It's become as much a part of college football as marching bands, cheerleaders, and animal mascots: the swirling cyclone of rumors about which coach is heading where when the season ends. But before that storm starts, one has to know who's hot and who's not.
Cue the Coaching Stock Watch.
Each week, we'll track a few of the coaches around the country who may be in the running for the top job at a Power 5 school. There are some smaller conference head coaches in here, as well as Power 5 coordinators. If you think there's someone we're overlooking, throw a suggestion out there in the comments.
IMPORTANT NOTE: This feature is NOT—we repeat, NOT—rating who might be the next head coach at Virginia (or any other school).
PJ Fleck, head coach, Western Michigan
OK, so WMU lost. But they only lost by 13, to the fifth-ranked team in the country. Fleck has been one of the rising stars in college football over the last 9-12 months. He took a moribund Broncos program, suffered through a 1-11 debut season, then came within a win of the MAC championship game with an 8-5 campaign in 2014. Oh, and he hauled in the top-rated recruiting class in the MAC each of the last two years, with 12 more 3-star recruits committed for 2016. And he's got a sick 40 time. Fleck is going to get some very serious looks, especially from any schools in the Midwest.
Bob Stitt, head coach, Montana
Stitt happened, all over the four-time defending FCS champions North Dakota State. Stitt became the focus of a near cultish following as the head coach at D-II Colorado School of Mines. If you've seen a school run the fly sweep, you've already seen Stitt's influence on the game. His squads run an insanely up-tempo offense and frequently attempt fourth-down conversions. It may be hard to pry Stitt out of Missoula after only one season, but if the Grizz perform through the season the way they did in game one, someone is going to back up a Brinks truck.
Chad Morris, head coach, SMU
Another coach who lost, and another coach in his first year at a school. This may be the only time that a coach whose team loses by 35 points appears in the Stock Rising section. But like Fleck, Morris's team was up against a top-5 opponent. Fleck gets the better billing here because WMU kept it close, but Morris was starting from an SMU team at a far lower point. By the end of the first quarter, SMU had scored as many points as it did in the entire month of September in 2014.
SMU already scored more points tonight than it did through first four games of last season (12). #BAYvsSMU— Jake Trotter (@Jake_Trotter) September 4, 2015
Beyond the performance between the lines, Morris had SMU believing it COULD win. When the backup QB had to come in, he knew the system and had a solid series against a far more talented opponent. Morris's offensive pedigree as the offensive coordinator at Clemson will make him an attractive choice for many of the top programs in the south and southeast.
Mike Bloomgren, offensive coordinator, Stanford
Stanford's offensive identity during Bloomgren's tenure has been a continuation of the Harbaugh/Luck era: lots of tight ends and power sets, and a smashmouth run game with deep play action to punish a defense that starts to cheat. With a QB in Kevin Hogan who's going into his third season as the unquestioned starter, the Cardinal were expected to continue imposing their will on opponents in 2015. Northwestern proved otherwise. Stanford's offense managed only 6 points, and eked out a meager 85 yards rushing. Bloomgren will need to work a major turnaround to take the tarnish off his star.
Doug Meacham/Sonny Cumbie, co-offensive coordinators, TCU
Like Bloomgren, Meacham and Cumbie are the victims of high expectations. The tandem put together one of college football's true Deathstar offenses in 2014 and have positioned QB Trevone Boykin as one of the Heisman frontrunners in 2015. Unlike Bloomgren's Cardinal, TCU won its season opener—albeit in less than convincing fashion. The six-point win may say more about Minnesota than TCU this year, but it still wasn't the opening salvo anyone expected from the country's second-ranked team.
Mike Norvell, offensive coordinator, Arizona State
Arizona State got WORKED by Texas A&M. New defensive coordinator John Chavis turned a leaky, inconsistent Aggies defense into a unit that absolutely stifled every one of the Sun Devils' moves. Young ASU coordinator Mike Norvell couldn't seem to find answers for anything Chavis threw at him. Heralded QB Mike Bercovici was sacked nine times and only accounted for 199 passing yards (on 41 attempts, no less). Norvell is still a name to watch: he's only 33 years old and has been a big part of ASU's resurgence under Todd Graham. But one week into 2015, he's starting from at least a half-step backward.