A couple of weeks ago we highlighted six new FBS leaders with a tough opening to their first season on the sidelines. This week we switch perspectives and look at the opposite scenario, new FBS head coaches with an easier start to the season.
Where the first group of guys may look like a questionable hire only games into their tenure, the names listed below have a combined set of early opponents with the potential to make them seem like Grade A success stories by the end of September.
It’s yet another illustration of the rock-solid fact that not all college football schedules are created equally.
TIM BECK – COASTAL CAROLINA
First five games: at UCLA, Jacksonville State, FCS Duquesne, Georgia State, at Georgia Southern
Tim Beck’s first-ever gig as a collegiate head coach could easily get off to a 4-1 start, making him look like the ideal guy to keep the wins coming for a CCU program that’s gone 31-7 since 2020. After what should be a loss at UCLA, the Chanticleers get three winnable home dates: (1). Jacksonville State – a program that moves up to the FBS via C-USA this season and went 9-2 last year, Rich Rodriguez’s first at the helm. (2). FCS Duquesne – the Dukes went 4-7 last season and (3). Georgia State, fresh off a 4-8 campaign. That leaves a roadie at Georgia Southern, a 6-7 product in 2022 that has dropped three straight to Coastal Carolina. Beck most recently served as the OC at NC State from 2020-22.
JAMEY CHADWELL – LIBERTY
First five games: Bowling Green, New Mexico State, at Buffalo, at FIU, BYE, Sam Houston
No new FBS head coach has what looks like, at least on the surface, a better shot at an undefeated start than does Liberty’s Jamey Chadwell. Chadwell lands in Lynchburg after posting a 39-22 mark at Coastal Carolina from 2017-22, a run that included a 22-3 record from 2021-22. The Flames open the season with visits from Bowling Green (a club that hasn’t gone over .500 since 2015) and New Mexico State (the Aggies went 7-6 in 2022, only their second winning season in two decades) followed by roadies at Buffalo (a solid yet beatable MAC opponent) and FIU (the Golden Panthers have won just five games since 2020). After taking Week 5 off, it’s a home date vs. Sam Houston, which moves up to the FBS ranks in 2023. Liberty will compete in a nine-member C-USA which includes two clubs that played at the FCS level last year and only three teams that went over .500 in FBS action in 2022. Look for Liberty to be ranked and Chadwell to be, once again, mentioned for future Power 5 openings.
ALEX GOLESH – USF
First five games: at WKU, FCS Florida A&M, Alabama, Rice, at Navy
Fresh off three seasons as Josh Heupel’s OC (at UCF in 2020 and at Tennessee in 2021-22), Alex Golesh’s initial foray into head coaching has a lot of the right stuff to make him look like the right stuff. The Bulls open at Western Kentucky, a club that’s posted back-to-back nine-win seasons, making them a great litmus test for where things are headed in Tampa. After that it’s a visit from FCS Florida A&M, a team that went 9-2 last season but should be beatable. Next up, it’s a home date vs. mighty Alabama (a big loss is totally acceptable here) followed by a visit from a Rice program that’s posted eight-straight losing records and a roadie at Navy, a squad looking for a new identity after a 11-23 run since 2020. It all adds up to a reasonable opportunity for Golesh to open with a 3-2 record. While that might not garner a lot of national attention, it would be beyond promising for a club that’s won a total of four games in three seasons.
LUKE FICKELL – WISCONSIN
First five games: Buffalo, at Washington State, Georgia Southern, at Purdue, BYE, Rutgers
Despite having three Power 5 opponents in his first five games, Luke Fickell’s return to the Big Ten – this time as the head coach at a legitimate heavyweight – could get off to a 5-0 start. The Badgers open with a visit from Buffalo, a program that ended last season with a bowl win but is 3-16 vs. the current Big Ten. Wisconsin is 37-2 vs. the current MAC, both losses coming 34 years ago in the debacle that was the 1988 season, a 1-10 finish. Next up it’s a roadie at Washington State, a club that did waltz into Madison and leave with a 17-14 victory last year but before that hadn’t beaten a Power club in non-conference action during the regular season since a 37-34 win at Rutgers in 2015. After that it’s a visit from Georgia Southern which is 1-12 vs. Power 5 foes since moving up to the FBS in 2014. That leaves a roadie at Purdue (the Badgers have won 16 straight over the Boilermakers) and, after taking a breather in Week 5, a visit from Rutgers (Wisconsin are undefeated vs. the Scarlet Knights).
Historical data courtesy of Sports Reference/College Football.