The 5 College Football Coaches Facing The Most Pressure In 2015

In looking back at the 2014 season, several coaches looked down the barrel of Old Demon Pressure and produced some of their best work. Paul Johnson, Kyle Flood, Bret Bielema, Mark Helfrich, Gary Patterson are primary examples of coaches who had a lot to prove to their critics last season, and promptly answered the bell.

Which coaches face the most pressure — not necessarily hot-seat pressure (though that’s part of the equation for some on this list), but the pressure to prove or perhaps re-prove themselves as coaches in 2015?

Here are our five selections:


Bob Stoops


Can you simultaneously be one of the better coaches of your generation and face overwhelming pressure when stepping into a new season? Sure you can.

Stoops’s body of work from the 1999 through 2008 seasons represents one of the great 10-year periods in the sport’s 146-year existence. When people say that “Big Game Bob” is a joke, they mean to refer to the past four seasons in particular, following Oklahoma’s last Big 12 title in the 2010 campaign. For a very long time, though, Bob Stoops was easy money, a near-lock to succeed at a high level.

Now, after the 2014 season turned a Sugar Bowl victory over Alabama and its runaway expectations into dust, Stoops has been forced to act. He’s dumped offensive staffers Josh Heupel and Jay Norvell, bringing in East Carolina offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley as his new play caller. Charlie Strong has revamped his offensive staff at Texas, but the Longhorn rebuild is still a work in progress. Oklahoma was not supposed to tumble to the extent it did in 2014, so Stoops has a lot to show his critics; OU fans; and his own self in 2015.


Much as Bob Stoops is one of the sport’s better coaches of the past quarter-century, so is Frank Beamer. Yet, the same reality of a crumbling empire — Rome in the year 476 A.D. — surrounds Beamer in Blacksburg, Virginia.

It seemed — on that one September night in Columbus, Ohio — that Virginia Tech was beginning to find itself. However, the most confounding result of the 2014 college football season became the puzzler it was because Beamer couldn’t sustain what his Hokies managed to achieve against Ohio State. Unravelings at home against East Carolina and Georgia Tech quickly changed the trajectory of the season, and while the Hokies did well to scramble to a position of bowl eligibility (Duke is kicking itself for losing to Virginia Tech at home — the loss cost the Blue Devils a repeat ACC Coastal title…), they were nothing more than a mediocre team.

Beamer’s claim to fame is precisely that he took a moribund program and turned it into something special over an extended period of time, winning the (December) 1995 Sugar Bowl; making the (December) 1996 Orange Bowl; playing for the 1999 national title; winning a bunch of ACC titles; and basically making Virginia Tech a factor on the national scene for nearly 20 years straight.

Now that the program is suffering, though, Beamer has to show that before he steps down, he can fix things, at least to the point that the program can become “Virginia Tech” again if Bud Foster is given the keys to the kingdom (which he most certainly deserves if he’s willing to take on the mission).


Chris Petersen knows he has to get his players to compete with Oregon -- if he can't show that in the 2015 season, a mild to moderate sense of panic will set in at Washington.

Chris Petersen knows he has to get his players to compete with Oregon — if he can’t show that in the 2015 season, a mild to moderate sense of panic will set in at Washington.


Washington hasn’t beaten Oregon in 734 years. Okay, that’s an Unofficial Statistic, but you get the point. The natives in Seattle are restless, and they know that unless or until Washington can at least play Oregon close for 60 minutes — not 40 or 50 — the tide has no real chance of turning in the balance of Pacific Northwest Pac-12 power.

Petersen was brought to Washington to win and win big, instead of becoming just another “Seven-Win Sark.” (Hey, that guy’s also on this list of coaches, as you’ll see below…) It is unreasonable to expect the Huskies to win the Pac-12 North and fight past both Oregon and Stanford next season, but Washington hosts Oregon, and it does so in the first year of the post-Marcus Mariota era. U-Dub has to show that it is beginning to close the gap on Oregon in the Pac-12. If not, Petersen’s going to get very uncomfortable in the early stages of his career in the world of Power 5 conference football.


The Trojans were loaded this past season. They possessed a boatload of talent at various positions on both sides of the ball. Speed, power, playmaking skill — USC had the goods. All it could do was post an 8-4 regular season and barely beat interim-coached Nebraska in the Holiday Bowl. The mandate is clear for Steve Sarkisian in 2015: Win the Pac-12 South at minimum, or the season is a resounding failure which will create massive doubts about the ability of Pete Carroll’s former assistant to revive USC football. None of that is hyperbolic after the 2014 season just witnessed in Los Angeles.


The time for excuses is over in Coral Gables.

The ability to cite the Nevin Shapiro scandal and various distractions is just not as tenable as it once was. Through 2014, fair enough — Miami was just not in position to compete, lacking the sound footing and the right circumstances in which to put all the pieces together.

In 2015, though, Miami has to show a few things:

1) Can it play well against the University of Virginia?

2) Can it manage to deal with tough losses or losses in big games (Florida State) by not folding the tents in subsequent contests?

3) Can it play well in second halves, unlike the Florida State game, in which the coaching staff seemed to fail to continue to attack the Seminoles’ defense at its weakest points? (Tucked inside this key is the very ability of Golden to be a better halftime coach who maneuvers his team far more skillfully in third and fourth quarters.)

Golden’s name was tied to the Penn State job when it came open following the departure of Bill O’Brien. However, what has he done to deserve those kinds of rumors and whispers in the past? Golden needs to make a name for himself at The U. He hasn’t done that yet, so it’s time for a true “U-Turn” in South Florida, a decisive move away from mediocrity for a program that hasn’t even made one appearance in the ACC Championship Game, if you can possibly believe it.

About Matt Zemek

Editor, @TrojansWire | CFB writer since 2001 |