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Sun Belt Conference CFB Coaches Hot Seat (6-11)

Okay, okay, okay… I know what you’re thinking. “Oh, great. Yet another CFB Head Coach Hot Seat Ranking from <insert name>!“. I’ll at least *try* to make this a little bit different… with an eye from a fan’s standpoint.

Within the Sun Belt (*gasp* *shudder*! A non P5 conference?!), there are really some epic battles and rivalries which makes for a truly entertaining game day experience, both for the fans and the teams. Before you mock me for focusing on these guys, let me be clear here… I have spoken with just about every SBC CFB coach (Troy’s Neal Brown, Texas State’s Dennis Franchione and the Ragin’ Cajuns Coach Hud not withstanding), either via phone (Interview for Two Cents Radio), or in person. In addition to that, I am honored (and humbled) to be able to call a couple of them friends. So, my ranking may be slightly biased, however, their records (and commitment/loyalty/passion) speaks for themselves.

Let’s get to the Arctic Tundra of the Hot Seat rankings, right now. The three coaches below (although one might be only *slightly* warmer than the other two) are absolutely frozen and in no danger of being fired (short of a complete catastrophic meltdown), this year.

 

 

#11 – Coach Willie Fritz (Georgia Southern Eagles)

Twitter: @CoachWEFritz (@GSAthletics)
Record at Georgia Southern in 2014: 9-3 (8-0 in Conf play)
Overall Record at Georgia Southern: 9-3 (8-0 in Conf play)
Lifetime Coaching Record: 146-65 (101-51 in Conf play)

Coach Willie Fritz speaks with Coach Paul Johnson after the game. Georgia Southern at Georgia Tech, 2014

Coach Willie Fritz speaks with Coach Paul Johnson after the game.
Georgia Southern at Georgia Tech, 2014

First year as an FBS coach, taking a school in its second year from FCS to FBS transition, Coach Fritz led the Eagles to new heights by going undefeated in conference play (Ragin’ Cajuns and Red Wolves fans, save your arguments about not facing the best the Sun Belt offers, please)… and was just 7 points away (two games: Georgia Tech (L, 38-42) and NC State (L, 23-24)) from going 11-1. Yours truly was present for the GS vs GT game (and the App State at GS game, as well as the “Battle of the Blues”, Georgia State vs Georgia Southern game). You want to talk about one heck of an epic battle? Coach Fritz picked right up where Coach Jeff Monken left off and didn’t miss a heartbeat. In addition to covering Georgia Southern three games last year, my assistant and I were both fortunate enough to be able to cover the Blue and White game and festivities, as well as a couple practices prior to last year’s insane run.

Coach Fritz (and his staff) have his players ready to run through brick walls and headbutting anyone that gets in their way.

2015 Pivotal games: at West Virginia, at Appalachian State, at Georgia, Georgia State
2015 Trap games: The Citadel, at Appalachian State, Georgia State
2015 MUST WIN games: at Appalachian State, South Alabama, Georgia State, The Citadel

I’ll probably take a little bit of heat for the trap games (Citadel, GSU), however, based off The Citadel’s past history of playing spoiler, you cannot discount this FCS program’s capabilities. As for Georgia State, the Panthers are only going to go up… and they’re angry as all heck. You can only keep a program down for so long. The single most important advantage that the Eagles have going for them is their insane record at Paulson Stadium, an impressive 174-49-3 (77.65%) record.

Coach Fritz, baring a scandal, is absolutely THE safest SBC coach from being on the Hot Seat this year, bar none.

(Twitter Accounts to follow: @GSUFans)

#GATA #HailSouthern


#10 – Coach Mark Hudspeth (Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns)

Twitter: @ULCoachHud (@ULRaginCajuns)
Record at Louisiana in 2014: 9-4 (7-1 in Conf play)
Overall Record at Louisiana: 36-16 (24-7 in Conf play)
Lifetime Coaching Record: 102-37 (69-22 in Conf play)

Absolutely NO ONE will out-Hud THE Hud… except himself… and maybe Coach Fritz (above) or Coach Anderson (bel0w). Aside from the stunning upsets by Appalachian State and Louisiana Tech (at home, no less), Coach Hudspeth has been INSANELY consistent, going 9-4 every year he’s been with the Ragin’ Cajuns. His seat is a little hotter this year; the Ragin’ Cajuns, while happy with the resurgence/emergence of the Louisiana program, are a bit tired of having to share Conference titles with the Red Wolves. Back to back to back to back winners of the New Orleans Bowl, Coach Hud’s Ragin’ Cajuns have consistently proven that they can compete with just about anyone… except a P5 program.

This year, they face the SEC’s Wildcats (Kentucky) and have a chance to continue building up on the success they’ve had the past several years. In my personal opinion, Coach Hud needs to finish the season 9-4 or better (7-1 in Conference play OR beat Kentucky with a 6-2 Conf record) in order to keep him on the frigid side of the SBC Hot Seat rankings.

2015 Pivotal games: at Kentucky, at Louisiana Tech, at Arkansas State, ULM Warhawks
2015 Trap games: at Kentucky, at Louisiana Tech, ULM Warhawks
2015 MUST WIN games: All Conference games and Louisiana Tech, OR Kentucky and go 7-1 in Conference play

The three biggest games for the Ragin’ Cajuns this year is Kentucky, Arkansas State and Louisiana Tech (all road games). Tech has won the last three meetings (last meetup in Ruston was in 2004). The series with the Red Wolves in Jonesboro is very evenly matched up. The winner of this year’s contest will battle Georgia Southern for the SBC Champions designation… and probably the better bowl match up for the Sun Belt. The meetup with Kentucky on September 5th is the first meeting between these two programs.

As noted: Coach Hud has to beat ULM and LA Tech, for sure… and get at least 6 other conference wins -OR- beat Kentucky and go 6-2 in Conference play (as long as one of those losses is NOT to Arkansas State or Georgia State).

(Twitter Accounts to follow: @JayESPN1420 and @MattSulli123)

#GeauxCajuns!


#9 – Coach Blake Anderson (Arkansas State Red Wolves)

Twitter: @ChBAnderson (@AStateRedWolves)
Record at Arkansas State in 2014: 7-6 (5-3 in Conf play)
Overall Record at Arkansas State: 7-6 (5-3 in Conf play)
Lifetime Coaching Record: 7-6 (5-3 in Conf play)

It was absolutely tough to place Coach Anderson here… realistically, both he and Coach Hud could be flipped. The only reason why I placed Coach Anderson here is because of his record last year, though the blame for that does not fall at his feet (maybe only slightly). He’s the type of guy, however, that will NOT make any excuses and he won’t throw anyone under the bus, except himself. The coaching carousel at Arkansas State created a LOT of instability and probably scared off a LOT of recruits. I, along with the rest of Red Wolves Nation, held our breaths when the 2014-15 Bowl Season started, for fear of losing yet another top caliber coach to a bigger name program (I mean, c’mon… five coaches in five years? I don’t think ANY school in NCAA history has ever faced this issue).

2015 Pivotal games: Missouri (at home), UL Ragin’ Cajuns (at home), USC Trojans, Toledo, Appalachian State
2015 Trap games: Toledo, Appalachian State, UL Ragin’ Cajuns, Missouri
2015 MUST WIN games: Toledo, Appalachian State, UL Ragin’ Cajuns

After losing their GoDaddy Bowl game (to Toledo, ironically), Coach Anderson has a chance to avenge that loss. The Red Wovles will be SUPREMELY battle tested after facing P5 powerhouses USC Trojans and the 2013 & 2014 SEC East Champions Missouri Tigers, plus potential future Sun Belt invitee Missouri State. I expect that the Red Wolves will send the UL Ragin’ Cajuns with a loss this year (the series really is very evenly matched up). As far as App State is concerned, these guys started off cold, and got hot as the season went on last year… the Red Wolves were (unfortunately) caught off guard.

Arkansas State enjoys some really good rivalry games with the Ragin’ Cajuns… I expect the battle of the ASUs to become much more hotly contested in the near future, as well.

To keep Coach Anderson from moving up in the Hot Seat Rankings (staying at Arkansas State a few more years will definitely help, of course), he’s got to beat the Ragin’ Cajuns at home and not be known as THE team that gave Idaho a win or THE team that gave Georgia State its first ever conference win. A stunning upset of the Mizzou Tigers would also keep Coach on ice… (and maybe even move him up to #10 on the list for next year). One final note: He must also win his Bowl game this year. One thing is for certain… beating Mizzou and the Ragin’ Cajuns will ensure that he (and his staff) get to have ALL the Little Debbie snacks they want!

(Twitter Accounts to follow: @JC_RWRC and @RedWolf_Marine)

#WeHOWL #HowlYES


SafeZone

The following coaches are just a little warmer, but are still very comfortably in the safe zone this year. As long as they all continue to build on last year’s success, or (in the case of newcomers) improve, they’ll continue to be in the safe zone.

Now, if they start sliding the other way… that won’t be good, of course. Share the love, guys, you’re protected!

 

 

  #8 – Joey Jones (South Alabama Jaguars)

Twitter: @CoachJoeyJones (@USAJaguarSports)
Record at South Alabama in 2014: 6-7 (5-3 in Conf play)
Overall Record at South Alabama: 37-28 (10-13 in Conf play)
Lifetime Coaching Record: 40-35 (11-20 in Conf play)

After a bit of a rough start with the South Alabama Jaguars’ fledgling football program as they transitioned from FCS to FBS, Coach Joey Jones took the Jags to their first bowl game (the Inaugural Camellia Bowl) in 2014. A native Alabaman son, Coach Jones will have the time needed to continue to build up the Jags, as long as he continues to build up the wins to a consistent 8-9+ wins every year. He is starting to turn heads and is known for his toughness:

2015 Pivotal games: at San Diego State, at Troy, Arkansas State, Georgia State
2015 Trap games: at Georgia Southern, at San Diego State, Appalachian State
2015 MUST WIN games: Troy, Texas State, Idaho, Georgia State

In order to keep his momentum going forward, he’ll need to dispatch in-state rival Troy handily, go 7-6 (or better) and repeat on the 5-3 conference record he hit last year. With road games against P5 powerhouse Nebraska, MWC’s San Diego State and P5 NC State coming to Mobile, it could be a very long year for JagNation, resulting in a slight shift up the temperature scale.

(Twitter Accounts to follow: @JagNation, @AleemTheDream25 & @TheTommyHicks)

#JagNation #USA #JagsRising


#7 – Neal Brown (Troy Trojans)

Twitter: @CoachBrownTROY (@TroyAthletics)
Record at Troy in 2014: First Year as HC (anywhere)
Overall Record at Troy: First Year as HC (anywhere)
Lifetime Coaching Record: First Year as HC (anywhere)

In most cases, I would rattle off one of my favorite phrases: You never want to be the man that follows THE MAN. Larry Blakeney retired at the conclusion of the 2014-15 season, after beating the three worst Sun Belt teams to garner their only wins. My heart went out to the Trojans, because we ALL wanted to see them go out with at least a .500 record. Coach Blakeney is one of the more legendary names within the Coaching profession.. and has left some very big shoes to fill.

That’s where Coach Brown comes in… after stints with Texas Tech and Kentucky, he brings a high octane offense back to Troy. One observation about Coach Brown was how well he can recruit, both from the Troy Faithful, and others within the SEC and Big 12. We’ll see just how much of a drop off Kentucky faces, recruiting wise… the fan base is already bristling with excitement with the fact that Brown came home.

2015 Pivotal games: South Alabama, at NC State (See last year’s Wolfpack vs GS Eagles battle; one of two Alabama/SBC teams they face this year), ULM Warhawks
2015 Trap games: South Alabama, Idaho, Georgia State
2015 MUST WIN games: Idaho, at Georgia State, Charleston Southern, at New Mexico State

Coach Brown needs to improve on last year’s 3-9 (3-5) record. He’ll have a few years to get the ship turned around, but not much leeway after that. The key is probably a 5-7 (4-4) record for this year and 7 to 9 wins consistently thereafter.

(Twitter Accounts to follow: @AdamP_TROY, @rguthrie85 & @GoTroyTrojans)

#RebuildTheWall #itsTtime


#6 – Scott Satterfield (Appalachian State Mountaineers)

Twitter: @AppStCoachSatt (@AppStateSports)
Record at Appalachian State in 2014: 7-5 (6-2 in Conf play)
Overall Record at Appalachian State: 11-13 (10-6 in Conf play)
Lifetime Coaching Record: 11-13 (10-6 in Conf play)

As noted above… you never want to be that guy… and unfortunately, Coach Satterfield has to be that guy. With questions already roiling about Coach Moore’s departure, Yosef’s Mountaneer family weren’t entirely thrilled with Coach being named permanent HC. A 1-5 start, including 0-2 in Conference play, certainly didn’t help matters, either. There were several people (including yours truly) that Coach would be able to recreate the 2007 miracle. We are all aware of the end result.

After a rough start, Coach Satterfield got the team turned around and rattled off 6 wins in a row. This year, the stakes are a bit higher… including getting a much needed win over rival Georgia Southern

2015 Pivotal games: Georgia Southern, Old Dominion, Georgia State
2015 Trap games: Old Dominion, Georgia Southern, Troy
2015 MUST WIN games: Georgia Southern, Howard, Idaho, Georgia State

Coach Satterfield needs to continue building on his record from last year (7-5, 6-2). Due to his tenure with the Mountaineers (16 years before becoming HC, now entering his 19th year), and now with four SBC Bowl tie-ins, expectatons are that the Mountaineers must go bowling this year. Otherwise, he moves into the “Warm Seat” list.

(Twitter Accounts to follow: @YosefsCabin, @GonzoApp, @ASUMike247 & @Firefighter648)

#AlwaysAttack #AppFamily #BooneBallers