Every college football head coach is under intense pressure every day and every game, but which ones are dealing with the most scrutiny? Which ones don’t have to worry about their record this season, and which ones had better rock? Welcome to the 2016 preseason ranking of all 128 head coaches and how hot their seats are.
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A hot seat doesn’t necessarily mean a coach is going to be fired.
Yeah, if you’re a Power 5 head coach and you lose to an FCS team, or if you lose to your rival for the ninth year in a row, the fans are going to get grouchy. Keep losing, and obviously you’ll have to win a whole lot more or potentially lose your job.
But a hot seat is more than that.
Is there abnormal pressure to win? Is a coach at a place where he’s not allowed to lose – ever? Is a coach teetering on a line between a job being in jeopardy and being safe? Is a coach one bad year away from being moved to he-could-get-canned status?
With all that in mind, welcome to the 2016 preseason ranking of all the college football head coaches and where they fall in a ranking of how hot their seats are.
Two assumptions going into this.
1. Even if a new coach goes 0-12, he’s almost certainly not going to be fired. Let’s just assume that almost all the first year guys will be around in 2017. Obviously, a horrific Year One puts the pressure on for Year Two, and again, a hot seat doesn’t necessarily equate to almost being fired.
2. All bets are off if there’s a scandal. The ranking of all the coaches applies only to the on-field production. Of course everything changes if there’s a Penn State or Baylor nightmare that pops up, so throw out concerns about possible NCAA violations and other potential off-field problems. This is almost all about the wins and losses for this year.
First Year Coaches Who Won’t Be Fired No Matter What The Record
All 14 of these new guys could go 0-12 and still be around for 2017. An utter disaster of a season would either be blamed on the past regime, or it’ll be seen as a stepping-stone to potentially bigger things – at least that would be the hope. Essentially, these guys get a honeymoon period.
– Chris Ash, Rutgers
– Matt Campbell, Iowa State
– D.J. Durkin, Maryland
– Willie Fritz, Tulane
– Scott Frost, UCF
– Seth Littrell, North Texas
– Scottie Montgomery, East Carolina
– Mike Neu, Ball State
– Mike Norvell, Memphis
– Nick Rolovich, Hawaii
– Lovie Smith, Illinois
– Matt Viator, ULM
– Frank Wilson, UTSA
– Everett Withers, Texas State
2016 College Football Head Coach Preseason Hot Seat Rankings
The year after each coach is when he started with the program.
114. Nick Saban, Alabama Crimson Tide, 2007
Even if the Crimson Tide get blown out in every game this year, they’ll still probably be preseason No. 1 in 2017. But in Alabama world, 10-2 might as well be a winless season. Nothing on the field can tarnish Saint Saban at this point.
113. Urban Meyer, Ohio State Buckeyes, 2012
Meyer will never get fired, but it’ll be a tense offseason if the Buckeyes lose to Michigan and Michigan State. And then Meyer will probably go 15-0 in 2017.
112. Jim Harbaugh, Michigan Wolverines, 2015
Remember, Brady Hoke went 11-2 in his first season. Harbaugh will get at least two years before anyone goes crazy over a less-than-perfect record, but it’ll get quickly pointed out over and over and over again if he starts out Michigan life 0-4 against Ohio State and Michigan State.
111. Mark Dantonio, Michigan State Spartans, 2007
Even if the Spartans have a few rough seasons, everyone will think there’s a big campaign right around the corner. Dantonio has done wonders with a program that was known as the flakiest of the flaky not all that long ago. Now it’s a rock-solid powerhouse – he’s got a buffer.
110. David Shaw, Stanford Cardinal, 2011
The Cardinal won’t fall off the map, but even if they do, the understanding will be that this is a different sort of program that’ll have a year here and there that won’t be all that great. Under Shaw, a horrible season would be an anomaly.
109. Dabo Swinney, Clemson Tigers, 2008
After five straight double-digit win seasons and a near-miss for the national title, he’s not going anywhere or will be even rumored for anything else. He’s becoming a Clemson legend.
108. Tom Herman, Houston Cougars, 2015
The hottest young head coach going, he might turn the program into something Big 12-worthy. One bad year would be seen as a hiccup – if Houston doesn’t want him, at least 70 other places will.
107. Gary Patterson, TCU Horned Frogs, 2000
TCU went 4-8 in 2013 and followed it up with a 12-1 campaign and within a whisker of getting into the College Football Playoff. Patterson will adapt through anything. He might just be the best coach in sports without a championship.
106. Jeff Brohm, WKU Hilltoppers, 2014
The 45-year-old red-hot offensive coach tutored under Bobby Petrino, and then in two years turned WKU into a 12-2 Conference USA champion. The program won’t be able to keep him for long.
105. Mark Richt, Miami Hurricanes, 2016
A disastrous year will be blamed on Al Golden. He’ll get a mulligan without any concerns from the fan base. There’s no question that Miami will soon be a player on his watch, but it’s Miami – there’s always some semblance of a hot seat to deal with.
104. Mike Gundy, Oklahoma State Cowboys, 2005
After ten straight winning seasons and four double-digit win campaigns in the last six, he’s allowed one clunker – which isn’t going to come this year.
103. Bob Stoops, Oklahoma Sooners, 1999
There’s no hot seat even if the Sooners collapse. The only possible beef could be the Mark Richt- Georgia effect if OU falls short. He might be seen as a coach who took the program as far as he can. Obviously, though, he’s a living legend.
102. Bryan Harsin, Boise State Broncos, 2014
The only concern is the expectation of nothing less than a Mountain West title. If the Broncos go without a Mountain division title for a second year in a row, there might be a little grumbling. In reality, Bronco fans are likely going to be more worried about their coach leaving for Texas – if that becomes open.
101. Bill Snyder, Kansas State Wildcats, 2009
He’ll never, ever, ever get fired, but if K-State goes into the tank this year, the calls will come out that it’s time to move on. No one would get that more than Snyder himself.
100. P. J. Fleck, Western Michigan Broncos, 2013
The star in the next wave of rising superstars, he has the MAC’s best team coming into the season and won’t be around Kalamazoo too much longer. It’s a shocker he’s still with the program.
99. Jimbo Fisher, Florida State Seminoles, 2010
The national title of a few years ago will still buy him plenty of time, but he rockets way up this list if his team has a slew of off-the-field issues. A loss to Clemson at home, though, will bring out the hot seat-list types.
98. Kalani Sitake, BYU Cougars, 2016
The good news – he gets to be the new BYU head coach. The bad news – the schedule is a sadistic nightmare. No one with a working brain will blame the new guy if the Cougars come up with a losing record.
97. Kirk Ferentz, Iowa Hawkeyes, 1999
Fine, so he probably belongs a lot lower than this – he’s not getting fired. The dean of Big Ten head coaches is a tremendous leader and an even better guy. Even if Iowa stinks, the expectation will be for a quick bounce back with a huge season the next year.
96. Rocky Long, San Diego State Aztecs, 2011
Is there a problem with expectations now? Nah. San Diego State couldn’t do jack squat for the longest time, and Long turned out to be the right coach to take the program to a championship level.
95. David Cutcliffe, Duke Blue Devils, 2008
It’s freaking Duke – the dude won 27 games in his last three seasons and took four straight teams to bowl games. It’s … freaking … Duke – a 3-9 season would be blown off.
94. Ken Niumatalolo, Navy Midshipmen, 2007
Brilliant with the Midshipmen, he’s not going anywhere unless he wants to. However, how do you get on a hot seat at Navy? Lose to Army. It’ll happen at some point, and then there’ll be a little bit of pressure.
93. Will Muschamp, South Carolina Gamecocks, 2016
The USC program isn’t in total shambles, but it’s got a long way to go to become a contender. Muschamp has to all but rebuild the thing – he’ll get a little while to make it happen.
92. Tyson Summers, Georgia Southern Eagles, 2016
There’s pressure on him considering how successful the offense has been since rising up into the big ranks. If the Eagles struggle and if the ground game isn’t among the nation’s elite with all the talent returning, there’ll be angst.
91. Neal Brown, Troy Trojans, 2015
Only 36 years old and one of college football’s best young offensive minds, he can withstand another rebuilding year as long as the offense works. The Trojans are going to need a little while.
90. Kyle Whittingham, Utah Utes, 2005
While he won 19 games over the last two seasons, that’s coming off two straight 5-7 campaigns. A third losing season in five years would be a big problem.
89. Jason Candle, Toledo Rockets, 2016
Considering the last two coaches went on to Power 5 gigs, Candle is supposed to keep the production going to make the Rockets a player in the MAC race. It’ll be okay to have a mediocre first year, but it can’t be an awful one.
88. Joey Jones, South Alabama Jaguars, 2009
There’s no real hot seat no matter what. Jones was the program’s first head coach – he created the whole thing – and his teams have been decent since joining the Sun Belt. He’s allowed a horrible season.
87. Mike Jinks, Bowling Green Falcons, 2016
Bowling Green has become a factory for strong head coaches. Considering how much fun the Falcons were under Dino Babers, and considering there’s a ton of turnover to deal with, Jinks will be under pressure from the start to keep the thing rolling. But he still gets a year to rebuild.
86. Bob Diaco, Connecticut Huskies, 2014
The guy came up with a four-win improvement in his second year to go along with a bowl appearance. One of the best defensive Group of Five head coaches, and just 43, he’s not in any trouble unless the Huskies go 0-12.
85. Chris Petersen, Washington Huskies, 2014
Forget about the expectations, he’s one of the elite head coaches who’s really, really close to making Washington special. While he needs to come up with fewer than six losses to keep the heat off, he’s still way too good to be under any real pressure.
84. Dino Babers, Syracuse Orange, 2016
Babers isn’t expected to win the ACC right away, but he’s supposed to get the offense going. Syracuse hasn’t been a thing for a long time, but there has to be hope after landing one of the brightest hires around.
83. Doc Holliday, Marshall Thundering Herd, 2010
With three straight ten-win seasons, three straight bowl wins, a Conference USA title and with a second East championship, it’s all working well for Holliday. It took a few years to Marshall there, but it’s one of the conference’s biggest stars – he’s got it humming.
82. John Bonamego, Central Michigan Chippewas, 2015
He is Central Michigan football through and through. After battling through tonsil cancer and still leading the team to a bowl game, he’s expected to take the Chippewas to a big season. He won’t get fired no matter what the record, but his team is supposed to be really, really good.
81. Lance Leipold, Buffalo Bulls, 2015
The Bulls have a potentially special head coach, and even a lousy season won’t change that. A legendary D-III head man, it might take a little while to do something big. For a guy who went 109-6 at Wisconsin-Whitewater before taking the UB job, he needs a long chance.
80. Todd Graham, Arizona State Sun Devils, 2012
Phenomenal in his first three seasons, the 6-7 2015 was a disappointment – and now the Sun Devils have to do a little bit of rebuilding and reloading. Another losing season would put the pressure on.
79. Barry Odom, Missouri Tigers, 2016
Last season was so lousy at Mizzou that Odom will get a wee bit of a honeymoon period. But the defense can’t take a big step back considering that’s what he does at a high level. The transition of power has to be easy.
78. Scott Satterfield, Appalachian State Mountaineers, 2013
He helped restore the glory at Appalachian State, but now the team is supposed to be Sun Belt championship-good. It’s not just good enough now to be okay – the Mountaineers went to a bowl game. Now they’re supposed to do it again.
77. Chad Morris, SMU Mustangs, 2015
The Mustangs have a long, long, LONG way to go to be respectable again, and Morris is the offensive coaching staff to get them there. However, another 2-10 season would make Year Three sort of a big deal.
76. Matt Rhule, Temple Owls, 2013
It’s impressive that he’s still with the program after coming up with ten wins and a division title. No one will be shocked if the Owls revert back to their old form and struggle, but it’s hard to expect anything less than a trip to a bowl game after last year.
75. Tony Sanchez, UNLV Rebels, 2015
At some point he’ll have to start winning, but in his second year with the program, the Las Vegas high school coaching legend will get awhile to build the thing up. He’ll be seen as a hottest prospect going with any sort of success.
74. Rod Carey, Northern Illinois Huskies, 2013
Somehow, he got NIU back to the MAC title game with big problems at quarterback. But now the program is supposed to get to Detroit every year no matter what, or the season’s a disaster. The Huskies can’t start slipping.
73. Blake Anderson, Arkansas State Red Wolves, 2014
ASU fans are just happy to have a coach around for more than a year. He’s a high-riser who’s on to bigger and better things soon with a little bit of success, but considering the recent legacy of head coaches, there’s a standard he needs to hit no matter what.
72. Matt Wells, Utah State Aggies, 2013
Will one mediocre 6-7 season make anyone all that grouchy? After starting out 19-9 with two bowl wins, nah, but a losing season would put the spotlight on 2017. He’s a talented young prospect whose more likely going to get plucked off by a big boy.
71. Terry Bowden, Akron Zips, 2012
The guy got Akron to a bowl game – and a win. It’s rebuilding time in a big way, and it’s going to be a down year compared to what Bowden did last season. There won’t be a second thought if 2016 stinks, but then he’ll be expected to do more in 2017.
70. Philip Montgomery, Tulsa Golden Hurricane, 2015
The offense is supposed to be really fun and unstoppably dangerous. Tulsa isn’t supposed to win the American Athletic Conference, but it should be a factor. A four-win season in Year Two would make 2017 a major hot-seat campaign.
69. Trent Miles, Georgia State Panthers, 2013
There are two ways to look at Miles. Either the shocking 6-7 2015 season showed the future of what Miles could do with the program, or it was an aberration. 2016 will show which way things are going – the Panthers can’t go back to 1-11 status.
68. Mike Bobo, Colorado State Rams, 2015
The Rams aren’t supposed have a bad year, but Bobo will get a third season no matter what. There’s not quite enough pop or firepower to win the Mountain West – or the Mountain Division – but there has to be a push forward.
67. Bronco Mendenhall, Virginia Cavaliers, 2016
He’ll get a year to try turning Virginia around. He inherited a mess, and if he comes up with a winning season he’ll have done wonders. But there’s pressure to make the Cavaliers interesting considering all the splashy new ACC coaching hires.
66. Frank Solich, Ohio Bobcats, 2005
He’ll turn 72 this football season and he’s been on a long run at Ohio without a MAC title. He hasn’t had a losing season in seven years, and considering he has the best team in the East this year, coming up with a bad season might signal time for a change.
65. Hugh Freeze, Ole Miss Rebels, 2012
The hot seat goes way beyond anything that happens on the field. Ole Miss might take a little bit of a step back in a rebuilding campaign, but all the drama could make this a testy season.
64. David Beaty, Kansas Jayhawks, 2015
Kansas might need to go several miles just to be competitive again, but Beaty can’t be 0-12 again – not with this schedule. It’ll be interesting to see what he can do once he has more of his players in place.
63. Jay Hopson, Southern Miss Golden Eagles, 2016
It’s not fair to put a new head coach on a hot seat in his first year, but that’s where Hopson is considering his team is good enough to win the Conference USA title. There’s no excuse for a losing season.
62 Pat Fitzgerald, Northwestern Wildcats, 2006
There’s no head coach more in tune with his school than Fitzgerald, but even though the expectations are different at Northwestern, a third losing season in four years – and fourth in six – might make the 11-year era seem a tad stale.
61. Justin Fuente, Virginia Tech Hokies, 2016
Replace a legendary head coach and terrific man who was synonymous with his school and his program like Frank Beamer was? Good luck with that, newbie.
60. Kevin Wilson, Indiana Hoosiers, 2011
Now that he gave Indiana a taste of bowl life again, can there be a step back? Even with the post-season trip, all five seasons under Wilson have been losing ones. He’s doing a wonderful job, but slipping to 4-8 might be tough to get past.
59. Kirby Smart, Georgia Bulldogs, 2016
There are plenty of concerns in the offensive backfield, among other parts, but you don’t get rid of a guy and a coach like Mark Richt without demanding something big right away. The East is winnable, and Smart needs to come close.
58. Jim McElwain, Florida Gators, 2015
After getting Florida to the SEC title game with Will Muschamp’s players, now McElwain’s expected to do as much if not even more. At the very least, the Gators have to be more fun offensively again. For a fan base looking to get back into the national title picture, there can’t be a step back.
57. Bob Davie, New Mexico Lobos, 2012
He did a great job of bringing back New Mexico football after a long, tough, dark period, but now he has to keep it going. Getting to a bowl game was nice, but the Lobos have to keep moving forward.
56. Pat Narduzzi, Pittsburgh Panthers, 2015
Pit’s had an interesting run of head coaches – the program has the tools to become a bigger factor in the near future. Narduzzi has the experience coming back to put up a big season – a losing campaign would put the heat on in 2017.
55. Tracy Claeys, Minnesota Golden Gophers, 2015
Is Minnesota on the right track? If the Gophers have a rough year and don’t go bowling, as good as Jerry Kill was, and as sound as the coaching staff might be now under Claeys, there might be some who’ll want a change in styles if this doesn’t work.
54. Rick Stockstill, Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders, 2006
The one main concern is his time logged in. He’s turned Middle Tennessee into a Conference USA power with three winning seasons in the last four, and he has a team coming back that’s good enough to win the league, but if his 11th year somehow finishes 2-10 like 2011, the era might have gone stale.
53. Bobby Petrino, Louisville Cardinals, 2014
Louisville’s bigger worry is that he’ll leave after coming up with a big year, but considering his past, and with all the former off-field issues, he’s on a hot seat to be perfect in all ways. This year’s team has expectations to succeed – a losing campaign would be a disaster.
52. Mark Helfrich, Oregon Ducks, 2013
He’s probably more on a hot seat than this. He’s not Chip Kelly for so many good reasons, but after a disappointing nine-win season, the heat is on to get back to a Pac-12 title level. Forget the noise. Only a year removed from playing for the national title – he’s not going anywhere no matter what happens this year.
51. Mark Hudspeth, Louisiana-Lafayette Ragin’ Cajuns, 2011
He set the bar high with four straight 9-4 seasons, and then clunked with a 4-8 campaign. He won’t get fired after another lousy year, but he’d have to bounce back in a huge way in 2017.
50. Bobby Wilder, Old Dominion Monarchs, 2009
A terrific head coach who took ODU to two FCS playoffs, he’s been solid in his first two years in Conference USA going 11-12 and coming close last year to going bowling. He won’t get fired after a bad year, but a clunker would be alarming in his eighth year.
49. Dan Mullen, Mississippi State Bulldogs, 2009
He’s come up with nothing short of a minor miracle with six straight winning seasons – and 19 wins in his last two years – in the toughest division in college football. However, 2014 was the only year the Bulldogs finished higher than fourth in the West. He’s allowed a total dud, but now the expectation is there to keep the winning seasons pumping.
48. Mike Leach, Washington State Cougars, 2012
He’s only had one winning season in his four with Washington State, and while the needle is pointing up, a 3-9 year like he had in 2014 would be a mega-disappointment. Making matters worse with the fan base is a Washington program that’s rising up into a Pac-12 North powerhouse.
47. Larry Fedora North Carolina Tar Heels 2012
Now we know that North Carolina really can win and be a factor. The bar is set high after an 11-3 season, and in the far weaker Coastal division of the ACC, he’s expected to keep it all going.
46. Willie Taggart, South Florida Bulls, 2013
Finally, he turned a corner at USF with his first winning season in three years. The Big 12 expansion spotlight is on, and while a winning season won’t matter in terms of making the program more attractive, it certainly wouldn’t hurt.
45. Skip Holtz, Louisiana Tech Bulldogs, 2013
After two straight nine-win seasons and two straight bowl wins, that’s what Louisiana Tech is supposed to be doing every year now. Unfortunately, he’s got to do it with a rebuilding team. Before the last two years he had three straight losing seasons going back to his USF days.
44. Brad Lambert, Charlotte 49ers, 2013
It’s not really Lambert’s fault considering the program had 100 miles to go to simply be competitive in the FBS world. However, going 2-10 last year – and with three losing seasons to start his era – means there soon has to be a sign of life.
43. Rich Rodriguez, Arizona Wildcats, 2012
He’s been solid for Arizona with four straight winning seasons and three bowl victories, but he’s lost five games or more in six of his last seven games going back to Michigan. A losing season would put the pressure on in a big, big way.
42. Tommy Tuberville, Cincinnati Bearcats, 2013
He’s been terrific for Cincinnati with three straight winning seasons, but with three straight bowl losses to end each year. Now that the program is on the radar for Big 12 expansion, it has to look as good and as strong as possible. A losing year might bring about a change, at least for appearances.
41. Paul Chryst, Wisconsin Badgers, 2015
It’s forgotten about now, but after a great first season, Bret Bielema was on a hot seat after going 9-4 and then 7-6. Chryst had a nice first year, but it didn’t end with a trip to the Big Ten championship game. With a nasty schedule, especially early on, he has to show that Wisconsin is a power no matter who it’s playing.
40. Butch Jones, Tennessee Volunteers, 2013
There’s off-field hot seat issues after all the drama this off-season, but on the field, he’s got to finally win the SEC East title or else. He’s not going to get fired if he doesn’t, but if he doesn’t win the division title, when will he?
39. Gary Andersen, Oregon State Beavers, 2015
There’s no questioning his coaching chops considering what he did at Utah State and Wisconsin, but Oregon State can’t be the worst team in the Pac-12 and can’t finish dead last in the North. His style of coaching and his teams are supposed to produce no matter what.
38. Sonny Dykes, California Golden Bears, 2013
Can he keep it all going? He went 1-11 and then 5-7 before the Bears broke through last season with a strong eight-win campaign, but he can’t have a third losing season in four years. The Bears have to keep moving forward and look like a potential Pac-12 champion down the line.
37. Sean Kugler, UTEP Miners, 2013
Can he finally turn UTEP into a consistent player in Conference USA play? He had a shot at a bowl game last year, and couldn’t get it done with a 5-7 season and his third losing campaign in four years. A third losing season – if it’s ugly – will probably mean a change at the top.
36. Paul Petrino, Idaho Vandals, 2013
6-29 in his first three seasons, the program is moving to the FCS, and now he has his best and most experienced team yet. There has to be a sign of life after so much misery for the program over the last several years.
35. Troy Calhoun, Air Force Falcons, 2007
Again, being on a “hot seat” doesn’t necessarily mean the guy could get fired. Calhoun is coming off a huge season and has taken Air Force to eight bowl games in nine years. In his case, with a terrific team returning, the hot seat means he has to deal with the expectations to take the Mountain again. It’s all relative- he’s not getting fired with a bad year.
34. Craig Bohl, Wyoming Cowboys, 2014
When will this whole Legendary FCS Championship Coach thing going to kick in? It takes work to win in Wyoming, but 6-18 in his first two seasons puts the pressure on Year Three. At the very least, the Cowboys will be interesting.
33. Jeff Monken, Army Black Knights. 2014
It’s not really working going 5-18 in his first two years – he lost 16 games in four years at Georgia Southern. Army is a tough nut to crack, but it’s hard being the losing coach at the school when Navy continues to rock and roll.
32. Chuck Martin, Miami RedHawks, 2014
Miami hasn’t been much of a player in the MAC for a long, long time, and going 5-19 in his first two years hasn’t worked out well. The former D-II legend – he won two national titles at Grand Valley State – will get a little more time. A little.
31. Brian Polian, Nevada Wolf Pack, 2013
Two straight 7-6 seasons is okay, but Nevada is looking for more than just mediocrity. This could get dicey in a hurry in the state if UNLV makes a move up in status and the Wolf Pack stay in neutral. He can’t afford a losing season.
30. David Bailiff, Rice Owls, 2007
He had a bad year. Before 2015, he came up with three straight winning seasons going 25-15 with three straight bowl appearances before a 5-7 season. After ten seasons at the helm, another losing campaign will call for a meeting.
29. Kliff Kingsbury, Texas Tech Red Raiders, 2013
He’s the favorite son and everyone wants this whole thing to work, but he’s 19-19 in his first three seasons at the helm with Texas Tech yet to finish in the Big 12 top four in his era. This is his team now, and it has to be fantastic.
28. Brian Kelly, Notre Dame Fighting Irish, 2010
You’re always on the hot seat at Notre Dame no matter what – the latest scandal isn’t helping the cause. As good as the Irish were last year, and as promising as they are going into this season, four of his six seasons had four losses or more. Another ten-win season is a must.
27. James Franklin, Penn State Nittany Lions, 2014
It’s amazing how quickly some have forgotten what he inherited. Even so, two straight 7-6 seasons to start out his run isn’t a positive. He’s fine unless the Nittany Lions come up with a losing season, but he needs to generate a big win over a big-time team.
26. Les Miles, LSU Tigers, 2005
The guy who was this close to getting canned last year is safe? He’s got one of the five best teams in college football returning – 8-4 won’t be okay. He doesn’t have to win the SEC West, but he’d better have the Tigers roaring.
25. Dave Clawson, Wake Forest Demon Deacons, 2014
The star at Bowling Green has two straight 3-9 finishes and two straight 1-7 ACC seasons. He’s a great offensive mind and it’s taken a while to get more key veterans in place, but another 3-9 campaign might spell doom.
24. Dana Holgorsen, West Virginia Mountaineers, 2011
It’s been a whole bunch of fun at times – especially starting out with a thrilling ten-win, Orange Bowl season – but he’s just 36-28 since the Mountaineers joined the Big 12 and his teams haven’t been all that close to winning it. At some point, West Virginia has to come up with a top three finish.
23. Ron Caragher, San José State Spartans, 2013
His teams play hard, and they’ve been entertaining, but he’s just 15-22 with the Spartans and only got into a bowl game last year on a quirk. It’s not like the expectations are through the roof, but another losing season will be an issue.
22. Bret Bielema, Arkansas Razorbacks, 2013
Why is he on a hot seat? Every SEC head coach not named Saban is on a hot seat, but 18-20 in his first three years isn’t exactly Woo Pig Sooie time. His teams have been good, but he was on a hot seat at Wisconsin after going 16-10 in years two and three. He went 15-11 in years two and three at Arkansas.
21. Doug Martin, New Mexico State Aggies, 2013
New Mexico State football is in limbo, and at some point, there has to be some sign of life. Martin has gone 7-29 in three years as the Aggie head coach, and lifetime he nine losing seasons in his ten years as a head coach, and in the other campaign he went 6-6 at Kent State in 2006.
20. Derek Mason, Vanderbilt Commodores, 2014
This whole defensive football thing has had its moments, but Vandy is 7-17 in Mason’s two years. Worst of all, this was the downtime for the SEC East. Tennessee, Georgia, South Carolina, and last year’s Missouri are all going to be better, and Florida isn’t eliminating the college football program.
19. Jim Mora, UCLA Bruins, 2012
At some point it would be nice if one of Mora’s teams overachieved. UCLA has hardly been awful finishing in the top two in the Pac-12 South in three of the four years, but at some point Mora has to win something meaningful. Another 8-5 year would be a disaster.
18. Paul Johnson, Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets, 2008
After four division titles and two second play Coastal finishes in eight years, all should be fine. Even if you don’t like the option style and think there’s a hard ceiling on what it can do, the success has been terrific. But after a 3-9 season, the pressure is on to not do that again. Georgia Tech will rebound – it had better.
17. Ron Turner, Florida International Panthers, 2013
While he’s only gone 10-26 in his three years, the team has improved each season with a 5-7 2015 a solid effort. However, outside of the shocking 10-2 run to the Sugar in 2001 at Illinois, Turner has seven losing seasons in his last eight.
16. Gus Malzahn, Auburn Tigers, 2013
At just about any other big-time football program in just about any other division in just about any other conference and in just about any other state other than Alabama, Malzahn would be considered a genius after getting the Tigers to the national title game a few years ago. For Auburn fans who have to sit back and groove on Alabama’s success, 15-11 over the last two years = win bigger or else.
15. Kevin Sumlin, Texas A&M Aggies, 2012
Remember when he was the biggest freaking deal in college football? After the disasters at quarterback ever since Mr. Manziel took off, Sumlin has generated two straight 8-5 seasons. He hasn’t gotten A&M higher than fourth in the West in the last three years.
14. Tim DeRuyter, Fresno State Bulldogs, 2012
The problem is that the program is trending down after looking dominant early in his era. 9-17 in his last two years after starting out 20-6, DeRuyter should have Fresno State competing for Mountain West titles. Another 3-9 season would be tough to get past.
13. Charlie Partridge, Florida Atlantic Owls, 2014
It’s not really working. Partridge was an ultra-talented defensive assistant under Bret Bielema, but two straight 3-9 seasons haven’t been a positive in Boca Raton. There aren’t high expectations, but the Owls have to improve.
12. Mark Whipple, UMass Minutemen, 2014
It was great to get him back after he made the Minutemen rock at the FCS level, but he’s gone 3-9 in his first two seasons back with the team. Worst of all, the program is in limbo. There has to be a sign of life.
11. Chris Creighton, Eastern Michigan Eagles, 2014
Is it possible to win at Eastern Michigan? There’s no question that Creighton can coach after what he did at Wabash and Drake, but after going 3-21 in his first two years and 1-15 in the MAC – even for the EMU head man – makes this a make-or-break third season.
10. Paul Haynes, Kent State Golden Flashes, 2013
Darrell Hazell showed that it’s actually possible to come up with a great season at Kent State. 2012 might have been an aberration, and few are expecting that again, but Haynes has gone 9-26 in three seasons and finished fifth or worse in each year. All he has to do is win five games and show improvement – especially on offense. That’ll be easier said than done.
9. Clay Helton, USC Trojans, 2015
Helton wasn’t exactly the A-lister many Trojan fans were looking for, and it’s not going to take much to get him in hot water right away. All he has to do is beat Alabama, win the Pac-12 South, win the Pac-12 championship, beat UCLA and Notre Dame, and get into the College Football Playoff – or come really close to doing all of the above. It’s one of the most pressure-packed gigs in college football, and especially in a mediocre year for the conference, Helton has to be up to the moment.
8. Jim Grobe, Baylor Bears, 2016
Where’s the bar set? If Grobe wins nine games – which he should with an easy schedule and terrific starting 22 – how do you get rid of him? If he wins eight, is that too much of a disappointment? How do you coach when half the fans are ready to make the Tom Herman – or some other hot coach – pitch? As long as this isn’t a John L. Smith at Arkansas situation, the Bears should be okay – Grobe can coach – but it’s as tough a fill-in situation as it gets.
7. Dave Doeren, NC State Wolfpack, 2013
It hasn’t really worked so far. After going 23-4 with two MAC titles and an Orange Bowl appearance at Northern Illinois, Doeren hasn’t been able to do much to make NC State a placer going 18-20 in his first three seasons and not getting higher than fourth in the Atlantic. The fan base is waiting to bust out, but it needs a team to get fired up about.
6. Mike Riley, Nebraska Cornhuskers, 2015
He’s as likeable as it gets. He’s the type of guy you root for and want to see do big, big things turning around the Nebraska program. His team played hard all season long and never quit, and his team isn’t going to give anything less than a great effort this season. He also has three losing seasons in his last five as a head coach, and if he comes up with a second straight one in Lincoln, and if Scott Frost has a great first season at UCF, there might be a quick pivot.
5. Steve Addazio, Boston College Eagles, 2013
Just win an ACC game. Addazio’s defenses have been fantastic, and he came up with two good seasons when he first started, but last year’s clunker bottomed out with an 0-8 finish in conference play. The offense has more playmakers and options now, and the D should be terrific again, but BC can’t be the ACC bottom-feeder.
4. Mike MacIntyre, Colorado Buffaloes, 2013
MacIntyre has just one winning season in his six years as a head coach, parlaying the 10-2 stunner at San Jose State in 2012 into the Colorado gig. Going 10-27 with the Buffs, the problem isn’t just that they’re bad; it’s that there’s just no real expectation of doing any better. This can be an elite program again, and this year MacIntyre has to show it.
3. Darrell Hazell, Purdue Boilermakers, 2013
No one gets it more than Hazell. He did the impossible going 11-3 in 2012 at Kent State, but he hasn’t been able to make Purdue anything more than a speedbump in his first three seasons going 6-30 overall with just two Big Ten victories. He’s got a veteran team returning that’s well-motivated and good enough to be dangerous, but the wins have to come.
2. Mark Stoops, Kentucky Wildcats, 2013
Stoops hasn’t been bad, and he’s done a nice job of bringing in good athletes and talents with solid recruiting classes, but after two straight gut-wrenching 5-7 seasons – coming up short in several opportunities to get the sixth win for a bowl appearance – there can’t be a fourth-straight losing campaign. It doesn’t help that Louisville is becoming a factor under Bobby Petrino – Cat fans just want their own program to start having more fun.
1. Charlie Strong, Texas Longhorns, 2014
It’s not fair that everyone still doesn’t get that Texas needed to be torn down before it could be built up again into its superpower status. But considering how big a deal the job is – some boosters were willing to open up the vault for Nick Saban – it’s supposed to have a top of the A-list coaching star at the helm.
Strong is a defensive star of a coach, and he’s known for being a disciplinarian who had to clean house after taking over, but two straight losing seasons and an 11-14 record in two years isn’t okay for the Big 12’s signature program.
Texas people don’t like living in a world where Baylor and TCU are better at playing college football.
Texas needs the guy who took Louisville to two straight sensational seasons at Louisville, going 23-3 in two years before taking on the job in Austin, and now it’s winning time. He doesn’t have to win the Big 12 title, but Texas had better look like it’ll be on the verge of doing it in 2017.