College Football 2012: Lane Kiffin and the 50 Most Compelling Coaches to Watch

Alex CallosCorrespondent IApril 13, 2012

College Football 2012: Lane Kiffin and the 50 Most Compelling Coaches to Watch

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    The college football season is fast approaching, or so we would like to think.

    With spring practice now in full gear and spring games coming up over the next few weeks, fans are getting a taste of what their team will feature in 2012.

    There are 28 new head coaches at the FBS level and many of these will be interesting to watch in 2012.

    There are also coaches that are on the hot seat and some that are poised to jump to a bigger program.

    Either way, here are 50 coaches who we will be compelled to watch in 2012 to see how the season plays out for them and their team.

50. Tony Levine: Houston

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    Tony Levine has been with the Houston program for over four years and stepped in as the interim head coach at the end of last season when Kevin Sumlin left for Texas A&M.

    He showed his coaching ability in the Ticket City Bowl, leading Houston to a win over Penn State.

    Now he has been named the head coach without the interim tag and even though Houston lost a ton of talent, it will be interesting to see what he can do with this team next season.

49. Kyle Flood: Rutgers

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    Just like Tony Levine at Houston, Kyle Flood has been with the Rutgers program for over four years as an assistant coach.

    Now he will step in as the head coach and has big shoes to fill left when Greg Schiano moved on to Tampa Bay.

    Rutgers had an excellent recruiting class and has some talent coming back, so it will be interesting to see how they do in a wide open Big East next season.

48. Hugh Freeze: Ole Miss

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    Hugh Freeze led Arkansas State to a 10-2 record last season and a berth in the GoDaddy.com Bowl. That was his only season as a head coach making the move by the Rebels a little questionable.

    Before he could coach in that bowl game, he was named the head coach at Ole Miss.

    Freeze will be trying to do what Houston Nutt failed to do during his time at Ole Miss.

    Things will be a little tougher in the SEC however.

47. Carl Pelini: Florida Atlantic

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    Carl Pelini looks like his younger brother Bo, and now will get the chance to see if he can coach like him.

    He was the defensive coordinator last season for the Nebraska Cornhuskers as well as the defensive line coach. He has been on the staff for the past four seasons.

    Now, he will get his chance to go out on his own and try to turn the Florida Atlantic program around.

    Only time will tell if he can have the success his brother has had as a head coach.

46. Kevin Wilson: Indiana

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    If there was ever a coach on the hot seat, it's Kevin Wilson at Indiana.

    Last season in his first leading the Hoosiers, he took them straight to the bottom of the Big Ten, a spot they are all too accustomed to, with an 0-8 conference record and a 1-11 record overall.

    He will need to turn the program around, or at least show some signs that the program is on their way in 2012, or it may be his last in Bloomington.

45. Jeff Tedford: California

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    Speaking of coaches on the hot seat, Jeff Tedford is next in a long list of coaches that need to have a good year.

    Tedford has not had much success in his last two seasons at California, leading the Bears to a 12-13 record during those two years.

    While a bad year will not definitely doom Tedford, another losing season and he could possibly be on his way out quickly.

44. James Franklin: Vanderbilt

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    James Franklin has helped to resurrect the Vanderbilt football program and led them to the Liberty Bowl last season.

    He is committed to winning and next season will look to build on the success from a season ago.

    Doing so will not be easy in the SEC, but it will be fun to see if a school with the standards of Vanderbilt can compete against the mighty SEC.

43. Bret Bielema: Wisconsin

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    Not many coaches have had the success Bret Bielema has had over the past six seasons at Wisconsin, posting a 60-19 record and back to back Rose Bowl appearances.

    Next year without Russell Wilson, Bielema will have quite a challenge to compete with the big boys in the Big Ten.

    Bielema is already starting to complain about Urban Meyer's recruiting tactics and it will be interesting in the Big Ten next season.

42. Tim Beckman: Illinois

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    Tim Beckman led a high-flying offense at Toledo last season and it will be interesting to see what he can do at Illinois against some much better competition in the Big Ten.

    Ron Zook failed miserably last season and Beckman won eight games each of the last two seasons at Toledo.

    Watching his explosive offense against the mighty defenses of the Big Ten will be something to look forward to next season.

41. Larry Fedora: North Carolina

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    Larry Fedora is taking over the North Carolina job after four seasons at Southern Mississippi where he improved steadily every season.

    Fedora won 12 games last year, leading the Golden Eagles to a Conference USA Championship, a Hawai'i Bowl victory and a top 20 ranking in the major polls at the end of the season.

    Now it is time to step up a level and see what he can do.

40. Gary Pinkel: Missouri

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    Gary Pinkel has been at Missouri for the past 11 seasons and has built quite a program during that span.

    Now he has the unenviable task of taking his team into the SEC.

    Missouri had no trouble winning 8-10 games the past five seasons, but it will get a little more difficult next season.

    Pinkel will really be tested as a head coach in 2012.

39. Paul Chryst: Pittsburgh

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    Paul Chryst left the offensive coordinator position at Wisconsin to take over at Pittsburgh.

    Pittsburgh is sort of in disarray right now and Chryst will try to right the ship in 2012.

    One thing is certain, he definitely has his work cut out for him, but has the talent and resources to get it done.

38. Mike Riley: Oregon State

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    Mike Riley may be on the hot seat more than any coach in college football. 

    After going 5-7 in 2010, Riley and the Beavers followed that up with a 3-9 campaign in 2011.

    Riley had success during the early part of his career at Oregon State, but has recently struggled mightily to win games.

    It will be interesting to see if he can put together enough wins next season to keep his job.

37. Paul Rhoads: Iowa State

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    Paul Rhoads has taken little time to get the Iowa State program on the winning track.

    During his three seasons at Iowa State, he has posted an 18-20 record and taken the team to two bowl games.

    He currently has a lot of talent coming back on defense and could be a sleeper to make some noise next season in the Big 12.

    This guy could be headed for a big time coaching job in a few years.

36. Pat Fitzgerald: Northwestern

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    In his six seasons as the Northwestern head coach, Pat Fitzgerald has posted a 40-36 record and led the team to four straight bowl games.

    Can he make it five straight? Only time will tell, but Fitzgerald certainly has the Wildcats program on the right track.

    Now if he can just win one of those bowl games.

35. Frank Spaziani: Boston College

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    With the exception of Mike Riley at Oregon State, there are not any head coaches on the hot seat more than Frank Spaziani.

    The Eagles have gotten progressively worse each of his three seasons and last year only won four games.

    Spanziani will need to show some improvements and possibly have a winning season to keep his job beyond 2012.

34. Charlie Strong: Louisville

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    Charlie Strong may be one of the best young coaches in college football.

    He has taken the Louisville program from the bottom of the Big East to tri-champions of the league in only two years.

    Now with a solid, young nucleus, the Cardinals could be the team to beat in the Big East for 2012 and Strong could find himself in the real big time within three years.

33. Mike Gundy: Oklahoma State

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    Mike Gundy has built a solid program at Oklahoma State, but now has to replace a lot of talent from a season ago.

    He will have running back Joseph Randle back in the fold, but will have to answer a lot of questions next season on both sides of the ball.

    We will find out what he can really do next season without Justin Blackmon and Branden Weeden.

32. Terry Bowden: Akron

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    It is not often that Akron finds themselves on many lists, or making national news, but the hiring of Terry Bowden brings some intrigue to the program.

    Bowden most recently was the head coach of North Alabama from 2009-2011.

    Before that he coached Auburn for 5 1/2 seasons where he went 47-17-1.

    One thing is certain, he brings a big name to an Akron football program that is one of the worst in FBS.

    Let's see what he can do.

Bob Davie: New Mexico

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    Bob Davie is best known for being the head coach of Notre Dame during the late 90's.

    After a brief broadcasting career, he has resurfaced at New Mexico as their head football coach.

    New Mexico has been one of the worst college football teams in recent years and Davie will try to turn them around.

    One thing he will bring is some respectability and a name to the program.

    Success on the other hand is another question.

30. Al Golden: Miami

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    The turmoil surrounding the Miami football program with the ongoing scandal makes Al Golden one of the most compelling coaching to watch in 2012.

    He came to Miami from Temple in 2011 and last season led the Hurricanes to a 6-6 season. 

    This season will be filled with even more turmoil, but if Golden can lead Miami through it, he will be here to stay for years to come.

29. June Jones: SMU

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    June Jones is never afraid to be in the middle of things and has taken SMU back to a bowl game.

    After another season in Conference USA, he will be taking the Mustangs to the Big East beginning in 2013 or 2014.

    Can he improve on last season and send SMU to another bowl game?

    That is the question that will be answered in 2012.

28. Tommy Tuberville: Texas Tech

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    Tommy Tuberville and the Texas Tech Red Raiders took a step backward in 2011, finishing the season with only five wins.

    While some may not think so, Tuberville is on his way to the hot seat if he does not have a good 2012 campaign.

    He is 13-12 in his two seasons at Texas Tech and another losing season could be the last for Tuberville at Texas Tech.

27. Norm Chow: Hawaii

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    Norm Chow has helped develop some of the best offensive talent at both the collegiate and professional levels. Now he finally gets his chance to be a head coach at Hawaii.

    At 65 years old, Chow is a little older than many first-year head coaches, but Hawaii is always fun to watch and it will be interesting to see how he does on his own.

    Chow bring a great background and vast knowledge to the islands.

26. Mike Leach: Washington State

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    Mike Leach is a ticking time bomb that can go off at any time, as evidenced by his final days at Texas Tech.

    After going jobless the last two years, he has been hired on as the head coach at Washington State.

    Leach knows talent and often gets the best out of his players, but it will be fun to see what he can do next season on the west coast.

25. Bill Snyder: Kansas State

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    Just how much longer is Bill Snyder going to be able to coach?

    His Kansas State Wildcats have a lot of talent coming back this season, including star quarterback Collin Klein.

    Klein is one of the most explosive players in the country and Snyder should have one more BCS run in him before he calls it quits.

    Maybe next year will be his last.

24. Jimbo Fisher: Florida State

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    For Jimbo Fisher and the talented Florida State Seminoles, maybe this is the year they finally get over the hump.

    Fisher has a lot of talent, but has not gotten to a BCS bowl game in his first two seasons in Tallahassee.

    He is 19-8 in two seasons, but more is expected out of him, beginning next year. Anything less than 10 wins would be a disappointment.

23. Dana Holgorsen: West Virginia

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    Dana Holgorsen won 10 games, including an Orange Bowl victory in his first season as head coach at West Virginia in 2011.

    Now with the Mountaineers headed to the Big 12, it will be interesting to see how his team fairs.

    They could easily be a sleeper for a national championship and things could get a little more intense next season for Holgorsen.

22. Mark Richt: Georgia

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    It will be interesting to watch what Mark Richt can do next season with possibly the most talented Georgia team he has had since his arrival in 2001.

    They are a top five team, talent wise, but will have to get over the LSU and Alabama hump to play for a national championship.

    Does Richt have what it takes to lead the Bulldogs to a BCS National Championship?

    Sounds compelling to me.

21. David Shaw: Stanford

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    Not many teams have had as much of a turnaround as Stanford has had over the past two seasons.

    While many people would contribute that to the talent of Andrew Luck, David Shaw is out to prove that is not true next season.

    He went 11-2 last season after taking over for Jim Harbaugh wholeft for the NFL and is one of the brightest young coaches in the country.

20. Randy Edsall: Maryland

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    Randy Edsall was very successful at Connecticut, taking the program from the 1-AA level to the Fiesta Bowl in his 12 seasons.

    Last year at Maryland, he fell flat on his face, after taking over the job after the 2010 season.

    The Terrapins went 2-10 last year and another season like that could find Edsall looking for a job and wishing he had stayed at Connecticut.

19. Bob Stoops: Oklahoma

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    Bob Stoops has all of the talent in the world and last season the Oklahoma Sooners struggled because of devastating injuries to some of their best players.

    There is a lot of talent coming back this season and the Sooners are not only the favorites in the Big 12, but also a top ten team heading into 2012.

    Stoops and his group would like to finally live up to those expectations.

18. Taver Johnson: Arkansas

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    Taver Johnson is the newest head football coach as he has just been hit with the interim tag due to the departure of Bobby Petrino at Arkansas.

    Johnson is only 36 and was the associate head coach last season.

    He spent the previous five seasons at Ohio State as the cornerbacks coach.

    How long he will hold the title of interim coach remains to be seen, but if he does go into next season as the head coach, it will be interesting to see how he does.

17. Steve Spurrier: South Carolina

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    Steve Spurrier has a top ten team and may have enough talent to contend for an SEC title.

    He has as much talent as any year since he arrived at South Carolina and it will be interesting to see if he can take down the big guns in the SEC.

    With Marcus Lattimore coming back next season, there is a lot of hope in South Carolina.

    Let's see if Spurrier can deliver.

16. Chris Petersen: Boise State

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    Chris Petersen and the Boise State Broncos are one year away from joining the Big East, so they will likely get to beat up on a few more west coast teams before possibly dominating a weak Big East conference.

    Boise State has to replace as much talent as they ever have and for the first time in a while, they are likely not to be a top 25 team.

    How will Petersen and the Broncos handle the adversity?

    Next season should be very interesting for Boise State.

15. Brady Hoke: Michigan

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    Brady Hoke brought some attitude and his winning ways to the Michigan program last season.

    While they did not win the Big Ten title, they were able to win the Sugar Bowl and will likely be better next season.

    The Wolverines will battle Michigan State for the Big Ten title in all probability.

    Next season could be very interesting in the state of Michigan.

14. Derek Dooley: Tennessee

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    Derek Dooley has struggled in his first two seasons at Tennessee. While he did lead them to a bowl game during his first season, they struggled last year to a 5-7 record, with a lot of injuries to key players.

    He is 11-14 in his first two seasons and has not had a winning record.

    A third consecutive losing season could spell the end of the line for Dooley in Knoxville.

13. Chip Kelly: Oregon

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    Chip Kelly and the Oregon offense are one of the most fun teams in the country to watch and next season will be no different.

    Kelly nearly left Oregon for the NFL, and it will be interesting to see how he transitions without LaMichael James next season.

    How will he deal with almost leaving for the NFL? A lot questions in Eugene, not to mention a top five team who could easily play for the national championship.

12. Jim L. Mora: UCLA

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    Jim Mora is the new big man on campus for the UCLA Bruins and will look to lead them back to national supremacy.

    He has an extensive coaching background and has been the head man for two different NFL teams.

    Mora will need to get out on the recruiting trail for UCLA to be successful and it all starts next season for Mora and the Bruins.

    How will he fair in his first season at UCLA?

11. Bill O'Brien: Penn State

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    New Penn State head coach Bill O'Brien may have the toughest job of any head coach in the country next season.

    He is taking over for a Penn State team that has been involved in a lot of controversy over the past few months.

    Leading them back to their winning ways will be quite a daunting task.

    It will be interesting to see how the former New England offensive coordinator fares at Penn State in 2012.

10. Mack Brown: Texas

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    Mack Brown has surrounded himself with a lot of talent at Texas.

    He had another great recruiting class, and has a top 25 team, but must put it all together next season for the Longhorns.

    If he can the quarterback situation straightened out, Texas could be a real sleeper in 2012.

    If not, Brown could find himself in jeopardy of losing his job.

9. Rich Rodriguez: Arizona

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    Rich Rodriguez had great success at West Virgina, but even greater failure at Michigan.

    Now he gets another chance at Arizona and I for one can't wait to see how he does in the competitive Pac-12.

    Rodriguez is not afraid of controversy and will get in the middle of almost anything. Look for him to help turn around the Arizona program.

8. Charlie Weis: Kansas

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    Who doesn't want to watch Charlie Weis to see what he can do next season at Kansas?

    Turner Gill was not able to do anything with the Jayhawks program, which seemingly remains a basketball school.

    Will the results for Weis be any different? My guess is no, but it will be so much fun to watch Weis try to lead the Jayhawks from the bottom of the Big 12.

7. Kevin Sumlin: Texas A&M

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    Kevin Sumlin is one of the rising young coaches in college football.

    He took the Houston program and made them a top 20 team last season.

    Now he has the unenviable task of trying to lead the Texas A&M Aggies into the SEC, a conference that is not nice to newcomers or other young coaches.

    My guess is he can do it and have Texas A&M a  legitimate contender in the SEC within a few years.

6. Gary Patterson: TCU

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    Gary Patterson is not only leading TCU into the Big 12, but he is also trying the help the university forget about the recent drug scandal that has come down on the program.

    How he handles adversity has never been more important now than ever, and 2012 could be a make or break year for the Horned Frogs program.

    How will the team do against much better and more consistent competition next season in the Big 12? That is the most interesting question that is waiting to be answered.

5. Brian Kelly: Notre Dame

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    Getting Notre Dame back to a BCS bowl game is certainly a goal for the Fighting Irish this season and head coach Brian Kelly has been getting them closer and closer every year.

    Could this be the year they finally get over the hump?

    Only time will tell, but with the Notre Dame quarterback situation still up in the air, it would be a great coaching job by Kelly to lead them to a BCS bowl game.

4. Nick Saban: Alabama

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    After winning a BCS National Championship it is only natural for Nick Saban to be one of the most compelling coaches to watch next season.

    The Alabama Crimson Tide are one of the most talented teams in the country and could very easily repeat as national champions.

    Will Saban be able to replace the talent he lost, particularly on the defensive side of the ball?

    That is just one of the interesting stories for the Crimson Tide heading into 2012.

3. Lane Kiffin: USC

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    Lane Kiffin has finally gotten the USC football program back to where it once was when Pete Carroll was running the show.

    Matt Barkley is coming back for his senior season and the Trojans are the most talented offensive team in the country.

    Kiffin and USC have a chance to be No. 1 when the first polls come out and have their sights set on a national championship.

    Will Kiffin and the Trojans be able to make it through the season without a major blow up or something to derail their national championship hopes.

2. Les Miles: LSU

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    Les Miles is always fun to watch. He is not only quirky on the field, but is never short of smart comments off it.

    LSU will be looking to get the bad taste out of their mouth from their BCS National Championship loss last season to Alabama and Miles will be doing everything he can to get them back there.

    Whether or not he needs to chew on grass to get them there remains to be seen.

    Whatever happens with LSU, Miles will be as fun as ever to watch in 2012.

1. Urban Meyer: Ohio State

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    Nothing is more compelling than a new coach at a big time program. But, when it is Urban Meyer at Ohio State, is definitely takes the cake as the most compelling on the list.

    Urban Meyer has returned to his home state of Ohio to take over a program that is in a one-year bowl ban.

    He has already come up with one of the best recruiting classes in the country and Ohio State is the team many people are looking forward to watching in 2012.

    How will Meyer and his new coaching staff change the old style of Ohio State football in 2012.

    Stay tuned to find out.