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Grading Every New BCS Coach's Debut

Randy ChambersAnalyst IMay 31, 2015

Grading Every New BCS Coach's Debut

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    As college football teams took the field over the weekend, many head coaches made their coaching debut. Butterflies where surely in their stomachs, nerves were settling in and the guys on the sidelines just wanted to win the game. There's nothing worse than beginning the season with a loss when you're a new coach looking to make an impact.

    There were 15 BCS coaches who made their debut.

    How did they do?

    Unless the team lost to an FCS opponent, there were plenty of strong first impressions across the college football landscape.

Bret Bielema, Arkansas

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    Grade: B+


    No upset happening this time.

    After Arkansas suffered its worst season in program history last year, Bret Bielema gave the fanbase something to smile about in a 34-14 victory over Louisiana-Lafayette. The Razorbacks pulled off an impressive 522 yards of offense, while the defense forced two turnovers and held the Ragin' Cajuns to 85 yards rushing.

    Bielema, who made his name with a powerful running game in Wisconsin, relied on the same formula as Arkansas rushed for 292 yards, including 131 yards from true freshman Alex Collins.

    It's clear Arkansas is going to be tougher than some expected.

Gus Malzahn, Auburn

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    Grade: C


    Auburn had a tricky matchup against Washington State but was able to squeeze out a 31-24 victory.

    The offense wasn't as polished as expected, converting on just four of 14 third down attempts and settling for three field goals. The defense also continued to show its struggles, allowing quarterback Connor Halliday to pass for 344 yards.

    Still, Auburn won the game, which is the most important thing after last year's 3-9 season. It's clearly a work in progress and Gus Malzahn appears to be the right guy for the job. Although it may be an ugly victory, Auburn fans will take it any day of the week.

Steve Addazio, Boston College

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    Grade: B


    Boston College is another program that doesn't care about how pretty the game is, they just want to win. The team hasn't qualified for a bowl game in two years and has now turned to Steve Addazio for help. The season opener was a nice start, as Boston College won a 24-14 matchup against Villanova.

    Again, it's doesn't make the Eagles BCS contenders, but it was a small step in the right direction, which is what Addazio told Craig Larson of the Boston Globe.

    "You have to start, and our first goal was to win the opener," Addazio said.

    It must feel good to finally be on the winning side.

Sonny Dykes, Cal

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    Grade: A


    Sonny Dykes wasn't able to win the season opener, but he did provide plenty of hope for what the future holds. Cal lost a tough 44-30 battle to Northwestern, which ended with a little controversy due to Wildcat players getting hurt at an alarming rate.

    Whether or not you believe the hype, the Golden Bears defense forced three turnovers and quarterback Jared Goff appears to be the real deal. Dykes made the bold statement by starting the true freshman quarterback, and he threw for 445 yards and two touchdowns.

    Cal could have folded against a ranked opponent, but instead stood strong and almost pulled off an upset.

Tommy Tuberville, Cincinnati

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    Grade: C


    Tommy Tuberville walked into a great situation in Cincinnati. The Bearcats were a successful team that lost head coach Butch Jones, not the other way around. So, Tuberville already had a lot of the pieces in place to begin winning games.

    That's why a 42-7 win over Purdue shouldn't come as a surprise. The Boilermakers are in a rebuilding phase under a new head coach, while Cincinnati could legitimately compete for an AAC title.

    It's good he started the season off with a win, but the outcome at the end of the year against Louisville will answer a lot more questions.

Mike MacIntyre, Colorado

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    Grade: A


    It may be time to start building Mike MacIntyre a statue. After just one game on the job, he's already won as many games as Colorado won all of last year.

    The Buffalos simply aren't a good football team and MacIntyre has his work cut out for him. Still, he was able to knock off a more talented Colorado State team 41-27. Quarterback Connor Wood looked incredibly sharp, completing 71.7 percent of his passes and tossing three touchdowns. The defense forced two turnovers and held the Rams to 94 rushing yards.

    This may be one of the few highlights of Colorado's season, but at least the MacIntyre era got off on the right foot and the fans have something to cheer about.

Mark Stoops, Kentucky

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    Grade: D


    Really, Mark Stoops?

    After getting folks excited about the future of the program with a solid 2014 recruiting class, the Wildcats lose 35-26 to Western Kentucky. It is the second straight loss to the Hilltoppers and doesn't make SEC supporters look good when trying to make a case for overall depth in the conference.

    After all, we're talking about a team from the Sun Belt!

    It's going to take a long time before the Wildcats make any noise, but expecting a win over an in-state rival truly isn't asking for much.

Dave Doeren, North Carolina State

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    Grade: B


    Dave Doeren did exactly what he was supposed to do by leading North Carolina State to a 40-14 win over Louisiana Tech. But the way he did it was impressive.

    Quarterback Brandon Mitchell broke a bone in his foot when the Wolfpack had a 14-0 lead. Instead of panicking and pretending the game was over, Doeren leaned on freshman Matt Dayes to drive home the victory. And he did, rushing for 84 yards and three touchdowns.

    Sometimes you have to work with what you have and simply find a way to win. Doeren proved he can overcome tough obstacles in the season opener.

Mark Helfrich, Oregon

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    Grade: C


    Mark Helfrich had the biggest shoes to fill in replacing Chip Kelly. But he also had a huge advantage by being the offensive coordinator for Oregon before being promoted to head coach. He knows the players and the system, so the transition shouldn't be difficult.

    Oregon beat up Nicholls State 66-3, which came as a surprise to nobody. The Ducks have more speed than a Bugatti Veyron Super Sport and that is the one thing a coach can't teach. Just put the guys on the field and let them go to work.

    Helfich did just that and proved that Oregon isn't going anywhere.

Darrell Hazell, Purdue

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    Grade: D


    Purdue and Cincinnati was the battle between new head coaches, and Darrell Hazell was on the losing end. His team displayed poor discipline by turning the ball over four times and picking up seven penalties.

    The offense struggled to move the ball, the defense couldn't get stops consistently and the 42-7 score indicated that there is a lot of work to be done.

    However, expectations weren't high for Purdue. The team only returned 13 starters and wasn't working with much talent to begin with. Hazell is climbing a mountain uphill and it won't get any better with Wisconsin and Notre Dame soon on the schedule.

Scott Shafer, Syracuse

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    Grade: B


    Syracuse has a bright future under head coach Scott Shafer. Although the Orange lost 23-17 to Penn State, they put up an incredible fight and played tough for 60 minutes. The offense only managed 260 yards and converted on six of 20 third down attempts, but the defense forced four turnovers and held the Nittany Lions to only 57 rushing yards.

    It can be tough for a team to buy into a new head, but it's clear Syracuse believes in Shafer and will run through a brick wall for the 46-year-old.

    Progress was made in a losing effort.

Matt Rhule, Temple

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    Grade: C+


    Nobody expected Matt Rhule to upset Notre Dame in the season opener, but he at least fielded a competitive team in the 28-6 loss to the Irish. The running game averaged 4.6 yards per carry and quarterback Connor Reilly threw for 228 yards and managed the game well.

    Temple showed great potential in the game, which is more than you can say about last year's 4-7 team. The squad didn't back down from the bright lights and did a nice job of keeping their head in the game.

    If Rhule can continue to inspire his players, Temple will compete for a bowl game in no time.

Butch Jones, Tennessee

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    Grade: C


    It's tough to grade a coach when his opponent was Austin Peay.


    Maybe FCS programs should start getting more love considering two FBS teams lost to a small school over the weekend, but the Volunteers dominated the competition with a 45-0 win. Like many coaches on this list, Butch Jones did his job and made the fans happy with a season-opening victory.

    However, two weeks from now when Tennessee travels to Oregon, we'll really see just how far this team has come under new management.

Kliff Kingsbury, Texas Tech

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    Grade: B


    Did you expect anything different from Kliff Kingsbury?

    He's the same guy who helped Johnny Manziel win the Heisman. Now, quarterback Baker Mayfield passed for 413 yards and four touchdowns in a 41-23 win over SMU.

    Could history repeat itself?

    It's highly unlikely, but Kingsbury is clearly a bright offensive mind and is sure to lead Texas Tech to plenty offensive success. The Red Raiders produced 461 yards of offense and converted 10 of 18 third down attempts.

    The future is bright.

Willie Taggart, USF

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    Grade: F


    South Florida lost 53-21 to McNeese State.

    Regardless of the circumstances, there's absolutely no excuse to lose to an FCS team. South Florida's backups should have been able to win this game. Instead, both teams starters went at it and the Cowboys won.

    Willie Taggart is considered by many to be an up-and-coming head coach who had solid success in three years with Western Kentucky. But losing the season opener to a team nobody heard of makes it hard to believe what's in store a couple of years from now.

    This loss will haunt USF fans for months.

Gary Andersen, Wisconsin

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    Grade: C


    Much like Tommy Tuberville, Gary Andersen didn't have to do much rebuilding. Head coach Bret Bielema left for Arkansas and left 15 starters behind from a team that won the Big Ten. Andersen just needed to tweak a couple of things, put his stamp on the team and call it a day.

    The first step was a 45-0 win over Massachusetts.

    The Badgers had three running backs who rushed for more than 100 yards and quarterback Joel Stave sowed solid progress by throwing for 197 yards and a pair of touchdowns.

    Beating UMass isn't a marquee win, but the way it was done proves that Wisconsin is still a program to respect in the Big Ten.


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