Hot seats weren't exactly a discussion Arkansas fans expected to be having in Week 3 of the season took a moment to glance across the SEC landscape.
Even Auburn's Bryan Harsin seemed in need of a major scandal to work his way onto a hot seat list this early in the season. Yet, from their lofty perch high above the stench of losing seasons past, Razorback fans can easily spot smoke rising up around two SEC coaches prominently in the crosshairs of hot seat discussions.
For Harsin, today's game against Penn State might be a way to cool his seat down a little after a mutiny among his players last season and sheer impotence in the realm of recruiting sent the Auburn torches and pitchforks crowd into a frenzy.
On the opposite end of the conference, things are warming up in a place used to heat, but not in regard to its current coach. When we wrote a few weeks ago that Jimbo Fisher's offense made him one of the Top 3 SEC related candidates to not be back on the sidelines next year, a handful of people accused us of doing a bit, but it was genuine analysis, and time has proven it true.
There was no doubt it was going to be a difficult situation for Harsin this year. The odds of him making it beyond this season were stacked against him.
However, there are three ways off to chill the flames in Auburn, although it's not possible to completely snuff them out as Gus Malzahn and Gene Chizik can testify.
RECRUIT YOUR WAY OUT
The best way to get yourself out of a difficult situation is the promise of a future. High profile recruits lining up on your doorstep give boosters and administrators reason to ignore losses for a year in exchange for potential wins in the future.
This is how Brian Kelly and Steve Sarkisian get to sleep at night.
Kelly has Chad Morris written all over him, but the anomaly of the Morris equation to abject failure is the ability to recruit. As for Sarkisian, he spent $280,000 on his get out of losing season free card for a single recruiting weekend in the recruitment of Arch Manning and Kelly has somehow awkwardly danced his way onto the radar of several top recruits as well.
Unfortunately for Harsin, there appear to be no golden Trans Ams showing up in Auburn. If there are, then things are more dire for Harsin than expected because he currently only has seven recruits in the 2023 class.
Even if he were to double that number this late in the recruiting game, that would still be a paltry amount of recruits to restock the talent pantry.
WIN A LOT OF GAMES
If the San Jose State game is any indication, this is not going to happen. Trailing the Spartans for the majority of the game before a fourth quarter touchdown set the Tigers up to hang on during a white knuckle ride to a 24-16 finish is not the way to instill confidence of success against an SEC West schedule that also includes Georgia just for kicks.
Auburn has a stretch of games that begin with a battle between the hedges against No. 1 Georgia, followed by a trip to No. 20 Ole Miss, a home game against No. 10 Arkansas, then a trip to Starkville to face a Mississippi State team that will most likely be ranked also.
That's not a recipe for racking up wins. The weaker part of the schedule features Missouri, Western Kentucky, LSU and Texas A&M, which are all winnable, but definitely fall into the must-win category.
WIN BIG GAMES
There's plenty of opportunity for this and that starts today with Penn State.
If a scenario where Harsin leads Auburn to a 5-7 record with wins over the Nittany Lions, Georgia and Alabama were to play out, it would be enough to at least warrant thinking about keeping him for one more season, if for nothing else, to lower the buyout number.
Unfortunately, if Auburn racked up three wins over ranked teams, even as stacked as this list would be, those making the decision would have to look at the list of recruits to decide whether there's enough there to warrant seeing whether the train has the potential to pick up for steam.
The answer at the moment is no.
It will take at least four big wins this season to cool things off enough to get Harsin to a third season.
People are starting to realize Fisher's offense isn't built for modern football no matter how much talent the boosters across Texas put on their credit cards.
It's also becoming clear that not only can Fisher not develop and feature quarterbacks at Texas A&M, he's on the verge of not having enough evidence to convince quality quarterbacks the NIL money is enough to make up for the millions lost in NFL draft slotting and endorsements.
The seat is already warm as evidenced by lawyers beginning to troll Fisher while not so subtly offering their services to knock down the only barrier that might keep the Aggie head coach in College Station if things go poorly against Miami tonight.
It must be infuriating to the boosters who have invested everything to try to bring a national championship to Southeast Texas. They are currently on the hook for $85 million with a buyout option that only lowers that number to $70 million for a coach with a worse record at this point than the one they fired to hire him.
Not only did Kevin Sumlin have a better record, he had an offense that was a quarterback magnet without the boost of NIL money. Those big paychecks may have been enough to keep Kenny Hill, Kyler Murray and Kyle Allen around for more than a few weeks had NIL came about a few years sooner.
Fisher has racked up almost as many losses in 50 games as he did in 106 games at Florida State while running out the traditional four to five loss A&M season. It is very possible the best team money can buy finds itself 1-5 heading into a late October game against South Carolina.
If anyone thinks that's an exaggeration to draw a reaction, look at the schedule. The Aggies face No. 13 Miami, No. 10 Arkansas, what should be a ranked Mississippi State team by the time they play, and No. 2 Alabama.
It should be noted that today is the last home game the Aggies play until No. 20 Ole Miss comes into town the last week of October to take on what could by then be a very deflated A&M team.
Is 2-6 enough for Aggies fans to start passing the collection plate?
That's a really big fan base. The contribution wouldn't be as much as one might think when spread among that many wealthy donors.
The idea that so many coaches who have offenses from this decade would line up to inherit the amount of talent and resources available at the moment in College Station might be enough to tip the scales.
If that's not enough, the Aggies can't afford to fall off the wagon right as their little brother from up in Austin finally staggers into the SEC party.
If it were anywhere else other than College Station or Austin, Fisher being fired wouldn't be a possibility. He just happens to be standing on the wrong piece of dirt to avoid feeling the heat even with that giant stack of cash he's using as a cushion.
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