The No. 1 spot on the College Football Hot Seat list isn’t reserved for SEC coaches, it’s just worked out that way.
Thank the intense pressure nearly every coach in that conference feels on a weekly basis as well as how some of their teams have performed this season.
But the heat one SEC coach is feeling is more than the rest of his league mates combined.
An abysmal shutout loss at home to Georgia has pushed Tennessee coach Butch Jones closer to termination. The Vols have a bye, so could a change be coming this week?
Jones isn’t the only coach who should be checking his phone for a text from the boss, though. Five weeks into the 2017 season has given many athletic directors enough information to decide whether they should start looking into search firms or making coach wish lists.
Coaches on this list are ranked in order of their likelihood not just to get the boot during the season, but also to be sent packing first, and it’s heavily influenced by recent results. That’s why Missouri’s Barry Odom and Georgia Southern’s Tyson Summers, both of whom were on byes, have been given a one-week reprieve.
College Football Hot Seat Rankings
7. Kalani Sitake, BYU
2017 record: 1-4
Record at school: 10-8 (2 nd season)
Last week’s ranking: Not ranked
Kalani Sitake wasn’t BYU’s first choice to replace Bronco Mendenhall when he surprisingly left for Virginia after the 2015 season. The school wanted Ken Niumatalolo but he opted to stay with the Navy program he’s built into a perennial winner.
Sitake is a BYU alum who played fullback for the Cougars in the 1990s, long before they thought it was a good idea to become an independent. If they were still in the Mountain West Conference, at least there would be plenty of weak opponents to help get things back on track, unlike this year.
BYU is riding a four-game losing streak, the latest a 40-24 setback at rival Utah State. It had scored 19 points in the previous three games and for the season is averaging 12.6 points per game, a far cry from the high-scoring Cougars teams of the past.
6. Kevin Sumlin, Texas A&M
2017 record: 4-1, 2-0 SEC
Record at school: 48-22 (6 th season)
Last week’s ranking: 4th
After Texas A&M blew a 31-point lead to UCLA in the opener, Kevin Sumlin’s days in College Station seemed numbered. Since then all the Aggies have done is win, albeit not impressively.
Texas A&M is going to end up 9-3. That is going to be a sticky, sticky situation.
— Dan Wolken (@DanWolken) October 1, 2017
The 24-17 home win over South Carolina on Saturday required a rally from 10 points down late in the third quarter, this after A&M trailed Arkansas by two touchdowns early in a double-overtime victory. Prior to that were uninspiring wins over two non-SEC opponents.
Basically, A&M could just as easily be 1-4 or 5-0 or any combination in between and Sumlin would be in the same situation. His team hasn’t looked as good as it should, but all wins count the same in the standings.
5. Scottie Montgomery, East Carolina
2017 record: 1-4, 1-1 American
Record at school: 4-13 (2 nd season)
Last week’s ranking: Not ranked
Firing the defensive coordinator didn’t work, so what’s left for Scottie Montgomery to do to keep a once-solid East Carolina program from continuing to crater?
Since Kenwick Thompson was fired (after his defense allowed 90 points during an 0-2 start), the Pirates have given up 64, 38 and 61 points, respectively. East Carolina managed to win that middle game, Week 4 at Connecticut, but that doesn’t make up for yielding 125 points in the other two.
Montgomery’s last stand could be coming during the next few weeks, depending on how East Carolina fares against a pair of opponents (Temple on Friday and BYU on Oct. 21) that have been offensively challenged this season. If either manages to light up the scoreboard, that could be the end of the line for the first-time head coach.
4. Gary Andersen, Oregon State
2017 record: 1-4, 0-2 Pac-12
Record at school: 7-22 (3 rd season)
Last week’s ranking: Not ranked
Gary Andersen got the dreaded vote of confidence on Thursday, with Oregon State athletic director Scott Barnes telling The Oregonian’s Ken Goe, “We have the right leader in place.” Barnes probably felt good about that statement at halftime, with the Beavers trailing 7-0 to sixth-ranked Washington.
Then the second half happened, and the Oregon State teams we’ve seen most weeks under Andersen came out of the locker room. The Beavers were outscored 35-7 to record their fourth loss of at least 29 points this season.
It won’t get any easier for Andersen. Next up is a trip to USC, which will want to take out its frustrations after losing at Washington State, making Oregon State’s 16 th straight road loss almost a certainty.
3. Larry Fedora, North Carolina
2017 record: 1-4, 0-3 ACC
Record at school: 41-29 (6 th season)
Last week’s ranking: 6th
North Carolina has experienced a rash of injuries so bad you wouldn’t wish it on your worst enemy, with at least 13 players out for the season, including top wide receiver Austin Proehl. That’s certainly contributed to the Tar Heels’ worst start in 10 years, but it’s only part of the problem.
Most of the blame falls on Larry Fedora, and he knows it:
Larry Fedora after this, today: “It boils down to me. I've got to do a better job of coaching."
— Andrew Carter (@_andrewcarter) September 30, 2017
Fedora had North Carolina in the ACC title game less than two years ago, but that loss to Clemson began a run of 11 defeats in 20 games. And now Notre Dame is coming to town, the first of three ranked opponents during the next four weeks.
2. Sean Kugler, UTEP
2017 record: 0-5, 0-1 C-USA
Record at school: 18-36 (5 th season)
Last week’s ranking: 1st
UTEP had its best performance of the season, but the fact that came during a 14-point loss (35-21) to Army says a lot about how it’s gone for the Miners. While they allowed 353 rushing yards to Army’s option attack, their offense managed season highs in points and yards (262), so there wasn’t the lack of effort you might expect from a team going nowhere.
Sean Kugler isn’t likely to be coaching beyond this season, not with his athletic director retiring and the school actively looking for his successor. A new AD will want to start fresh, so Kugler is more or less a lame-duck coach and the goal now is for him to make it through the year.
Getting a win or two certainly would help in this area, but the options aren’t many. UTEP has only three home games left, starting next week against Western Kentucky (2-2), and it won’t be favored the rest of the way.
1. Butch Jones, Tennessee
2017 record: 3-2, 0-2 SEC
Record at school: 33-23 (5 th season)
Last week’s ranking: 3rd
Being the coach of the “ Champions of Life” isn’t as great as it sounds. Not when your team looks like it has given up on you.
Tennessee was beaten 41-0 at home by Georgia, its first time being shut out at Neyland Stadium since Sept. 17, 1994, against Florida. That came during a 1-3 start that prompted then-coach Phillip Fulmer to turn to a freshman named Peyton Manning at quarterback, and the Volunteers won seven of eight to finish the year and followed that with four consecutive 10-win seasons.
There’s no such easy fix for this Vols team, even with a bye before hosting South Carolina on Oct. 14. Tennessee has quit on Butch Jones and it’s unlikely things will soon get fixed, so a change seems inevitable.
Top Seat-Cooling Performance
Florida International 30, Charlotte 29
No, first-year Florida International coach Butch Jones wasn’t on the hot seat, far from it. The same can’t be said for Brad Lambert, the only coach in Charlotte’s young football existence, but even in defeat the heat he’s been feeling is much less so than a week ago.
The 49ers are 0-5 and have dropped eight in a row, but the team that missed a 49-yard field goal in the final minute showed far more spunk than in getting outscored 142-45 in the previous four games. Charlotte was shut out at home last week, prompting Lambert to make several changes to his coaching staff, and those moves seemed to have worked in some capacity.
Lambert’s job is far from safe, as it would be for anyone who is 16-35 in his fifth season. But for one week Charlotte didn’t look completely abysmal.
Hot Seat Game of the Week
Missouri at Kentucky (Saturday, Oct. 7; 7:30 p.m. ET)
At 1-3 and riding a three-game skid, Missouri is adding heat to second-year coach Barry Odom’s seat on a weekly basis. So it goes when you open with 72 points against an FCS school and then get outscored 117-30 by the next three foes, two from the SEC and all at home.
Kentucky could be 5-0 had it remembered it needed to have 11 players on the field for every defensive snap. Instead the Wildcats are about as shaky a 4-1 squad as you’ll find, their narrow 24-20 win over Eastern Michigan not fostering much confidence in the program’s direction during coach Mark Stoops’ fifth year.
A win here won’t necessarily provide much forward momentum for either, but it will still be preferable to how a loss would register with their respective fan bases.
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