Before 2010, Gene Chizik was considered the lucky coach who was given the keys to one of the best programs in the SEC.
Then Cam Newton transferred to Auburn and Nick Fairley decided to play like a beast on the defensive line, allowing Chizik to have a breakout season.
Now it doesn’t take a perfect season for a coach to have a breakout year, but it doesn’t hurt either.
So with the season ready to open Thursday, who are the most likely candidates to have a Gene Chizik-like season?
Keep reading for our best guess.
Mike London did some impressive work with the Richmond Spiders before taking over Virginia last year.
It doesn’t show up in Virginia’s 4-8 record last season, but London began to set the groundwork for future success in Charlottesville.
London’s recruiting has gone very well, and it even shows up now as he expects to start as many as a dozen freshmen this fall. He also has strong senior leadership, so 2011 could be a major step up for the Cavaliers.
If Virginia plays as physical as London hopes, the Cavaliers could challenge for a bowl game out of the ACC.
Will Muschamp was already one of the big-name assistants as Texas’ coach-in-waiting. But now he has replaced a legend in Urban Meyer at Florida and the expectations are huge.
Muschamp won’t win big in his inaugural season, but Florida fans will start to see what makes him a great coach by the way the Gators play more aggressively on defense.
There’s already some talent in Gainesville, and Muschamp is going to prove his recruiting prowess as well.
Outside of the Big East, Doug Marrone more than likely doesn’t resonate that well.
But what he has done in two seasons at Syracuse is nothing short of a miracle. When he arrived, what he found was a mess left behind by Greg Robinson.
Marrone molded what was left, with a few additions, into a bowl team last year.
Now the Orange are completely his program and the future for Syracuse and Marrone is very bright.
It’s not like Brady Hoke is going to lead Michigan to a perfect season, but there’s still some potential to erase a lot of the funk left behind by Rich Rodriguez’ staff.
Hoke has already had a cleansing effect on the Wolverines, and if he can muster up enough talent and chutzpah, Michigan just might end its losing skid with Ohio State.
A win over the hated Buckeyes would be a breakout year.
Depending on your perspective, Dana Holgorsen may be one of the luckiest first-year coaches in the nation.
He takes over a talented WVU team that has a veteran quarterback in Geno Smith. So there is the potential to have a huge season in Morgantown and play in a BCS bowl.
Holgorsen was one of the more well-known offensive coordinators in the nation from his time at Houston, Texas Tech and Oklahoma State.
If he wins big at WVU, his reputation is going to increase even more.
Derek Dooley made $1.8 million last year to go 6-7, but that is misleading.
Dooley took over while the program was reeling from the Lane Kiffin departure, and he also inherited the NCAA issues that Kiffin left behind.
But Dooley isn’t complaining and he’s bringing in talent.
Maybe he won’t get to nine wins this year, but he’s making Tennessee relevant again.
You could argue Mike Gundy had a breakout season in 2010 as he led the Cowboys to an 11-2 record.
But this season could be even bigger, and if Oklahoma State finds a way to beat rival No. 1 Oklahoma in Stillwater in December, the Cowboys could be BCS bound.
That’s what T. Boone Pickens has invested his millions for at Oklahoma State.
It took Charlie Strong 27 years to finally get a head coaching job.
Strong’s first season was a huge success considering how far the program had fallen under Steve Kragthorpe, so going 7-6 and reaching a bowl game was a big step.
It’s hard to completely figure out if Strong is at least one more year away from really having Louisville back in the Big East hunt, but another winning season may be all he needs to move on to a bigger job.
Kyle Whittingham has had some breakout moments, and none was bigger than the 2009 Sugar Bowl as the Utes pulled off a huge upset of Alabama and finished the year ranked No. 2.
But now Utah is a BCS program in the new Pac-12 and if Whittingham keeps the Utes among the best in the nation, he’ll become a bigger household name.
Whittingham’s squad has a legitimate shot at winning the Pac-12 South, especially since USC isn’t eligible.
You could make the argument that Jimbo Fisher has already had his breakout moment by leading Florida State to 10 wins last year.
But the Seminoles are remembered for championships, or at least playing in BCS bowls.
If Fisher and the Seminoles live up to their potential, this should be the season Fisher escapes the Bobby Bowden shadow in Tallahassee.