College Football Preview 2017 Part 1: Coaches

Fall camp is underway across the country, which means the season is finally around the corner! This year I have split the season preview into four parts: Coaches, Rosters, Schedules, and Projections. First up we’ll take a look at coaching, how it impacts a team’s success, how much turnover can be expected year-to-year, and how intertwined coaching ties have become at the Power 5 level.

Win/expectation rate

This value represents the rate which a coach wins games compared to their expectation, in terms of win probability. The input data is the most recent 4 seasons which a coach has led his current team, weighted towards the most recent seasons. If a coach has been with his team for fewer than 4 seasons, then his full tenure with the current team is used.

As an example, Paul Chryst* has the highest win/expectation rate among active coaches, at .3212. This means that Chryst increases Wisconsin’s win probability relative to their roster strength by approximately .32 standard deviations. By default, all coaches in their first year with a team start the season at zero and the rate adjusts after each game.

Coaches on the bottom end of the spectrum are likely to be fired without marked improvement. For reference, the lowest win/expectation rate in 2016 was Charlie Strong at Texas, with a rate of -.3126.

The inherent bias in this scale favors coaches who don’t recruit as strongly but win a lot of games, and penalizes coaches who recruit very strong rosters. This is why you don’t see names like Nick Saban or Urban Meyer near the top of this list (their recruiting prowess will be recognized in the Rosters preview).

*This high win expectation rate at Wisconsin tends to exist regardless of who is their current head coach, suggesting that recruiting ranking services are undervaluing Wisconsin prospects.

Highest win/expectation rates heading into 2017:


School Coach Win/Expectation Rate
Wisconsin Paul Chryst 0.3212
Air Force Troy Calhoun 0.3189
Navy Ken Niumatalolo 0.3128
Tulsa Philip Montgomery 0.2796
Appalachian State Scott Satterfield 0.2496
Troy Neal Brown 0.2251
West Virginia Dana Holgorsen 0.2242
Utah Kyle Whittingham 0.2187
Washington State Mike Leach 0.2159
BYU Kalani Sitake 0.2120
Virginia Tech Justin Fuente 0.2051

Lowest win/expectation rates:

School Coach Win/Expectation Rate
East Carolina Scottie Montgomery -0.1735
Missouri Barry Odom -0.1748
Massachusetts Mark Whipple -0.1870
Kansas David Beaty -0.1933
Texas State Everett Withers -0.2029
Georgia Kirby Smart -0.2090
Rutgers Chris Ash -0.2252
Notre Dame Brian Kelly -0.2438
Charlotte Brad Lambert -0.2516
UCLA Jim L. Mora -0.3007
Virginia Bronco Mendenhall -0.3094

It’s not realistic to say a coach is actually on the hot seat in year 2 so most of these guys don’t belong in that conversation just yet, though if they under-perform expectations again their names may come up in that discussion next year. Brian Kelly and Jim Mora, on the other hand, desperately need to have a successful 2017. It’s interesting to see BYU with one of the highest rates and their former coach Bronco Mendenhall with the lowest rate. Another year will shed light on whether he is a good fit at Virginia.

New coaches

FBS coaching turnover rate is typically around 22 coaches per year, and 2017 falls right in line with 23 coaches starting their first season with their team. The lowest number of new coaches to start a season since 1987 was 11 in 1988 followed by 12 in 2006. The highest number of new coaches was 33 to start the 2013 season.

Team New Coach Coach’s Previous Stop
Baylor Matt Rhule Temple, Head Coach
California Justin Wilcox Wisconsin, DC
Cincinnati Luke Fickell Ohio State, co-DC
Connecticut Randy Edsall Detroit Lions, staff
Florida Atlantic Lane Kiffin Alabama, OC
Florida International Butch Davis North Carolina, HC (2010)
Fresno State Jeff Tedford Washington, staff
Georgia State Shawn Elliott South Carolina, OL
Houston Major Applewhite Houston, OC
Indiana Tom Allen Indiana, DC
LSU Ed Orgeron LSU, DL & interim Head Coach
Minnesota P. J. Fleck Western Michigan, Head Coach
Nevada Jay Norvell Arizona State, PGC
Oklahoma Lincoln Riley Oklahoma, OC
Ole Miss Matt Luke Ole Miss, OC
Oregon Willie Taggart South Florida, Head Coach
Purdue Jeff Brohm Western Kentucky, Head Coach
San Jose State Brent Brennan Oregon State, WR
South Florida Charlie Strong Texas, Head Coach
Temple Geoff Collins Florida, DC
Texas Tom Herman Houston, Head Coach
Western Kentucky Mike Sanford Jr Notre Dame, OC
Western Michigan Tim Lester Purdue, QB


Iowa is the only FBS program to have the same coach since 2000. Houston and Georgia Southern have experienced the most coaching turnover in that time, each with 7 different head coaches during the Kirk Ferentz era at Iowa.

Next Man Up (Power 5 only)

In order to prepare for inevitable turnover, athletic directors across the country need to have a list of names ready to go should a replacement be needed on short notice. Here are some names that are likely to be in the conversation for Power 5 openings in 2018, as well as candidates with ties* to each Power 5 school:

Available Big-Name coaches:

Art Briles– Fired amidst scandal at Baylor. At age 61 and carrying recent baggage, it is unlikely that Briles will land a head coaching gig again, but a desperate program may take a flyer on him at OC.

Jeff Fisher– Most recently coached the Los Angeles Rams in 2016, Fisher has never coached outside of the NFL. At age 59, he may be content to stay out of coaching, but it wouldn’t be surprising to see his name floated around for high-profile college openings.

Hugh Freeze– Very recently let go at Ole Miss, Freeze may be a little toxic for a year or so. However, if Bobby Petrino can bounce back from his incident, Freeze should be able to as well. Freeze is only 47 years old; he’ll be back in coaching one day.

Jim Grobe– Last seen as Baylor’s interim coach in 2016, but at age 65 is probably not a viable head coaching hire anymore.

Mark Helfrich– Fired from Oregon after a disappointing 2016 season, but just 3 years removed from a national championship game appearance. Only 43 years old, Helfrich will definitely get another shot very soon.

Chip Kelly– Possibly the biggest name out there at the moment. Kelly will be mentioned for every high profile college and NFL opening until he accepts an offer. At 53 years old, he’s got plenty of years left in the tank.

Les Miles– Fired mid-season 2016 at LSU, but Miles is still very much a viable head-coaching candidate and has expressed interest in wanting to get back in the game ASAP. He’ll turn 64 this fall, but Miles would be a great get for a program looking to make a quick splash in recruiting.

Bo Pelini– Currently the head coach for FCS Youngstown State, but Pelini is way too good of a coach to stay at that level for long. He’s only 49 years old, and last year took the Penguins to the FCS championship game. He won 9 or 10 games in each of his 7 seasons as Nebraska’s head coach.

Bob Stoops– Recently retired from Oklahoma and has publicly stated he wants to enjoy his retirement, but programs will definitely attempt to lure Stoops back into the game. He’ll turn 57 this season.

Jim Tressel– Currently the president at Youngstown State. It seems like if Tressel was going to get back into coaching it would’ve happened for the 2017 season, as his show-cause penalty expired in December 2016. He’s 64 years old, so it’s difficult to imagine a high-profile program chasing him, but this would be a very splashy hire for anyone looking to get a little publicity.

Tommy Tuberville– Most recently fired from Cincinnati, Tuberville may not grab another head coaching gig at age 62, but would be an appealing addition to a staff for recruiting purposes.

Team Current Coach Replacement Candidate & connection
Alabama Nick Saban Dabo Swinney, Clemson head coach- former Alabama player & WR coach
Arizona State Todd Graham Jay Norvell, Nevada head coach- former Arizona State PGC
Arizona Rich Rodriguez Dino Babers, Syracuse head coach- former Arizona OC
Arkansas Bret Bielema Gus Malzahn, Auburn head coach- former Arkansas OC
Auburn Gus Malzahn Jimbo Fisher, Florida State head coach- former Auburn QB coach
Baylor Matt Rhule Philip Montgomery, Tulsa head coach- former Baylor OC
Boston College Steve Addazio Doug Martin, New Mexico State head coach- former Boston College OC
California Justin Wilcox Hue Jackson, Cleveland Browns head coach- former California OC
Clemson Dabo Swinney Chad Morris, SMU head coach- former Clemson OC
Colorado Mike MacIntyre Pat Fitzgerald, Northwestern head coach- former Colorado GA
Duke David Cutcliffe Scottie Montgomery, East Carolina head coach- former Duke OC
Florida Jim McElwain Geoff Collins, Temple head coach- former Florida DC
Florida State Jimbo Fisher Kirby Smart, Georgia head coach- former Florida State GA
Georgia Kirby Smart Mike Bobo, Colorado State head coach- former Georgia OC
Georgia Tech Paul Johnson Jeff Monken, Army head coach- former Georgia Tech RB coach
Illinois Lovie Smith Paul Petrino, Idaho head coach- former Illinois OC
Indiana Tom Allen Rod Carey, Northern Illinois head coach- former Indiana player
Iowa Kirk Ferentz Bret Bielema, Arkansas head coach- former Iowa player & LB coach
Iowa State Matt Campbell Chris Ash, Rutgers head coach- former Iowa State DB coach
Kansas David Beaty Dave Doeren, North Carolina State head coach- former Kansas co-DC
Kansas State Bill Snyder Brad Lambert, Charlotte head coach- former Kansas State player
Kentucky Mark Stoops Neal Brown, Troy head coach- former Kentucky OC
Louisville Bobby Petrino Jeff Brohm, Purdue head coach- former Louisville player & OC
LSU Ed Orgeron Frank Wilson, UTSA head coach- former LSU RB coach
Maryland D.J. Durkin Mike Gundy, Oklahoma State head coach- former Maryland PGC
Miami FL Mark Richt Mark Whipple, Massachusetts head coach- former Miami FL OC
Michigan State Mark Dantonio Pat Narduzzi, Pitt head coach- former Michigan State DC
Michigan Jim Harbaugh D.J. Durkin, Maryland head coach- former Michigan DC
Minnesota P. J. Fleck Everett Withers, Texas State head coach- former Minnesota DC
Mississippi State Dan Mullen Mark Hudspeth, Louisiana-Lafayette head coach- former Mississippi State PGC
Missouri Barry Odom Dirk Koetter, Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach- former Missouri OC
Nebraska Mike Riley Scott Frost, Central Florida head coach- former Nebraska player & GA
North Carolina Larry Fedora Blake Anderson, Arkansas State head coach- former North Carolina OC
North Carolina State Dave Doeren Doc Holliday, Marshall head coach- former North Carolina State WR coach
Northwestern^ Pat Fitzgerald Kevin Wilson, Ohio State OC- former Northwestern OC
Notre Dame Brian Kelly Skip Holtz, Louisiana Tech head coach, former Notre Dame OC
Ohio State Urban Meyer Tom Herman, Texas head coach- former Ohio State OC
Oklahoma Lincoln Riley Seth Littrell, North Texas head coach- former Oklahoma player
Oklahoma State Mike Gundy Larry Fedora, North Carolina head coach- former Oklahoma State OC
Ole Miss Matt Luke Tom Allen, Indiana head coach- former Ole Miss LB coach
Oregon Willie Taggart Chris Petersen, Washington head coach- former Oregon WR coach
Oregon State Gary Andersen Kalani Sitake, BYU head coach- former Oregon State DC
Penn State James Franklin Matt Rhule, Baylor head coach- former Penn State player
Pitt Pat Narduzzi Mike Norvell, Memphis head coach- former Pitt  co-OC
Purdue Jeff Brohm Kevin Sumlin, Texas A&M head coach- former Purdue player & WR coach
Rutgers Chris Ash P.J. Fleck, Minnesota head coach- former Rutgers WR coach
South Carolina Will Muschamp Shawn Elliott, Georgia State head coach- former South Carolina co-OC
Stanford David Shaw Willie Taggart, Oregon head coach- former Stanford RB coach
Syracuse Dino Babers Tim Lester, Western Michigan head coach- former Syracuse OC
TCU Gary Patterson Justin Fuente, Virginia Tech head coach- former TCU co-OC
Tennessee Butch Jones Dave Clawson, Wake Forest head coach- former Tennessee OC
Texas A&M Kevin Sumlin David Beaty, Kansas head coach- former Texas A&M WR coach
Texas Tom Herman Major Applewhite, Houston head coach- former Texas player & co-OC
Texas Tech Kliff Kingsbury Mike Jinks, Bowling Green head coach- former Texas Tech RB coach
UCLA Jim L. Mora Brent Brennan, San Jose State head coach, former UCLA player
USC Clay Helton Mike Riley, Nebraska head coach- former USC OC
Utah Kyle Whittingham Gary Andersen, Oregon State head coach- former Utah DC
Vanderbilt Derek Mason Mike MacIntyre, Colorado head coach- former Vanderbilt player#
Virginia Bronco Mendenhall No obvious candidate with ties to school
Virginia Tech Justin Fuente Bud Foster, current Virginia Tech DC
Wake Forest Dave Clawson Troy Calhoun, Air Force head coach- former Wake Forest OC
Washington Chris Petersen Jim L. Mora, UCLA head coach- former Washington player & GA
Washington State Mike Leach James Franklin, Penn State head coach- former Washington State TE coach
West Virginia Dana Holgorsen Todd Graham, Arizona State head coach- former West Virginia co-DC
Wisconsin Paul Chryst Justin Wilcox, California head coach- former Wisconsin DC


*Incredibly, every Power 5 program except Virginia and Virginia Tech has ties to a current head coach in either the NFL or at another FBS program. Note that the viability of candidates with ties to a school may not be great, this is just an illustration of how intertwined the coaching community is today.

^The only active head coach with Northwestern ties is Jim Caldwell with the Detroit Lions. At age 62, Caldwell seemed less likely than Wilson (age 55) as a candidate which would be mentioned as a viable replacement.

#MacIntyre eventually transferred to and graduated from Georgia Tech, but began his college playing career with Vanderbilt.


BoW projected wins results

Prior to the start of the season I’d listed expected wins for all 128 FBS teams. Now that the season is over it is time to take a look at how those projections fared (all win totals referring to regular season only; excludes conference championship games):

Correct win total: 22

Off by 1 game: 33

Off by 2 games: 39

Off by 3 games: 15

Off by 4 games: 8

Off by 5 games: 6

Off by 6 games: 5

Over/Under correct picks: 61/128

Essentially, these picks are distributed close to normal:


Though I would’ve liked to see a higher number in the (-1,1) range, I am pleased that the distribution errs on the narrower side of the distribution, which implies the results are better than a normal distribution would expect to show. I’ll spend the off-season investigating why there is a spike in differences of +/- 2 games.

The most interesting aspect of large deviations from expected wins is the impact it has on head coaches. Here are the head coaching changes made so far this year, compared to where their teams fell related to expectations:

Fired coaches

Cincinnati: 3 wins below expectation (expected 7; actual 4)

Florida Atlantic: 2 wins below (5; 3)

Florida International: As expected (4; 4)

Fresno State: 3 wins below (4; 1)

Georgia State: 2 wins below (5; 3)

Indiana: As expected (6; 6) *Fired due to off-field situation

LSU: 2 wins below (9; 7)

Nevada: 1 win below (6; 5)

Oregon: 5 wins below (9; 4)

Purdue: 1 win below (4; 3)

San Jose State: 2 wins below (6; 4)

Texas: 1 win below (6; 5)

The only fired coaches who met on-field expectations were Florida International (whose low expectations are an indictment on the coach’s lack of acquisition/development of talent) and Indiana (who fired their coach for reasons independent of wins and losses). Even though some coaches were barely below expectations this year, they have been falling short for several years prior to this season as well (e.g. Purdue and Texas).

On the other end, these head coaches were hired-up due to exceeding expectations:

Tom Herman, Houston: 1 win above (8; 9)

Willie Taggart, South Florida: 3 wins above (7; 10)

Matt Rhule, Temple: 2 wins above (7; 9)

Jeff Brohm, Western Kentucky: As expected (9; 9)

It should be noted that Tom Herman was 4 wins above expected in 2015, Matt Rhule was 3 above in 2015, and Jeff Brohm was 4 above in 2015. These all contributed to elevated expectations that each coach was still able to meet or exceed in 2016.

How can this be used going forward?

The data from 2016 can be used to project who will be hot commodities and who will be on the hot seat in 2017. Coaches who found themselves on the extreme ends of this curve who remain with their 2016 teams are as follows:

Way Below Expectations (4 or more games; excluding first year coaches)

UCLA (-6) Jim Mora

Michigan State (-6) Mark Dantonio

Northern Illinois (-5) Rod Carey

Notre Dame (-5) Brian Kelly

Rice (-4) David Bailiff

Arizona (-4) Rich Rodriguez

Buffalo (-4) Lance Leipold


Way Above Expectations (4 or more games)

Colorado (+6) Mike MacIntyre

Western Michigan (+6) P. J. Fleck

Tulsa (+5) Philip Montgomery

Troy (+5) Neal Brown

Wisconsin (+5) Paul Chryst

West Virginia (+4) Dana Holgorsen

Wyoming (+4) Craig Bohl

Army (+4) Jeff Monken

Eastern Michigan (+4) Chris Creighton







Coaching Carousel Picks Up Speed

Purdue decided to throw their hat in the ring today for what looks to be a very active coaching carousel this off-season by relieving Darrell Hazell of his duties. Though the timing of this move is a bit surprising, it would’ve been more surprising had Purdue not made a change before 2017. Hazell has been a massive disappointment in West Lafayette, putting up a record of 9-33 in 3.5 seasons. Where can Purdue look for a replacement? Here are a few options, some more realistic than others:

Tom Herman, Houston: I mean, Purdue has to at least make the call to Herman’s agent. It would be an absolute heist if Purdue swayed Herman to coach the Boilers next season.

Les Miles, formerly LSU: Big name, but way too late in his career to start over at a place that will take a few years to rebuild. Might help Purdue with recruiting in the short-term, but this would not be a stable choice long-term.

PJ Fleck, Western Michigan: Typically this would be a realistic and solid choice for Purdue, but with many high-profile jobs opening this year, Fleck will likely have better options.

Ken Niumatalolo, Navy: Someone needs to call this guy. He does more with less better than anyone in the country. He probably has a better current situation than anything that Purdue can offer but it is absolutely worth a shot.

Scott Satterfield, Appalachian State: Great with QBs, which was Purdue’s identity before their post-Tiller decline. Satterfield will get picked up by someone soon, and this would be an excellent choice for Purdue if they can get there first.

My Pick Mike Leach, Washington State: Flashy offense, fiery personality; a shock to the system that Purdue desperately needs. Leach is 55 years old, so this has long-term potential. The Big Ten West would have to prepare for the Air Raid in between their weekly slog fests. This would be fun, different, and a little risky, but has a very high ceiling. Purdue needs to make this happen.

Scott Frost, UCF: Frost is probably waiting on Oregon to open up (which may also happen this year), but his offense would cause similar headaches in the Big Ten West as Leach’s.

There are a number of coordinators that Purdue could realistically grab, but they’re in a situation where they need a name and a more proven commodity. Danny Hope and Darrell Hazell were busts, the third attempt has to be right or the hole to dig out of may become insurmountably deep.


Mid-Season Coaching Changes Outlook

One of the metrics I use in determining win probability is coaching efficiency, which is essentially measuring how often coaches win/lose when their roster has more/less talent than their opponents. This metric provides an easy to interpret guideline for which coaches are outperforming their talent (and may be sought by other teams in the off-season) and which are under-performing and may find themselves on the hot seat in the near future. First, the most efficient coaches:

Ken Niumatalolo, Navy: Consistently does more with less better than anyone in the country. Navy’s huge win over Houston Saturday should finally put Niumatalolo on the lists of this season’s higher profile job openings. Expected position next year: Most likely will remain at Navy, though he will get some Power 5 offers. Played and was a GA at Hawaii and had a brief stop at UNLV, otherwise has spent his career with Navy. At age 51, still has plenty of years left in him. Look for some west coast schools to give him a call.
Tom Herman, Houston: In just 1.5 years as a head coach, Herman has become the nation’s hottest name. Has connections in southern California as a player, and all over Texas as a coach, including a GA position with the Longhorns. If Charlie Strong is fired, Herman is likely their first choice. Expected position next year: Head coach at Texas. Only 41 years old and plenty of familiarity with local recruiting, this is an easy choice for both parties.
Paul Chryst, Wisconsin: A former Wisconsin QB, Chryst  returned home last year and has the Badgers performing at a high level. After losing Bielema to Arkansas and Andersen to Oregon State, Wisconsin is unlikely to let this one get away so easily. Expected position next year: Chryst will stay at Wisconsin for a long time.
Troy Calhoun, Air Force: Like the other service academies, Air Force runs a unique offense which suits their personnel very well. Calhoun is a former Air Force QB and has been their head coach since 2007. He seems unlikely to leave, but hasn’t really popped up on any Power 5 radars yet. Expected position next year: Head coach at Air Force.
P. J. Fleck, Western Michigan: Fleck has been on the rise for years, and currently has the Broncos on track for an undefeated season and potential NY6 bowl appearance. He is in his 4th year at WMU and is only 35 years old. Has connections in the Big Ten, and very likely will have some choices amongst the Power 5 after this season. Expected position next year: South Bend, Indiana isn’t too far from Kalamazoo…Notre Dame could do a lot worse than PJ Fleck. Purdue should absolutely try to get him, but Fleck likely will have better options. My best guess is PJ Fleck is the head coach for the Irish next season.
Kyle Whittingham, Utah: Played at BYU and has coached in the state of Utah nearly his entire career. Whittingham is 56, so if he doesn’t make a move soon he likely finishes his career with the Utes. Some other PAC12 schools would be well-served to give him a call should they decide to make a change. Expected position next year: If he makes a move, my best guess is he goes to USC. Though I’d be surprised if he doesn’t stay at Utah the rest of his career.
Scott Satterfield, Appalachian State: Played for App St in the 90s, and was their QB coach for their mid-2000s dynasty. Satterfield is only 43 years old, and will have plenty of offers come his way in the near future. Look for a team that needs to help developing quarterbacks to give him a call. Expected position next year: This may not be the splashy hire LSU fans think they should make, but Satterfield would be a great choice for what they need help with the most. My best guess is that he ends up coaching the Tigers in Baton Rouge next season.

The next list of coaches are greatly under-performing their roster talent, and may soon be looking for a new position. These are the coaches with the lowest score in my efficiency metric (excluding coaches in their 1st or 2nd year, with one exception):

Brian Kelly, Notre Dame: Kelly has under-performed the roster talent level every year since taking the Irish to the national championship game in 2012. He hasn’t had a bad year until now, however, so he may stick around for another year. But if ND thinks they can get a guy like Fleck to come aboard now, they may need to put their long-term prospects above all else.
Charlie Partridge, Florida Atlantic: In 3 years he has under-performed their roster talent in every season as the Owls head coach. This might imply he has been recruiting well and the future is brighter, but back to back 3-9 seasons followed by a 1-5 start this year may spell the end for Partridge.
Chuck Martin, Miami OH: A former long-time Brian Kelly assistant, Martin has struggled as a head coach. Some guys are just meant to be great coordinators, and that may be where Martin will find the most success going forward.
Mark Whipple, UMass: Whipple holds the same record as Partridge over the past 3 years. UMass may be more patient with football as the school’s secondary sport, but things will need to turn around soon to stay the course with Whipple.
Clay Helton, USC:   Former AD Pat Hadenput USC into a horrible situation by signing Helton to a long-term, expensive contract. Year 1 has been a disaster for a roster loaded with talent. With a new AD in place the Trojans may look to make a move, if they can afford it.
Trent Miles, Georgia State: Miles got off to a disastrous start, with just 1 win over his first 2 years. 2015 looked promising, going 6-6 in the regular season before dropping the bowl game to San Jose State, but 2016 has regressed back to the basement with just a 1-4 start. A close loss at Wisconsin may be promising enough to keep this ride going, but the wins really need to start coming soon.
Charlie Strong, Texas: The Charlie Strong experiment at Texas has largely been a failure. With rumors already swirling that he will be ousted at season’s end, it is very difficult to see a scenario where the Longhorns don’t make a move. Having Herman just down the road can’t make matters better for Strong.


Tom Herman Sweepstakes Begins

I’d considered writing this last week, but thought it was too early in the season to speculate about coaching vacancies. Well, Les Miles was fired by LSU today so it is certainly appropriate to open up the discussion of which coaches are moving up and which coaches are moving out.

It may seem a bit knee-jerky to get rid of Miles today, as LSU is 2-2 with losses to top 10 Wisconsin in a pseudo road game and at Auburn who is also 2-2 with both of their losses to top 10 teams. However, this has been a long time coming and puts LSU in the driver’s seat for reaching out to the hottest name in the country, Houston’s Tom Herman. Herman will undoubtedly have a litany of teams to choose from come December, so let’s take a look at some of the most likely places for him to end up.

Early Favorites



  • Extremely fertile recruiting base with the entire state to themselves (as far as Power 5)
  • Loaded roster, can win right away
  • Rabid fan base and administrative support with track record of a long leash (Miles was in his 12th season in Baton Rouge)
  • SEC West coaches get paid extremely well
  • Familiar geography for Herman, as he has spent 13 of his 19 year coaching career in Texas
  • No need to worry about being left out of the playoffs with an unbeaten record


  • Entering the deepest division in FBS, where the reign of Saban doesn’t appear to be too close to ending
  • Expectations will be to win immediately



Herman could have left after last season, but chose to sign an extension that pays very well for a non-Power 5 position, a tag that may soon be dropped as Houston is on the very short list of candidates to join the Big XII in the near future. However, if Houston remains a mid-major and gets left out of the playoffs this year with an unbeaten record, perhaps Herman decides he needs to make a change

Emerging Candidates

Notre Dame

They’re making coaching changes already too, and at 1-3 with a handful of difficult games remaining it isn’t hard to imagine the Irish missing out on a bowl game in 2016. Would that be enough to make a change at the top? Expectations are high in South Bend, and 2012 feels like ancient history to Irish fans after 3+ years of being underwhelmed since.


The post Chip Kelly era has not gone as well as hoped for the Ducks, and in year 4 Helfrich is sitting at a disappointing 2-2. Imagining Herman at Oregon has to be terrifying to the rest of the Pac12.


In his 18th season with the Sooners, Bob Stoops has developed a reputation as a guy who can no longer win the big ones; starting the season 0 for 2 in the big ones has been a loud reminder of that notion. This one has a very John Cooper-like feel to it; wins a lot but never when it matters most. Plus Oklahoma has seen first-hand what Herman is capable of, and they have to think hard about whether they want to go against him for the next decade in the Big XII if Houston joins or if he ends up at…


Charlie Strong has been on the hot seat seemingly since he arrived in Austin, but in year 3 maybe has finally started to get things going in the right direction. The Longhorns are ranked, but have an early loss against a not-that-great Cal team and are giving up an avalanche of points against Power 5 competition. The Notre Dame win has lost most of its luster in the past 2 weeks as well. Texas really needs a strong showing in conference play to justify extending the Charlie Strong Experiment another year. The urgency to make a move may prove too much though with Herman just down the road.


The Trojans are a mess, having dropped their first 2 games in conference accompanying a nationally televised bludgeoning at the hands of Alabama to open the year. Clay Helton looks like a disastrously bad hire, but with a new AD in place it may be determined that USC can’t afford not to make a change. This is USC and their head coach is…Clay Helton? That just isn’t good enough for a program of this caliber.

Long Shots

None of these are at all likely landing spots yet, but will be noted just in case circumstances take a turn in their direction.

Dallas Cowboys

There hasn’t been much speculation on Herman going to the NFL, but Dallas needs a good season to justify not making a change and Jerry Jones has a flair for making a splashy move. The hottest coach in college football residing in the same state may be very tempting.


Chizik was fired two years after winning a national title. Auburn has the quickest trigger finger in the country and has to be getting tired of watching Saban increase the number on Bama’s display helmet.

Penn State

James Franklin has been largely unimpressive in Happy Valley. With Meyer, Harbaugh, and Dantonio in the same division it looks like he’ll be competing for 4th place indefinitely. How much longer will that low bar be acceptable for the Nittany Lions?