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Big Ten Coaching Hot Seats Week 6 - A New Leader Emerges

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Jim O’Neil is my favorite Big Ten coach

NCAA Football: Nebraska at Northwestern David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

***DISCLAIMER*** BoilerUp89 does not wish unemployment upon anyone and asks that you remember these coaches are real people with a family. Watching the performance of some of these coaches is inappropriate for young children and all viewers watch their games at their own risk.

B1G Football 2021 Coaching Hot Seats Week 6

It’s been a strange two weeks in Big Ten football. Illinois won a game, Nebraska has looked competent, and Wisconsin looks like clownfraudtrasch. As a result of all the changes, we have a new #1 in the Hot Seat ranking this week.

But before I get into the details of that, this is your reminder that you can still join the coaching dead pool competition and guess who will be fired first and when. Winner gets bragging rights. And at the moment, you have a pretty solid chance to win because most of our readers are too cowardly to make a prediction. Details on how to play can be found in this previous post. Remember you can change your pick at any time as long as it is 1 week before a firing. One thing I guess I should specify, is time estimates should be central time (because the heathens great people that run this site prefer central time). Current entries are as follows:

06Lion - Matt Barnes Oct 31 at 4:09 AM?

Atinat - Matt Barnes Oct 25 at 10:21 AM

BoilerUp89 - Matt Lubick Nov 29 at 9:36AM

greenie71 - Scott Frost Oct 3 2:00 PM (while you could still be the closest to a Frost firing, your actual guess isn’t going to happen)

HusCat - Scott Frost the day after the Iowa game

TheNate - Lubick in the shower with a text at 10:22pm on Oct 30th

Anyone who has watched Northwestern football this season knows that they are not good. Some might even say they are the worst team in the conference. Although they will still find a way to win the Hat, the Northwestern defense has been unacceptable even for an odd year season. As a result, 1st year defensive coordinator Jim O’Neil seems like he is on borrowed time at the moment. A turnaround looks unlikely which means O’Neil would be relying on Fitz just deciding that he doesn’t care about the lack of performance this year.

The Hot Seat Rankings:

Buyouts and years left on contracts are at the end of the season.

1. Northwestern Wildcats DC Jim O’Neil (previously 2). 1st season. Salary - PRIVATE SCHOOL DOLLARS. Years left on contract - PRIVATE SCHOOL YEARS. Buyout at end of season - PRIVATE SCHOOL DOLLARS.

NCAA Football: Michigan State at Northwestern
Why did I hire Jim O’Neil?
Jon Durr-USA TODAY Sports

Since the previous iteration of this article, Northwestern has beaten a very bad Ohio U team 30 to 6 and gotten splattered by a thoroughly okay Nebraska squad 56 to 7. Against schools that aren’t FCS teams (or haven’t lost to a FCS team), Northwestern’s defense has given up 38, 30, and 56 points. Nebraska got 427 yards on the ground. For reference, B1G Coach of the Year Bert Bielema held Nebraska’s offense to 160 rushing yards. Next up: Northwestern gets a bye week before hosting Rutgers.

2. THE Ohio State Buckeyes DC Matt Barnes [de facto DC, de jure DB coach] (previously 1). 1st season as DB coach. Salary - 450k. Years left on contract - 1*.

Syndication: The Columbus Dispatch
Good job beating Rutgers guys!
Joshua A. Bickel/Columbus Dispatch / USA TODAY NETWORK

The Matt Barnes era has been off to a pretty smooth start. Sure Tulsa put up a ton of passing yards on the Buckeyes, but since then Akron and Rutgers have been held in check. But I’m not sure the improved performance against Akron and Rutgers means all that much for Barnes job security. While Rutgers is much improved under Schiano, Ohio State isn’t judging their coaches performances against non top 25 teams. As an interim play caller for the year, Barnes is unlikely to keep that job into next year even with a successful season if he doesn’t help lead the Buckeyes to a CFP final. *Note that Barnes contract details are for his role as a DB coach. His ranking here is the combined likelihood that he a) gets bumped back to a position coach or b) gets dropped from the staff altogether. Next up: A shell-shocked Maryland team followed by a week off.

3. Indiana Hoosiers OC Nick Sheridan (previously N/R). 2nd season. Salary - $500k. Years left on contract - 0?. Buyout at end of season - $0?.

NCAA Football: Indiana at Penn State
You broke Indiana fans’ favorite player.
Matthew OHaren-USA TODAY Sports

Sheridan has broken IU’s Penix. Yes, Indiana has played a difficult schedule to start the year. But despite facing three top 5 teams in Iowa, Cincinnati, and Penn State, I’m pretty sure Indiana fans were expecting to score more than 6, 24, and 0 points against those three teams. And even though they were able to score 33 points against WKU, Indiana settled for 4 field goals against the Hilltoppers. Penix hadn’t thrown a touchdown since the 2nd quarter of the Cincinnati game and now he’s injured. WR Fryfogle has taken a step backwards. Sheridan is still really young and before last season had no coordinating experience. His salary reflects the fact that he was being given a trial run (IU’s strength and conditioning coach is paid $700k/year). 2020 worked out well as IU was able to ride the momentum for the season opening win vs Penn State, but 2021 hasn’t been off to a good start. The danger for Sheridan and the Hoosiers is that negative momentum from early in the season snowballs and things fall completely apart. If Penix is out for the season, I don’t think Tuttle is ready to save Sheridan’s job. Salary note - the Hoosier media covers basketball, not football assistant contracts. I’m assuming Sheridan is on a year by year contract as I’ve been able to find zero indicators of a multi-year deal. Next up: The bye week, followed by home games vs MSU and OSU.

4. Nebraska Cornhuskers OC Matt Lubick (previously 4). 2nd season. Salary - $500k. Years left on contract - 1. Buyout at end of season - $500k.

Syndication: Lansing State Journal
Nebraska’s offense
Nick King/Lansing State Journal via Imagn Content Services, LLC

In the past two weeks, Lubick has coached the Nebraska offense to a 20 point performance against the Spartans and a 56 point explosion against Northwestern. The Northwestern result is promising but there is a reason Northwestern’s DC is #1 in these rankings. Despite the Northwestern explosion, the Nebraska offense still isn’t performing up to the level of their recruiting rankings (against power conference teams not named Northwestern they’ve put up 22, 16, and 20). Because even bad offensive teams Purdue and Wisconsin have solid defenses, Nebraska improving their offensive output against power conference quality teams seems unlikely with Michigan, Ohio State, Iowa, Wisconsin, Purdue, and Minnesota left. Lubick probably needs a bowl game (and there is a path towards 6 wins) or Scott Frost to continue to be way too loyal to his assistants. The latter is kind of Scott Frost’s thing. You know, other than throwing players under the bus. Next up: Michigan and then Minnesota. A two game losing streak is not advised as the bowl hopes all but disappear if that happens.

5. Nebraska Cornhuskers HC Scott Frost. 4th season. Salary - $5M. Years left on contract - 4. Buyout at end of season - $20M.

Northwestern v Nebraska
Which players should I throw under the bus this week?
Photo by Steven Branscombe/Getty Images

The Cornhuskers went out and lost to Michigan State before rebounding against Northwestern. Their bowl hopes remain alive only on the strength of their defense and the fact that Wisconsin looks worse than usual this year. This is your weekly reminder that Frost is an offensive coach, not a defensive coach. Frost was out throwing the players under the bus following the MSU game. I think it’s safe to say the fanbase no longer likes Scott Frost. They don’t hate him yet, but they are no longer enthusiastic supporters either. One other thing of note that I discovered about Frost this week. He is absurdly loyal to his assistants. Not only did he bring the entire UCF staff with him to Nebraska, but despite winning 12 games in the first three years every assistant coach except two are still on the staff. The only exceptions are the first offensive coordinator (who was let go after year 2) and Jovan Dewitt (special teams/LB coach) who left for another job. Name another staff in the past decade that has had that little turnover following 12 wins in 3 years?

Others to Watch:

Syndication: Journal-Courier
I should have brought a boat to the game like this guy
Nikos Frazier / Journal & Courier / USA TODAY NETWORK

Northwestern OC Mike Bajakian - Northwestern beat Ohio, but so did Duquesne. That doesn’t count for much. This past week, the Wildcats offense only managed 293 yards despite Nebraska going deep into their bench late in the game. Bajakian is in his second year and because Northwestern made it to Indianapolis last season you would think he should be fine. But if you look at their offensive stats last year (24.7 points/game, 360 yards/game) you start to realize how much that defense carried that team. Bajakian is a solid candidate to move up into the actual rankings moving forward. Next up: Bye week and then hosting Rutgers. Perhaps the rare game where Northwestern fans might outnumber their opposing Big Ten fanbase.

Illinois Fighting Illini OC Tony Petersen - Illinois got the win as they were able to just run the ball against Charlotte. Getting 78 passing yards in a game though isn’t a good thing. I’m not sure we can fairly blame Petersen for not having a QB to work with in year 1, but I’m not seeing a whole lot that inspires me either. The three year contract and 1st season of the Bert experience probably keep Petersen relatively safe. It’s still in his best interest for the Illini to get a 3rd win this season. Next up: The Badgers of Wisconsin and then a bye.

Purdue Boilermakers HC Jeff Brohm - Purdue had their first 3-1 start since 2012 and Purdue fans are now pissed off that the Boilermakers lost a close one to Minnesota. The last two weeks the offense hasn’t been good (well more than the last two weeks) but there are some signs that things could turn around. It’s still possible that Purdue goes into a tailspin and loses out (which might actually put Brohm’s job into serious question) but it seems more likely they win a couple of tossup games and the 2022 season becomes the decider of his fate. Next up: the bye week followed by a loss to Iowa.

Michigan Wolverines HC Jim Harbaugh - Just like that Michigan is 5-0. Things look good in Ann Arbor and Harbaugh has earned his first victory as an underdog in his Michigan tenure after defeating Wisconsin - side note: why was Wisconsin favored? Harbaugh will stay on this watch list until he beats one of MSU, PSU, or OSU. Because even a 9-3 season might not be enough to save him if he goes 0-3 against those schools again (reminder that Harbaugh is just 6-12 against what Michigan fans see as their B1G East peers). Next up: @Nebraska followed by a bye week. A win against the Cornhuskers is going to result in some raised expectations in Ann Arbor.

Nebraska DC Erik Chinander - Nebraska’s defense has looked competent good all season long. Sure it took Chinander until year 4 to start holding teams under 25 points a game, but the blackshirts defense has stepped up in a big way this season. The bad news for Chinander is that Nebraska has already played Illinois, Fordham, Buffalo, and Northwestern and isn’t facing offenses as broken as them the rest of the year. The good news is that Minnesota, Purdue, Wisconsin, and even Iowa don’t have good offenses this year. If things fall apart in the back half of the schedule even a little bit, Chinander could rocket back up this list as it’s year 4 and no bowls yet but based just on defensive performance this year, Chinander more than deserves another year. A win against Michigan probably drops Chinander off the watch list.

Moving off the watch list:

Illinois DC Ryan Walters - The UTSA and Virginia games were bad outings for the Illini defense. But in the other four games this year, the Illini have given up 22, 20, 13, and 14 points despite a very poor offense. That type of performance is going to be good enough for Walters to secure a 2022 season. Walters will move off the watch list section of the hot seat rankings and stay off unless the Illini start giving up 40 points regularly the rest of the season.

Head Coaches That Will Be Safe After 3 Wins:

NCAA Football: Illinois at Virginia
Where is the buffet?
Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
  • Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin, Northwestern

After 6 Wins:

NCAA Football: Indiana at Penn State
Future USC coach James Franklin
Matthew OHaren-USA TODAY Sports
  • Ohio State, Penn State, Maryland, Purdue, Nebraska

Coaches that have reached safe threshold for 2021 (barring scandal):

Syndication: Lansing State Journal
I’m coming for you Harbaugh
Nick King/Lansing State Journal / USA TODAY NETWORK

Michigan State HC, OC, DC

Rutgers HC, OC, DC

Iowa HC, OC, DC

Minnesota HC