1. Dan Mullen, head coach, Mississippi State
Dan Mullen has roots at the University of Florida. He was the offensive coordinator under Urban Meyer when UF won two of its three national championships. He was hired away after the 2008 title to be the head coach at Mississippi State, where he’s stayed since. He has amassed a 67-44 record with the Bulldogs in his eight-plus seasons in Starkville.
There was some friction with Mullen and Florida when Jim McElwain hired MSU defensive coordinator Geoff Collins to take on the same role at UF. Mullen called it a “lateral move” at the time. However, Florida athletic director Scott Stricklin came from Mississippi State to Florida last year. Even though he didn’t hire Mullen at MSU, they know each other well.
“I enjoyed working with Dan,” Stricklin said Sunday, “and I would say he’d probably say the same.”
2. Matt Campbell, head coach, Iowa State
Matt Campbell is one of the biggest names on the college-coaching circuit right now. In his second year at Iowa State, his team has upset two top-five teams — No. 4 TCU and No. 3 Oklahoma — and sports a 6-2 record. ESPN analyst Kirk Herbstreit tweeted recently, “Dear AD’s thinking of making a new hire I’ll save you your coaching search firm fee-go DIRECTLY to Ames, IA and get Matty Campbell FAST!!”
Campbell was the head coach at Toledo before making the jump to ISU ahead of the 2016 season. He’s 37 years old.
3. Scott Frost, head coach, UCF
Florida may not have to look far to find the next head of its program. About two hours south in Orlando, UCF’s Scott Frost is generating buzz.
The second-year coach of the Knights has his team undefeated after being hired to turn around a team that lost every game in 2015. He reached a bowl game in his first season before putting his team on a possible path to a New Year’s Six bowl.
He’s also a fan favorite among the Florida fan base because his offense currently ranks fifth nationally in yards. Before taking over at UCF, he was the offensive coordinator at Oregon.
4. Mike Norvell, head coach, Memphis
Mike Norvell inherited a program in good shape at Memphis thanks to former head coach Justin Fuente, who left for Virginia Tech. But in two seasons, Norvell has produced a 15-6 record including a 7-1 mark this season. His offense also ranks 11th in yards nationally.
He was the offensive coordinator at Arizona State before being lured away by Memphis.
5. P.J. Fleck, head coach, Minnesota
Fleck spent four years at Western Michigan, where he turned around a cellar-dweller Broncos program from 1-11 his first year to 13-1 with a Cotton Bowl berth in his final year. He was arguably the hottest commodity on the college-coaching market a year ago, and even though he’s only in his first year at Minnesota, Stricklin could still make a call to gauge his interest.
Fleck is only 36 years old.
You can follow Ethan Bauer on Twitter @ebaueri, and contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.