Florida is going to come down to who wants to win the game more, and when these two teams are playing, that means who is the most physical at the line of scrimmage and at the point of attack. Nothing fancy here. Just good ole’ fashioned college football. Play hard Vols!
15. Rocky Long, New Mexico – Rocky Long got a much needed win at home over Arizona last Saturday to raise the New Mexico record to 1-2, but now he has to turn around and take his Lobos team on the road and play a very tough and high scoring Tulsa team. The Mountain West conference is no joke this year, and Rocky Long does not want to head into conference play with a 1-3 record, which makes a win against Tulsa a MUST! Tulsa is going to throw the ball all over the park so play hard Lobos!
16. Paul Wulff, Washington State – After 3 very tough losses for Paul Wulff to start his career at Washington State, Wulff faces a very interesting and tough game as Jerry Glanville brings his I-AA Portland State team to Pullman. Wulff’s Washington State team has looked out of sorts so far in ’08, and the 45-17 blowout loss at Baylor has raised the eyebrows of people around the country, and it is time for the Cougars to step up and help get their new head football coach his first win on the I-A level. Jerry Glanville is always going to find a way to get his team motivated, and Portland State poses a real threat to Washington State in this game. Beating Portland State is a MUST for Paul Wulff to prove he has his team moving forward, and to get them ready to face the upcoming Pac-10 schedule. Play hard Cougars!
17. Ricky Bustle, La. Lafayette – After starting the season against Southern Miss and Illinois and coming away with 2 losses (and almost a win over the Illini) Ricky Bustle and La. Lafayette host Kent State in a must win game before they travel to Kansas State next Saturday. With a 26-46 (.361) record in his seventh year at La. Lafayette Ricky Bustle needs a good season this year to prove that the program is moving forward, and getting a win before the Ragin Cajuns start Sun Belt conference play is an important part of getting to at least. 500 record in ’08. A win over Kent State is MUST for Ricky Bustle and the Ragin Cajuns!
18. Mike Price, UTEP – Mike Price and the Miners are off to a 0-2 start, and a win against New Mexico State is a MUST before UTEP enters the increasingly tough Conference USA schedule. With UCF, Southern Miss, Tulane, and Tulsa up next in the coming weeks, a 0-3 start would be a disaster for the Miners. This game is a MUST WIN for New Mexico State head coach Hal Mumme, but this is a MUST, MUST, MUST WIN game for Mike Price, because this is a rivalry game that the UTEP should always win at home. Play hard Miners!
19. Hal Mumme, New Mexico State – In his fourth season at New Mexico State, Hal Mumme has an overall record of 8-30 (.210), and Mumme must have expected that he would have won more games by now, even at a place that is very difficult to win at. After getting blasted at Nebraska in their first game, New Mexico State is facing a trip to El Paso to play the Miners, and this is a MUST WIN game before facing New Mexico in a big rivalry game a week from Saturday. New Mexico State beat UTEP in 2007, and if Mumme wants to get some momentum going for the ’08 season, a win against the Miners is crucial. Play hard Aggies!
20. Mike Sanford, UNLV – After a huge win over Arizona State on the road, Mike Sanford must get his team refocused for a visit by Big 12 team Iowa State, because as any golfer knows the worst thing you can do when you make a birdie is follow it up with a bogey, and a loss to Iowa State at home would be a big time bogey for the Rebels. Sitting at 2-1, Sanford can look ahead at Iowa State, Nevada, and Colorado State for his next three games and see three very winnable games and the possibility that the Rebels could be 5-1 on the evening of 4 October. There is only one way that is going to happen, and that is if the UNLV football team comes to play against Iowa State with the same passion they showed against the Sun Devils. Can the Rebels do that? We don’t know, but it is going to be fascinating to see if they can keep the intensity up and put another win up on the board. Play hard Rebels!
21. Gene Chizik, Iowa State – Even after a loss in week 3 to Iowa, Gene Chizik has Iowa State at 2-1 and the Cyclones are now facing one of the key games of the year as they travel to Las Vegas to play UNLV. With a brutal Big 12 schedule ahead, Chizik and Iowa State need every win they can get right now, and beating UNLV would be huge with a bye week coming up and Kansas coming to town in two weeks. If Chizik wants to take the Cyclones a step-up in ’08, beating UNLV is a MUST! Iowa State needs to play hard in the city where they say what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas. Play hard Cyclones!