Nearly one out of seven FBS college football programs has a first-year head coach this season. That's 18 out of the 130 FBS programs.
It's now Week 9 of the 2021 season, which means we have more than half a season of data from which to analyze these programs under their new regimes. I analyzed each school that has a head coach who's in his first season in that role at his current school and I compared the team's 2021 performance so far to its performance last season in several statistical categories.
Note: The stats and rankings used in this story are current through Week 8 of the 2021 season.
Simple Rating System
According to Sports Reference, the Simple Rating System (SRS) "takes into account average point differential and strength of schedule," and it's one useful rating system that ranks every team in the sport. For margin of victory, there's a lower bound of seven points and an upper bound of 24 points.
Here's how every FBS program with a first-year coach compares this season to last season in terms of its national SRS ranking, listed in descending order. It's worth a reminder that COVID-19 significantly disrupted last season, from scheduling to player availability to practice restrictions due to health and safety protocols, so a team's 2020 season should be viewed through that lens.
The timing — and cause — of a recent coaching hire could also impact a team's 2021 SRS rating. Kansas hired former Buffalo coach Lance Leipold in late April, so then Buffalo was in the market for a new head coach and it hired Maurice Linguist in early May, which is months later than most of his fellow new hires.
On average, programs with a first-year head coach are ranked 4.7 spots worse in the SRS rating than they were in 2020.
|School||Coach||2021 SRS Ranking||2020 SRS Ranking||Difference|
|Utah State||Blake Anderson||74||123||+49|
|UL Monroe||Terry Bowden||103||126||+23|
|Boise State||Andy Avalos||36||45||+9|
|South Alabama||Kane Wommack||96||102||+6|
|South Carolina||Shane Beamer||85||87||+2|
|Southern Miss||Will Hall||121||116||-5|
|Arkansas State||Butch Jones||126||96||-30|
Total offense per game
Five of the 18 FBS programs with first-year head coaches have seen a difference of at least 100 yards per game, positive or negative, in a year-over-year change in total offense, and two of those changes are connected. Former UCF coach Josh Heupel was hired at Tennessee and since then, UCF's total yards of offense per game has dropped by 149 yards per game since last season, while Tennessee's total offense has climbed by 111 yards per game since 2020.
Here are the complete results.
|School||Coach||2021 Offense||2020 Offense||Difference|
|Utah State||Blake Anderson||466||275||+191|
|South Alabama||Kane Wommack||390||358||+32|
|Boise State||Andy Avalos||363||349||+14|
|UL Monroe||Terry Bowden||302||305||-3|
|South Carolina||Shane Beamer||327||355||-28|
|Arkansas State||Butch Jones||436||489||-53|
|Southern Miss||Will Hall||257||372||-115|
RANKINGS: See all the latest FBS polls
Total yards allowed per game
On average, schools with first-year head coaches are allowing roughly 23 fewer yards per game than last season, including seven programs that have made an improvement of at least 50 fewer yards allowed per game. UCF, under Gus Malzahn, is averaging 149 fewer yards per game of total offense, but the Knights are allowing 120 fewer yards per game than last season, which is the best year-over-year improvement of the 18 first-year head coaches.
|School||Coach||2021 defense||2020 defense||Difference|
|South Carolina||Shane Beamer||346||451||+105|
|South Alabama||Kane Wommack||334||436||+102|
|Southern Miss||Will Hall||351||401||+50|
|Utah State||Blake Anderson||444||485||+41|
|UL Monroe||Terry Bowden||447||464||+17|
|Boise State||Andy Avalos||406||373||-33|
|Arkansas State||Butch Jones||578||470||-108|
Penalty yards per game
Eleven of the 18 programs with a first-year head coach are plus or minus 10 penalty yards per game of their 2020 average, but a handful of programs have seen notable changes. Southern Miss has been penalized for more than 30 yards more per game this season compared to last, while Texas has experienced almost 30 fewer penalty yards per game in 2021 versus 2020.
|School||Coach||2021 penalty yards||2020 penalty yards||Difference|
|Arkansas State||Butch Jones||48.6||57.4||-8.8|
|UL Monroe||Terry Bowden||39.9||43.7||-3.8|
|Boise State||Andy Avalos||51.7||49.3||+2.4|
|Utah State||Blake Anderson||56.6||47.3||+9.3|
|South Carolina||Shane Beamer||61.8||43.7||+18.1|
|South Alabama||Kane Wommack||53.1||34.9||+18.2|
|Southern Miss||Will Hall||68.0||36.7||+31.3|
Red zone efficiency
Most teams with a first-year head coach have improved upon their red zone efficiency — the percent of trips to the red zone in which they've scored — since last season. Remarkably, UL Monroe ranked 123rd last season in red zone efficiency and this season the Warhawks rank 13th through Week 8, thanks to an improvement of more than 27 percentage points.
|School||Coach||2021 percentage||2020 percentage||Difference|
|UL Monroe||Terry Bowden||93.3%||65.6%||+27.7%|
|Arkansas State||Butch Jones||88.0%||78.1%||+9.9%|
|South Alabama||Kane Wommack||83.9%||80.0%||+3.9%|
|Boise State||Andy Avalos||90.6%||90.9%||-0.3%|
|Utah State||Blake Anderson||69.2%||74.2%||-5.0%|
|South Carolina||Shane Beamer||76.0%||82.8%||-6.8%|
|Southern Miss||Will Hall||69.2%||81.6%||-12.4%|