College Football Hot Seat Watch, Week 5: Mack Brown, Bo Pelini temporarily stop digging

Ronald Martinez

With the status quo holding across college football this week, there isn't much movement on the Coach Watch.

After a relatively uneventful week, little has changed on the Hot Seat. Mack Brown and Bo Pelini remain in serious trouble. Lane Kiffin still hasn't found a consistent offense. Paul Pasqualoni can't catch a break. Conference play starts in many conferences this week, so business is about to pick up.

Muy Caliente

Mack Brown, Texas

Last week: Won 31-21 vs. Kansas State
Record: 2-2
Years: 16
Overall record: 235-119
School record: 148-45
Three-year record: 19-11
Salary: $5,353,750
Three-year dollars per win: $845,329
Buyout: $2.75 million
Football ratio: 63.7%
Subsidy: None

Nobody has ever needed a win over a middling conference opponent more than Mack Brown needed a win over Kansas State this weekend. As if losing back-to-back games and firing the defensive coordinator wasn't enough, this week's bombshell report that Texas regents met with Nick Saban's agent about Saban taking over for Brown before those losses only further cemented the longtime Texas coach's spot atop the Hot Seat rankings.

Regardless of how Brown does this season, it's Saban's job if he wants it. Saban is denying interest, but the nation's richest athletic department can let him name his price, and Saban has denied interest in almost every job he has eventually taken.

If Saban truly is uninterested it Texas, there remains the question of what Mack Brown can do to survive. Does Texas retain him if the Longhorns finish 10-2 with an undefeated run through the Big 12? What if Texas simply holds on for a conference title with an 8-4 (7-2) record? What if one of those losses is to Oklahoma? The fact is, there might not be a plausible set of circumstances under which Brown stays at Texas in 2014.

Bo Pelini, Nebraska

Last week: Won 59-20 vs. South Dakota State
Record: 3-1
Years: 6
Overall record: 52-21
School record: 52-21
Three-year record: 22-9
Salary: $2,875,000
Three-year dollars per win: $392,045
Buyout: $4.5 million
Football ratio: 65.3%
Subsidy: None

There was a point in Saturday's Nebraska game against South Dakota State when it looked like the Pelini era might end before halftime. The Jackrabbits answered two early Nebraska scores with scoring drives of their own, then kicked a field goal to take a 17-14 lead after one quarter. Nebraska took control from there and won comfortably, but a coach under as much fire as Pelini was this week doesn't want to give the fans another reason to turn.

At the moment, there is not much that Nebraska can do on the field to help Pelini. He's on this list for his actions off the field, and another nine-win campaign isn't going to change that (just ask Frank Solich). Vegas odds are now 3:1 against him coming back next year, and while losses could hasten the inevitable, the inevitable is coming regardless.

Spicy

Lane Kiffin, USC

Last week: Won 17-14 vs. Utah State
Record: 3-1
Years: 4
Overall record: 35-20
School record: 28-14
Three-year record: 20-9
Salary: $2,406,505
Three-year dollars per win: $360,976
Buyout: Unknown; $4.8 million remaining on contract
Football ratio: Unknown
Subsidy: None

Last week, it looked like Kiffin's Trojans had banded together to pull their coach's feet from the fire with a convincing 35-7 win over Boston College. Embattled starting quarterback Cody Kessler was accurate and poised, showing what Kiffin had seen in him as he shredded Boston College's defense. The minor hiccup was over. The Trojans were on their way back.

One week later and it's back to square one: Kessler was just 13/27 for 164 yards and a score, the USC offense failed to find the end zone in the second half, and lowly Utah State nearly pulled off an upset that would have been stunning had it not been accomplished by Washington State in almost the same manner two weeks ago. USC probably should have lost the game: The Trojans were outgained 285-282, had 15 fewer passing yards than Utah State, went just 3/14 on third down, and committed the game's only turnover. Kessler is now just 46/76 through four games, with only 537 passing yards to show for it. The Trojans are 108th nationally in passing offense, 95th in scoring offense. That simply won't do for a fan base that has better ways to spend its time.

USC's defense is quite good, but it won't be enough to keep Southern Cal's record above .500 in a loaded Pac-12 or Southern Cal's fans returning to their seats every week. With a trip to Arizona State looming this week and the only non-conference game left on the schedule against No. 22 Notre Dame, Kiffin is dangerously close to the cliff.

Paul Pasqualoni, Connecticut

Last week: Lost 24-21 vs. Michigan
Record: 0-3
Years: 3
Overall record: 151-93
School record: 10-17
Three-year record: 10-17
Salary: $1,600,000
Three-year dollars per win: $480,000
Buyout: $500,000
Football ratio: 27.8%
Subsidy: 27.2%

No coach benefited more from a soul-crushing loss this week than Pasqualoni, whose Huskies built a two-touchdown lead in the third quarter against mighty Michigan and ran out of gas.  UConn managed just 206 yards of total offense -- just 47 yards rushing -- and went a horrible 1/11 on third down, but four Michigan turnovers certainly didn't hurt.

Moral victory aside, the Huskies are now 0-3 on the season, with all three losses at home. They have lost to the winningest program in the history of college football. They have lost to Towson. They have lost to game-winning field goals. They have lost in two-possession blowouts. They have lost at every turn. They have lost, lost, and lost again.

This week, UConn goes to Buffalo. The Huskies then start their first season of AAC football by hosting South Florida. Both of those teams are ostensibly less than or equal to UConn, and the Huskies need to win both games to stop a run on the bank.

Jim Grobe, Wake Forest

Last week: Won 25-11 at Army
Record: 2-2
Years: 14
Overall record: 108-108
School record: 75-76
Three-year record: 13-16
Salary: $2,254,798
Three-year dollars per win: $520,338
Buyout: Unknown; $14 million remaining on contract
Football ratio: Unknown
Subsidy: None

Army started this week's game against Wake Forest with a safety, and the Black Knights held a lead deep into the third quarter. Two late Demon Deacon scores cemented the game away, but it was never as easy as the two-touchdown margin would indicate. Wake Forest quarterback Tanner Price (6/17, 132 yds., 1 TD, 1 INT) was outplayed by Kelvin White, who remains the quarterback at Army. Just three players received passes, with Michael Camponaro's 66-yard reception a highlight. Wake managed 228 yards on the ground, but was outrushed by 43 yards on the afternoon.  And again, this was against Army, which is 1-3 on the season.

Wake's non-conference slate takes a hiatus until Thanksgiving weekend now, as the Demon Deacons play seven ACC games. That includes this week's trip to No. 3 Clemson, which could bring the whole thing tumbling down. Grobe is still supported by some, and he is still owed a boatload of money, but time is ticking.

Dan Enos, Central Michigan

Last week: Lost 38-17 vs. Toledo
Record: 1-3
Years: 4
Overall record: 14-27
School record: 14-27
Three-year record: 11-18
Salary: $325,600
Three-year dollars per win: $88,800
Buyout: $900,000
Football ratio: 24.8%
Subsidy: 67.1%

The recipient of America's most peculiar contract extension lost again this weekend, this time an in-conference home defeat where his team never led and committed four turnovers. The Chips are now 1-3 with a blowout loss to Michigan, a double-digit road loss to hapless UNLV, and this week's defeat to Toledo. They are 111th nationally in scoring offense and 112th in scoring defense. This is not how CMU saw things going.

Enos has two saving graces: His buyout is too big to pay, and the lower tier of the MAC looks atrocious. He has four eminently winnable games: at Miami (OH), at UMass, and at home against directional rivals Eastern Michigan and Western Michigan. Get a split, and 3-9 could be enough. Win three of four and he's probably coming back.

Medium

Bobby Hauck, UNLV

Last week: Won 38-7 vs. Western Illinois
Record: 2-2
Years: 4
Overall record: 88-51
School record: 8-34
Three-year record: 6-23
Salary: $500,000
Three-year dollars per win: $250,000
Buyout: $1 million
Football ratio: 13.7%
Subsidy: 55.4%

Man, that had to feel good for Bobby Hauck. This week's 38-7 victory over FCS stalwart Western Illinois was UNLV's second consecutive win. It's the first time since Hauck left Montana for Vegas that his team can honestly say it has a winning streak. For a guy who started the season as the nation's most embattled coach, that is saying something.

The streak could go on a bit longer, too: UNLV travels to New Mexico this week, who the Rebels hammered 35-7 last year. After a week to rest, the Rebels host the reeling Hawaii Rainbows. Hauck needs five wins to even earn the consideration of UNLV administrators, and six to become a favorite to stay. A 4-2 mark before the serious section of his MWC slate begins would put him perilously close to bowl eligibility and, with it, safety.

Ron Turner, Florida International

Last week: Lost 72-0 at Louisville
Record: 0-4
Years: 1
Overall record: 42-65
School record: 0-4
Three-year record: 0-4
Salary: $500,000
Three-year dollars per win: Incalculable dollars per win
Buyout: $2.5 million
Football ratio: 30.3%
Subsidy: 80.3%

Florida Atlantic athletic director Pete Garcia, a man who once hired Isiah Thomas to an actual job, fired hot-shot head coach Mario Cristobal after last season. When asked why in the name of all that is sane he would fire one of the nation's best coaches, a coach who had taken the moribund Golden Panthers to a Sun Belt title and consecutive bowls, Garcia said the team's 3-9 record in 2012 was a "total collapse."

I wonder how he's going to take this.

Ron Turner, who had been out of football for a decade before becoming Garcia's fallback for the FIU job, is now 0-4 in his first season in Miami. His team has lost those four games by a combined score of 187-23. The Panthers are 120th nationally in passing yards, 123rd in rushing yards, 126th in scoring offense, and 125th in scoring defense. FCS team Bethune-Cookman beat them by 21 at home. Would-be rival Central Florida blanked them 38-0. And Louisville was demolishing FIU so thoroughly that Turner reportedly asked the referees to run the clock in the second half.

It's only been four games, but the odds that Turner wins a game this year look increasingly long. He was never Garcia's first choice, and Butch Davis is still theoretically sitting out there, just waiting to turn Garcia down again. This could end quickly.

Mild

Kirk Ferentz, Iowa

Last week: Won 59-3 vs. Western Michigan
Record: 3-1
Years: 15
Overall record: 115-96
School record: 103-75
Three-year record: 14-15
Salary: $3.835 million
Three-year dollars per win: $821,785
Buyout: $16 million
Football ratio: 47.7%
Subsidy: 0.6%

Last season, Iowa dropped its last non-conference game against hapless Central Michigan by botching an onside kick and blowing a two-score fourth quarter lead in the process. It was that loss, which took the Hawkeyes to 2-2 on the season and spelled doom for bowl season, that lit the bunsen burner under Ferentz's rocking chair.

This year is so not last year. Iowa eviscerated MAC also-ran Western Michigan over the weekend. The Hawkeyes are now in the national top 30 in rushing offense and scoring defense, two key variables to any winning Ferentz team. It was Iowa's second-highest point total under the 15-year head coach, and its first 20-point win in nearly two years.

The Cy-Hawk Trophy is now firmly ensconsed in a trophy case somewhere in Iowa City, and the Hawkeyes play Minnesota for Floyd of Rosedale this weekend. If Ferentz can manage to bring home at least two of the team's four traveling trophies -- Wisconsin and Nebraska loom in November -- and get Iowa fans to any bowl game whatsoever, he is safe for 2015. Ferentz is firmly on his way to doing just that.

Charley Molnar, UMass

Last week: Lost 24-7 vs. Louisville
Record: 0-4
Years: 2
Overall record: 1-15
School record: 1-15
Three-year record: 1-15
Salary: $400,625
Three-year dollars per win: $1,201,875
Buyout: Unknown; $1 million base salary remaining on contract
Football ratio: 30.1%
Subsidy: 39.5%

At least UMass almost pulled it off this weekend. The Minutemen were down just three points to a real-life SEC team entering the fourth quarter of a lightly-attended home game before conceding two fourth-quarter touchdowns. It is something from which UMass can build going forward.

The "lightly-attended" part is a problem, though. UMass drew just over 16,000 for Saturday's game, barely any better than the Minutemen had pulled in for a 10-point loss to Maine earlier this year. Gillette Stadium, known far more for the New England Patriots than its Saturday renters, is exactly what a burgeoning program doesn't need: Tons of empty seats off campus that UMass cannot possibly fill. Molnar needs to give fans a reason to show up. A favorable draw in the MAC -- home games against Miami, Western Michigan, and Akron, with a road date at CMU -- could help, but it remains to be seen whether the Minutemen could cash in.

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