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50 College Football Coaches with the Most to Gain in 2012

Joe PenkalaCorrespondent IOctober 25, 2016

50 College Football Coaches with the Most to Gain in 2012

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    As the 2012 football season approaches, coaches are continuing to prepare for the upcoming season and the beginning of fall camp. 

    For some coaches, they know that they did a good job last year and need to build off of that success. For others, 2011 was not so kind, and they need to be able to bounce back with a successful 2012 season.

    Regardless of the boat that a coach may be in, here is a look at 50 coaches who have a lot on the line and a ton to gain from the 2012 season. 

Air Force: Troy Calhoun

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    Troy Calhoun has been leading Air Force since 2007 and has continued to keep them consistent and heading to bowl games. If Calhoun is able to do it again this year, then he may start to see offers from other schools come rolling in.

Alabama: Nick Saban

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    Nick Saban is one of those coaches who seems to have it all. Saban was able to guide the Tide to a national championship last year, and if he is able to get this team back to the national championship, he would continue to separate himself from over every coach in the nation. 

Arkansas: John L. Smith

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    John L Smith is walking into a scenario that he knows is not going to be permanent. With that said, Smith will have the ability to give this season his best shot.

    If he does a decent job then nothing was lost, but if he has a great season and helps Arkansas win the SEC, he could stick around at Arkansas or find another permanent job. 

Arizona State: Todd Graham

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    Todd Graham has been bouncing all over the place and has now landed in Arizona State. While some people may not be able to take his commitment serious, winning can make that perception go away.

    That is what Graham stands to gain in 2012. 

Arizona: Rich Rodriguez

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    After getting run out of town at Michigan, Rich Rodriguez took a year off and is now the head coach at Arizona.

    Rodriguez had a belief that what he was doing at Michigan would work, and now that he is with the Wildcats, he should be give the time to prove it. 

Baylor: Art Briles

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    Art Briles is entering a season that will tell people a lot about the status of the program. Last year, Robert Griffin III led this team to a great season, and he locked up the Heisman Trophy.

    Now that Griffin is gone, people will see if Briles is able to keep this program competitive and moving forward or if this was simply a special player and a special season.

Boise State: Chris Petersen

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    Chris Petersen already has good job security. When it comes to running things around Boise State, Petersen has done a great job. If he is able to help this team overcome the loss of Kellen Moore and have a good season, then Petersen will be held up even higher by the Bronco fans. 

Cal: Jeff Tedford

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    Cal's head coach Jeff Tedford has everything to gain this year but also everything to lose. Over the past couple of seasons things have gotten rocky for the head coach.

    If Tedford is able to right the ship, then the belief in him may be renewed, but another down season could cost him his job.

Clemson: Dabo Swinney

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    Dabo Swinney and Clemson got off to a great start last year but watched a brilliant start be ruined by stumbling down the stretch. 

    Clemson is known for having these types of collapses, but Swinney has the talent to finish the job in 2012 and change the perception of the program.

Florida: Will Muschamp

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    Year one did not go as planned for Will Muschamp at Florida, and everyone around the program is hoping that year two goes a lot better.

    In 2012, Muschamp has the ability to really get the fan base behind him with a strong season in the SEC. If he can gain some momentum, the Gators may start moving back towards the top of the conference. 

Florida State: Jimbo Fisher

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    Florida State has a loyal fan base, and they are hungry for a winning team. The past few years have seen the Seminoles enter the season with big expectations but routinely fall short. If Fisher can change that in 2012, he will be on easy street at Florida State.

Georgia: Mark Richt

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    After a rough start to 2011, Mark Richt and the Bulldogs ripped off 10 straight wins and found themselves in the SEC title game.

    After being on the hot seat for a few years, a return trip the conference title game would earn Richt some much-deserved respect inside the program.

Kansas: Charlie Weis

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    The time that Charlie Weis spent at Notre Dame was a disaster. After spending a year at Florida as a coordinator, he is now taking over at Kansas. The bar is low based off of last year, so any sort of success would be huge for Weis and this program. 

Kansas State: Bill Snyder

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    In 2011, Bill Snyder showed the nation that he can still coach. In 2012, Snyder has the opportunity to do much more. Not only can he show that he is as good as he has ever been, but he can also prove that this Kansas State team is for real. 

LSU: Les Miles

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    No coach in the nation has had more sleepless nights since the end of 2011 than Les Miles. Miles helped guide the Tigers to a perfect regular season and a SEC title but had to face Alabama for a second time. 

    Miles and the Tigers are both hoping to avenge last year's bitter loss to the Tide and will get their shot at home.

Maryland: Randy Edsall

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    Last season was a train wreck for Randy Edsall and Maryland. Edsall came from Connecticut and was believed to be the guy for the Maryland program.

    While last year may not have gone well, Edsall can prove it was a one time thing and restore faith with a strong 2012. 

Michigan: Brady Hoke

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    Last year Brady Hoke and Michigan announced to the nation that they are on their way back. This year Hoke has a chance to gain even more respect if he is able to lead the Wolverines to another strong season, but it wont be easy based on the difficult schedule.

Michigan State: Mark Dantonio

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    Mark Dantonio has quickly made himself into a fan favorite, and that is mainly because of the dominance his teams have had over Michigan. If Dantonio is able to put together a third straight strong season, including a win over Michigan, the Michigan State fans may start bronzing a statue of him. 

Mississippi State: Dan Mullen

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    Since arriving at Mississippi State, Dan Mullen has done a great job but has yet to help them compete for a trip to the SEC title game.

    While the rivalry against Ole Miss appears to be under control, becoming a competitor in the conference would take Mullen to a whole new level. 

Missouri : Gary Pinkel

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    Gary Pinkel leads Missouri into the SEC and has a lot to prove but also a lot to gain from this move. Many are expecting the Tigers to struggle in their new home, but if Pinkel can help them compete in the SEC, the program will get some much-deserved attention. 

Navy: Ken Niumatalolo

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    Ken Niumatalolo has been a great addition for Navy, but last year the Midshipmen took a step back. While Niumatalolo is certainly not on the hot seat right now, that type of conversation can be completely avoided with a strong season in 2012. 

Nebraska: Bo Pelini

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    Nebraska is a storied program that has a nationwide following. Its first year in the Big 10 went well, but the Husker faithful want more as they head into year two.

    If Bo Pelini can deliver a conference title to Lincoln, he will help bring this program back to national prominence. 

North Carolina: Larry Fedora

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    After an upset of Houston in the Conference USA title game, former Southern Miss coach Larry Fedora is now at North Carolina. This is a great opportunity for Fedora to show that he can coach as effectively against stronger competition week after week. 

Northwestern: Pat Fitzgerald

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    Since 1949, Northwestern has been held without a bowl victory. As we head towards the 2012 season, Pat Fitzgerald could use a strong season that is capped off with a bowl win. If he is able to do this, Fitzgerald would be loved even more by the Wildcat faithful. 

Ohio State: Urban Meyer

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    When the spot at Ohio State first opened up, many believed it was Urban Meyer's job. After a year went by without Meyer in college football, he finally made the choice to take on the head coaching gig. 

    While Ohio State is banned from the postseason this year, a strong season in the Big 10 would help cement that fact that this is where Meyer belongs. 

Oklahoma: Bob Stoops

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    The fans in Norman have been waiting and waiting for Bob Stoops to lead the Sooners back to the top and are hoping that this is the year. If Stoops can deliver on his end of the bargain, he will elevate his status among the coaching elite. 

Oklahoma State: Mike Gundy

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    Last year had all the makings of a dream season for Mike Gundy and Oklahoma State, but a loss to Iowa State brought that to an end.

    Gundy has done a good job with the Cowboys, but a strong 2012 after losing Justin Blackmon and Brandon Weeden would speak volumes. 

Oregon: Chip Kelly

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    With USC returning to bowl eligibility, Chip Kelly has a big test but also a great opportunity on his hands. 

    For the past three years, Kelly and the Ducks have owned the conference, but if he is able to lead them to a fourth straight over this USC team, then he will elevate himself to one of the nation's best coaches.

Oregon State: Mike Riley

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    For two straight years, Oregon State has been dreadful, and Mike Riley has gone from a very comfortable position to now being under some heat.

    Despite playing in a strong Pac-12 North, Riley needs to find a way back into bowl contention, or the heat will be turned up even more. 

Penn State: Bill O'Brien

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    Bill O'Brien is walking into a very interesting situation. Penn State is a program that is looking for a new identity with Joe Paterno gone.

    If O'Brien is able to field a strong team and get the results to match, then he may become the school's new focal point.

Pittsburgh: Paul Chryst

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    Paul Chryst is taking over at Pitt and has a chance to take this program under his wing and become its unquestioned leader. 

    At the end of last year, Todd Graham appeared to be staying until news broke that he had bolted for Arizona State. Pitt turned to Chryst as the answer at head coach, and now is his chance to prove the Panthers made the right choice. 

SMU: June Jones

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    June Jones has a chance to do what not many people thought could be done. Jones is pulling SMU out of the dark days of its NCAA "Death Penalty" and has them close to competing for a conference title. If he is able to pull that off, it would be a great coaching accomplishment for Jones. 

South Carolina: Steve Spurrier

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    Steve Spurrier has done a good job at South Carolina but has yet to deliver a SEC title. While Spurrier is still a great name in college football, he needs a breakout season to reestablish himself as one of the game's great coaches. 

South Florida: Skip Holtz

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    Last year started out great but turned into a disaster for Skip Holtz and South Florida. In 2012, Holtz still has the talent to win the conference, especially with West Virginia in the Big 12.

    A strong finish to this season could earn the Bulls a spot in a BCS game. 

Stanford: David Shaw

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    Nobody in the nation may have more critics than David Shaw. Shaw had a great first season in 2011, but it came with Andrew Luck under center. If Shaw can repeat that kind of season in 2012, he will certainly silence everyone.

TCU: Gary Patterson

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    Gary Patterson and TCU are moving to the Big 12 this year with a chance to show people they belong. For years now, TCU has been asking for a shot to play in the national title, but its schedule and conference continued to get in the way.

    With playing in the Big 12, Patterson will not have to worry about off-the-field decisions if his time takes care of things on the field. 

Temple: Steve Addazio

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    Steve Addazio and Temple had a great season last year. To follow up their 2011 season, the team is moving to the Big East after the departure of West Virginia.

    If Addazio can help this team play up to last year's level, a conference title is not beyond its reach.

Tennessee: Derek Dooley

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    No time like the present for Derek Dooley and Tennessee to have a great season. After back-to-back disappointing years, Tennessee fans are hungry for a competitive team. If Dooley fails to give that to them this year, he could be on his way out of town. 

Texas A&M: Kevin Sumlin

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    The other team moving to the SEC this year is Texas A&M. On top of the pressure of that move, Sumlin is in his first year with the Aggies after coming over from Houston.

    One big step in the right direction for Sumlin may be helping this team focus on taking care of the lead. 

Texas: Mack Brown

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    Since the departure of Colt McCoy, Texas has been average in the Big 12. The Longhorns are still looking for their way on offense, and if Mack Brown can help get that turned around in 2012, then he will restore the faith that may have been lost over the past couple of seasons. 

UCLA: Jim Mora

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    UCLA fans have been waiting and waiting for this team to become competitive again, and it just hasn't happened.

    Jim Mora has been hired to turn things around this year, and if he gets off to a quick start in 2012, this fan base will start to sing his praises. 

USC: Lane Kiffin

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    Now that USC is eligible to play in the postseason, the Trojans and Lane Kiffin will truly be judged. Kiffin has an extremely strong team with Matt Barkley back, and if they are able to live up to expectations, then this will be a huge year for Kiffin and his team. 

Utah: Kyle Whittingham

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    Last year Utah played its first season in the Pac-12, and while things got off to a rough start, the team was still competing for the division title by the end of the year.

    If Kyle Whittingham can build off of last year's success and truly test USC for the Pac-12 South title, then the Utes will be on the right track.

Vanderbilt: James Franklin

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    James Franklin did a great job last year by getting Vanderbilt to a bowl game. This year, the head coach will expect more of his team and will look to help them be more of a threat in the SEC, which would be a monumental achievement. 

Virginia: Mike London

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    At the end of the year, Virginia surprised everyone by having a chance to go to the ACC title game. This year, Virginia and Mike London have a difficult schedule. Another strong season by London would help signify that this is a team that has arrived and could be a force. 

Virginia Tech: Frank Beamer

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    Last season was a good year for Virginia Tech except for when they were getting abused by Clemson. Virginia Tech and Frank Beamer will win their fair share of games in 2012 but will need to ultimately prove themselves against Clemson.

Washington: Steve Sarkisian

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    Since arriving at Washington, things have not quite gone according to plan for Steve Sarkisian and the Huskies. With Oregon in their division, Sarkisian could win a lot of people back over by knocking them off this year. 

Washington State: Mike Leach

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    Mike Leach has arrived at Washington State, and before coaching one game, he has already gained a lot of followers and believers. Leach has a great offensive mind and could prove it by leading the Cougars to a solid 2012 season and maybe a bowl appearance. 

West Virginia: Dana Holgorsen

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    After leaving the Big East, West Virginia has landed in the Big 12 and will certainly be more tested. Last year Dana Holgorsen has able to lead this team to a conference title, and repeating that task would truly show the Mountaineer fans that they are in good hands. 

Wisconsin: Bret Bielema

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    Bret Bielema could not only use a strong regular season, but the man could use a break in the bowl games. After losing to both TCU and Oregon in the Rose Bowl, Bielema is in desperate need of a signature win during 2012. 

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