Minority Head Coaches Have Some of 2008’s Biggest Football Games - Higher Education

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Minority Head Coaches Have Some of 2008’s Biggest Football Games

by Frank J. Matthews

For football fans the long six-month wait is finally over. The professional teams have already begun their preseason and given the football-starved fans a taste of the grid iron love. But for those true football fans who watch college as well as the NFL, the Aug. 28 start of the college season can’t arrive soon enough. Diverse Sports has taken the schedules of some of the few college programs that have Black head coaches and analyzed what will be their most important games of the season.

Head Coach

Randy Shannon – University of Miami – ACC

*Sept. 6 at University of Florida

Two words put it best, “The Swamp” is what Florida fans call their home stadium, and it’s one of the hardest places to win in college football. Not only will this game get national attention, given the fact that Florida is currently ranked 5th, according to a USA Today preseason poll, it will also have a huge impact on recruiting since UM and UF recruit the same high school players.

*Oct. 4 vs. Florida State University

This game is a “must win” for UM. If the Hurricanes are going to have a chance to win the ACC Championship they have to get a win against FSU. They will be looking for the same success they had last year in Tallahassee, Fla. Plus FSU is UM’s biggest recruiting rival.

*Nov. 13 vs. Virginia Tech

If Miami is fortunate enough to be in the National Championship picture at this point in the season, then this will be their biggest game of the season. Virginia Tech is ranked 15th in the USA Today preseason poll and might present UM with their toughest game of the season.

Head Coach

Slyvester Croom – Mississippi State University – SEC

*Sept. 13 at Auburn University

When you play in the Southeastern Conference, every game is a big game. Auburn is ranked 11th in the USA Today preseason poll and fully expects to make a run at the national championship and get some payback for MSU’s win last year in Auburn. If MSU can get the win at home in Starkville, it will probably get them ranked in the Top 25.

*Sept. 27 at Louisiana State University

This one is obvious. When you go against the defending national champions it’s all eyes on you. This will be the Bulldog’s toughest game of the season and playing in Baton Rouge won’t help their cause.

*Nov. 28 at University of Mississippi

There are in-state rivalries all over the country, but none as bitter as this. And for the football fans in Mississippi it doesn’t get more serious than this. Bragging rights aren’t the only thing on the line for this game. MSU and Ole Miss have an intense recruiting battle for Mississippi’s best.

Head Coach

Tyrone Willingham – University of Washington – PAC 10

*Aug. 30 at University of Oregon

In the past few seasons, PAC-10 football has stepped up its level of competition and it is now an elite conference. For Washington this game will be big because Oregon is ranked 20th in the USA Today preseason poll. The Huskies should come out pretty pumped, given that it’s a nationally televised conference game against a recruiting rival.

* Sept. 13 vs. University of Oklahoma

Washington’s out-of-conference schedule is one of the toughest in the country, and the main reason is this game. Oklahoma is ranked 4th in the USA Today preseason poll, and has a good shot at making it to the national championship. If Washington can win this one, it should get them ranked in the Top 25. This one also airs on national television.

* Nov. 1 at University of Southern California

USC is always in the conversation when anyone talks about the national championship, and this year is no different. USC is ranked 2nd in the USA Today preseason poll and the game is in Los Angeles, so it’s going to get major coverage. If USC happens to be No. 1 in the country, for this game it will no doubt be Washington’s biggest game of the season.

Head Coach

Ron Prince – Kansas State University – Big XII

* Sept. 17 at University of Louisville

This will be a rarely seen Big East-Big XII showdown. UofL is one of the better teams in the Big East and will be KSU’s toughest out-of-conference game. Both teams could be looking to stay undefeated before entering conference play. It will get national coverage on ESPN 2.

* Oct. 25 vs. University of Oklahoma

This one will be interesting because even though they are in the same conference, they haven’t played each other since 2005. If the Wildcats are going to have a shot at the Big XII Championship they must win this game at home. Oklahoma, currently ranked 4th, could even be No. 1 in the country for this game so it most likely will be KSU’s biggest game of the season.

* Nov. 1 at University of Kansas

This is a true, classic, in-state rivalry. Last season, KU won a close game 30-24 on KSU’s home field. This year the Wildcats will be looking to return the favor when they go to Lawrence. This is the biggest game in Kansas every year, and this year it will be more intense since the Jayhawks only lost one game last season and are ranked 13th in the USA Today preseason poll.

Head Coach

Kevin Sumlin – University of Houston – Conference USA

*Sept. 6 at Oklahoma State University

This is going to be a hard test for first-year Head Coach Kevin Sumlin and the Cougars. Oklahoma State competes in the Big XII and will be looking to take any hopes of an upset out of the picture early. Sumlin, who was the offensive coordinator at the University of Oklahoma, knows a lot about his former in-state rival’s program so that should work in his favor.

Head Coach

Ken Niumatalolo – U.S. Naval Academy

*Nov. 15 vs. Notre Dame

This game will be interesting for a few reasons. The Navy plays Notre Dame every year, and actually beat them last year for the first time in decades. The Navy is coming back from an impressive 8- 4 season, and Notre Dame is trying to restore its program to greatness after one of its worst seasons ever in 2007.

*Dec. 6 vs. Army U.S. Military Academy

This game is an end-of-the-fall classic every year. For veterans and active duty soldiers this game is as close as football gets to sibling rivalry. The Navy has won the last six games over the Army so first-year head coach Niumatalolo will be trying to keep the streak going.

Head Coach

Turner Gill – University at Buffalo – Mid-American Conference

Sept. 6 at University of Pittsburgh

Buffalo has a very tough out-of-conference schedule this season, and this game is probably going to be their second hardest. Pittsburgh is ranked 25th in The Associated Press Top 25 preseason poll and will be expecting to win this game easily at home.

Sept. 20 at University of Missouri

This will no doubt be the Bull’s biggest challenge of the season. Missouri plays in the Big XII and is ranked 6th in The Associated Press Top 25 preseason poll. Anytime you play a team ranked 10 or better in the country it gets national coverage. If Gill needs to motivate his players for this one, all he needs to do is show them last year’s Appalachian State versus Michigan game on the way to Columbia.

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