Across the Power Five conferences in college football, salaries for head coaches have been an upward spiral into the fiscal stratosphere over the last two decades, to where, in many states, the highest paid government employee is that state's big-school head football coach (or one of them, in states with multiple Power Five institutions, like Texas).
The reality of life in the Power Five is that, while nearly all of the head coaches at the 65 schools are paid anywhere from handsomely to obscenely, there are only so many wins to go around. It's a zero sum game, and even within those 65 Power Five schools, there's a strata of blue blood where a couple dozen schools reside, in which the math will not allow for happiness at all of those schools.
In other words, for every win, there is a loss, and some of these schools scratching out $6 million or $7 million checks annually for their head football coaches are going to come away extremely disappointed (and probably much lighter in the coffers after firing their coach, and having to buy out the remainder of his deal). It's just math.
One way to gauge which schools could be experiencing the most head coaching angst this season is to look at the posted season win totals for futures bets in the gambling ecosystem. Just this week, Bovada posted season win totals for about half the Power Five schools, and if these posted totals are accurate, there will be some blue blood schools with some restless fans and some anxiety-riddled head coaches.
Here are ten schools that, in my mind, based on these forecasted win totals, fit that bill:
10. AUBURN 8.5 (Over -160, Under +130)
It seems like Gus Mulzahn's job is on the line every week at Auburn. Last season, he lost to Clemson early in the year, and everybody wanted his head on a spike. By the end of the year, after wins over Georgia and Alabama, he had a seven year contract extension. With a Heisman candidate at quarterback in Jarrett Stidham, Malzahn best not be hanging around the 8-win mark this year, or he might find some restless natives at Auburn.
9. FLORIDA 7.5 (Over -150, Under +120)
Dan Mullen takes over a program in his first year in Gainesville that hasn't had sustained success since Mullen's mentor, Urban Meyer was running things. Florida thought they were getting Chip Kelly, so Mullen is already the second choice. Mullen will get a few years to straighten things out, but a 7-5 start will be less than ideal.
8. TCU 7.5 (Over -140, Under +110)
Gary Patterson could likely withstand a winless season and still be revered in Fort Worth. He is the Bear Bryant of that program (minus the multiple national championships). That said, this was a team that flirted with a playoff spot last season, and has a pretty stout roster. Seven wins would be a disappointment for the Toads.
7. LOUISVILLE 7 (Over -130, Under +100)
The post-Lamar Jackson Era begins for Bobby Petrino, and it begins in an ACC that has upgraded itself over the past couple seasons. There's no head coach more fun to watch when bad things are happening for his team than the uber-slimy Petrino. A 7-5 season would give us many of those moments.
6. FLORIDA STATE 7.5 (Over -160, Under +130)
Willie Taggart left Oregon after ONE SEASON to take over at Florida State, so on principle alone, I have to root against him. If you're a major college head football coach, you can't leave for another job after one season, no matter how good a job offer it is.
5. NEBRASKA 6 (Over -110, Under -110)
I get the sense that longtime Husker fans are expecting Scott Frost, the prodigal son of the state who takes over a success-starved blue blood program, to turn things around IMMEDIATELY. If the Cornhuskers are hovering around bowl eligibility this season, there will be some very disappointed corn-fed Midwesterners in funny corn cob hats in that crowd.
4. OHIO STATE 9.5 (Over -240, Under +200)
There are very few schools who have a forecasted win total in the 9.5 win strata, so there should be no reason to fret here, right? Yeah, wrong. Since Urban Meyer arrived in Columbus, you can put the Buckeyes down in ink for double digits wins every year, so if all of a sudden, they're flirting with 9-3 or — GASP! — 8-4, then Meyer might start experiencing some of that stress sickness and anxiety that
conveniently led to his leaving Florida a decade ago.
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3. TEXAS 8.5 (Over -110, Under -110)
Have I mentioned that Tom Herman is 11-9 in his last 20 games as a college football head coach? No? OK, well, now I have.
2. TEXAS A&M 7 (Over -130, Under +100)
How would the Aggies feel about paying Jimbo Fisher more than $1 million per win this coming season? I'm not an Aggie, so I can't answer that personally, but I know a lot of Aggies, and I am guessing that they expect big things VERY early on with Jimbo at the helm.
1. LSU 7 (Over +110, Under -140)
I joke about the Aggies getting a little anxious if Jimbo Fisher hovers around .500 in Year One. If Ed Orgeron is hovering around .500 in Year Two at LSU, he might mysteriously disappear in one of those desolate marshy areas featured on Swamp People.
Listen to Sean Pendergast on SportsRadio 610 from 2 to 6 p.m. weekdays. Also, follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/SeanTPendergast and like him on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/SeanTPendergast.