Two games plus a bowl appearance remain for North Carolina's football team, but the final door almost certainly closed on the Butch Davis coaching era with Saturday's 13-0 loss at N.C. State.
Interim coach Everett Withers, formerly Davis' defensive coordinator, needed to snap the program's four-game losing streak to N.C. State to generate substantial support in the fan base.
The odds were heavily against Withers staying anyway. Incoming athletics director Bubba Cunningham said Withers would be considered, but a complete staff overhaul seemed likely from the moment Davis was fired in late July.
At 6-4 overall and 2-4 in the ACC, Withers' team still could make a splash with an upset at Virginia Tech on Nov. 17. But realistically, the entire coaching staff could be checking the job market between the finale against Duke on Nov. 26 and bowl time.
With a couple more wins, Withers will be mentioned for other jobs. But the Tar Heels' hollow offensive performance against the Wolfpack had to hurt his resume, even though assistant John Shoop has handled the offense all season.
Where Cunningham will go with the hire is anyone's guess, but much-mentioned South Florida coach Skip Holtz isn't exactly aflame these days.
With an overtime loss at Rutgers on Saturday, Holtz's team dropped its fourth straight, slid to 0-4 in the Big East and might not be favored in any of its remaining four games.
After beginning the season with a win at Notre Dame and then averaging almost 55 points over the ensuing three games, South Florida had the look of a top-10 challenger. Then a 44-17 loss at Pittsburgh on Sept. 29 prompted a nosedive that could lead to a 4-8 meltdown.
The X factor in Cunningham's search is the NCAA investigation of the Tar Heels football program.
If the NCAA takes until mid-January to hand down its penalty, Cunningham might be forced to move more slowly than expected.
It's reasonable to assume at least a few targets/candidates might want definitive information about scholarship losses, bowl bans and recruiting restrictions before committing to the job.