2011's top head-coaching candidates

Updated: October 28, 2011, 12:47 PM ET
By Ryan McGee

Over on my other beat, motorsports, there are two concurrent seasons. The first is the actual season, the one with wins, losses and piles of stats. But the other can be just as interesting and far less predictable. It's the personnel musical chairs of drivers, crew chiefs and sponsors jumping from one team and going to another -- and it's insane.

That's why we call it the Silly Season.

Now, as we plow into late October, college football has crashed headlong into its own Silly Season. Like racing, college football's Silly Season seems to begin earlier and earlier each year. This season, it all got kicked off before the games had even started, with Jim Tressel and Butch Davis departing during the offseason. Then New Mexico, Arizona and Toledo all vacated their head-coaching office before we'd even reached the halfway point.

So, who are the leading candidates to fill those positions and the others that could come open between now and next season? Let's take a look at the three best candidates in a variety of categories.

Hot-commodity coordinators

These are the coordinators and position coaches who are gathering buzz with both athletic directors and fans. In other words, the Dana Holgorsens of 2011.

1. Gus Malzahn, Auburn Tigers offensive coordinator: Last year Auburn dug up 1.3 million reasons for their offensive genius not to become the head coach of the Vanderbilt Commodores. But you have to figure someone will eventually be able to top that. No, Auburn isn't having the type of season in 2011 that it did last season, but losing Cam Newton will do that. Malzahn's offense is still the one everyone is trying to copy. Clemson's new offensive coaching staff eventually had to be run off from an offseason chat with Malzahn because he was afraid they were learning a little too much. Clearly, he was right.

Good fit: UCLA Bruins