The SEC is the premiere conference in college football, and currently has won the past six national championships. Most of the schools within the SEC are successful and competitive, and blue chip recruits continually flock to LSU, Alabama and Georgia. Their campuses are beautiful, warm and welcoming, and the coaching staff at most of the schools are well connected with scouts and coaches at the NFL level. But, sometimes even the best can fall from the top, and some of the programs in the SEC are going through a rough season.
Kentucky was the first school to take the plunge and fire 3rd year coach Joker Philips after an abysmal start to the season with only one win on the year. Philips had Kentucky in a bowl in his first season and things were looking promising, until they fell back to their losing ways again last year. Philips has been apart of Kentucky football for 15+ years and it was hard for the athletic department to part ways, but scrutiny from fans ultimately pushed the decision forward.
Gene Chizik may have brought a national title to Auburn with Cam Newton two seasons ago, but that is quickly fading in the minds of the Tigers faithful. Auburn is off to a 2-7 season this year, and haven't been competitive in most of their games. It's hard to say if Auburn would part with Chizik just two years removed from a national title, but he hasn't been doing much since Newton left for the NFL. For the hot seat to cool down on Chizik, beating Georgia next weekend would be a good start.
Derek Dooley was the surprising hire a few seasons ago for the Volunteers, and hasn't exactly performed as well as anticipated. Dooley so far has gone 15-19 as the head coach, and that has Volunteer fans hoping a coaching change happens sooner rather than later. Dooley's overall record as a coach is only 32-39, and he garnered a lot of praise for his rebuilding of Louisiana Tech. He hasn't been able to do the same at Tennessee, and the whispers have already started that Jon Gruden is a viable candidate to replace him. Dooley may be a smart football mind, but his days as a head coach are numbered.
The John L. Smith project at Arkansas has been nothing short of a disaster, and he will almost surely not be retained at the conclusion of the season. He has a career coaching record of 136-90, but has never been a premiere coach in college football. Arkansas was desperate for someone with a rich coaching pedigree, and Smith seemed like the best fit. He left his alma mater Weber State in a heartbeat for Arkansas, and this wasn't the first time Smith pulled the rug out from under a team. During halftime of Louisville's bowl game in 2002, he informed his players he was leaving them for Michigan State. Overall, Arkansas has had a bad run of coaches, and needs a fresh start.
Probably the most sought after college coach in America right now is Boise State's Chris Petersen. He continually passes up high paying, top notch programs to stay with his beloved Broncos. My gut tells me he stays in Idaho for the long haul since he hasn't budged on previous offers, but there's always a chance. SEC football is much different than Petersen has experienced, and it would be a place where he could compete against Les Miles, Nick Saban and Mark Richt every year. I wouldn't mind seeing a Petersen-led team against any one of those coaches next year.
The whispers have turned into more of a mob-like hysteria over whether Jon Gruden will bolt his comfortable Monday Night Football gig for the college game. He was an assistant coach for Tennessee and his wife is a former Volunteer cheerleader. His ties are strong, and the fans there would love nothing more than for Gruden to come back to Knoxville and lead them to relevance again. I think Gruden will be intrigued at the job, and Tennessee will have to offer him around $4-5 million a year to really put the pressure on his decision. He seems comfortable at the moment, but it seems evident that Gruden misses coaching. This could be a great opportunity for him to put Tennessee back on the map if he decided to take the offer.
Gary Patterson, the long-time TCU head coach has always been in the discussion when a head coaching job opens. Patterson, like Petersen always opts to stay, and now has his Horned Frogs battling in the Big 12. At first glance it seems like he's with TCU for the long haul, but SEC football is the best and he could be pulled away if the price is right. He's definitely going to be a name to look for when the season concludes.
Charlie Strong has the Louisville Cardinals off to their best start in years, and besides the Gruden rumors, he'll be the hottest commodity to take a coaching job at one of the vacant SEC schools. He's proved he can coach at the SEC level, and has Louisville at the top of a shaky Big East Conference. Strong couldn't have put together a better season at the right time, and it'll be a tough decision for him if whether he should keep building Louisville or leave for greener pastures.
Butch Jones has Cincinnati playing great football this year, and his name definitely will be in the mix when the season is over. Cincinnati surely will do everything they can to keep Jones around, but if offered an SEC job, the allure could be too much for him to stay. Cincy always seems to be on the wrong side of the coaching carousel, and has lost Mark Dantonio and Brian Kelly in the past decade to better paying and tradition rich programs. Jones has shown he can coach in the Big East, but the competition isn't comparable to what he'll face in the SEC.
Al Golden also is a coach who may be under the radar for one of the coaching vacancies. He's currently at Miami which is still trying to rebuild after the Nevin Shapiro booster scandal that broke shortly after Golden was hired. Golden has stuck with the Hurricanes thus far, and has them currently sitting at 6-3 on the year. He rebuilt a atrocious Temple program that is finally back to relevancy, and was looking to do the same with the Hurricanes. But, the scandal does most likely change his thought process, and he could bolt for the SEC if given a chance.