College football head coaching jobs: Predicting the next hires for every Power Five opening | Student football
• Hugh Freeze is back in the SEC: Because Lane Kiffin looks set to stay Be MissAuburn should look to Liberty head coach Hugh Freeze to fill his opening.
• Prime Time at Georgia Tech: The Yellow Jackets must swing for the fences and deliver Jackson State their next head coach, Deion Sanders.
Approximate reading time: 5 minutes
The end of the college football regular season marks the beginning of two of the sport’s most exciting periods: bowl games and the “silly season,” better known as the coaching carousel.
There are now eight Power Five locations. Here’s who we predict will fill each vacancy.
Stanford Cardinal: Chris Peterson (ex Washington Huskies HC)
David Shaw has resigned after 12 seasons at the helm of the Cardinal, becoming the program’s all-time winningest coach. However, the past few seasons have not been good for Stanford. The Cardinal went 3-9 in back-to-back campaigns and has a 14-28 record over the past four years.
Chris Petersen hasn’t coached since 2019, but he could reinvigorate the program. The current FOX analyst has found great success on the West Coast. He led Boise State to four top-10 finishes in the AP Poll in eight years with the Broncos. Then in Washington, he guided the Huskies to two Pac-12 championships and even reached the College Football Playoff in 2016. It’s still the Pac-12’s last Final Four appearance.
Additionally, Petersen was reportedly interested in the Stanford job back in 2011 when the Cardinal hired Shaw to replace Jim Harbaugh. If there’s any job to convince Petersen to pick up the clipboard again, it might be Stanford.
Cincinnati Bearcats: Jesse Minter (DC, Michigan Wolverines)
It was only a matter of time before Luke Fickell left Cincinnati for a more important job. He went 57-18 in six years with the Bearcats, including two AAC championships and an appearance in the 2021 College Football Playoff, the only time a Group of Five team earned an invitation. Fickell reportedly went to WisconsinCincinnati needs to find a new head coach for its first year as a member of the Big 12 Conference.
Jesse Minter spent just one season as Michigan’s defensive coordinator, but the Wolverines have one of the best defenses in the country under his leadership. Michigan’s defensive rating (93.2) ranks third in the nation and its EPA per game allowed (-0.246) ranks fourth.
In addition, the Minter family is familiar with Cincinnati’s program. Jesse spent a couple of years there as a graduate assistant, while his father, Rick, was the Bearcats’ head coach for 10 years.
Red tigers: Hugh Freeze (HC, Flame of Freedom)
Be Miss Head coach Lane Kiffin is reportedly Auburn’s top choice, but he has repeatedly emphasized his commitment to the Rebels.
If Kiffin decides to stay in Oxford, Mississippi, the Tigers could turn to another former Ole Miss head coach, Hugh Freeze, who now leads the Liberty program. He is 34-14 in four years with the Flames after taking over in just the program’s second season in the FBS.
Freese also had great success at Ole Miss before scandals forced him to resign. In 2015, the Rebels finished the season ranked 10th in the final AP poll, their first top-10 finish since 1969, when Archie Manning was the quarterback.
Nebraska Cornhuskers: Matt Rule (ex Carolina Panthers HC)
UPDATE: Nebraska has officially hired Matt Ruhl as its next head coach.
Though Ruhl only went 11-27 in the NFL, he had a history of transforming college programs. U Temple in 2016, he led the Owls to their first conference championship since 1967. And after he began to rule, a scandal Baylor in 2017, the Bears went 11-3 just three years later and won the Sugar Bowl.
Nebraska also needs a rebuild. The once-powerful Cornhuskers have gone six straight seasons without a bowl game and haven’t appeared in a New Year’s Six Bowl in 16 years.
Wisconsin Badgers: Jim Leonhard (interim HC)
UPDATE: Wisconsin gives the name CincinnatiLuke Fickell will be the next head coach, ESPN’s Pete Thamel reports. This is a huge hire for the Badgers.
Wisconsin’s head coaching job is rarely up for grabs. Since 1990, the Badgers have had only four head coaches.
Suffice it to say, Wisconsin is not a fan of change. So why not stick with an interim coach who has had success in Jim Leonhardt? The former defensive coordinator went 4-2 as interim coach after the Badgers started the season 2-3. Leonhardt also has the advantage of being able to relate to his players, as his playing career ended not so long ago in 2014 with Cleveland Browns.
Arizona State Sun Devils: Kenny Dillingham (ca. Oregon ducks)
UPDATE: Arizona State has officially hired Kenny Dillingham as its next head coach.
Kenny Dillingham is something of a coaching prodigy. He was already the offensive coordinator in Memphis, Chestnut, State of Florida and Oregon at just 32 years old. Under Dillingham, the Ducks have averaged .238 points per game this season, fourth best in the nation.
Highest EPA for a College Football Play | 2022 year
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Dillingham is also very familiar with the Sun Devils. He graduated from Arizona State in 2012 and spent several years with the team as an offensive assistant.
He may not be as experienced as other candidates, but Dillingham is quickly becoming one of the best offensive minds in the sport. Arizona State would be smart to bring him back to his alma mater.
Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets: Deion Sanders (HC, Jackson State Tigers)
Georgia Tech is in need of a big splash, having not been in a bowl game in the last four seasons. Who better to turn things around than Coach Prime?
His Tigers are currently 11-0 and sits at #5 in the FCS in just his third year as head coach. Jackson State went 11-3 last year, including the conference championship.
Sanders also dominated the recruiting trail. Last year, the Tigers landed one of the best recruits in the country Travis Hunter and the top 75 recruits in the Kevin Coleman Jr despite not playing in the FBS. In 2022, the program finished with the 78th best class, higher than four Power Five schools. At Georgia Tech, he could potentially compete with Kirby Smart and Georgia for some of the state’s top players.
Not to mention he also has ties to the Atlanta area. He not only played for Atlanta Falcons during his Hall of Fame football career, but he also spent several years with the Atlanta Braves during his baseball career.
The Yellow Jackets can afford to take a swing at Deion Sanders. At the very least, it would provide more exposure to a program that needs it.
Colorado Buffaloes: Ryan Walters (DC, Illinois Wrestling Illini)
Like fellow Pac-12 school Arizona State, Colorado’s best candidate for the head job could be a former graduate. Ryan Walters spent five years as a safety for the Buffaloes before serving as a student assistant in 2009.
Now the defensive coordinator at Illinois, Walters has overseen one of the stingiest defensive systems in the country. The Fighting Illini rank fifth in the nation in both passing defense (93.1) and EPA allowed per game (-0.258).
Colorado is in desperate need of a defensive rebuild. Buffalo has a putrid defensive grade of 37.3 this season, 16 points lower than the next worst school in college football.
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