The college football coaches hot seat rankings for Week 8 have a newcomer filling the vacated slot left behind by Darrell Hazell.
Purdue has an opening now that Darrell Hazell has been relieved of his duties. Might Texas, Oregon, Auburn, or even Notre Dame follow suit? There could be a handful of high-profile openings between now and the end of the regular season, which is seven weeks away. Rumors are flying, pressure is rising and coaching heads could be metaphorically rolling if their teams don’t locate a second wind down the stretch.
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 8 of the 2016 campaign.
10. James Franklin, Penn State (Last Week – 9)
Franklin has stabilized with back-to-back wins over Minnesota and Maryland. But it was Minnesota and Maryland. The Lions get a third straight game in Happy Valley this week against No. 2 Ohio State, and a chance to really dispatch a statement. After this week, things will settle down for Franklin, who’ll close out the regular season with Purdue, Iowa, Indiana, Rutgers and sagging Michigan State. The schedule lines up nicely to finally get over the seven-win hump, which would pretty much guarantee a return for Year 4.
9. Derek Mason, Vanderbilt (8)
If Mason is back for a fourth year in 2017, Week 7 will go down as the turning point of his career in Nashville. His Commodores upset Georgia in Athens on homecoming, getting another stellar effort from linebacker Zach Cunningham and the defense to win an SEC road game for the first time under this regime. Vanderbilt hosts Tennessee State this Saturday, which means a probable return to .500 and a realistic shot at bowl eligibility over the final four games.
8. Rich Rodriguez, Arizona (10)
It’s going to be a long and difficult offseason for Rodriguez, who’ll likely be retained but will have a ton to prove in 2017. Since peaking with 10 wins and a Pac-12 South title in 2014, the Wildcats have flat-lined under this staff. Arizona went 7-6 last season, and is now 2-5 and riding a nasty four-game losing streak after getting hammered by USC in Tucson, 48-14. While the Cats were forced to pull the redshirt off rookie quarterback Khalil Tate, they weren’t competing with the surging Trojans even if Anu Solomon and Brandon Dawkins were available.
7. Brian Kelly, Notre Dame (NR)
What a mess. Kelly isn’t just losing in his seventh season in South Bend; this 2-5 start is every bit as ugly as it sounds. He appears to have lost control of his team, his motivation and an increasing chunk of his fan base. DeShone Kizer, a very good quarterback, is regressing under Kelly, prompting former Irish quarterback Jimmy Clausen to publicly declare that the sophomore ought to get out of Dodge at the end of the year. This situation could get worse before it improves, but the ND administration realizes the next Lou Holtz or Ara Parseghian isn’t necessarily available. In other words, cooler heads ought to prevail, even though this situation has unraveled surprisingly fast.
6. Gus Malzahn, Auburn (7)
Nothing is certain, especially with the all-important Iron Bowl looming at the end of the regular season. But Malzahn is inching closer to being back for a fifth year in 2017. His Tigers have captured three in a row, including beating LSU and blowing out Mississippi State. Quarterback play remains iffy, but Auburn is compensating with a downhill running game and stout defensive play. With key SEC West games against Arkansas and Ole Miss up next, Malzahn will be staring at a fork in the road when his team returns to action.
5. Steve Addazio, Boston College (6)
Here’s the deal on Addazio. He’s not getting it done on The Heights, suffering his 11th straight conference loss before his Eagles went on hiatus in Week 7. Yeah, Boston College is 3-3, but that has everything to do with scheduling UMass, Wagner and Buffalo in non-conference. The team is likely headed to a second straight losing season, stricken with an incurable case of offensive ineffectiveness. However, BC is not a destination job, so there’s no guarantee the administration can upgrade by canning Addazio.
4. Mark Stoops, Kentucky (5)
The Cats have earned a chance to exhale, a Week 6 win over Vandy followed by a week without contact. But Stoops and Kentucky are about to enter a precarious point in the season, the second half, which has not been kind to the regime over the past three years. Plus, he channeled his inner-Bo Pelini by calling out fans and bringing a toxic, negative vibe to the program. Stoops is just 15-27 since coming aboard in 2013, but he may be insulated by a lucrative contract buyout that would owe him approximately $12 million if he’s fired at season’s end.
3. Paul Johnson, Georgia Tech (4)
There’ll be no votes of confidence or talk of a contract extension for defeating Georgia Southern, but Johnson desperately needed this game to stop the proverbial bleeding. Saturday’s 35-24 victory snapped a three-game losing streak and inched the Yellow Jackets above the .500 mark with five games left. Johnson needs two in the final five games with Duke, Carolina, Virginia Tech, Virginia and Georgia to return to the postseason, but 6-6 and a middling bowl game won’t guarantee a reprieve from new AD Todd Stansbury.
2. Mark Helfrich, Oregon (2)
Helfrich is in his fourth season as Chip Kelly’s successor, and just two years removed from a national championship game appearance. He probably deserves more time to right the ship. Will he get it? In this day and age of instant gratification and short memories, he’s in serious trouble. The Ducks have been declining the past two seasons, culminating in last week’s 70-21 loss to rival Washington. For this program, with its resources and recent history, sub-standard play is unacceptable. The administration will spend the next two months deciding if Helfrich is the right guy to turn things around.
1. Charlie Strong, Texas (1)
Boy, did Strong ever need a streak-buster this past Saturday or what? The Longhorns entered the weekend on a three-game losing skid, their defense buckling at the knees. Plus, Iowa State was rolling on offense, having almost stunned Baylor and Oklahoma State in consecutive weekends. However, Texas kept the Cyclones out of the end zone, a place to start before heading to Manhattan this Saturday. Strong has a long way to go, but stymieing a feisty Iowa State team, 27-6, qualifies as momentum these days in Austin.