Next College Coach to Win Their First Title


Hi Everyone! Welcome back to The Walk-On Redshirts.

I wanted to give a brief update before jumping into today’s article. I took a short hiatus from writing. Life happened, for the better I should add. I would love to commit to doing this full time but alas, I need a day job to pay the bills. Covid restrictions have been lifted which has allowed me to do some of my favorite things again so I have taken full advantage of those as well. My goal is one article per week until the season starts, then two or three per weeks during the season. Enough of that, let’s talk football.

I wanted to take a look at coaches who have yet to win a National Title and who could be the next one to win their first national title. Nick Saban, Dabo Swinney, Ed Orgeron, Jimbo Fisher and Mack Brown are the only active coaches with National Championships. Shockingly, Gene Chizik is not an active head coach (note the sarcasm). Who will be the next coach who is added to the list?

Lincoln Riley (Oklahoma) – Since taking over for Bob Stoops, Riley has taken the Oklahoma program to a new level. The Sooners are consistently one of the best teams on offense. Baker Mayfield and Kyler Murray each won a Heisman Trophy under Riley. In his first four seasons, Riley has amassed a 45-8 record with three trips to the College Football Playoff. He has also won the Big 12 in each season he has been the head coach. In 2021, the Sooners are expected to be the favorite to once again win the Big 12 and should be one of the favorites to contend for the National Title. With Spencer Rattler at Quarterback, Riley could have his third Heisman Trophy Quarterback in just five seasons.

Ryan Day (Ohio State) – Ryan Day took over for Urban Meyer before the 2019 season and has appeared to take the program to new heights. Day has yet to lose a regular season game with his only losses coming in the College Football Playoff to Clemson and Alabama. Day has continued to separate Ohio State from the rest of the Big Ten. Ohio State had the largest margin of victory in 2019 and the 11th highest in 2020. While Ohio State is expected to take a step back after losing Justin Fields to the NFL, Day has recruited well to retool this Buckeye team.

Kirby Smart (Georgia) – Kirby Smart is only a few years removed from nearly beating Alabama to win the National Title. Georgia lost the memorable heartbreaker in overtime to Alabama in 2018. Smart has not made the College Football Playoffs since the loss to Alabama. The Bulldogs will be lead by J.T. Daniels who finished the 2020 season strong. If Daniels can continue to play at a high level, he should place himself squarely in the conversation for the Heisman Trophy as well as leading Georgia to an SEC Title. If Kirby Smart fails to make the College Football Playoff in 2021, fans may begin to compare him to his predecessor Mark Richt.

Dan Mullen (Florida) – We have seen Dan Mullen have success over the course of his coaching career at Mississippi State and at Florida. Mullen is 29-9 since taking over for Florida with two seasons in double digit wins. He also finished in the top 10 nationally both of his first two seasons. The Gators are expected to take a step back this fall after the departure of Kyle Trask and a large portion of the wide receiver core. Mullen may not be in line to win a National Title this year, but he has Florida in a position to continue to contend with Georgia in future years for the SEC East.

Mario Cristobal (Oregon) – Oregon has been arguably the most consistent program in the Pac-12 over the last 10 to 15 years. Last year was a down year for Oregon going 3-3, but they also won the Pac-12 thanks to a few cancellations. Cristobal has been recruiting at a high level bringing in some of the best talent. Oregon has landed the best recruiting class in the Pac-12 each of the last three seasons. The Ducks will be led on defense by Kayvon Thibodeaux this fall. The offense remains a question as Anthony Brown is the presumed starter at quarterback. Oregon currently has little competition in the Pac-12 which should allow them future opportunities to make the College Football Playoff.

Paul Chryst (Wisconsin) – Let me finish my reasoning before anyone goes up in arms about Paul Chryst being on this list. Wisconsin plays on the favorable side of the Big Ten. The schedule lines up where they only have to play one or two of best Big Ten East team. This means they are usually able to avoid a combination of Michigan, Ohio State, Penn State and Indiana. We saw a situation unfold a few years ago where Wisconsin was nearly in the playoff but lost to Ohio State in the Big Ten Championship. With the College Football Playoff expanding to 12 teams in the coming years, Paul Chryst and Wisconsin may get their chance to play on the national stage.

Brian Kelly (Notre Dame) – I am not a believer in Brian Kelly but he continues to prove me wrong year after year. He has even seen an uptick in recruiting over the last few years bringing Notre Dame back to a national brand. Kelly has been in the playoffs twice and also played for a National Title. Notre Dame is 43-8 in the last four seasons winning at least 10 games in each season. At this point, it is hard to bet against Brian Kelly building another strong Fighting Irish team. One of the biggest concerns has been the quarterback play. I did not believe Ian Book was the guy to win them a National Title. The other concern I have is Kelly leaving for the NFL. There have been rumors in years past about him departing to test the waters in the NFL and Kelly is already 59 years old.

ANN ARBOR, MICHIGAN – OCTOBER 26: Head Coach Brian Kelly of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish during a college football game against the Michigan Wolverines at Michigan Stadium on October 26, 2019 in Ann Arbor, Michigan. (Photo by Aaron J. Thornton/Getty Images)

Luke Fickell (Cincinnati) – No, Cincinnati is not winning a National Championship. The reason I have Luke Fickell on here is for his next job. The Bearcats will not be able to hold onto Fickell much longer and he is waiting on the right job. Depending on the jobs that open up in the next year or two, he could be walking into some very good situations. Fickell has turned the Bearcats into the premier program in the AAC and many believe he will continue his success at the next program. Could Fickell turn a program around fast enough to make the College Football Playoff? When he takes the next job, the playoff may have expanded to 12 teams making entry easier.

Other Notable Coaches: James Franklin (Penn State), Steve Sarkisian (Texas), Manny Diaz (Miami FL), Clay Helton (USC), Kyle Wittingham (Utah)

Final Thoughts: I have said this on twitter and on this site a few times before. I firmly believe this is the year Georgia wins the National Title. J.T. Daniels is a stud and my pick to win the Heisman Trophy. Kirby Smart has the right group of guys to win the SEC and to lead his team back to the College Football Playoffs.

Cover Image:
Creator: Ron Jenkins | Credit: Getty Images Copyright: 2019 Getty Images

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