College football Hot Seat Watch, Week 10: The last days of Bo Pelini?

Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

Bo Pelini's Cornhuskers implode against Minnesota, and the knives come out yet again.

Hot seat rating: Muy caliente

Bo Pelini, Nebraska

Last week: Lost 34-23 at Minnesota
Record: 5-2 (2-1 B1G)
Years: 6
Overall record: 54-22
School record: 54-22
Three-year record: 24-10
Salary: $2,875,000
Three-year dollars per win: $359,375
Buyout: $4.5 million
Football ratio: 65.4%
Subsidy: None

Nebraska got pushed around by Minnesota Saturday, and Bo Pelini has been pushed onto the trapdoor. The vaunted Cornhusker offense managed just 328 total yards against a Gopher defense that had been allowing 375 yards per game. Minnesota ran for 271 yards on Nebraska's defense, which is now ranked 77th nationally in total defense and 75th against the run. Fourth-year starting quarterback Taylor Martinez was just 16/30 for 139 yards.

The loss has been blamed almost exclusively on Pelini. The two Omaha World-Herald columnists mentioned in the Nebraska coach's off-air rant published earlier this year were particularly brutal: Dirk Chatelain is calling the time of death on Nebraska's football dynasty, while Tom Shatel hammers Pelini:

This is the most maddening thing of all for those of us who thought Pelini was hired to instill a spirit of physical and tough football. Smart football. Resilient football. Soulful football.

But teams are often a reflection of their head coach. And while Pelini has always talked a tough game, his teams don't play one when they need it.

This game was Pelini's Huskers to the core. This is an inconsistent program, one that gets in its way too frequently. Not showing up? Not playing smart? Wasting timeouts to get organized so you avoid delay of game? Six years later?

This staff has been outcoached before, but typically when it's an underdog or overmatched, by the likes of Ohio State or UCLA. Now you can add Matt Limegrover to the list.

The Lincoln Journal-Star's Steven M. Sipple is hardly more complimentary:

If you're a Nebraska fan, you're right to expect more from Bo Pelini's program.

You're right to expect more than game-to-game survival mode from a team with an established coaching staff and four-year starter at quarterback - Taylor Martinez's bum left foot and shoulder notwithstanding.

Nebraska, however, lapsed into survival mode with a 34-23 loss to a middling Minnesota squad before 49,995 spectators at TCF Bank Stadium, the Huskers' first Big Ten road loss in a game in which they were favored.

Nebraska was favored by 11 points. A win would've allowed the Huskers (5-2, 2-1 Big Ten) to remain stride-for-stride with Michigan State in the Legends Division. Suddenly, the Huskers look like long shots to capture a weak division.

The fan base was still simmering over the "fair-weather" comment, disseminated earlier this season. It's now boiling over, which begs the question: Is there anything that Pelini can do to survive?

Remarkably little is lost due to the Minnesota debacle. If the Cornhuskers run the table, they would still likely win the Big Ten Legends division and presumably play Ohio State for a trip to the Rose Bowl. Wins over Michigan, Michigan State, Penn State, Iowa, and OSU would certainly make it difficult to justify a firing, but Pelini's earlier rant gave him little margin for error with fans exasperated by stunning losses to once-inferior opponents. Minnesota likely eliminated what little margin was left, and another loss could well be the last straw.

Mike London, Virginia

Last week: Lost 35-25 to Georgia Tech
Record: 2-6 (0-4 ACC)
Years: 4
Overall record: 42-32
School record: 18-27
Three-year record: 14-19
Salary: $2,556,460
Three-year dollars per win: $547,813
Buyout: $8 million
Football ratio: 21.3%
Subsidy: 16.2%

Another week, another ACC loss for London's Cavaliers. Georgia Tech ran for 394 yards on Virginia's defense, which was enough to overcome five turnovers. London's big moment came in the last seconds of the first half, when Virginia faced 2nd and Goal at the 1 and opted against kicking a game-tying field goal to go for the touchdown. Streaking the Lawn has the details of what happened next:

So, with 6 seconds left, down 14-10, the Hoos faced 2nd and goal from the 1. Most coaches would play it safe and kick the FG. Going into halftime down 1 isn't too bad. The aggressive play is to go for it. For a team desperate for a win, this is the correct call. But, another inside run? Really. A play that we've proven time and time again that we can't succeed on? A play that goes straight into the strength of the GT defense? I ask again, where is the QB draw? Or a QB sweep? Or a read option? On a day when Watford threw 61 passes, perhaps the key play of the day was a run for no gain. This was a terrible play call, in a season filled with terrible play calls, by Steve Fairchild. The stop ended the half with the Hoos unable to put any points on the board.

Most troubling for those who will inevitably decide London's future: fewer than 42,000 were in attendance, leaving nearly 20,000 empty seats at Scott Stadium and making it four consecutive games with less than 70 percent capacity in attendance. That represents millions of dollars of lost revenue for an athletic department that takes a state subsidy to break even.

The only bit of good news for Virginia, both on Saturday and throughout this season: recruiting. The Cavaliers picked up the commitment of Lawrenceville, Ga.-based defensive back Darious Latimore this weekend, the 11th commitment to the 2014 class that includes consensus five-stars Quin Blanding and Andrew Brown. Athletic director Craig Littlepage cited London's recruiting haul in last week's vote of confidence. At this point, with three games against ranked opponents still left on the schedule, London will take any bit of good news he can find.

Hot seat rating: Spicy

Mack Brown, Texas

Last week: Defeated TCU 30-7
Record: 5-2 (4-0 Big 12)
Years: 16
Overall record: 241-119
School record: 151-45
Three-year record: 22-11
Salary: $5,353,750
Three-year dollars per win: $730,057
Buyout: $2.75 million
Football ratio: 63.7%
Subsidy: None

We laughed it off when he mentioned it after a loss to Ole Miss, but it's time we ask: Can Mack Brown actually win the Big 12 this year? The Longhorns stomped TCU Saturday night for their fourth conference win of the season. They should be heavy favorites in their next two games, a home date with Kansas and a trip to West Virginia. Oklahoma State and Texas Tech come to Austin. A last-week trip to Baylor could decide the conference title.

If Texas wins the Big 12, Brown could well get the option to come back for 2014. Even a new athletic director would be hard-pressed to come up with a viable reason to fire the coach who turned around a horrible non-conference start into a conference title. It's Mack Brown's ticket out of trouble, and it's looking increasingly likely.

However, it seems just as likely that Brown would retire on top in such a situation.

Ron English, Eastern Michigan

Last week: Lost 59-20 to Northern Illinois
Record: 1-7 (0-4 MAC)
Years: 5
Overall record: 11-45
School record: 11-45
Three-year record: 9-23
Salary: $360,517
Three-year dollars per win: $120,172
Buyout: $524,906
Football ratio: 23.9%
Subsidy: 83.6%

The Eagles have found a hint of offense in halfback Bronson Hill, but their defense is so bad it does not matter. Eastern Michigan is allowing 44.4 points per game, 124th nationally, and has given up 50 or more points in four of their last five games. Not coincidentially, all of those games were double-digit losses; EMU has not been within 20 points of an opponent since a 28-10 loss to Rutgers on September 14.

There are a couple of potential wins left on the schedule if the defense can get sorted out, but asking such a transformation at this late stage could be asking for too much. Regardless, a 3-9 record probably isn't enough to justify English's return.

Hot seat rating: Medium

Dan Mullen, Mississippi State

Last week: Defeated Kentucky 28-22
Record: 4-3 (1-2 SEC)
Years: 5
Overall record: 33-25
School record: 33-25
Three-year record: 19-14
Salary: $2,650,000
Three-year dollars per win: $418,421
Buyout: $675,000
Football ratio: 38.3%
Subsidy: 8.2%

Mississippi State kept it interesting, but the Bulldogs finally got their first conference win of the season. MSU fans aren't satisfied with wins over Kentucky, though. They want to hang with the SEC's top teams. Mullen gets his chance in coming weeks. His team's performance will likely determine whether he's back in Starkville next season.

Ron Turner, Florida International

Last week: Lost 23-7 to Louisiana Tech
Record: 1-6 (1-2 CUSA)
Years: 1
Overall record: 43-67
School record: 1-6
Three-year record: 1-6
Salary: $500,000
Three-year dollars per win: $500,000
Buyout: $2.5 million
Football ratio: 30.3%
Subsidy: 80.3%

If he could afford it, FIU AD Pete Garcia would probably fire Turner right now. Turner's 23-7 loss to Louisiana Tech Saturday was the worst loss suffered by an FBS team against Skip Holtz since 2011, after all.

The former Illinois coach has been completely unable to build an offense. The Golden Panthers are now next-to-last nationally in scoring and have yet to break 24 points in any game this year.

The notoriously trigger-happy Garcia might be hamstrung, though. He fired his last head coach just one year ago, and that 80 percent subsidy could limit his ability to spend $2.5 million on yet another firing. Unless someone with a lot of money really wants him gone, Turner likely stays for a second season.

Norm Chow, Hawaii

Last week: Lost 35-28 to Colorado State
Record: 0-7 (0-5 MWC)
Years: 2
Overall record: 3-16
School record: 3-16
Three-year record: 3-16
Salary: $550,000
Three-year dollars per win: $366,667
Buyout: $1.3 million
Football ratio: 20.9%
Subsidy: 32.6%

We are not that far removed from the time when Norm Chow was considered an offensive genius. Chow spent 27 years on the staff at BYU and was the architect of Pete Carroll's early offenses at Southern Cal. He won the Broyles Award as the nation's top assistant in 2002, and was the first call for almost every mid-level coaching vacancy in the early 2000s.

A stint as offensive coordinator with the Titans did not go well, a three-year run with Rick Neuheisel at UCLA was equally bad, and suddenly Chow was head coach at Hawaii. The Rainbow Warriors won their last two games of 2012, but still finished 3-9. And with seven straight losses to start 2013, an offense ranked 92nd nationally in scoring, and an AD with eyes on a far bigger prize, Chow needs to turn it around quickly or again face the axe.

Charley Molnar, Massachusetts

Last week: Lost 31-30 to Western Michigan
Record: 1-7 (1-3 MAC)
Years: 2
Overall record: 2-18
School record: 2-18
Three-year record: 2-18
Salary: $400,625
Three-year dollars per win: $400,625
Buyout: $1 million
Football ratio: Unknown
Subsidy: 81.9%

UMass lost to hapless Western Michigan this weekend when, after scoring an apparent game-tying touchdown with 22 seconds to go, Molnar elected to go for two. Quarterback A.J. Doyle's pass attempt flew out of the back of the end zone, and Charley Molnar became the answer to that future trivia question: Who was the first coach to lose to P.J. Fleck?

Akron comes to Foxboro in a couple of weeks, but even the Zips look a class above UMass. Molnar's future, then, largely depends on how his boss's patience. Logic would dictate that he gets at least one more year: UMass just jumped to the FBS last year, the Minutemen weren't particularly good in FCS before that, and they missed many of the MAC's worst teams on the schedule this year. But athletic director John McCutcheon fired the last coach after three seasons for going 16-17 in FCS. How will he respond to 2-22?

Hot seat rating: Mild

Jim Grobe, Wake Forest

Last week: Lost 24-21 at Miami
Record: 4-4 (2-3 ACC)
Years: 14
Overall record: 110-110
School record: 77-78
Three-year record: 15-18
Salary: $2,254,798
Three-year dollars per win: $450,960
Buyout: Unknown; $9 million left on contract
Football ratio: Unknown
Subsidy: None

Grobe was less than a minute from exiting the Hot Seat completely when Miami's Duke Johnson dove into the end zone to defeat the Demon Deacons Saturday. As it is, Grobe has Wake Forest playing some good football at the moment, recording wins in the two games before Saturday's near-upset. Wake has to be happy with this development, and another win or two will keep him safe.

Now hiring

  • Miami (Ohio)
  • UConn
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