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Evaluating all third year FBS head coaches

We're now at roughly the midway point of Year 3 for the FBS hiring class of 2016. This was a large class, 26 strong, spread across nine conferences (the Pac-12 sat that year out) and for many FBS ADs it's now decision time on whether they want to double down on their current direction or offer a course correction. For some coaches, the decision is obvious. For others, not so much.

Here's a brief look at where 25 of the 26 new coaches of 2016 -- Tyson Summers didn't make it to Year 3 at Georgia Southern -- stands roughly 30 games into their respective tenures.

American
Willie Fritz, Tulane: 11-19 (5-13 AAC) overall, 2-4 (1-1) this season
Tulane had won three or fewer games in three of its last four seasons pre-Fritz, and the Green Wave exceeded that mark in each of his first two campaigns. Tulane came within one play of reaching a bowl game in 2017, and will need to win four of its final six to get there this fall. The school extended Fritz through 2023 in May. A Shawnee Mission, Kan., native, he could be a candidate at potential KU and K-State openings this winter.

Scottie Montgomery,East Carolina: 8-22 (3-16 AAC) overall, 2-4 (0-3) this season
ECU reached a bowl game in four of Ruffin McNeill's six seasons, but hasn't come close in any of Montgomery's three. Barring a late turnaround -- ECU has games with No. 10 UCF, No. 16 NC State and No. 20 Cincinnati remaining -- a change here seems likely.

Mike Norvell, Memphis: 22-11 (13-7 AAC) overall, 4-3 (1-3) this season
This season has shaped into a rebuilding year, but the Tigers were thisclose to taking the AAC title last season. Even still, Memphis finished at 10-3 and No. 25 in the AP poll, the second time the program has appeared in a year-end AP poll -- ever. Still only 37, Norvell signed a 5-year, $13 million extension in December, but he'll be a person of interest for Power 5 openings this winter or next.

ACC
Dino Babers, Syracuse: 12-18 (5-14 ACC) overall, 4-2 (1-2 ACC) this year
Last year, Syracuse secured what appeared to be a program-defining upset of No. 2 Clemson, moving the Orange to 4-3 on the year. They didn't win another game. The Orange nearly did the same on Sept. 29, building a late lead at Death Valley East before eventually falling 27-23... and then dropped their next game, a 44-37 overtime defeat at Pitt. A similar collapse would lead to major questions, but we don't expect that to happen here. This should be Syracuse's first bowl team since 2012.

Justin Fuente, Virginia Tech: 23-10 (14-5 ACC), 4-2 (3-0 ACC) this year
Look at it this way: the Hokies were embarrassed by Old Dominion and outclassed by Notre Dame, and are still in the driver's seat to win their seventh ACC Coastal Division championship and their second in Fuente's three seasons. Fuente signed a 2-year extension, through 2023, before the 2017 season.

Bronco Mendenhall, Virginia: 12-19 (6-13 ACC), 4-2 (2-1 ACC) this year
This move looked like a punch line after 2016, when Mendenhall left a stable situation at BYU to go 2-10 at Virginia. But the Hoos reached a bowl game last year, and are on track to do so again this winter. Snapping UVa's 14-game Commonwealth Cup losing streak sure would go a long way to locking this job up long term.

Mark Richt, Miami: 24-9 (14-5 ACC), 5-2 (2-1 ACC) this year
The warm fuzzies from last year's 10-0 start and No. 2 ranking has washed away now that the 'Canes are 2-5 in their last seven against Power 5 competition. The program still obviously has a ways to go to reach the ACC and national elite, but it's in unquestionably better hands now than it was before, when The U went 19-14 (9-10 ACC) in Al Golden's final three seasons.

Big 12
Matt Campbell, Iowa State: 14-17 (9-13 Big 12) overall, 3-3 (2-2 Big 12) this year
This tweet just about sums it up.

Campbell still hasn't beaten Iowa, but he's turned Jack Trice Stadium into a Bermuda Triangle for the Big 12 elite. Last year's eight wins were the program's most since 2002, and in Campbell agreed to a new 6-year contract that dropped his buyout from $9.4 million to $7 million.

Big Ten
Chris Ash, Rutgers: 7-24 (3-20 Big Ten) overall, 1-6 (0-4 Big Ten) this year
There's a bit of a chicken-and-egg debate with Rutgers football -- is the program down because it keeps hiring the wrong coaches, or is the program so down that no coach could resuscitate them? The fact is, Rutgers has very little tradition of winning football and has to play Ohio State, Penn State, Michigan and Michigan State annually while still not receiving the full freight of Big Ten cash (which doesn't arrive until 2020-21). So there's that. But the Knights were blown out by Kansas in September, lost by 21 to Illinois and, on Saturday, watched its quarterbacks go 2-of-17 with nearly as many interceptions (5) as passing yards (8) in a 34-7 loss to Maryland. Any time your numbers are that bad it's never just about the guys throwing passes. If Rutgers wanted to move on this winter, they'd be justified. If Ash wanted to cut bait and chase an assistant job elsewhere, he'd also be justified.

D.J. Durkin, Maryland: 10-15 (5-13 Big Ten) overall, 0-0 this year
Obviously, there's a lot more going on than just the play on the field. The boosters seem to want Durkin back, while some of the players don't. Durkin was building a program but an apocalypse of quarterback injuries doomed the club to a 4-8 season a year ago. The team has produced four wins this season under interim head coach Matt Canada. The longer this investigation goes and the more wins the team secures without Durkin, the less it feels like he'll be back.

Lovie Smith, Illinois: 8-22 (3-18 Big Ten) overall, 3-3 (1-2 Big Ten) this year
AD Josh Whitman was hired Feb. 17, 2016. He could have allowed Bill Cubit to remain into his second season as a long-term interim head coach and had his pick of the litter that fall. Instead, within his third week on the job, Whitman fired Cubit and hired Smith, who hadn't coached in college football since 1992. Not only that, he handed the unemployed Smith a 6 year, $21 million contract that would cost the school $12.6 million to terminate even after three years on the job. Smith is 2-1 against Rutgers and 1-17 against the rest of the Big Ten.

Conference USA
Jay Hopson, Southern Miss: 17-14 (11-7 C-USA) overall, 2-3 (1-1 C-USA) this year
Hopson was another late hire, taking over just days before Signing Day after Todd Monken left for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He's led the Golden Eagles to bowls in his first two seasons and signed a new 4-year contract in August.

Seth Littrell, North Texas: 20-14 (12-7 C-USA) overall, 6-1 (2-1 C-USA) this year
Simply put, this has been a transformative hire for North Texas football. Littrell has raised the bar so high and so quickly that anything short of a Conference USA title this year will be viewed as a disappointment -- and this is after taking over a team that went 1-11 and lost to FCS Portland State 66-7 on homecoming in 2015. UNT has invested everything it can to keep him as long as possible; his salary has doubled to a C-USA best $1.425 million and the school recently broke ground on an indoor facility. Eventually, someone will approach the 40-year-old Oklahoman with an offer he can't refuse, but the school hopes to wring as much as possible out of Littrell while it can.

Frank Wilson, UTSA: 15-16 (10-9 C-USA) overall, 3-4 (2-1 C-USA) this year
UTSA expected Wilson to do for it what Littrell has done for North Texas, and after a 6-7 debut, the Roadrunners appeared on track. But while North Texas won the C-USA West last season, UTSA stumbled to a 3-5 finish. UTSA is 3-4 overall and 2-1 in C-USA this year, but those conference wins have come over UTEP and Rice (a combined 1-12) and the loss came 31-3 to Louisiana Tech. Wilson's $1.1 million salary is second only to Littrell in C-USA.

Independents
Kalani Sitake, BYU: 17-16 overall, 4-3 this year
At this point, last season's 4-9 downturn appears to be more about an unfortunate, misguided offensive coordinator hire in BYU Heisman-winning quarterback Ty Detmer than Sitake himself. The good and bad news about BYU's situation for Sitake is that any struggles by his team will immediately become swept up in an ongoing existential debate about BYU's status as an Independent rather than his ability as the program's head coach.

MAC
Jason Candle, Toledo: 24-10 (14-4 MAC) overall, 3-3 (1-1 MAC) this year
Candle picked up exactly where Campbell left off. He signed a 6-year extension in December, but it raised his buyout to only $3.5 million. The 38-year-old Ohioan will have options as long as he keeps winning.

Mike Jinks, Bowling Green: 7-24 (5-14 MAC) overall, 1-6 (0-3 MAC) this year
Jinks was let go on Sunday, the first Class of 2016 casualty and the first coaching move of the 2018 season. BG's performance under Jinks was less about the coach and more about the AD who hired him. After losing Dino Babers to Syracuse, BG AD Chris Kingston hired Texas Tech running backs coach Jinks, a career Texas high school coach who had never so much as been to Ohio, essentially sight unseen. Kingston, like Jinks, is no longer at Bowling Green. Feels like new AD Bob Moosbrugger will look for someone with head coaching experience, or pedigree at this level for his next head coach.

Mike Neu, Ball State: 9-22 (3-16 MAC) overall, 3-4 (2-1 MAC) this year
It would cost Ball State less than a million bucks to move on from Neu, but surely the school will give the former Cardinals quarterback more time than just three seasons. Neu left his job as Drew Brees's position coach to take over his alma mater, where he still stands as one of the best players in school history.

Mountain West
Nick Rolovich, Hawaii: 16-18 (8-12 MW) overall, 6-2 (3-0 MW) this year
Rolovich has always had fun as Hawaii's head coach, but he's probably having more fun than ever now that the Rainbow Warriors are winning. Quarterback Cole McDonald is No. 3 nationally in passing and No. 16 in efficiency with 26 touchdowns against three picks.

SEC
Will Muschamp, South Carolina: 18-14 (10-11 SEC) overall, 3-3 (2-3 SEC) this year
Muschamp has proven to be better than he showed at Florida. He signed a new 6-year deal in January after leading the Gamecocks to a 9-4 season and a win over Michigan in the Outback Bowl. But the question with any South Carolina head coach is going to be how competitive the Gamecocks can be in a division with Florida and Georgia, plus the rivalry game with Clemson every year. This Saturday's game with Tennessee is going to be pivotal, because a fully realized Georgia and on-the-rise Florida are already challenging enough for South Carolina, but an on-the-rise Tennessee could put the Gamecocks under water in the SEC East.

Barry Odom, Missouri: 14-17 (6-13 SEC) overall, 3-3 (0-3 SEC) this year
An 0-3 start in SEC play with a potential first-round quarterback is never a great start. Odom made Derek Dooley a first-time offensive coordinator after losing Josh Heupel to UCF, and Mizzou has dropped from sixth to 59th in yards per play. In the meantime, the defense -- Odom's specialty -- has fallen from 83rd to 96th. The SEC East is good as it's been in years, which is never a good thing when you're the program in the division's far western outpost.

Ed Orgeron, LSU: 21-7 (13-5 SEC) overall, 6-1 (3-1 SEC) this year
This one is a bit tricky since Orgeron took over as an interim four games into the 2016 season, but there's enough here to declare this hire a success so far. The Tigers don't look substantially different to the naked eye than they did under Les Miles, except that what they do works now. See: tight end Foster Moreau's comments after Saturday's 36-16 drubbing of No. 2 Georgia. Searching "Ed Orgeron contract" on Google leads to a bunch of stories about his buyout, but a 10-win season would lead to an extension.

Kirby Smart, Georgia: 27-8 (15-6 SEC) overall, 6-1 (4-1 SEC) this year
Georgia rolled the dice in pushing out the perpetually successful-but-not-that-successful Richt to hand Smart his first head coaching job, but that bet has quickly paid off. The title game loss to Alabama stings, yes, but Smart has shown the vision and acumen to keep Georgia among the SEC's (and, thus, the nation's) elite for years to come. Smart signed a new 7 year, $49 million contract earlier this year.

Sun Belt
Matt Viator, Louisiana-Monroe: 11-20 (8-11 Sun Belt) overall, 3-4 (1-2 Sun Belt) this year
ULM is one of the toughest programs to win in FBS, especially now that New Mexico State and Idaho are no longer in the Sun Belt. ULM beat ULL last year in Lafayette, and winning on Nov. 24 in Monroe would help slow the tide of Billy Napier's rise to the south.

Everett Withers, Texas State: 5-25 (1-18 Sun Belt) overall, 1-5 (0-3 Sun Belt) this year
A 1-18 conference play record pretty much speaks for itself, doesn't it? Withers left James Madison after 2015 in order to move up to the FBS; he's since gone 5-25, while JMU is 32-4 with one FCS national title and another runner-up finish under Mike Houston.

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