8 College Football Powerhouses That Would Love Chris Petersen as Their HC

Michael Carroll@mjcarroll531Featured ColumnistJuly 3, 2013

8 College Football Powerhouses That Would Love Chris Petersen as Their HC

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    Boise State head coach Chris Petersen has helped the Broncos become one of the best FBS programs of the last decade. Imagine what Petersen could do with a more prestigious program. With that said, which college football powerhouses would love to have Petersen leading their teams this season?

    When Petersen assumed his current position in 2006, he began building on what Dirk Koetter and Dan Hawkins started: consistently leading Boise State to 10-win seasons. Petersen has brought the Broncos to even greater heights, which includes four Top 10 rankings in the final AP poll. Before Petersen’s arrival, the program never finished better than 12th in that poll.

    Petersen also has led Boise State to two Fiesta Bowl victories, and in those seasons (2006 and 2009), the Broncos finished with no losses.

    Of all the programs one might consider elite in college football today, Boise State arguably has the most limitations. The conference affiliation (Mountain West) and lack of big-time recruits haven’t helped the Broncos get to the top, so Petersen’s coaching abilities are even more impressive. Petersen develops players passed over by other powerhouses into guys who can beat any team in the country.

    Some powerhouses have all the resources available to make them champions, but they can’t meet their expectations. If they had a coach like Petersen, then maybe they could meet those goals. This list contains eight powerhouses in this group of underachievers.

    Powerhouses with first-year head coaches didn’t make the list, because we can assume they’ve acknowledged and addressed any recent coaching-related issues. The teams are listed in alphabetical order.


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    Before going through this list, we need to define “powerhouse.”

    For the purposes of this list, a powerhouse only needed to be a program who was a powerhouse at one time in its history. The easiest way to judge what programs are powerhouses is to look at how much they’ve won. National championships take precedence, but national rankings count as well. That’s why you’ll see some programs that haven’t been relevant for a while.

    Besides, the highest-ranked programs today don’t need new head coaches, as their current coaches are big reasons why they’re highly ranked.

Petersen's Availability

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    Before going through the list, we need to know Chris Petersen’s availability.

    Petersen has no intentions of leaving Boise State, so the possibility of him coaching at one of these schools in the near future is slim-to-none.

    ESPN reported that Petersen signed a contract extension in 2012 that will keep him the head coach of the Broncos through 2017. That shouldn’t mean other schools will stop seeking his services, though.

    Petersen has dealt with all of Boise State’s limitations to becoming an elite football program, so why would he feel any differently now? News flash: he doesn’t feel any differently.

    Okay, now for the list.

Georgia Tech

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    Georgia Tech head coach Paul Johnson’s job appears safe, but his seat needs to get warmer.

    The Yellow Jackets’ appearance in the 2012 ACC Championship Game is misleading, because the two teams ahead of them in the Coastal Division—North Carolina and Miami (FL)—were ineligible for postseason play. This season, both teams are eligible, so Georgia Tech’s chances of returning to the conference title game have decreased significantly. Add in division newcomer Pittsburgh, and the Yellow Jackets’ chances of winning the division went from one in four in 2012 to one in seven in 2013.

    If Georgia Tech plans on competing for ACC championships, it might need to bring in a coach like Chris Petersen. Johnson led Georgia Tech to the conference title in 2009, but the program hasn’t finished a season ranked in the Top 25 of the final AP poll since then. Petersen could return the Yellow Jackets to the success they had under George O’Leary at the turn of the century, or perhaps he could even improve on it.

    Georgia Tech has four school-recognized national championships, and the last came in 1990.


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    Illinois head coach Tim Beckman did so poorly in his first season on the job that Coaches Hot Seat gave him the 11th-hottest seat in FBS heading into 2013. Enter Chris Petersen?

    The Illini have five school-recognized national championships, but the last came in 1951. Despite this, there’s a glimmer of hope: the last two seasons Illinois finished ranked in the Top 25 of the final AP poll (2007 and 2001), it went to BCS bowls.

    If Petersen led the Illini to a 10-win season in 2013, this recent history says a BCS bowl appearance wouldn’t be so farfetched. Petersen knows plenty about 10-win seasons to boot.

    Beckman came from Toledo, another non-BCS school. Bringing in a non-BCS coach again wouldn’t seem like the best idea, but Petersen’s success at Boise State is light years ahead of Beckman’s with the Rockets.

    Beckman should get more than one season, but Illinois can’t be overjoyed with the hire.


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    Chris Petersen could be the guy to bring the one-time powerhouse Minnesota back to competing for respectability.

    The Gophers have seven school-recognized national titles, but the last came in 1960. That’s a long time ago, but it’s nice to know the program has championships in its history.

    Current head coach Jerry Kill improved greatly in Year Two (2012), but the Gophers repeated their 2-6 Big Ten record from 2011. Also, Kill has epilepsy. Though the condition doesn’t affect his ability to be a good coach, it affects his ability to actually coach; he missed some game action in 2012 because of it. These two factors help explain why Sean Frye of B/R says Kill has the second-hottest seat among Big Ten coaches heading into 2013.

    Minnesota hasn’t won a bowl game since 2004 and hasn’t finished with a Top 25 ranking in the final AP poll since 2003. Scooping up a coach like Petersen could do wonders for the once-proud program looking to return to national relevance.


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    Nebraska doesn’t need a new head coach, but it might want one.

    Bo Pelini has led the Cornhuskers to four straight Top 25 finishes in the final AP poll, but the last three seasons have ended with losses in non-BCS bowls.

    As a still nationally relevant program, Nebraska can bring in most any coaching candidate it wants. Chris Petersen would be one of the few men whose hiring could be considered an upgrade over Pelini. Petersen could bring Nebraska to a BCS bowl for the first time since the 2002 Rose Bowl.

    Don’t expect Pelini to leave Nebraska anytime soon, but if the Cornhuskers continue to plateau like they have in the last three seasons, Petersen could get approached.

    Nebraska has five school-recognized national championships, and the last came fairly recently in 1997.


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    If Chris Petersen went to Pittsburgh, he would return to a former employer. Petersen was the quarterbacks coach there in 1992.

    Pittsburgh might not be a powerhouse today, but try telling that to the early 20th century. The Panthers have nine school-recognized national championships, which is the third-most among current FBS schools (three have 11, which is the second-most). Eight came between 1915 and 1937, and the last one came in 1976. Petersen could be the guy to bring the Panthers back to “powerhouse” level.

    Pittsburgh brought in current head coach Paul Chryst in 2012, but Coaches Hot Seat says he already has the 35th-hottest seat in FBS heading into 2013.

    A 6-7 season, which included a loss to FCS opponent Youngstown State, will get people wondering if Chryst is the right guy. Also, the Panthers have moved into the ACC, which is more competitive than the Big East.

    Pittsburgh shouldn’t go after another new coach after finally seeming to stop its recent coaching carousel, and that’s a big reason why Chryst struggled so much in Year One. Petersen could be someone the Panthers go after if they need to move on from Chryst in the future, though.

    The school’s basketball arena is named the Petersen Events Center, so there’s another thing in common; is it a coincidence or a sign?


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    The head coach of Texas football has one of the sport’s most desired positions. If Mack Brown leaves the post, then Chris Petersen should get approached to take it.

    The 2010s haven’t been kind to Brown and the Longhorns. On the seventh day of the decade, Texas lost to Alabama in the BCS National Championship Game. Every day since then, the Longhorns haven’t maintained their excellence of the 2000s. In fact, 2010 was the program’s worst season since 1997, the year before Brown took over.

    Carl Stine of B/R says if Texas wants to move on from Brown, Petersen should be the second-most sought out candidate to replace him.

    Petersen has some familiarity with the Texas recruiting pool. A few current Broncos came from the Lone Star State.

    Brown is one of the most successful coaches in Texas history, so parting with him wouldn’t be easy, but Petersen would be one of the most capable replacements in the sport today.

    Texas has four school-recognized national championships, and the last came in 2005.


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    Chris Petersen to USC makes a lot of sense.

    First, Petersen grew up about six and one-half hours (drive) north of USC in Yuba City, Calif. The California native would return to the state.

    Second, the Trojans could be in the market for a new head coach. Coaches Hot Seat says Lane Kiffin has the hottest seat in FBS heading into 2013.

    Third, Boise State has a lot of California-based players on its roster, so Petersen would be familiar with the recruiting area.

    Fourth, Petersen would be a great tutor for USC’s inexperienced quarterbacks. Petersen was a quarterback in college, and he was one of college football’s best offensive coordinators at Boise State before becoming the head coach. Granted Kiffin’s specialty is the quarterback position too, but if USC were to bring in Petersen, the quarterbacks still would be in good hands.

    Fifth, Petersen would immediately compete for national championships. The Trojans have 11 school-recognized national titles, which is tied for second among current FBS schools, and the last came in 2004.

    USC sought out Petersen for its head coach position in 2010 before hiring Kiffin. If Kiffin gets the pink slip, expect the Trojans to approach Petersen again.


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    Washington head coach Steve Sarkisian has put the program back on stable ground, but three straight 7-6 seasons could leave the Huskies wanting more.

    Coaches Hot Seat says Sarkisian has the ninth-hottest seat in FBS heading into 2013. Jeff Bell of B/R says Sarkisian has the second-hottest seat in the Pac-12. Why?

    If Washington has any plans to compete in the conference, then Sarkisian can’t lead the program to seven-win seasons. In the ultra-competitive Pac-12 North Division, which includes Stanford and Oregon, the Huskies would need to win at least 10 games just to win the division. So, Sarkisian’s job security results from his inability to bring Washington to the next level.

    Chris Petersen could be the guy to lead them into double-digit win territory.

    Petersen has had luck in Washington, where he got Kellen Moore, the greatest player in Boise State history. As Western schools, Washington and Boise State recruit from the same areas, so Petersen would have familiarity in that department.

    Sarkisian was a quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator at USC under Pete Carroll, so he has more experience than Petersen coaching powerhouse programs. Despite this, Petersen has outperformed Sarkisian as a head coach. Washington made a solid hire with Sarkisian, but he’s shown a ceiling with which the Huskies shouldn’t settle. Petersen could do better or worse, but at least he’d represent a change.

    Washington has two school-recognized national championships, and the last came in 1991.


    As always, thanks for reading, and check me out on Twitter at @MCarroll_Philly!