Wake up. September has ended and college football is hurtling toward the halfway mark. Several high-profile programs have coaches on hot seats. Most of the embattled can cool those seats by winning football games. If not, there will be some attractive jobs open headed into the 2018 season.
Athletic director Shawn Eichorst was fired for hiring Mike Riley. That does not bode well for the current Cornhuskers coach. At 3-2, the only thing that could save this lame-duck session is a surprising conference run. Even then, the die may already be cast. Lincoln is no longer the destination it once was, but still affords coaches the ability to recruit top talent and sell a brand name. More importantly, a notoriously weak Big Ten West provides an easy path to conference titles and, potentially, the playoff. Next year’s schedule is rough. Ohio State, Wisconsin, Iowa, and Northwestern are home games in 2019 — the ideal situation.
Prediction: Central Florida’s Scott Frost returns to the site of his former glory, re-installs the triple-option and Nebraska routinely finish first or second in the West for the next decade.
Ed Orgeron has a winning personality and a winning pedigree as an interim head coach. As The Man, though, things haven’t gone smoothly. Saturday’s loss to Troy raises serious questions. Any answer will include the pesky issue of Orgeron’s $12 million buyout. Perhaps he rallies the troops and some semblance of a reliable offense emerges. For now, things seem bleak.
And that’s the damning part of LSU’s recent struggles. They get the best recruits in the country. They’ve had future NFL superstars. They play winning defense. All of these things are simply routinely wasted. In 2018, the Tigers open with a neutral site game against Miami and get Alabama and Georgia at home. A trip to Austin looms in 2019.
Prediction: Orgeron keeps the job, goes 8-4 next year and we’re back here in the same spot, wondering aloud if he’s the guy.
Butch Jones has molded some Champions of Life. He hasn’t molded any actual champions. After Saturday’s massacre at the hands of Georgia, it’s a genuine surprise he hasn’t been axed. Good for him. Every day is a gift. But don’t count on the Volunteers turning things around in any meaningful way.
It’s beginning to feel a lot like Groundhog Day in Knoxville as high expectations are woefully underachieved year after year. In 2018, the Vols have a neutral site game against West Virginia and get Florida and Alabama at home. Auburn, Georgia, Vanderbilt, and South Carolina are the SEC road dates. There have been more difficult schedules. Whomever is at the helm will have a shot to win 9 games and restore order. The non-conference slate in 2019 is also extremely soft.
Prediction: Jones is out midseason. Dan Mullen jumps from Mississippi State and gets to 10 wins in 2019.
4. Texas A&M
Let’s be perfectly clear here. Kevin Sumlin is a Josh Rosen miracle away from being 5-0. Yet he can’t get a even a tepid endorsement from university brass. Trouble is brewing and Alabama is headed into town to hang a 40-point beatdown on Sumlin’s door.
The Aggies’ 2018 slate is imposing from the start. They play Clemson and Alabama before the last week of September. On the bright side, the crossover games against the East are very winnable (Kentucky, Ole Miss, at South Carolina).
Prediction: A&M will do Sumlin wrong and cut bait after a 9-win season. They’ll aim way too high and end up with Chad Morris, who will produce at the same Sumlin level but be applauded for it.
The Cougars are 1-4 and have been embarrassed by LSU, Wisconsin, and Utah State. The sole win came in a sluggish home game against Portland State. Kalani Sitake is 10-8 in his tenure. BYU has taken a step backward.
The job brings unique challenges and unique perks. 2018 figures to be brutal with Wisconsin, Washington, Utah and Boise State on the schedule. So does 2019 as Tennessee and USC loom.
Prediction: Sitake stays on until 2020 despite posting a losing record.
Don’t laugh. Missouri is still an attractive program despite recent setbacks on and off the field. Barry Odom is 5-11 at the helm, a far cry from the Gary Pinkel days when the Tigers blitzed through a surprised SEC East. That division remains consistently inconsistent and ripe for a competent team to rip though. Soft non-conference schedules the next three years should facilitate bowl games and possibly more.
Prediction: Odom is out at season’s end and the university puts a full-court press on Les Miles before going with the second option, Mike Norvell of Memphis. Missouri strings together some 7-5 and 6-6 years but doesn’t ascend to the top of the division.