Good luck finding many college football coaching hot seat lists that aren't headlined by Brian Kelly. It's impossible to work through a scenario in which the eighth-year coach fails to win eight games and Notre Dame doesn't at least consider a change.
Kelly does have two 10-win seasons under his belt — which matches the program's high-water mark for the past 16 seasons — but that success brought heightened expectations. And if he doesn't follow up last year's four-win stink bomb by flirting with 10 wins, he could very well find himself polishing his resume by season's end.
Let's break Notre Dame's schedule down into sections and evaluate the likelihood that Brian Kelly will be canned during each section. Then the fun part: we'll predict the exact moment Kelly will be fired.
|1||Saturday, Sept. 2||vs. Temple|
|2||Saturday, Sept. 9||vs. Georgia|
|3||Saturday, Sept. 16||at Boston College|
|4||Saturday, Sept. 23||at Michigan State|
Coaches almost never get fired during the first month of the college football season. Sure, there are exceptions (e.g. Les Miles at LSU) but it's extremely rare, especially at major programs and absent any off-the-field issues.
That being said, there are no gimme wins for the Irish in the first four weeks. They'll be favored in most, if not all of their games, but a loss in any of the four is realistic. These are the probably-shoulda-been-a-W toss-up games that destroy coaching careers.
A 2-2 record over this initial stretch would mean sleepless nights for Kelly as his seat warms up from "hot" to "scorching". Let's assume they go 3-1.
|5||Saturday, Sept. 30||vs. Miami (OH)|
Casual fans will gloss over Notre Dame's Week 5 home game vs. Miami (OH), assuming a program that hasn't topped six wins in since 2010 shouldn't pose much of a threat. But the RedHawks ripped off six-straight wins to close the 2016 regular season, and are suddenly a MAC contender. This is a game everyone thinks you should win handily. Perception matters.
|6||Saturday, Oct. 7||at North Carolina|
|7||Saturday, Oct. 21||vs. USC|
|8||Saturday, Oct. 28||vs. North Carolina State|
|9||Saturday, Nov. 4||vs. Wake Forest|
Winning at North Carolina will be no easy task, nor will a week later at USC — although a good showing vs. the Trojans might regain some stock after the Rose Bowl loss last year. For fun, give Kelly and the Irish a win over Miami (OH) to reach 4-1. Add a win North Carolina and a loss to USC to put the Irish at 5-2 entering back-to-back ACC home games with North Carolina State and Wake Forest.
They can't contain Bradley Chubb and North Carolina State but beat Wake Forest. Kelly is 6-3, and his seat could cook a pork shoulder if you left it there for six hours.
|10||Saturday, Nov. 11||at Miami (FL)|
|11||Saturday, Nov. 18||vs. Navy|
|12||Saturday, Nov. 25||at Stanford|
Kelly's seat starts burning with a loss at rejuvenated Miami (FL) — a close victory over the Midshipmen changes little. Notre Dame enters their season finale against Stanford at 7-4. The Cardinal, who might be playing for a playoff berth, win an ugly slugfest.
The Irish finish 7-5 — Kelly's second-straight season with fewer than eight wins.
Brian Kelly will make it to Stanford on Nov. 25 with a job. And he'll leave Stanford with a job. But within 48 hours after the conclusion of a disappointing seven-win campaign, he's fired.
News will break at 9:15 a.m. EDT on Monday, Nov. 27.