No coach in the land sits on a hotter seat than Florida's Will Muschamp.
Really, no coach has been more inconsistent over the course of the past three years, either.
Blame it on injuries (they lost 15 players to season-ending injuries), simple bad luck or even voodoo emancipating out of Louisiana, but the simple matter of the fact is that a 4-8 finish last season falls directly on his shoulders. This isn't the NFL, where quarterbacks get the blame and then get cut or demoted, it is college, where the maestro in danger of losing a job is the coach.
Look, being the successor to Urban Meyer is nothing to sniff at. Things took a dip in his first year with a 7-6 finish and a 3-5 mark in the SEC—the Gators' worst since 1979. Fine. First-year coach, huge boots to fill, the whole shebang.
In his second season, Muschamp matched expectations in a major way with an 11-2 finish and an appearance in the Sugar Bowl. What could go wrong after that, right?
Those four wins were also the worst mark since 1979 (for those curious now, let's cut out the leg work—Charley Pell was the head man and the team went 0-10-1 and 0-6 in the SEC). It was the first time the Gators missed a bowl game in 23 years. Quarterback Jeff Driskel missed most of the season with a knee injury.
Most embarrassing of all, though, was a loss to Georgia Southern, an FCS team that—in The Swamp, no less—amassed all of zero passing yards.
To his credit, Muschamp seems to have the right attitude as he goes into a career-defining season.
"There will be a lot of chatter about hot seat business and that's part of it," Muschamp said, per The Associated Press, via ESPN.com. "The way you combat that is by having a winning football team and winning football games, which is what we're going to do."
Muschamp has help this time around, as the program has elected to mimic schools such as Auburn and take an offensive-minded approach to the rebuild. Kurt Roper is now in town after his spread system led Duke to an ACC Coastal Division title. Those Blue Devils averaged 426.1 yards per game and better than 32 points.
The quick-twitch offense may have a positive ripple effect on the defense, too, as the unit must match in practices, which should, in theory, better prepare it for the real thing.
Further helping Muschamp's cause is the fact he returns seven starters on both sides of the football. He will have to once again lean on the defensive side, which has been his strong point so far, and hope that his third offensive coordinator in four years knows how to squeeze the most out of a talented cast.
Yahoo.com's Pat Forde best explains the disparity that has haunted Muschamp thus far in his tenure:
"In three seasons, Florida's average total defense ranking nationally is fourth. Its average total offense ranking is 112th. Eighteen times under Muschamp, the Gators have scored 20 or fewer points in a game – including the final seven games of 2014."
Roper's resume is great, Driskel is the right man for the job in a spread attack and the Gators will be one year the wiser and healthy, but not everything is perfect.
Those in charge of making the schedule must not like Muschamp all that much, as the Gators' two encounters with the SEC West come against Alabama and LSU. Missouri, Georgia, South Carolina and a date with Florida State to end the season line what is an absolute minefield of a schedule.
So what does it all boil down to? What is the magic number for Muschamp to cool the seat and stick around?
It is impossible to say, but we do know another whiff at a bowl game or a losing record will finish him off. Winning the East would be nice and an obvious way to stick around, but even something such as an 8-4 record is very much a questionable outcome at this stage of the game.
It is very much a tightrope act. Somehow keeping a job after a four-win season would mean eight wins looks like a great improvement, but Muschamp is not afforded that logic at a prestigious school like Florida.
Muschamp has enough tools at his disposal to right this ship, although much of it leans on the high-upside gamble invested in a new offensive coordinator.
Either way, Muschamp has everything at stake beginning right now. No pressure.