Chip Kelly sweepstakes: Where will the coach land next season?

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By now you’ve probably seen him on ESPN, plying his analyst wares, biding his time, looming over the landscape. Chip Kelly (11), the gridiron grim reaper.

In point of fact, the former coach at Oregon and in the NFL may not be hastening the demise of any struggling coach. And he may not be burning to return to coaching – he surely won’t jump at just any open job. His criteria for what he wants may not fit the commonly accepted wisdom of what coaches want.

Kelly has plenty of money and his own way of thinking, which means he might do something surprising – like take a lower-profile job. Or take no job at all.

But fans are free to dream of Chip riding to the rescue of their program, and these are the fan bases dreaming hardest of winning the Chip Kelly Sweepstakes right now:

Texas A&M. Current status: 1-1 and nobody’s happy. Chances of a coaching change: Extremely high, since the athletic director put Kevin Sumlin on blast in the spring and others have piled on since the collapse against UCLA. Why fans believe Chip would be interested: Aggies will spare no expense in terms of salary, assistant pay and facilities; Texas is a hotbed for players who fit Kelly’s offensive style. Why he might not be interested: Kelly neither wants nor needs overly involved boosters in his life, and A&M clearly has some of those; does anyone volunteer to butt heads with Nick Saban?

Arizona State (12). Current status: A pretty sorry 1-1, with a six-point victory over New Mexico State and a 10-point loss to San Diego State. Chances of a coaching change: Sixth-year coach Todd Graham is coming off consecutive losing seasons and has not started this one well at all. You do the math. Why fans believe Chip would be interested: Pac-12 familiarity and success; athletic director Ray Anderson is a hard charger who can be persuasive. Why he might not be interested: Mid-level Pac-12 job. Better options likely to be available.

After being let go by San Francisco after just one season, Chip Kelly is currently serving as an analyst for ESPN. (AP)
After being let go by San Francisco after just one season, Chip Kelly is currently serving as an analyst for ESPN. (AP)

Arizona (13). Current status: Also 1-1, with a blowout of FCS Northern Arizona followed by a loss to Houston. That makes the Wildcats 12-2 in non-conference games the past four-plus seasons, and absolutely none of those 12 wins is noteworthy. Chances of a coaching change: Rich Rodriguez has a new boss and Rodriquez’s popularity has been waning after going from 10-4 to 7-6 to 3-9 the past three seasons. Another losing season likely would be it. Why fans believe Chip would be interested: Pac-12 familiarity and success; maybe he likes Mexican food? Why he might not be interested: If Kelly wants to chase a national title, this isn’t the place; if Kelly wants a huge payday, Arizona doesn’t have the deepest pockets.

Notre Dame (14). Current status: Also 1-1, following a thumping of Temple and a one-point loss to Georgia. The latter ended Brian Kelly’s nine-month run as a rehabilitated nice guy. Chances of a coaching change: The administration doesn’t want to get rid of Kelly, but all options are probably on the table at this point. Why fans believe Chip would be interested: Notre Dame’s fans believe every coach in history is interested in Notre Dame. (That could include freshly unemployed Bob Stoops and former Notre Dame assistant Urban Meyer, if you want to think big.) Why he might not be interested: There are plenty of elements to this job that go beyond simply coaching ball, and Chip might be at a stage where he simply wants to coach ball. Frankly, there are easier places to chase a national title.

Auburn (15). Current status: 1-1, coming off a blowout of a cupcake and another offensive flameout against Clemson. Chances of a coaching change: They don’t mess around at Auburn. Guz Malzahn changed offensive coordinators and starting quarterbacks coming into this season, but the doldrums continued against Clemson. Year five needs to pick up for him to have a year six. Why fans believe Chip would be interested: Potential emperor status; lure of the SEC; embracing the challenge of matching his offensive brain against Saban’s defensive brain on an annual basis. Why he might not be interested: As with A&M, who seeks out the confrontation with Saban when he has all the advantages?

Arkansas (16). Current status: 1-1 after being handled at home by TCU, which leaves the threat of continued mediocrity hanging in the air. Chances of a coaching change: Bret Bielema’s three-year plateau (7-6, 8-5, 7-6) shows every sign of continuing. Would another 7-6 year necessitate change? Who knows? Why fans believe Chip would be interested: They don’t believe it, really. But they can convince themselves that Walmart execs will sail in and offer $10 million a year and make it happen. Why he might not be interested: Would you be, if you were Chip Kelly?

Boston College (17). Current status: 1-1, with a shaky victory over Northern Illinois and a blowout home loss to Wake Forest – in other words, the current status is bad. Chances of a coaching change: Rather strong. Steve Addazio is 25-28 at BC, and it’s hard to see him pushing that record above .500 this season. Why fans believe Chip would be interested: He’s a New England guy, having lived and/or coached in the northeast most of his life. Why he might not be interested: Unless he has a soft spot for lost causes, why sign up for this when there will be much better options?


You may have heard that Notre Dame lost Saturday by a point to Georgia – another one-possession loss, even if Brian Kelly sees it differently for some reason. That drops the Fighting Irish record in games decided by one possession to 1-9 over the last 10.

Iowa State (18) is unimpressed. After their 44-41 overtime loss Saturday to rival Iowa (19), the Cyclones now have lost 10 of their last 11 decided by one possession.

This one falls in line with many of the previous heartbreakers: An underdog Iowa State team gets within tasting range of an upset victory and watches it slip away. The Cyclones scored 21 straight second-half points to take a 31-21 lead into the last half of the last quarter, but Iowa forced overtime with a touchdown with 69 seconds left, and won from there.

It was Iowa’s third straight win in the series and third straight win in Ames, cementing the Hawkeyes’ ownership of the coveted (or not) Cy-Hawk Trophy (20).

In eight of those 10 close losses, Iowa State was the underdog. The ‘Clones may have a flair for covering a point spread, but they’re not good at finishing a close game.

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