Hot Seat Watch: With coaching carousel in motion, who could be next on the chopping block? Who's safe?
The coaching carousel began spinning Sunday when Florida International canned Ron Turner.
Oh, and LSU also fired Les Miles a few hours later.
The huge news out of Baton Rouge means there will be at least one excellent job open, but a look around the landscape suggests it won't be the only one. Let's take a look at some of the coaches still teetering on the brink and a few whose teams have played them into a more comfortable position.
What's that smell? Is that my seat?
Charlie Strong, Texas
Original 2016 Status: Please have a functional offense.
Current Status: Please have a functional defense.
Before the Cal game, Strong seemed to have worked his way to safety with a good hire at offensive coordinator (Sterlin Gilbert) and the procurement of a young quarterback with a high ceiling (Shane Buechele). But after the Longhorns gave up 50 points to an offense that is identical to most of the schemes in the Big 12, things seemed less settled. ( Notre Dame's flailing has taken the shine off that opening win as well.)
Beginning Saturday against Oklahoma State, we'll find out if a more hands-on Strong has solidified the defense. The Longhorns still have to show significant improvement in Big 12 play for Strong to stay. The next few weeks should provide some answers.
Gus Malzahn, Auburn
Original Status: Not this again.
Current Status: Safe for this week, but stay tuned.
Thanks to a significant improvement on defense, the Tigers are a good quarterback away from being quite competitive again. The question is whether Sean White can develop into that quarterback this year. If he plays the way he did against LSU (19 of 26, 234 yards, zero interceptions, zero TDs), there's a chance. As long as the offense seems to be improving, Malzahn should be safe.
If the offense takes a step backward, the same complaints will rise again. Remember, the Auburn coach is always judged by how he does relative to the coach at Alabama. Nick Saban makes that comparison a tad unfair for 99.9% of the people who have ever coached college football, but that's the reality for Malzahn & Co.
Malzahn said Saturday he has turned playcalling duties over to offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee. Lashlee called a great game considering what we know to be the limitations of Auburn's quarterback group. If Lashlee calls games well enough for this staff to get another year, the 33-year-old could be a head coach somewhere else come January.
Mark Helfrich, Oregon
Original 2016 Status: There has been a step back, but these guys played for the national title two years ago.
Current Status: If they can't beat Colorado at home…
The inability to develop a quarterback signed out of high school seemed puzzling enough, but there was hope that hiring Brady Hoke to run the defense would stop the bleeding on that side of the ball. After allowing 35 and 41 points in losses to Nebraska and Colorado—which started its backup quarterback—that doesn't seem to be the case. The question now is whether this is a temporary downturn or a sign that Helfrich can't maintain what Chip Kelly had rolling. The next month should give us a better idea.
Steve Addazio, Boston College
Original 2016 Status: It can't get worse than 0–8 in the ACC.
Current Status: Maybe it can?
The Eagles somehow managed to have one of the nation's best defenses while simultaneously having one of the nation's worst offenses in 2015. Then defensive coordinator Don Brown left for Michigan. A dip on defense and little improvement on offense can lead to scores such as Virginia Tech 49, Boston College 0. The offense has to begin producing soon, or the former offensive line coach running the team will suffer the consequences.
Clay Helton, USC
Original 2016 Status: Lay off him. He just got hired.
Current Status: Tom Herman grew up in Simi Valley and went to college in Thousand Oaks.
Had Helton been hired from another school by the person currently serving as USC's AD, this wouldn't even be a question. Of course he would get more time. But he was hired by Pat Haden, who has since been replaced by Lynn Swann. Helton also was USC's interim coach following the firing of Steve Sarkisian. That's a doubly whammy that could change the timeline on any decision about Helton's status.
It's still too early to make any move, and it may be entirely possible that the Trojans' three losses (Alabama, Stanford, Utah) came to the three best teams on their schedule. Helton may be able to pull out of this spin. The move to start Sam Darnold at quarterback seems like a positive step, and the offense operated much more smoothly against the Utes. The biggest issue was the coaching staff's decision not to give any fourth-quarter carries to Justin Davis, who averaged 12.6 yards per carry on the night.
The bottom line is USC has too much talent on the roster to be mediocre. Either Helton has to make these players work better together, or the Trojans need to find someone else who can.
Darrell Hazell, Purdue
Original 2016 Status: It's Purdue.
Current Status: It's Purdue.
This is one of the nation's most difficult jobs. Not many people are going to succeed in West Lafayette. But at a certain point the decision to fire becomes a relatively simple math problem. Is the amount of the coach's buyout more or less than the amount you'll lose in potential season ticket sales and donations if you decide to keep him? Hazell's buyout after this season would be about $4.4 million. We'll see how new Purdue AD Mike Bobinski handles this particular equation if Hazell's team struggles again in Big Ten play.
Dave Doeren, NC State
Original 2016 Status: It hasn't been great, but he's probably O.K.
Current Status: When Wake Forest becomes a must-win, you've got a problem.
The Wolfpack should be better than this. While the transitive property isn't always useful in college football, the fact that Virginia Tech just crushed the same East Carolina team that beat NC State two weeks ago does not bode well for Doeren. If the Demon Deacons—currently 4–0 and coming to Raleigh on Saturday—can beat the Wolfpack, a schedule that includes meetings with division rivals Florida State, Louisville and Clemson looks even uglier.
Derek Mason, Vanderbilt
Original 2016 Status: The Commodores are going to a bowl game.
Current Status: It's tough to find four more wins on the schedule.
Losing to South Carolina to open the season was a killer because the Gamecocks are absolutely in rebuilding mode. That's a win Vandy needed, and an odd quarterback switch killed the Commodores' momentum. Then they got blown out by Georgia Tech. Squeaking by Western Kentucky helps, but the Commodores still need to win some games in conference. Unless something improves, Kentucky looks like the only team Vandy might be able to beat. The Commodores host a Florida team Saturday that will be smarting from a loss at Tennessee last week.
Mark Stoops, Kentucky
Original 2016 Status: He's fine. Look at the size of that buyout.
Current Status: Let's not go crazy about beating South Carolina. This could still get ugly.
The Wildcats averted absolute disaster by beating the Gamecocks on Saturday, but let's not pretend that one-score victory is a cure-all for a team that plays in Tuscaloosa this weekend. Stoops is in his fourth season, and the program does not seem to be improving. Given all the money Kentucky has invested in football (new operations building, stadium upgrades), it's time to see some return on investment.
Is there a draft in here? My buns feel so much cooler.
Kevin Sumlin, Texas A&M
Original 2016 Status: Will the last QB in College Station please turn off the lights?
Current Status: Could these guys win the SEC West title?
When quarterbacks Kyle Allen and Kyler Murray left the program within a week of one another in December, Sumlin seemed a lock to be the first victim of the SEC West coaching critical mass. But he landed Oklahoma graduate transfer Trevor Knight to play quarterback and former UCLA coordinator Noel Mazzone to run the offense. Combine those two with a deep receiving corps and a defense that was already getting better under coordinator John Chavis and you have a team that can hang in the SEC West.
Mike MacIntyre, Colorado
Original 2016 Status: Colorado has no reason to be impatient but might be impatient anyway.
Current Status: So who else in the Pac-12 might the Buffaloes knock off?
Given the situation MacIntyre took over after coming from San Jose State in 2013, his name shouldn't have appeared near any hot seat discussions for at least five years. But given the way Colorado fired Jon Embree so prematurely, it was a reasonable consideration that Buffaloes management might have started the churn again before MacIntyre's work could actually take root. Of course, Mike Bohn, the AD who hired and fired Embree so quickly, is gone. Rick George took over just as MacIntyre was getting started in 2013.
The Buffs took a hit when quarterback Davis Webb reneged on a commitment to come to Boulder and instead transferred to Cal from Texas Tech, but quarterback Sefo Liufau recovered from a foot injury faster than expected. The Colorado State win to start the season was a great sign of progress, but winning in Eugene with Steven Montez replacing the injured Liufau suggests that the Buffs are only getting started.
Mike Riley, Nebraska
Original 2016 Status: This guy lost to freaking Purdue.
Current Status: You know, they've actually been pretty good since they lost to Purdue.
The Cornhuskers are 7–1 since falling to Purdue last year, and if they can beat the teams they're supposed to beat, they'll be 7–0 this season before a rough two-week stretch that includes trips to Wisconsin and Ohio State. The Big Ten West title is a reasonable expectation for Nebraska every year, and if Riley and company keep the Huskers competitive on that front, he'll be just fine.
Dana Holgorsen, West Virginia
Original 2016 Status: Reasonable expectations be darned, win more games or else.
Current Status: Have you seen the rest of the Big 12? Dream big.
Holgorsen's welcome was wearing thin in Morgantown, mostly because the people there expect the same kind of records they had in the Big East while playing in the Big 12. That's too much to ask, but it's their money. And given the current state of the Mountaineers and the current state of the Big 12, this might be the year they get their wish.
Up first in Big 12 play is Kansas State, which handed West Virginia a loss on the regular season's final day last year. If West Virginia can roll to a good record in conference this year, Holgorsen might get offered an extension. He also might leave for a better job.
Dave Clawson, Wake Forest
Original 2016 Status: Sure, it's Wake Forest, but three wins a year isn't good enough.
Current Status: The Demon Deacons may not need to find an alley to go bowling.
Wake Forest is 4–0, and it's not entirely outside the realm of possibility that the Demon Deacons could be 6-0 heading into their visit to Florida State on Oct. 15. That would require wins against NC State and Syracuse, but even if Wake loses both of those, two more wins are possible with games remaining against Army, Virginia and Boston College. Clawson has been working toward this since 2014, when he took over the team at the school with the smallest enrollment in the Power 5. The Demon Deacons suffered through the frustrating rebuild and now can enjoy the feeling of a few Ws.
Paul Johnson, Georgia Tech
Original 2016 Status: Every time Johnson gets close to the edge, he has a good season.
Current Status: He's 3–1, but that Clemson game was rough.
A few more games like Thursday's against Clemson—when the Yellow Jackets gained 22 yards on 21 plays in the first half—and Johnson will move to the other section of this list. But if Georgia Tech can get back to form against Coastal Division opponents Miami and Pittsburgh these next two weeks, Johnson may survive yet again.