These famous actors would play your favorite college football coach in a movie

Al Pacino is reportedly set to play former Penn State coach Joe Paterno is an upcoming HBO movie. The decision to even make a movie about one of the worst sports scandals of all time has left many with an uneasy feeling. The reported decision to cast Pacino as Paterno hasn't yielded many more positive reviews. Pacino is an accomplished actor -- one of the greats -- but to many, he has become a parody of himself late in his career.

However, telling football-related stories is part of American cinema and casting the right person to play coaches and players is an important piece of that puzzle. Looks certainly play a role, but capturing the essence of that person or character while making it their own is the challenge each actor faces.

That led us to this question: If more movies were made about some current college football coaches, who would be best suited to handle those acting challenges and be able to pull off the roles successfully? 

Here's what we came up with.

J.K. Simmons as Alabama coach Nick Saban: You ever see "Whiplash?" Simmons, who won an Oscar for his performance, was equally respected and terrifying as music instructor Terence Fletcher. A legitimate crazy person, Fletcher was capable of casting insults so complex and deeply penetrable that they'd strip the victim of all their humanity. This was done in the quest of finding that one person who could take the brutality and morph it into their own greatness. Simmons would be a perfect Saban.

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I have no doubts Saban has an arsenal of profanity waiting to be unloaded -- most football coaches do -- but even he probably isn't as, shall we say, poetic as Simmons was in "Whiplash." Still, the connection is perfect. Simmons can pull off Saban's mannerisms and intensity. Give him a full head of hair from the makeup department and let him rip. 

Christian Bale as Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh: This might not be a collectively agreed upon opinion, but Bale has some facial similarities to Harbaugh, and some resemblance is important. Like Harbaugh, Bale is intense about what he does and dives deep into his craft both physically and emotionally. He can take that intensity and manifest it through the character. As a method actor, Bale would immerse himself into all of Harbaugh's many passions, including delivering baby cows, taking international trips and getting photo ops with rappers. I can think of few actors who could better pull off losing it on the sidelines or staring off wildly into space.

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Billy Bob Thornton as Washington coach Chris Petersen: Thornton has proven to be a versatile actor who has chops portraying a football coach in "Friday Night LIghts." He also happens to look a bit like Petersen -- enough to be cast, at least. But what really sells Thornton is the restraint he's shown in his serious roles, of which there have been many. That's what you get with Petersen. He's a coach who can keep things close to his chest. The best stories about him are the ones that reveal the depth of his layers. Thornton is the type of actor who can reveal those.

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Ryan Gosling as Texas Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury: I know, I know. The visual similarities between Kingsbury and Gosling are well-established -- tired, even. Apologies in advance for the lack of creativity. But it just works, right? To Gosling's credit, he has range beyond the cool-and-collected, emotionally distant male lead. That's still the foundation on which he built his career, though. He'd play Kingsbury, end of story. 

Kyle Chandler as South Carolina coach Will Muschamp: Similar to Thornton as Petersen, Chandler has experience playing a football coach -- Eric Taylor on the TV version of "Friday Night Lights" -- and looks like the man he would portray. Seriously, look at Chandler and Muschamp side by side. Not bad, right? Also, little known fact, but Chandler, like Muschamp, attended Georgia. Coming up with actors to portray certain coaches proved challenging at times, but this one was a no-brainer.

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Rob Riggle as Arkansas coach Bret Bielema: Riggle is seemingly everywhere nowadays. He has the big personality to match what Bielema gives you. Riggle has the looks, the humor, the charm and the sound bite capability to be a perfect actor for the coach of the Razorbacks. "Borderline erotic" and "hopping on my wife" will be perfect lines for Riggle.

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Matthew McConaughey as Clemson coach Dabo Swinney: Don't get caught up in the goofiness of "alright, alright, alright." Forget movies like "Sahara" when McConaughey clearly mailed it in. When he turns it on, he turns it on. To this day, I have never seen a part more perfectly cast than McConaughey as Rust Cohle in the first season of "True Detective." His existentialist monologues were mind-blowingly good and remain my No. 1 go-to pop culture references.

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Swinney would be the perfect part for him. He has the southern drawl, charisma and enthusiasm that Swinney possesses. It doesn't hurt that McConaughey has experience portraying a football coach in "We Are Marshall" as Thundering Herd coach Jack Lengyel. McConaughey has dipped into darker roles more recently, but he has the energy to swing to the other side of the pendulum. "Bring your own guts" would be the quintessential McConaughey moment.  

Will Patton as West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen: Patton is 62 (soon to be 63), about 17 years Holgorsen's senior. Can't you just imagine Holgorsen's flowing hair on Patton? Doesn't it make complete sense? Like a lot of the actors on this list, Patton has experience playing a football coach in "Remember the Titans." His history in serious roles leaves some room for him to explore Holgorsen's sideline intensity. Give Patton a gravelly voice and a can of Red Bull and you have yourself a Holgo.

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Circa-1980s Randy Quaid as Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen: No explanation needed.

CBS Sports Writer

Ben Kercheval joined CBS Sports in 2016 and has been covering college football since 2010. Before CBS, Ben worked at Bleacher Report, UPROXX Sports and NBC Sports. As a long-suffering North Texas graduate,... Full Bio

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