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USATSI

Five Power Five jobs are now open in the 2022 cycle after Cincinnati coach Luke Fickell left to take the job at Wisconsin. The Bearcats are set to move to the Big 12 in 2023, but now will have to do it without the coach who led the program to the College Football Playoff in 2021. 

Cincinnati is the second Power Five job to open after the season ended, joining Stanford after David Shaw resigned after 12 seasons in Palo Alto, California. Shaw leaves as the winningest coach in program history with a 96-54 record and a universally respected figure in college football. More openings could come. 

Nebraska coach Scott Frost was the first coach pink-slipped of the cycle and things have only spiraled from there. Georgia Tech and Colorado made changes after Geoff Collins and Karl Dorrell, respectively, led their teams to historically miserable starts. Auburn coach Bryan Harsin was fired on Halloween. Arizona State canned Herm Edwards after a 1-3 start and NCAA investigations, while Wisconsin parted ways with Paul Chryst after a 2-3 start at Wisconsin. 

Arizona State ultimately hired rising Oregon offensive coordinator Kenny Dillingham for the role. Dillingham, 32, is the youngest head coach in FBS football. Nebraska went to the NFL ranks and nabbed recently fired Carolina Panthers coach Matt Rhule, a turnaround artist at Baylor and Temple. Fickell is the biggest poach of the cycle so far after Wisconsin hired him to revamp the program. More coaching hires could be coming soon as the regular season has come to a close. 

Part of firing a coach midseason is attempting to get to the market early. It can work out in a big way, like USC having weeks to orchestrate poaching Lincoln Riley from Oklahoma. However, the postseason market is now starting to open with Shaw leaving his post at Stanford. If last year is any indication, the poaching season could lead to a whole new round of openings. 

That in mind, and with the carousel off to an early start yet again, let's have a look at the best Power Five coach openings on the heels of Stanford coming open. 

Ranking the best Power Five openings
1
Auburn ranks as perhaps the most mercurial job in all of college football. It's been proven there's legitimate national championship upside at this program; the Tigers have appeared in a pair of national title game since 2010. Whomever takes over the program also must contend with Alabama and Georgia as their chief rivals -- perhaps the most unwinnable scenario in college football -- along with a terminally dysfunctional administration and booster corps. Texas and Oklahoma will join the SEC in the next three years, which will only make the Auburn job more difficult. However, the combination of money and upside in the SEC recruiting footprint ensures the job will be attractive. The question just remains: How attractive?  
2
Welcome to the Power Five coaching carousel, Cincinnati. Luke Fickell transformed the Bearcats into the nation's pre-eminent Group of Five progrm and a College Football Playoff contender, and a new coach will take Cincinnati into the Big 12 era. There's no question this program has a pathway to success at the high-major level with the upgrades in status and infrastructure made under Fickell. However, following a program legend and overseeing a transition does come with complications -- and expectations. Regardless, Cincinnati should get high-quality candidates chasing this job.  
3
The last time Stanford made an external coaching hire was 2006 when the program plucked a former NFL player with just three years of collegiate coaching experience from San Diego to take over the program. Jim Harbaugh and his protege David Shaw could not have worked out better, but Shaw's resignation on Nov. 27 leaves the Cardinal in a difficult position. Stanford has all the money and prestige in the world to attract a quality coach, but any leader will have to work through exceedingly stringent academic standards. After a 6-18 record over the past two seasons, any candidate will have to gauge Stanford's commitment to major college football, especially in the era of NIL and post-Pac-12 realignment. The upside is high, but Stanford is one of the toughest jobs in the country. 
4
If the Geoff Collins era was any indication, sitting in the middle of downtown Atlanta and throwing Waffle House logos on merchandise isn't enough to get recruits to campus. Georgia Tech compares more favorably to Stanford and Duke due to the academic prestige and requirements in order to get recruits into the school than the SEC and ACC programs in the Southeast it has to recruit against. The most successful period in recent memory came while running the triple-option under Paul Johnson and opting not to compete in the rough-and-tumble SEC recruiting footprint. Whomever takes over this job has their hands full trying to choose a long-term identity.
5
Colorado boasts a great campus right in one of the most beautiful areas in the country. Unfortunately, all the great attractions around Boulder manifest in tenuous, at best, football investment. Colorado ranked last among public schools in the Pac-12 in athletic spending during the 2020-21 school year. Just three years ago, the Buffaloes lost a coach to Michigan State after one season. There's no proven recruiting grounds or pathway to success at Colorado, and that has been firmly reflected in the ability to acquire and retain coaching talent.