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Eddie Robinson Coach of the Year: My vote went to Penn State’s Bill O’Brien

by Jason Kersey Published: December 5, 2012
Penn State coach Bill O'Brien celebrates with his team after a 24-21, overtime win over Wisconsin in the Nittany Lions' season finale. AP PHOTO
Penn State coach Bill O'Brien celebrates with his team after a 24-21, overtime win over Wisconsin in the Nittany Lions' season finale. AP PHOTO
NORMAN — I had a couple important ballots to fill out this week for national awards: The Heisman Trophy and the Eddie Robinson Coach of the Year Award.

The Oklahoman‘s four Heisman Trophy ballots were published in Tuesday’s newspaper; you can check those out here.

There were nine semifinalists for the Eddie Robinson award, and voters were tasked with ranking them 1-9.

The winner will be revealed on Thursday, Dec. 13, and the official presentation reception will be on Jan. 6, 2013, in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

Here was my submission, with an explanation for each coach:

1. Bill O’Brien, Penn State: Put simply, Bill O’Brien took on an impossible job, replaced a legendary coach, lost many of his best players and got off to a rocky start before orchestrating a remarkable turnaround. O’Brien did an incredible job leading Penn State to an unlikely 8-4 record after early-season losses to Ohio and Virginia. The Nittany Lions ended their season with a 24-21, overtime win over eventual Big 10 champion Wisconsin. No coach in America faced more difficult circumstances, and O’Brien deserves lots of credit for what his team accomplished.

2. David Shaw, Stanford: Who would’ve expected Stanford to win the Pac-12 this season, especially after losing quarterback Andrew Luck, the NFL’s top overall draft pick? Shaw led the Cardinal to an early-season upset of USC, then fell inches short of playing a second overtime in a loss at current No. 1 Notre Dame. Stanford also finally managed to beat Oregon, the only Pac-12 team the Cardinal hadn’t defeated over the past two seasons, which was in line for a BCS title-game berth at the time of its loss. The Cardinal will play in the Rose Bowl, their third straight BCS bowl game, and its largely because of Shaw’s leadership.

3. Brian Kelly, Notre Dame: In most seasons, Kelly would be the obvious choice here for coach of the year. Notre Dame is undefeated, has posted several quality wins — including a convincing 30-13 victory at Oklahoma — and is No. 1 in the land for the first time since 1993. The Irish will play for the national title against defending champion Alabama next month.

4. Urban Meyer, Ohio State: Meyer’s Buckeyes finished the season undefeated; in most years, that would probably mean a trip to the BCS championship game, but Ohio State is  ineligible for the 2012-13 postseason. With Braxton Miller at quarterback, and Meyer at the helm, Ohio State looks like it will be a contender for the forseeable future. Another remarkable job by the former Florida coach.

5. Bill Snyder, Kansas State: It’s really a bummer that Kansas State flopped at Baylor like it did, because no coach deserves a national championship like Bill Snyder. I don’t know how he does it — although I suspect a quarterback like Collin Klein doesn’t hurt — but he built the Wildcats back into a contender for a second time; KSU finished the season 11-1 and a Big 12 champion. The Wildcats face a daunting challenge against Oregon in the Fiesta Bowl.

6. Gary Andersen, Utah State: In his fourth season at the helm, Andersen led Utah State to its greatest regular-season ever, and its first outright conference championship since 1936. The Aggies’ 10 wins are the most in school history. Remember when Utah State came to Norman in 2010 and hung with the Sooners? OU won 31-24, with the Aggies putting up an impressive fight.

7. Kevin Sumlin, Texas A&M: The former Bob Stoops assistant and first-year A&M coach has certainly done an impressive job, leading the Aggies to a 10-2 record and Cotton Bowl berth — not to mention a shocking upset win at defending national champion Alabama. Perhaps the most impressive thing Sumlin has accomplished is getting the Aggies to finish games. Of course, Heisman Trophy frontrunner Johnny Manziel has a lot to do with that, too. No disrespect to Sumlin, because I think he’s a terrific coach, but Manziel is the primary reason for the Aggies’ success.

8. Will Muschamp, Florida: Muschamp made the Gators a national contender again; Florida finished the season 11-1 and will play Louisville in the Sugar Bowl. The former Texas defensive coordinator/head coach in-waiting also deserves credit for his team’s continued improvement throughout most of the season. There was the blip when Florida lost to Georgia, but for the most part, this isn’t the same team that, in its season opener, led Bowling Green by three points entering the fourth quarter.

9. David Doeren, Northern Illinois: As much as I don’t think Northern Illinois should be in a BCS bowl game, I really hate the anger being directed at the Huskies. They did exactly what they needed to do to reach the Orange Bowl. In two seasons under Doeren, the Huskies went 23-4 and won two MAC championships. He’s voted this low because Northern Illinois still lost to a bad Iowa team, and barely beat a bad Kansas team. Also, it feels weird to rank a coach very high when he’s not even with the team anymore; Doeren accepted the N.C. State head coaching position and won’t coach the Huskies in the Orange Bowl.

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by Jason Kersey
OU Sports Reporter
Jason Kersey became The Oklahoman's OU football beat writer in May 2012 after a year covering high school sports and OSU recruiting. Before joining the newspaper in November 2006 as a part-time results clerk, he covered high school football for...
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