2020 Hot Seat Update

Somehow, we are more than halfway through the season thus far, and as scary as that sounds for you and I, it may be even scarier for coaches that are fighting for their jobs. Progress needs to happen, and fast. For this piece, I decided to look at CBS Sports’ Dennis Dodd’s article from back in July that looked at the eleven coaches that had their jobs on the line this season. Every preseason, Dodd ranks all FBS head coaches from a 0-5 scale on their job security heading into the season. These eleven coaches have either a 4 (start improving now) or a 5 (win or be fired) label. This means 2020 is a crucial season for all. I’ll go through each one and see how things are trending for each coach, if at all. Let’s get started.

USC: Clay Helton

Rating: 5 TRENDING: EVEN

Somehow, Helton made it through the offseason with a job, as the second half of 2019 did look more promising than the first, and a slew of injuries did not make things any easier. But USC has slipped up yet again. Coming into the season ranked 17th with Heisman hopeful Kedon Slovis, the Trojans are just 4-3. They have nice wins over Arizona State and surprising Arizona, but they have dropped games to Alabama, Utah, and Cal. Those teams are all currently ranked, so they are not terrible losses by any means. Do you know who is not ranked? SC. It’s unacceptable that a blue blood in the floundering Pac-12 has been this inconsistent under Helton. They could still win the division, although a head to head loss against the Utes will make it tough. The fact of the matter is, USC already has 3 losses and still has matchups with Oregon, Washington, and rival Notre Dame. Helton is toast.

UCLA: Chip Kelly

Rating: 5 TRENDING: DOWN

Chip Kelly’s reentrance into the Pac-12 has been an utter disaster through two seasons. He has lost seventeen games in his first two years. Chip thought he could build a niche in Westwood like he did with the Ducks by developing recruits rather than going out and getting the big fish. In theory, it made sense when you consider Kelly’s offensive scheme and that they are recruiting LA alongside USC and many others. But, the results have not been there, and 2020 is no exception. The Bruins started out 2-0, with a nice win over Hawai’i, one that many saw as an upset opportunity for the Rainbow Warriors. But now the wheels have fallen off. They have lost five consecutive games, four of them in conference and there is no end in sight. They have been close in most of those games, which is so frustrating for Kelly. However, no one is crying foul for Chip and his enormous salary. Kelly was paid for his offensive prowess, but college football’s play-callers have caught up to him, and what he has to offer is not worth it anymore. At this point, unless the Bruins pull off a miracle and win four of their last five contests to get to a bowl, Kelly’s getting the axe, even with a massive buyout.

Nebraska: Scott Frost

Rating: 5 TRENDING: UP

If there is one coach that has changed his tenure’s narrative completely through half of the 2020 season, it’s Scott Frost. The Huskers are 6-0 and up to #17 in the country. The issue is, Nebraska has not really beaten anybody super challenging. The best win on their resume is against a Cincinnati team that was ranked at the time, but has fallen back down to earth and has been very disappointing this season. If they can get past Rutgers this week, they will be 7-0, and the final five games are absolutely brutal. At Ohio State, Penn State, at Iowa, at Wisconsin, and Minnesota caps off the regular season. If Nebraska goes 7-5, fans will be upset, because they want the glory days of double digit wins, and I feel that they think Frost is the guy to get them back there. If they do go 7-5, it feels very much like Bo Pelini or even Mike Riley’s tenure. However, I suggest they gladly take it at this point. Nebraska will be bowling after missing the last three seasons, two of which came under Frost. Progress takes time, and Nebraska has finally beaten the teams they are supposed to beat, which is great news for Scott Frost.

UTEP: Dana Dimel

Rating: 5 TRENDING: EVEN

UTEP may be the hardest job in the country to win at. If it’s not, it’s surely in the top 5, and Dana Dimel is experiencing that firsthand. Coming into 2020, the former Bill Snyder assistant was 2-22 in his two years. That is not acceptable in a Conference USA that has been relatively down the last couple seasons. The Miners are 1-5 this year, which is not the best start. They have the third lowest points per game in the country offensively, and are dead last in points per game given up. However, there is hope they can breakout for a couple solid performances to hopefully steal a couple wins. The only thing keeping Dimel semi-afloat at this point was a shocking three-score win over rival NMSU. That game matters to UTEP, but I think he needs at the minimum two more wins to survive the season, and very possibly three. Looking at their schedule, North Texas and at fellow rival UTSA look like the prime candidates. In a conference as unpredictable as C-USA however, nothing is off the table.

UConn: Randy Edsall

Rating: 5 TRENDING: EVEN

The Huskies are 2-4 this year, which is not that awful. However, they have beaten up on lowly rival UMass, and escaped FCS-level Maine in overtime. The second go-around for Randy Edsall at UConn has been a dumpster fire to say the least. Coming into 2020, the Huskies were 6-30 in his second tenure, had the literal worst defense ever in 2018, and have been booted from the American to independence. Things aren’t looking as bright as they once had in Storrs. Looking down the strech, there are winnable games for UConn. They could be three or maybe even four wins. Upsetting a team like Liberty or Army won’t be easy, but it’s possible. The thing is, 0-6 is probably the most likely. The scary fact of the matter is that even if they lose out, who are they going to get to take this job? Right now, it’s almost a death sentence, no matter who they bring in. Independence could prove painful for the program as a whole. Let’s hope for some success.

Vanderbilt: Derek Mason

Rating: 5 TRENDING: DOWN

Okay, we know Derek Mason is a nice guy, but I was surprised he was not fired after 2019. Following James Franklin at Vandy is a tough ask, and he brought them back to respectability in the SEC, always hard at Vanderbilt. However, the peak looks to have passed of his tenure, as they enjoyed two bowl games in a three year stretch that included seventeen wins. However, they have not finished .500 in the SEC, and they almost certainly won’t this year. But after a 3-9 2019, Vandy is on its way back down. The ‘Dores are 2-5 so far this year, with wins against Mercer, and an overtime win against Colorado State. They have been fairly competitive in road losses to Missouri, Kansas State, and Kentucky. However, this marriage is looking to end sooner rather than later. Even with upsets of South Carolina, LA Tech, and the rival Vols (a huge ask as it is), I don’t think this regime brings him back without a bowl game.

South Carolina: Will Muschamp

Rating: 4 TRENDING: UP

Will Muschamp is a guy that I personally can not get a read on. He seems like the most average coach in America. I feel he does nothing to significantly improve a program’s trajectory, but he’s solid enough that he doesn’t really do anything to deter it either. In his first four seasons, Muschamp was 26-25 and fresh off a disappointing 4-8 season. Carolina fans long for the Spurrier days of eleven win seasons. Muschamp has been given tough schedules, especially with Clemson’s rise, and Georgia and Florida becoming perennial contenders atop the division. He is off to a good start this season. They are 4-2, featuring a 2-2 conference record with wins over Mizzou and Tennessee. But home dates with Texas A&M and UGA loom, along with road trips to both Death Valleys in Clemson and Baton Rouge. They’ll most likely go 6-6, and in that case, I truly don’t know which route they go in with regards to Muschamp.

Texas: Tom Herman

Rating: 4 TRENDING: EVEN

Tom Herman’s head was on the chopping block through two weeks of the season. Coming into the season, the Longhorns were looked as perhaps the top challenger to dethrone the rival Sooners in the conference led by Heisman contender Sam Ehlinger. So what does Texas do? They drop the season opener at home to USF, then go to Tiger Stadium and get thumped in a revenge attempt from last year, showing they are still not back. Or are they? They have rebounded with four straight wins, featuring a dominant road performance against surprising K-State, and a ten point win over their bitter rival in fifth-ranked Oklahoma in the Cotton Bowl. So now Texas is sitting as the only 3-0 team in conference. They almost certainly will not make the playoff this year, so Texas fans will be frustrated regardless, as they expect to compete for national championships. But if they can hit a stride, and win the Big XII, it could be a much-needed season for Herman and the Horns’ program. It could happen too, as they have more talent than anyone left on their schedule in the regular season.

Arizona: Kevin Sumlin

Rating: 4 TRENDING: UP

Right behind Frost for doing the best job flipping his script thus far in 2020 is Kevin Sumlin. After Sumlin could not get the most out of Khalil Tate in his first two years that featured only nine total wins, he is off to a red-hot 5-2 start in 2020. The issue for the Wildcats, is that although they have picked up some decent wins over the likes of Stanford and Colorado, the toughest part of the schedule awaits. They also just gave up sole possession of first place in the Pac-12 South after laying an egg against USC. Every game remaining is challenging, with a very competitive Pac-12, but even a bowl should keep Sumlin in Tucson at least one more year. But getting to eight or nine would be huge progress for a team that had a much more grim outlook coming into the season.

Tulsa: Philip Montgomery

Rating: 4 TRENDING: UP

Montgomery has had one really solid season with the Golden Hurricane, but that was now four years ago. The offense has not been as advertised when they hired him away from Baylor. They have struggled to put up points this season at times, but they have pulled out three games that seem like games they would have lost the last few years. A home win over always-tough Toledo out of the MAC, an overtime win against underrated Arkansas State, and an upset of one of the conference’s favorites in Cincinnati have paved the way. A bowl game is much-needed, and Montgomery just needs two more wins to get it, with a 4-2 record thus far. But, with how the American is going this year, I honestly think they could win all remaining six games, or lose them all. Time will tell Montgomery’s fate.

Miami (FL): Manny Diaz

Rating: 4 TRENDING: EVEN

I don’t understand Diaz’s spot on this list, as he has only been the head man in Coral Gables for one season, and although a 6-7 record is not what Canes fans want, he did make a bowl game. The article states an inept offense, and inconsistency as the reason. If that’s the case, the inconsistency has continued over into 2020. Miami has wins over a ranked Pitt squad and a sneaky-great UAB team. But they dropped the season-opener to Temple at home, and lost by 16 on a Friday night to rather unimpressive Wake Forest. The offense has improved, averaging 32.5 points per game thus far, led by Houston transfer QB D’Eriq King. Hopefully for Diaz, the offense can continue to take strides. With a 4-2 record, a bowl game will probably be in the cards, but can Miami win the Coastal? The good news is they control their own destiny, as they still have games with current leaders UNC and Duke and the head to head with Pitt. But first, the U needs to stay focused for every opponent.

I hope you enjoyed my insights of these coaches hoping for turnarounds to their tenures, and I suppose I should make my predictions of who gets fired after the season, and let’s hope these firings are all related to on-field results and no shenanigans non-football related.

Back for 2021: Frost, Muschamp, Herman, Sumlin, Montgomery, Diaz

In the unemployment line: Helton, Kelly, Dimel, Edsall, Mason

-Scott

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