The college football coaches hot seat rankings for Week 7 find Mark Helfrich and Charlie Strong practically sitting on the Earth’s mantle and core, respectively.
Two coaches, LSU’s Les Miles and Florida International’s Ron Turner, have already been handed their walking papers. And that’s just the beginning. At least a dozen more will get the boot between now and mid-December, pending how the second half of the year transpires for a swath of struggling programs.
As the season throttles forward, things are taking focus. Half of the Week 7 Pressure Cooker Rankings are comprised by two conferences: the Pac-12 and SEC. Some of that is due to perennial underachievers failing to gain traction, while some of it is due to teams falling well short of expectations.
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 7 of the 2016 campaign.
10. Rich Rodriguez, Arizona (Last Week, NR)
RichRod is not in imminent danger. Repeat, not in imminent danger. He’s too well-liked in Tucson. At the current pace, though, he’ll begin 2017 with a lot to prove in what will be his sixth year with the program. The Wildcats peaked when they won the Pac-12 South in late November of 2014. Since then? Just 9-12, including 3-10 in conference play. The product is declining, the talent level is on a downward slope and the team is a step behind ASU in recruiting. In other words, there are shades of the Mike Stoops era, something Arizona was determined to escape.
9. James Franklin, Penn State (7)
Franklin took an important step toward earning a fourth year in Happy Valley by soundly beating Maryland on Saturday, 38-14. It was the first loss for the Terps, who were never in the game. At 4-2, with games against Purdue, Iowa, Indiana and Rutgers remaining, the Nittany Lions are a safe pick to make it back to a bowl game. But if Penn State wallows in that seven-win neighborhood for a fourth consecutive year, Franklin will begin 2017 with a firm edict to get over mediocrity’s hump.
8. Derek Mason, Vanderbilt (9)
The Commodores lost to Mark Stoops and Kentucky on Saturday, dramatically reducing the likelihood Mason will coach his team into the postseason this fall. Vanderbilt is now a couple of games below .500, with bouts ahead against Georgia, Auburn, Ole Miss and Tennessee. In all likelihood, Vandy will not be a part of the postseason. It’ll be up to the administration to decide whether three years is enough time for Mason, now 9-21 overall, to make progress at one of the toughest places to win in the SEC.
7. Gus Malzahn, Auburn (3)
No, Malzahn isn’t yet out of the woods, but he’s beginning to make a case for a return in 2017. His Tigers have won three in a row, including toppling LSU and Mississippi State to move up a notch in the SEC West hierarchy. The offense is no juggernaut, but the defense is doing a terrific job of picking up more of the slack. Malzahn is adapting to his team’s strengths, as Auburn prepares for a couple of critical back-to-back games with Arkansas and Ole Miss.
6. Steve Addazio, Boston College (8)
Addazio was afforded a much-needed opportunity to make a statement Friday night versus Clemson in a nationally televised tilt. Instead, it wound up being another dreary advertisement for how far Boston College has slipped as an ACC entity. The Eagles were obliterated, 56-10, on an emotional evening in Chestnut Hill, suffering their 11th consecutive league loss. Addazio’s offense remains necrotic, while his defense, the one unit he used to be able to count upon, has yielded 105 points in its last two ACC matchups.
5. Mark Stoops, Kentucky (2)
The Cats have reached the .500 mark at the midway point of the season after beating Vandy in a battle of the hot seat coaches. Where do you go from here, Kentucky? It’s not as if the program hasn’t before gotten to midseason in decent shape under Stoops, he of the hefty contract buyout. It’s after mid-October that this team has been atrocious, going 2-17 in the current regime’s first three years. Saturday’s win was nice, but the Cats need three more to lock down a bowl bid and secure staff stability heading into 2017.
4. Paul Johnson, Georgia Tech (6)
The Yellow Jackets have dropped three in a row, most recently falling to Pitt on a last-second field goal. And with road games still left at North Carolina, Va Tech and rival Georgia, there’s a pretty good chance Johnson will miss the postseason for a second straight year. That is unacceptable for a program that had grown accustomed to solid campaigns ending with a bowl game. The Jackets need to move in a new direction, which is likely what new AD Todd Stansbury will do between now and the end of the regular season.
3. Darrell Hazell, Purdue (1)
Hazell and his Boilermakers earned a meaningful, emotional win at Illinois in overtime. But will it be the coach’s first and last Big Ten victory of 2016? Hazell is still just 9-32 in West Lafayette, including 3-23 in conference play. His future hinges on whether or not Purdue can build on the Week 6 triumph, beginning with this Saturday’s visit from sagging Iowa, and how that might impact attendance, a perennial issue at Ross-Ade Stadium.
2. Mark Helfrich, Oregon (5)
There’s no shame in losing to Washington this season. But getting eviscerated, 70-21, in one of the worst defeats in school history? Yeah, that’s the kind of thing that can exacerbate a coach’s ouster. Helfrich began Week 6 with a heap of problems. After what happened at Autzen Stadium on Saturday night, the chorus calling for a change at the top grew distinctly louder. Helfrich is a good coach, who has had the unenviable task of being Chip Kelly’s successor. And while he’s just two years removed from a national title game appearance, Helfrich knew he was taking over a program with expectations perennially in the stratosphere.
1. Charlie Strong, Texas (4)
Strong was in desperate need of a win in Dallas, not too dissimilar from 2015. He didn’t get it this time around, amping up speculation that the end is nigh for the beleaguered third-year coach. The Longhorns have now dropped three straight, falling to rival Oklahoma, 45-40. Strong is a defensive guy, who called defensive plays Saturday, yet his D is in shambles. Texas has a lot of good young talent on the roster, like quarterback Shane Buechele. Someone else will be coaching those budding stars in 2017, because Strong and his assistants have worn out their welcomes in Austin.