The SEC West entered 2016 looking like something would have to give. With seven head coaches making $4 million or more per year, how much longer would boosters remain patient with the guy who finished last? Les Miles was nearly fired last year, Kevin Sumlin was believed to be on thin ice and a couple others seemed to be in some trouble as well.
Three weeks in, the situation’s already shifted quite a bit. (Also, all season long, Ryan Nanni is tracking the status of the SEC's $4 Million Men each week.)
1. Things are bad On The Plains
At the top of the list we have a new leader: Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn. The Tigers just lost 29-16 to the Texas A&M Aggies at home, falling to 1-2. The loss amazingly brought Auburn’s home-game losing streak to Power 5 opponents to a whopping seven, good for second in the country, among a bunch of teams the Tigers do not ever want to be associated with in football.
Mind you, Malzahn got a raise and an extension through 2020 this past July, bringing his annual salary to $4.725 million per year through Dec. 31, 2020. Translation: He’s one of the highest-paid coaches in the country.
Since Kick Six, Auburn is 9-14 vs Power 5, worse than Wash St, K-State and Ga Tech.— David Hale (@DavidHaleESPN) September 18, 2016
The last Auburn head coach to reach a national title game but still get fired was only a few years ago. Gene Chizik won a title with Cam Newton in 2010, but was fired from Auburn in 2012 after a 33-19 record as the Tigers’ head coach. Malzahn, the OC on that Newton team, led Auburn to the 2013 BCS Championship.
Depending on what happens the rest of the season (mainly, if Auburn keeps losing and shows no signs of long-term answers at QB), we could absolutely see Auburn pull the trigger on a coaching change again.
2. Dan Mullen can’t catch a break
Next up is Mississippi State’s Mullen, who opened the season by losing to the Sun Belt’s South Alabama.
Mullen’s team lost 23-20 on the road against No. 20 LSU on Saturday night. The Bulldogs hung tight with No. 20 LSU in Death Valley, and even managed to rally and score 17 unanswered points in the second half to pull within three. However, MSU fell to 1-2 with plenty of tough games ahead, with the one win coming against South Carolina.
3. Les Miles is on it, even if he wins
The win included some signs that quarterback is still going to be a worry, not that anybody expected a depth chart switch to solve every problem.
The Tigers still got shocked in Week 1 by then-unranked Wisconsin in Lambeau, and Wisconsin nearly lost to the Sun Belt’s Georgia State in Week 3.
LSU’s schedule doesn’t get any easier with games against Missouri, Florida, Ole Miss, Alabama, Arkansas and Texas A&M — three of those being road games — left on the schedule.
Everybody else is fine for now, but anything can happen soon
Sumlin is 3-0 with wins over UCLA and Auburn.
Ole Miss’ Hugh Freeze has likely frustrated many fans by having two collapse losses already this season, but the program wouldn’t be in good enough shape to take leads against Alabama and Florida State without him.
And Arkansas’ Bret Bielema is sitting pretty, too. He’s 7-3 against Power 5 opponents in November and December, (Otherwise known as #Novembert) but he’s got #Septembert in full effect, with his Hogs sitting at 3-0, including a thrilling and impressive 2OT victory over then-No. 15 TCU last week.
Nick Saban obviously isn’t going anywhere, either, much to everybody else’s dismay.