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17 college football hot seat coaches, judged by how their teams are likely to finish 2017

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If these teams continue as projected, how many will be in the market for new coaches?

UCLA v Stanford Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

By the midpoint of a college football season, we think we know how a coaching carousel is going to play out. Coach A has won a couple of decent games, so he’s safe. Coach B has lost back-to-back heart-breakers — he’s toast.

The teams are still playing, though. And the future is dependent on what happens over the next six weeks.

Thanks to S&P+ win projections, we can look into the future a bit. Because some teams do improve late, and because others will collapse, we can’t say for certain how things might play out, but we know how things could play out based on how everyone has played so far.

Below is a look at each power conference head coach with at least a little bit of heat under his seat. How is his team doing now? And how will his team likely fare moving forward?

Arizona’s Rich Rodriguez (40-31, sixth year)

Current 2017 record: 4-2
Projected 2017 wins: 7.4
Odds of missing bowl: 4%

Before the upset wins over Colorado and UCLA, it appeared Rodriguez would be a goner. But the Wildcats are now very likely to make a bowl, which would be Rodriguez’ fifth in six seasons. Barring a spectacular collapse, you have to figure he gets another year.

Arizona State’s Todd Graham (42-29, sixth year)

Current 2017 record: 3-3
Projected 2017 wins: 5.4
Odds of missing bowl: 57%

Arizona State is a tough job. You make money, and the recruiting draws of “sun all year round” are obvious, but it’s hard to keep attention. Winning consistently is hard, and Graham did it for a while, but he lost one too many play-makers and one too many good assistants and bombed.

But what looked like another lost season has found life after home wins over Oregon and Washington. Graham might be on a path to save himself.

Arkansas’ Bret Bielema (27-30, fifth year)

Current 2017 record: 2-4
Projected 2017 wins: 4.7
Odds of missing bowl: 76%

The big news of the last week is that Bielema’s buyout is about $5M, not the previously reported $15M. We don’t believe AD Jeff Long wants to fire Bielema, but if Arkansas misses a bowl, Bielema will likely be 12-28 in SEC play during his tenure. We don’t think the expectations at Arkansas should be sky high, but a .300 winning percentage in SEC play is poor.

Auburn’s Gus Malzahn (40-20, fifth year)

Current 2017 record: 5-2
Projected 2017 wins: 8.3
Odds of 7-5 or worse: 20%

Auburn is notoriously unpredictable, and its AD is quite embattled at present, with scandals in softball and basketball.

Auburn has shown some improvement this year. An 8-4 finish would likely mean zero wins over ranked teams, but he should still be safe. He has a national championship appearance and a Sugar Bowl appearance in his four full seasons. But let’s reserve the right to change our minds if the Tigers get blown out by Georgia and Alabama to end the year.

Boston College’s Steve Addazio (27-31, fifth year)

Current 2017 record: 3-4
Projected 2017 wins: 4.4
Odds of 4-8 or worse: 58%

Addazio started out 8-8 in ACC play. Since then, the Eagles have gone 3-17. Part of that was a lost 2015, when BC lost its quarterback early, but the trend is not positive. Boston College should not have aspirations to win the Atlantic Division, but it does need to keep an eye on the division’s Syracuse and Wake Forest, who seem to be improving more rapidly than the Eagles.

This is a brutal schedule, but if the Eagles really do win just four games, BC might need to make a change.

BYU’s Kalani Sitake (10-10, second year)

Current 2017 record: 1-6
Projected 2017 wins: 3.7
Odds of 2-10 or worse: 22%

BYU’s independence, plus the requirement that a head coach be of LDS faith, means the pool of available coaches is shallow and that the school probably has no choice but to be patient. Add that to the fact that Sitake went 9-4 in his first season, and it’s all but guaranteed he’ll get a third year. And he probably should.

But there’s a decent chance the Cougars go 3-9 or worse this season. That means we have to at least bring him up here.

Florida’s Jim McElwain (22-11, third year)

Current 2017 record: 3-3
Projected 2017 wins: 5.6
Odds of 5-6 or worse: 65%

McElwain’s magic in close games (read: luck) has run out. He is 5-11 in games in which the opponent has scored more than 14 points. He was brought in to fix the offense and has shown little improvement over what Will Muschamp had to offer. While he is recruiting well now, his first two classes were poor by Florida’s standards, and as a result the talent is not what it has been in better times. He’s had a scandal involving more than 10 percent of his roster. And the defense is starting to slip.

But he has also won the SEC East in each of his first two years and has a buyout of $12.5M, and much of his staff is on multi-year deals and would also need to be bought out. Barring something drastic, McElwain should be safe even if Florida misses a bowl game. But if that happens, he is squarely on the hot seat come 2018.

Illinois’ Lovie Smith (5-13, second year)

Current 2017 record: 2-4
Projected 2017 wins: 3.1
Odds of 2-10: 29%

Smith is athletic director Josh Whitman’s guy — hiring Smith was almost literally the first thing Whitman did as AD. Plus, the Illini haven’t won more than seven games in a season since the wacky 2007, so a slow build is likely a requirement.

But ... they just lost to Rutgers. By 11. At home. Even if he’s safe in 2017, he almost certainly can’t be considered safe heading into 2018.

Kansas’ David Beaty (3-27, third year)

Current 2017 record: 1-5
Projected 2017 wins: 1.7
Odds of 1-11: 46%

He was a reach of a hire to begin with — his biggest draw was being a successful recruiter at Texas A&M, but that was never going to translate to Kansas very well — and he’s on pace to finish with an average record of 1-11 each year. He’s gone.

Kentucky’s Mark Stoops (24-31, fifth year)

Current 2017 record: 5-1
Projected 2017 wins: 7.1
Odds of 6-6 or worse: 30%

Kentucky is not as good as its record, most everyone agrees. But the wins still count, and the Wildcats have a 90 percent chance to make a bowl, which would be their second consecutive. That is all anyone should be asking of Kentucky football, and Stoops is providing it.

Missouri’s Barry Odom (5-13, second year)

Current 2017 record: 1-5
Projected 2017 wins: 3.7
Odds of 2-10 or worse: 16%

You’re not going to recruit as well as division mates Florida, Georgia, and Tennessee, and at best you can hope to tie with South Carolina. Gary Pinkel proved you can still win through player development and creative tactics, but it requires patience as new players develop.

The bar’s pretty low for Odom to get a third year, in other words. But if the Tigers lose to Idaho or UConn over the next two weeks, that might be a sign that he’s not clearing it.

Nebraska’s Mike Riley (18-15, third year)

Current 2017 record: 3-4
Projected 2017 wins: 4.8
Odds of missing bowl: 76%

Nebraska was blown out by a combined 94-31 in Lincoln by Wisconsin and Ohio State. The school fired its athletic director and has already hired a new one. It is generally questionable to fire a coach after just three seasons, but the program has regressed under Riley, a strange hire to begin with. The odds of the new AD wanting to bring in his own guy are quite high, especially since the Huskers are staring a 5-7 finish in the face.

Rutgers’ Chris Ash (4-14, second year)

Current 2017 record: 2-4
Projected 2017 wins: 3.5
Odds of 2-10: 15%

If I am a college coach, and I see Rutgers fired a coach after just two seasons, that tells me Rutgers does not understand what it is and that I should not consider filling that vacancy. Plus, the Scarlet Knights have a decent chance at four wins, a.k.a. twice as many as last year. Ash is probably safe.

Tennessee’s Butch Jones (33-24, fifth year)

Current 2017 record: 3-3
Projected 2017 wins: 5.6
Odds of missing bowl: 48%

Jones has done a good job rebuilding the talent base. But he has compounded that with bone-headed coaching decisions and clumsy media gaffes. The job of rebuilding the roster is done, and so should be Jones’ tenure, even if it likely won’t end this week. Tennessee needs someone who can develop the talent into wins.

Texas A&M’s Kevin Sumlin (49-23, sixth year)

Current 2017 record: 5-2
Projected 2017 wins: 7.1
Odds of 6-6 or worse: 29%

This might be a situation where both the school and the coach want to make a move. If Sumlin can get the Aggies to 8-4, he will probably be safe. The current projection of 7-5 might be a bit dicey, however.

And what if Sumlin decides that he’d like one of the Arizona jobs or UCLA? He’s an excellent recruiter, which is a major requirement to go up against the Trojans in the Pac-12 South.

Still, the Aggies have improved with true freshman QB Kellen Mond and are now playing with some confidence. It has to be tempting for both the school and coach to want to see what he can do with a young talent at the most important position.

Texas Tech’s Kliff Kingsbury (28-28, fifth year)

Current 2017 record: 4-2
Projected 2017 wins: 7.0
Odds of 6-6 or worse: 35%

That Kingsbury is a Red Raider favorite son helped to assure that he would get a fifth year despite diminishing returns, but it appears he’s taken advantage of the extra opportunity. Despite a blown lead against WVU, the Red Raiders are on pace to reach bowl season after a year off. If you didn’t dump him after falling to 4-8, you’re not going to now.

UCLA’s Jim Mora (44-27, sixth year)

Current 2017 record: 3-3
Projected 2017 wins: 5.5
Odds of missing bowl: 51%

If this is the best Mora can do with Josh Rosen, likely the best QB he’ll ever sign, it’s time to make a change. The only saving grace might be his $11M buyout.