College Football: 10 Rivalries That Can Cost a Coach His Job

Jonathan McDanalContributor IIIFebruary 21, 2013

College Football: 10 Rivalries That Can Cost a Coach His Job

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    College football thrives on vicious rivalries. Ohio State vs. Michigan is one of the biggest games of the year, regardless of how highly ranked either team is at the time of play.

    There is a little patience involved, of course. For instance, if Auburn doesn't beat Alabama in 2013, Gus Malzahn isn't likely to lose his job. After all, Auburn didn't beat anyone in the SEC last season, so there is an understood curve.

    Patience only lasts so long in the bitter rivalries, though. Eventually, you have to beat the one team that matters most. An 0-11 Michigan team can roll into rivalry weekend against an 11-0 Ohio State team, and the coach may get another season just off that one win.

    It works the other way around, too. If Ohio State rolled into "The Game" 11-0 and walked out with a loss to an 0-11 Wolverines team, you can bet the coach (yes, even Urban Meyer) would be called into the athletic director's office for a "chat."

    One loss won't get you fired, but a three-year skid would certainly get the interview process rolling. There are plenty of coaches that are willing to make a few million dollars to try to succeed where others fail. These coaches have some of the most desirable jobs in the world, at least when they're winning.

    Here are 10 of the most intense rivalries in college football. Each and every one can cost a coach his job. It might take some time, but if a coach lets one of these rivalries get to an 0-3 mark, he can expect his seat to start getting warm.

10. California vs. Stanford

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    Rivalry Name: The Big Game

    Cal vs. Stanford is one of the biggest games on the West Coast, and it's definitely one of the longest. The first game was played on March 19, 1892.

    Cal vs. Stanford has provided college fans with some insane finishes, including "The Play," which is quite possibly the most memorable finish in college football history.

    The Big Game can win you honor and glory, or it can cost you your job as head coach of either of these teams. Again, there is some patience if you take over a team that is at a huge disadvantage, but patience is a virtue, not an expectation.

    The teams in California have a special four-way rivalry that rotates intensity as each team gets stronger or weaker. Cal vs. Stanford may not be the most bitter rivalry in 2013, but the results always matter.

9. Clemson vs. South Carolina

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    Rivalry Name: Battle of the Palmetto State

    Clemson and South Carolina are both in the heart of South Carolina, and the game is the biggest in the state.

    This is a classic battle between the ACC and the SEC, with the winner earning statewide bragging rights that can get downright annoying (personal experience). It also provides some serious highlights due to the emotions on the field.

    The sports scene in the Palmetto State doesn't get any bigger than the Tigers vs. the Gamecocks. The coaches of each team know that this game means a lot.

    When you live in the state, and the colleges are fewer than 150 miles apart, you can't escape failure. Neither can the athletic directors or the student bodies.

    This rivalry is to South Carolina what the Alabama vs. Auburn rivalry is to Alabama. The only difference is that it isn't an in-conference matchup.

    The stakes are high, and Dabo Swinney needs to win this game or the next game on the list sooner rather than later. After all, there may not be a later.

8. Florida State vs. Miami

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    Rivalry Name: Sunshine State Rivalry

    Florida State and Miami have the biggest football rivalry in the ACC. The Hurricanes and the Seminoles battle for conference supremacy, and they would have met in 2012's ACC title game if not for Miami's self-imposed bowl ban.

    This rivalry laid dormant for a while as both schools went through a recent stretch of imbalanced power, but the game itself always means something to the winner.

    It means something to the loser's coach, too. It means his seat temperature rises a bit. Miami is on the way back up, and a big win over Florida State will be expected in the near future.

    Since EJ Manuel (QB, Florida State) was a senior in 2012, Miami may be able to capitalize on Florida State's weakness in 2013. Again, this rivalry isn't going to claim a coach in 2013, but the loser's leader will definitely get a little nervous.

7. Notre Dame vs. USC

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    Rivalry Name: sometimes referred to as "The Greatest Intersectional Rivalry in College Football"

    Notre Dame vs. USC is a traditional rivalry that historically carried a lot of weight. In 2012, the rivalry once again had major implications, but they were for Notre Dame, not USC.

    Had Notre Dame not won the 2012 edition of this game, the Irish would not have been in the national championship game. Had USC won the game, the Trojans still wouldn't have been conference champions, but the bragging rights would have alleviated all sores from the terrible season that took place.

    As it is, Lane Kiffin is questionably on the hot seat after dropping the Georgia Tech game during the 2012 postseason. If he had beaten then-No. 1 Notre Dame in the final week of the regular season, the Georgia Tech loss wouldn't have stung as much. Especially since the backup quarterback's performance was horrible.

    This game can cost either team's coach his job, especially since Notre Dame has risen back toward the top of college football.

6. USC vs. UCLA

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    The USC vs. UCLA rivalry is the battle for Los Angeles. It's not called that per se, but the schools are in the same city.

    In 2011, the Trojans beat the Bruins 50-0, but sanctions against USC placed UCLA in the conference title game anyway. In 2012, USC simply dropped the entire season and let UCLA earn its way in legitimately with a freshman quarterback.

    UCLA and USC battle for bragging rights, recruits and head coach job security every season. This rivalry, due to proximity, is one of the fiercest in the nation.

    Unfortunately for Lane Kiffin, it's just another rivalry that can hurt his job security. Kiffin has plenty of games he can win to turn his momentum around, but he needs to do it now instead of later.

5. Florida vs. Georgia

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    Rivalry Name: The World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party

    This rivalry may not have the wittiest name in football, but it's straight to the point. Florida and Georgia are both SEC East powers, and this game frequently determines the division's representative in the conference title game.

    South Carolina was also a candidate for this slide, but since the Gamecocks were just added to the SEC in 1991, the Gators won the spot outright. The rivalry isn't just storied and heated, it's consistently relevant to the conference's landscape.

    South Carolina just became a perennial threat after it hired Steve Spurrier as head coach. Florida and Georgia have rotating rivals in the SEC West like Alabama and LSU, but the Florida-Georgia game is an annual event that holds significant meeting for the two neighboring states.

    Florida and Georgia are playing some stellar football at this point in time, and everything rides on this game. The SEC champion has appeared in the last seven national championship games, and the conference champion has won six of them.

    If you're going to stick around as a head coach in the SEC, you have to bring championship appearances as offerings to your athletic department. Sure, you can lose a few, but if you prove that you simply can't win a championship, just pack your bags.

    For Florida and Georgia, the mini-SEC championship is at the Cocktail Party, and the coaches always lay it all on the line for this game.

4. Texas vs. Texas A&M

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    The Texas vs. Texas A&M rivalry is on hiatus for the time being, as the Aggies have joined the SEC and Texas has dropped them from the schedule. However, House Bill 788 is running around Texas, and its purpose is to reinstate the rivalry that was a constant from 1915-2011.

    This may seem like an overstepping of boundaries, but the Alabama-Auburn rivalry had a long hiatus that was resolved when the school directors got together and agreed to resume the series. Prior to that, legislative attempts to force the schools to play failed.

    That proves one thing: Legislative attempts to force series to resume is step one. Step one is already underway. This piece will carry on assuming that the series will resume sooner rather than later.

    The schools are in the same state, and Texas A&M is already enjoying the fruits of its labor in the SEC. Texas is enjoying, well, nothing at the moment. The Longhorns are looking down right now, and changes need to be made.

    Whether that's a quarterback, defense or coaching change remains to be clearly determined, though the quarterback situation is certainly a front-runner. The Texas-Texas A&M rivalry could cost either team a shot at a national title, and it could cost Texas a share of the Big 12 title until arrangements are made to hold a conference title game.

    In the meantime, this rivalry eats jobs for breakfast, and there's little reason to believe that the rivalry won't be resumed as the landscape of college football changes in 2014. The playoff selection committee is supposed to favor strength of schedule. Playing a top-tier team from the nation's strongest conference just makes sense.

    How else are you going to knock the conference down? You have to beat the SEC on the field, or its teams are just going to keep winning national championships.

    Mack Brown and Kevin Sumlin need to do what they can to play football again. It might cost one of them his job eventually, but not playing the game shows that somebody is scared. After what Texas A&M did to Oklahoma in the Cotton Bowl, it's understandable that Brown would be nervous. Sumlin is a different story.

3. Oklahoma vs. Texas

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    Rivalry Name: Red River Rivalry

    Oklahoma and Texas have an annual date with destiny that can cost anyone his job. It's one of the most intense battles in the country. Seriously, the state of Texas loves football, and Oklahoma has nothing better to do. (Just kidding, Sooners! Tulsa is awesome from firsthand experience, and the whole state is gorgeous.)

    The Sooners and the Longhorns, when they're at the top of their game, generally decide the conference title winner with this bout. That's especially true now that Nebraska is in the Big Ten, Colorado is in the Big 12 and Missouri and Texas A&M just joined the SEC.

    While the Big 12 doesn't currently hold a title game, the Sooners and Longhorns are historically the only two powerhouses left in the conference. If Texas can bounce back from the loss of Colt McCoy, then this rivalry can get back down to business.

    Bob Stoops was thrilled with the 2012 result, but Mack Brown was obviously not. While there are many teams on this list who have the patience for a rivalry loss, Texas certainly has to be thinking about Brown's future.

    If Brown can take advantage of Landry Jones' departure from Oklahoma in 2013, then he can breathe a little easier. If not, then this rivalry might just claim another victim before the end of the BCS era.

2. Ohio State vs. Michigan

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    Rivalry Name: The Game (With apologies to those of you who just lost the game.)

    While Stanford and Cal have The Big Game every season, Ohio State and Michigan do not feel it's necessary to put "big" in the title of their rivalry. If you need to be told it's big, is it really that big?

    Ohio State and Michigan have the biggest rivalry outside of the southern United States, and it's a bucket list-sized match for any college football fan.

    The Buckeyes and the Wolverines are two of the most legendary teams in the history of college football, and they are still battling annually. Both programs have legendary coaches, legendary histories and legendary expectations from their current coaches.

    If Brady Hoke turns out to be the coach Michigan hopes he is, the Urban Meyer vs. Brady Hoke era is going to add to the legends of both institutions. If either coach decides that this game is just a game, then he won't make it.

    A head coach wouldn't last long at either school with a bunch of 1-11 seasons, but if that one win was in The Game, the coach would probably still be greeted warmly by his fans. That said, don't expect 1-11 from either of these guys.

    And don't expect a five-year-long win streak from either of them. Either one of these coaches would be canned for a five-loss streak against the other squad. Both teams are too similarly talented right now to justify that kind of failure.

1. Alabama vs. Auburn

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    Rivalry Name: The Iron Bowl

    Alabama and Auburn have the most meaningful rivalry in college football, at least to the coaches. If you don't win the Alabama "state championship," you're not keeping your job.

    This rivalry doesn't hold any records for longest consecutive time played or anything like that. It's so intense that an on-field dispute (supposedly, anyway) once stopped it from happening for 42 years.

    Alabama and Auburn have done some crazy things to each other over the decades. Last-second field goals, back-to-back blocked punts and crazy 24-point comebacks have turned winners into losers just like every other major rivalry in the game.

    Gene Chizik is the most recent victim of this rivalry, though it wasn't all Alabama's doing. Auburn went 3-9 in 2012, and the blowout loss to Alabama was just the nail in the coffin.

    Had Chizik found a way to knock down the Tide, Alabama would not have made it to the SEC title game, and Chizik would have given his fanbase something to really cheer about. Instead, he gave them an 0-8 conference record and a goodbye wave as he skittered out of town.

    A lot of things hang in the balance of the Iron Bowl; head coaches are just one of them. Chizik found that out the hard way, and Malzahn knows what he's got to do. So does Nick Saban.