by Rob Joyce
It’s the time of year when five to seven teams are playing (or waiting) for their College Football Playoff lives. But for another, much larger, chunk of programs all eyes are on 2018 and beyond as the coaching carousel is underway. In the Power 5 conferences there have already been enough headlines to last an entire offseason, including one unfortunate saga in the SEC.
As of Tuesday there are seven available Power 5 gigs open. Here’s where they rank in terms of viability:
The Vols had their guy in Greg Schiano, but social media nixed the deal and may have cost the university millions in the process. Schiano and athletic director John Currie signed a memorandum of understanding, but an uproar came as the former Rutgers and Buccaneers coach was a former assistant at Penn State during the Sandusky years. Despite the fact that the current Ohio State defensive coordinator was never charged (or even deposed), had someone under oath deny he had any knowledge and he passed two thorough background checks in Tampa Bay and at Ohio State, he won’t be the coach.
Even taking out the fact that the Vols went 0-8 in SEC play, most interested coaches are likely looking elsewhere.
6) Oregon State:
The Beavers went 1-11, narrowly beating FCS school Portland State, and outside of a 36-33 loss to Colorado and a 15-14 loss to (Bryce Love-less) Stanford, every defeat was by at least two touchdowns. They haven’t been to a bowl game since 2013 and are in a division with Washington, Stanford, on-the-rise Oregon and Washington State. This is going to be quite a rebuild.
The Razorbacks are looking for a football coach while also searching for a new athletic director, as both were fired within the last few weeks. Arkansas finished 4-8 in 2017, including a 1-7 finish in SEC play. It’s the first time since 2013 the program finished below .500, but they’ve also never surpassed the eight-win mark, which never goes over well in SEC country.
Unfortunately for them Auburn, Alabama and LSU aren’t leaving the SEC West anytime soon.
There isn’t a whole lot of drama here. Scott Frost was the former Nebraska quarterback, going 24-2 as a starter and winning a share of the 1997 national championship. The same Scott Frost took over a UCF team that went 0-12 in 2015, took them to a bowl game in 2016, and now they are 12-0 going into a conference title game in 2017. He said this week he would be “hurt” if Nebraska wasn’t interested in him.
The job is likely his, but he’s inheriting a 4-8 team that allowed 54 or more points five times, including each of the last three games. The bright spot is that the Huskers are in the Big Ten West, which offers far more room for growth than the Ohio State-Michigan-Michigan State-Penn State occupied East division.
3) Arizona State:
Todd Graham wasn’t beloved in Tempe, but he took the Sun Devils to five bowls in six years, and ASU finished second in the Pac-12 South, including a win over Washington. A much-maligned defense vastly improved this year, and though there is still work to do there are some pieces in place. Quarterback Manny Wilkins will be a senior and their top three receivers are all back. There’s a decent foundation here.
2) Mississippi State:
The Bulldogs had a weird year, blowing out LSU, getting blown out by Georgia and Auburn, getting a major challenge from UMass, then nearly beating Alabama. What makes the search in Starkville different from all the others is that they didn’t fire Dan Mullen – he left to become the head man at Florida. The program has won eight or more games in three of the last four years and they’ve made a bowl every season this decade.
1) Texas A&M:
A bowl game win would mark the third time in the last four years the Aggies won eight games, but Kevin Sumlin went 1-9 in that span against Alabama, Auburn and LSU, the big boys in the SEC West. Still, if your biggest issue heading into a new job is that they can beat everyone except perennial powers, as opposed to having trouble winning games against anyone, that’s a good gig to get. But the message is clear – eight wins every year isn’t enough.