Jim Chaney, a UT holdover from the Lane Kiffin disaster, has a long history of success as an offensive coordinator. Last season the Volunteers were awful, but they seemingly played a top 5 defense every week, did so for most of the season with one or more of their best offensive weapons out due to injury, and were extremely unlucky in terms of YPP. With a full season of a healthy Tyler Bray and Justin Hunter, Chaney should lead the UT offense back to the 30-point per game range that was typical during his 9-year stint running Purdue's attack.
Dana Bible, State's counterpart at OC, seems well liked and respected by fellow coaches and players alike, and his battle with cancer has certainly made him a sympathetic figure to root for. However, while Chaney has a long history of success, Bible has...well...a long history.
In 21 years as an offensive coordinator, Bible has seen his squad finish in the top 25 in scoring offense a grand total of once, and that was way back in 1987 when his San Diego State squad put up 29.8 points per game in a relatively low-scoring era of college football. Those 29.8 points per game were good for 14th best in the nation. Since then, Bible has had 4 units eclipse 30 points per game, but none ranked higher than 27th in scoring. He has also had some real stinkers: 3 of his squads were held to an average of under 20 points per game, and 3 of his offenses ranked 99th or worse nationally in scoring.
In our look at the defensive coaches, Jon Tenuta's ability to make an instant impact during his first year on a new job really stood out. Bible has often had the opposite effect. In his first 4 gigs as an OC, at San Diego State, Miami of Ohio, Cincinnati, and Stanford, respectively, Bible's units regressed from the previous year during his first season at the helm. Cincy was the most damning example; the Bearcats went from 27.5 points per game pre-Bible to 14.5 points per game in what was understandably his lone season calling the shots. With Stanford as the lone exception, each team above saw its scoring rise by over a touchdown per game after Bible was shown the door.
Bible was solid if not spectacular during his and Tom O'Brien's long bowl run at BC. In his 8 seasons as TOB's coordinator, the Eagles offense finished no better than 27th in scoring offense, but no worse than 64th. Though Bible was a cornerback in college, he cemented his reputation as a developer of QBs while at BC, where he shepherded Brian St. Pierre, Tim Hasselbeck, and Matt Ryan to The League, though Ryan is the only one of the trio to experience success at the next level. Russell Wilson and Mike Glennon will give Bible two more alum in the NFL when Glennon is drafted after this season.
While Bible's recent Pack offenses have put a respectable amount of points on the board (30.3, 31.8, and 28.2 over the last 3 years), Wilson exemplifies the problems that have plagued the Pack. Wilson was very, very good for State, but after his transfer to Wisconsin he became elite, leading the nation in QB rating. The difference between the Wolfpack and the Badgers is pretty clear: one has a running game; one does not. Bible's offenses at BC were, if a bit boring, at least balanced. BC outrushed its opponents in 5 of Bible's last 7 seasons there. BC outgained opponents through the air in 6 of those 7 seasons. At State, Bible's passing offense has remained productive, outgaining opponents in 4 of 5 seasons, but the Pack under Bible have outgained opponents on the ground for the season just once.
Chaney, who like Bible played on defense in college (where he was a nose guard at Central Missouri State), found out last year just how hard it is to run an efficient offense when there is an utter lack of a running game. Until last season's debacle that saw UT score just 20.3 points per game (106th) behind a plodding running game that averaged 2.76 yards per carry (117th), Chaney had only had one bad season as an OC. Aside from last year and that 2001 season at Purdue when the Boilermakers managed just 20.8 points per game (93rd), Chaney's squads have been good for at least 26.8 points per game. Bible has broken 26.8 points per game 9 times in 21 years, once less than Chaney has done it in 9 fewer seasons.
Though he has only two major college stops on his résumé, Chaney has had a Tenuta-like effect from the other side of the ball, instantly improving offenses. The Boilermakers went from 17.6 points per game to 33 points per game in Chaney's first year, improving from 3-8 to 9-3 in the process. In Chaney's first year at UT, the Vols went from 17.3 points per game to 29.3, another double-digit increase. They also went from 5-7 to 7-6. At Purdue, 6 of Chaney's 9 offenses scored 30 or more points per game and 5 of his offensives finished in the top 25 nationally. Sure, Chaney had some guy named Drew Brees under center for 3 of those years, but the guy has definitely earned his reputation as an offensive mastermind.
In the highly unlikely event that someone hands me the reigns to a college football program tomorrow, I would definitely call Chaney about the opportunity to run my offense before I would call Bible. But thanks largely to the special talents of Russell Wilson (and certainly credit Bible for nurturing those talents) and to a softer schedule, Bible's offenses have actually outscored Chaney's for 3 straight seasons. Whichever coach can resurrect the running game will likely be the coach that outscores the other on Friday night, and bringing some balance to the offense through the running game should be a barometer of both teams' success (or failure) all season long.