STATE COLLEGE, Pa. -- Bill O'Brien and Penn State finished the 2013 season at 7-5, with one more loss compared to an 8-4 campaign in his first season. But his coaching performance was still enough to qualify him as a finalist for the Liberty Mutual Coach of the Year.
Last year, O'Brien came away with the Bear Bryant, Maxwell Football Club and ESPN National Coach of the Year awards. The Liberty Mutual honor went to Notre Dame's Brian Kelly, although O'Brien was a finalist.
His appearance as a finalist this season comes as somewhat of a surprise. Of the 10 finalists, O'Brien coaches the only team not to finish the regular season within the top 25.
Granted, O'Brien has done an impressive job with a sanctions-depleted team. But he's competing for the award with Art Briles (Baylor), David Cutcliffe (Duke), Mark Dantonio (Michigan State), Todd Graham (Arizona State), Gus Malzahn (Auburn), Urban Meyer (Ohio State), Jim Mora (UCLA), Nick Saban (Alabama) and Dabo Swinney (Clemson).
The winner will be decided using a fan vote (20 percent), the media (25 percent) and a selection committee of more than 50 College Football Hall of Fame members (55 percent).
The winner will be announced on the morning of the BCS National Championship on Jan. 6.