Ranking the vacant Power Five head coaching jobs
With Auburn opening in recent days, there are now six Power Five jobs open and more could be coming soon if historical trends are followed. Here’s how we rate the openings:
VISIT PREVIEW: Several key visits on tap this weekend
CLASS OF 2023 RANKINGS: Rivals250 | Team | Position | State
CLASS OF 2024 RANKINGS: Rivals250 | Team | Position | State
CLASS OF 2025 RANKINGS: Rivals100
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In 2010, coach Gene Chizik led Auburn to a 14-0 record and the national championship and then after 8-5 and 3-9 seasons he was fired. Gus Malzahn then took the Tigers to the national title game in 2013 parlaying that into nearly seven more seasons with only one 10-win season and a frustrating offense to watch.
Then Auburn hired Bryan Harsin and he lasted 21 games, fired on Halloween as he went 9-12 in his tenure and had some real complications in recruiting since he didn’t seem all that interested in being focused on that important piece of building a roster. His grasp of the importance of NIL in the SEC was also a concern.
Since Harsin’s firing, media types have called Auburn a sleeping giant. Maybe. They pointed to a $13 NIL war chest. Others are well-monied as well but that should give the Tigers a lot of opportunities to compete in recruiting.
There are many built-in challenges especially with a 71-year-old Nick Saban wielding so much power at Alabama and an SEC West that is so incredibly tough. In-state recruiting must get better, it’s imperative. But a new coach with some cachet whether it’s Lane Kiffin or Deion Sanders or Matt Rhule would spark serious interest in Auburn again.
The fan base is there. The facilities are there. The expectations are there. The NIL money is there. A lot to like for a new coaching staff for sure but there are absolutely significant challenges as well.
The reason Wisconsin is second on this list and ahead of some other programs is the Badgers’ winning tradition and their continued success on the field. Former coach Paul Chryst basically won at the same clip Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh but there were some things especially in the recruiting department that were lacking.
Interim coach Jim Leonhard, who could be the long-term choice in Madison, has breathed fresh air into an offense that was woefully stale and while he’s more focused on the defense, maybe some restrictions were lifted to get this offense jumpstarted again.
After Chryst’s removal, the Badgers pounded a woeful Northwestern team but then lost to an average-at-best Michigan State squad before beating Purdue before the bye week. Wisconsin’s final four games should be victories.
The Badgers have not had a losing season since 2001. Ten of the last 17 years have seen double-digit wins. Leonhard brings a new approach and a vibrancy that was lacking and could turn around a recruiting department that needs work. Playing for Big Ten titles should be the standard at Wisconsin.
Nebraska has one of the best fan bases in the country, it’s a program long in history and tradition and it’s one of the best game-day environments in college football. But winning has not come easy in recent years and the Scott Frost era was an unmitigated disaster, ending with a 45-42 home loss to Georgia Southern. The team never really showed marked and sustained improvement when Frost was there and that will be the charge of the new staff.
Interim coach Mickey Joseph has seen mixed results - wins against Indiana and Rutgers but losses to Oklahoma, Purdue and Illinois. The Huskers are 16-point home underdogs to Minnesota this weekend.
On the plus side, Nebraska did lang big fish Malachi Coleman during Joseph’s tenure and three-star RB Arnold Barnes, a former Tulane pledge, also picked the Huskers.
This program is dying for national status again. It’s a long haul but can be done.
4. ARIZONA STATE
This program remains in limbo weeks after coach Herm Edwards was fired, possibly on the field after the Sun Devils lost to Eastern Michigan at home.
There is an ongoing - and snails-pace - NCAA investigation that has no end in sight and it has clearly made recruiting come to a crawl. The Sun Devils landed their latest commitment on Halloween, only their seventh this recruiting class.
It’s been a tough schedule for interim coach Shaun Aguano with losses to Utah, USC and Stanford, a big and impressive win over Washington and a victory at Colorado last weekend. Winning can be done at Arizona State as former coaches Todd Graham and Edwards had some success but usually it’s been a middling season in Tempe.
There is plenty of in-state talent but keeping them home has been a challenge for both ASU and Arizona. The campus life is phenomenal. The weather is fantastic. But the new coach will have to swallow the NCAA probe and a team that’s been stuck in neutral.
5. GEORGIA TECH
The Yellow Jackets did an unusual thing after Geoff Collins was fired on Sept. 26 - they won consecutive games, something Collins never did in three 3-9 seasons. That’s incredible but true as Georgia Tech beat Pitt and Duke before losing to Virginia and Florida State in recent weeks.
Georgia Tech has lost some commitments since Collins was fired - and more could be coming - but being in Atlanta, having Georgia talent surrounding the campus and the attractiveness of the Georgia Tech education and playing in the ACC should be appealing.
The complete rebuild from Paul Johnson to Collins and now to the new coach could mean a transition continues but this is a program that has had good seasons in the past and should have them in the future.
Karl Dorrell didn’t have an abundant amount of time to implement his system but did we really need to see any more? Colorado was going nowhere under Dorrell and he got fired after the Buffaloes got blown out by TCU, Air Force, Minnesota, UCLA and Arizona to start the season. After a bye week, Colorado beat Cal but has since dropped games to Oregon State and Arizona State.
Colorado has had decent recruiting classes, the Denver talent along with the suburbs should be tapped even more and Boulder is one of the best college towns in America. There are some things to sell but one full winning season since 2005 is a big hole to climb out of.