It’s the first week of April and I’m already looking ahead to the 2018 coaching carousel (one of my favorite things about the college football season). As teams hit the middle of spring practice, here’s a quick refresher on five coaches who could be feeling the heat in 2018.
Kliff Kingsbury, Texas Tech
When people talk about Kliff Kingsbury, his looks are usually the first or second thing brought up in the conversation. While it’s easy to get lost in his eyes, don’t let that distract you from the fact that Kingsbury is 30-33 in five seasons in Lubbock, hasn’t finished more than a game above .500 since his first year at the helm or had a winning record in conference play.
Kingsbury was supposed to return the program to the success it achieved under Mike Leach a decade ago, but, has been unable to put together any respectable defenses to go with his high-powered offenses. A Texas Tech alum, Kingsbury has a longer leash than others might in his position, but it seems like it’ll keep getting shorter.
Ed Orgeron, LSU
Going from interim head coach to permanent head coach in 2016, Orgeron a great recruiter is beloved by his players. But, LSU deciding to keep him after the 2016 season has never made sense to me. Les Miles, his predecessor, was fired in part because he hadn’t been able to beat Nick Saban since 2011, yet somehow the athletic department thinks Orgeron fares better against Alabama?
While going 9-4, LSU’s offense was still pretty bad in 2017, and the Tigers lost at home to Troy while beating just one FBS opponent that finished with a winning record in the regular season (Auburn). In my opinion, Orgeron needs an impressive showing–especially on offense–in 2018 to prove his bosses made the right hire.
Gus Malzahn, Auburn
Speaking of Auburn, their head coach makes the list. Sounds crazy, especially after a season in which Auburn beat Alabama and was ranked in the Top 5 in the last week of the season. The Tigers lost the SEC Championship Game to Georgia by three touchdowns, a team which it had thrashed just weeks prior 40-17, then, got beat by UCF in the Peach Bowl (I know, you can make the argument Auburn didn’t want to be there).
Here are the facts, though: 2017 was the fourth straight season in which Malzahn had finished with four or more losses. Auburn has to replace its best offensive player in running back Kerryon Johnson, and when he was out last year the Tigers’ offense went stagnant. Malzahn’s 2013 year was almost an aberration because of two miracle plays, so I’m still not convinced he’s good yet.
There was also talk Arkansas was going to try to hire him at the end of last season, and reportedly was prepared to offer him $50 million over seven years. It also seems like Malzahn is unsure of what his bosses think of him, and that potential difference in opinion may cause the two sides to fracture.
Jim Harbaugh, Michigan
Unless the Wolverines go winless, it’s highly unlikely they’d part ways with Harbaugh in 2018. But the fact remains Harbaugh is 0-3 against Ohio State and has yet to win a division title, let alone a conference title. Michigan has to play at Notre Dame, Michigan State and Ohio State this fall, in addition to hosting Penn State and Wisconsin. You almost have to think Harbaugh needs to go no worse than 3-2 in those five games to silence the critics.
The expectations have been so high in his three years in Ann Arbor that it’s only fair to hold him to them. A lot rides on whether or not prized quarterback transfer Shea Patterson is ruled eligible for 2018, so it’ll be an interesting lead up to fall camp. Harbaugh was brought in to win and compete on a national level, and so far, he’s failed to do so.
David Beaty, Kansas
This one is almost so obvious I didn’t really think I should put it on here. But Beaty’s three seasons at KU have gone 0-12, 2-10 and 1-11 with a 1-26 record in conference play. It’s hard to blame Beatty since you can make the argument that Kansas is probably the worst Power 5 job in college football right now.
Also, Beaty’s predecessors Charlie Weis and Turner Gill went 6-22 and 5-19, respectively. Barring an unforeseen turn of events, it sure seems as if Beatty, a former assistant at Texas A&M, is a dead man walking, and the cycle of the Jayhawks hiring a new coach to turn around their dismal program will start all over again.