Entering the 2017 season, there are a number of programs that are struggling to find consistent success within their respective conferences. With many schools having the “win-now” mentality and seeing the recent accolades of younger coaches like Tom Herman and PJ Fleck come out of the gate on all cylinders-these respective coaches better win this year or they will be out the door.
Go For The 2’s Top Coaches On The “Hot Seat” Entering 2017:
1) Butch Jones-Tennessee
Good ‘Ole Rocky Top. 2016 was supposed to be the year for Butch Jones and the Volunteers to become the new SEC power. They had 17 returning starters with a senior quarterback in Josh Dobbs and a division that was mediocre entering the season. Georgia and South Carolina both had a new head coaches, while Florida had quarterback issues and off the field issues entering the season. Missouri had a new head coach and Kentucky was struggling to find an identity after quarterback Patrick Towles transferred to Boston College. It was all there for the taking for Jones and the crew. However, after a sizzling start that saw the Volunteers open up with wins over Appalachian State, Virginia Tech, Florida, Ohio and Georgia-the wheels fell off the Volunteers wagon.
Tennessee lost three straight to Texas A&M, Alabama and South Carolina and limped to a 8-4 overall record after a regular season loss in Nashville to Vanderbilt 45-34. While Florida won the division for the second straight year, the fans in Knoxville were left thinking what could have been in 2016.
If Butch Jones is to get the fan base off of his back in 2017 he must win without quarterback Josh Dobbs, former running back Jalen Hurd (transferred mid-season), running back Alvin Kamara and defensive end Derrick Barnett who have all moved on from Knoxville.
Jones has recorded a 30-21 record at Tennessee or a .588% and his SEC record is 14-18 overall or .437%.
Tennessee allowed 218 rushing yards per game in 2016 and gave up over 300 yards or more rushing to opposing offenses in 4 of the team’s 13 games.
Texas A&M-353 rushing yards (LOSS)
Alabama-409 rushing yards (LOSS)
Kentucky-443 rushing yards (WIN)
Missouri-420 rushing yards (WIN)
On top of the mediocre statistics under Jones tutelage has been the negativity surrounding the off the field issues under his watch. The school settled a 2.45 million dollar sexual lawsuit prior to the 2016 season that occurred with former players which brought scrutiny to the program.
2) Gus Malzhan-Auburn
Yes, Malzhan took the Tigers to a Sugar Bowl this past season against Oklahoma. However, he has not had the success many thought he would have since taking the Tigers to the National Championship game in 2013. Since 2013, Auburn is a combined 23-16 (.589%) and has struggled inside the SEC with a combined record of 11-13 or .458% during that span. More importantly, has been the Tigers inability to beat in-state rival Alabama over the past three years going 0-3 and being outscored by a margin of 114-69. Auburn has not been able to win consistently on the road since 2014 going a combined 8-9 during that span or .470%.
While Malzhan has the benefit of gaining former Baylor quarterback Jarrett Stidham this season, he must start another year with a new coordinator (Chip Lindsey) after Rhett Lashlee bolted to UCONN. The pressure is on for Gus to take the Tigers to an SEC Championship game because anything less could send him packing.
3) Brett Bielema-Arkansas
Brett has been making noise in the social media world with his reality show and his wife’s pregnancy. However, the cold hard truth is that the Razorbacks have been a mediocre football team since his hiring. Many fans are upset after the team’s bowl loss to Virginia Tech when they had a halftime lead of 24-0. Bielema failed to make halftime adjustments which cost his team the game. It was not the first time Arkansas had a lead and failed to hold it in 2016. Against Missouri, the Razorbacks dominated the Tigers in the first half taking a 24-7 lead in the locker room. However, in the second half, Arkansas was outscored 21-0 and lost 28-24.
Since 2014, Arkansas has struggled in getting over the hump as a major player in the SEC. The team has had a combined overall record of 22-17 or .564% during that span. The Razorbacks have had a combined overall record in the SEC of 10-14 or .416% since 2014 and must find a way to break through in the 2017 season.
In 2016, the team lost 4 of their last 6 games and did not play well against the better teams in the conference. The Razorbacks were outscored by a total margin of 188-67 against Alabama, Auburn, LSU and Texas A&M. Big ‘Ole Brett must find a way to get it done in 2017, otherwise, he might be visiting Vegas more than he thinks in 2018.
4) Rich Rodriguez-Arizona
“Rich Rod” is a coach who gets everyone excited in the first year and seems to fizz out as his tenure continues. He did that in Michigan having success his first year, however, by the end of the marriage many fans couldn’t wait to see him leave.
In Arizona, he started fast taking the Wildcats to a two consecutive bowl games including a Fiesta Bowl game against Boise State in 2014 losing 38-30. However, since that game the Wildcats have hit skid row and are a combined 10-15 .400%. More importantly, has been the bad road and conference record for the Wildcats the past two years. Arizona is a combined 3-9 on the road or .250% and has a conference record of 4-14 or .222% the past two seasons.
This season Rodriguez must find success without quarterback Anu Solomon who transferred from the program.
5) Kliff Kingsbury-Texas Tech
Even though Kingsbury brings his wide open style and actor looks to Lubbock, he has failed to take the Red Raiders to the next level in the Big 12. Kingsbury was a gun slinger for the Red Raiders during his playing days in Lubbock. However, the reality is that his team is underachieving while others like West Virginia, Oklahoma State, Oklahoma, Kansas State, Baylor and TCU all made bowl games in 2016.
More importantly, has been the addition of more younger head coaches in the conference like Matt Campbell (Iowa State), Matt Rhule (Baylor), and Tom Herman (Texas) that will put pressure on Kingsbury to out-recruit his counterparts.
Since 2014, Kinsgbury and the Red Raiders are a combined 16-21 or .432%. The team has failed to succeed in the conference going 2-7 in 2014, 4-5 in 2015 and 3-6 in 2016 for a combined total of 9-18 or .333%. On the road during that span, the Red Raiders are a combined 7-12 or .368%.
If Texas Tech is to make it back to a bowl game in 2017 they must do it without their star quarterback Patrick Mahomes that has entered the 2017 NFL Draft. Mahomes accounted for 77 passing touchdowns in 2015 and 2016.
6) Kevin Sumlin-Texas A&M
If Kevin Sumlin could end his football team’s season after the sixth game of the year, he would be one of the top coaches in the country. However, Sumlin has been mired in second half collapses that has ended his team’s hopes at competing for a division title. Since 2014, Texas A&M is 24-15 (three straight 8-5 seasons) or .615% and has lost two straight bowl games.
Texas A&M has gone 15-23 or .394% since 2014 in the second half of the season the past three years.
2014- lost 5 of last 7 games
2015-lost 5 of last 8 games (including bowl game)
2016-lost 5 of last 8 games (including bowl game)
Texas A&M has failed against the better teams in the conference Alabama and LSU losing three straight games to each since 2014 by a combined total of 229-100.
In order to get of the hot seat, Sumlin must find a way to get to win a SEC West title without starting quarterback Trevor Knight, wide receivers Josh Reynolds/Ricky Seals-Jones, defensive ends Myles Garrett and Daeshon Hall who have all moved onto the NFL Draft.
7) Jim Mora Jr.-UCLA
Shocked to see Jim Mora Jr. on the list, well, don’t be. Mora started out very quickly with the Bruins and had great success his first three years from 2012-2014 going 29-13 or .690% . UCLA defeated arch-rival USC in three straight games during that span and had many fans thinking the Bruins were going to be a national title contender in the 2015 & 2016 seasons. However, that has not been the case with the team floundering to a combined 12-13 record or .480% over the past two years.
UCLA has lost two straight against USC by a combined score of 76-35 and must break through this year to keep their coach off of the hot seat. Quarterback Josh Rosen’s injury last season did put pressure on the team, however, the defense has failed to make the necessary strides over the past two years to get the Bruins over the hump.
In 2015, the defense allowed 198 rushing yards per game and allowed opposing offenses to rush for more than 200 yards in 5 of the Bruins 13 games.
Arizona-353 rushing yards (LOSS)
Stanford-311 rushing yards (LOSS)
Colorado-242 rushing yards (WIN)
USC-235 rushing yards (LOSS)
Nebraska- 326 rushing yards (LOSS)
In 2016, the unit surrendered 178 rushing yards per game and gave up 200 yards rushing or more in 5 of the Bruins 13 games last year.
Texas A&M- 203 rushing yards (LOSS)
Stanford-207 rushing yards (LOSS)
Arizona-242 rushing yards (WIN)
Utah-360 rushing yards (LOSS)
USC-260 rushing yards (LOSS)
With UCLA signing a 280 million dollar endorsement deal with Under Armor last season, Jim Mora Jr. better find a way to bring a 10 win season back to the Rose Bowl and the program.
8) Todd Graham-Arizona State
Graham came to the dessert from Pittsburgh where he led the Panthers to a .500 record at 6-6. In his first three years at Arizona State, Graham compiled a 28-12 mark or a .700%. However, in the last two seasons, the Sun Devils have hit mediocrity (11-14 overall or .444%) and must find their way out of the abyss.
The glaring statistic for the team has been the steady decline of the defense under Graham’s tutelage. Known as a defensive minded coach, the unit has shown a trend that is becoming a glaring weakness for the program.
Scoring average last five years for Arizona State:
2012: 38 ppg (offense) 24 ppg (defense) +14 scoring differential
2013: 39 ppg (offense) 26 ppg (defense) +13 scoring differential
2014: 36 ppg (offense) 27 ppg (defense) +12 scoring differential
2015: 34 ppg (offense) 33 ppg (defense) +1 scoring differential
2016: 33 ppg (offense) 39 ppg (defense) -6 scoring differential
With the success of Stanford, USC, Washington and Washington State-the pressure is on Graham to get back on track in 2017.
9) Brian Kelly-Notre Dame
2016 was supposed to be the season the Fighting Irish would be competing for a playoff appearance. Losing three games in 2015 by a total of 20 points to opponents with a combined record of 38-4 or a .904% had many Irish fans thinking that Notre Dame would be a contender. However, after a disappointing road loss to Texas week one last year, followed by a week three loss to Michigan State at home- the Irish hopes were dashed.
Notre Dame ended their 2016 season with a 4-8 overall record, however, the pressure on Kelly goes beyond the stats. The pressure started in the off-season last year when six players were arrested prior to the team’s week one game against Texas. The scrutiny that the program faced put a lot of pressure on Kelly along with his handling of the quarterback situation between Malik Zaire and DeShon Kizer.
In order for Kelly to bounce back in 2017, he must find a way to win without Kizer and Zaire. Kizer has entered the 2017 NFL Draft while Zaire has left the program and could replace Mitch Trubisky at North Carolina.
10) Ed Ogeron-LSU
Even though Coach was just named head coach at the end of the year, we all know how the pressure that comes with being the head coach at LSU.
Athletic Director Joe Alleva didn’t exactly handle the Les Miles situation in the correct manner in 2015 and waited a very long time in 2016 before naming his current head coach (offered the job to Tom Herman and Jimbo Fisher).
I am not saying that I do not believe that Ed Ogeron is not the right man for the job, however, I will say that I believe he is on a short leash. He has made all of the right moves so far in hiring offensive coordinator Matt Canada from Pittsburgh and retaining Dave Aranda as his defensive coordinator.
With that being said, if LSU glides to a mediocre season in 2017 and happens to lose to Alabama in Tuscaloosa-the pressure will be on not only Ogeron, but the administration for their most recent hire.