With the end of the week seven games, we have have hit the halfway point of the college football season. Coming into the season there were 13 new head coaches in the Power 5 conferences, including interim coaches that had their interim tags removed before the 2018 season. Some have done well, some not so much. Here they are ranked based on how their teams have performed at the halfway mark.
13. Chad Morris, Arkansas (1-6, 0-4 SEC)
Previous Job: SMU, Head Coach
Morris has gotten off to a rough start in his Arkansas tenure. The lone win the Hogs have had this season was at home against an FCS team. The rest has pretty much been a nightmare, highlighted by a 44-17 clobbering at home to North Texas. Morris has a chance to right the ship with his upcoming match up against a 1-5 Tulsa team. It also doesn’t hurt that Morris has developed some positive momentum on the recruiting trail. Time will tell if Morris is the answer for a team trying to get back into the top half of the SEC.
12. Scott Frost, Nebraska (0-6, 0-4 Big Ten)
Previous Job: UCF, Head Coach
Call Morris 13a and Frost 13b if you want, because they are both in bad shape starting off their respective tenures at new schools. Frost does get the benefit of the doubt a little bit, considering their season opening game against a pretty average Akron team was canceled. So their record could be a little better. Either way, starting the season 1-6 isn’t so different from starting the season 0-6. Nebraska will play a Minnesota team that has lost its last three games this weekend.
11. Jonathan Smith, Oregon State (1-5, 0-3 PAC-12)
Previous Job: Offensive Coordinator, Washington
Smith was always going to face an uphill battle when he accepted the job at Oregon State. He had to have known that taking over a team that had only won four games against FBS teams in three years was going to be tough. However, where Nebraska was favored to beat Troy and Arkansas was favored to beat North Texas and Colorado State, Oregon State hasn’t been favored against anybody they’ve lost to. So technically, is Smith is doing a better job than Frost and Morris? Sure, let’s go with that.
10. Chip Kelly, UCLA (1-5, 1-2 PAC-12)
Previous Job: Head Coach, San Fransisco 49ers
Not exactly the explosive return to the college game that many expected for Chip Kelly, but there are some bright spots to highlight for the Bruins. A big win last weekend on the road against rival Cal is sure to give some UCLA fans hope, but perhaps more important are the games they’ve lost. The five teams that UCLA has lost to have a combined 26-5 record. Considering how different Kelly’s coaching style is from Jim Mora, it’s almost understandable that UCLA has started the season 1-5 against that type of scheduling.
On The Right Track
9. Willie Taggart, Florida State (3-3, 1-3 ACC)
Previous Job: Head Coach, Oregon
Taggart could just as easily be in the “Basement” group, but Florida State has at least managed to win more than one game, so he deserves some credit for that. On the other hand, embarrassing losses to Virginia Tech and Syracuse, coupled with tight wins against FCS Samford and a bad Louisville team don’t exactly bode well for the future of the ‘Noles. Maybe Florida State shouldn’t have let a top-five coach go after one bad season, but what do I know?
8. Kevin Sumlin, Arizona (3-4, 2-2 PAC-12)
Previous Job: Head Coach, Texas A&M
Sumlin’s tenure with Arizona has started off with a resounding “meh”. He’s won a few games that, all things considered, he was probably supposed to win against Southern Utah, Oregon State, and Cal. He’s also lost to BYU, Houston, USC, and Utah. Meh. Ideally, though, Sumlin can tap into his history with dual-threat quarterbacks and help turn Khalil Tate into a star. That would be fun to see.
7. Herm Edwards, Arizona State (3-3, 1-2 PAC-12)
Previous Job: Head Coach, Kansas City Chiefs
As embarrassing as Edwards can be when he steps in front of a microphone, he has done fairly well in his first season with the Sun Devils. A good win against top-15 Michigan State early in the season was canceled out the next weekend by a loss to San Diego State. He’s also managed to keep games against top-25 teams Colorado and Washington within one touchdown, so that’s something. As much as Arizona State has invested into Edwards and his wacky ideas, he’ll probably have plenty of time and opportunities to prove his worth.
6. Jeremy Pruitt, Tennessee (3-3, 1-2 SEC)
Previous Job: Defensive Coordinator, Alabama
It’s no secret that Pruitt took over an unmitigated disaster when he arrived at Tennessee. A lopsided season opening loss to top-25 West Virginia followed by an embarrassing showing against Florida at home a few weeks later was a less than stellar start. However, the Vols showed that the supposed steady improvement happening behind the scenes was finally a refreshing reality with an upset win last weekend on the road against No. 21 Auburn. All things considered, Tennessee has won the games it was supposed to win, and lost the games it was supposed to lose. Except for Auburn, of course. Add in that they have been improving at a steady rate every game, and a bowl game could be a possibility for a team that finished last season 4-8.
5. Joe Moorhead, Mississippi State (4-2, 1-2 SEC)
Previous Job: Offensive Coordinator, Penn State
Moorhead inherited the mother-load when he accepted the job at Mississippi State. An above average SEC team with relatively low expectations and a solid, dynamic quarterback is a dream scenario for most new head coaches. Following losses to Kentucky on the road and Florida at home, the Mississippi State hype train lost a little bit of steam. A win against a struggling Auburn team was nice for Moorhead, but games against LSU, Texas A&M, and Alabama within the next four weeks will show everyone if he is a legitimate SEC head coach or not.
Right Out Of The Gate
4. Dan Mullen, Florida (6-1, 4-1 SEC)
Previous Job: Mississippi State, Head Coach
This hurts to write a little bit, but Mullen has done well in his first season at Florida. Wins against to-25 Mississippi State and top-five LSU are great. Blowing a three-decade long winning streak against Kentucky at home is not so great. All things considered, Florida has only lost once, and its game against Georgia in Jacksonville next weekend will likely determine the fate of the SEC East yet again. Not a bad start to the Mullen Era in Gainesville.
3. Mario Cristobal, Oregon (5-1, 2-1 PAC-12)
Previous Job: Interim Head Coach, Oregon
Sure, technically Cristobal was interim head coach at Oregon for its bowl game last season, but for the sake of this list, we are counting him as a first-year head coach. Oregon’s only loss so far this season was to a top-10 Stanford team, where it blew a big lead late. The Ducks responded by beating a top-10 Washington team a few weeks later, so we’ll call it even. Especially considering they’ve handled all of their games that weren’t against top-10 teams. Cristobal is trying to get Oregon back to being perennial contenders in the Pac-12, and it seems that he’s off to a good start.
2. Matt Luke, Ole Miss (5-2, 1-2 SEC)
Previous Job: Interim Head Coach, Ole Miss
Does Luke count as a new head coach considering he spent an entire season as interim at Ole Miss before being named head coach? If you don’t think so, just take him out and move everyone on this list up one spot. You’re welcome.
Whether Luke can be considered a new head coach or not, you have to appreciate the job he has done with Ole Miss. The high-flying offense in Oxford has averaged 42 points per game so far, leading them to a 5-2 record. Considering they were 6-6 last season, that’s not a bad start. Throw in that the only two teams they’ve lost to are top-five teams LSU and Alabama, and Ole Miss has had a sterling start to the Luke Era. If year one (two?) under Luke is going this well, who knows where Ole Miss will be in the next few years.
1. Jimbo Fisher, Texas A&M (5-2, 3-1 SEC)
Previous Job: Florida State, Head Coach
Remember that top-five coach Florida State ran off that I mentioned earlier? Yeah, it’s this guy. Fisher has looked like a top-five head coach in his first seven games with the Aggies. And under his absurd contract, he should look like a top-five head coach. They’ve only lost to the two best teams in college football right now: Clemson and Alabama. Other than that, Fisher has Texas A&M looking great. Look for him to make the Aggies a team that will start to challenge Nick Saban and Alabama for the SEC West in the coming seasons.