Heat check: College football coaches' hot seats already burning up after Week 2
From hot to scorching and cool to warm, the first two weeks of the season have been interesting
As Chip Kelly's shadow looms over the college football world, the first two weeks of the season have brought clarity to the job status of some, cranked up the heat on others and allowed a few to breathe easier after getting off to fast starts.
Who has helped themselves, hurt themselves and coached their way into more security during the first two weeks of the season?
Coaching to get his job back
Kevin Sumlin, Texas A&M: Sumlin entered the season on one of the hottest seats in America, and the opening night debacle in Pasadena, California, essentially got him fired. When after blowing a 34-point, third-quarter lead, you're moved off the hot seat and to the scorching seat -- where only a miraculous turnaround will keep you employed. Basically, you're coaching to earn your job back.
Sumlin doesn't have the team to do that. Instead of showing fight, the Aggies struggled with FCS Nicholls State last week in a 24-14 win. That's an indictment of the leadership in College Station, Texas, the mindset of the players and the immediate direction of the program. With quarterback Nick Starkel out, neither freshman Kellen Mond nor senior Jake Hubenak looking like the answer and an offensive line that hasn't come together, where is the hope in Aggieland?
(Hint: There isn't any.)
If things continue to look bleak, that'll be when Texas A&M makes its move to get out in front of the pack in the coaching silly season. At this point, no buyout will stand in the way if Sumlin isn't cutting it.
This seat is on fire
Brian Kelly, Notre Dame: The Fighting Irish are at a crossroads, following the 20-19 loss to Georgia in Week 2 in which the Bulldogs not only started a true freshman at quarterback, but filled South Bend like Irish fans flocking to the premiere of a fictitious "Rudy" sequel.
What's more, he had no answer to an honest question from a reporter following the game, and chose to lash out instead of handling it like ... you know ... a professional?
"Obviously you made a ton of changes, changed the culture, everything," a reporter asked during the postgame press conference. "But obviously, you lost and at the very end, kind of like last year, seven of eight losses, how do you ..."
"What's the question?" Kelly cut her off.
"I'm getting to it," the reporter responded.
"Well, get to the question," Kelly said.
"How do you keep this from snowballing?" the reporter asked.
"It's not going to snowball. Next question," he said.
"Well, what exactly will be different, I guess," the reporter followed up.
"There's nothing different. I go to work every day, and I coach my football team," he said.
Excuse me? Nothing different?
People can argue whether Kelly was in the wrong, the reporter's question was too wordy or it led too much into the desired answer. The reality is that Kelly's actual answer -- harsh or not -- is incredibly concerning. If nothing is going to change, why should the expectation for Notre Dame football?
Stubbornness gets you canned, and Kelly's stubbornness coupled with the malaise of a fan base and administration that has to be getting sick of anonymity has made things very interesting in South Bend -- hefty buyout notwithstanding.
Gus Malzahn, Auburn: How do you go from Sugar Bowl to maligned in two games? Make your fan base and administration think they've been lied to. That's where Malzahn finds himself, following the 14-6 loss to Clemson in which Auburn gained just 117 yards, quarterback Jarrett Stidham was sacked 11 times and the play-calling was Malzahn-esque. It wasn't supposed to be this way.
New offensive coordinator Chip Lindsey was brought in to provide a different voice to a system that hadn't packed the punch it once had over the last two seasons.
"He understands our core offense," Malzahn said of Lindsey at SEC Media Days in July. "He is very good with the passing game with the RPOs. He's a developer of the quarterback. I got trust in him. He's going to do this thing and do it very well. So it's kind of the transition of being a head coach, being a head coach at this level, in this league. It's a little bit different than other leagues."
Except the transition seemingly didn't happen. Nothing changed. Auburn had its game plan against Clemson -- run Kamryn Pettway and take shots deep -- and didn't stray off it despite short and intermediate routes being open all night. As is the case with Kelly, the level of stubbornness is perplexing on the Plains.
Auburn's defense is, and has been, one of the best in the country under second-year coordinator Kevin Steele. If that success gets wasted because Malzahn can figure things out on the side of the ball that got him the job in the first place, see ya.
Bret Bielema, Arkansas: At some point, shouldn't Arkansas at least be relevant in the SEC West race? Bielema inherited a mess after the ill-fated John L. Smith disaster, but through four seasons the Razorbacks should be better than a seven-win regular-season team.
Judging from last weekend's 28-7 home loss to TCU, that's not only what they are now, it's what they'll continue to be.
What's more, TCU flat-out owned the line of scrimmage against a Hog team that prides itself on being physical. If you aren't good at the one thing you're supposed to be good at, what exactly do you plan on being good at?
Bielema hasn't topped Texas A&M during his tenure in Fayetteville. With a bye week leading up to the Southwest Classic and the current state of Texas A&M's program, it's imperative that Bielema finally gets that win. If he doesn't, with South Carolina, Alabama, Auburn and Ole Miss during the month of November, things could get dicey despite that $15.4 million buyout.
Jim Mora, UCLA: How do you coach yourself off the hot seat? Orchestrate a 34-point comeback after halftime in front of your home crowd on national television certainly helps. That was Mora did on the opening Sunday night of the year against Texas A&M, and followed it up with a 56-23 win over Hawaii.
Of course, that could change in a hurry -- especially if the Bruins fall at Memphis this weekend. For now, Mora has made the program relevant again, quarterback Josh Rosen has vaulted back into the thick of the Heisman Trophy race and the Bruins look like USC's primary threat in the Pac-12 South.
Wait and see
- Butch Jones, Tennessee: A 2-0 start is great, but let's see what happens this weekend at Florida and beyond.
- Todd Graham, Arizona State: Consecutive double-digit win seasons in 2013 and 2014 seem like they occurred a decade ago.
- Barry Odom, Missouri: Remember when the Tigers used to play defense?
- Rich Rodriguez, Arizona: Finished higher than fourth in the Pac-12 South once since 2012.
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