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Sports Illustrated
Sports Illustrated
Pat Forde

Who’s Feeling the Pressure This College Football Season?

Forty names, games, teams and minutiae making news in college football (UMass national championship gear sold separately in Amherst):

First Quarter: Traditions Left Behind | Second Quarter: Bold Predictions


Folk down there really don’t care, really don’t care
Don’t care, really don’t
Which, which way the pressure lies
—Led Zeppelin, “Misty Mountain Hop”

Fans really don’t care how much weight is on the shoulders of certain coaches and players to start a season—they just want results. A quick Dash overview of which way the pressure lies as the season begins.

Petrino, who was the head coach for Missouri State last season, was named the OC for UNLV before taking the same job at Texas A&M. 

Nathan Papes/Springfield News-Leader/USA TODAY NETWORK

The new coordinator tasked with fixing something (21).

What happens when your top-25 team underachieves on one side of the ball or the other? You swap out assistant coaches and hope the new guys do better.

Bobby Petrino is the single most interesting coordinator hire of the year, perhaps of the last several years. Petrino bailed on being the head coach at FCS Missouri State to be the offensive coordinator at UNLV, then left there before the ink was dry on the contract for the high-dollar, high-scrutiny, high-intrigue job of fixing Jimbo Fisher’s hidebound offense at Texas A&M. This is a mingling of two alpha-dog, big-ego play-callers, with Petrino allegedly getting the reins. The Dash wants cameras on Fisher and Petrino for the Aggies’ first third-and-long situation in a big game to see who is doing the talking in the headsets and who is doing the listening.

Garrett Riley left TCU for Clemson, after Dabo Swinney finally broke down and brought in some outside help for an offense that had fallen off from the Deshaun Watson–Trevor Lawrence glory days. Lincoln’s little brother directed a Horned Frogs attack that was in the top 10 last year in scoring. The Frogs also led the nation in 50-plus-yard plays from scrimmage with 22, which is more than Clemson had the past three seasons combined (19). Riley has some pieces to work with: Quarterback Cade Klubnik and some of his receivers have great potential, and running back Will Shipley is a stud.

Lance Guidry is the new defensive coordinator at Miami, coming over from Marshall. The Thundering Herd was third nationally in yards allowed per play at just 4.56, fifth in takeaways (29) and eighth in yards allowed per game (294.5). Miami was tied for 103rd in yards allowed per play at 5.92 and gave up 40 or more points five times.

Florida was the team tied with Miami for 103rd in yards allowed per play, which is one reason why Austin Armstrong is the new defensive coordinator. Armstrong previously worked for Gators head coach Billy Napier at Louisiana and also did a stint as a quality control coach at Georgia before becoming the coordinator for two years at Southern Mississippi. Armstrong, age 30, was the youngest FBS DC in the country. He was headed to Alabama last winter before Napier swooped in and redirected him to Gainesville.

The new coordinator tasked with maintaining something (22).

The last guy was good. The new guy is expected to be just as good, if not better.

Will Stein moves in as OC at Oregon, replacing new Arizona State head coach Kenny Dillingham. Stein arrives from UTSA, where he helped the Roadrunners go 23–5 the past two seasons with dynamic quarterback Frank Harris. Now Stein is in charge of helping Bo Nix continue to play like the guy who earned a Times Square billboard this summer.

Kendal Briles replaces Garrett Riley in Fort Worth. Briles’s surname speaks for itself in terms of street cred in Texas—and in terms of accrued baggage. His style is a good mesh with head coach Sonny Dykes, but the tempo could be a little faster, and there could be a greater mix of RPOs and rollouts this season with Chandler Morris at QB.

Mike Bobo returns to his former job as OC at Georgia, replacing NFL-bound Todd Monken. Georgia fans had a complicated relationship with Bobo, who played between the hedges for Jim Donnan and then coached under Mark Richt. Maybe they’ll like his play-calling more now, since the rest of the team is ridiculously talented.

Under Brian Ferentz, Iowa had the second-worst offense in the nation last season. 

Joseph Cress/Iowa City Press-Citizen/USA TODAY NETWORK

The embattled coordinator (23).

The Brian Ferentz Experience should be fascinating this year in Iowa. In a sport awash in nepotism, Ferentz is the most high-profile beneficiary of it, keeping his job working for his father after the Hawkeyes fielded the No. 130 offense out of 131 last year. The Iowa brass stepped in and authored a doozy of a contract for Ferentz this season, requiring the Hawkeyes to average 25 points per game and win at least seven games in the regular season. If anything could get punt-loving Kirk Ferentz to take a few more risks offensively, it might be the desire to score enough points to allow his son to keep his job.

The head coach on the verge of something big (24).

Mike Norvell has had a largely pressure-free existence as a head coach, first at Memphis and now at Florida State. But he’s done well enough in Tallahassee to invite the return of ACC and national championship expectations—and with that has come all manner of institutional chest beating about being too good for the Atlantic Coast Conference. Norvell has to back up a lot of talk starting Sunday, when the Seminoles play LSU in the biggest game of the weekend.

The head coach fighting for his job (25).

Neal Brown is that guy at West Virginia. Brown is 22–25 at WVU and hasn’t had a winning Big 12 record in his four seasons. In an era when firings come earlier than ever, Brown needs to start well against an early gantlet that opens at Penn State, includes the Backyard Brawl against Pitt in Week 3 and finishes September with games against Texas Tech and TCU.

The head coach emerging from scandal (26).

Gambling investigations have enveloped Iowa and Iowa State, leaving Kirk Ferentz and Matt Campbell with diminished rosters. The entirety of college sports slept on the gambling wave that rose up in recent years, and, for a variety of circumstances, the weight of that wave has crashed down in Ames and Iowa City.

The savior head coach (27).

Jeff Brohm is the hometown hero returning to Louisville. Matt Rhule is the solid ball coach replacing the failed hometown hero at Nebraska. Luke Fickell is the breath of fresh air with a miracle playoff appearance on his résumé replacing a hometown hero who stopped winning big at Wisconsin. They’re all undefeated for now, so the romances are hot and heavy. We’ll see how long they last.

Uiagalelei took over at Clemson once Trevor Lawrence went to the NFL, but decided to transfer to Oregon State after the 2022 season. 

Ken Ruinard/USA Today NETWORK

The transfer QB trying to reclaim lost glory (28).

DJ Uiagalelei was supposed to be the next great one at Clemson; now he’s working on a second act at Oregon State. Graham Mertz was the highest-rated QB recruit in Wisconsin history; now he’s the starter at Florida replacing a top-five NFL pick. JT Daniels has been the starter at USC, Georgia and West Virginia; he’s now at Rice.

The QB replacing a star (29).

Carson Beck takes over at Georgia, replacing unlikely legend Stetson Bennett. We’re still waiting to find out who will inherit No. 2 NFL pick C.J. Stroud’s job at Ohio State. And then there is …

Alabama (30).

The pressure is like the humidity in Tuscaloosa—omnipresent. The Crimson Tide doesn’t just have a new (as yet unnamed) starting QB replacing No. 1 pick Bryce Young; they also have two new coordinators in Tommy Rees (offense) and Kevin Steele (defense).

People (The Dash included) are downgrading the Crimson Tide as a national title contender. Can the new faces in new places prove us wrong?

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