1. Clay Helton (USC)
You don’t have to be a detective to know that Helton’s 40-22 overall record, which includes a 31-12 mark in Pac-12 play, hasn’t convinced the USC fanbase that he’s the right man for the job. Finishing the last two seasons unranked put him firmly on the hot seat. Now, entering 2020, it’s make-or-break time. Fair or unfair, it might be Pac-12 title or bust for Helton.
2. Kevin Sumlin (Arizona)
The fact that Sumlin still has a job this fall means that somewhere inside the Wildcats athletic department, the soon-to-be third year head coach has believers. Arizona has posted a 9-15 record overall since 2018 and is currently six games under .500 in Pac-12 play. Sumlin hasn’t gained too many supporters among the fanbase after last year’s 6th place finish in the South Division.
3. Chip Kelly (UCLA)
Chip lost 7 games in four seasons at Oregon as one of the most innovative coaches the Pac-12 and college football has ever seen. His return to the college game at UCLA hasn’t been quite the same. The Bruins followed up Kelly’s 3-9 debut year in 2018 with a 4-8 record in 2019. Preseason optimism is alive in Los Angeles, but you never know what can go wrong with the Bruins.
4. Jonathan Smith (Oregon State)
Realistically, something would have to go very awry for the Beavers to even think about cutting Smith lose, but with a roster not really on the same level as the rest of the league, a season could go very south at any moment due to a few injuries or missteps. Should Smith even slightly be worried? No. But neither should half the coaches on this list in reality. OSU is in good hands.
5. David Shaw (Stanford)
If Stanford fires David Shaw, I will personally drive to Palo Alto and find where Shaw lives and apologize to him in person because he’s the type of guy who defines what everything great about college sports is. The Cardinal did have a brutal 2019 where they finished 4-8 and missed a bowl game for the first time under Shaw. What if 2020 doesn’t go smoother for the Cardinal?
6. Justin Wilcox (California)
At only 43 years old, Wilcox is one of those desired up-and-coming coaches who seems to know exactly what it takes to build up a program to last. California hasn’t gotten there just yet and with some expectations returning to Berkeley for the first time in a long time, the focus on the Golden Bears will be interesting to observe. Can Wilcox’s team live up to the hype this fall?
7. Herm Edwards (Arizona State)
Herm Edwards is about to embark on his third season in Tempe, which so far has been filled with tons of confidence and optimism. The former NFL mainstay has guided the Sun Devils to a 15-11 overall record and a 9-9 mark in league play, so there’s still some ways to go for Arizona State. Like California, the Sun Devils have expectations once again and are looking to gain ground.
8. Mario Cristobal (Oregon)
Cristobal has been a well-liked name in coaching circles for some years, but when Oregon hired him full-time before the 2018 season, it felt like it would be a wait-and-see type of process. The Ducks have gone 21-6 since then and finished ranked in the Top 5 last season, maybe just one loss away from a College Football Playoff birth. They enter 2020 as a consensus Top 10 squad.
9. Kyle Whittingham (Utah)
While some of his head coaching career at Utah has been spent in the Mountain West Conference, Whittingham has been with the Utes since 2004, meaning some of the players he’ll soon be recruiting haven’t lived a single day on earth with another person leading the Utah program. The elder statesman of the Conference of Champions resides in Salt Lake City.
T-10. Karl Dorrell (Colorado), Jimmy Lake (Washington), Nick Rolovich (Washington State)
There’s always one boring part of the countdown and that’s the newbies to the Pac-12, as Colorado, Washington and Washington State all hired new coaches this off-season. Unless absolute pandemonium ensues in these programs and they win just one or two games, very rarely are coaches let go after just one season. These guys should all be here next season.