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Eyes on the Nation: Coaches on the hot seat nearing the end of 2018

Southern Cal’s Clay Helton and Colorado’s Mike MacIntyre may be on the way out. Any others?

California v USC Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

Bobby Petrino at Louisville. David Beaty at Kansas.

They already lost their head coaching jobs this fall. It’s that time of year when athletic directors decide the writings on the wall, and pull the lever on their multi-million dollar coaching investments.

Who is likely — or even possibly — going to join Petrino and Beaty on the cutting room floor?

Clay Helton, Southern Cal

USC v Arizona Photo by Jennifer Stewart/Getty Images

What kind of university would can a coach who won a Rose Bowl and a Pac 12 title in the last two years? USC, that’s who.

Since Pete Carroll left Los Angeles in 2009, four different head coaches have manned the sidelines for the Trojans (Lane Kiffin, Ed Orgeron in interim, Steve Sarkisian and Helton). By far, Helton is the most successful of his successors, garnering a 32-15 mark in three seasons and some interim time.

He’s also, by all accounts, a genuinely nice and charitable man.

However, his 2018 has been a disaster by several metrics. First, the 5-5 record is the worst at this point in a season since Carroll’s first year in 2001. Second, the first home loss to Cal since 2000.

Most shockingly, an inability to seize control in a wide-open Pac 12 South despite top-10 recruiting classes since 2014.

With rivalry games against 2-8 UCLA and undefeated Notre Dame to close the regular season, Helton has a chance for to gain goodwill from the fanbase. The bare minimum is beating the Bruins this weekend at the Rose Bowl.

Potential replacement: Jack Del Rio, former NFL coach and USC linebacker

Mike MacIntyre, Colorado

Local sources reported his departure earlier this week, even if there’s some debate over its validity.

This is a curious one. On one hand, the Buffaloes have 700 program victories, good for No. 24 nationally in the FBS. There’s fervent desire to return to the glory days of the old “Coach Mac.” That’s Bill McCartney, a former Bo Schembechler assistant that led Colorado to a split national title in 1990.

If that’s the mindset, five straight losses after starting 5-0 — including a blown 28-point lead to conference bottom-dweller Oregon State — is unacceptable.

However, this is the same guy that guided the program to its first ever Pac 12 Championship appearance just two years ago. Prior to his arrival, Dan Hawkins and Jon Embree combined for a 17-44 record in Boulder.

If he clinches a bowl game down the stretch, expect him to get another year. A second-straight 5-7 campaign could spell doom.

Potential replacement: Matt Wells, Utah State head coach

Gus Malzahn, Auburn

Texas A&M v Auburn Photo by Michael Chang/Getty Images

Here we go, again. Malzahn is perpetually on the hot seat whenever Auburn isn’t a contender.

Recent results have placed ice packs on his scorched seat.

Auburn was the only team to defeat eventual national champion Alabama last season. In 2016, Malzahn won seven of his last nine games following last-place divisional finish in 2015.

This year, the Tigers fell from grace after starting in the top-10. Now they stand outside the top-25 at 6-4, with losses to LSU, Mississippi State, Georgia and worst of all, Tennessee.

Malzahn has played with fire over his six years on “The Plains.” The BCS Championship appearance in his first year seems ages ago.

However, a $32 million buyout may be too steep a price to pay.

Potential replacement: David Cutcliffe, Duke head coach

Larry Fedora, North Carolina

When donors are crowd-funding for your buyout, you know you’re in bad shape.

There’s his tenure. The Tar Heels have lost 15 of their last 20 games, which included a 41-19 blowout loss to Eastern Carolina. He stands 1-9 this season.

He’s also a public relations nightmare.

He embarrassed himself during ACC Media Days by dismissing football causes of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) and claimed the game was “under attack,” adding players must weigh “risk versus the rewards.”

The same summer, the NCAA slapped the program with secondary violations, forcing the suspension of 13 players for players selling team-issued shoes.

UNC athletic director Bubba Cunningham would have to shell out $14 million to permanently throw Fedora on a coat rack.

What other reason is there to keep him?

Potential replacement: Dave Clawson, Wake Forest

Chris Ash, Rutgers

Michigan v Rutgers Photo by Corey Perrine/Getty Images

He always looks like he’s on the verge of tears.

There’s no getting around it. The Rutgers football job, in its current form, sucks.

A fertile recruiting base in New Jersey? Conference foes Michigan and Penn State raid it. Breathers on the schedule? They play Michigan, Ohio State, Penn State and “rival” Michigan State every year.

Worst of all, only one coach is recent history — Greg Schiano — has done better than awful in Piscataway. As unfair as Ash’s situation is, the Scarlet Knights are not a Power Five team.

He’s 7-27 in less than three full seasons. The four Big Ten East contenders mentioned above have outscored his teams 484-37. He’s 0-2 against the MAC the last two years.

There is hope. That one guy who found success on the banks may be available. Schiano is likely looking for head coaching work after his defensive coordinator stint at Ohio State.

In his 11 years at Rutgers, he compiled a 68-67 record and five bowl victories. While he did that in the Big East rather than the Big Ten, it’s better than anyone else has done for the Scarlet Knights.

Potential replacement, Greg Schiano, Ohio State defensive coordinator