The college football season is coming up fast, which is a source of excitement for many across the country but might be a bit worrisome for some coaches. Knowing that their jobs may be on the line if they don’t do well this season, some college coaches may be dreading what happens in 2019.
Here’s a look at five coaches that may be feeling more worry than optimism for the coming season.
Clay Helton, USC
There was already a “Fire Clay Helton” flown over a USC game last season, so the heat has been on for a little while. Helton thought he’d hired a boost to his team’s offense in naming Kliff Kingsbury as the new offensive coordinator, but Kingsbury didn’t last long, moving on to the Arizona Cardinals head coaching gig instead. The Trojans finished 5-7 a season ago after back-to-back seasons of 10-3 and 11-3 in Helton’s first two full seasons as head coach. Even one season without a bowl game is a reason for worry around USC, so Helton needs a much better record this year to keep the heat off his seat.
Willie Taggart, Florida State
The Seminoles finished 5-7 in 2018, snapping a 36-season streak of appearing in a bowl game. For a program with a proud tradition like Florida State, that isn’t acceptable. Throw in the fact that conference rival Clemson won the national title, and FSU fans are getting a bit antsy with Taggart, who is entering his second season as head coach in Tallahassee. This is Taggart’s fourth head coaching gig in the last decade, and his only one with a winning record was his one season at Oregon when he went 7-5. The pressure is on for Taggart to produce some victories and now, or he may be looking for his fifth head coaching job soon.
Gus Malzahn, Auburn
Malzahn enters his seventh season at the helm of the Tigers with a 53-27 record, but Auburn hasn’t quite lived up to expectations after Malzahn took them to the national championship game in his first season. Since that 2013 loss to Florida State, Auburn has had just two winning records in conference play. Last season, the Tigers were 3-5 and finished in fifth place in the SEC Western Division. Having the Tigers’ chief rival, Alabama, playing for the national title nearly every year doesn’t help Malzahn live up to expectations. He’ll be more active in play-calling this season, knowing he needs a big season or his tenure may be over.
Lovie Smith, Illinois
The Illini made a splash in hiring the former Chicago Bears head coach in 2016, but Smith hasn’t followed that up with wins, going 9-27 in his first three seasons as a college coach. Illinois has four Big Ten wins under Smith, and the projections aren’t much better this season. Smith did land former Michigan signal caller Brandon Peters as a graduate transfer recently, though there’s no guarantee Peters will even be the starter in his first year in Champaign. Expectations have been down for Illinois football for a while — the Illini haven’t won a Big Ten title since 2001 and have played in just five bowl games total in the 2000s — but the hope was Smith would change that. He needs to soon, or he may be out.
Jim Harbaugh, Michigan
Harbaugh may not be in the hot water that some of these other coaches are, but he might find his position a little more uncomfortable if the Wolverines continue to come up short in their biggest games. Michigan was in position to go to the College Football Playoff last fall but was then blown out by a record margin by Ohio State in their regular-season finale, then lost its bowl game against Florida by a large margin as well. With quarterback Shea Patterson back in the fold, the expectations are high again in Ann Arbor, but Harbaugh needs to at least get his first win against Ohio State to live up to them.