It's far more common to come up with a list of hot seat denizens than up-and-comers (and don't worry, it'll come all too soon here), and in some reasons it's odd.
Chances are, most fans won't be paying attention to the 3-9 teams shedding head coaches, but will be paying attention to coaches whose teams exceed expectations.
That said, this isn't simply a list of every coach outside of a power conference who will be good this year.
There's a few assumptions in play. Namely: Chris Petersen and, to a lesser extent, Gary Patterson are content to oversee dominant programs at Boise State and Texas Christian, respectively. Obviously, they could do quite well for themselves if they wished to leave --- but that's already the case heading into the season.
It seems unlikely Kyle Whittingham wouldn't bolt Utah as it heads into the Pac-10. Ditto for Bronco Mendenhall if Brigham Young goes independent.
So who's left? Some mid-major best and brightest, as well as a pair of coaches at bigger-name schools without a long history of sustained success.
1. Kevin Sumlin, Houston
His first two Cougar teams have averaged more than 40 points each. Houston won 10 games last year, including defeats of Oklahoma State and Texas Tech. He has a history with one of the nation's best programs (Oklahoma). And at 46, he's just about the perfect age to be viewed as a long-term answer by a major program. If Houston wins another 10 games, Sumlin could be the coaching silly season's hottest commodity.
2. Al Golden, Temple
He's won at Temple --- yes, nine victories definitely counts as "winning at Temple" --- and he's recruited a roster that should be able to remain in Mid-American Conference contention for years. There's not a lot of flash to the Owls' on-field style, and that should come as no surprise considering Golden played for Joe Paterno and coached under Tom O'Brien and Al Groh. Who knows if he'd win really big at a large school, but it would be foolish to bet against him winning a lot more than he lost.
3. Rick Stockstill, Middle Tennessee
A 10-win season in Murfreesboro will get you a lot of attention, as well it should. Following it up with another should make a coach a viable candidate for some sort of step up. Quarterback Dwight Dasher is back, so the Blue Raiders could chase down a Sun Belt title. This is Stockstill's fifth season at Middle Tennessee, and it might be the last if his team is as good as last year's.
4. Jim Harbaugh, Stanford
Good: Harbaugh's coaching chops. Bad: The chances for consistent success at Stanford based on fairly recent history. Most guys who succeed with the Cardinal jump elsewhere before, and Harbaugh has improved his team's win total in each of his three seasons. Given his name recognition, his ability to develop talent and his penchant for big wins (Stanford beat Oregon and Southern California last year), a bigger school might come calling. Alma mater Michigan, perhaps?
5. Randy Edsall, Connecticut
The Big East might be there for about a half-dozen teams to take. Why not Connecticut? And if it happens, would the Huskies' efficiency at making the most of a less-than-ideal talent base make Edsall a candidate for bigger things? Connecticut might not be a truly elite program, but it has won eight games in five of the last seven season. A lot of places could do worse than a guy who has shepherded the Huskies into football relevance; the question is whether he'd want to leave.
6. Ken Niumatalolo, Navy
Another guy with the "would he want to leave?" tag who could easily stay in Annapolis and keep churning out great teams for many years. Nonetheless, another 10-win win season at a service academy (a distinct possibility this year), coupled with the triple-option's success at Georgia Tech under former Midshipmen coach Paul Johnson, might make a few athletic directors at struggling programs curious. Success prompts copycats, and while Niumatalolo doesn't project the same swagger as his predecessor, he possesses more than enough steady, quiet certainty in the way he does business. At some point, someone will --- and probably should --- be interested in hiring away the third-year coach.
Coming tomorrow: Coaches who must either win or hire a real estate agent