College Football 2011: 10 Coaches Who Can Get into Counterparts' Heads
Sometimes, it's all that separates the good teams from the great teams.
When the talent levels are about equal, and the season is on the line, a coach must look for any advantage available.
Often times, that strategy involved intimidation and mind games.
Not every coach employs these methods, and not every coach who does is successful at it.
But there are a handful of coaches in college football who excel at the mental trickery or intimidation aspect of the game. Here are 10 of the best.
10. Mack Brown, Texas
We'll start our countdown with the venerable Mack Brown of Texas.
Since taking over at Texas in 1998, Mack Brown has racked up 133 wins compared to just 34 losses.
Brown's even demeanor, combined with his laudable and expansive off-the-field charity involvements, give him major points on the “nice guy” scale. But when it comes to football, he's all business, and less generous, at least to his opponents.
Mack Brown is one of those coaches who has a record that speaks for itself. Over his entire career, from FCS Appalachian State to Tulane to North Carolina to Texas, Mack Brown has amassed 219 career wins. He's also brought new life to the programs in Raleigh and Austin.
Facing Brown is certainly no treat. His cold calculation and methodical dismantling of an opposing defense has been the downfall of many teams, both within and outside of the Big 12.
Brown does stay low on this countdown, mainly because of the disastrous 2010 season, and Texas' somewhat perplexing inability to win Big 12 championships under Brown (just two in Brown's 13 seasons in Austin).
9. Gary Patterson, Texas Christian
We'll stay in the Lone Star State to find our next coach on our countdown.
Gary Patterson led the Horned Frogs to an impressive 2010 season, culminating with a win over Wisconsin in the 2011 Rose Bowl.
In just 10 seasons, he's won 98 games as head coach at TCU. Averaging nearly 10 wins per season will get you loads of attention, but when you're the coach at a so-called “mid-major” school, winning 10 games each year means you'll need to beat some of the premier programs in the nation.
Patterson proved he can do just that when topped Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl to cap an undefeated 2010 season.
After winning nine separate awards for his coaching in the 2009 season, there aren't many who will take TCU lightly as long as they're under the direction of Gary Patterson.
Patterson has been able to attract some top-flight talent to TCU. That's impressive enough for a mid-major, but considering that TCU has to directly compete with Texas, Texas Tech, Texas A&M, Oklahoma, and Oklahoma State for recruits, it's even more impressive.
Those recruits have translated into wins for Patterson, and there isn't anyone left in the nation that doubts his skill as a coach.
A calm, methodical coach, such as Patterson, can be as unnerving as a fiery personality jumping up and down or a ice-cold demeanor scowling across the field.
8. Steve Spurrier, South Carolina
If the Ol' Ball Coach seems fun and affable during interviews, be glad you don't have to play against him, or play for him, for that matter.
Spurrier knows who he is, knows what he wants, and he'll do just about anything to make his point.
During a game, Spurrier will do just about anything to win, but perhaps what gets into his opponents' heads the most is his unpredictability.
If you're a South Carolina player, and maybe even a real good one, but you're having a off day, or an off quarter, you could very well find your rear end sitting on the bench in favor of that redshirt freshman you've been burning in practice every day.
Who cares if it may not be the move many—if any—other coach in the nation would make? Spurrier will sit you down.
How do you prepare for a game when you never really know who will be taking the Gamecocks into the fourth quarter?
Will everything go swimmingly, keeping Spurrier somewhat predictable yet very difficult to beat, or will things go downhill for South Carolina and the unexpected rule the day?
7. Bob Stoops, Oklahoma
Bob Stoops, the longtime coach at Oklahoma, is easily one of the most successful coaches of the last decade.
In addition to his BCS championship in 2000, Stoops has added seven Big 12 championships, as well. Add in a record of 129-31, and you have a coach whose record is intimidating enough.
Bob Stoops also has a reputation as a no-nonsense coach, who will do just about anything within the rules to win a game (a distinction that sadly has to be made these days).
A fearless recruiter, Stoops isn't afraid to venture outside of the Nebraska-Oklahoma-Texas comfort zone to find top talent for his Sooners.
What keeps Stoops from climbing higher on this list is his weakness—actual or merely perceived—in BCS bowl games.
After winning his first two BCS games (2001 Orange Bowl and National Championship and the 2003 Rose Bowl), Stoops and the Sooners lost their next four trips to the BCS (2005 Orange, 2007 Fiesta, 2008 Fiesta, and 2009 National Championship).
Still, making seven BCS bowl games since the 2000 season is nothing to shake a stick at, and it's something that has to stick in the mind of every coach facing Stoops and Oklahoma.
6. Frank Beamer, Virginia Tech
Frank Beamer is one of the most intimidating coaches in the nation for one very simple reason: Beamerball.
Quite simply, you have no clue where Virginia Tech's next points will come from.
They could come from their offense. Or on a punt return. Or kick return. Or fumble return. Or interception return.
In fact, since Beamer has been the head coach at Virginia Tech, all 11 positions on the defensive side of the football has scored at least one touchdown.
How many times does a defensive tackle from Ohio State score? How about a nose guard from USC?
Virginia Tech has turned scoring into a complete team effort, and it makes for some pretty entertaining football, too.
Unless you're the opposing coach, that is.
5. Chris Petersen, Boise State
This two-time Bryant Award winner certainly knows his football.
After taking the reins in Boise after Dan Hawkins left for Colorado, Petersen has turned Boise State from a WAC power into a national power.
What makes Petersen so intimidating isn't the sheer size or speed of his team. Rather, it's his command and utilization of the talent he has available.
In September of 2006, there wasn't a single sportswriter in the world picking Boise State to play in a BCS bowl. By the time the Fiesta Bowl was over, there were those asking if Boise State should have had a shot at the BCS championship.
The 2006 Boise State team was not the biggest team in the FBS. They were not the fastest team in the FBS. They were not the deepest, nor the most talented.
But Chris Petersen made sure that every player performed to the maximum of his potential in every game.
Playing a Chris Petersen-Boise State team is just no fun. Don't believe that? Ask Virginia Tech. Ask TCU. Ask Oklahoma.
4. Brian Kelly, Notre Dame
You just never know what he's going to do next.
Brian Kelly is the consummate winner. In his head coaching career, he's 179-62-2. Since his first year as a head coach (1991), Kelly-led teams have won eight conference titles, and two national championships.
He took a Division II school and transformed it into a perennial national championship contender. He took a MAC cellar-dweller and turned them into a yearly favorite to win the conference.
He took a Big East team once on the edge of having the program canceled, and led them to two consecutive Big East titles, and the BCS bowl berths that go along with that accomplishments.
Now at Notre Dame, Brian Kelly is bringing his unique style to South Bend in an effort to restore former glory to the Fighting Irish program.
Throughout his career, Brian Kelly has done one thing without apologizing: score a ton of points.
When Kelly was a coach at Grand Valley State, an opposing coach accused him of running up the score. Kelly's response was to simply state it was his counterpart's job to stop the Lakers, not his.
After moving to the FBS, Kelly-led teams have scored points in bunches, and Cincinnati put up points like no body's business.
The beginnings of a Kelly-designed offense is taking shape in South Bend, and opposing coaches are only too cognizant of the offensive potential of a Brian Kelly offense.
3. Mark Dantonio, Michigan State
Does the man ever crack a smile?
It's a rare group of people who even know if Dantonio has teeth. Every Saturday, Mark Dantonio prowls the MSU sideline, willing his Spartans on to victory.
He's also a coach who can keep his opponent guessing with play-calling right out of a movie script.
Be honest: who among us would have called for a fake field goal pass in overtime rather than kicking for a tie?
Not many. In fact, it even caught Brian Kelly off guard, who could only respond, “Gutsy call,” after his Irish fell prey to the Spartans' “Little Giants” call in OT.
Gutsy is right. And it was so dramatic, Dantonio found himself in the hospital shortly after the game, suffering from a mild heart attack.
If all of that wasn't enough, a few weeks later, he was back on the sideline. Scowling at his opponent.
2. Les Miles, LSU
Last season was perhaps the best example of craftiness from a coach.
Just when his opponent thought they had Miles' LSU team right where they wanted them, Les Miles dug deep into the playbook and pulled out a play that was probably designed at three o'clock in the morning on a whim.
Why kick the field goal to tie when the place holder can lob the ball back over his shoulder to the kicker, who can then throw the ball into the end zone for a touchdown?
While the 2010 edition of LSU vs. Florida will probably live forever on LSU highlight reels, it was just one example of the mad scientist style plays from Les Miles in 2010.
Les Miles certainly can get into the minds of his opponents, simply by calling the most unpredictable, spectacular, improbable plays we've seen since Boise State and Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl.
1. Nick Saban, Alabama
Can anyone doubt Nick Saban's ability to get inside his opponent's head and wreak havoc?
Just look at the man walking up and down the sideline during a game. His stare alone is enough to send a chill through even the most steely soul.
Should an opposing coach catch Nick Saban's eye some 53.3 yards away, they'll see a look of utter scorn.
Look at this picture. Beating you was almost a waste of his time, and when you walk off the field, that's exactly how he makes you feel.