Plain and simple, Matt Rhule is a leader of men and a builder of programs. He has a great football pedigree having played under Joe Paterno at Penn State and having coached under two time super bowl champion Tom Coughlin. Now in the midst of his second stop as a head coach, Matt Rhule has brought both Temple and Baylor from double-digit loses in his first year at each school to double-digit wins in just three seasons.
The shambles that the Baylor program was left in back in 2016 after the conclusion of a scandal-ridden tenure by Art Briles seems like a memory of the distant past.
Four calendar years and three football seasons later and the Bears are back to prominence. A lot of this can be credited to the type of person that Matt Rhule is. The 2019 Sporting News Coach of the Year is a devout Christian that leans on his faith and love for others to help guide his program. This way of life and approach to the job has changed the fabric of the program for the better.
Obviously though, in big-time college football, it's not all about how nice of a guy you are, or what you believe in. Ultimately, college football is a business. It is a business that is predicated on winning games. It just so happens, winning is something Matt Rhule knows how to do.
Between Temple and Baylor, Coach Rhule has led his teams to three conference championship games in seven seasons. The lone conference championship win came with Temple in 2016 in the American Conference with a 34 - 10 victory over Navy. Just to show how impressive of a job Matt Rhule and his staff did at Temple, consider that before leading the Owls to back-to-back 10 win seasons in 2015 and 2016, Temple had only one other 10-win season to its credit and that was in 1979.
The record compiled by Temple from 1980 until the start of 2015 was a dismal 126 - 270. That's an average of 3.6 wins per year and a winning percentage of 31.8%.
It's not just that Rhule turns lowly teams and programs around, but it's how those teams go about their business that is impressive. Since a 14 - 58 beatdown at the hands of then 13th ranked West Virginia on October 25th of 2018, the Bears has have played a different brand of ball.
In the time since that Thursday Night thumping in Morgantown, Baylor has taken on the personality of its head coach. Disciplined, balanced, tenacious, and unrelenting are the words that describe the program that's turned in a record of (13 - 4) since that blowout loss. In that same span, Rhule's bears have used a balanced spread attack to outscore its opponents by a double-digit margin on average (31.7 to 21.8).
The only real stumbling block during this run of success for the Bears has been Oklahoma, which they've lost to twice in heartbreaking fashion.
Matt Rhule in preparation for the 2020 Sugar Bowl finds himself in a similar situation to that of Kirby Smart over Georgia's past two seasons. Rhule must lead a team onto the field for the Sugar Bowl that was a victory away, in their conference championship no less, from finding itself in the College Football Playoff.
Sound familiar? Kirby Smart and the Georgia Bulldogs found out how hard it can be to shake off that type of disappointment when they got outperformed by Texas in last year's Sugar Bowl.
We'll find out how well the culture that Matt Rhule is trying to instill in Waco has taken root when the two programs and two head coaches that were on the cusp of a playoff run meet in New Orleans on Wednesday night. We'll also find out a lot about the Georgia Bulldogs and if they know what type of opponent they're up against.