College Football: 25 Teams, Players and Coaches Feeling the Most Pressure

Carl Stine@@CFBAllDayCorrespondent IJuly 25, 2012

College Football: 25 Teams, Players and Coaches Feeling the Most Pressure

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    We are all under some kind of pressure.

    Pressure from the wife to clean the garage, pressure from the boss to meet deadlines and possibly even pressure from the parentals to find another location for our all-night gaming parties.

    Not that being under pressure is entirely a negative thing.

    Just ask Kobe Bryant: "Everything negative - pressure, challenges - is all an opportunity for me to rise."

    Of course, I have never followed Kobe as my mentor when it comes to growing as a person, but that's a good quote, nonetheless.

    Enough about him; let's move on to the rankings.

    The 25 folks (groups) on this list are under the most pressure this football season.

25. Nebraska Cornhuskers

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    The Huskers are definitely dealing with a difficult transition here, but let's not treat this as if they are transitioning to the FBS.

    They made an inter-BCS conference move, which, thus far, has not been kind to them on the field.

    It all started with the rude introduction to Big Ten play by Wisconsin last season, and included the loss of star defensive tackle Jared Crick.

    Now, quarterback Taylor Martinez is under pressure to show he can actually complete a few passes in a row, Bo Pelini must lead the team to a solid season if he wants to stay off the hot seat, and the defense must replace three All-American caliber defenders.

    That's a tough situation in which to find oneself.

24. Stanford Quarterback

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    Josh Nunes and Brett Nottingham have the unenviable task of trying to fill the shoes of one of the greatest quarterbacks in the history of Stanford football.

    Whoever wins, for as much as we all know he is not Luck, will have to suffer the endless comparisons, whether intentional or unintentional.

    Head coach David Shaw has made it clear that he does not want the winner of this competition to try to be Luck, but he must know that comparisons are inevitable.

23. Frank Spaziani, Head Coach, Boston College

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    Its fair to say that Spaziani has the hottest head coaching seat in football.

    Boston College has regressed under his leadership, from a team competing near the top of the ACC, to bottom feeders each of the past two seasons.

    If he isn't under pressure in regard to actually keeping his job, the man should certainly feel the pressure to shave that 'stache.

    It's enough to give me nightmares.

22. Texas Longhorns

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    As a member of the college football elite, the Longhorns' program is under immense pressure to win every season.

    The past few seasons, this has not been happening with the regularity it should.

    After two seasons near the middle of the pack in the Big XII, the Longhorns need to have a great season, or the murmurs surrounding the program will explode into all out revolt.

21. Randy Edsall, Head Coach, Maryland

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    After one season, Edsall is already heading for the unemployment line after his poor showing thus far.

    He came to Maryland, which had loads of talent last season, and led them to a pathetic 2-10 campaign.

    He changed the system, from the pro style the team had been operating, which led to a horrible transition for the offense, and the eventual departure to Wisconsin of quarterback Danny O'Brien.

    With the sloppy way he handled that transfer and his move to the program last season, the man is under pressure to have a much better season this year.

20. Oklahoma Sooners

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    The most overrated program since Notre Dame is yet again predicted to compete for a national title, in spite of a sorry defense and having to deal with the loss of five of its top six receivers from the 2011 campaign.

    The Sooners seem to labor under seriously high expectations every season, which never seem to pan out.

    Granted, the program is one of college football's elite, so expectations are sometimes a bit high, but even so, the Sooners struggle to meet them.

    Eventually, those unmet expectations will boil over into some very dissatisfied boosters and fans, and there will be drastic changes in the wind.

    That is, if Landry Jones doesn't solve his road interception issues and the defense doesn't figure out what a play-action pass is.

19. Derek Dooley, Head Coach, Tennessee

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    Dooley is definitely under pressure to lead his team to at least a bowl game this year, or his seat will be warmer than he may want it to be.

    The Vols have a proud program and tradition that has been faltering under his watch.

    All that said, this is one guy that will perform under pressure and lead his team to a better than expected season.

    Tennessee is loaded with talent, especially on offense, and the return of quarterback Tyler Bray, along with receivers Justin Hunter and Da'Rick Rogers, is going to mean the Vols' offense will be ridiculously potent.

    In spite of the pressures Dooley will be feeling, expect him to come out on top, because if this season is not a good one for Tennessee, it might be his last.

18. Al Golden, Head Coach, Miami

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    We all viewed Golden as the innocent party wronged and unjustly punished when he came to Miami just prior to all the news breaking about booster Nevin Shapiro at Miami.

    Then the recent news that his staff had also violated NCAA recruiting rules broke.

    Now, not only does he have a huge job ahead of him turning around the destitute program, he has also lost the moral high ground.

    His job will be in serious jeopardy after the recent revelations if he does not see some result extremely soon.

17. Les Miles, Head Coach, LSU

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    Les Miles' pressure is a bit different than the majority of the coaches on this list.

    It's the pressure to finish.

    Last season, his Tigers started the season as one of the best teams in football, but could not finish the job in the end.

    For Miles, the pressure is more personal in nature, part of the drive innate within all men to accomplish great things and finish whatever projects need to be done (well, some men).

    This pressure, while different from the pressure a coach on the hot seat feels, still takes a certain level of mental toughness and fortitude to work through, and Miles will be doing so this season.

16. Mack Brown, Head Coach, Texas

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    Yes, I said it, and I will continue to do so until he proves me wrong.

    Mack Brown, without Colt McCoy, Vince Young or another transcendent talent at the quarterback position, is hamstrung.

    He cannot win on the big stage.

    That's not an indictment against his ability to coach, he certainly does a solid job, but the Longhorns need to win, and Brown needs to prove that he still has the ability to lead one of the top three programs in the country to a national title very soon.

15. Landry Jones, QB, Oklahoma

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    Jones has had Heisman hopes each of the past two seasons, only to be passed over.

    He returned for his senior season at OU, presumably to compete for a national title.

    The way the team is coming together, they may not even compete for the Big XII title.

    Jones has an incredibly inexperienced set of wide receivers working with him, and a defense that struggles immensely at times to get off the field he must work with.

    His chances of winning a Heisman and garnering some national title talk for his team have dwindled to this one shot, and having only one shot makes the pressure ratchet up exponentially.

14. TCU Horned Frogs

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    In a way, the Horned Frogs are carrying the banner of teams from minor conferences into their inaugural season as a member of the Big XII.

    If they enjoy great success, the detractors from the legitimacy of non-automatic qualifying teams' right to play in postseason play will have to knock it off.

    If they fail miserably in their first campaign, those same detractors all across the country will point to this season as proof that teams such as Boise State, TCU and others of their ilk don't belong with the "big boys."

13. Alabama Crimson Tide

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    Last year's title winner is automatically under more pressure than the rest of the country given their stupendous performance in 2011.

    Add to this the great recruiting classes, a team led by one of the greatest coaches in history (yep, I said it) and the recipe for some intense pressure is pretty clear.

    Expectations are again through the roof for the Tide, which, of course, leads to tremendous pressure on both the players and staff.

12. Notre Dame Fighting Irish

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    This is simple, really.

    Every season, the media ranks the Irish unreasonably high, they are labeled as BCS contenders, and we expect them to win.

    And every season, they fall faster than a lead balloon.

    Expect more preseason accolades followed by almost immediate lack of success, yet again.

11. Will Muschamp, Head Coach, Florida

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    Urban Meyer's successor is starting to feel the heat in Gainesville.

    Muschamp has done a great job of recruiting excellent defensive players, and the Gators' defense will be one of the better in the SEC in 2012.

    The problem lies with the offense.

    To be perfectly blunt, this offense flails around helplessly, hoping for Tim Tebow to ride in on his white horse and turn back time, because the current offense wouldn't know how to score a touchdown against a Pop Warner defense.

    Unless some drastic improvement takes place, and the Gators' offense is much better than expected in 2012, Muschamp may be returning to a position as defensive coordinator somewhere.

10. West Virginia Mountaineers

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    The Mountaineers are facing some lofty expectations in 2012, both as a group and individually.

    Quarterback Geno Smith has been tabbed as a prime Heisman candidate, head coach Dana Holgorsen gets to lead for a second season and prove his system works, and the program as a whole has moved to a new, tougher conference, where many have predicted them to be the conference champs.

    The 'Eers are loaded on offense, with Tavon Austin, Stedman Bailey and Smith leading the charge, and they have the talent to win a national title.

    If those expectations don't lead to pressure, I don't know what will.

9. Tyrann Mathieu, CB, LSU

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    There are the usual pressures of coming back from a season in which he was a Heisman finalist, as well as competing in the best conference in the nation.

    There is the pressure Mathieu must face to duplicate or better last season's performance, and continue to perform at an explosive level.

    And then there is the fact that he lost All-American cornerback on the other side of the field, Morris Claiborne.

    This, more than any of the rest of the factors listed will lead to more pressure on Mathieu than he has ever faced.

8. Florida State Seminoles

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    Last season, the 'Noles were supposed to be back.

    They wound up near the middle of the pack in one of the weakest BCS conferences.

    The expectations are sky-high again this season, and the personnel has changed little.

    The pressure is definitely on for this group, from quarterback E.J. Manuel, to head coach Jimbo Fisher.

7. Georgia Bulldogs

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    Georgia finished the 2011 season with a top five defense.

    With much of that talent returning, they are going to be tough again in '12.

    However, guys cannot stay out of trouble, and the Bulldogs have not won anything of note for some time now, leaving head coach Mark Richt in a warm seat.

    Toss in the loss of stud running back Isaiah Crowell, as well as a quarterback that is uber-talented, and you have players and a staff with an unusual amount of pressures mounting.

6. Urban Meyer, Head Coach, Ohio State

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    The man that has stolen recruits, won championships and now holds the future of one of the premier college football programs in his hands is definitely under some intense scrutiny heading into the 2012 season.

    Meyer's winning record heaps pressure on him at his current head coaching gig, where expectations are B1G conference title, or bust.

    If Meyer can't A) control this program better than Florida B) Beat Michigan and Wisconsin, the Buckeye faithful will get sick of him incredibly fast.

5. John L. Smith, Head Coach, Arkansas

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    So a head coach inherits a top ten team, that hosts their stiffest competition in 2012, as well as a two Heisman candidates in his offensive backfield.

    The expectations have got to be extremely high for Smith and the Razorbacks in 2012.

    While he probably won't be in danger of losing his job should Arkansas have a less-than-perfect season, he's definitely feeling the weight of expectations at this point, and he will not have too many more seasons after this one in which to win, or leave.

4. Denard Robinson, QB, Michigan

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    Robinson leads the nation in September Heisman Trophy wins.

    Each of the past two seasons, he has been anointed as a contender after incredibly productive early performances, only to tail off toward the end of the season.

    In his final season as a Wolverine, Robinson is also in his second year under offensive coordinator Al Borges, and facing the expectations that he and the Wolverines will build on last season's success, eventually catapulting to a Big Ten title.

    Those are some lofty expectations, even for a guy as talented as this one.

3. Bill O'Brien, Head Coach, Penn State

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    O'Brien is in a difficult situation.

    He can't get out of his contract with Penn State without some serious monetary consequences, he has to deal with a likely mass exodus of his players, as well as a postseason ban and limited scholarships.

    Sounds like a dream job, right?

    While he has probably known for some time that he could face some serious issues, those are a death knell for his chances to develop PSU back into a winning program anytime in the next decade.

2. Penn State

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    This was true even before the NCAA handed down some of the toughest sanctions in history this morning.

    The players on this team are in an incredibly difficult spot.

    According to the terms of the NCAA smackdown, any players may transfer and be immediately eligible, which means the majority of them likely will.

    Why stay with a program when your coach is dead, your team is under stiff sanctions, and you will not get to play in a single postseason game?

    Talk about pressure to make a decision.

1. Matt Barkley, QB, USC

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    I think we all know why this smiling Trojan makes the list.

    Mr. Everything returned for his final season, loaded with all kinds of expectations from both fans of USC and the rest of us.

    Just winning the Pac-12 or simply having a good season are not going to be enough for Barkley to escape the intense scrutiny by every discerning football fan and member of the media.

    The man is expected to win the Heisman, and in doing so, carry his team to a title.

    Easier said than done.