Coach Meyer: New Year?s Coaching Matchups

With Ron Meyer


My series on coaching matchups in the college football bowls continues today with a look at all SIX matchups set for New Year's Day. I'll be back Sunday morning to talk about the Orange Bowl, and to review what we've seen this year in a very interesting bowl campaign. '

I know big news will continue to break in the NFL regarding coaching changes. I'll have a chance next week to talk more about that once we've seen who's been fired, and who's been given an extra year to turn things back around. Late next week I'll provide coaching matchup analysis for Wildcard Weekend in the NFL playoffs. I'm sure looking forward to that!

Today, college football is the focus. Let's look at Saturday's sixpack...

Texas Tech: Tommy Tuberville
Northwestern: Pat Fitzgerald

Tuberville is kind of a B or a B-minus head coach who is a big improvement over some guys, but ends up frustrating his fans and administration because he's not an A. I can see why Texas Tech hired him to replace the swashbuckling Mike Leach. Tuberville has settled things down, but the team wasn't very good this year. Fitzgerald has to get creative with undersized players who are big on smarts and hearts, but can't match up physically with most opponents. That may give him an edge here, because he has a month to get creative! I have respect for both coaches, but I know I have to pick my spots with either because they do have weaknesses. In terms of pure coaching, it's a wash...which makes it hard to justify the very high Vegas line.

Penn State: Joe Paterno
Florida: Urban Meyer

What a great matchup! Paterno is a legend. Meyer was going to be one, but his health has temporarily gotten in the way. Maybe he'll come back to coaching in a few years when his daughter is older, and he has his heart issues in better control. I do have to point out though that Meyer's reputation as a coaching genius took a bit of a hit this year. Florida's offense struggled badly without Tim Tebow at quarterback, and without Dan Mullen on the sideline. It's starting to look like Meyer was getting credit for what his assistants were doing in the past, and he's less of a genius without them. I've been a handicapper for a long time, and I remember many instances where Joe Paterno surprised people as a dog in the postseason. Meyer's also got a good bowl history, but maybe that was on the backs of others.

Alabama: Nick Saban
Michigan State: Mark Dantonio

Given all he brings to the program in terms of intensity, X's and O's, recruiting, and mixing pro and college fundamentals, I think it's hard to suggest any coach is better than Nick Saban right now in the college game. There are obviously other elite coaches too...and it can be a hair's breadth that separates people at the top. Saban is hard to top in a coaching battle, let me put it that way. But, his players? The Crimson Tide showed up flat for Utah two years ago, so we've seen that they don't always get fired up if a championship isn't on the line. Will they take this game too lightly? Are they so disappointed from blowing their big lead at Auburn that the fire is just gone? Coach Saban will have a challenge here getting his guys ready. I'm impressed with Dantonio, but I'm not ready to put him in the same class as Saban just yet. As a handicapper, I have to determine if the high Vegas line has properly pegged the differences, or if they've overstated those differences.

Michigan: Rich Rodriguez
Mississippi State: Dan Mullen

Boy, Dan Mullen has impressed the heck out of me at Mississippi State. Guys like this tend to make statements as they climb the coaching ladder. This would be a great spot to do that. Rich Rodriguez was never as good as his hype, but is probably better than his naysayers are suggesting now. Unfortunately he's currently dealing with a shorthanded defense, and rumors about his future with the program. Maybe Mississippi State isn't completely ready for the big time. And, maybe the players will have a deer-in-the-headlights look on New Year's Day. In terms of the coaching matchup in this game, I have to give the edge to Mullen.

Wisconsin: Bret Bielema
TCU: Gary Patterson

I was just talking about Rodriguez never being as good as his hype. Here we have two guys who are getting a lot of hype because of recent success. I can't begrudge them that success. But, Bielema is still young (meaning opposing coaches are still trying to figure out what adjustments to make), and Patterson has abused some very soft schedules in recent years. How will we think of Bielema in five years? Could Patterson compete for national championships if he played in the Big 12 or SEC and had tougher week-to-week schedules? For now, we have to go with what we see. And, I see very successful guys who are coaching with peak confidence. To me this is a wash right now. I think we'll learn a lot about one of these men by the time the Rose Bowl ends.

Oklahoma: Bob Stoops
Connecticut: Randy Edsall

Interesting matchup here. Stoops can build teams who compete for national championships, but he sure has trouble in big games and in bowls. Edsall probably couldn't do that, but he sure gets the most out of his guys when everyone thinks they're overmatched. That definitely sets up to giving Edsall the edge in pointspread terms in a bowl matchup, doesn't it. I think Stoops probably deserves more credit in the big picture for what he DOES accomplish. And, Edsall's success has come in a bad conference. I'm not going to say Edsall's the better coach overall. I do think this game sets up in a way that will bring about the strengths of Edsall and the weaknesses of Stoops. Will the players on the field cooperate?

That wraps up my look at the New Year's Day coaches. You can purchase my bowl releases every day right here at the website. Log in a few hours before kickoff. Don't forget I'm trying to show oddsmaker Nick Bogdanovich that a football coach knows best! There's a special package here at the website that will allow you to purchase both of our selections so you can monitor the competition. If you have any questions, call the office at 1-877-540-8787.

Happy New Year! And, I hope you make a resolution this weekend to put A COACH IN YOUR CORNER!


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