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Posted at 2:40 PM ET, 01/10/2011

A closer look at Virginia Tech Coach Frank Beamer and the big game

By Mark Giannotto

It's now been a week since Virginia Tech lost to No. 5 Stanford in last Monday's Orange Bowl, and other than defensive coordinator Bud Foster's pursuit of the Pittsburgh head coaching vacancy, the popular topic of discussion amongst Virginia Tech fans is their growing frustration with the Hokies inability to win the "big game" under Coach Frank Beamer.

Well, since we're just hours away from the biggest game of this college football season, I figured it presents a good opportunity to take a closer look at Beamer's record in the "big games."

I've spent the past week scouring over records because some felt constantly mentioning Beamer's 1-19 record against top-five opponents didn't present the full picture of his tenure in regards to marquee matchups. I decided that a big game meant the opponent was currently ranked in the top 25 or it was an opponent in a bowl game. I broke it down into many different categories, including before and after the 1995 season, against non-conference and conference opponents, whether Virginia Tech was ranked or unranked at the time, if it was a home game or played away from Lane Stadium, and much more.

I also compared Beamer's win percentage in bowl games and facing ranked opponents with 12 other head coaches from around the country. They were Oregon's Chip Kelly, Auburn's Gene Chizik, Penn State's Joe Paterno, former Florida State Coach Bobby Bowden, Ohio State's Jim Tressel, Alabama's Nick Saban, former USC Coach Pete Carroll, Oklahoma's Bob Stoops, Florida's Urban Meyer, Texas Coach Mack Brown, former Tennessee Coach Phillip Fulmer and former Michigan Coach Lloyd Carr.

So how did Beamer stand up? Check after the jump for the full breakdown.

Beamer has a 41-47-1 record overall (.461 win percentage) in bowl games or when facing an opponent ranked in the top 25. But when the Hokies have been ranked, Beamer is 32-24 in those "big games." Beamer is also 30-21 since the 1995-96 season when the Hokies went to the Sugar Bowl and the program announced itself on the national stage.

Much has been made about Beamer's 1-19 mark against top-five foes, but he's also just 7-30 against top 10 opponents and 15-31 against teams ranked in the top 15. And when compared to those 12 other head coaches, the only two with equivalent win percentages in bowl games or facing top 25 opponents were Fulmer (.500), Brown (.454) and Chizik (.412).

But Brown's win percentage is significantly higher (.600) since he became coach at Texas in 1998, not to mention he's got a national championship on his resume. And Chizik is in just his fourth year as a Division-I head coach, and already has Auburn in the national championship game Monday night against Oregon. Fulmer also has a national championship to his name. The other nine coaches had superior records in "big games."

Here, though, is the full breakdown of all my research over the past week. Rather than try to analyze it all myself, I'd prefer if you looked it over and made your own judgments based off the numbers. But I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments section.

Beamer all time at VT vs. ranked opponents and bowl games

41-47-1 vs. ranked and bowl games
28-38 vs. top 20
15-31 vs. top 15
7-30 vs. top 10
1-19 vs. top 5
18-13-1 at home
23-34 away from Lane
7-11 in bowl games
18-32-1 vs. non conference
23-15 vs. in conference
37-25 since 1995-96 season
4-22-1 before 1995-96 season
29-21 since 1999-2000
39-36-1 since joining Big East before 1991 season
2-11 before joining Big East

Beamer when VT is ranked vs. ranked opponents and bowl games

32-24 overall
22-18 vs. top 20
12-14 vs. top 15
4-14 vs. top 10
1-11 vs. top 5
13-6 at home
19-18 away from Lane
6-9 in bowl games
14-14 in non conference
18-10 in conference
30-21 since 1995-96 season
2-3 before 1995-96 season
24-18 since 1999-2000 season
32-24 since joining Big East before 1991 season
0-0 before joining Big East

Beamer when VT is unranked vs. ranked opponents and bowl games

9-23-1 vs. ranked and bowl games
6-20 vs. top 20
3-17 vs. top 15
3-16 vs. top 10
0-8 vs. top 5
5-7-1 at home
4-16 away from Lane
1-2 in bowl games
4-18-1 in non conference
5-5 in conference
7-4 since 1995-96 season
2-19-1 before 1995-96
5-3 since 1999-2000 season
7-12-1 since joining Big East before 1991 season
2-11 before joining Big East

HOW OTHER COACHES HAVE FARED

Chip Kelly (.778 win percentage)
Oregon 2009-2010

7-2 vs. ranked and bowl games
6-2 vs. top 20
4-2 vs. top 15
3-1 vs. top 10
1-0 vs. top 5

Gene Chizik (.412 win percentage)
Iowa State 2007-2008; Auburn 2009-2010

0-8 at Iowa St.; 7-2 at Auburn; 7-10 vs. ranked and bowl games
0-6 at Iowa St.; 4-2 at Auburn; 4-8 vs. top 20
0-5 at Iowa St.; 4-2 at Auburn; 4-7 vs. top 15
0-3 at Iowa St.; 1-2 at Auburn; 1-5 vs. top 10
0-2 at Iowa St.; 0-1 at Auburn; 0-3vs. top 5

Joe Paterno (.530 win percentage)
Penn State 1966-present

87-76-1 vs. ranked and bowl games
67-74 vs. top 20
51-59 vs. top 15
32-48 vs. top 10
12-32 vs. top 5

Bobby Bowden (.565 win percentage)
West Virginia 1970-1975; Florida State 1976-2009

1-6 at WVU; 86-60-1 at FSU; 87-66-1 vs. ranked and bowl games
1-6 at WVU; 71-45-1 at FSU; 72-51-1 vs. top 20
0-5 at WVU; 56-51-1 at FSU; 56-56-1 vs. top 15
0-4 at WVU; 39-40-1 at FSU; 39-44-1 vs. top 10
0-1 at WVU; 19-29-1 at FSU; 19-30-1 vs. top 5

Jim Tressel (.700 win percentage)
Ohio State 2001-present

35-15 vs. ranked and bowl games
26-14 vs. top 20
20-11 vs. top 15
9-9 vs. top 10
6-8 vs. top 5

Nick Saban (.542 win percentage)
Toledo 1990; Michigan State 1995-1999; LSU 2000-2004; Alabama 2007-present

0-0 at Toledo; 8-15 at Mich. St; 14-10 at LSU; 17-8 at Alabama; 39-33 vs. ranked and bowl games
7-10 at Mich. St; 12-9 at LSU; 15-6 at Alabama; 34-25 vs. top 20
6-8 at Mich. St; 10-8 at LSU; 10-5 at Alabama; 26-21 vs. top 15
5-6 at Mich. St; 5-5 at LSU; 9-4 at Alabama; 19-15 vs. top 10
3-3 at Mich. St; 3-2 at LSU; 3-3 at Alabama; 9-8 vs. top 5

Pete Carroll (.783 win percentage)
USC 2001-2009

36-10 vs. ranked and bowl games
25-7 vs. top 20
20-6 vs. top 15
14-4 vs. top 10
5-2 vs. top 5

Bob Stoops (.700 win percentage)
Oklahoma 1999-present

42-18 vs. ranked and bowl games
31-15 vs. top 20
24-11 vs. top 15
13-9 vs. top 10
8-7 vs. top 5

Urban Meyer (.688 win percentage)
Bowling Green 2001-2002; Utah 2003-2004; Florida 2005-2010

0-0 at Bowling Green; 3-0 at Utah; 19-10 at Florida; 22-10 vs. ranked and bowl games
2-0 at Utah; 13-8 at Florida; 15-8 vs. top 20
0-0 at Utah; 13-7 at Florida; 13-7 vs. top 15
12-4 vs. top 10
8-3 vs. top 5

Mack Brown (.454 win percentage)
Tulane 1985-1987; North Carolina 1988-1997; Texas 1998-present

0-8 at Tulane; 11-22-1 at UNC; 33-22 at Texas; 44-52-1 vs. ranked and bowl games
0-7 at Tulane; 7-15-1 at UNC; 24-18 at Texas; 31-40-1 vs. top 20
0-5; at Tulane; 2-10-1 at UNC; 17-18 at Texas; 19-33-1 vs. top 15
0-3 at Tulane; 2-8 at UNC; 10-15 at Texas; 12-26 vs. top 10
0-2 at Tulane; 0-6 at UNC; 5-8 at Texas; 5-16 vs. top 5

Phillip Fulmer (.500 win percentage)
Tennessee 1992-2008

40-39-1 vs. ranked and bowl games
34-35-1 vs. top 20
24-33-1 vs. top 15
14-26-1 vs. top 10
6-15-1 vs. top 5

Lloyd Carr (.623 win percentage)
Michigan 1995-2007

43-26 vs. ranked and bowl games
37-20 vs. top 20
29-14 vs. top 15
18-9 vs. top 10
8-4 vs. top 5

By Mark Giannotto  | January 10, 2011; 2:40 PM ET
 
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Comments

The numbers make the case that Frank is a very nice regional coach, but not yet ready for the big stage. I guess that's about right. Neither do Tech asst coaches ever seem to be considered for head coaching jobs. Foster's name comes up once in a while, but is there a Tech asst coach who became a successful head coach?

Posted by: greendayer | January 10, 2011 5:27 PM | Report abuse

When I graduated from Va Tech in 1982, we went to 1 bowl game, the Peach Bowl, my entire 4 years at Tech. I enjoy watching Tech football more since Coach Beamer took over as opposed to when Coach Joe Coffee was in charge when I started at Tech. The only thing he seemed focused on is beating his former boss Bear Bryant. And, no, Coffee never beat the Bear while he was the head coach at Tech.

Posted by: dwjennings11 | January 10, 2011 6:45 PM | Report abuse

Well, you've certainly compared Beamer to an elite group of coaches. Most agree that Beamer is an excellent coach.

Seems like to me his numbers are pretty good overall.

He needs to keep working on winning the big games, and the key will be recruiting outstanding players. In the mean time, I think we can all agree that he took an average Va Tech program and made it into a consistent winner.

I think we all agree, and Beamer would agree as well, that he won't be considered "elite" until he can consistently win against highly ranked teams.


Posted by: postfan1 | January 10, 2011 8:46 PM | Report abuse

As the other poster commented, Coach Beamer is a great regional coach. His team is set up to be extremely competitive in his conference and that particular style of play. Coach Beamer will always win 9-10+ games a season via Beamerball.

However, I don't think Beamer will ever will "the big one" until he commits to turning the offense over to a offensive genius. I've got nothing against Stinespring as I thing he'd make a great OL coach, but today's great OCs have specific backgrounds (ex Qb's & etc) and experience that make them who they are. Jim Harbaugh vs Stinespring was a perfect example.....A mismatch and it showed.

Posted by: collegefootballfan | January 11, 2011 10:13 AM | Report abuse

Two additional pieces of data worth considering:

(1) Recruiting: Virginia Tech consistently recruits locally. Their roster is replete with athletes from Virginia, and sometimes neighboring states of Maryland and North Carolina. When you look at programs like USC or Florida State, they're recruting nationally. Frank Beamer typically takes a recruting class ranked 15th to 35th and finishes between 5 and 15 in the final poll. He's does a great job with the talent available.

(2) 1997: That was the last year that the Redskins (who play 16 games a year) won more games than the Hokies (12-13 games a year). Frank deserves recognition for fielding a consistently excellent football team - with a very high graduation rate.

Posted by: dcnationals1 | January 11, 2011 11:07 AM | Report abuse

VT/Coach Beamer is fortunate that Virginia and nearby states produce a lot of quality HS football players, but you have to think that his coaches actively recruit top players nationally who ultimately end up at 'better' programs and I think that one of the reasons for this is that VT is not seen as more than a good regional program and not one that is a serious contender for the BCS championship every year.

Frankly, if you look at the final BCS Top 25 rankings you will see programs like Boise State, TCU, Nevada and Utah with recruiting classes similar to Virginia Tech's.

Posted by: AlligatorArms | January 11, 2011 12:08 PM | Report abuse

Great research Mark, but as you know finding answers only begs more questions. :-) I'd be interested to know how Tech has fared in the post-Michael Vick era against top quality opponents, and in those games, how badly VT was outgained/outscored. Personally I discount much of the abysmal record because many of those losses came before the Vick years when Tech was fielding teams with only one or two blue chip players. Since Vick left after the 2000 season Tech has consistently sent players on both sides of the ball to the NFL, and many have had more success there than at Tech. So in other words, it would be interesting to compare what Tech has done (or not done) in the win-loss column now that they have more equivalent talent to that of the "established" programs.

I think most fans and even casual viewers would say that coaching is the one area where Tech still struggles, especially when preparing for the "big game" and making (or not making) adjustments after halftime. Never was that disparity more obvious than Monday night against Stanford. Beamer and Weaver need to give serious thought as to whether they are more committed to maintaining the status quo (especially at OC) or filling their vacant NC trophy case.

Posted by: vt_maverick | January 11, 2011 12:20 PM | Report abuse

Frank Beamer is the victim of a flawed system: the BCS. Until the NCAA institutes a playoff, and one that starts less than two weeks after the conference championship, it is irrelevent. I root for VT to win the conference and win their bowl game.

If I had a criticism, it would be that our offense this year lacked imagination and focus.

Posted by: rteggleston1960 | January 12, 2011 5:32 AM | Report abuse

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