Evaluating the College Football Coaches Who Might Be on the Hot Seat

    Former Bowling Green coach Mike Jinks was fired after Week 7. It's an unfortunate part of the business: more of his peers will face the same fate later

    October 23, 2018

    Former Bowling Green coach Mike Jinks was fired after Week 7. It’s an unfortunate part of the business: more of his peers will face the same fate later this season. Here’s a look at 10 head coaches whose seats are getting warm as we enter the home stretch of the regular season.

     

    David Beaty, Kansas

    Kansas has just five wins in three and a half seasons under David Beaty in Lawrence. The Jayhawks have won one Big 12 game since 2015 – against Texas in 2016 – with the other four wins coming against Rhode Island, Southeast Missouri State, Central Michigan and Rutgers.

    Kansas’ remaining five games this season are against TCU, Iowa State, at Kansas State, at No. 8 Oklahoma and No. 6 Texas. That’s a recipe for a possible nine-game losing streak to end the season and possibly Beaty’s tenure at Kansas.

     

    Randy Edsall, UConn

    It’ll be interesting to see how long of a leash Randy Edsall has in his second tenure at UConn. He went 3-8 and 2-9 in his first two seasons with the Huskies in 2000 and 2001 before leading them to five bowl games (three bowl wins) and six seasons with at least eight wins.

    UConn is off to a 1-6 start after going 3-9 in his first season back in Storrs. The tough half of its schedule with games against UCF, USF, Boise State, Syracuse, Cincinnati and Memphis is in the books, but the Huskies rank as the worst FBS team, according to Football Outsiders’ S&P+ rankings.

     

    Larry Fedora, North Carolina

    Since North Carolina won 11 games in 2015 and finished the season ranked No. 15 in the AP poll, the Tar Heels have been on a steep downward trajectory. They went 8-5 in 2016, 3-9 last year and are 1-5 this season.

    North Carolina’s game against UCF in Week 3 was canceled (we’ll let your imagination go wild on how the Tar Heels would’ve fared against a Knights team that’s currently riding a 20-game winning streak), so the only hope at a bowl game is to win out. A remaining schedule with road games at Virginia (5-2) and Duke (5-2), and home dates with Georgia Tech and No. 22 NC State make that unlikely.

    Perhaps UNC is better than its record indicates, with a seven-point loss at California and a pair of losses by a field goal to Virginia Tech and Syracuse (in double overtime), but the program has quickly fallen off from where it was in 2015, losing a competitive game against No. 1 Clemson in the ACC Championship, where a win could have pushed the Tar Heels into the College Football Playoff conversation.

     

    Bobby Petrino, Louisville

    Maybe we should consider awarding Lamar Jackson another Heisman Trophy, seeing that he led the Cardinals to 17 wins and two bowl games in two seasons as the full-time starter, and with Jackson now playing for the Baltimore Ravens, Louisville is off to a 2-5 start this season.

    The Cardinals are bad on defense, even worse on offense and they still have to play at No. 2 Clemson, at Syracuse, and home against No. 22 NC State and No. 12 Kentucky. The best-case scenario might be a 3-9 season for the Cards.

    Petrino’s recruiting has been consistently in the middle of the pack in the ACC, ranking sixth or seventh in the conference in each of the last four years, according to the 247Sports Composite rankings. However, Louisville’s recruiting has failed to translate to a similar standard in wins and losses this season.

    The Cardinals are just one of two teams, along with Wake Forest, to be winless in conference play through Week 8.

    Petrino’s future at Louisville could come down to money with a buyout that’s reportedly in the $14 million range if he were to be fired after this season. Meanwhile, interest in former Louisville quarterback and current Purdue coach Jeff Brohm among college athletic directors could be at an all-time high after the Boilermakers upset No. 2 Ohio State last weekend.

    Nebraska coach Scott Frost returned to his alma mater last offseason. Could we see Brohm do the same in the next offseason?

     

    Chris Ash, Rutgers

    Rutgers is arguably on pace for its worst season since 2002. The Scarlet Knights are 1-7 and they could finish the season on an 11-game losing streak with upcoming games at No. 20 Wisconsin, at home against No. 5 Michigan and No. 17 Penn State, and at Michigan State.

    Unless Ohio State was part of that stretch, it’s hard to imagine a tougher possible lineup of opponents to close the season. A Big Ten win may not be in the cards for Rutgers this season, which would be the second time that happened in three seasons under Ash.

    Rutgers actually led Northwestern last week 12-7 at halftime and 15-10 entering the fourth quarter before falling 18-15. In Week 5, the Scarlet Knights cut Indiana’s lead to seven in the fourth quarter, but they couldn’t complete the comeback.

    They appeared to make incremental progress last season, winning four games, including three in the Big Ten, but they’ve since backslid. The Big Ten East, with annual games against Ohio State, Penn State, Michigan and Michigan State, is a tough place for a rebuilding job, but Rutgers is last nationally in scoring at 15 points per game. The Scarlet Knights’ 2018 recruiting class ranked second-to-last in the Big Ten, according to the 247Sports Composite rankings, so the current state of affairs is especially bad.

     

    Brent Brennan, San Jose State

    It’s just year two of the Brent Brennan era at San Jose State so this might be premature, but the Spartans have followed up a 2-11 season with an 0-7 start to their 2018 campaign.

    San Jose State still has to play two teams leading the Mountain West Conference’s Mountain and West divisions – Utah State and Fresno State, respectively – on the road, plus the two other MWC teams that are winless in conference play, Wyoming and UNLV. The Spartans will also play Nevada (4-4).

     

    Lovie Smith, Illinois

    Illinois is on pace for the best season of Smith’s tenure with a 3-4 record and three of its more favorable Big Ten matchups in the next three weeks against Maryland (4-3), Minnesota (3-4) and Nebraska (1-6).

    Four wins would be the Illini’s most in a season in Smith’s three years. Five would equal the program’s win total from the last two seasons combined.

    Illinois hasn’t had a winning season since 2011 and it has made just one bowl game in the last six years. For the Fighting Illini to sniff one this year could be enough to keep Smith in Champaign. A reported $12 million buyout could also help extend Smith’s tenure.

     

    Gus Malzahn, Auburn

    Auburn entered the season ranked No. 9 in the preseason AP Top 25 and the Tigers’ season looked promising after a neutral-site win over Washington in Week 1. But they’ve since fallen to 5-3 with remaining SEC games at home versus No. 16 Texas A&M and on the road against No. 1 Alabama and No. 7 Georgia.

    With a non-conference game against Liberty, it’s not as if Auburn is in danger of missing out on a bowl game, but the Tigers are likely looking at a six- or seven-win regular season. Malzahn oversaw a special November last year, when Auburn beat No. 2 Georgia and No. 1 Alabama at home to reach the SEC Championship, but that goodwill will expire soon, if it hasn’t already.

     

    Clay Helton, USC

    Despite 11- and 10-win seasons the last two years, including a nine-game winning streak and a Rose Bowl victory to cap off the 2016 campaign followed by a Pac-12 title last year, Clay Helton’s seat is getting warm as his Trojans fell to 4-3 after a loss at Utah.

    USC is 87th nationally in scoring offense, tied with Kansas at 26 points per game. The Trojans rank 106th nationally in both third-down conversions (35 percent) and red zone conversions (78 percent).

    They fell out of the AP Top 25 after just three games and could ultimately be eliminated from the Pac-12 Championship hunt due their loss to the Utes.

     

    DJ Durkin, Maryland

    This is obviously in a different category than the other names listed for reasons bigger and far more important than Xs and Os, after the death of offensive lineman Jordan McNair in June. Durkin has been on paid leave since August and The Athletic recently reported that parents of Maryland players are speaking out against Durkin’s return to the sidelines.

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