10 college football coaches under the most pressure heading into 2019

What offseason? At least, that’s got to be the mentality of our list of coaches facing the most pressure this year. Some are recent, high-profile hires for whom anything less than instant success will be considered a failure. Some have had time to develop their programs but have fallen short of expectations. Across the board, a lot of eyeballs — and not all friendly — will be on this group when it’s time to take the gridiron this fall.

For those betting on college football next season

Clay Helton, USC

This December, after a 5-7 finish to the season, Trojan fans and college football pundits alike were mystified when USC athletic director Lynn Swann hitched his wagon to Helton for another season. It was the worst finish for the Trojans since 2000 (the year before Pete Carroll went to Los Angeles) and one of only four seasons with fewer than six wins since 1961. In three full seasons as USC’s head coach, Helton has taken the Trojans to a Rose Bowl and a Cotton Bowl. For almost any other program, that would be considered coaching success, but USC is a program accustomed to being in the national title conversation every year. Anything short of a playoff berth in 2019 will be viewed as an abject failure (especially in light of the Kliff Kingsbury debacle that kicked off the Trojans offseason).

Chris Ash, Rutgers

The prospects for Rutgers couldn’t be more different than those at USC, and yet Ash hasn’t lived up to the comparatively meager expectations. The Big Ten is a tough conference — one which the Scarlet Knights joined fewer than five years ago — and to be sure, it can take a while for football programs with lesser pedigrees to catch up. But under Ash, Rutgers has looked like it barely belongs in the FBS, let alone the Power Five. Coming off a 1-11 season in 2018 and with just five FBS wins in his three years as head coach, Ash is in dire need of an uptick. This is a case where a multimillion-dollar buyout is likely keeping the coach in place for the time being, but if Ash doesn’t make great strides in turning the program around in Year 4, Rutgers will surely cuts its losses.

Jim Harbaugh, Michigan

After a season in which his team only narrowly missed a playoff berth, Harbaugh may not quite be on the proverbial hot seat…but the noise from the rafters is getting harder and harder to tune out. In 2019, Harbaugh will have to prove he can “win the big game,” a task that has often eluded the head coach since he led the Stanford Cardinal to an Orange Bowl win to end the 2010 season. Specifically, the Wolverines need to beat rival Ohio State for the first time in Harbaugh’s tenure. A 41-15 shellacking in the Peach Bowl, courtesy of Florida, left a stench that will carry over into next season unless Harbaugh can finally prove that he’s more than just a fixer — that he has what it takes to guide a team to a championship finish. Nothing less than a playoff spot will do in Ann Arbor.

Jeremy Pruitt, Tennessee

The stink of the Greg Schiano debacle, in which Tennessee fans railed so hard against his hire that Vols administration was forced to renege on the deal, still lingers in Knoxville. When Jeremy Pruitt got the gig a few weeks later, the same fans were supportive and seem to remain so despite a disappointing 5-7 finish in Pruitt’s first year. That will all evaporate quickly if the ex-Alabama defensive coordinator doesn’t produce a winning season in 2019, especially because the pieces are in the place. The Volunteers lost only a couple of seniors, return key performers at a multitude of positions and had an impressive signing day — so expectations will be high. Fair or not, SEC fan bases can turn on a dime, with the Volunteers’ among the most passionate.

Scott Frost, Nebraska

Frost is another second-year coach with something to prove. The Cornhuskers’ 0-6 start in 2018, which was the worst in program history, had some fans calling for Frost’s head despite the fact the ink on his contract had hardly dried. Considering the dismal inauguration to the Frost era, the fact that Nebraska finished 4-8 left a sense of optimism for the year ahead. The 2019 schedule is much more favorable — the Huskers will get their two toughest opponents, Ohio State and Wisconsin, at home. But this is a program with a proud tradition, big expectations and a definite sense of impatience in the wake of Mike Riley’s tenure. Should Nebraska suffer another slow start, or fail to show up for the midlevel Big Ten opponents, Frost’s favor will dry up in a hurry.

Gus Malzahn, Auburn

When Malzahn guided the Tigers to a BCS Championship berth in his first season, hype for the coach reached a fever pitch. Unfortunately it appears Auburn’s skipper may have peaked early. Subsequently, the Tigers have been, well, just OK. Sure, they’ve played in two New Year’s Six bowl games and won the SEC West in 2017. They’re also 2-6 in the postseason under Malzahn and followed up that stellar 2017 campaign with a dud this past year. After 2017, Auburn signed Malzahn to a reported seven-year, $49 million contract extension — a number that all but precludes a buyout. But this is the SEC. Stranger things have happened than an expensive coach getting the boot following a winning season. Malzahn should be ready for a 2019 in which his every move, every play call and every final score will be scrutinized.

Mack Brown, North Carolina

But, you say, Brown is a living legend who’s already proved he can win in Chapel Hill! That, of course, is exactly why Brown is under a fair amount of pressure before he’s even donned the Tar Heel colors for his second stint. Since Brown departed for Texas in 1998, after leading one of the most successful eras in North Carolina football history, the Tar Heels have struggled to stay relevant in the increasingly competitive ACC. Brown’s hiring isn’t just about the X’s and O’s — it’s a sentimental one as well. North Carolina’s fans and administrators alike are hungry to recapture the magic of Mack Brown, Part 1. There are plenty of hurdles to overcome. Brown hasn’t coached since 2013, and his final years at Texas weren’t successful ones. Additionally, this a full-blown rebuild: The Tar Heels have won a total of five games over the last two seasons. No one is predicting an overnight turnaround, but this was easily one of the most high-profile hires of the offseason, so a lot of eyeballs will be on Brown.

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By: Kate Rooney

10 things we learned from the college football season

The college football season is officially over. But that won’t stop some of us from watching Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney’s post-national championship press conference on repeat while listening to “Sweet Home Alabama” and gorging ourselves on South Carolina BBQ.

It was a wild ride with an ending that absolutely no one expected, and you are kidding yourself if you didn’t love every moment of it.  From the upsets, to the underwhelming performances, to the GIF’s for the ages — the 2018 college football season will forever be trapped in a glass case of emotion.

Here are 10 things we learned from it all:

1) You will never love anything as much as Swinney loves football. And his faith. The newly minted national champion Clemson head coach isn’t afraid to let people know that the Tigers final victory was due in large part to God working through them. “Only God could do this,” exclaimed Swinney in the postgame press conference. “A Hollywood movie Steve Spielberg or whoever one of them producer people are, they couldn’t write this script. They really couldn’t. Only God can do this.” Surely a higher power is at work, as the Tigers are the first 15-0 champion in 121 years.

2) Texas is back. I know. We have said this a few times over the course of this tumultuous season, but this time it’s for real. The Longhorns capped their first double-digit winning season this decade with a 28-21 Sugar Bowl win over Georgia. Quarterback Sam Ehlinger, who ran for three touchdowns and threw for 169 yards, had a message for Longhorn Nation after the game:

 

3) But Jim Harbaugh isn’t. I mean physically he is; he vehemently denied rumors yet again that he would be leaving for the NFL. Fans were less than thrilled this time around with the news that Harbaugh intended to stay. Might it be because that 11th win continues to elude the Wolverines? Or was it the 41-15 smackdown they received at the hands of Florida in this year’s Peach Bowl? One thing is for sure: That 62-39 loss to Ohio State is harder to explain now. Harbaugh is struggling to change Michigan’s ability to perform well on a big stage. Luckily, there’s always next year.

4) The Playoff format is fine. Dabo said it, so therefore it’s undeniably true. But I agree with him, mostly because as it turned out we didn’t need a bigger field — all the best teams were exactly where they were supposed to be. Swinney spoke out about how expanding the Playoff could diminish the value of non-Playoff bowl games. He also said that expanding the Playoff would put less meaning on the regular season, and to some degree he’s right. There are those who would argue that because he is on the inside looking out, his words don’t carry as much weight — or that Playoff expansion is really about the fans. But this year was proof that the fans got exactly what they deserved.

5) The Pac-12 wheel of death will never stop turning over. The Conference of Champions went a dismal 3-4 in this year’s bowl season, which is a far cry from last year’s 1-8 record but is still not impressive enough to win anybody over. Oregon defeated Michigan State with ONE fourth-quarter touchdown, Stanford beat Pittsburgh with an end-zone fumble and Washington State put down Iowa State in the Alamo Bowl with three touchdowns and nearly 300 yards from quarterback Gardner Minshew. The conference is a mess, top to bottom. From the Larry Scott issues to the cannibalistic tendencies of the teams, it is clear that some major changes need to be made:

https://twitter.com/SidelineSasss/status/1056475034917588992/photo/1

6.) People just need to stop trying to make Notre Dame happen. It’s not going to happen. Not in the capacity that everyone thinks, at least. Yes the Fighting Irish made the College Football Playoff field, but after one quarter against Clemson it was clear that Brian Kelly’s squad left a lot to be desired. In fact, the Tigers went 27-0 in the remaining three quarters against Notre Dame. Quarterback Ian Book was off rhythm, and the Clemson pass rush proved too much. So next time you want to say Notre Dame is ready for a national title, just don’t.

7.) Mascot Fights are the new Twitter feuds. And yes, I’m talking about Bevo charging Uga prior to the Texas vs. Georgia Sugar Bowl. The 1,600-pound longhorn bull went after Uga X during what was supposed to be a friendly photo opp. This exchange sparked PETA to revive its argument against universities using live mascots. But at the end of the day, live mascots are part of the rich tradition woven into the college football tapestry and the animals are well taken care of. Uga has his own air-conditioned doghouse at Sanford Stadium for goodness sake:

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By Emily Van Buskirk

 

Bret Bielema Nets $12 Million Pay Off From Arkansas

Written by Barrette Sallee at CBS Sports.com

The buyout life is the best life, and former Arkansas coach Bret Bielema will be living right after being fired by the Razorbacks shortly after their season-ending loss to Missouri in November 2017.

According to a release from the Razorback Foundation, Bielema is eligible to receive up to $11.935 million in monthly installments through December 31, 2020.  Backdating that to December 2017, that would be $322,567.57 per month. That figure is subject to the right of offset, meaning any coaching salary he receives during that time frame would be deducted what’s owed to him by Arkansas.

Kyle Deckelbaum of KATV provided the full release from the Razorback Foundation.

So, to put it more simply, Bielema can be incredibly selective while choosing his next step. He told Andy Staples of Sports Illustrated that he has received feelers from NFL teams. He also said the social media aspect of college football recruiting got annoying at times and that he is also considering a role in television.

With a buyout like the one he’s receiving after his stint at Arkansas, perhaps TV is the best option.

Bielema went 29-34 overall in five seasons at Arkansas, 11-29 in the SEC. In 2017, his Hogs went 4-8 overall and 1-7 in conference play. Prior to his stint in Fayetteville, he posted a 68-24 record at Wisconsin from 2006-12, won three straight Big Ten championships from 2010-12 and led the Badgers to the Rose Bowl after each of those titles.

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Alabama at #1 and Miami #2 In New CFB Playoff Rankings

Written by Daniel Rapaport at SI.com

After a week in which a number of top teams played relatively easy opponents, Alabama remains atop the College Football Rankings after Week 12. The most notable change at the top was a flip-flop of ACC teams, as Miami leap-frogged Clemson to move into the No. 2 spot while Clemson. No. 4 Oklahoma is the final team currently in position to qualify four the four-team playoff.

The first two teams currently out are No. 5 Wisconsin, which bolstered its resume with a comfortable win over then-No. 25 Michigan, and No. 6 Auburn, which hosts No. 1 Alabama in an Iron Bowl matchup that will determine the SEC West winner on Saturday.

If Alabama beats Auburn, the Crimson Tide have virtually assured a playoff berth even if they lose to Georgia in the SEC title game. But if Auburn finds a way to pull off the upset this weekend, the committee will be forced to make a difficult decision on a one-loss Alabama team that did not win its conference.

Another SEC team lurks just outside the top four: No. 7 Georgia, which bounced back from a 40-17 defeat to Auburn with a 42-13 victory over Kentucky. Georgia has clinched the SEC West and likely still controls its own destiny. Should the Bulldogs take care of Georgia Tech this week then beat either Auburn or Alabama in the SEC title game, the Bulldogs will likely get a playoff spot.

Unbeaten Miami came back to beat Virginia 44–28 after trailing in the second half, while Clemson had no trouble with Citadel of the FBS. If Miami beats Pittsburgh this week and Clemson wins a tricky game at No. 24 South Carolina, the ACC’s playoff picture will be relatively clear: the winner of the ACC Championship Game on Dec. 2, which will be between Miami and Clemson no matter what happens this weekend, will get a playoff spot.

No. 4 Oklahoma decidedly beat Kansas 41–3 last weekend, but it did not come without distraction: senior quarterback and Heisman front runner Baker Mayfield will not start his team’s final regular season game against West Virginia after he grabbed his crotch, screaming profanities at the Jayhawks. If Oklahoma can get past West Virginia, all that will stand between the Sooners and a return to the Playoff is the Big 12 Championship game.

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Chip Kelly Looking At UCLA Job As Well As Florida

Written by ESPN News Service at ESPN.com

Chip Kelly met with UCLA officials regarding their vacant head coaching position in Los Angeles on Tuesday and is expected to decide between Florida and UCLA in the next few days, a source close to Kelly told ESPN’s Mark Schlabach.

Former UCLA quarterback Troy Aikman, a member of the school’s search committee, is putting a “full-court press” on Kelly to accept the UCLA job, the source said.

Kelly, 53, isn’t expected to consider any other college openings.

Representatives from Florida met with Kelly about their vacant head-coaching job Sunday, The Associated Press has reported.

Kelly, an analyst at ESPN, went 46-7 in four years (2009-12) at Oregon, which averaged 44.7 points a game during that span.

Kelly was fired from two NFL jobs in the past two years and left Oregon shortly before NCAA sanctions were handed down. Kelly was slapped with “failure to monitor” in the Will Lyles case. Kelly also was handed an 18-month show-cause penalty after he left to become the head coach for the NFL’s Philadelphia Eagles.

Oregon was accused of paying $25,000 to Lyles, a 7-on-7 coach, in exchange for him guiding players to the Ducks. The NCAA ruled that Kelly wasn’t aware of Lyles’ actions, but said he was responsible for ensuring his program was in compliance.

Kelly’s show-cause penalty expired in late 2014, meaning he and any school that hires him would face no restrictions or penalties related to the Lyles case.

His brief NFL stints and an apparent unwillingness to adapt raised questions about the effectiveness of his up-tempo offense — at least in the NFL.

He was considered an innovator and offensive guru at Oregon, where he coached for a national title at the end of the 2010 season.

His final team in 2012 went 12-1 and averaged 49.6 points per game.

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Texas A&M Will Fire Kevin Sumlin After LSU Game

Written by Barrett Sallee at CBS Sports.com

What seemed like the inevitable is inching closer to reality.

Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin will be fired shortly after Saturday’s regular-season finale against LSU — regardless of the outcome of the game — according to the Houston Chronicle, which cited multiple sources close to to the situation.

Sumlin has not had a winning SEC record since his first season with the program when the Aggies went 11-2 overall and 6-2 in the SEC in 2012 as quarterback Johnny Manziel won the Heisman Trophy.

Athletic director Scott Woodward said this spring on the “The Paul Finebaum Show” that Sumlin had to be better what he had been in recent years.

“Coach Sumlin knows he has to win,” he said. “He has to win this year. He has to do better than he has done in the past.”

He hasn’t. The Aggies are 7-4 heading into the showdown with the Tigers in Baton Rouge. They blew a 33-point, third-quarter lead against UCLA in the season-opener on national television, and even with a win over LSU, would only get to eight total wins — the same mark Sumlin has reached every year since 2014.

Not all eight-win seasons are created equal, and last season’s November swoon had more to do with injuries to star defensive end Myles Garrett and quarterback Trevor Knight than anything else. But it comes to a point where the old cliche holds true: “You are what your record says you are.”

Sumlin’s ceiling at Texas A&M is clear. He’s an eight-win coach, regardless of the specific scenario.

As to where Texas A&M will turn, USA Today reported earlier this month that the Aggies are prepared to pursue Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher to replace Sumlin, despite Fisher’s rather lackluster 4-6 record this season aftter entering ranked No. 3 in the initial AP Top 25.

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Baker Mayfield Breaks Down In Press Conference

Written by Jake Trotter at ESPN.com

Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield was twice brought to tears Monday while addressing his actions in Saturday’s game at Kansas and his feelings on the resulting discipline for his final home game this weekend.

Under a message painted onto the wall above the Sooners’ news conference backdrop reading “Mental Toughness = Doing the Right Thing for the Team,” Mayfield twice struggled to compose himself before wiping away tears while answering questions about the consequences from Saturday — and what his family means to him.

“Playing at OU is something I always dreamed of. Not starting is what it is. But not being a team captain is something so much more,” said Mayfield while addressing reporters after Monday’s practice. “It would be hard if it were a regular game. But it being my last one here ever, it means a lot more. It’s going to be tough.”

Mayfield will not start Saturday’s game against West Virginia as disciplinary action, coach Lincoln Riley said earlier Monday. Mayfield, a senior, will also not serve as a captain on Oklahoma’s senior day.

Mayfield said “it’s going to be hard to handle” not being a captain for his final home game at Oklahoma.

“I knew something needed to be done. I put Coach Riley in a terrible spot,” Mayfield said. “It was a hard conversation. Our relationship is the main reason. He wants the best for me, and so it’s tough. It was difficult.”

During the third quarter of Oklahoma’s 41-3 win in Lawrence, Mayfield grabbed his crotch and appeared to yell “F— you!” at the Jayhawks’ sideline.

“This decision was difficult,” said Riley, who also became emotional during his weekly news conference, unable to speak for several seconds.

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Chip Kelly Interviewing for Florida Job

Written by ESPN News Staff at ESPN.com

Representatives from the Florida Gators met with Chip Kelly about their vacant head-coaching job Sunday, The Associated Press has reported, citing a person familiar with the situation.

The person said athletic director Scott Stricklin and five key staffers met with Kelly in New Hampshire. The person spoke to The AP on the condition of anonymity because the Gators are not publicly discussing the coaching search.

Stricklin and his assistants flew in and out of Ocala, Florida, about a half-hour from Florida’s campus.

“We continue to have very productive conversations related to our football team,” Stricklin told reporters at the airport late Sunday. “We’ve got a process we’re going through. There will probably be some more productive conversations in the days ahead. Lot of interest in the job.”

Kelly, an analyst at ESPN, praised the Florida program when asked Sunday morning on SportsCenter about speculation connecting him with the Gators job.

Stricklin vowed to make Florida fun again when he parted ways with coach Jim McElwain last month.

Kelly’s high-octane, spread scheme would probably do it.

The 53-year-old Kelly went 46-7 in four years (2009-12) at Oregon, which averaged 44.7 points a game during that span. The Gators would welcome anything close to that after slogging through the post-Tim Tebow era.

Florida (4-6) will finish outside the top 100 nationally in total offense for the sixth time in the past seven years, including all three under McElwain.

Stricklin would be taking a chance on Kelly to rejuvenate the program’s most glaring deficiency. Kelly was fired from two NFL jobs in the past two years and left Oregon shortly before NCAA sanctions were handed down.

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Jim Mora Loses UCLA Job

Written by Kyle Bonagura at ESPN.com

UCLA fired football coach Jim Mora after six seasons, a day after the Bruins lost to rival Southern California for the third straight year.

Offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch will serve as interim head coach for the remainder of the season. Fisch declined to comment on the move, which was announced by athletic director Dan Guerrero on Sunday — Mora’s 56th birthday.

UCLA fell 28-23 at USC on Saturday night to drop to 5-6.

“Making a coaching change is never easy, but it’s an especially difficult decision when you know that a coach has given his all to our University,” Guerrero said in a statement. “Jim helped re-establish our football program, and was instrumental in so many ways in moving the program forward.

“While his first four seasons at UCLA were very successful, the past two seasons have not met expectations. We thank Jim and his family for his service to our school and his unquestionable commitment to our student-athletes.”

Mora said in a statement later Sunday that he wanted to thank Guerrero and the administration “for giving me the chance to work at a great institution for the past six years. Coaching student-athletes at UCLA has been the most rewarding experience of my career, and I know the future is bright for the program.”

He thanked the “outstanding coaches” for their efforts, and the student-athletes he’d had “the privilege to work with.”

“Again, thank you for the opportunity to be the head football coach at UCLA. It has truly been an honor.”

Mora compiled a 46-30 record with the Bruins, but after going 29-11 in his first three seasons, UCLA is just 17-19. It can still qualify for a bowl game with a win against Cal at the Rose Bowl on Friday, and would accept an invitation pending any conflicts with the school’s finals’ schedule, a school spokesperson confirmed.

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Alabama Holds Tight Grip On #1

Written by Tom Fornelli at CBS Sports.com

The new AP Top 25 has been released, and just about everything is the same after only one team in last week’s top 10 lost.

In fact, the biggest news in the top 10 might just be that Miami received one fewer first-place vote this week (three) than it did last week (four). It looks like voters were more impressed by Alabama pasting Mercer than they were with Miami struggling with Virginia for a little bit, even if the Canes won by 16 points in the end.

Elsewhere, the team that took the biggest tumble was Oklahoma State. The Cowboys dropped from No. 10 to No. 18 thanks to a 45-40 loss to Kansas State.

Here’s the entire top 25.

1. Alabama (1)
2. Miami (2)
3. Oklahoma (3)
4. Clemson (4)
5. Wisconsin (5)
6. Auburn (6)
7. Georgia (7)
8. Ohio State (8)
9. Notre Dame (9)
10. TCU (11)
11. USC (12)
12. Penn State (13)
13. UCF (14)
14. Washington State (15)
15. Washington (16)
16. Mississippi State (17)
17. Memphis (18)
18. Oklahoma State (10)
19. LSU (21)
20. Stanford (20)
21. Michigan State (22)
22. South Florida (23)
23. Northwestern (NR)
24. Virginia Tech (NR)
25. Boise State (NR)

No longer ranked: Michigan, NC State, West Virginia

Others receiving votes: Michigan, Iowa State, South Carolina, NC State, San Diego State, Wake Forest, Texas A&M

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