Saturday, November 27

Rating coaching debuts, from Steve Sarkisian (A) to Clark Lea (F)



Eight Power Five coaches made their debut during Week 1 and compiled a 6-3 record (Bret Bielema played twice!), Giving hopeful fans their first look at the product of the new regimen. Illinois was the only team to play a Power Five opponent, and Illini beat Nebraska in Week 0 before following up with a loss to UTSA in Week 1. Arizona played a soon-to-be P5 opponent at BYU and placed a respectable fight.

One coach got the Gatorade treatment (Shane Beamer) and another enjoyed an assault on the field (Lance Leipold). Here are reviews of the new eras that began in 2021.

Bryan Harsin, chestnut

OUTCOME: Defeated Akron, 60-10

OVERVIEW: Hard to object with a 53-0 lead after three quarters. Yes, the Tigers were 35-point favorites, but they covered it with ease. Quarterback Bo Nix was 20 of 22, Auburn scored on his first eight possessions and kept the Zips at full throttle until the fourth quarter. The opponent’s quality prevents this from being an “A”.

QUALIFICATION: Unless

RELATED: Bender Week 1 Conclusions and Bonus Points

Jedd Fisch, Arizona

OUTCOME: Lost at BYU 24-16

OVERVIEW: The last time we saw Arizona, they lost 70-7 to the state of Arizona. So things are looking up, right? Arizona was competitive against a solid BYU team when Gunner Cruz threw for 345 yards with a TD and an INT.

QUALIFICATION: B

Bret Bielema, Illinois

OUTCOME: Defeated Nebraska 30-22 Week 0, lost to UTSA 37-30 in Week 1

OVERVIEW: Thumbs up in Week 0, when Illinois defeated Nebraska with their backup QB. The disappointment came the following week, but UTSA is a legitimate Group of Five team and Illinois was still on track with their second quarterback in Art Sitkowski.

QUALIFICATION: B-less

Lance Leipold, Kansas

OUTCOME: Defeated South Dakota 17-14

OVERVIEW: Not an inspiring start for the new regime. The Jayhawks needed to convert a quarter and 10 in their winning series, which ended with a 16-yard touchdown pass with 1:10 to play. Kansas was outscored by a Missouri Valley team that went 1-3 in its shortened spring season. Kansas may not be the favorite for the rest of the season, but hey, their fans were squeezed into a field storm at least.

QUALIFICATION: C-minus

Shane Beamer, South Carolina

OUTCOME: Defeated Eastern Illinois 46-0

OVERVIEW: Almost everything went well at Columbia, with the Gamecocks blocking two punts, intercepting two passes and throwing a shutout on defense. Graduate assistant turned QB1 Zeb Nolan threw four touchdown passes in the first half. The only thing preventing this from an “A” is the quality of the opponent.

QUALIFICATION: Unless

Josh Heupel, Tennessee

OUTCOME: Defeated Bowling Green 38-6

OVERVIEWConsidering Bowling Green didn’t win a game last season and didn’t place a player on Athlon Sports first, second, or third team preseason All-MAC teams, this wasn’t exactly a yardstick game. Tennessee did what it had to do, never really threatened, but led just 14-6 at halftime against a clearly outmatched team. Heupel’s high-paced offense was on display, but new quarterback Joe Milton was unstable enough to give Vols fans a pause despite the 32-point victory.

QUALIFICATION: B-less

Steve Sarkisian, Texas

OUTCOME: Defeated Louisiana 38-18

OVERVIEWSark said he was going to give the ball to Bijan Robinson, and he would give it to Robinson. Robinson had 24 touches, 186 total yards and two TDs. He handled a two-quarterback situation to everyone’s satisfaction and Texas was never really threatened. He did it under the pressure of a no-win situation against Louisiana.

QUALIFICATION: TO

Clark Lea, Vanderbilt

OUTCOME: Lost to East Tennessee 23-3

OVERVIEWDerek Mason may not have left a lot of SEC talent behind, but Lea didn’t need SEC talent to stay within 20 points at home against a team that finished third in the Southern Conference. In 2019, a Vanderbilt 3-9 team beat ETSU 38-0. That’s almost a 60 point swing. There were no building blocks in this game for the former Notre Dame defensive coordinator. Vanderbilt was outbid and never threatened in the second half.

QUALIFICATION: F




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