For every head coach with rock-solid job security — Dabo Swinney and Nick Saban, to name two — there are a couple of dozen firmly on the hot seat heading into the 2019 season.
One name in particular stands out: Southern California coach Clay Helton. On the heels of last year’s losing record, Helton finds himself under a spotlight at one of college football’s most prestigious stops. (It doesn’t help that Urban Meyer is on the market, his statements about being happy in retirement notwithstanding.)
A temperature check of seats across the Bowl Subdivision with the start of the season fast approaching:
1. Clay Helton, Southern California
Helton took a step toward reclaiming his job security in hiring former North Texas assistant Graham Harrell, who will install a scheme rooted in the Air Raid that could mesh well with the Trojans’ enviable skill level. Helton needs a major rebound to show he’s the right man for the job.
2. Bob Davie, New Mexico
The Lobos have followed up back-to-back bowl berths with matching 3-9 records in the past two seasons. At the same time, Davie was suspended by the university for 30 days last winter following allegations he physically assaulted players and obstructed a rape investigation. It makes you wonder what was behind New Mexico’s decision to have him return in 2019.
3. Chris Ash, Rutgers
Rutgers followed up a fairly impressive 2017 season, relatively speaking, by going 1-11 overall and winless in Big Ten play a year ago. While Ash is well-regarded by his peers, that swoon and the program’s overall trajectory paint a dim picture for his security heading into a make-or-break campaign.
4. Lovie Smith, Illinois
Smith has bought time by rebuilding Illinois from the bottom up, via the addition of several intriguing young recruits and a handful of top-rated transfers. Yet the results have been dismal: Smith is 9-27 across three seasons and brings into 2019 the one team no one is picking to win a wide-open Big Ten West Division.
5. Gus Malzahn, Auburn
It wouldn’t be a hot-seat list without Malzahn, who annually finds himself on the hot seat only to convince Auburn that he’s the right man for the job — with the help of a massive buyout, to be fair. Auburn heads into this season looking strong enough to contend for a New Year’s Six bowl but not quite up to the challenge of reaching the College Football Playoff, which should reignite this debate next summer.