College football's 2022 season has reached late November and the coaching carousel is already in full swing. There will be at least 17 coaching changes, as Auburn, Wisconsin, Colorado, Nebraska, Arizona State, Charlotte, USF and Georgia Tech all made a coaching change in the first two months of the season. Additionally, more jobs opened at the conclusion of the regular season, as well as vacancies created by coaches moving to other jobs (Luke Fickell to Wisconsin and Hugh Freeze to Auburn).
Sorting out which college football program is the best job is a source of constant debate. Each of the 131 jobs in the nation presents its share of challenges, resource concerns, recruiting territory, or just the willingness to win or commitment level from the school.
Which of the open jobs is the best in the 2022 coaching carousel? Athlon Sports takes a look at the pros, cons, recruiting, win trends, and other factors to consider for determining which open job should be the most attractive to head coaches.
(Note: This list will be updated as more jobs become available this season. Every job that opened this offseason will be included in this list - even after a hire is made.)
Ranking College Football's Open Head-Coaching Jobs for the 2022-23 Carousel
1. Auburn (Hired Hugh Freeze)
Why Auburn Opened: Bryan Harsin's brief two-year tenure at Auburn ended with his dismissal on Oct. 31. With no ties or previous experience in the SEC, Harsin was a curious (and unpopular) hire after his arrival from Boise State. The Tigers started 6-2 in Harsin's first year but ended '21 on a five-game losing streak to finish 6-7. After a tumultuous offseason with significant roster turnover, and an investigation into the program that put his status in doubt, Harsin needed a fast start and rapid improvement to save his job. The Tigers started 2-0 but lost five of six to sit 3-5 going into November.
Five-Year Win Trend*: 8.2
*This excludes 2020 and data from '22 season
Five-Year Recruiting Average: 14
Pros: Life in the SEC is never easy, but Auburn has several things working in its favor. The program is willing to spend big-time money for its next coach and staff and possesses the resources to effectively recruit the portal and deploy NIL as needed. Recruiting talent to Auburn isn't an issue, as the program can tap into Alabama, Georgia and Florida to stock the roster. This program has the tradition, facilities, history, resources and ability to land talent to compete and win national championships.
Cons: As with every job in the SEC, expectations are high at Auburn. The resources are there, but you have to compete (and beat) Alabama and Georgia on a regular basis. Also, if you don't enjoy recruiting, don't bother applying for this job. Alignment between administrators, boosters and coaches is a must. Will that happen with a new athletic director and coach?
Other Factors of Note: Finding Harsin's replacement is the first big decision for new athletic director John Cohen, who was hired away from Mississippi State on Oct. 31.
Conference Realignment Outlook: Stable. There are no concerns about the stability or future of the SEC. However, changes are coming in the future with Texas and Oklahoma slated to join in time for '25. Divisions are expected to be discarded, and the scheduling model (eight or nine games) is unsettled.
The Hire: Former Ole Miss and Liberty coach Hugh Freeze was hired to replace Harsin on Monday, Nov. 28. Freeze went 34-15 with the Flames from 2019-22.
2. Nebraska (Hired Matt Rhule)
Why Nebraska Opened: Scott Frost was fired after Nebraska's Week 2 loss to Georgia Southern. The Cornhuskers did not record a winning season or reach a bowl under Frost, as his overall record in Lincoln ended at 16-31.
Five-Year Win Trend*: 5
*This excludes 2020 and data from the '22 season.
Five-Year Recruiting National Average: 24.2
Pros: Nebraska has excellent tradition, facilities, fan support, and the willingness to (spend and) win. Contending for national championships annually once again is unlikely, but the Cornhuskers should be more relevant in the Big Ten than they have been in recent seasons. Although it hasn't translated onto the field, Nebraska has the best five-year average in recruiting among Big Ten West teams. The program should be able to thrive in the NIL arena.
Cons: Access to talent. The state of Nebraska doesn't produce enough talent within its own borders to build a team capable of winning the Big Ten title, so the program has to recruit surrounding states and Texas, Georgia, Florida and California for players. Expectations are also high here.
Other Factors of Note: Acquiring talent hasn't been Nebraska's problem in recent years, so finding a coach who can develop the roster better in the future is a priority. Former Nebraska linebacker Trev Alberts is now the athletic director and this hire could shape his tenure in charge in Lincoln.
Conference Realignment Outlook: Zero concerns here. The Big Ten is set to add USC and UCLA in 2024 and more teams from the West Coast could join in the future. Having a seat at the table at the Big 2 - Big Ten or SEC - is the best place to be in college football.
The Hire: Matt Rhule was announced as Nebraska's new coach on Saturday, Nov. 26. Rhule spent the last three years as the head coach of the Carolina Panthers but previously had successful stints at Temple (2013-16) and Baylor (2017-19).