College football nearly made it to October without a coaching change, but Rutgers had seen enough after its latest blowout loss.
Rutgers on Sunday fired coach Chris Ash, who went 8-32 at the school and ended with 14 consecutive Big Ten losses, the latest a 52-0 whipping Saturday at Michigan. Ash entered the season on the hot seat, and after the team's recent struggles -- outscored 112-16 since opening the season with a 27-point win over UMass -- his exit was inevitable.
More moves are likely in October, especially if certain coaches can't change troubling trajectories. Not surprisingly, the landscape looks different than it did before the season, when Auburn's Gus Malzahn was a prominent name on hot-seat lists, Florida State's Willie Taggart was, at best, a fringe hot-seat coach, and Tennessee's Jeremy Pruitt and Arkansas' Chad Morris among others appeared totally safe.
After no coaching changes a year ago, the SEC could be the epicenter for the hot seat in coming weeks. While Auburn is off to a very strong start under Malzahn, at least four other schools -- Tennessee, Arkansas, Ole Miss and Vanderbilt -- could consider changes, especially in what could be a light year for Power 5 firings.
The challenge here: to identify the coach in every Power 5 conference who is feeling the most heat entering October. I didn't include the Big 12, which has no coach in danger of being fired after four schools made changes last year, but there are realistic hot-seat candidates for the SEC, Big Ten, ACC and Pac-12.
Here they are, along with some notes from Week 5.
Coach: Jeremy Pruitt, Tennessee
Record: 1-3 this season, 6-10 overall
Contract: Signed through 2023 season, $3.8 million annually plus bonuses
Upcoming: Georgia (Saturday), Mississippi State (Oct. 12), at Alabama (Oct. 19)
Despite a poor end to Pruitt's debut season -- Tennessee dropped its final two games by a combined score of 88-30 -- there was genuine optimism on Rocky Top for 2019. Tennessee had a favorable nonconference schedule and returned promising quarterback Jarrett Guarantano. Pruitt also was making gains in recruiting.
A 1-3 start has sent Tennessee into a tailspin and put Pruitt squarely on the hot seat. After the messy and embarrassing search that ended with Pruitt's hiring, the last thing Tennessee wants is another coaching transition. The possibility of athletic director Phillip Fulmer taking over as coach when the schedule eases up would be an especially bad look, given Fulmer's influence in Pruitt's hiring. According to industry sources, Fulmer wouldn't hesitate to coach again, as he remains bitter how he lost the gig in 2008. The 69-year-old also notices what's happening with UNC's Mack Brown (68) and Kansas' Les Miles (65).