September isn’t quite over yet and we already have the first major firing of the season. On Sunday, LSU ousted Les Miles after 11-plus seasons following his Tigers’ gut-wrenching loss at Auburn when an apparent game-winning touchdown was nullified by replay review.
Miles wasn’t even the first coach to be let go on Sunday. The news of his dismissal came after Florida International relieved Ron Turner of his coaching duties and Notre Dame cut loose beleaguered defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder.
Miles’ fate was sealed when LSU once again looked sluggish in its loss to Auburn. Though he’s won a national title in 2007 and took the Tigers to another BCS championship game in 2011, Miles had been on thin ice for a couple of seasons now. He was nearly ousted in a coup last year and opening this season with a loss to Wisconsin didn’t help.
Saturday’s defeat at Auburn was a microcosm of Miles’ recent failures – an anemic offense, perplexing playcalling and terrible time management at the end of the game. With Houston’s Tom Herman and ex-Baylor coach Art Briles potentially available after this season, LSU simply decided it wants to get ahead in the hiring game before everyone else.
A few more coaches at major and traditional powers will follow Miles into the unemployment line, if not during this season, certainly afterward. Here’s our list of hot seats from scorching to merely very warm:
Brian Kelly: VanGorder’s firing was a foregone conclusion after Notre Dame lost to Duke to drop to 1-3 this season. After being touted as a national title contender, the Irish now will play out the rest of the season with nothing more than a second-tier bowl to aspire to. Though he took Notre Dame to the 2012 BCS title game, Kelly’s teams have been mired in mediocrity since, with a penchant for blowing big games. If he can’t turn things around in a hurry in the next eight games, he won’t be around in South Bend for long.
Clay Helton: Though he’s only officially on the job for six games, there’s already considerable clamoring for his his ouster from Troy. Helton is 1-5 in those games, with his lone win over Utah State and embarrassing losses to Alabama and Stanford already this season. He was not hired by current athletic director Lynn Swann and if USC continues to struggle the new AD may be forced to eat the remainder of the five-year contract and try for a home-run hire.
James Franklin: It doesn’t help that Penn State resides in the murderous Big Ten East, sharing space with the three-headed monster of Ohio State, Michigan and Michigan State – three teams he has never beaten in his three years at Happy Valley. Then Saturday’s beatdown at the Big House showed just how far he’s behind those programs. Maybe Penn State will be patient enough to put up with a third straight 7-6 season, but maybe not much longer.
Charlie Strong: While he has changed Texas’ culture for the better and brought in strong recruiting classes, the results just haven’t been there on the field for the third-year coach. The thrilling season-opening victory over Notre Dame has already dissolved given the Irish’s difficulties and a loss to Cal two weeks ago put the onus right back on Strong’s job security. The next two weeks with games against Oklahoma State and Oklahoma will be crucial for him to demonstrate just where the program is.
Game of the Week
Colorado 41, Oregon 38: Mike MacIntyre inherited a dumpster fire of a program that was the laughingstock of the newly expanded Pac-12, and in Year Four positive results are pouring in for the Buffs. A week after giving Michigan a major scare at the Big House, Colorado had its signature win in the MacIntyre era when it stunned Oregon in Eugene. Backup quarterback Steven Montez threw for 333 yards and three touchdowns while the defense stiffened to snuff out the Ducks’ potential game-winning drive with an end-zone interception.
Player of the Week
Trevor Knight, Texas A&M: The quarterback carousel continues to churn in the Southwest as Knight arrived at A&M after spending three seasons in Oklahoma but losing his job to Texas Tech transfer Baker Mayfield. Knight provided the stability the Aggies needed this season after they lost three quarterbacks within the last year. Knight passed for 225 yards and rushed for 157 while accounting for four touchdowns as A&M won an SEC showdown, 45-24 over Arkansas in Arlington, Texas, to stay in the Top 10.
If the NFL can’t seem to figure out what a catch is, then college football has an issue with targeting. The officiating of this particular penalty – which carries with it an automatic ejection and suspension of the player for the team’s next half – has been uneven at best, even with the help of mandatory booth review. On Saturday, Penn State’s Brandon Smith was ejected for what by all accounts a legitimate play against Michigan while UCLA’s Tahaan Goodman nearly decapitated Stanford’s Francis Owusu in a textbook spearing move and yet no flag was thrown.
1. Louisville, 2. Ohio State, 3. Alabama, 4. Michigan, 5. Wisconsin, 6. Houston, 7. Stanford, 8. Texas A&M, 9. Clemson, 10. Washington, 11. Nebraska, 12. Utah, 13. Baylor, 14. Florida State, 15. Ole Miss.