1) South Carolina
Good: A great fan base despite a lack of a high degree of success in the past. Facilities are fine and the likes of Lou Holtz and Steve Spurrier have taken stints coaching the Gamecocks. They're coming off a 3 - 9 season, but quick improvement is possible given the level of talent still on the team.
Bad: Competition is tough in the SEC and if Holtz and Spurrier couldn't get this team to an SEC title game, how successful can anyone else be, especially given how good intrastate rival Clemson is at the moment?
Prognosis: Since USC and Virginia Tech have been filled, I feel this is the best job available, given there is a lot of room for improvement and expectations of the fans and administration are fairly reasonable.
Good: I know, putting the Cavaliers' job second is probably a little crazy. But there has been success in the past in Charlottesville as evidenced by the George Welsh era. Expectations are far less than a place like Georgia, where Mark Richt consistently recruited great athletes and went to New Years' Day bowl games. The ACC Coastal also doesn't have a dominant team, so it's possible for the 'Hoos to aspire to a division title now and then.
Bad: Tougher academic requirements still hamper the overall recruiting effort. Even though I mentioned Georg Welsh, before him and after him the program has not been that great. UVA is a basketball, lacrosse, soccer and baseball school, so it's difficult for the football program to get a lot of traction.
Prognosis: This is still a good job and one where a solid coach with FBS background could have an immediate impact. After 12 straight losses to Virginia Tech, however, the new guy needs to find a way to beat the Hokies on the field and in the living rooms of recruits.
Good: There is really nothing wrong with the position in which Gary Pinkel left the Tiger program. Recent SEC East titles and Big 12 success before that has strengthened Missouri's recruiting position. The suspension of QB Maty Mauck doomed the offense to a dismal season, resulting in a down year of 5 - 7. But there's no reason to think a new coach couldn't pick up where Pinkel left off.
Bad: The unrest on campus contributed to a tough season. It may be difficult to regain momentum from past seasons. Missouri is also a poor fit for the SEC, with no natural rival, despite the league's attempts to create one with Arkansas. It's tough to understand where the Tigers fit long term, trying to recruit in Big Ten country and playing in SEC land.
Prognosis: Recent success, a good base for a strong defense and playing in the relatively weak SEC East gives a new coach reasonable expectations that they can compete for division titles.
Good: Athens is at the center of a great recruiting territory that includes Georgia, parts of Florida, South Carolina, Alabama, Tennessee and into Virginia and North Carolina. The stadium is one the most storied locations in college football and the fan base is as loyal as they come. Recently departed Mark Richt was able to maintain a high level of success for his fifteen years as the Bulldog coach, but wasn't able to meet the expectations for conference titles and national relevance.
Bad: If 9, 10 and 11 wins a season aren't good enough, then Richt's successor has a tough job. The SEC won seven straight national titles, but Georgia wasn't one of the four teams to claim one. Defining success as a national title is difficult for any coach who isn't named Urban Meyer or Nick Saban to consistently fulfill.
Prognosis: Despite the high expectations, this is still one of the great jobs in college football, even if only one coach in the last fifty plus years has been able to deliver a national championship to Athens. Getting one of the premier jobs in the premier football conference in the nation is definitely worth pursuing.
Good: It's been fifteen years since the Hurricanes have been nationally relevant, but there is still strong name recognition for the program. The glamour of South Florida helps with recruiting and there is also a strong base of talent in the region that doesn't mind playing close to home. Miami finished strongly this season, winning four out of five after the blowout loss to Clemson that resulted in the firing of Al Golden.
Bad: The Hurricanes play twenty miles from campus in a pro stadium in front of crowds that number consistently below 25,000. Most of the national notoriety has been diminished by an inability to even win a division crown since joining the ACC in 2004. To put that into perspective, Va. Tech has four ACC crowns to its credit in the same timeframe.
Prognosis: Miami is still a good job, with the South Florida advantages for recruiting. But before anyone starts to put a national championship as an expectation, they might want to begin by just competing for an ACC Coastal crown.
Good: The Tigers are coming off a 9 - 3 season under Justin Fuente and have been repositioned as a quality Group of five program. The win over Ole Miss gives them some recruiting ammunition over some SEC schools and the right person could continue to build on the momentum. Fuente's move to Va. Tech also makes it possible for someone else to use the job as a stepping stone to a bigger program.
Bad: Fuente put Memphis on the map again, but it's not a guarantee that the next coach will be able to keep them there. Before the current coaching staff, the Tigers were routinely drilled by not just Big Five Teams, but those in the same or lesser conferences. And let's face it, Memphis is and always will be a basketball school.
Prognosis: This is probably a good job for a high profile coordinator to cut his teeth as a head coach, have some success and move on. The Liberty Bowl, while famous, is outdated and not one of the better facilities in college football. But Fuente had success, and so can someone else.
Good: I'm a big fan of the MAC, so I've elevated this job above where most experts place it. The conference is a great place for coaches to begin their careers, having to face quality non-conference and MAC opponents week in and week out. Toledo defeated Arkansas this season, and before running out of steam down the stretch, had an excellent chance at a New Years Six bowl appearance.
Bad: While I'm a MAC fan, a lot of people aren't and many coaches will not have this job on their list. Toledo will never compete for a national championship and larger programs will have more cache.
Prognosis: Like Memphis, it's a great stepping stone program, as long as a coach can have some success. After all, the last guy at Toledo just took over at Big 12 member Iowa State. Okay, not the best job in the world, but at least they moved to a Big Five conference program.
Good: Regionally, they're the only real big college program outside of Boston College. The Carrier Dome is an exciting place to play and the Orange have a long history of sending players to the NFL. The ACC Coastal, while tough recently with the success of Florida State and Clemson, isn't that tough top to bottom, giving Syracuse a chance to compete for a title now and then.
Bad: Football players increasingly want to play for a top coach or in a great location. The last time I checked, winters in Syracuse don't compare favorably to Tallahassee, Baton Rouge or Tuscaloosa. And there hasn't been a high profile coach strolling the home sideline in the Carrier Dome for a long time. Throw in having to play Florida State and Clemson every year and, well...
Prognosis: The large number of vacancies at schools similar to Syracuse will hurt their chances to grab an impressive candidate. The weather and lack of recent success makes this job a tough one.
Good: The Terrapins are a recent addition to the Big Ten and that's probably about the only real positive thing about this job.
Bad: Byrd Stadium is not great, the urban location of the school is not exactly a recruiting advantage and team such as Penn State, West Virginia and Virginia Tech have a big leg up in the region. The current AD also hasn't exhibited a lot of patience, so the situation as a whole just isn't very attractive.
Prognosis: Someone will take this job, but it's not going to be an easy one to fill.
Good: See the Maryland description.
Bad: Location, location, location.
Prognosis: Good luck.
Good: The New Orleans location can be a recruiting positive for players. Nice weather and decent facilities help. As with Memphis and Toledo, it can be a great avenue to a better job.
Bad: The same thing that attracts players can be a deterrent for the parents. The Green Wave haven't had much in the way of good seasons and have very little tradition to fall back on.
Prognosis: As with other lesser FBS programs, it will probably be a coordinator looking to move up to head coach that will be attracted to the job.
12) North Texas
Good: A nice location in the Metroplex makes this a good spot for recruiting. The schedule also affords opportunities for an occasional high profile upset.
Bad: A location in the Metroplex makes this a tough place for recruiting, continually having to go up against well established programs like TCU, Texas, Texas A&M and Oklahoma. Having to build an identity virtually from scratch is very difficult.
Prognosis: Not all that good.