We’re just one week into the season, but there are some college football coaches who should already be watching their backs.
Week 1 saw a few crazy games, especially in the prime time spots after the normal Saturday slate. While one game is entirely too few to make a program-altering move, a few coaches that entered the year on thin ice saw some further melting after the early results.
Not all of our hot seat coaches lost in Week 1, some pulled out wins but still have work to do. Others did not help themselves in any way.
5. Kliff Kingsbury – Texas Tech
2017: 1-0 (56-10 win over Eastern Washington)
2016: 5-7 (3-6 Big 12)
Career: 25-26 (13-23 Big 12)
Kingsbury is a Texas Tech alumnus, and has fielded explosive offenses that the program has grown accustomed to. An up-tempo attack can make it difficult to keep the other team out of the end zone at times, but Tech’s defenses under Kingsbury have been historically bad.
In 2013, Kingsbury’s first year as Texas Tech head coach, the defense ranked 88th in the nation in scoring. Since, in the same category, the Red Raiders have ranked 126th, 125th, and last season, dead last at 128th in the country in the same category.
Texas Tech didn’t have the toughest opening week game, but Eastern Washington has an explosive offense at the FCS level and has caught other FBS programs sleeping before. The Red Raiders held the Eagles to just 10 points and 301 total yards. One win over an FCS program doesn’t mean everything is solved at Texas Tech, but it was definitely a step in the right direction. The Red Raiders gave up 35 points to Central Arkansas in 2014, and 45 to Sam Houston State in 2015. Still, the defense will need to get some stops against Big 12 teams, and probably be good enough to get Tech back to a bowl, for Kingsbury to keep his job.
4. Butch Jones – Tennessee
2017: 1-0 (42-41 two-overtime win over Georgia Tech)
2016: 9-4 (4-4 SEC)
Career: 81-48, 31-21 at Tennessee (14-18 SEC)
Jones entered the 2016 season with his most experienced, and likely most talented Tennessee team. Many considered the Volunteers the favorite to win the SEC East, and the team had some mild College Football Playoff buzz entering the season.
He wound up with a 9-4 club, which was good enough to tie his 2015 season for his best record at UT. He was just 4-4 in conference play however, with rough losses to South Carolina and Vanderbilt on the road, as well as both SEC West crossovers (Alabama and Texas A&M). Instead of winning the East, Tennessee finished second in the division, ceding it to Florida even after beating the Gators 38-28 in September.
Jones has clearly been better than Derek Dooley, whose post-Lane Kiffin tenure at Tennessee was brutal. However, it does seem like the program has plateaued at a sub-SEC East title level, and should take a natural step back this season, with the loss of guys like Josh Dobbs and Derek Barnett from last season. Beating Georgia Tech was a nice first game. Quarterback Quinten Dormady acquitted himself pretty well and running back John Kelly looked like a star. The Vols probably don’t have division title expectations this year, but falling back down close to .500 might imperil Jones’s job once again, and in the SEC, that is always a risk.
3. Tyson Summers – Georgia Southern
2017: 0-1 (41-7 loss to Auburn)
2016: 5-7 (4-4 Sun Belt)
Career: 5-8 (4-4 Sun Belt)
Georgia Southern has not been an FBS program for that long, but that doesn’t mean that the Eagles don’t have very specific traditions and beliefs that they adhere to as a program, and it also doesn’t mean that fans will back off of extremely high expectations.
Tyson Summer’s first year in Statesboro clearly didn’t meet those expectations.
For those who aren’t following the middle of the Sun Belt, Georgia Southern has consistently run a high-powered triple-option attack throughout its program history, to a lot of success. The program has an all-time record of 368–177–9, and won six national titles at the FCS level. In 2013, as an FCS school, the Eagles beat Florida on the road, and captured the Sun Belt in 2014, it’s first year in the league, with a 9-3 record and undefeated 8-0 mark in conference play.
Willie Fritz left the Eagles for Tulane after the 2015 season, and GS brought in Summers, who had served as defensive coordinator at Georgia Southern. His lack of background in the option concerned some, but he guaranteed that he would stick to the offense that had brought Southern to the point that it was competing as one of the better Group of Five programs in the country in relatively short order. He hired coordinators with more of an air raid background, and the option-based team fell from first in rushing offense in 2015 to 29th in 2016. The advanced numbers are far more stark: according to SB Nation’s Bill Connelly, GS’s Rushing Offense S&P, a measure of efficiency and explosiveness, fell from No. 9 in the country to No. 117 in one year. A loss to Auburn in Week 1 doesn’t mean much, but early Sun Belt games against Arkansas State and rival Georgia State could be incredibly important for his future.
On its face, a 5-7 record for a first year coach in a Group of Five conference probably doesn’t raise many alarm bells, but a quick search of some outlets around Statesboro and those that cover the Sun Belt paint a very clear picture of a coach firmly on the hot seat.
2. Scottie Montgomery – ECU
2017: 0-1 (34-14 loss to James Madison)
2016: 3-9 (1-7 AAC)
Career: 3-10 (1-7 AAC)
The Week 1 games have not played a huge factor in the hot seat status for the first three coaches on this list. That is not the case for Montgomery at all.
A 3-9 2016 was not great, but it is very hard to find reason to fire a coach after one year. The Summers situation outlined above is very unique, and he kept his job despite some pressure as early as last November. Montgomery wasn’t getting a ton of hot seat talk entering the year outside of the standard slice of every fan base that is unhappy with the coach. However, losing by 20 to an FCS school will get you on that list every time.
ECU was absolutely crushed in every aspect of the game on Saturday. James Madison is among the best teams in the FCS and has defeated FBS teams before, but rarely does a team playing up a level do what the Dukes did to ECU. JMU outgained Montgomery’s club 614-362, including a 422-70 yard edge in the rushing game, and forced four turnovers while only giving the ball up twice.
The situation that Montgomery entered doesn’t help matters, at least among fans. He was given the job after Ruffin McNeil was controversially fired by his alma mater. McNeil stepped in after Skip Holtz’s departure for USF, and after two sub-.500 years in 2010 and 2011, he went 8-5 and won the Conference USA in 2012. In 2013, McNeil’s Pirates went 10-3, including a Beef O’Brady’s Bowl win. In 2014, the Pirates took a step up to the AAC, and went 8-5 again. All it took was one 5-7 year in 2015 for McNeil to be fired, and that season included single-score losses at Florida, at BYU, vs. USF, and vs. Cincinnati.
McNeil’s ouster was controversial when it happened, and Montgomery certainly hasn’t elevated what has been a very good Group of Five school at all. Unless he sparks a huge turnaround, losing to JMU might have been the beginning of the end.
1. Kevin Sumlin – Texas A&M
2017: 0-1 (45-44 loss to UCLA)
2016: 8-5 (4-4 SEC)
Career: 79-39, 44-22 at Texas A&M (21-19 SEC)
It would be hard to write a better start to Sumlin’s Texas A&M tenure. After leading the Houston Cougars to a 12-1 record, Sumlin took over the Aggies, and immediately led the program to its first double-digit win total since 1998. With dynamic redshirt freshman quarterback Johnny Manziel under center, A&M went 11-2, with single-digit losses to Florida and LSU, beat Alabama, and won a thrilling Cotton Bowl against Oklahoma. Manziel become the first freshman to win the Heisman, donations poured into the school, and A&M had the look of a team that might really shake up the SEC after jumping from the Big 12.
Things have not been bad for A&M, all things being equal, since that first Sumlin season. They just haven’t come near that level of success again. The Aggies slid to 9-4 the following year, and are now sitting on three straight 8-5 seasons. They haven’t finished above .500 in SEC play since 2012. It isn’t just losses to Alabama or LSU either. Sumlin has dropped a number of games against lesser SEC opponents, and have lost two straight bowl games (Louisville in the 2015 Music City Bowl, Kansas State in the 2016 Texas Bowl.)
Sumlin entered the year on an extremely hot seat, and after Week 1, things have absolutely erupted.
The Aggies dominated UCLA on the road at the Rose Bowl for three quarters, before allowing one of the craziest comebacks in college football history.
After leading 44-10 with just over two minutes to go in the third quarter, Bruins quarterback Josh Rosen led UCLA to 35 unanswered points in just over a quarter.
A nice road win on the West Coast would have satiated Aggie fans for at least a few weeks. After getting embarrassed on national television, many have seen all that they needed to see to determine that Sumlin should be out.