We’re over halfway through the college football season, and while the College Football Playoff picture is still a ways off from being formed, there are plenty teams out there that stink bad enough for their coaches to have jobs on the chopping block. Determining who’s going to be fired or not isn’t an exact science, but we’ll try our best by analyzing how nervous each of these coaches should be for their job security.
Jim Harbaugh (University of Michigan)
We’re starting off with Harbaugh because I’ve been hearing folks flapping their jaws about Harbaugh not being what Michigan needs to succeed. While it should be noted that this Wolverines squad has been on the tail-end of some shocking upsets and thrillers in Harbaugh’s tenure, at the end of the day they’re still a really solid college football team. It’s also worth noting that the Michigan State game, which was played in what can only be described as monsoon-esque conditions, is the only tally so far on a team that’s “supposed to be rebuilding”. Yeah, I know “rebuilding season” can be used as a shield to defend your job, but Harbaugh will probably be the best possible coach for that team until proven otherwise.
Spiciness Rating: I’m not sweating a 5-2 start right now if I’m Harbaugh, as long as Michigan finishes strong and finesses its way into winning a bowl game. A lot of it, though, depends on how long the school is willing to fall just short of winning a Big 10 Title and/or going to the Playoff, which may happen sooner rather than later. Just don’t hold your breath over it.
Bret Bielema (University of Arkansas)
There’s a lot to unpack here with Coach Bielema. While he’s had three winning record seasons, he’s only got two bowl wins to show for it. Bielema’s now in his fifth year at Arkansas, and the results have been less than stellar so far, posting up a poor 2-5 record so far with an 0-4 in-conference record. Since he became head coach, Arkansas had conjured up a 10-26 SEC record. Granted, it’s hard to win when you’re in the same conference as Bama, but after an overtime loss to Texas A&M and a 21 point drubbing at the hands of TCU (albeit a very good TCU squad), the Razorbacks might be fixing for a change of scenery very soon. Bielema does have something working in his favor, though: In the same way Batman won’t break his moral code and kill the Joker while he’s beating the tar out of him, Arkansas won’t break the bank to pay for Bielema’s 15.4 million dollar buyout so they can release him into the wild.
Spiciness Rating: Bielema probably isn’t sweating it now, but if the season ends and his team finishes below .500, or if his team loses to the likes of Mizzou at the end of the year (again), Arkansas may not make a fiscally conservative decision, which would be very spicy and should worry Bielema considerably.
Barry Odom (University of Missouri)
Under the helm of interim coach Barry Odom, Mizzou has posted a putrid 6-13 record. After the team went 4-8 last year on his first full year on the job, it would appear that the team did not get better in the offseason. As a matter of fact, it looks like it got worse in some respects. The offense is boom or bust, the d-line is sketchy, the edges can’t set edges to save their lives, and the secondary couldn’t track the ball with a map and binoculars. At least the punting’s good. Barry Odom at least understands that this ship is sinking rapidly, and he’s trying his best to plug the holes. Unfortunately, moral victories don’t exist in college football, so he’s going to have to live with consistently losing until he gets tired of it and quits or he gets booted out the program. Or he manages to find the diamond in the pile of tiger dung.
Spiciness Rating: Honestly, if the Middle Tennessee game last year wasn’t enough to get Odom canned, there’s reason to believe the administration would rather wait this one out to see what he can do here. Expect Barry to start sweating next year if the Tigers still aren’t close to sniffing a bowl game.
Never punt on 4th and 1 in the fourth quarter.
Jim McElwain (University of Florida)
We need to discuss Florida’s offense. Ever since Tim Tebow left, it has consistently been one of the worst offenses in the league. Even after three coaching changes, Florida still can’t get their offense to The Gators have also enjoyed a consistently stellar defense during McElwain’s tenure with the team, so he’s got that working in his favor. The cracks are becoming more apparent this year, though. After back-to-back losses to LSU and Texas A&M, during which they failed to score more than 20 points at home, on top of a week one loss to Michigan to the tune of 33-17, issues with this team may become more and more untenable.
Spiciness Rating: Due to the strength of the rest of the schedule (or lack thereof), McElwain could skirt by this year with a trip to at least some kind of bowl game, which would fend off his pink slip for a little bit. However, if the offense remains stagnant this year and into next year with no promising recruits on offense over the summer, McElwain should probably start sweating if he isn’t already.
Mike Riley (University of Nebraska)
The Huskers have been through a lot this year. They’ve had some convincing wins over Big 10 rivals, some beatdowns from Big 10 rivals, some headscratching victories, some headscratching losses, and a win over Arkansas State. It could be entirely too early to know for certain, but after getting embarrassed by Ohio State and Wisconsin, the organization’s patience with Mike Riley might start to wear off. The rest of the schedule won’t get much easier, either, as the rest of the season is all Big 10 matchups. If Nebraska comes up short of a bowl game or comes up sub-.500, they might try to get Mike Riley out of the paint.
Nervousness Rating: Riley’s Huskers haven’t missed a bowl game yet, so he’s got that going for him. If this team doesn’t improve, though, Riley could start sweating a bit if Nebraska wants to go in a whole new direction.
Butch Jones (University of Tennessee)
If you’re a school like Tennessee, you take a lot of pride in your sports programs. You have certain expectations. The shelf life on coaches if you don’t meet those expectations is short even if you’re at least competent (see: Cuonzo Martin). Tennessee’s football team, relative to said expectations, has been abysmal this year. For a team that’s expected to at least be competitive with the rest of the SEC, the Vols are 0-4 in conference play, including an embarrassing loss to South Carolina at home. I’ve sat down and watched at least four Tennessee games this year (don’t ask me why because I don’t know either), and after every one of those games, he looked like someone had just walked over his grave. He knows that the end is near, and that should be enough to terrify anyone.
Spiciness Rating: This game against Kentucky is gonna determine whether or not he gets fired this weekend or gets fired at the end of the year. Or maybe they’ll give him another year. Either way this is about to get incredibly spicy. Buckle up, Tennessee fans.
Kliff Kingsbury (Texas Tech)
Back when Kingsbury first took the Tech job, the team went 8-5 and won the Holiday Bowl. Since then the Red Raiders have gone 20-24 with a loss in the Texas Bowl in 2015. 2017 started out promising for them, but after back-to-back losses to West Virginia and rising star football program (apparently) Iowa State, Tech might find itself just barely making low-level bowl contention. A bowl is a bowl, but if they just barely improve over last season and don’t hit that 2013 ceiling this year or next year, there could be some static between the masses and Kliff.
Spiciness Rating: I wasn’t originally going to put Kliff on this list, but that loss to Iowa State elevated the spiciness levels from barely noticeable to noticeable. Expect some Kingsbury Hot Seat takes soon if his luck doesn’t turn.
Kalani Sitake (BYU)
Things started out great for BYU in Sitake’s first year. 9-4 with a win at the Poinsettia Bowl with a Top 15 ranked defense. This year their defense is severely lacking and their offense can’t score points to save their lives. Their only win as of now is to Portland State in August, and even that was a two-possession game. Since then, only two of their seven losses have come from ranked teams. Yeah, BYU isn’t exactly a college football powerhouse with their average strength of schedule, but this is a really bad season by any team’s standards.
Spiciness Rating: This would mark the first time the Cougars have lost more than 6 games since 2003 back when Gary Crowton was head coach, and he only lasted a year after that after the team posted a 5-6 record. It could get really spicy really quick for Sitake if the Cougars still can’t find a win or a way to get out of their offensive funk.