It has been announced that Brian Kelly is an AP Coach of the Year finalist.
Along with Brian Kelly, UCF’s Josh Heupel, and Alabama’s Nick Saban are also finalists. This leaves Clemson’s Dabo Sweeney as the only coach of an undefeated team not to be a finalist.
Saban is a finalist because he’s the coach of an undefeated Alabama team. There’s really no other reason for it. He hasn’t had to do anything extraordinary from what he usually does. Of course, his usual bottom line is extraordinary. He’s game-planned and recruited well. However, with Tua Tagovailoa helping to blow everyone out, Saban hasn’t been forced to coach and win tight games this season. This should keep him from winning.
Heupel had a harder job, and has done an excellent job getting UCF to buy into him after the success of Scott Frost. He’s done a great job of endearing himself to the fanbase, and his halftime adjustments have been excellent all year. He did start the season with McKenzie Milton, who finished sixth in Heisman voting, but Heupel had to overcome his injury to win the AAC Championship Game. Heupel came into his job in a weird spot. Usually, coaches are trying to fix bad teams. He had to not mess up a great team.
Brian Kelly, though, is most deserving of being named AP Coach of the Year. Not only did Kelly prove the ability to win close games, but he made the biggest, and most important decision between all three coaches this season. That decision was to bench Brandon Wimbush for Ian Book.
The switch to Book took Notre Dame from a solid team — who was going to compete for a ten win season and New Year’s Six bowl appearance — to a legitimate undefeated, National Championship contender. It wasn’t an easy move, either. Wimbush is a winner, and a much loved member of the team.
As AP writer Ralph D. Russo explains, this is an award for surprise team of the year. UCF was coming off an undefeated last season, and Alabama came into this season as the defending national champion. Notre Dame is the biggest surprise of the three teams involved.
So with all of that said, it should be Brian Kelly who is named AP Coach of the Year for the first time since 2012.
The winner will be announced today.