Which ACC football head coaches are in the hottest seats heading into midseason? Take a look at five head coaches who face an uncertain future if things don’t go well over the second half of the regular season.
5. Bobby Petrino (Louisville)
It wasn’t that along ago that Louisville had a Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback and was challenging for a College Football Playoff berth. But the post-Lamar Jackson era has been a letdown so far. The Cards were thumped in the season opener by defending national champion Alabama. They also took a surprisingly lopsided 27-3 loss on the road at Virginia. With a 2-3 start, U of L is facing the possibility of its first losing season since 2009.
After winning at least eight games over each of his first eight full seasons as head coach at Louisville, Petrino’s job isn’t realistically in jeopardy. But he’s coaching at a school with high expectations – expectations he’s helped establish. U of L won 73 percent of its games between 2012 and 2017. It will make for an uncomfortable offseason for the veteran coach if the Cards can’t get things going soon.
4. Pat Narduzzi (Pittsburgh)
After going 8-5 back-to-back in his first two seasons at Pitt, Narduzzi has struggled over the last season and a half. Despite an upset of Miami last November, the Panthers slipped to 5-7. Pitt is off to a 2-3 start this fall, which includes 51-6 and 45-14 blowouts losses at the hands of Penn State and UCF. It also includes a 38-35 loss against North Carolina, another struggling ACC program.
Unlike Fedora and Johnson, who are rapidly losing the support of their collective fan bases, Narduzzi seems to still have reasonable support among Panthers fans. But if the losses continue to mount, his job could be in jeopardy. Especially if he manages to survive 2018 but gets off to another slow start in 2019.
3. Willie Taggart (Florida State)
Taggart was given a rude welcome to the ACC. The Seminoles were dominated at home by Virginia Tech in the season opener, and then blasted by Syracuse 30-7 in mid-September. Taggart saved face with a huge 28-24 win at Louisville Sept. 29. But five of Florida State’s final seven regular season games are against ranked opponents. At 3-2, with an 0-2 ACC mark, the Seminoles are staring at the unthinkable – a losing season.
Taggart may be a first-year head coach. And conventional wisdom suggests Florida State will give him at least a couple seasons to get his feet wet. But the Seminoles can’t afford to crash too hard in October or November. Taggart’s concern is that he’s at a place where losing isn’t tolerated. The last time the Seminoles had a losing record was a 5-6 season in 1976 – Bobby Bowden’s first year in Tallahassee. FSU has won at least seven games every season since 1981, when they went 6-5. Anything much worse than that at Florida State is simply unacceptable.
2. Paul Johnson (Georgia Tech)
Johnson is the only ACC head coach who comes close to matching the heat Larry Fedora is feeling in Chapel Hill. After going 3-9 in 2015 and 5-6 last season, the Yellow Jackets are staring at a losing record for a third time in four seasons with a 2-3 start this year. Georgia Tech suffered a road loss at Pitt, and were embarrassed in Atlanta by Clemson for an 0-2 ACC start.
With remaining road games at Virginia Tech and Georgia, the Yellow Jackets have little margin for error to attain bowl eligibility. And if that doesn’t happen, the cries for Johnson’s job will grow louder than ever before.
1. Larry Fedora (North Carolina)
With UNC off to another miserable start, Fedora has perhaps the hottest seat of any Power Five coach in the country. Fedora has won two Coastal Division titles in Chapel Hill, and deserves credit for helping UNC get through its NCAA crisis. But the reality is that the Tar Heels have gone 5-16 in their last 21 games. And only two of those wins were over a Power Five opponent – a pair of triumphs over Coastal Division rival Pitt. The other three wins were over The Citadel, Old Dominion, and Western Carolina.
The problem for Fedora this year after a 1-3 start is that there’s not a lot of clear victories in sight. The Tar Heels will be underdogs in every remaining ACC game, starting with a night game in Kenan Stadium against Virginia Tech. It’s difficult to envision UNC winning enough down the stretch this season to salvage Fedora’s job.