The 2013 season will be loaded with expectations for a number of teams that witnessed surprising success in the past year. It will also bring ultimatums for a few coaches at schools with expectations that have yet to be met.
There are 10 coaches in particular who will be driving the national conversation. New coaches no longer take a backseat to title expectations, as second-year head coaches have taken home the crystal often in the past decade.
With each passing year, the pressure on coaches gets a little worse, but there are always going to be a select few that carry the burden of the job for the entire season. It could be higher than achievable expectations or the knowledge that a losing season means a lost job.
Here is a look at the coaches with the toughest roads to travel in 2013.
Butch Jones is walking into a very tough situation at Tennessee this season. His star quarterback opted for the draft as did two of the best receivers on roster. He has a depleted defense and little hope of finding proven playmakers on offense.
This is going to be a long transition year for Jones. There are high expectations for a turnaround in Knoxville, but with the rising talent in the SEC East, this team is a long way from being back.
The Vanderbilt program has surpassed the Vols as the best program in the state of Tennessee. The ESPN report linking the Vols' athletic department to deep debt just twisted the knife of embarrassment deeper into the program.
A falling attendance record doesn’t help things for Jones. This is a big hill to climb for the Volunteers' new coach.
The Ohio State program is on a major tear through college football right now with Urban Meyer guiding the team. The Buckeyes went 12-0 in his first season and have a legit shot at repeating as an undefeated program in 2013.
This team has high expectations, and every Buckeyes fan is looking for an undefeated run through the conference and hopefully a berth into the BCS National Championship game for its final year.
Meyer has the team to do it but repeating as an undefeated program is a very difficult task. In Alabama’s amazing consecutive title run, it lost football games. Going undefeated and playing for the national championship are lofty expectations for a program losing key defenders, but it is a possible scenario.
This team has to stay grounded and take the schedule week by week.
The Texas faithful have to be getting stir-crazy around Austin. A once title-contending program is now finishing the season in the Alamo Bowl and tied for third in the Big 12.
This team is supposed to be in the BCS and winning titles. The last BCS berth was four years ago. There have been four appearances in Mack Brown’s 15 years with the program.
He has been very successful as the Longhorns' head man, guiding the team to Top 25 finishes in 12 consecutive years and finishing five times in the Top Five.
The problem has been the recent record. Since 2010 the Longhorns have been 22-16. They haven’t challenged for the Big 12 in three years. This year has to be the turnaround year for Brown, or he will be on the hot seat heading into 2014.
Mack Brown needs for his program to finish in the Top 10 after 2013, or there will be more than whispers rolling the plains of Texas.
Kevin Sumlin is one of the hottest young names on the coaching circuit. He stepped into a great situation at Texas A&M and put together the fastest rising team in the SEC.
Sumlin coached the first-ever freshman Heisman winner in Johnny Manziel, and he took the Aggies to an 11-win season in their first dance in the SEC.
Next year will bring higher expectations. The Aggies faithful will be looking for a championship-worthy team. The talent should be there, but the pressure will be on Sumlin to get it to produce on the field.
Maneuvering through a difficult SEC schedule won’t be easy, but this team could reach expectations. The country will be watching, piling on the pressure for Sumlin and his coaching staff.
Gary Andersen is credited with launching the Utah State program onto the national map with Chuckie Keeton leading his offense.
Andersen was offered the Wisconsin job after Bret Bielema departed for Arkansas. Jumping to the Big Ten is a big leap for Andersen, and it comes with the highest expectations of his young head coaching career.
He is no longer leading an underdog that can sneak up on the country's fans. He is leading one of the powerhouses of the Big Ten, and he will be looking to replicate the successes of Barry Alvarez and Bielema.
This could end two ways for Andersen. He will either shine in the spotlight and continue to guide Wisconsin to the top of the Big Ten, or he will flop and be out in three seasons. This is a bold move by Wisconsin, but Andersen is a great technical coach.
This should be a great sleeper hire for the program.
Randy Edsall is on the hot seat entering the new year. He has guided the Maryland team for two years, and so far he has failed miserably to meet expectations. Edsall is 6-18 overall as the Terps' head coach.
He was expected to bring an explosive offense and suffocating defense. Instead the Maryland program has been absolutely terrible in every facet of the game.
Edsall has to find a way to get this program into the ACC discussion this fall, and he has to make a bowl game. Anything less may see him lose his employment during the offseason.
Maryland didn’t fire the school's most winningest coach to lose ballgames.
Lane Kiffin has been very disappointing in his time with the Trojans. He has failed to meet expectations in L.A., and 2012 was the most disappointing for USC under his guidance yet.
The USC program is expected to challenge for titles, and so far Kiffin doesn’t have them there. It isn’t due to a lack of talent—it is a lack of instruction and team unity.
This program draws in Top-10 recruiting classes every year. Kiffin has the most elite skill talent in the country at his disposal. His defense is loaded with blue-chip prospects who continue to underperform.
If the ship isn’t steered in the right direction during 2013, Southern Cal may be looking at an exit strategy.
Kirk Ferentz is the second highest paid coach in the Big Ten. Let that soak in for a minute.
His teams have been absolutely terrible over the past few seasons, and the longer this goes on, the more irritable the Hawkeyes faithful will become. The fans don’t care who is running the program, they just want a winner. Right now, that isn’t Ferentz.
Don’t be surprised if this is the ultimatum year for Ferentz in Iowa. He has to find a way to get this program back on track. The farther they fall from the top of the conference, the more difficult it will be to claw back up.
It may be time for the Iowa administration to move on. If there isn’t a bowl win to cap off 2013, they just may.
Mark Helfrich has the tough job of following up Chip Kelly at Oregon. Kelly was a promoted assistant like Helfrich, so fans immediately assume there will be zero drop-off for the program.
No matter how small the change or adjustment is at the top, it is still a change, and it will affect this team.
The offense and defense will look the same, but this staff will put a new stamp on the program. The hope is that it is a detail that helps the program, not one that throws it off.
This is one of the best programs in the country, and it carries the weight of the highest of expectations. Helfrich has a lot on his plate for a first-year guy.
Bill O’Brien was the hero of the 2012 college football season. He stepped into the most toxic environment in sports after the NCAA handed down sanctions surrounding the Jerry Sandusky investigation and still found a way to win ballgames.
The Nittany Lions faithful was overjoyed with the results but it set the tone for high expectations.
If this team walks into the new year and wins six games it will be an overachievement. There is talent that remains on the roster, but it is limited thanks to scholarship sanctions. The team may also have to rely on a true freshman quarterback with the arrival of Christian Hackenberg.
There is a long road ahead for this program, and the expectations are high. O’Brien seems to be OK with it as he continues to push forward with one of college football’s most well-known programs.