Last coach: Lane Kiffin
Kiffin was fired in the parking lot of LAX after his Trojans returned from a 62-41 thrashing at the hands of Arizona State. The loss dropped the Trojans to 0-2 in the Pac-12 for the first time since 2001. The 62 points posted by Arizona State tied the record for most scored on a USC team, and the 612 yards of offense was more than double what the Trojans had been giving up in the team's first four games.
Great programs -- even those with the history of Southern Cal -- don't remain great forever. Coaches are the impetus behind the ascention, or return, to the top. Alabama was 67-54 in the 10 seasons between Gene Stallings and Nick Saban. Oklahoma went 61-50-3 and finished in the top 2 of its conference just once in the 10 seasons between Barry Switzer and Bob Stoops. Mighty Texas finished just 72-54-2 in the 11 seasons between Fred Akers and Mack Brown.
Even USC has seen it before: The Trojans were 126-84-2 from the end of John Robinson's first stint with the program to the arrival of Pete Carroll. A mighty program can usually withstand one bad hire and return to a reasonable facsimile of its former self (see: Michigan, Nebraska). But two bad hires can send a once-mighty program into a pit of despair. Pat Haden has to get this right, or USC could spend some time at the bottom.
Last coach: Paul Pasqualoni
It took UConn all of 28 games to come to the realization that it had made a huge mistake in hiring the 64-year-old Pasqualoni, a native of the state and moderately successful coach at nearby Syracuse. He could not carry over the momentum of a program that had just appeared in a BCS bowl and was on the cusp of relevancy. His hire prompted an immediate backlash from top booster Robert Burton (he's doing a little gloating this week), and the on-field results have been lackluster for an athletic department desperately in need of the football gravitas needed to draw an invite from one of the five remaining power conferences. The Huskies' 0-4 start, with double-digit losses to Towson and Buffalo, meant the end of the line.
Connecticut's problem is diametrically opposed to that of USC. UConn is a developmental program in a small state largely devoid of top-level talent. Since 2008, 137 players have committed to play football at UConn. Exactly one of them had a Rivals four-star rating, and he transferred out.
On the other hand, UConn has signed 89 players with two-star ratings over that period of time. Pasqualoni actually improved recruiting marginally, landing 12 three-star players in his last class and obtaining verbal commitments from a handful of three-star prospects for 2014. But without proper development, those players and that team never has a chance. Former coach Randy Edsall could do that developing; Pasqualoni clearly could not.
Mack Brown, Texas
Last week: Off
Overall record: 235-119
School record: 148-45
Three-year record: 19-11
Three-year dollars per win: $845,329
Buyout: $2.75 million
Football ratio: 63.7%
While Texas didn't play last week, Brown's seat only got warmer with the announcement that longtime Texas athletic director and Brown defender DeLoss Dodds will retire in August. Rumors swirled about Dodds' resignation for weeks, many of them centered on Brown's struggles. Without his ally in the big chair, another Brown firewall is gone. A new athletic director is going to want his own choice in the biggest position, and that person will have a small fortune to make it happen. It's increasingly likely that Brown cannot survive to 2014.
As if that was not enough, Brown's Longhorns spent the week preparing for the house of coaching horrors that is Jack Trice Stadium. Texas will be without starting quarterback David Ash Thursday. Texas' defense is horrendous against the run. The only thing Iowa State does particularly well is run the football. Weird stuff happens in Ames on school nights. The weather report calls for thunderstorms with -- I'm not kidding -- an outside chance of tornadoes. The gods are about as unhappy with Mack as the fans, apparently.
Bo Pelini, Nebraska
Last week: Off
Overall record: 52-21
School record: 52-21
Three-year record: 22-9
Three-year dollars per win: $392,045
Buyout: $4.5 million
Football ratio: 65.3%
Pelini's team gets a week to rest up before an October stocked with would-be Big Ten cupcakes: Illinois in Lincoln Saturday, followed by trips to Purdue and Minnesota. It should mean a 6-1 record and enough snaps for backup quarterback Tommy Armstrong to start an actual quarterback controversy despite the presence of a fourth-year senior starter:
Can Tommy Armstrong save the season?
OK, that's overstating his potential impact. But I know many, many fans whose excitement level (and hope) for the Huskers has dissipated over the past month. They don't see a defensive turnaround coming. They don't see Taylor Martinez putting up 40 points at the Big House. Their main point of interest - their primary reason to watch - is Armstrong.
Yes, many fans' excitement and hope for the Huskers has dissipated because they lost one game to a top 20 team. Gandhi couldn't possibly keep it together in the face of that kind of insanity.
Nebraska should win those three October games, split with Northwestern and Michigan at the very least, and win two of its final three against Michigan State, Penn State, and Iowa. That's a 9-3 record and a potential division championship. He could be fired anyway.
Jim Grobe, Wake Forest
Last week: Lost, 56-7, at Clemson
Overall record: 108-109
School record: 75-77
Three-year record: 13-17
Three-year dollars per win: $520,338
Buyout: Unknown; $11.5 million remaining on contract
Football ratio: Unknown
I don't care how apathetic you are about your football program, a 49-point loss to a conference foe should turn the heat up a bit. A 49-point loss where your team was down 21-0 after just eight minutes should count double. A 49-point loss where your team was down 21-0 after just eight minutes, converted just 2/14 on third down, and was outgained 573-222 should probably get you a stern talking to from your boss.
Grobe's squad is now 2-3. The Demon Deacons are 107th nationally in both rushing offense and scoring offense. The once-stingy defense was incinerated by Tajh Boyd, with upcoming games against NC State, Maryland, Miami, and Florida State not looking too promising. A 4-8 record looks extremely likely, and that should be enough to end this, even at Wake Forest.
Dan Enos, Central Michigan
Last week: Lost, 48-14, at NC State
Overall record: 14-28
School record: 14-28
Three-year record: 14-28
Three-year dollars per win: $88,800
Football ratio: 24.8%
The few Chips fans I know tell me that Enos' buyout makes him beyond reproach. After five weeks of some of the nation's worst football, I find it hard to believe that nobody will contribute a million-dollar pink slip for Enos, who has fielded one of the worst teams in the country. The Chips have not been within single digits of an FBS opponent yet. Their only win is against FCS team New Hampshire, a win that required a 14-point fourth quarter comeback and game-winning field goal as time expired. CMU is among the nation's 20 worst teams in both scoring offense and scoring defense. They are a mess, and aside from this week's trip to Miami (Ohio), there's no relief in sight.
Ron Turner, Florida International
Last week: Off
Overall record: 42-65
School record: 0-4
Three-year record: 0-4
Three-year dollars per win: N/A
Buyout: $2.5 million
Football ratio: 30.3%
Florida International is presumably still paying Mario Cristobal a multi-million dollar buyout, Turner is due $2.5 million if he goes this year, and Florida taxpayers are footing the bill for the vast majority of the program's expenses (only UMass and Eastern Michigan are even close). But am I the only one who sees FIU athletic director Pete Garcia wrapping his arm around new head coach Lane Kiffin this January?
Bobby Hauck, UNLV
Last week: Won, 56-42, at New Mexico
Overall record: 89-51
School record: 9-34
Three-year record: 7-23
Three-year dollars per win: $214,286
Buyout: $1 million
Football ratio: 13.7%
Bobby Hauck had not won three games in any individual season among his first three campaigns at UNLV. He's now won three straight, and is above .500 for the first time in Vegas. The Rebels get a week off before hapless Hawaii visits. The schedule gets considerably harder after that, but four straight wins and an upset late (Nov. 9 against in-state rival Nevada looks intriguing) could potentially move Hauck off the chopping block. He says he needs six wins; he's halfway there in September.
Charley Molnar, UMass
Last week: Off
Overall record: 1-15
School record: 1-15
Three-year record: 1-15
Three-year dollars per win: $1,201,875
Buyout: $1 million
Football ratio: 30.2%
Molnar needs a win or two. It probably won't come this week, with a trip to surging Bowling Green on the schedule. But UMass' Oct. 12 showdown with fellow MAC doormat Miami (Ohio) offers the possibility. Loser of that game immediately moves to Threat Level Spicy
Don Treadwell, Miami (Ohio)
Last week: Lost, 50-14, at Illinois
Overall record: 8-20
School record: 8-20
Three-year record: 8-20
Three-year dollars per win: $150,000
Football ratio: 26.0%
Miami's a no-win situation. The athletic department is desperate for money, so it sends the football team on a midwestern road show through September to act as sacrificial lamb to BCS conference teams. By the time the coffers are filled, the team is so depleted and demoralized that it can't catch up. Miami has played the SEC (Kentucky), Big Ten (Illinois), AAC (Cincinnati) and Conference USA (Marshall) so far, with three of those games on the road and a fourth, Cincinnati, an effective road game in its home stadium. The Redhawks are horrendous statistically: they average just 175 yards of offense per game (91 passing, 84 rushing, both among the nation's ten worst). Miami scores nine points per game. Nine. And Don Treadwell is supposed to be an offensive guy.
There are potential wins on the calendar: The Redhawks get Central Michigan at home this week, with a trip to UMass and home date against Akron following that. But Treadwell likely needs a top half finish in the MAC to justify another year of this, and that looks extremely unlikely at the moment.