Almost every fantastic program is backed by a fantastic coach. Coaches like Nick Saban, Dabo Swinney, Jimbo Fisher and Jim Harbaugh have defined themselves as the best of the best in the coaching world, and their teams show it. But, just as easily as a coach can completely revive or revolutionize a program, a bad coach can be the cause of a team’s demise. When that happens it’s not uncommon for a program to decide it’s time to move on from a problematic or unfit coach. So, break out the name tags as we learn the 2020 teams with new coaching and what to expect from these new, reimagined teams.
If any team needs a big coaching shift right now, it’s Mississippi State. Last season, they finished 6-7 under Head Coach Joe Moorhead, one year after a 8-5 finish. Miss State has had a solid program in the past, and so, a head coaching change looks like the only solid way to right the ship for the Bulldogs. And man, did they get a good captain. Mike Leach will take over for Moorhead after 7 years at Washington State and 9 at Texas Tech. Between these two teams, Leach has won 139 games and turned two unimportant programs into powerhouses in their conferences. And now, his incredible experience and reputation will make the Bulldogs fans excited to be back in the world of relevance, and make Miss State football much more interesting to watch.
And if you thought Mississippi State was the team that really needed a new look, you wouldn’t be wrong. However, they’re not even the most struggling team in their state. Ole Miss had a terrible season in 2019 – finishing 4-8 under Head Coach Matt Luke. And now, they landed Lane Kiffin, who has one of college football’s best stories and extensive resumes. He’s coached at USC, Tennessee, Alabama, and even the Oakland Raiders (for one short season). But Kiffin’s latest achievement has been his powerhouse team he’s made at unassuming Florida Atlantic University. He captured the C-USA Championship with the Owls and turned a relatively unknown squad into a team to be reckoned with. If he can do the same thing with a more influential squad at Ole Miss, the Rebels will make some noise over the next few years.
The Seminoles are a high caliber team with a high-expectation fanbase. So, the team’s 6-7 finish last season didn’t sit well with Seminole fans. And neither did Willie Taggart. Taggart finished 4-5 after taking over for Odell Haggins, who started 2-2. And so, the Noles were in desperate need of a new leader. And Mike Norvell is a pretty good choice. He also coached a C-USA team back to relevance, finishing 12-1 with the Memphis Tigers last season. He’ll hope to be the new face of Tallahassee next season and revive both a disappointing program and disappointed fanbase.
Unlike some of the other teams on this list, Washington’s inclusion is based less in a great replacement for a struggling program, but a surprising turn of events for a well-established one. The Huskies have been led by legendary coach Chris Petersen, where he led them to 55 wins over 6 seasons and even a trip to the College Football Playoffs. But his coaching career finally caught up to him, causing his resignation due to stress. But although the name tag on the door may change, the team itself probably won’t. Jimmy Lake, the new head coach, got his start with Petersen at Boise State 8 years ago and has been an assistant under Petersen at Washington since 2014. So, expect the Huskies to stay on the path to success this season.
This could be a big change for the college football world. With Florida teams like UCF and FAU making some noise this season, it wouldn’t be a surprise if a team like South Florida followed suit. After a poor showing in the American conference last season (4-8) under Charlie Strong, the Bulls didn’t give Strong another shot despite his 21-15 record with the team. And so, USF fans now can look at Jeff Scott as the future of Bulls football. Scott has been a key part of the Clemson coaching staff since 2008 and has a specialty in WR play, something the Bulls could benefit from. And so, Tampa’s finest will have something to look forward to next season as they try to show reclaim their conference.