Even if they aren't contenders for the College Football Playoff, every team has something to play for. Some are looking to improve from season to season, to groom young players into future stars, and earn a trip to an exotic bowl game. Other teams have even bigger things at stake—many have to play for their coach's job.
Every school and athletic director is different, and some coaches seem to float along despite their programs underachieving, while others have a very quick hook on coaching tenures. At time it can be impossible to know what coaches are in trouble, and which you can expect back on the sidelines for another year. However, here is our best estimation of the 10 coaches that really need to win this season to get off the hot seat.
10. Kyle Flood, Rutgers
Rutgers move to the Big Ten was an absolute no brainer. The American conference is a major drop-off from the five power leagues in almost every way, and Rutgers doesn't have any real history tying it to the schools in its former league. However, now that the program is entering a league and will see powerhouse opponents like Ohio State and Michigan on an annual basis, it has to prove that it brings more to the table than some TV sets. Kyle Flood looked to be doing an admirable job filling in for Greg Schiano in 2012, when he split with Syracuse, Louisville, and Cincinnati for the final Big East championship at 9-4, but last year's 6-7 campaign was a disappointment, and not a great sign for a program heading into a much more difficult situation.
Greg Schiano's final recruiting class was ranked No. 32 by Rivals. Flood was able to maintain that momentum with a 2012 class that ranked No. 24. Since then, Flood has put together classes ranked 45th, 57th, and this year's class is at 46th. With the other Big Ten schools primed to move in on Rutgers' valuable New Jersey recruits, Flood needs to shore things up quick. Luckily, he's an inexpensive option for the school, so that may help his cause for a while, though if he looks completely overmatched on the field in the Big Ten, Rutgers could consider a move.
9. Bret Bielema, Arkansas
In Bobby Petrino's final two seasons at Arkansas, he won 10 and 11 games, and finished in the top three in the brutal SEC West both years. Since the incident that led to his ouster, the Razorbacks went 4-8 (2-6 in SEC play) under interim coach John L. Smith, and bottomed out at 3-9 and winless in the SEC in the first season under Bret Bielema.
Firing a coach after two seasons may seem a bit rash, but if Bielema can't get things turned around quickly, Arkansas is in serious danger of falling way behind in the SEC. Alabama, LSU, Auburn, and Texas A&M are already far ahead of the Razorbacks, while Ole Miss has shown signs of solid improvement and serious recruiting under Hugh Freeze. Bielema probably doesn't need to worry about his job if he adds a few wins from last season, but another winless SEC season could doom him.
8. Randy Edsall, Maryland
Edsall did an incredible job building the UConn program from an FCS level school into one that could make a BCS game, albeit with the help of a poor Big East conference. Once he hit that high in Storrs, he couldn't wait to move on, taking the job at Maryland. Edsall's tenure, which began after the controversial firing of 10-year head coach and Terrapin alumnus Ralph Friedgen, who went 9-4 in his final season, did not start out well.
Edsall's first Maryland team went 2-10, and while his teams have improved every season despite recurring disastrous injuries, he still hasn't reached the level and Friedgen had the team at when he was fired. With Maryland moving to the Big Ten, the pressure is on for Edsall to accelerate Maryland's progress.
7. Todd Monken, Southern Mississippi
From 1997-2011, Southern Miss made a bowl game in all but one season. During that stretch, the program went 119-70. In 2012, Ellis Johnson took over for Larry Fedora, who took the job at UNC, went 0-12, and was summarily fired.
Last season, Todd Monken won one game at USM, a surprising final week 62-27 blowout of UAB. Monken has already been afforded more time than Johnson had, but this is clearly a proud mid-major program, and Monken may not be given a third year if 2014 isn't a significant improvement.
6. Brady Hoke, Michigan
The Brady Hoke era at Michigan got off to a fast start. His 2011 Wolverines went 11-2, won the Sugar Bowl, and perhaps most importantly, beat Ohio State. Since then, Michigan's recruiting has slowed down, the team's record has been an average 15-11 including a 3-5 mark in Big Ten play last season and two bowl losses, and they haven't defeated their archrival Buckeyes.
A bounce-back nine or 10 win season should take the pressure off of Hoke for a while, but if Michigan has another disappointing year, the pressure could seriously mount against Hoke.
5. Norm Chow, Hawaii
There isn't a lot of mystery behind why Chow appears on this list—his Hawaii teams have been very, very bad. In his first head coaching job, Chow has compiled a 4-20 record at Hawaii, which was 29-25 under Greg McMackin and 75-41 under June Jones before him.
Coaching at Hawaii brings unique challenges, but the program has a strong recent history, especially during the Jones years, and they can certainly do better than 4-20 by a long shot.
4. Tim Beckman, Illinois
Purdue, which is having a woeful stretch of football, garners most of the unfortunate headlines as far as bad Big Ten football programs though. Illinois is lucky to be in the same division as the Boilermakers, because they aren't very far ahead, and entering his third season Tim Beckman certainly needs to show some significant progress, or the Illini could be moving in a new direction.
After a solid stint at Toledo, Beckman has gone 6-18 through two seasons in Champaign, and has one Big Ten win to show for his efforts, a 20-16 victory at Purdue. With the additions of Maryland and Rutgers, the Big Ten has shuffled divisions, and the Illini will avoid yearly match-ups with Ohio State and Michigan, and continue to avoid Michigan State, which should make things a bit more manageable for Beckman.
3. Dana Holgorsen, West Virginia
For all of the effort that West Virginia put into the extremely awkward transition to Dana Holgorsen as head coach in 2011, the results have been largely disappointing. Holgorsen was hired as offensive coordinator and head coach-in-waiting, against the wishes of the late Bill Stewart, and after a mess that involved Stewart allegedly tried to have reporters dig up dirt on Holgorsen, the offensive guru wound up coaching the team in 2011.
That first year was a good one for the Mountaineers, who went 10-3 to win a share of the Big East, capping the season with a 70-33 shellacking of Clemson in the Orange Bowl. The next season WVU opened 5-0, and rose to No. 5 in the country before losing five straight. The Mountaineers would knock off Kansas and Iowa State to gain bowl eligibility, but they were run over by Syracuse in the Pinstripe Bowl, 38-14. 2013 was never as exciting—WVU went 4-8. Holgorsen's tenure in Morgantown began 15-3 after the October 6, 2012 win at Texas. Since that game, the Mountaineers are 6-14. The school certainly had far higher expectations when it forced itself into the Big 12. Holgorsen likely doesn't have a ton of rope left.
2. Mike London, Virginia
Mike London's tenure is a lesson in the difference between top recruiting and actual good coaching. London's first full recruiting class in 2011 ranked 25th in the country according to Rivals. That aspect of London's tenure took a while to slow down; his subsequent classes ranked 27th and 28th before a dip to 41st in 2014.
The writing is certainly on the wall for London and Virginia now, as he only had four verbal commitments so far this year. Despite bringing in top talent, London's managed just one winning year at UVA, and the team was the worst in the ACC last season at 2-10, and 0-8 in conference. The fact that he got another swing at it this season was a surprise to many. Without a bowl-eligible year, it will certainly be his last.
1. Will Muschamp, Florida
Florida is one of the two most bountiful states for high school football talent, and the University of Florida is the flagship, SEC school of the state. There is little excuse for a 7-6 season, but that can be excused as growing pains under a first year coach. An 11-2 record and Sugar Bowl berth in 2012 was more like the Gators, although a convincing loss to a banged up Teddy Bridgewater-led Louisville team definitely had UF fans smarting. A 4-8 season, like the Gators suffered in 2013, is almost unthinkable. A loss to FCS Georgia Southern is an outright disaster. Many Gator fans wanted Muschamp gone before the embarrassment on November 23. Now, Muschamp is likely a dead man walking unless he can engineer a serious turn around. Merely getting back to a bowl probably isn't enough, Gator fans expect to see an SEC East contender every season.