As we slowly inch our way towards the 2013 college football season, you will continue to hear more about coaches that are in danger of losing their job. We often call this the hot seat, and it is a term that nobody wants to be associated with. Most that end up on this type of list end up getting fired eventually, as it is hard to coach when the pressure is turned up.
The good news is that none of these coaches have been fired yet, which means every single one of them has a chance to turn things around. All it takes are a few impressive victories in the upcoming season and everybody will fall in love once again. It doesn't matter what happened last year or how that latest recruiting class looks, winning cures everything in sports.
With that said, here are the coaches who are currently burning their fanny and the one game that could provide some relief.
Game He Must Win: At Vanderbilt
Some would say Gary Pinkel isn't quite on the hot seat just yet because he has earned the right to have one subpar season. Coaching Missouri since 2001, last year was the first losing season for the Tigers since 2004. Even with that said, Missouri is a program that is walking a fine line in the SEC. With increased competition, the pressure to succeed has hit new levels, which may be a little difficult for a coach who was never able to get Missouri over the hump even in the Big 12.
The Tigers lost to Vanderbilt last season and will likely enter this road matchup as the underdog. The Commodores are a team that is on the rise in the SEC, while Missouri will soon look like a second-class citizen if things don't quickly turn around. A loss to Vandy could also string together a bunch more losses with Georgia, Florida and South Carolina right behind it.
As the losses pile up, the seat will continue to heat up for Pinkel.
Game He Must Win: vs. LSU
Dan Mullen needs to start proving he can hang with the big boys. He got off to a terrific start last season, but then lost five of the last six games once the schedule included a few ranked opponents. This has become a trend under Mullen, as he is still searching for that marquee win to prove he has truly arrived as a head coach. His school is also losing ground to Ole Miss, which has become the trendy school overnight and is popular among elite recruits.
That top-notch win that Mississippi State is looking for would be against the LSU Tigers. A home game in Davis Wade Stadium, the cow bells will be ringing away and the fanbase will be jacked up for this high-profile meeting. The Bulldogs have lost the last 13 games against the Tigers, which is the perfect recipe to convince the college football world that you are in fact doing something right.
Things have to change for Mullen and this program in order for Mississippi State to gain ground in its own state. A win against a top-ranked LSU team would do the trick.
Game He Must Win: At Rice
Kansas is still a basketball school first and there will never be a ton of pressure to win on the football side of things. However, when you are losing games to Rice, Northern Illinois and every other team on the schedule besides South Dakota State, we have ourselves a problem. Even Kansas has its limits when it comes to things like that.
Charlie Weis must find a way to knock off Rice. It isn't a huge accomplishment, but this is the team that upset the Jayhawks last year in Memorial Stadium. You can also blame that game for setting the tone for the rest of the year, as Kansas then went on to lose every game since that early season meeting.
Knocking off Rice should never be considered an actual goal for a program that is looking to become relevant, but can you imagine what losing to the Owls two years in a row would do for Charlie Weis?
Kansas has itself a big-name coach, somebody who can do things in the recruiting world and eventually lead this school to a bowl game. But you have to start by proving you can beat non-BCS teams first before you start looking ahead.
Game He Must Win: vs. Virginia Tech
If Georgia Tech wasn't able to take advantage of two programs being banned from postseason play and then find a way to upset USC in a bowl game, Paul Johnson could have been fired last year. But the Yellow Jackets were able to pull off the impossible and keep the head coach around for a few more games.
This is a school that has enough talent in its own backyard to produce better results on the field. You can recruit at Georgia Tech, which means that you can win at Georgia Tech. So with many shaky seasons under Johnson's belt since 2008 and a 1-4 bowl record, Yellow Jackets fans have a reason to be upset.
Beating Virginia Tech in Bobby Dodd Stadium would help answer the bell. Georgia Tech has lost five of the last six meetings against Frank Beamer's club, including a showdown last year that was absolutely ugly on both sides of the ball. Regardless of what type of season the Hokies had last season, this is a program that is still considered one of the best in the ACC.
If Johnson is going to stick around a little while longer, he must prove he can knock off the top teams in his own conference.
Game He Must Win: vs. Washington (In Chicago, IL)
Usually a head coach is given at least three years to get the ball rolling. But when things start off with a 2-10 record like Tim Beckman experienced, that leash gets a little tighter and everybody around you becomes a little more impatient. The Fighting Illini ended the season with nine straight losses, and that is exactly how you end up on the hot seat entering your second year on the job.
After finishing winless in the Big Tech conference, you could say this team needs to win a few games in that department. However, a victory over Washington would help set the tone for the remainder of the year. The game is being played in Soldier Field, should draw many eyeballs and it isn't like the Huskies are a bad team, as many expect them to compete this year for the Pac-12 title.
This meeting against Washington is an early season matchup, and a victory would give Beckham a little bit of breathing room for the rest of the year.
Game He Must Win: At Iowa State
Kirk Ferentz has helped build the Iowa program by coaching the Hawkeyes since 1999. He has won 100 games with the school and has reached a bowl game every year on the job except four. Even with an impressive résumé, Ferentz and the win total has been on the decline each season since 2009. Last year things got really ugly with only four victories and an offense that ranked 113th in the country.
Another thing that may be slipping away from Iowa a little bit is the rivalry against Iowa State. The Cyclones have won the last two meetings against the Hawkeyes, which is the first time that has been accomplished since the 2001 and 2002 seasons.
If Iowa is looking to keep Ferentz around and continue the stability with the coaching staff, the veteran coach must take back bragging rights within his own state.
Game He Must Win: At Connecticut
Usually a victory over Connecticut only holds any weight when it takes place on the hardwood. But Randy Edsall used to coach the Huskies, and it was somewhat comical to see the Terrapins lose to the basketball school last season.
Edsall helped build the Connecticut football program in the many years he spent there, even leading the school to a BCS bowl back in 2010. He then received an offer from Maryland and left the Huskies out in the cold to pick up the pieces. It was one thing to get upset in Maryland, but now Edsall will be traveling back to Rentschler Field to play his former team.
If Maryland loses again, there may be no coming back from that. Maryland is desperate to become relevant before leaving for the Big Ten, and the last thing that is needed is to lose to Connecticut two years in a row.
Game He Must Win: vs. Oklahoma (Dallas, TX)
Because everything Mack Brown has accomplished at Texas, and the fact he has coached the program since 1998, folks in Austin are hesitant to even consider the fact the legendary coach is in danger of being fired. But when you factor in the talent level year after year, the expectations that are set each season, things aren't looking so hot for the Longhorns.
Brown returns arguably the most talented team he has had in years, with 19 starters returning from last year’s squad. It is fair to expect a BCS bowl from this group of guys, and that of course starts with a victory in the Red River Rivalry. If Brown really hasn't lost it as a head coach, it is time for him to take back the big game and knock off Oklahoma.
The Sooners have won the last three games over Texas, and the last two were over by halftime. Losing is bad enough, but being embarrassed in one of the biggest games in all of college football is simply unacceptable.
Brown must get the better of Oklahoma this time around, or a coaching change will soon be on the way.
Game He Must Win: At Notre Dame
I don't think there is any explanation needed for why Lane Kiffin is on the hot seat entering the new year. You could make a valid case for why he should have been let go last season after the continued failures and constant off-the-field issues.
But Kiffin will be given a second chance, and he better take advantage of it in the game against Notre Dame. Last year’s meeting against the Irish was one of the worst coached games of the year and likely cost the Trojans a real shot of pulling off the upset.
With the schedule that is on tap next year, Notre Dame will be the first legitimate test for USC, and it will certainly be the first true road game with the contest being played in South Bend. This will be a prime-time meeting, and with the Irish likely ranked high in the polls, this will be the chance for Kiffin to somewhat make up for a forgettable 2012 season.
Games He Must Win: At Clemson and at Florida
Remember when Jimbo Fisher was supposedly the next Bobby Bowden and was going to keep Florida State in the national-championship hunt? After three seasons, many in Tallahassee are ready for a plan B and wouldn't mind seeing another coaching change.
We are going to cheat a little bit here and say Fisher needs to win both of the biggest games on the schedule. Sure, Fisher did his best coaching job last season by finishing with a 12-2 record and leading the Seminoles to a BCS bowl victory for the first time in forever. But in that same breath, Florida State fans have the right to go ahead and look at the losses to North Carolina State and Florida that cost the school a chance to play for a national title.
Florida State isn't satisfied with Orange Bowl victories against lousy opponents; it wants to play for a crystal football. And frankly, with the talent on the roster, it should be doing just that.
The Seminoles have their work cut out for them with two road games against Top 10 clubs, but this is the pressure head coaches face when you are coaching an elite program. It is time for Fisher to step up to the plate and deliver.