There are a few changes in the SEC football coaching landscape this season. However, the new faces are pretty familiar.
Steve Spurrier quit on his South Carolina team midway through a 3-9 debacle. Gary Pinkel too decided to step down just ahead of gathering storm clouds in Missouri. Mark Richt agreed to part ways with Georgia, but this was a firing. The other 11 coaches managed to hang onto the jobs for another year, some just barely.
So, who is on the hot seat for 2016?
BIG COMFY LA-Z-BOY
Nick Saban, Alabama Crimson Tide (entering his 10th season at Alabama, 105-18, 60-12 SEC)
There is only one man who has a say when Saban ends his tenure at Alabama. Although, he will certainly seek council with the real boss, Miss Terry.
Jim McElwain, Florida Gators (entering 2nd season, 10-4, 7-1 SEC)
It is surprising to think that McElwain has only been a head coach for four seasons. He already has more double-digit win seasons (1 at Fla, 1 at CSU) than Gus Malzahn (1 Aub), Will Muschamp (1 Fla), Dan Mullen (1 MSU), Derek Mason (0), or Mark Stoops (0), and just as many as Butch Jones (1 Cincy, 1 CMU). Last season he went above and beyond anyone's expectations. He should be solid for awhile. If he has another big year, Gators Athletic Director Jeremy Foley may have to crack open some piggy banks.
CUSHIONED ARMCHAIR (BUT IT PROBABLY CAME FROM IKEA)
Kirby Smart, Georgia Bulldogs (entering 1st season, 0-0, 0-0 SEC)
It would take a disaster of scandalous epic proportions for Smart to be in any kind of trouble after his inaugural season in Athens. This team is too good for them not to finish with a winning record. Even Tyrone Willingham couldn't screw this up.
Dan Mullen, Mississippi State Bulldogs (entering 8th season, 55-35, 26-30 SEC)
These two are a perfect pair. Complacency, thy name is Mississippi State. Bulldogs fans are content if they win some games, win the Egg Bowl half of the time, and they get to rattle their cowbells. Mullen is more than happy to live by those guidelines. A losing season this year will not get him fired, but start stringing a couple of losing seasons in a row and there might be a rush on pitchforks down at the County Co-op.
Barry Odom, Missouri Tigers (entering 1st season, 0-0, 0-0 SEC)
Personally, I think this hire was a mistake. It was a lazy move that was likely made to appease a small group of alumni who think they need to stay in the fambly. Interestingly, Mizzou AD Mack Rhoades skipped town for the dumpster fire in Baylor a few months after this hiring. The Tigers are going to be really bad this year and probably the next and the next. Odom will get a pass for awhile but once those losses to Vandy start piling up, this administration will see the error of their predecessor's ways.
GRANDPA'S ITCHY OLD ARMCHAIR
Bret Bielema, Arkansas Razorbacks (entering 4th season, 18-20, 7-17 SEC)
Many people were a bit surprised when Bert moved from double-digit win seasons at Wisconsin to the mess that Bobby Petrino left in his wake. He brought enthusiasm and energy but it has not translated to big things on the field. He has improved the Hogs' record every season but just barely. A losing season this year might get Bielema in hot water.
Butch Jones, Tennessee Volunteers (entering 4th season, 21-17, 10-14 SEC)
Expectations are through the roof for the Vols this season. The fan base is expecting an SEC East title. That is a realistic goal in a weakened division but two other black clouds linger over their heads: an 11-game losing streak to Florida and a 9-game losing streak to Alabama. Losing to Bama might be acceptable but Jones HAS to finally get that Gator off their back. Lose both games and the final record may not matter. Seven wins or less and he is toast.
METAL FOLDING CHAIR WITH ONE LEG OFF BY A TICK
Will Muschamp, South Carolina Gamecocks (entering 1st season, 0-0, 0-0 SEC)
What an embarrassing episode in Columbia. Spurrier resigned in mid-October of 2015. The South Carolina administration had a good month and a half jump on every other program to find a new coach. They frittered their time away, put all their eggs in the wrong baskets with no back-up plans, and ended up taking home the last person still standing at closing time. He'll win some games. He may even get an upset or two. But don't expect any banners flying over the stadium anytime soon.
ONE OF THOSE WEIRD CHAIRS FROM CLOCKWORK ORANGE
Les Miles, LSU Tigers (entering 12th season, 112–32, 61–27 SEC)
One of the oddest turn of events is happening in Baton Rouge. Eight months ago, Miles looked like he was on the verge of being fired. Overwhelming support from fans and players gave him a stay of execution. Now many are pegging his Tigers for a spot in the CFB Playoffs. But are expectations too high? Could he get fired for another nine-win season? How many teams would kill for their school to have a run Miles has had on the Bayou?
WOODEN CHAIR WITH KINDLING AND A MATCH
Derek Mason, Vanderbilt Commodores (entering 3rd season,7–17, 2–14 SEC)
Some people are made to be head coaches. Some need to keep their jobs as coordinators. The 'Dores appeared to improve once Mason made the unusual move of taking over the defensive coordinator duties while still maintaining the role as head coach. Vanderbilt finished 28th in total defense but 117th in total offense and 124th in scoring. Mason has chosen to continue wearing two hats this season. At some point, the offense is going to need a little love, Derek. However, it is only Year 3 and it is still Vandy. The Commodores have a good shot at bowl eligibility in 2016.
Hugh Freeze, Ole Miss Rebels (entering 5th season, 34-18, 17-15 SEC
Freeze has improved his wins from 7 to 8 to 9 to 10. Normally, this would be exciting. But the Rebels lost a lot of talent and a NCAA hammer might be coming down REAL soon. Without the potential probation talk, Freeze would be up near La-Z-Boy territory. But right now, he is sitting on a powder keg.
Kevin Sumlin, Texas A&M Aggies (entering 5th season, 36-16, 17-15 SEC)
Once thought of as a quarterback guru to the likes of Case Keenum and Johnny Manziel, Sumlin can no longer keep his starting quarterbacks from transferring out (Kenny Hill, Kyle Allen and Kyler Murray). The main goal should be to take back control of this team. Being a players' coach is not necessarily a good thing. A losing season could get him canned. Otherwise, he should survive this campaign.
PLASTIC WALMART DECK CHAIR SET ABLAZE
Mark Stoops, Kentucky Wildcats (entering 4th season, 12-24, 4-20 SEC)
Four SEC wins in three years. What will it take for Stoops to save his job? Since it is Basketball U., a winning season probably saves his backside. That means if he goes 6-6, he dang sure better beat Ball State in the Idaho Potato Bowl.
Gus Malzahn, Auburn Tigers (entering 4th season, 27-13, 13-11 SEC)
My oh my how Gus bus has fallen. Since playing in the BCS Championship game in 2013, Malzahn's stock has dropped faster than Enron. There is a good chance this team is 1-3 by the end of September, and 6-6 or 5-7 by season's end. This is Year 4 and the time for excuses is over. It is hard to see this team eke out three wins against the SEC West, UGA and Clemson. It may be curtains for Gustav.