Billy Napier owned the week.
Depending on what (and who) you believe, Louisiana's head coach is the axis on which much of the coaching carousel is currently spinning. While there are certainly major jobs like USC and Washington where Napier doesn't (seem to) factor, there's a growing network of good CFB gigs where the G5 darling is at the center of the speculation:
TCU: The Horned Frogs pursued Napier in between separate conversations with SMU's Sonny Dykes. At one point, TCU felt convinced that its offer to Napier would be accepted but will likely end up on the pile of schools that previously felt like they had a shot. Don't feel too bad if you're a Horned Frog — about half the SEC is on that list with you. Expect Sonny Dykes to be the name here.
LSU: When Ed Orgeron was fired in October, the prevailing thought was that A.D. Scott Woodward would poach his longtime friend, Texas A&M's Jimbo Fisher, whom he hired to that position when he was in College Station. Fisher is staying put, so LSU has moved on to names like Michigan State's Mel Tucker and Oklahoma's Lincoln Riley. Napier is the wild card here because old guard LSU boosters don't want to hire the coach from lowly Louisiana, but Napier's stock is rising as Woodward keeps searching.
Virginia Tech: Is Napier the reason that Tech pulled the trigger on Justin Fuente this week instead of waiting for his buyout to drop in December? If Napier ends up in Blacksburg, yes! If not, of course not! That's the game: You never admit to a swing-and-a-miss publicly. The reality is that Tech has a strong candidate pool, but it would score a huge coup if it could get Napier to the ACC.
Arizona State: This job isn't open … yet. Herm Edwards has overseen a strong rebuild of the Sun Devils, but not without a circus atmosphere and a run-in with the NCAA over COVID lockdown violations. If the job opens, it's considered to be a favorite of Napier's (he was the offensive coordinator in Tempe before coming to UL).
After multiple offseason cycles of Napier's darling status, this year seems like the logical end. Surely, surely, the most sought-after rising coach in the South will leave the Sun Belt for a Power 5 gig. Surely.
Jobs to Watch
Florida: The Gators are 5-5 with Missouri and Florida State looming. Both have inferior rosters compared to UF's, and both have the offensive capability to upset the wounded Gators. Even if Florida salvages the season and wins eight (including a bowl), the criticism of Dan Mullen's recruiting (arguably his greatest weakness) will linger into the offseason. It doesn't seem possible for Mullen to build enough goodwill with UF with what's left on this schedule.
Miami: The good news for angry Canes fans is that the current regime is ending. The bad news is that Manny Diaz might see another season. By firing A.D. Blake James first, Miami is looking to reset its entire athletic department and then see to the future of its most prominent and popular sport. Since that's the case, it's highly unlikely Diaz gets fired in the next two weeks — unless you see an immediate A.D. hire made.
Navy: If BYU's Kalani Sitake goes to Washington (as of now he's a frontrunner), would Ken Niumatalolo try again with the Cougars? Past conversations haven't worked out between the two, and it's likely that BYU wants to retain the offensive identity Sitake developed with now-Baylor OC Jeff Grimes, but Niumatalolo is 1) Mormon and 2) dealing with a season in which his athletic director tried to fire his OC.
Duke: David Cutcliffe is 67 and Duke has 10 wins in the last three seasons. After Thursday's loss to Louisville, the Blue Devils are 0-7 in ACC play this year. Cut could easily retire, or even semi-retire and work as a consultant; he's still considered one of the best living quarterback coaches in football.
Temple: A program that's been a springboard for Power 5 head coaches (Matt Rhule, Geoff Collins, technically Manny Diaz) has collapsed under Rod Carey. Headlines of player mistreatment surfaced this week, and on the field, the Owls have slumped to 3-7. The problem is that previous A.D. Patrick Kraft signed Carey to a whopper contract in 2019 (his buyout is over $6 million), and new leadership will have to rally money to make the necessary move.
NMSU: The Aggies won seven games and went bowling in 2017. Since then, they're 7-29 under Doug Martin. Martin's contract expires at the end of this season, and with C-USA membership in its future, the school is already looking at replacements. The success of rival UTEP and the end of the independent era are raising expectations.
Rice: The "Stanford in Texas" experiment hasn't yielded results so far. Mike Bloomgren is 10-30 at a job that other G5 coaches describe as "brutally hard relative to resources versus expectation." Firing Bloomgren seems shortsighted, but with the sudden trend of Texas high school coaching connections at the college level, it's possible Rice is looking in that direction.
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– Steven Godfrey is a senior writer for Vox Media's Secret Base, and co-host of The Split Zone Duo podcast. Follow him on Twitter @38Godfrey