The ACC Coastal is a complete mess and easily one of the messiest divisions in all of Power 5 football. Yet, I can’t see any of those coaches being fired at the end of the 2019 season unless Virginia Tech completely implodes at the end of the season.
On the flip side; NC State and Boston College easily have coaches with seats heating up while Florida State’s Willie Taggart needs to knock off Miami and play well against Florida to give Coach Taggart another season. If FSU drops to a 6-6 record with wins over ULM, rebuilding Louisville, struggling Boston College and FCS Alabama State- that’s a weak resume.
Boston College could easily finish 8-4, 6-6 or 4-8. Their schedule finishes up with Syracuse, FSU, Notre Dame and Pitt. NC State finishes the season with ranked Wake Forest, Clemson, Louisville, Georgia Tech, and UNC. The only given should-win on that schedule is Georgia Tech and we saw what they were able to do against Miami so don’t count Geoff Collins’ Jackets out just yet.
Who is safe?
The teams that won’t be getting rid of their coach: UNC, Virginia, Miami (even if you think they should), Pitt, Duke and Georgia Tech from the Coastal. Clemson, Wake Forest, Louisville, and Syracuse from the Atlantic.
So who is on the hot seat in the ACC? Virginia Tech at 57th per the SP+ and NC State which is ranked 58th per the same metric. First, the Hokies. Virginia Tech ends their season with Notre Dame, Wake Forest, Georgia Tech, Pitt and UVA. They could easily drop four of those five games and finish 6-6, again. With two FCS teams on their schedule I believe they have to win seven games to be bowl eligible.
The Wolfpack’s remaining schedule was listed above, but Dave Doeren is going to have to prove his tenure is as strong as many have said. He’s actually been as successful as Chuck Amato but it hasn’t had the same feeling as when Amato was in Raleigh. Boston College’s Steve Addazio is also on the hot seat. Addazio’s Eagles will have to finish up with seven or eight wins for him to keep his job. If the Eagles finish with six or less I can see this being the end of the an era at BC.
If Boston College does open look for Ricky Rahne, the Penn State offensive coordinator, as a potential replacement for Addazio. Rahne doesn’t have head coaching experience but he’s a well known and well liked high level assistant under James Franklin. The Nittany Lions are currently 8-0 and Rahne has put his own signature on the offense with a new quarterback and in life after Saquon Barkley.
If some how Virginia Tech does open up coaches will be clamoring to get to Blacksburg now that they’re no longer following Frank Beamer. The Hokies are in a situation where a new coach could come in and win 8-10 games right away in a down ACC. Dave Clawson might want a step up from Wake Forest, Josh Heupel, and Luke Fickell could all be viable options with prior head coaching experience.
In Tallahassee, I think Willie Taggart gets one more season. It’s hard to coach offense without an offensive line and Taggart has not only proven he’ll shake up the staff to win (See: Briles, Kendal; Leavitt, Jim) but that he’s making chicken salad from chicken poop a bit on offense. He needs to land a big time quarterback and obviously bolster up that offensive line this off-season or he’s toast.
Potential domino moves around college football
They don’t call it silly season because it’s a calm, safe, predictable environment. This could be one of the wildest off-seasons in college football history. Free agents are out there like Urban Meyer just looking to pluck a spot at powers like with the USC Trojans out in Los Angeles. Meyer is already working for FOX which has always had a strong hold in Los Angeles and with new owner Disney that won’t change.
The Big Ten
Rutgers will probably pick up Greg Schiano while Lovie Smith’s job is safe at Illinois with the 4-4 season they’re currently having. In the Big Ten the largest question looming is whether Mark Dantonio “retires” at the end of the season. Michigan State (4-4) is currently ranked 29th per the SP+ but the offense is ranked 85th and at some point the Spartan faithful have to move away from the rumor mill and boring football surrounding the program. That opening could go to a variety of people from Iowa State’s Matt Campbell to Cincinnati head coach Luke Fickell or a surprise hire like PJ Fleck or Willie Fritz.
In the end if MSU does open up, I think Luke Fickell would be a great hire for the program. His Bearcats still play great defensive football but their offense is a little more fun than the Spartans 3-yard and a could of dust method for the past decade plus.
The Pac-12 and SEC
I can’t see any other Pac-12 teams letting go of their coach this season, but the 2020 off-season could be a little more interesting heading into the 2021 football season.
The SEC on the other hand could become a complete mess if a few moves take place. If Vanderbilt lets go of Derek Mason, the dominos could start rolling with someone like Herb Hand taking over as the head coach in a return to Nashville. Hand is a well respected offensive mind who has coached at major stops like Penn State, Texas, West Virginia, and Auburn. South Carolina, Tennessee, Ole Miss, Mississippi State, and Arkansas could all be looking for new coaches this off-season.
Let’s assume Tennessee gives Jeremy Pruitt one more season. Will South Carolina give another go to Will Muschamp? Maybe not if they can pick up a coach before other SEC programs cut bait a year later. One program changing head coaches could get the boosters at other programs to want the same change before it’s too late.
Arkansas can always afford Chad Morris’s buyout because Jerry Jones could drop the money on a new coach. The Razorbacks are struggling and Tulane’s Willie Fritz is a viable option for them. Fritz has coached all over the country and couple bring his shotgun triple option offense to the SEC which is a headache to game plan against and defend.
Muschamp might be safe in Columbia, SC for one more season but Matt Luke should be out at Ole Miss. However, he’s very connected to the Oxford community and that might buy him one more season. Some ‘hot’ names out there from Group of 5 programs that could lure a firing are Josh Heupel at UCF, Mike Norvell at Memphis, Jeff Monken at Army West Point (don’t count him out at 3-5), Skip Holtz at Louisiana Tech who is obviously very well connected, and Bryan Harsin is a shoe-in for a big job whenever he wants to leave Boise State.
The Big 12
The Big 12 feels pretty safe with Les Miles winning some games and agreeing to modernize the offense mid-season. I can only really see jobs shaking up if coaches take something else such as: ISU’s Matt Campbell to Michigan State or Baylor’s Matt Rhule to the NFL.
Other openings that could shake things up
Even without all of the potential P5 openings (Ole Miss, South Carolina, Michigan State) coming up, some schools are going to be wanting a new head coach for 2020. UNLV will have their first chance to recruit with their new football facility and the upcoming Las Vegas Raiders dome to play in. I would think that Tony Sanchez has worn out his welcome and there are coaches that are unpredictable who could drop down from the P5 for that job like Mike Leach.
Old Dominion could be looking for a new coach, too. The Monarchs are upgrading facilities and are in a prime recruiting area. This could be a great launching off point for a Phil Longo (UNC offensive coordinator) or Ivan Jasper (Navy offensive coordinator) to get their first head coaching openings.
USF will be open and coaches could see the potential in the Bulls if the admin is willing to build a football-only facility on campus that would serve as an in-door practice facility, weight room, offices and nutrition center. Think of up-and-coming names like Phil Longo, Kenny Dillingham, or Ricky Rahne (he could be up for an even bigger job like Vanderbilt or South Carolina if that opens).
A Boston College what if could be a name like Ricky Rahne. If Rahne, the current offensive coordinator at Penn State, wanted to stay in the northeast where he’s become very familiar with the recruiting landscape but could also be a great fit at Colorado State (he’s a native of Colorado) which will open up, as well.
There are also names like Craig Bohl (he keeps winning at once-hapless Wyoming), Lane Kiffin (obviously a well known coach), Jason Candle (Toledo), Dave Aranda (LSU defensive coordinator), Bill Bedenbaugh (Oklahoma co-offensive coordinator), Jeff Hafley (co-DC at Ohio State), or Kevin Wilson (OC at Ohio State). The NFL and FBS are hiring younger and younger coaches making a Sean Gleeson (OC at Oklahoma State), Graham Harrell (OC at USC) or Alex Grinch (DC at Oklahoma) attractive hires as well.
It’s still (mostly) all just rumor and innuendo right now as the only major job open is Rutgers and calling that major is a stretch. However, it only takes a bad loss here or domino there to open the flood gates and to watch the dominos fall into place around college football. If someone like South Carolina or Tennessee were to pull the trigger it could case many programs to start shuffling to match that move, or to replace their head coaches or coordinators.
Let the silly season begin, but don’t expect it to blow through Coral Gables any time soon. Manny Diaz will be given three years at the helm, no matter who FSU hires or if Dan Mullen can win in Gainesville.