Power Ranking Top 2012 College Football Coach of the Year Candidates
Coaching is the key to having success in football. Athletes matter, but without direction and development, those athletes are useless. Half the college football season is past us with eight coaches making big waves, launching themselves into a Coach of the Year candidacy.
Wins help get recognition, but going undefeated isn’t a prerequisite for the Coach of the Year award. What a coach has done with his team's expectations and talent level is what matters.
The game has been full of distracting story lines and suspensions at times this year, but what these eight men have done with their programs should outshine the bad in college football. Leaders are hard to come by; these eight are among the best leaders in the game this season.
Frank Solich: Ohio Bobcats
Frank Solich took over the Bobcats in the 2005 season and has had only one losing season. It was his first.
This year, Solich has taken the Bobcats to a new level, as Ohio is staring down an undefeated record. The Bobcats opened the season with a win against Penn State in Happy Valley during one of the most emotional contests ever played in Beaver Stadium.
The Bobcats are pushing for their third MAC East Division title in four seasons and a possible BCS-busting berth if they win out. Ohio is in a better spot nationally than ever before under the leadership of Solich.
If the Bobcats finish undefeated, Solich will see his stock rise rapidly in the Coach of the Year conversation.
Bill O’Brien: Penn State Nittany Lions
The toughest coaching job in America is held by Bill O’Brien. After taking over the Penn State program, the devastating NCAA sanctions were levied following the investigation surrounding the Jerry Sandusky scandal.
O’Brien lost some scholarship players to transfer, but kept the heart of the Nittany Lions roster and has done an amazing job with this team so far in 2012.
A season-opening loss to Ohio at home had most writing off Penn State by Week 1. A tough loss followed to Virginia in Week 2, but since, the Nittany Lions have won five straight. They are also 3-0 in the Big Ten.
Despite the scholarship limitations and backbreaking sanctions that dropped on Penn State before the season, Bill O’Brien has rallied the troops and is fielding one of the best teams in the Big Ten in 2012.
Bill Snyder: Kansas State Wildcats
Bill Snyder took over a terrible Kansas State program in 1989, and by 2005, had turned the program into a winner. Snyder left coaching only to return in 2008 to Kansas State. He has again built resurgence for the Wildcats.
The Wildcats are sitting at 7-0 and have a very manageable schedule remaining. Texas Tech and Texas will be tough wins, but with victory comes substance. Kansas State should win the Big 12, and Bill Snyder may finish with Coach of the Year.
The rise of Kansas State has been nothing short of amazing, and this season has highlighted what has been an amazing career for Snyder. If Kansas State makes it into the BCS title game, Snyder will be the Coach of the Year.
Mike Riley: Oregon State Beavers
Where did this Oregon State Beavers team come from? This year, the Beavers are the No. 7 team in the country and are staring down an undefeated season. Mike Riley has guided his program to a 6-0 record in 2012 after the 2011 squad finished 3-9.
It has been a major jump for the Beavers to make it into the Pac-12 title discussion. Riley has led successful Beavers teams in the past, but this may be the best one to date.
Even after losing starting quarterback Sean Mannion to injury earlier this season, the Beavers have continued to climb the rankings, with junior Cody Vaz picking up where Mannion left off.
The Beavers still face Oregon and Stanford, but the fast rise of this program this season is enough to keep Riley in the Coach of the Year conversation even if those games end in losses.
Dan Mullen: Mississippi State Bulldogs
Dan Mullen is taking Missisppi State to heights it has never before reached. The Bulldogs have always been a mediocre SEC team, but this season, they are climbing into the elite levels of the conference.
Mullen has built success over the past few seasons in Starkville, but this year's undefeated run and No. 11 BCS ranking has the nation focusing attention on the Bulldogs.
A tough three-game stretch lays ahead, with Alabama, Texas A&M and LSU all coming in the next three weeks. The test is really just beginning. If this team can win two of those three, Mullen will have solidified his name in the Coach of the Year discussion.
Tommy Tuberville: Texas Tech Red Raiders
Tommy Tuberville has been rejuvenated in Lubbock. The Tuberville-led Red Raiders are 6-1 and ranked No. 14 in the country after knocking off two ranked teams in West Virginia and TCU.
When Texas Tech beat West Virginia, the Mountaineers were the No. 5 team in the country, marking the second time in two years that the Tuberville-led Red Raiders have knocked off a Top 5 team.
Tuberville has built a strong defense at Texas Tech and has allowed for the offense to stay explosive. The Red Raiders are No. 7 in total defense and No. 11 in total offense. This is a strong and balanced football team.
If Texas Tech finishes the season with 10 wins, Tuberville will be a finalist in the Coach of the Year discussions.
Brian Kelly: Notre Dame Fighting Irish
The Notre Dame Fighting Irish have landed back in the national title discussion for good reason—they are winning football games. Brian Kelly has returned the winning tradition to South Bend and, after a 7-0 run, finds himself a part of the Coach of the Year chatter.
The Irish are one of the best defenses in the country and are finding ways to grind out offensive yards consistently. This has been a tough climb for Kelly and his team, but the rise has been impressive.
Notre Dame has defeated Michigan, Michigan State and Stanford so far this season. Oklahoma and USC come down the road.
If Brian Kelly continues to win with the Irish, he will be in the Coach of the Year talk at the end of the season. Even with a few losses, what has been accomplished has been impressive and warrants consideration for the Notre Dame coach.
Will Muschamp: Florida Gators
The Florida Gators have witnessed a break-neck rise to the top under Will Muschamp this season. Muschamp took over the program last year, guiding the Gators to a 7-6 season and a bowl win over Ohio State.
This season, Florida is ranked No. 2 in the country and is 7-0. The Gators still have Georgia and Florida State on the schedule, but this team should be favored to finish the regular season undefeated.
In just his second year on campus, Muschamp is looking to return the Gators to the top of the SEC East and the SEC championship game. A win in the title game would push Florida into the BCS title game and solidify Muschamp’s name on the Coach of the Year trophy.
There is a lot of football left for this team, but right now, Muschamp has to be the leader in the coach of the year conversations. The rapid rise of this program has been fun to watch under the leadership of the man affectionately known as “Coach Boom.”