With Les Miles gone, many other coaches’ seats just got a little bit warmer. Although most will likely coach another week, the move could put pressure on programs to act quickly and pounce on top coaching candidates. Butch Jones and Hugh Freeze had big wins last weekend, and hope to keep the momentum going.
Here are the SEC coaches with the most to gain and lose in Week 5.
Gain: Barry Odom
Missouri at LSU – 7:30 p.m. Saturday in Baton Rouge, La. (SEC Network)
It’s been a tough week for LSU after Les Miles became the first SEC coach to get canned this season. The only guarantee after a beloved coach gets fired is that the players will be emotional come Saturday. It’s hard to know whether that’s a positive or negative.
LSU’s roster is better in every way. The Louisiana version of the Tigers boasts elite talent, better experience and more continuity. However, with emotions high, this might be an opportunity for Mizzou to take advantage of a distracted LSU defense. If Drew Lock can hit a couple of shots to WR J’Mon Moore over the top, this game could get interesting quickly.
Lose: Mark Stoops
Kentucky at No. 1 Alabama – 7 p.m. Saturday in Tuscaloosa, Ala. (ESPN)
One of the most dysfunctional programs in college football travels to face one of the most talented teams in the nation – what could go wrong? Plenty will be on the line for Stoops as the Wildcats try to claw a dent in Alabama’s armor.
To be clear, getting blown out in this game is an acceptable result. Better teams than Kentucky would get stomped by multiple touchdowns against Alabama. However, this could still be the beginning of the end for Mark Stoops if things go badly. His team has to remain composed and avoid getting beaten down mentally, or the loss could have long-term effect on its season. Once a team loses faith in itself, it’s difficult to get it back.
Gain: Hugh Freeze
No. 16 Ole Miss vs. Memphis – 7 p.m. Saturday in Oxford, Miss.
Ole Miss lost its first two games of the year, but the matchups were against No. 1 Alabama and No. 4 Florida State. With an opportunity against a lesser ranked team, No. 12 Georgia in this case, the Rebels delivered. Chad Kelly threw for 282 yards and 2 touchdowns as Ole Miss obliterated Georgia 45-14.
This Saturday’s game is another opportunity for the Rebels to make a statement against a solid team. This isn’t the same Memphis that boasted head coach Justin Fuente and NFL quarterback Paxton Lynch, but the Tigers have still gotten off to an easy 3-0 start. Memphis has won its last two games, against Bowling Green and Kansas, by a combined 116-10. Another win should push Ole Miss up the polls.
Lose: Derek Mason
Vanderbilt vs. No. 23 Florida – 12 p.m. Saturday in Nashville, Tenn. (SEC Network)
Firing season is officially open after Les Miles became the first major college coach to get dismissed in 2016. There are a couple of SEC coaches who are on the hot seat now, led by Kentucky’s Mark Stoops and Vanderbilt’s Mason.
The latter is struggling in his third season as a head coach, posting just a 9-19 record with the Commodores, including 2-15 in SEC play. While Vanderbilt is expected to lose against Florida, it could be unusually bad considering the Gators could be out for revenge after blowing a double-digit lead against Tennessee last week. Vanderbilt brass may be patient, considering the limited success the program has had historically. However, Mason’s team needs to show some improvement.
Gain: Butch Jones
No. 11 Tennessee at No. 25 Georgia – 3:30 p.m. Saturday in Athens, Ga. (CBS)
Butch Jones was in desperate need of a signature win, and he got it last week. The Volunteers beat Florida for the first time since the 2005 season, Urban Meyer’s first in Gainesville, Fla. The win Saturday gave Tennessee a stranglehold on the SEC East. Getting a win over a reeling Georgia team could be the knockout blow.
It may be a slight exaggeration, but Tennessee could have a chance to virtually lock up the division on Saturday. Granted, Alabama and Texas A&M look like losses, but 7-2 with the tiebreaker over Florida and Georgia would most likely be good enough to win the SEC East for the first time since Phil Fulmer’s penultimate season in Knoxville.