Halfway through the season, these four coaches are really feeling the heat.
After the first six weeks of the 2017 college football season, it’s clear which teams and coaches are hot. Other coaches are feeling the heat: the heat stemming from upset fans and administrators due to their team’s lack of success. The first half of the season has shown us a handful of coaches that are in serious danger of receiving the dreaded pink slip in December. The real question is, Who are they?
1. Butch Jones, Tennessee
(Michael Patrick/Knoxville News Sentinel)
It’s unlikely that there is a coach on a thinner layer of ice than Butch Jones at Tennessee. The Volunteers’ 41-0 blowout loss to rival Georgia, coupled with Jones’ rant against the press the previous Monday, has Vols fans fuming like some haven’t seen in a very long time.
Since Jones took over the helm in December 2012, he has compiled a 33-23 record while in Knoxville. Most schools at the FBS level would be satisfied with those results, but it falls short at a tradition-rich Tennessee program which currently sits in ninth place in all-time wins with 832 and 12th place with a .680 winning percentage. Perhaps Jones’ last chance to salvage his job would be pulling off a monumental upset against the top-ranked Crimson Tide of Alabama in the annual Third Saturday in October matchup. For right now, however, the theoretical door is closing fast on Jones.
2. Mike Riley, Nebraska
Even though the Huskers won their first two games in Big Ten play, Mike Riley is still feeling the heat from Husker fans to win at a higher rate. With athletic director Shawn Eichorst fired in mid-September, many have speculated that Riley will follow suit, especially following a non-conference slate where the Huskers were run out of Autzen Stadium by Oregon and embarrassed themselves at home against MAC foe, Northern Illinois.
Riley’s record at Nebraska has been unspectacular to say the least, compiling an 18-13 record through 2 ½ seasons as head coach. It is the opposite direction most thought the program would go after firing Bo Pelini in 2014, despite Pelini never winning less than nine games in a season at Nebraska. Like the previously mentioned Butch Jones, Riley and the Huskers have a chance to pull off a big upset in the very near future as #9 Wisconsin and #10 Ohio State come into Lincoln back-to-back weeks. Winning at least one of those games could give Riley a little more breathing room at the helm.
3. Todd Graham, Arizona State
(Ted S. Warren/AP Photos)
Todd Graham’s tenure at Arizona State began with a lot of promise for the Sun Devils, stringing together back-to-back 10 win seasons for the first time in over 40 years, last done by legendary coach Frank Kush. Since then, the results have soured, with Graham’s Sun Devils having posted back-to-back sub .500 records. This season they are off to an unspectacular 2-3 start, with the two wins coming by just a combined eight points. This recent lull has even the administration at Arizona State pressuring Graham to right the ship.
The odds are not looking in Graham’s favor, as following their bye week, the Sun Devils run into the meat of their schedule: #6 Washington, #20 Utah and #14 USC, all in a row. Thankfully for ASU, two out of the three games are in the friendly confines of Sun Devil Stadium. If Graham is intent on keeping his job in Tempe, it is imperative that he manages to win at least one of those games to keep Arizona State’s bowl chances alive.
4. Brian Kelly, Notre Dame
(Matt Cashore/USA Today Sports)
Brian Kelly’s tenure at Notre Dame has been a roller coaster ride to say the least. From an appearance in 2012 BCS National Championship Game, to violations stripping the Irish of every win from 2012 and 2013, many have grown weary of seeing Kelly’s teams not living up to the lofty expectations that come with the legendary program.
Following a disastrous 4-8 season in 2016, some college football experts believed Brian Kelly had an ultimatum at Notre Dame: win or you’re fired. Through the first six weeks, the Irish have put together a strong 4-1 start, but all four wins came against inferior competition. Notre Dame’s toughest opponents are yet to come, as they take on three ranked opponents in a five-week period. Those three games will go a long way in determining Kelly’s future, but history has shown that his teams, such as his 2013 and 2014 squads, have struggled down the home stretch. This talk is one all too common in a once-proud program that has only made a national championship game appearance once in the last 25 years.
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