The college football coaches hot seat rankings for Week 9 feature the addition of UCLA’s Jim Mora and the departure of Penn State’s James Franklin, who’s 5-2 after shocking No. 2 Ohio State.
As the season unfolds, the hot seat in college football is actually contracting. There’ve already been Power Five firings, LSU’s Les Miles and Purdue’s Darrell Hazell, as well as resurgences from the likes of Penn State’s James Franklin, Auburn’s Gus Malzahn and USC’s Clay Helton. While plenty can change in the month ahead, Austin, Eugene and South Bend look as if they’ll be the center of the hot seat universe between now and the end of the regular season.
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 following Week 8 of the 2016 campaign.
10. Gus Malzahn, Auburn (Last Week – 6)
In theory, Malzahn might still be vulnerable. His Tigers could collapse down the stretch, capped by a third straight loss to rival Alabama in the Iron Bowl. In reality, Malzahn is on the verge of exiting this space for the foreseeable future. In a must-win season, his players have delivered in a big way, taking four straight to remain in the SEC West hunt. And this latest victory, a 56-3 demolition of No. 17 Arkansas was such a complete effort on the ground and on the defense that Malzahn might actually be in line for a contract extension.
9. Jim Mora, UCLA (NR)
Mora is a lot like Brian Kelly over in South Bend. He’s done far more good than harm during his tenure, particularly in the area of upgrading talent. But this season has gotten so out of control that there’s a palpable buzz that reaching the next level just might not happen with the current leadership. Nothing is working in Westwood, including a once-stout defense that was gashed by Utah, of all teams, for 52 points on Saturday. The 3-5 Bruins are in serious danger of missing the postseason, which will ratchet up the pressure on Mora in 2017, likely franchise quarterback Josh Rosen’s final season as an amateur.
8. Derek Mason, Vanderbilt (9)
The 4-4 Commodores followed up their upset of Georgia in Week 7 with Saturday’s 35-17 defeat of FCS Tennessee State. Now, Mason and his staff get a bye week to prepare for a rugged final month that includes trips to Auburn and Missouri and visits from Ole Miss and Tennessee. Win two and Mason leads his team into a bowl game and into the 2017 campaign. Anything less than two wins, which means below .500, and the administration must decide if enough progress has been made to continue with business as usual.
7. Rich Rodriguez, Arizona (8)
A case could be made that Tucson is home to the Pac-12’s worst team, a theory that’ll be put to the test when the Cats visit Oregon State on Nov. 19. A year after going 7-6, with just a single quality win, Arizona is 2-5 and staring at a season that concludes before the calendar flips to December. Okay, so there have been quarterback injuries, which will hopefully be improved when the team returns to action versus Stanford. But no one on RichRod’s roster scares opponents, which is unacceptable for a coach in his fifth season.
6. Brian Kelly, Notre Dame (7)
Kelly is having a bad year. Every coach has one at least once in his career. But this season feels different for reasons that transcend the 2-5 record, with all five losses coming by eight points or less. There’s a sense that Kelly has lost his team, and that he may be losing some of the fire needed to flourish at a program of this magnitude. Select players, like DeShone Kizer, are regressing, and the coach’s temperament is once again under scrutiny. Kelly has had one losing season in a quarter-century as a head coach, yet the hand-wringing around the South Bend community will continue over the final five weeks of the season.
5. Mark Stoops, Kentucky (4)
Stoops’ seat is slowly cooling, as he gets closer to being completely out of the woods. In Week 8, he got a huge night from his offense, namely quarterback Stephen Johnson and running back Benjamin Snell Jr., to hold off Mississippi State, 50-48. The Cats are now 4-3 overall and 3-2 in SEC play. And with Austin Peay still on the schedule Nov. 19, Kentucky basically needs one more win over Mizzou, Georgia, Tennessee or Louisville to become bowl eligible for the first time in six years, and assure Stoops’ return for Year 5 in 2017.
4. Steve Addazio, Boston College (5)
In what was likely one of Addazio’s most winnable remaining games of 2016, his Eagles fell at home to Syracuse, 28-20. And that means that the Eagles have now dropped an even dozen consecutive ACC games, with no end in sight to the losing streak. True, Addazio and his staff have a tough job, coaching in a pro city that struggles to attract blue-chip talent. However, the incessant losing and inability to develop a competent quarterback could signal the need for a new direction on The Heights.
3. Paul Johnson, Georgia Tech (3)
Johnson has done a lot of good in Atlanta, taking the Yellow Jackets to the Orange Bowl and top 15 finishes in 2009 and 2014. But through the ups and downs of a nine-year stint, there’s a sense this program can really use a fresh infusion of energy and philosophy on the sidelines. Four of Johnson’s last six seasons were no better than 7-6, and this year’s 4-3 squad appears headed down a similarly mediocre road. Johnson turns 60 next summer, and his offense turns about 160. Could be time for some new blood on The Flats.
2. Mark Helfrich, Oregon (2)
The Ducks’ losing streak grew to five games on Friday night, the result of a crushing double-overtime loss to Cal, 52-49. Oregon did well to rally behind rookie quarterback Justin Herbert, erasing a 20-point second-half deficit to send the game into extra sessions, but the inability to make stops continues to torpedo this team’s chances of turning things around. Herbert threw six touchdown passes, providing hope for the future, but it remains to be seen if Helfrich will be in charge of his ongoing development in 2017.
1. Charlie Strong, Texas (1)
Saturday in Manhattan was a three-hour rendition of why Strong is sitting on the hottest seat in America through eight weeks. His Longhorns were sloppy and inconsistent, much like they have been throughout this staff’s tenure. Every time it looked as if Texas might close the gap on Kansas State, the kids did something to kill a drive, usually in the red zone. And that has plenty to do with coaching. After starting the season 2-0, the Horns are below .500, with tough games still left with Baylor, West Virginia and TCU.