As the 2008 season approaches, many teams are vying to play for the BCS Championship in Miami. One of the most important determining factors for these teams is the man who is running the show.
Here's a look at the five coaches who are the best men to lead their respective schools to the 2008 BCS Championship in Miami come January 2009.
5. Mark Richt, Georgia - BCS Championships: None
Although Richt has yet to reach, let alone win, the BCS Championship Game, he has led Georgia to great success in his tenure. The winner of two SEC Championships and three appearances in the Sugar Bowl, Georgia fields its most talented team in recent memory, looking to make a push for the second national title in school history.
Along with being a great leader, Richt is a great motivator, spurring a phenomenal run by the ‘Dawgs at the end of last season, sparked by "The Celebration" during their clash with rival Florida.
During his time at Georgia, Richt has overseen a defense that has improved every season since his arrival. He has been a great recruiter, bringing in Georgia stars such as QB David Greene, WR Reggie Brown, and Heisman hopeful HB Knowshon Moreno.
Richt is determined to lead the "Dawgs through the nation's toughest schedule to win the SEC Championship and possibly win his first BCS Championship as a head coach.
Previous Success: Mark Richt was the offensive coordinator under Bobby Bowden at Florida State from 1990-2000. Richt coached Heisman Trophy winners QB Charlie Ward (1993) and QB Chris Weinke (1999) and helped the Seminoles win the 1993 and 1999 National Championships.
4. Jim Tressel, Ohio State - BCS Championships: 1 (2002)
Although Tressel has had the misfortune of running into SEC juggernauts Florida and LSU the past two years in the BCS title game, he is still one of the best coaching minds in the game today.
A two-time winner of the Woody Hayes Award, Tressel coached 2006 Heisman Trophy winner QB Troy Smith and holds a 73-16 record at Ohio State, as well as a 6-1 mark against archrival Michigan. In addition, Tressel has won four Big Ten Championships and has had two different winning streaks of 19 games, in 2002-2003 and 2005-2006, respectively.
Ohio State looks to win their fourth straight Big Ten Championship and to make a third appearance in the BCS title game in as many years. This time around, Tressel will make sure the Buckeyes walk away national champions.
Previous Success: Jim Tressel was the head football coach at Division I-AA Youngstown State from 1986-2000. During his tenure at Youngstown State, Tressel led the Penguins to four national championships, the most recent title coming in 1997. Youngstown State made an impressive 10 trips to the playoffs in Tressel’s 15 seasons as head coach.
3. Urban Meyer, Florida - BCS Championships: 1 (2006)
Urban Meyer has quickly made a mark on the landscape of college football as the head man of the Florida Gators. Meyer is 31-8 as Florida’s “Ol’ Ball Coach,” including a dominating 17-1 record at home in “The Swamp.”
In January 2007, Meyer led the Gators to a shocking 41-14 upset of heavily favored No. 1 Ohio State in the 2006 BCS Championship Game, Florida’s second national football title. Although Florida failed to defend their title the following season, Meyer coached 2007 Heisman Trophy winner QB Tim Tebow, and Florida finished third in the NCAA in scoring offense, averaging 42.5 points per game.
With the addition of USC transfer Emmanuel Moody at the running back position, the 2008 Gators’ offense seems even more potent than the 2007 version and is loaded for a run at a second BCS title in three seasons.
Previous Success: Urban Meyer coached 2004 Heisman finalist QB Alex Smith and the Utah Utes to a victory over the Pittsburgh Panthers in the 2005 Fiesta Bowl. Utah was the first team from a non-BCS conference to appear in, and win, a BCS bowl game since the creation of the Bowl Championship Series in 1998. The 12-0 Utes finished the 2004 season ranked No. 4 in the AP poll.
2. Bob Stoops, Oklahoma - BCS Championships: 1 (2000)
I think Bob Stoops is underrated. He doesn’t get enough credit for his track record. Granted, Stoops has been anything but good in BCS games recently, but here's the thing—Stoops has led Oklahoma to four BCS games in the past five seasons. That's incredible, regardless of whether you win them or not!
Many coaches haven't even reached four BCS bowl games in their entire career, let alone in a five-year stretch.
In addition, Oklahoma has the most wins (97) of any BCS school over the last ten years, which also happens to be Stoops' entire tenure at Oklahoma. Whether or not he can win the BCS games, he does get his team there consistently.
Besides, Oklahoma is overdue for a BCS bowl game victory. They haven’t won a BCS game since a 34-14 drubbing of Washington State in the 2003 Rose Bowl.
With the talent Oklahoma fields this season, as well as Stoops' great coaching ability, look for Oklahoma to win whatever BCS bowl game they appear in—possibly the BCS Championship Game.
Previous Success: As the defensive coordinator of the Florida Gators, Stoops helped drastically improve a team that surrendered 62 points to Nebraska in the 1996 Fiesta Bowl. The Gators won their first football national title in 1996 with Stoops running the defense, defeating rival Florida State 52-20 in the Sugar Bowl.
1. Pete Carroll, USC – BCS Championships: 1 (2004)
Pete Carroll is the best college football coach in the game today. Carroll’s USC teams have simply dominated the Pac-10 Conference and college football since he took over Southern Cal in 2001. Carroll’s Trojans have reached a BCS game for six consecutive seasons, brandishing a 5-1 record in those games.
In addition, Carroll has also led USC to a school-record 34-game winning streak (2003-2005) that was finally snapped with a 41-38 loss to Texas in the 2006 Rose Bowl. The three-time Pac-10 Coach of the Year has also coached three Heisman Trophy winners: QB Carson Palmer (2002), QB Matt Leinart (2004), and HB Reggie Bush (2005).
Although Pete Carroll has only one BCS Championship to his credit, he also won the 2003 AP National Championship. The split title with the LSU Tigers resulted from LSU winning the 2003 BCS Championship and the AP Poll declaring USC the 2003 National Champions.
Looking ahead to 2008, the Trojans are in the hunt to claim their seventh straight Pac-10 Championship and their first BCS Championship since 2004, despite having a new starting quarterback in Mark Sanchez. With Pete Carroll running the show at USC, I expect them to be frontrunners for the BCS Championship when the season kicks off.
Previous Success: Pete Carroll was the head coach of the New England Patriots in the National Football League from 1997-1999. Carroll shined as the New England coach in 1997, finishing with a 10-6 record and winning the AFC East Division Championship.
The aforementioned names are, in my opinion, the five best coaches in college football today. If you feel that I left off some deserving coaches, feel free to comment or leave feedback. I will gladly defend my list and/or give credit where it’s due.
Statistics courtesy of ESPN.com