Did you hear that? A blast, somewhere off in the distance. It could have been one or two miles away, but you can’t be sure it wasn’t further, can you? It could have been 30 or even 50 miles away for all you know. Did you feel that? Just a few moments ago you were cool, even comfortable, but now an undeniable cold cuts through you to your core, ruthless like an avalanche. No one has come up and told you this, but everything you know has just changed. You can sense it, feel it. Taste it, even. The winds of change are in the air, and life itself will never be the same. You don’t know exactly what it was, but whatever just happened will be the defining event of your life, splitting your time on this earth into “before” and “after” periods. Whether you like it or not, whether you’re prepared or not, you are now living in the “after.”

That sound you heard but could not identify has a name: it’s Nuclear Winter.

As in previous editions, the goal here is to have some fun while illustrating how quickly and the coaching carousel could spin in the most entertaining way possible — while remaining tethered to the realm of plausibility.

*First disclaimer: This is for entertainment purposes only.

*Second disclaimer: This is for entertainment purposes only. 

*Third and final disclaimer: This is for entertainment purposes only.

And with that said, let’s begin.

LATE NOVEMBER

 No. 5 Oklahoma travels to Morgantown to face No. 6 West Virginia for a massive game on Black Friday, the first of what will be two consecutive games between the Sooners and Mountaineers. On Thanksgiving night, though, Jimmy Haslam’s plane is spotted in Morgantown. After the game — a 47-41 WVU win — Lincoln Riley is asked about the Browns job, but remains non-committal. Baker Mayfield sends a cryptic tweet, only fueling speculation Riley will join his former quarterback in Cleveland.

Jeff Long’s longs flirtations with Les Miles prove to be a useful distraction… for his pursuit of another out-of-work coach. Kansas hires former Rice, Tulsa, Pittsburgh and Arizona State head coach Todd Graham.

An announcement everyone has expected but no one has anticipated is at long last made: Bill Snyder is retiring, for good this time. Worst of all, K-State’s loss to Iowa State means Kansas State’s season is over and The Wizard is done for good.

You’re not going to believe this, but the Maryland search appears dysfunctional. Maryland AD Damon Evans reaches out to a number of candidates, but numerous agents are wary of advising their clients to take the job due to two factors: A) the Terps’ donor class, loyal to DJ Durkin and miffed over his about-face firing, have refused to bail the school out to pay Durkin’s buyout and hire a new staff, and B) because of that, it’s unclear how much longer Evans will be able to hang on to his job. Momentum builds toward keeping Matt Canada on in a long-term interim role.

 Louisville football is in a bad place: the team is the worst in the ACC, the school can’t afford Bobby Petrino’s $14 million buyout and Papa John is no longer around to bail the school out. Cards AD Vince Tyra makes overtures toward Purdue head coach and Louisville favorite son Jeff Brohm, but reports out of West Lafayette say Brohm is lukewarm on returning home and leaning toward doubling down at Purdue while holding out for a better job, either this year or next.

Wasting no time, newly-installed Vanderbilt AD Boo Corrigan dismisses Derek Mason after the Commodores drop a 21-7 decision to Tennessee, finishing the year at 4-8 and 1-7 in SEC play.

After hiring Mike Jinks sight unseen from Texas Tech, Bowling Green runs in the opposite direction, hiring a local, proven winner. At the conclusion of his team’s season, Mount Union head coach Vince Kehres will head west along Interstate 80 to take over at Bowling Green.

 Rutgers has endured many painful season, but a 1-11 campaign — including a 55-14 loss to Kansas in which KU later fires its head coach — leads Rutgers to dismiss Chris Ash.

A 5-0 start turning into a 5-7 finishes leads Colorado AD Rick George to dismiss head coach Mike MacIntyre.

Dave Doeren lands a finishing blow on Larry Fedora when NC State quarterback Ryan Finley fires a 55-yard touchdown pass in the waning moments of the Wolfpack’s 51-13 thumping of North Carolina. After going 11-3 just three seasons prior, Fedora is out after a 2-10 season.


Previous Nuclear Winter Installments: 2015, 2016, 2017


A shocking 23-17 loss to UCLA and a 42-21 defeat to Notre Dame sends the Fighting Irish to the College Football Playoff and USC to the coaching market after Lynn Swann fires Clay Helton.

Following a 27-21 loss to Michigan, his first at Ohio State, speculation swirls that Urban Meyer will step down as the Buckeyes’ head coach. Meyer insists otherwise immediately after the game, but a day later Ohio State announces Meyer will take a leave of absence due to “personal reasons.” The timetable for his return is left frustratingly open-ended.

The following schools announce head coaching changes on Black Sunday: Akron, Central Michigan, Connecticut, East Carolina, Texas State and UNLV


JOBS FILLED: Kansas, Bowling Green

NEW OPENINGS: Akron, Central Michigan, Colorado, Connecticut, East Carolina, Kansas State, Louisville, North Carolina, Rutgers, Texas State, UNLV, USC, Vanderbilt

JOBS STILL OPEN: Louisville, Maryland

Total openings: 17


With USC already open and Ohio State and Oklahoma possibly heading that way, the coaching carousel is only starting to turn….

EARLY-TO-MID DECEMBER

With reports indicating Louisville is in “deep negotiations” with Troy’s Neal Brown, Jeff Brohm realizes he can’t stomach the thought of passing up the head coaching job at the program where he, his dad and his brother played and where he and his brother coached. Brohm takes the Louisville job.

After helping Alabama to its fifth straight College Football Playoff and Tua Tagovailoa to the Heisman Trophy, Mike Locksley steps through the dysfunction at Maryland to return to the program nearest his native Washington, D.C., and where he served two separate stints as an assistant.

As one day turns to two, two into three and three into a week, the silence out of Columbus turns into a deafening roar. In the absence of solid answers from Meyer or Ohio State AD Gene Smith, rumor and innuendo fills the void. All the while, Ohio State’s rivals — of which there are many — capitalize on the situation. It’s not a coincidence that Jim Harbaugh takes an entire box of Papa John’s pizza with him to the podium after a victorious Big Ten championship game. Finally, after 10 days of silence, Meyer posts a note to his Twitter account he is taking a long-term sabbatical from the Ohio State program. Ryan Day will be Ohio State’s acting head coach for the Buckeyes’ Rose Bowl appearance against Pac-12 champion Washington State.

Amid the Urban uncertainty, Ohio State running backs coach Tony Alford accepts the Akron head coaching job.

Oklahoma wins a rematch with West Virginia to claim a fourth straight Big 12 championship but the 2-loss Sooners miss the College Football Playoff, instead settling for a Rose Bowl rematch with Georgia in the Sugar Bowl. Motivated by the persistent Cleveland rumors, Oklahoma offers Riley a 7-year, $50 million contract — fully guaranteed — plus $2 million a year to pay a top-flight defensive coordinator.

After losing in the Division II semifinals to Tarleton State on a last-second field goal, Ferris State is stunned when head coach Tony Annese takes the Central Michigan job.

When the New York Jets lose 31-14 to the Buffalo Bills, their seventh straight loss on the year, it’s reported that head coach Todd Bowles will be fired after the season and that co-owner Christopher Johnson has instructed his lieutenants to make Jim Harbaugh the organization’s top priority.

Spurred by the Jets rumors, Connecticut makes a pitch at Michigan defensive coordinator and lifelong New Englander Don Brown. Regardless of whether or not Harbaugh takes the Jets job, Brown says no.

Kansas State AD Gene Taylor makes a whole hog pitch at North Texas head coach Seth Littrell but, with an eye on the uncertainty in Norman, Littrell passes. Taylor then returns to his roots, and K-State announces that North Dakota State’s Chris Klieman will lead the Wildcats after the Bison’s FCS playoffs run is complete. Reading the news in Eugene, Oregon defensive coordinator and former K-State assistant Jim Leavitt crushes an unopened can of Pepsi in his hand.

With Mike MacIntyre out, Colorado returns to the coordinator that spurned the program’s brief 2016 revival. Jim Leavitt returns to Boulder as head coach, but not before ensuring that, yes, CU is a Pepsi campus.

Reports out of Los Angeles say Lynn Swann has his eyes on NFL candidates, with the name Jack Del Rio most commonly linked to the Trojans. USC fans scan Del Rio’s Wikipedia page, hoping to find any past scandal to tangentially tie him to.


JOBS FILLED: Akron, Central Michigan, Colorado, Kansas State, Louisville, Maryland

NEW OPENINGS: Purdue

STILL OPEN: Connecticut, East Carolina, North Carolina, Rutgers, Texas State, UNLV, USC, Vanderbilt

Total openings: 18


The early signing period has passed, stakeholders are demanding answers in Columbus and Norman and important bowl games are approaching….

LATE DECEMBER/EARLY JANUARY

When Georgia Tech meets Army in the Independence Bowl, it feels like something of a reunion for Paul Johnson. But when the Black Knights roll up six touchdowns on six possessions while Georgia Tech is held scoreless in the second half of a 42-14 loss, Johnson and Georgia Tech realize it’s time to part ways.

UConn finished the 2018 season last in scoring and total defense, surrendering 50 points and more than 620 yards per game. To replace Randy Edsall, the Huskies sprint in the opposite direction by hiring Colgate head coach Dan Hunt, who brings his entire staff with him after leading all of college football with him after posting pitching five shutouts.

Ryan Day leads Ohio State to a 42-24 win over Washington State in the Rose Bowl, running his record to 4-0 as the Buckeyes’ acting head coach. On the flight home, Day presses AD Gene Smith to name him the permanent head coach. “You know I can’t do that,” Smith says. Short of that, Day’s agents suggest he become college football’s first $3 million a year coordinator. Again, Smith shoots him down.

Geoff Collins parlays his second-place finish in the AAC East at Temple into a Big Ten gig, following Jeff Brohm at Purdue.

Catharsis washes over the entire Sooner Nation when OU beats Georgia this time around, 44-38. Lincoln Riley signs his contract extension.

East Carolina stays local by dipping into the FCS level and plucking Mike Houston away from James Madison.

After Riley signs his extension with Oklahoma, thus tying up his dream job for the foreseeable future, Seth Littrell returns to Chapel Hill — where he was an integral piece of the Heels’ 2015 run to the ACC title game — as head coach.

After firing former Ohio State assistant Chris Ash, the Scarlet Knights pluck an assistant from another Big Ten behemoth in hiring Michigan special teams coordinator/safeties coach and former New Jersey high school coach Chris Partridge.

With the Oakland Raiders coming to town, UNLV realizes they need some pizzazz, some showmanship, some Vegas to grab eyeballs. With a 5-year, $15 million contract, UNLV hires Lane Kiffin. Monte Kiffin celebrates the move by making it rain at a poolside cabana at the Bellgaio with Deuce Gruden.

With Georgia, Tennessee, South Carolina and Kentucky emphasizing defense, Vanderbilt AD Boo Corrigan zigs while the rest of the SEC East zags. Vandy hires Troy head coach Neal Brown.

Deep discussions with Riley have convinced Browns owner Jimmy Haslam that the Air Raid is the direction his franchise needs to follow in order to maximize Baker Mayfield’s talents. “If I can’t get the golden child,” Haslam tells Browns general manager John Dorsey, “get me the godfather.” After the Rose Bowl, the Browns hire the man who taught Riley much of what he knows… Mike Leach.

After the Lane Train pulls out of the station, FAU waits approximately five minutes to hire Miami defensive coordinator Manny Diaz.

When Jim Harbaugh turns them down, the Jets take a shot across the bow at their division rivals by hiring Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, handing the 42-year-old an 8-year, $80 million contract.

After losing Neal Brown to Vandy, the Trojans hire Huntsville native and former Troy assistant head coach Jon Sumrall as head coach.

With McDaniels gone (for good this time), Bill Belichick offers his offensive coordinator job to Ryan Day. Day accepts.

Fun as the Mike Leach era was, Washington State fills its opening by going with a safe, sensible hire in pulling former Eastern Washington head coach and current Cal offensive coordinator Beau Baldwin out of Berkeley to take over the reigning Pac-12 champions.

Texas State looks to remedy its 115th-ranked offense by hiring Ole Miss offensive coordinator Phil Longo, who worked wonders as Sam Houston State’s offensive coordinator, as head coach.

Yes, Lynn Swann had his eyes on an ex-NFL head coach — but not Jack Del Rio. Two days after he’s let go as the head coach of the Baltimore Ravens, John Harbaugh is introduced as the head coach at USC.

After more than a month away, the vultures have thoroughly picked at Urban Meyer’s staff. Tony Alford took a head coaching job, and Ryan Day and Greg Schiano took NFL jobs. Faced with the prospect of building his staff again — with much of the fan base and most of the public turned against him — Meyer realizes he doesn’t have the stomach for it this time. Rather than rebuild, Meyer resigns.

 Two days after helping Clemson to the program’s second CFP national championship victory over Alabama in three years, Tony Elliott, owner of an industrial engineering degree, departs to take the Georgia Tech job.


NEW OPENINGS: Florida Atlantic, Georgia Tech, North Texas, Ohio State, Troy, Washington State

JOBS FILLED: Florida Atlantic Georgia Tech, North Carolina, Troy, UNLV, USC, Vanderbilt, Washington State

STILL OPEN: Ohio State, North Texas, Temple

TOTAL OPENINGS: 24


All but three FBS jobs are now filled but one of the biggest programs in the sport is looking for a head coach with Signing Day around the corner…

MID JANUARY

Wren Baker walks in his office late at night. A familiar face, dimly lit by the glow of Baker’s idle computer, sits across his desk. “Before you say anything, just hear me out,” the man says. “I’ll do this job for three years, no salary. I won’t take a penny.” He reaches into his pocket and places a handful of rings on Baker’s desk. “You know I’m qualified,” the man says. Baker exhales a heavy sigh. “You know I can’t do that,” he says. “It’s just, it’s too soon.” The man gets up to leave. He collects each of his rings except for one, his 2014 Big 12 championship ring. Art Briles places the ring front and center of Baker’s desk, turning its face to point toward Baker, its diamonds and gold flecks practically glowing in the darkness. “Just think it over,” Briles says, disappearing into the night as silently as he arrived.

When Ryan Day led Ohio State to its Rose Bowl win and Mike Leach took the Browns job, Iowa State fans allowed themselves to breath easy. But when Meyer resigned, they knew. Ohio State hires Matt Campbell.

Iowa State AD Jamie Pollard prepared for Ohio State to take his coach for months, and within days of losing Matt Campbell to the Buckeyes, Iowa State hires Buffalo head coach Lance Leipold.

After losing four consecutive head coaches to Power 5 programs — Al Golden to Miami, Steve Addazio to Boston College, Matt Rhule to Baylor and Geoff Collins to Purdue — Temple hires a contractor to remove the revolving door from its head coach’s office and hires Minnesota offensive coordinator, and Temple alum, Kirk Ciarrocca as head coach. Ciarrocca signs a 6-year contract with a hefty buyout.

Fresh off a MAC championship, Buffalo keeps the New York Upstate vibes going by hiring Syracuse defensive coordinator Brian Ward.

“After searched high and low and found that the best candidate, the only candidate, was right under our noses the entire time,” North Texas AD Wren Baker says. “A native Texan, with a history of producing unstoppable offenses on championship teams. Part of a storied coaching family at both the high school and college levels, all right here in the great state of Texas. Allow me to proudly introduce to you the next head coach of the Mean Green — our very own Graham Harrell.” Watching on TV from his ranch in Stephenville, Art Briles can’t help but notice the Big 12 championship ring he left in the AD’s office that night is now wrapped around the ring finger on Baker’s right hand.


NEW OPENINGS: Iowa State, Ohio State

JOBS FILLED: Iowa State, North Texas, Ohio State, Temple

STILL OPEN: None

TOTAL OPENINGS: 26


LATE JANUARY

During a break in the action in the NFC championship game between the New Orleans Saints and Los Angeles Rams, FOX play-by-play voice Joe Buck tosses to studio host Curt Menefee, who then throws it to a press conference at The Star in Frisco, Texas. “He had a great job where he was at, and he did,” Cowboys owner Jerry Jones says. “But the chance to be the head coach of the Cowboys was too much for a West Texas kid like him to pass up. Allow me to introduce our next head coach — Lincoln Riley.”

THE END

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National columnist - Zach joined the staff in 2012...and has been attempting to improve Doug and Scott's writing ability ever since (to little avail). Outside of football season, you can find him watching the San Antonio Spurs reading Game of Thrones fan theories.