The college football coaches hot seat for Week 6 finds Mark Helfrich climbing the rankings following yet another Oregon loss, and Purdue’s Darrell Hazell teetering on the brink.
Firing season is in full bloom in college football, with LSU’s Les Miles and Florida International’s Ron Turner feeling the cold wind of unmet expectations last weekend. There are plenty more dismissals to come, as frustrated ADs grow increasingly disenchanted by results and the product on the field. And as schools like Texas and Oregon continue struggling, the likelihood of high-profile openings emerging between now and December has improved.
Which head coaches are fielding the most pressure to turn things around and improve sinking job approval ratings? We break down who’s sitting on the hottest seats heading into Week 6 of the 2016 campaign.
10. Dave Doeren, NC State
The Pack handed Wake Forest its first loss of 2016 behind three Ryan Finley touchdown passes and the running of Matt Dayes. And that’s a pretty big win for Doeren, who has not had a history of taking down decent opponents since arriving in Raleigh in 2013. Next up for 3-1 NC State are games with Notre Dame, Clemson and Louisville, and some great chances for Doeren to make a statement against notable opponents.
9. Derek Mason, Vanderbilt
Nice effort by the Commodore defense versus Florida Saturday. But Mason might be beyond the point of pointing to moral victories. The coach fell to 9-20 in his third year in Nashville, and an inability to generate any offense continues to plague the entire program. Now a game below .500 at 2-3, Vanderbilt needs to win two of the next three games with Kentucky, Georgia and Tennessee State, and then look to pull a couple of upsets in November to reach bowl eligibility.
8. Steve Addazio, Boston College
The only reason the Eagles are a game above .500 is that the athletic department had the good sense to schedule UMass, Wagner and Buffalo in non-conference. Otherwise, this team might still be looking for win No. 1. BC has lost to Georgia Tech and Va Tech, extending its ACC losing streak to 10 games. And with six of the next seven games against league opponents, Addazio will be judged on how well he can break through against the likes of Syracuse, NC State and Wake Forest.
7. James Franklin, Penn State
Franklin nabbed two important wins this week. First, AD Sandy Barbour came out in support of her beleaguered coach, suggesting her coach has no business appearing on hot seat lists. And then the Nittany Lions rallied at home to defeat Minnesota in overtime on a nifty Saquon Barkley scamper through the Gopher defense. Were Barbour’s words a genuine vote of confidence or a kiss of death? As is always the case, plenty will hinge on how the team performs over the final seven games.
6. Paul Johnson, Georgia Tech
Following back-to-back double-digit losses to Clemson and Miami, the Yellow Jackets are beginning to flash shades of last year’s 3-9 team. Johnson’s ninth squad on The Flats lacks defensive star power, and the once-vaunted ground game no longer frightens decent opponents. Georgia Tech is just another ordinary, middle-of-the-pack football team, which is reason enough for recently-hired AD Todd Stansbury to bring in his own guy before too long.
5. Mark Helfrich, Oregon
Helfrich was beginning to feel the pressure a year ago, when the Ducks stumbled out of the gate before rallying down the stretch behind quarterback Vernon Adams. Now that the team has dropped three in a row for the first time in almost a decade, Helfrich and his staff are in serious trouble, particularly with surging and angry Washington next on the schedule. The coach’s hiring of defensive coordinator Brady Hoke hasn’t worked, and the recent level of mediocrity is unacceptable in Eugene, raising the chances for a new direction in 2017.
4. Charlie Strong, Texas
See, this is why it was premature to pull Strong off the hot seat after the Longhorns started 2-0 with wins over Notre Dame and UTEP. Texas, which has now dropped consecutive games to Cal and Oklahoma State, is beginning to perform like the poorly coached program that finished under .500 in each of Strong’s first two seasons. The Horns missed three extra points and far more tackles than that, and the coach is back in that familiar position of defending why he’s best suited to turn this thing around in Austin.
3. Gus Malzahn, Auburn
Since losing to Texas A&M in Week 3, it’s been a pretty good couple of weeks for Malzahn. Last Saturday was the thrilling win over LSU that cost Les Miles his gig in Baton Rouge. And this past weekend, the Tigers used Louisiana-Monroe like a sparring partner, empyting the bench in a wire-to-wire blowout. Auburn will be carrying more confidence into Week 6, though Malzahn will clearly be judged on how well his kids play in upcoming games with SEC West foes Mississippi State, Arkansas and Ole Miss.
2. Mark Stoops, Kentucky
Stoops needed his 2-3 Wildcats to be Buster Douglas Saturday night in Tuscaloosa. Instead, it was just another night in Palookaville, as Bama coasted to a 34-6 victory. Stoops fell to 14-27 in his fourth year in Lexington, the box score of a coach who’s been far more effective in the offseason than the regular season. The goal is to get to the postseason, which would pretty much guarantee a return in 2017. But Kentucky will have to catch in a relatively manageable upcoming stretch with Vandy, Mississippi State, Mizzou and Georgia.
1. Darrell Hazell, Purdue
At this point of the 2016 campaign, it’s just a matter of when, not if, the Boilermaker administration elects to pull the plug on Hazell. Purdue arguably reached a new low in Week 5, getting trucked by Maryland, 50-7, on the road. The coach is now 8-32 in his fourth year in West Lafayette, and performances like this past one in College Park is yet another harsh indication that the program isn’t progressing adequately enough to compete as a Big Ten program.