10 Coaches Who Can't Afford to Lose Week One and Why
It’s a fact of life that first impressions on a person are the strongest. When dealing with the likes of a college football fan base, first impressions are even stronger.
Even for some coaches that have been with their respective schools for an extended amount of time, week one sets the mood of the season. Right off the bat, a loss can be detrimental to any football team. Whether that team is a bottom-dweller of the Big East or an SEC defending champion trying to repeat it’s success, no one is safe from the week one collapse.
Some programs, like Boise State, face their toughest (or only) opponent in their opener. In this case, losing week one would throw up the flag with an entire slate of games to go.
For other programs, like Tennessee and South Florida, getting through week one with a victory is the only thought on their minds. Winning games against Division 1-AA teams means very little in the BCS rankings. Instead, a loss would send them into a Michigan-like downfall (think Appalachian State) and ruin any hope of making the bowl game expected of them.
Whether were talking about Derek Dooley making his big-time college football debut or Chris Peterson finally getting his chance to show the nation why his team deserves a shot at the hardware, here are ten coaches that need to win in week one.
Brian Kelly: Purdue at Notre Dame
The most obvious candidate on this list, Kelly may be the coach in the biggest spotlight when week one rolls around.
Taking over for the failed Charlie Weis, Kelly not only faces the high expectations in South Bend of starting the season off with a blow-out victory, but faces an improved Purdue team with a talented quarterback, Robert Marve, making his Boilermaker debut. Not to mention, Purdue has a knack for winning in week one as of late, winning five straight dating back to '05.
If the Irish were to lose this game, Kelly will stir up the doubt and pessimism from fans that was constantly present under Weis. Notre Dame’s season would be looking bleak with a schedule that starts off tough and cools off as the weeks pass.
Starting off the Kelly era with a loss to a program not known for its accomplishments on the football field would be devastating start for both a program with a new beginning and the quest of Kelly to return the Irish to their glory days.
Lane Kiffin: USC at Hawaii
Another coach under the spotlight, mainly for the reason of violations and scrutiny, is the newest head coach of the Trojans of Southern Cal.
Making his return to Troy, Kiffin is expecting to pick up right where Pete Carroll left off. With a roster filled head to toe with five and four-star recruits, there is no reason for Kiffin to lose football games.
Especially to Hawaii.
In the previous three meetings between these teams, USC has spanked the Warriors by a total score of 186 to 56. Each time, the Trojans have hung 60 plus points on the over-matched Hawaiians.
Anything less than a 30 point victory would be frowned upon in Kiffin’s first showing on the USC sideline as a head coach. If, somehow, the Trojans lose?
Kiffin may be sent packing as quick as Reggie Bush’s Heisman Trophy was removed from campus after the hearing.
Ralp Freidgen: Navy at Maryland
Somehow, after a shocking and disappointing season in which the Terps accounted for only two wins, Freidgen retained his position for another year.
With most fans calling for his head after 2009, he has very little wiggle room. In fact, he may have no wiggle room at all.
Maryland hosts Navy in their opener. This is a game that not only Freidgen can’t afford to lose, but the program as well.
Although the program can only go up from here, losing to the Midshipmen, a potential top 25 team in 2010, to start what may be the final season before retirement for Freidgen, would lose what little hope fans had from the get go.
Winning this game would start the season off right and put the Terps on a winning track. Losing this game would essentially put them in Survivor-mode for the rest of 2010 from day one, and diminish the hope of restoring the once-winning ways of the Freidgen era.
Derek Dooley: Tennesse-Martin at Tennessee
Although Dooley lucks out in his first opponent while donning the Tennessee logo, this game offers much more to lose than to gain.
If Dooley were to lose to Tennessee-Martin right out of the gate, which is very unlikely to occur, than he may as well take the Kiffin-track and leave town as fast as possible.
If Dooley were to get a victory, which is very likely to occur, all that will be on the minds of Vol fans will be the much anticipated matchup between Oregon the following week.
However, all Dooley can do is win football games. In order to get to week two and keep the matchup hype, they must wreck havoc against the Skyhawks. With a blowout win, Dooley will be sending a message to Vol nation that he and his depleting team are ready to take on their schedule.
With a loss, a rebuilding year will be activated instantaneously.
Rich Rodgriguez: Connecticut at Michigan
Rich Rod may be the coach on the hottest seat entering the 2010 season. In two seasons in Ann Arbor, Rodriguez has compiled twice the amount of losses than wins (16 losses, eight wins).
After failing to bring Michigan back to the level it once was under Lloyd Carr, Rodriguez gets his third crack at getting the program back to respectability.
And in 2010, the quest begins with the tough-out Huskies of Connecticut.
In what will be an intriguing matchup of teams trying to get over the hump, the Wolverines cannot afford to lose a game on their out-of-conference slate if they are going to have any success this year. In the end result, however, don’t be surprised when the Huskies ruin the “dedication game” to the newly renovated Big House.
With a loss, Michigan and their failing coach may be gasping for air by mid-season.
Skip Holtz: Stony Brook at South Florida
Holtz got a lucky, but pathetic, schedule-draw when he took the job at South Florida. In what may be the three of the most exciting games to ever open a college football season, the Bulls will have showdowns with Stony Brook, Western Kentucky, and Florida Atlantic as part of their 2010 non-conference season.
Yes, Holtz will matchup with Urban Meyer and his Gators in the second week of 2010. Yes, they will probably lose.
Therefore, these are three must win games for the Bulls, especially considering their conference schedule and a late-season matchup with Miami.
Holtz is on this list not only for the opener, but for the three games against the powerhouses of the bottom of college football. Losing any three of these games would have an Appalachian State-like effect on the promising season of the Bulls.
As one of the top teams in the Big East, and with high expectations on their shoulders, South Florida must take care of the bottom dwellers on their schedule if they are planning on having anticipated matchups with the nation’s best.
Not to mention, it wouldn’t be too impressive to start off a new era with a loss to the mighty Seawolves of Stony Brook.
Tommy Tuberville: SMU at Texas Tech
Tuberville arrives at Texas Tech with much accomplished in his time as a head football coach. And because of that, instant success is expected within the program.
Tuberville’s debut will take place against the always tough Southern Methodist. Lead by June Jones, the Mustangs reached their first bowl game since 1984 in 2009 and return 18 starters. Because of that, the Red Raiders better come prepared week one or a loss will be added to Tuberville’s record right off the bat.
With the “Air Raid” offense gone, a new page will be turned with a win by Texas Tech. It is important for Tuberville to start off on the right foot after the depressing season the program went through last year all in thanks to Mike Leach.
A loss would be detrimental to the transition process for the program.
However, with a win, the Red Raiders will be looking good heading into a favorable schedule.
Steve Spurrier: Southern Miss at South Carolina
In what will be the first nationally televised game of the 2010 season, South Carolina will host Southern Miss in their season opener.
Spurrier, a coach that hasn’t always found consistency with his football teams, is looking to finally get over the hump of mediocrity. It seems as if it has taken twenty years for that to happen, but it can happen in 2010.
The key game in the season in order for Spurrier and his team to be successful is the September 25th matchup with Auburn. If the Gamecocks take care of business in week one, they will be well on their way to a 3-0 record going into a huge game for both teams.
South Carolina has some tough games on its slate, so winning nine games would result in a successful season for Spurrier. However, losing their opener would seriously decrease the chance of reaching that goal.
This is a must win game not only for the program, but for the hopeful success of Spurrier.
Ron Zook: Missouri at Illinois (St. Louis)
Ron Zook has been one of the most popular names around college football for awhile with nothing to show for it.
During his time with the Illini, Zook has compiled a confusing record of 21-39. After being one of the biggest disappointments of the 2009 season, the Illini struggled to a 3-9 record in which they failed to reach a bowl for the second consecutive season under their head coach.
A border-battle with Missouri sets up a chance for success for Zook and his program. Although a win wouldn’t put them back on the map completely, it would kick-start them towards the 3-0 record they need to accomplish before their contest with Ohio State in week four.
Over the last five matchups, Missouri has completely dominated Illinois. Last year, Missouri destroyed them 37-9 and set the tone for what was going to be a disaster of a year.
Zook needs to do everything in his power to avoid a repeat of 2009. In order to do so, he must take a victory away from this game and win three football games before hosting the Buckeyes on October 2nd.
Chris Peterson: Boise State at Virginia Tech
Boise State faces their toughest, and most important, game in week one.
Traveling to Virginia Tech to take on the top-ten ranked Hokies, Peterson and his team have the equivalent to a playoff game to start their quest of a national championship.. once again.
For a change, it is known that if Boise State goes undefeated in 2010, it is very unlikely they will be held out of the title game. However, if they have one hiccup on their slate, they can kiss any chance of a ring goodbye.
Virginia Tech is their biggest game on the schedule without a doubt. Losing to them would mean losing out on a chance to prove to the rest of the nation that they are in fact good enough to be crowned Nation Champs.
Win, and your on your way to the No. 1 spot. Lose, and you can kiss any real chance of a berth in the big game until you join a BCS conference.
Choose wisely, Chris.