Each October, the names start circulating. As coaches already on the hot seat begin to lose games, news media members and fans start thinking about the candidates to fill their spots.
Often, they emerge based on teams that are having good seasons. For others, it's a product of reputations that have been building for years. And then there are the names that seemingly get thrown out for every job (looking at you, Virginia Tech defensive coordinator Bud Foster and Alabama defensive coordinator Kirby Smart) but never materialize into much more than innuendo.
This list, however, focuses solely on those most likely to move up the ladder next year based on attractiveness, timing and potential willingness to leave their jobs. You'll hear a lot about these guys in the next few months.
1. Mark Hudspeth, Louisiana-Lafayette head coach
There aren't many coaches who look better in a tight-fitting shirt or can bench-press more than their defensive linemen. But Hudspeth, 45, is no sideshow. Heading into his fourth year at Louisiana-Lafayette, Hudspeth is 27-12 in Division I after a 66-21 run in D-II at North Alabama. He can coach. But he also has the "it" factor that can charm and energize a fan base. Hudspeth is the total package, and it won't be a surprise if he wins the Sun Belt again this year and parlays it into a big-time offer. Hudspeth already makes more than $1 million a year, so he doesn't have to jump at just anything. But the Louisville, Miss., native makes way too much sense at a whole lot of Southeastern Conference programs to not end up there at some point.
2. Pat Narduzzi, Michigan State defensive coordinator
Had the coaching carousel been a little more active last year, Narduzzi could very well have been offered a big-time job after the Spartans' Rose Bowl victory. He was that hot -- just not quite hot enough to land a Texas- or Penn State-level gig. Narduzzi makes nearly $1 million a year, so he can wait for the right fit. But if Michigan State wins the Big Ten again -- and it should -- the 48-year-old defensive savant likely will get an offer he can't refuse.
3. Tom Herman, Ohio State offensive coordinator
Urban Meyer's last three offensive coordinators -- Steve Addazio, Dan Mullen and Mike Sanford -- all have moved on to head coaching jobs, and that trend will continue sooner rather than later. Though the season-ending injury to Braxton Miller is crushing for the Buckeyes in many ways, it could end up flattering Herman if J.T. Barrett comes in and performs well. Herman has a lot of Texas coaching ties, and he'll be in demand if a job opens in that state.
4. Rhett Lashlee, Auburn offensive coordinator
The Tigers' 31-year-old coordinator has pretty much been side-by-side with Gus Malzahn since playing quarterback for him at Shiloh Christian in Springdale, Ark. But unlike Malzahn, whose socially awkward genius vibe can be off-putting, Lashlee is at ease in the spotlight and will excel off the field. Nobody knew much about Lashlee until Auburn started winning last season, and even then Malzahn got most of the credit. But Lashlee's hand in the offense shouldn't be underestimated, and if Auburn has another good year he'll be highly sought-after -- even at his age.
5. Matt Wells, Utah State head coach
The Mountain West preseason poll tabbed Boise State as the favorite, but the smart money is on the Aggies to win the league with the return of senior quarterback Chuckie Keeton. Wells, 41, showed his coaching chops in 2013 after Keeton suffered a knee injury Oct. 4 that could have ruined Utah State's season. Instead, the Aggies finished 6-2 without Keeton and nearly won the conference, coming up a touchdown short against Fresno State in the title game. Wells played at Utah State and leaving his alma mater wouldn't be easy, but he could have options soon.
Nelson Chenault, USA TODAY Sports
Chris Nicoll, USA TODAY Sports
Kirby Lee, USA TODAY Sports
J Pat Carter, AP
Bruce Thorson, USA TODAY Sports