South Carolina’s football team has plenty of issues, but a coach on the hot seat isn’t one of them. That’s not the case for the teams on the Gamecocks’ upcoming schedule.
On Saturday, South Carolina goes to College Station, Texas, where Texas A&M fans are calling for the head of Aggies coach Kevin Sumlin. That’s just the start of a series of games where South Carolina could add to the pressure the opposing coach is feeling.
Here is my ranking of the Southeastern Conference coaches based on exactly how hot their seat is one quarter of the way through the season:
Kevin Sumlin, Texas A&M
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When the athletics director says before the season that the coach “knows he has to win … this year” and that coach opens the season by blowing a 34-point lead in the second half, it’s going to be tough to get off the top of this list. The Aggies coach is one bad loss away from being on his way out the door, and Texas A&M is a 9.5-point favorite against the Gamecocks this week.
Butch Jones, Tennessee
The Vols have improved in Jones’ five seasons, but they can’t get over the hump. Tennessee lost to Florida this year and last week slipped by UMass, 17-13. UMass is 0-5 this season and No. 111 in the nation in ESPN.com’s Football Power Index. Here’s what the Vols have coming up in the next three weeks: at home against Georgia, at home against South Carolina and at Alabama.
Bret Bielema, Arkansas
Arkansas would owe Bielema $15.4 million in buyout money if he’s fired before 2018. That number goes down by $4 million if they can wait that long, but at this rate they might not be able to. After Saturday’s overtime loss to Texas A&M, Bielema is 26-28 with the Razorbacks. He’s yet to win more than eight games in a season.
Gus Malzahn, Auburn
An Auburn team that welcomed a transfer, five-star quarterback and brought in offensive coordinator Chip Lindsey was supposed to at least give Alabama some legitimate competition in the SEC West. Instead, the offense went nowhere against Clemson and scored 24 points against Mercer.
Ed Orgeron, LSU
Yes, he’s only been the full-time coach for four games, but this already feels like a bad hire. Orgeron has two things going against him in the evaluation process. No. 1, his failed tenure at Ole Miss will be held against him, fairly or not. Also, his coordinators – Matt Canada on offense and Dave Aranda on defense – are considered among the best in the nation, so he can’t fire those guys to buy himself time or everyone will know it’s a panic move.
Mark Stoops, Kentucky
The Wildcats found another way to lose to Florida last week ending what had been an unbeaten start. Stoops gets credit for trying to build a football program at a basketball school and will get extra time since no one worries too much about football after Midnight Madness.
Matt Luke, Ole Miss
Luke is in a no-win situation. He’s a hastily hired interim coach presiding over a team that is about to get hammered by NCAA sanctions. Still, it’ll be too easy for the administration to push him out if he doesn’t do something really big this year. Losing to Cal last week didn’t help.
Barry Odom, Missouri
The second-year coach made an impassioned defense of himself and his staff this week. He made many accurate points, but it’s a terrible sign when the coach is doing that four games into the season. In its three Power 5 games this year, Missouri has been outscored 117-30.
Jim McElwain, Florida
It is patently unfair that a man who has won the division in both of his seasons as Gators coach could be the subject of any sort of speculation in Year 3, but this is the SEC. McElwain isn’t going anywhere soon, but his inability to get the offense turned around and lackluster recruiting the past two years has Gators fans grumbling. Having a number of front-line players facing felony charges doesn’t help either.
Dan Mullen, Mississippi State
We have reached the point in the list where everyone is safe. Mullen is plugging along in his ninth year with the Bulldogs. He’s coming off a humbling 31-3 loss to Georgia, but he’s 64-43 in Starkville and coaching quarterbacks very well.
Derek Mason, Vanderbilt
This might seem low for a man coming off a 59-0 loss to Alabama, but no one should have expected the Commodores to compete in any way with the Crimson Tide. Overall, Mason is moving things in the right direction at Vanderbilt, a place where breaking even will keep his job and modest success will be celebrated in the streets.
Will Muschamp, South Carolina
Gamecocks fans are grumbling after a 17-16 win over Louisiana Tech, and South Carolina’s offensive struggles will cost Muschamp in the court of public opinion because of his history as a head coach. Still, Muschamp’s job is as safe as almost anyone’s in the league. Athletics director Ray Tanner loves him, which is the most important thing. There’s also clear, if too slow for some, progress in the area of program building.
Kirby Smart, Georgia
In Smart’s second year, the Bulldogs look like the second-best team in the SEC. Georgia’s defense is very good, and its offense is getting by with a true freshman quarterback. It’s not impossible to imagine Georgia finishing the regular season undefeated. Of course, its reward for that would be getting smacked in the mouth by Alabama and the coach who holds the safest spot on this list.
Nick Saban, Alabama
No explanation needed.