Tracker, analysis, grades on coach changes, 2023-24 firings and hirings

Substantive coaching changes are part of the annual college football offseason cycle. With the early signing period becoming pivotal, athletic directors have pushed forward their timelines, not just when it comes to hiring coaches but firing them as well. Despite that, it took 11 weeks into the 2023 season for an FBS coach to be fired for their on-field performance, the latest that has happened in recent memory.

Michigan State acted quickly to find its successor to Mel Tucker by hiring Jonathan Smith away from Oregon State after Smith’s success at his alma mater. Smith is taking over a Spartans program that needs a massive overhaul after a disappointing 4-8 season. Texas A&M hired Duke’s Mike Elko to replace Jimbo Fisher on Monday. Elko has intimate knowledge of the Aggies program after spending four seasons as Fisher’s defensive coordinator from 2018-21. Mississippi State hired Oklahoma offensive coordinator Jeff Lebby on Sunday to replace Zach Arnett.

Washington slides up to No. 3 with Alabama ahead of Ohio State

His name is Bond. Isaiah Bond.

Tell me you won’t hear that line about 1,000 times before Saturday’s SEC Championship Game. A 5-foot-11 wide receiver from Buford, Georgia, kept Alabama’s hopes alive of going to the College Football Playoff with a miracle catch to beat Auburn in the Iron Bowl.

That’s right. A wideout from Georgia kept alive a dream to defeat Georgia. That’s getting ahead of things. The line above co-opted from old James Bond films is just the beginning. Bond, the receiver, actually wears a 007 necklace.

He certainly had a license to kill Auburn. OK, we’ll leave the puns right there. It was more like a Kick (to the junk) Six for the Tigers. Bama is still alive, but the SEC is in weird position this week. An Alabama win over Georgia puts the league in peril of missing the BCS/CFP for the first time since 2005.

With losses suffered by Ohio State and Louisville, the playoff picture is focused a bit. Mostly, pay attention that — if the four unbeaten Power Five schools (Georgia, Michigan, Washington and Florida State) win out — all the hand-wringing and contrived Tuesday night “reveals” are moot. In that scenario, the Dawgs, Wolverines, Huskies and Seminoles would go. Maybe in that order.

Take a good look. These are the last Power Rankings of 2023.