Measuring a successful football season is much dependent on a program’s recent history. In the SEC, there are two exceptions, with the highest bar for Alabama Football and the lowest reserved for Vanderbilt.
In Tuscaloosa, any Alabama football coach, and especially Nick Saban, is expected to win an SEC Championship and contend for a National Championship. In the Saban era, success for Alabama has become not going three seasons without a National Championship. That insanely high expectation once led Nick Saban to joke with Steve Spurrier,
If I ever lose three games around here again, they might kill me.
Spurrier later said he thought Saban was joking “but I’m not sure.”
A Successful 2022 Alabama Football Season
The theme of this post is how many 2022, regular-season wins will define success for each SEC coach. For Nick Saban, that number is probably 11, which is close to what the ESPN FPI predicts at 11.3. Though something shockingly bad could theoretically happen to the 2022 Alabama Crimson Tide, Saban would be secure at any win total.
Measuring success for Kirby Smart is probably 11 wins, or maybe just 10. Smart can ride the 2021 National Championship wave for at least a few seasons. The FPI has the Bulldogs at 11.6 wins.
Anything less than 11 wins will be failure in College Station, where Jimbo Fisher has fast-talked himself into National Championship demands. Just nine wins might not lead to Texas A&M booster panic, but if that is the number, Jimbo’s team had best not be beaten badly in Tuscaloosa.
Nine wins are probably the success number for Mark Stoops and Josh Heupel, though for different reasons. For Stoops, his success has built a highest-ever bar in Lexington. The Heupel-driven, Tennessee fervor is more hype than history. The Vols won seven in 2021 and the FPI has them at seven again in 2022. Tennessee fans are so pumped, winning only seven or even eight games would be a major disappointment.
Ole Miss and Arkansas had outstanding 2021 seasons. Either could slip back to eight wins in 2022 and Lane Kiffin and Sam Pittman would feel no heat. A bigger dip from nine down to just seven wins might not blunt enthusiasm for Pittman.
Billy Napier and Brian Kelly have free pass seasons in 2022. Seven wins with promise of more success in 2023 would be fine for both.
Seven wins with continued promise would be enough for Shane Beamer as well. Though, with all the Spencer Rattler buzz, only six wins will disappoint.
Three more SEC coaches really need at least seven wins. They are Mike Leach, Bryan Harsin and Eli Drinkwitz. Leach is 11-13 in two Mississippi State seasons and is at risk of a conclusion his offense is nothing special against athletic SEC defenses.
Drinkwitz is 11-12 in two Missouri seasons. Six wins or less and his job is in jeopardy.
In Auburn, six wins and Bryan Harsin will be gone. Seven wins will only possibly save him because of the buyout cost.
In season two for Clark Lea in Nashville, going from two wins to four wins would be a success. Commodore coaches play with a ‘shot clock’ that begins in their first season and ticks down to an eventual exit. Lea should get four seasons to reach a six-win threshold, but even at Vandy, patience has a limit.
The ESPN FPI predicts Jimbo’s Aggies will have 7.5 wins. If that happens, the meltdown will be epic.