College Football Coaches with the Most Riding on Their Bowl Games
Several college football coaches will have a lot more at stake than a postseason victory during bowl season.
For some, it’s a perfect opportunity to show that they deserve consideration for a head coaching position elsewhere. For others, this bowl game could decide whether nor not they remain head coach for next season.
All in all, a lot will be on the line during these bowl games.
Here are five coaches who have storylines worth keeping an eye on.
Mark Helfrich (Oregon)
Bowl Matchup: No. 10 Oregon (10-2) vs. Texas (8-4), Dec. 30, 6:45 p.m. ET on ESPN (Valero Alamo Bowl)
Just a little over a month ago, the Ducks were sitting at 8-0 and at No. 2 in the polls. Everyone was patting Mark Helfrich on the back for such a seamless transition after he took over for Chip Kelly during the offseason.
Oh, how much can change in one month.
Now Oregon has lost two of its last four games and was a last-second touchdown away from dropping a third.
An offense that once put up points with ease is finally sputtering, failing to top 40 points in three of the last four games. A quarterback who rarely made mistakes is all of a sudden prone to them—starter Marcus Mariota has thrown four interceptions over the last two games after throwing none in the first 10.
It all leads up to a December bowl game against a subpar Longhorns squad.
While Texas is the team dealing with a departing head coach, it could be Helfrich on the hot seat in 2014 if he doesn’t lead the Ducks to victory.
Frank Beamer (Virginia Tech)
Bowl Matchup: Virginia Tech (8-4) vs. No. 17 UCLA (9-3), Dec. 31, 2 p.m. ET on CBS (Hyundai Sun Bowl)
It’s been a very, very disappointing year for the Hokies.
A lot of that blame has to fall on head coach Frank Beamer.
After his team finished 7-6 in 2012, the pressure was on the 67-year-old to succeed this season. However, he responded by leading the team to just an 8-4 record.
That includes losses to Duke, Boston College and Maryland—teams with a combined 12 wins last season.
Even more disappointing is the fact that Virginia Tech actually had one of the best defenses in the nation. The unit ranked No. 4 in total defense, allowing just 269.6 yards per game.
One can only wonder just how many losses the Hokies would have suffered without that defense.
Regardless, a win over a Top 25-ranked Bruins squad will go a long way in proving that Beamer still has what it takes to lead Virginia Tech to success.
Bo Pelini (Nebraska)
Bowl Matchup: Nebraska (8-4) vs. No. 22 Georgia (8-4), Jan. 1, 12 p.m. ET on ESPN2 (TaxSlayer.com Gator Bowl)
It’s been a rough season for head coach Bo Pelini and his Cornhuskers.
The team has lost four games by double digits already this year. Three of those losses came at Memorial Stadium—the first time the team has lost three home games since 2007.
Furthermore, Nebraska has won four games by a margin of of four points or fewer.
Following the season-finale loss to Iowa, 38-17, Pelini told reporters, “If they want to fire me, go ahead.”
It’s been a tough 2013 for the 46-year-old. His team is in danger of winning its fewest number of games since 2007.
Now the Cornhuskers will look to make up for a disappointing season by topping the Bulldogs in a bowl game.
Will that be enough to save Pelini’s job? Only time will tell.
Art Briles (Baylor)
Bowl Matchup: No. 15 UCF (11-1) vs. No. 6 Baylor (11-1), Jan. 1, 8:30 p.m. ET on ESPN (Tostitos Fiesta Bowl)
In five short seasons in Waco, head coach Art Briles has accomplished a lot with the Bears.
He led the school to its first-ever 10-win season in 2011. Two years later, Briles has led Baylor to its first-ever Big 12 title and berth in a BCS bowl.
It’s a resume like this that has caused many to consider Briles a top candidate for coaching vacancies around the nation. That includes the soon-to-be vacated Texas position, via SI.com’s Andy Staples.
Although he is proud of everything he’s accomplished with the Bears, there’s no denying the truth: Baylor is a small-market school.
With a win, Briles will cement his status as one of the top up-and-coming head coaches in college football.
Who wouldn’t want him taking over their program next season?
Nick Saban (Alabama)
Bowl Matchup: No. 11 Oklahoma (10-2) vs. No. 3 Alabama (11-1), Jan. 2, 8:30 p.m. ET on ESPN (Allstate Sugar Bowl)
Believe it or not, Crimson Tide head coach Nick Saban will be feeling a lot of pressure during the bowl season.
No, Saban isn’t in danger of losing his job. In fact, he recently signed an extension to stay on with Alabama, via the Tuscaloosa News’ Cecil Hurt.
But ever since the team’s shocking loss to Auburn, 34-28, in the season finale, Saban has been under criticism. If it wasn’t for some of his play-calling decisions in that game, it was because of the time he took to sign an extension.
It doesn’t help that the Tide come into their bowl matchup against the Sooners as two-touchdown favorites.
We all remember what happened the last time Alabama was so heavily favored to win a BCS bowl game.
When your only option is to win, and win big, a lot can go wrong.
All stats and rankings used in this article are courtesy of NCAA.com.