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College Football Hot Seat Watch: Checking the Temperatures at Syracuse, Indiana, Tulsa and North Texas

College Football Podcast: Dino Babers

Even with a record number of college head coaching jobs opening during the 2022 season, we’re only starting the actual coaching carousel. This week marks the last week before Black Sunday, formerly the day in which most, if not all, firings occurred in the sport. Brand-name gigs like Nebraska, Auburn, and Wisconsin are already open, but it’s highly doubtful the pink slips have run out. As we enter into the final week of the regular season, here’s a slate of games to keep an eye on some for the obvious hot-seat implications, some for coaches on the verge of a move, and some for potential job-related storylines in the offseason.

College Football Hot Seat Watch: Checking the Temperatures at Syracuse, Indiana, Tulsa and North Texas

Toledo (7-4) at Western Michigan (4-7)
The Rockets have been notorious for imploding on the verge of a breakout season. Winning this week and then taking the MAC championship on Dec. 3 in Detroit is a must, especially for Jason Candle, who was a runner-up the last time the USF job came open. Western Michigan is a far cry from its P.J. Fleck days, and now Tim Lester has his first losing season since taking over for Fleck. Up until this season, the Broncos had been consistent if not also unspectacular under Lester. Does WMU make a move at 4-8?

Tulane (9-2) at Cincinnati (9-2)
Tulane’s Willie Fritz makes so much sense for the open Georgia Tech job it’s almost silly: A play-calling cousin to Tech’s historic triple-option scheme with experience coaching in the state at Georgia Southern, Fritz’s name is hot on the carousel, and if Kansas’ Lance Leipold were to leave for another job, it could get even hotter for Fritz, a Kansas native. Across the sideline, Luke Fickell has created one of the most consistent follow-up seasons to a G5 Cinderella run. With the Big 12 up next, is Fickell still as much of a lock for UC as we think with multiple Big Ten jobs currently open?

NC State (7-4) at North Carolina (9-2)
You can set your clock by NC State disappointments when the Wolfpack are expected to have a breakout season on a national stage. A loss to UNC would cement that decline, having lost two straight to Louisville and a very bad Boston College team. The Pack wouldn’t likely move on from Dave Doeren, a perennial carousel name who’s shown up in the Nebraska search this cycle, but the pair do seem to be at a crossroads. Meanwhile, Mack Brown could clinch the 10-win season UNC was expected to create a season prior. Where does that put Brown’s long-term trajectory with the Tar Heels? Is there a succession plan in place? Will he come back in 2023?

WKU (7-5) at Florida Atlantic (5-6)
Willie Taggart needs a win at home against his alma mater for the Owls to be bowl eligible before their move to the American Athletic Conference, but he also needs to reignite the buzz that scored him the Oregon and Florida State head coaching jobs in back-to-back seasons. Meanwhile, WKU’s Tyson Helton has seen his name surface at openings like UAB, a small indicator that the Hilltopper coach might be seeking a new job before WKU and Middle Tennessee welcome a newer, weaker C-USA class of opponents.

Rice (5-6) at North Texas (6-5)
There’s been plenty of talks that Stanford’s David Shaw could be eyeing an exit soon, putting former Cardinal offensive coordinator and current Rice head coach Mike Bloomgren on a very short list of replacements. If Bloomgren wants any kind of serious consideration, he needs a bowl season on his Rice resume, and the Owls desperately need positive momentum headed to the AAC. Meanwhile, North Texas and Seth Littrell's future is still up in the air. With a win, UNT is headed for the C-USA title game. Is that enough?

Purdue (7-4) at Indiana (4-7)
The Boilermakers have endured an up-and-down season but could close out nicely with three wins in a row, and a potential Big Ten West title if Iowa loses to Nebraska. It helps Purdue that the Jeff Brohm and Louisville rumors have died down thanks to the Cardinals’ unexpected late-season run. Meanwhile, Tom Allen’s Hoosiers have imploded during a seven-game losing streak, broken by an overtime upset of Michigan State last week. Would IU move on from the man who brought the Hoosiers national attention (in football)? Upsetting their in-state rival will almost definitely help cool replacement talk.

Louisiana (5-6) at Texas State (4-7)
Departed head coach Billy Napier took plenty when he left Louisiana, but even with heavy turnover, new head coach and native son Michael Desormeaux needs to take care of hapless Texas State to keep the goodwill going through the offseason in his home state. Meanwhile, Texas State seems all but assured to move on from the Jake Spavital experiment, despite last week’s win over rebuilding Arkansas State. But maybe – and there’s a big emphasis on “maybe” – back-to-back wins and a 5-7 finish could be enough to save Spav at a resource-deficient program.

Syracuse (6-5) at Boston College (3-8)
Orange fans can safely claim they’ve lived the entire Dino Babers experience in a single season: Rumors persisted that ‘Cuse was already raising Babers’ buyout before the season; then the team started the season a stunning 6-0 (remember that?), including wins over Louisville and NC State. What’s happened since followed the expected script back in August: The Orange have lost five in a row, including blowouts to Notre Dame and Florida State. Boston College is in the midst of a historically bad sophomore slump for former Ohio State defensive coordinator Jeff Hafley, and a win here could build back goodwill on Chestnut Hill while also pushing Babers to the hot seat.

Tulsa (4-7) at Houston (7-4)
Even if Houston wins this game as a comfortable favorite, Cougar fans will have a hard time labeling this season’s 8-4 campaign as a success, especially with a move to the Big 12 looming next fall. It’s possible a Tulsa upset could buy Phil Montgomery enough time to see 2023 as the Golden Hurricane's head coach, as the school has been mulling his future in recent weeks. Almost every single current or future AAC school is a period of self-evaluation, and Montgomery hasn’t done enough to make Tulsa feel confident entering the conference’s new era.