Will Muschamp takes the top spot for 2014.
Hot seat talk among any college football fanbase never seems to end. Of course, it’s the offseason, so everyone is discussing preseason expectations and predictions. And with expectations of records and bowl games comes the pressure on head coaches.
Every head coach is faced with a different set of obstacles and expectations. For example, Alabama’s Nick Saban is held to a higher standard than Vanderbilt’s Derek Mason.
Keeping realistic program expectations in mind is something that factors into the hot seat talk every year.
As the 2014 season approaches, it’s clear the No. 1 coach on the hot seat is Florida’s Will Muschamp. The Gators went 4-8 last season, which included a surprising defeat to FCS (now FBS) opponent Georgia Southern. Despite all of Florida's injuries, going 4-8 with one of the nation's top rosters (in terms of recruiting rankings), didn't sit well in Gainesville. Muschamp needs to show the program is headed in the right direction in order to return in 2015.
After Muschamp, Virginia’s Mike London, Kansas' Charlie Weis, Illinois’ Tim Beckman, Rutgers’ Kyle Flood and West Virginia’s Dana Holgorsen are just a few names to remember for the hot seat watch in 2014.
Which coaches have the hottest seats in the nation? Athlon Sports has ranked the top 10 coaches on the hot seat for 2014, along with a few names that are starting to feel a little pressure.
College Football’s Coach on the Hot Seat Rankings for 2014
1. Will Muschamp, Florida (22-16, 3 years)
Even though Florida was hit hard by injuries last season, it’s still difficult to comprehend how this team went 4-8. Yes, the offense struggled, and the injuries took a toll, but the Gators recruit as well as any team in the nation. With the talent in place at Florida, losing records in SEC play should be rare. However, in three years, Muschamp is only 22-16 and has two 3-5 records in SEC play. Fixing the offense has to be Muschamp’s top priority in order to return to Gainesville in 2015. Kurt Roper (hired from Duke as the new play-caller) has to provide a quick repair on an offense that has finished eighth or worse in the SEC in scoring four consecutive years. Considering four of the Gators’ eight losses came by a touchdown or less, any improvement on offense should result in a bowl. Another losing season or 6-6 record would likely spell the end of Muschamp’s tenure in Gainesville. With crossover games against Alabama and LSU, Florida won’t have much margin for error if it hopes to double its win total from 2013.
2. Mike London, Virginia (18-31, 4 years)
London appeared to have Virginia’s program moving in the right direction after winning 12 games in his first two years. The Cavaliers won four games in London’s debut (2010) and finished 8-5 with an appearance in the Chick-fil-A Bowl in 2011. Virginia’s 5-3 record in ACC play in 2011 was only its second winning record in conference games since '05. Since 2011 however, this program has been trending the wrong way. The Cavaliers are 6-18 in the last two years and went winless in ACC play in 2013. But despite the on-field struggles, Virginia’s recruiting hasn’t suffered. London has signed four consecutive top-35 classes, and the Cavaliers’ roster ranks No. 6 in the ACC. Tough non-conference scheduling, inconsistency at quarterback and staff turnover have all contributed to London’s struggles at Virginia. Without a winning record, it’s tough to see London back in Charlottesville in 2015.
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3. Tim Beckman, Illinois (6-18, 2 years)
There have been small signs of progress through Beckman’s first two years in Champaign. The Fighting Illini went 2-10 in a disastrous debut for Beckman in 2012, with only one of the eight Big Ten losses coming by 13 points or less. Illinois was more competitive in 2013, largely thanks to the hire of Bill Cubit as the team’s offensive coordinator. The Fighting Illini ranked second in the Big Ten in passing offense and averaged 29.7 points per game. But the defense continues to be problematic for Beckman, as Illinois has allowed at least 30 points per game in back-to-back seasons. A similar theme could play out in 2014, as Oklahoma State transfer Wes Lunt should thrive at quarterback in Cubit’s offense, while the defense has question marks at each level. Although a winning record would serve Beckman well, getting to 5-7 and being more competitive against the top teams in the Big Ten might be enough to save his job.
4. Charlie Weis, Kansas (4-20, 2 years)
Much like Tim Beckman at Illinois, Weis has made small bits of progress over the last two years. But small progress has resulted in just one Big 12 win for the Jayhawks and an overall 4-20 mark. Weis didn’t inherit a wealth of talent, but the program has yet to take a big step forward. Kansas lost nine games in 2013 and only two – Rice and TCU – came by 10 points or less. Weis is handing over play-calling duties to new coordinator John Reagan, which should allow the third-year coach to be more of a program CEO. Considering Weis went 35-27 in five years at Notre Dame, doubts exist about his ability to turn Kansas into a consistent winner. With 14 starters back, the Jayhawks should have enough returning talent to be more competitive in conference play. But if this team goes winless in the Big 12, Weis may not see a fourth season in Lawrence.
5. Dana Holgorsen, West Virginia (21-17, 3 years)
With the program shifting from the Big East to the Big 12, it’s tough to evaluate Holgorsen as a head coach after just three seasons. West Virginia went from being the No. 1 program in the Big East to the No. 5 program in the Big 12. And it’s not easy being at a geographic disadvantage in a tougher conference. Holgorsen’s tenure started with a promising 10-3 record and a Big East championship, along with a huge Orange Bowl win over Clemson in 2011. The Mountaineers carried that momentum from the bowl win in 2012 by starting 5-0, but West Virginia finished the season 2-6 and was dominated in the Pinstripe Bowl against Syracuse. In 2013, the Mountaineers slipped to 4-8 and won just two conference games. In an odd storyline, West Virginia has struggled to find a quarterback since Geno Smith expired his eligibility. Considering Holgorsen’s background, it’s a surprise quarterback play is a concern heading into 2014. There is hope for West Virginia to get back to the postseason this year, especially if Clint Trickett can stay healthy at quarterback, and the defense takes a step forward under new coordinator Tony Gibson. Interestingly enough, athletic director Oliver Luck is trying to downplay expectations for 2014. The Mountaineers need some time to get acclimated to their new conference, as well as improve their recruiting to push for a Big 12 championship. If Holgorsen can show on-field progress – which figures to be difficult with a challenging schedule – in 2014, he should move safely away from the hot seat for 2015.
6. Kyle Flood, Rutgers (15-11, 2 years)
The Scarlet Knights were one of the biggest winners of the latest round of realignment, landing in the Big Ten’s new 14-team setup. But moving from the Big East/American Athletic Conference to the Big Ten means the stakes and competition are higher. Flood was appointed to the top spot after Greg Schiano left for the NFL in late January (2012) and managed to sign the No. 24 recruiting class. The Scarlet Knights tied for the Big East title in Flood’s first season (2012) and finished 9-4 overall. Rutgers slid to 6-7 in Flood’s second year and its recruiting class dipped to No. 60 nationally in 2014. Both sides of the ball will have new coordinators this season, including former Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen as the offensive play-caller. Friedgen should help bolster an offense that managed only 26.5 points per game in 2013, but the defense – especially the secondary – will be a work in progress. Flood has a tough assignment ahead, as he guides the program through a difficult conference transition. With Penn State, Michigan, Ohio State and Michigan State on the schedule every year, Rutgers is facing an uphill battle just to get to a bowl game on a consistent basis.
7. Norm Chow, Hawaii (4-20, 2 years)
Chow’s hire was greeted with much fanfare in Honolulu. As a native of Hawaii, this was viewed as a good fit for a program looking to rebound after Greg McMackin posted three seasons of at least seven losses from 2008-11. However, two years into his tenure with the Rainbow Warriors, Chow has struggled to get the program on track. Hawaii went 3-9 in Chow’s debut and won just one game in 2013. The Rainbow Warriors were more competitive on the scoreboard last year, losing five games by a touchdown or less. For Hawaii to increase its win total in 2014, Chow needs to find a quarterback and hope new defensive coordinator Kevin Clune can solidify a unit that gave up 38.8 points per game in 2013. With three Pac-12 non-conference games, along with a road trip to Rice in early October, Hawaii could be 1-4 before opening Mountain West play against an improving Wyoming team. Chow likely has a longer leash than some coaches on this list, but he needs to show the Rainbow Warriors are moving closer to the top teams in the Mountain West this year.
8. Bill Blankenship, Tulsa (22-17, 3 years)
Blankenship inherited plenty of talent from former coach Todd Graham and went 19-8 in his first two seasons at Tulsa. The Golden Hurricane went 14-2 in conference play during that span and won the Liberty Bowl in 2012. However, Tulsa struggled mightily last year. The Golden Hurricane had a significant amount of roster turnover and slumped to 3-9 (2-6 in C-USA play). Blankenship isn’t to blame for all of the struggles last year, but with Tulsa moving to the American Athletic Conference, he needs to show marked improvement in 2014. Of course, that’s easier said than done with a non-conference schedule that includes Oklahoma and a tough road date at Colorado State, while road trips to UCF and Houston await in American Athletic play.
9. Ron Turner, FIU (1-11, 1 year)
Turner was an odd hire after the surprising dismissal of Mario Cristobal. Prior to the 2013 season, Turner had stops as a head coach at San Jose State and Illinois, recording a 42-61 mark in nine seasons. Turner was hired at FIU after one season as an assistant at Tampa Bay, and the Panthers finished 1-11 in his debut. FIU’s only win was a one-point victory over Southern Miss (1-11 in 2013), and the Panthers lost to FCS opponent Bethune-Cookman 34-13. FIU also ranked near the bottom nationally in scoring offense (9.8 points a game) and scoring defense (37 points allowed per game). The Panthers still have talent in the program and 15 starters return for 2014. If Turner can win a couple games and show the team is headed in the right direction, he should be safe in the 2014 offseason. However, another one- or two-win season would likely end his tenure at FIU.
10. Paul Johnson, Georgia Tech (47-32, 6 years)
Considering Johnson has never finished below .500 in ACC play at Georgia Tech, it seems odd to place the seventh-year coach on the hot seat. But the Yellow Jackets failed to build off a strong start to Johnson’s tenure, which included a 19-7 mark and an ACC title (2009) through the first two years. Only once over the last four seasons has Georgia Tech finished with more than seven wins, while the program has just one bowl victory under Johnson’s watch. Recruiting has slipped over the last two years for Johnson, as he inked two top-50 classes from 2010-11, but the Yellow Jackets have signed the Nos. 52, 76 and 54 recruiting hauls over the last three seasons. Although the option offense is often criticized, Georgia Tech has ranked among the top five in the ACC in yards per play (conference-only games) in six out of the last seven years.
Dan Enos, Central Michigan (19-30, 4 years)
After starting his tenure 6-18, Enos has made slight improvement in the win column over the last two years. The Chippewas have gone 13-12 the past two seasons and won the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl in 2012. However, a deeper look at Enos’ results shows Central Michigan has defeated only two teams with winning records over the last two years. With 16 starters returning, along with Northern Illinois and Ball State losing some key personnel, the Chippewas have the potential to climb in the MAC West standings this year. Central Michigan went 32-7 in MAC games from 2005-09 but is only 13-19 under Enos in conference play over the last four years.
Brady Hoke, Michigan (26-13, 3 years)
Hoke’s tenure at Michigan started on a high note, as the Wolverines finished 11-2 and won the Sugar Bowl in 2011. But that’s been the peak of Hoke’s three-year run in Ann Arbor so far. Michigan is just 15-11 over the last two seasons and finished 3-5 in Big Ten play in 2013. Recruiting certainly hasn’t been an issue for Hoke, as the Wolverines have inked two top-10 classes over the last three years. Despite the edge in talent, Michigan’s win total has declined since the 2011 season, and the offense ranked No. 10 in the Big Ten in total yards per game last year. The talent is there for the Wolverines to make a jump in wins. But can Hoke find answers on the offensive line and help the defense reach its potential in 2014?
Bo Pelini, Nebraska (58-24, 6 years)
Pelini might be the toughest coach in the nation to judge for either of these sections. He’s 58-24 in six seasons with the Cornhuskers and has won at least nine games every year. Nebraska has also finished in the final Associated Press Top 25 poll for five consecutive years. Despite all of Pelini’s highlights, there are lofty expectations in Lincoln. Is nine wins the best-case scenario for this program in the current climate of college football? Or is Nebraska still capable of being a top 10-15 team on a consistent basis? If you believe the recruiting rankings, the Cornhuskers are winning at an appropriate level relative to their talent (No. 26 nationally over the last five seasons).
Kyle Whittingham, Utah (76-39, 9 years)
It’s hard to place Whittingham anywhere near the hot seat given his track record at Utah prior to the move to the Pac-12. But since joining the Pac-12, the Utes are 18-19 and the win total has declined in conference play for two consecutive years. Moving from the Mountain West to the Pac-12 wasn’t an easy task for Utah, so it will take some time to recruit and develop depth to compete with the top teams in the Pac-12 South. However, in a slight surprise, the Utes have not improved their national recruiting since joining the Pac-12. Utah inked the No. 42 class in 2010 and slipped to No. 47 in '13 and No. 63 in '14. Whittingham shouldn’t be in any danger, but he could move to the hot seat section if the Utes miss out on a bowl for the third consecutive year.
Kevin Wilson, Indiana (10-26, 3 years)
Indiana has made noticeable improvement in Wilson’s three years. The Hoosiers went 1-11 in 2001 but improved to 4-8 in '12 and 5-7 last year. Indiana was just a few plays away from making the postseason, losing to Navy by six and to Minnesota by three points. Make no mistake: This is not an easy job. Wilson has transformed Indiana into one of the Big Ten’s best offenses (38.4 points per game in 2013), but the defense continues to struggle. Although there has been progress, the Big Ten’s new divisional alignment will present a challenge for Wilson. Playing Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State and Penn State every year won’t leave much room for error in terms of wins and losses for Indiana. Wilson shouldn’t be on the hot seat, but with a tough division, the Hoosiers can’t afford to slip too far behind in 2015.