This upcoming college football season can be a make-or-break year for several coaches who face tremendous pressure to succeed on the gridiron.
Dino Babers, Syracuse
Syracuse is coming off its fifth losing season under Babers in the last six years, with the Orange posting a 29-43 record, including a 10-3 mark in 2018 that featured the program’s first bowl appearance since 2013. Athletics director John Wildhack threw his support behind Babers for the 2022 season after a flurry of assistant coaching changes, including firing offensive coordinator Sterlin Gilbert. To make matters worse, Syracuse faces one of the most demanding schedules in the country with games against Purdue, NC State, Clemson, Notre Dame, Pittsburgh and Wake Forest.
Herm Edwards, Arizona State
Public support for Edwards is quickly eroding after the program faced a challenging offseason that included an NCAA investigation into recruiting violations. There has also been a mass exodus of talent, with more than two dozen players entering the transfer portal led by quarterback Jayden Daniels, linebacker Eric Gentry, receiver Ricky Pearsall and defensive lineman Jermayne Lole. Edwards’ future is undoubtedly tied to that of AD Ray Anderson, who has been his staunchest supporter since arriving in Tempe.
Scott Frost, Nebraska
Most people outside of Lincoln believe this to be a critical season for Frost, particularly after a disappointing 15-29 record in his four seasons at Nebraska. While supporters will point to the fact that 21 of his 29 losses were decided by one score, there is also the recently wrapped up NCAA investigation that saddled Frost with a one-year show-cause penalty. After firing most of the offensive staff, the Huskers turn to former Pitt offensive coordinator Mark Whipple, who did wonders with quarterback Kenny Pickett last season. He’ll work with Texas transfer Casey Thompson, who replaces the departed Adrian Martinez.
Geoff Collins, Georgia Tech
Georgia Tech has failed to win more than three games in the last three seasons, begging the question if this could be the beginning of the end for Collins. The Yellow Jackets finished with a top 45 recruiting class each season but haven’t broken through in the win column. To make matters worse, they’ve lost some talented players in tailback Jahmyr Gibbs (Alabama) and defensive lineman Jared Ivey (Ole Miss) to the transfer portal. The schedule is brutal, with games against Clemson, Ole Miss, UCF and Pittsburgh in the first five weeks.
Bryan Harsin, Auburn
Right from the start, Harsin never seemed a perfect fit at Auburn. While the 45-year-old coach led Boise State to a 69-19 mark in seven seasons, his connection to SEC football was almost nonexistent. The Tigers finished a disappointing 6-7 last season, capped off by a 5-game losing streak at the end. Harsin survived an offseason investigation into allegations of player mistreatment that further strained his relationship with the fan base. The departures of several players, including quarterback Bo Nix, leaves Auburn searching for his replacement. Any move would be costly, with Harsin owed $15 million. That’s on top of the $27 million they paid former coach Gus Malzahn as part of his buyout after the 2020 season.
Jeff Scott, USF
The Bulls have three wins — two of which were against Football Championship Subdivision foes — over the past two seasons under Scott. Despite the rough start, USF athletics director Michael Kelly has been a staunch supporter of his football coach, even going as far as to say the “future is bright” with him in charge. But Kelly did acknowledge that tangible results need to be seen. Off the field, Scott’s been instrumental in helping raise money for the new indoor football facility and the possible on-campus stadium. The Bulls welcome 21 new players, including a bevy of transfers, to a roster with 18 returning starters. The schedule is a challenge, particularly early on with games against N.C. State, Florida and BYU in the first month.
Steve Sarkisian, Texas
A disappointing finish to his first season one in which Texas lost six straight games, had Longhorns faithful feeling uneasy about Sarkisian. Talent has never been an issue with the Longhorns, but it’s been more of a question of what they’ve been able to do with it. Disappointing losses to Kansas left fans bewildered. The roster underwent a makeover with quarterback Casey Thompson and receiver Marcus Washington leaving for Nebraska. Still, the staff added transfer receivers Agiye Hall (Alabama) and Isaiah Neyor (SMU), along with tight end Jahleel Billingsley (Alabama). With a top-5 recruiting class for 2023 that includes a commitment from No. 1 prospect Arch Manning, expectations are sky-high in Austin.