NCAA Football

The Top 10 Hottest Coaching Candidates in College Football

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These Coaches Will be in Hot Demand

College Football

The college football is nearing the home stretch and that means that athletic directors and university presidents face the difficult task of electing to stick with a current coaching regime or to make a change.

No matter the won-loss record of a coach, the decision to fire a coach is always a difficult one for schools to make because of the relationships that are forged between the coach and the players and fans as well as the coach and the school board. However, the nature of the business is based on the bottom line and the coach’s record ultimately determines the longevity of a coach at the school.

Some schools have already made their plans clear such as Kentucky who announced last week that Joker Phillips will not return in 2013 and are scouring the coaching landscape to find his replacement. Other schools haven’t been as decisive as Kentucky and are making their plans for succession behind closed doors. Schools like California, Auburn and Purdue have been rumored in the past few days to be considering their options at the coaching position.

Cal has long-time coach Jeff Tedford who has had success at the school in the past, but has faced a rocky road in recent years. Purdue has not mounted much success in Danny Hope’s tenure and seems likely to be gone at the end of the season and could be replaced by Northern Illinois head coach, Dave Doeren.

The most shocking name on the firing list could be Gene Chizik at Auburn who won the 2010 national title but has a team that is without a conference win and operating one of the most anemic offenses in the country.

The next wave of great coaches is waiting in the wings and ready to step up into the limelight and guide a marquee program and restore the pride in the once proud programs—while cashing a bigger paycheck too.

Some of these candidates I am going to mention will stick with their current job while others will leap at the opportunity to coach in a power conference with more resources and reach a bigger audience when it comes to recruiting.

As is the nature of the beast, some of these candidates will be on the firing squad in the next few years while some will be among the best in college football.

Follow me on Twitter @PatrickASchmidt

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Mississippi State Head Coach Dan Mullen

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Marvin Gentry-US PRESSWIRE

The Mississippi State coach has done great things in his four years at Starkville leading the team to bowl wins each of the past two seasons and started the 2012 season with a 7-0 record. He is a beloved figure at State and Mullen has said numerous times he loves it in Starkville, and while I think it is a long shot that he would leave State, you have to wonder if he would leave for a top 15 program if approached.

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Kent State Head Coach Darrell Hazell

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When you win at Kent State as Hazell has done, athletic directors are going to take notice. He directed Kent State to the first win over a ranked team in the program’s history with a historic upset over a previously unbeaten Rutgers team and at 8-1 has the program in contention for a MAC title. In just two years as a head coach, Hazell is still relatively green, but could find himself in contention for openings in the Big East, where he was an assistant at Rutgers from 2001-2003 or in the Big Ten where he was an assistant on Jim Tressel’s staff at Ohio State.

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Louisville Head Coach Charlie Strong

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Strong has catapulted the Louisville program to heights not seen since Bobby Petrino was coaching there and had the Cardinals undefeated and ranked in the top 10 in the BCS prior to their week 11 loss to Syracuse. With sophomore quarterback Teddy Bridgewater looking like a Heisman contender, it will be tough for Strong to walk away, but he will be lured by SEC schools, whom he has ties to since his days as defensive coordinator under Urban Meyer at Florida and is a native of Arkansas and has been linked to that program.

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Florida Offensive Coordinator Brent Pease

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Florida’s offensive coordinator is in his freshman season running the offense for the Gators after leaving Boise State, where he enjoyed a multitude of success. While I do think it is unlikely that he would leave after one season in Gainesville with a young and promising quarterback in Jeff Driskel to mentor, it bears monitoring if a team like Kentucky or Auburn inquires about the services for the offensive guru.

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Western Kentucky Head Coach Willie Taggert

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The Western Kentucky coach served as an assistant under Jim Harbaugh at Stanford before taking the job at Western Kentucky that was starting FBS competition in the Sun Belt. Taggert owns a win over Kentucky this season and has won 14 of its last 17 games. He could be linked to just about any opening in America.

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Alabama Defensive Coordinator Kirby Smart

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Marvin Gentry-US PRESSWIRE

The Alabama defensive coordinator has been a hot name for the past few years, but has turned down overtures from other schools to remain in Tuscaloosa with Nick Saban. At some point I wonder if Smart will be content to be the top assistant in the country rather than take the head job elsewhere where all the pressure would be on him. I think many schools are assuming Smart has made that decision, but will still be courted by the schools in the SEC that have an opening.

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Cincinnati Head Coach Butch Jones

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Frank Victores-US PRESSWIRE

The previous two head coaches at Cincinnati are Mark Dantonio and Brian Kelly who are having successful runs at Michigan State and Notre Dame, respectively. So could Jones be the next Bearcats coach to bolt for a high profile job? At 6-2 this season and a 10-win season and Liberty Bowl victory a year ago, Jones has raised his profile at a school that seems content letting great coaches walk away.

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TCU Head Coach Gary Patterson

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Charles LeClaire-US PRESSWIRE

The TCU head coach is in his 13th season as coach of the Horned Frogs and the all-time wins leader, and is reportedly the top target for the Arkansas job. His teams have had success in big games as his winning six of the last seven bowl games would suggest--including the 2010 Rose Bowl. He has his teams ranked in the top 25 perennially and has missed a bowl game only once in his tenure. If the 52-year-old Patterson is ready to take on a new challenge, every school with an opening will call on him, but I’m skeptical he will leave Fort Worth, Tx

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Northern Illinois Head Coach Dave Doeren

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In his second year as head coach at Northern Illinois, Doeren is a one-point loss at Iowa from having an undefeated record. Nonetheless, Doeren has the Huskies atop the west division in the Mid American Conference and the former Wisconsin assistant has already been linked to the Purdue job if Danny Hope is fired.

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Louisiana Tech Head Coach Sonny Dykes

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Spruce Derden-US PRESSWIRE

Commanding the No. 19 La Tech team to a dazzling 8-1 record and averaging more than 50 points per game has put Dykes on the map for major college openings. His team’s only loss came to Texas A&M in a two-point loss that is the only difference in a perfect season. His predecessor Derek Dooley landed a gig with Tennessee following a 17-20 record at La Tech. Dykes has a 21-13 record at the school, so he could find a job similar to that or even in an odd twist replace Dooley at Tennessee.