PASADENA, CA - NOVEMBER 05: Head coach Rick Neuheisel of the UCLA Bruins celebrates as he leaves the field after the game against the Arizona State Sun Devils at the Rose Bowl on November 5, 2011 in Pasadena, California. UCLA won 29-28. (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
It's Hot Seat Tuesday! With Houston Nutt's tenure in Oxford coming to an end soon, let's look at who else has some work to do to fend off football's grim reaper.
Just two weeks ago, we checked in on the temperatures of quite a few FBS coaches' seats. Time to update the list. And even though we are legally required to mention Mark Richt here, we're not going to. Take that, laws.
10 (Gone, Daddy, Gone)
Houston Nutt, Ole Miss. He experienced a two-year surge, mostly with Ed Orgeron's leftovers, but the more the program became truly his, the worse Ole Miss began to perform. The search for his replacement could impact quite a few others, but with Athletic Director Pete Boone also stepping down (sort of -- he's staying on for a while but won't take part in the search, which is all sorts of awkward), it is hard to get a feel for how long it will last or which direction it will take.
Others: Bob Toledo (Tulane).
9 (Playing Out The String)
Paul Wulff, Washington State. It has been "one step forward, one step back" for Wulff's Cougars this year. But after staking claim to a 3-1 record, the Cougars barely slipped up against UCLA and have resumed a few too many of their old ways. Their last four games have finished with an average score of Opponent 40, Wazzu 18; they were competitive at Oregon, which was intriguing, but in general the defense is below average at best, and the passing game has regressed. Wulff potentially needed to make a bowl game to save his job; to do that, the Cougars will need to win out at home versus Arizona State and Utah and at Washington. It isn't looking good.
Everett Withers, North Carolina. As a whole, interim coaches have very little margin for error; they have even less when a new athletic director is taking over and looking to make an immediate impact on his program. In all, the fact that Withers has the Heels bowl eligible could be seen as impressive (they have wins over four likely bowl teams), but they have lost three of four and just suffered an egregious shutout loss to N.C. State. Even a win at Virginia Tech a week from this Thursday probably won't save him at this point.
8 (Only Mostly Dead)
Rick Neuheisel, UCLA. Okay, fine, I may have overreacted. Can you blame me? Two weeks ago, I placed Neuheisel at a 10 alongside Houston Nutt, and despite the events of the last two weeks, I think I still might have fired him at halftime of the Arizona game had I been the athletic director. Since then, however, Neuheisel's tenure has found a second wind, even if it is a brief one. Home wins over California and Arizona State have put the Bruins in a tie for the lead in the Pac-12 South. They control their own destiny, though that doesn't mean they are the favorites. While Arizona State faces Washington State, Arizona and California, UCLA has to travel to Utah and USC (with a home game versus Colorado in between). The Bruins likely have to win out, and they likely won't. In fact, a middling 6-6 is probably the most likely finish. Is that enough to buy Neuheisel another season? This mini-surge has been nice, but the odds are still solid that UCLA will be looking for a new coach in another month or so.
7 (Losing The Battle For Hearts And Minds)
Frank Spaziani, Boston College. I still think Spaziani might survive this awful season thanks to his recent contract extension and the athletic director's general stressing of loyalty. HOWEVER ... it is never a good sign when a former captain of yours is now calling you out on Twitter. Thanks to a surprising road win over equally lowly Maryland, the Eagles clinched at least a two-win season in 2011; they will get, probably, their final chance at a win this Saturday when they host N.C. State and former B.C. coach Tom O'Brien. (They finish with road games versus Miami and Notre Dame.) For a program that has been to 12 straight bowls (every year since O'Brien's third in Chestnut Hill), this season has been an outright abomination.
Turner Gill, Kansas. After a few weeks of trending drastically in the wrong direction, Gill's Jayhawks did show a little bit of life against Iowa State this past weekend, losing only 13-10 in Ames. If KU can at least play competitively against Baylor, Texas A&M and Missouri to finish the season (a win might be a bit too much to ask for), then the second-year coach might get the benefit of the doubt. But the KU team that allowed 55 points per game in the six games before Iowa State just isn't going to cut it. If Kansas can afford the buyout, then Gill is very much in danger.
Others: Neil Callaway (UAB), David Bailiff (Rice), Rick Stockstill (MTSU).
6 (A Fighting Chance)
Luke Fickell, Ohio State. We have life in Columbus! Ohio State was 3-2 and generally lifeless a month ago. But Fickell has begun to push the right buttons, first almost engineering an upset win at Nebraska (they led by two touchdowns when quarterback Braxton Miller got hurt, then they faltered), then pulling off a three-game winning streak. Ohio State beat No. 16 Illinois in Champaign, then pulled off a thrilling last-minute win over Wisconsin. They looked less than amazing against Indiana this past weekend, but they won and are now very much in the thick of the division race. If Ohio State manages to win the
Leaders Legends Leaders Division, this interim coach gets an extended look, right?
Joker Phillips, Kentucky. Kentucky is an absolute mess offensively, but Phillips is playing by Gill's rules: to lose your job after just two years, you need to engineer a complete and total collapse. Thanks to their win over Ole Miss this weekend, Kentucky is looking at a 4-8 record at worst. That isn't good, but it isn't Kansas. Phillips is in much better shape now than I thought he was two weeks ago.
Others: Mike Price (UTEP).
5 (Trending In The Wrong Direction)
Derek Dooley, Tennessee. In their last four SEC games, the Vols have scored a combined 28 points. Their offensive collapse is certainly understandable -- remove a team's quarterback and best skill position player from the equation (due to injury) and watch them flounder -- but let's just say that it would behoove Dooley to beat Vanderbilt and Kentucky to end the season bowl eligible. I still don't think he's gone after just two years, but he could do himself some favors with some late-season wins.
Pat Hill, Fresno State. Hill has been in Fresno so long that I cannot imagine him getting dumped after just his second losing season in 13 years. But his Bulldogs are 3-6, having now lost three home games by double digits, and despite a diluted WAC, they stand at just 3-6, 2-2 in conference. To reach a bowl, they must win out in a stretch that includes road trips to Hawaii and San Diego State. Again, Hill probably survives, but this season has been an incredible disappointment, especially considering that FSU at least looked competitive against California and Nebraska to start the season. (Losing 57-7 to Boise State and 41-21 to Louisiana Tech: less competitive.)
Others: Steve Fairchild (Colorado State), Dan Enos (Central Michigan).
4 (Welcome To The List)
Mike Sherman, Texas A&M. This was supposed to be the year A&M broke through and competed, not only for a conference title, but for a national title. Whoops. The Aggies have been one of the nation's best first-half teams but were outscored a combined 101-30 in the second half (and overtime) in losses to Oklahoma State, Arkansas, Missouri and Oklahoma. They are in danger of falling to 5-5 this weekend with a trip to Manhattan. Recruiting has still been strong, but with A&M making a move to the SEC next year, Sherman has picked a bad time to be particularly disappointing.
3 (Because We Are Legally Required To Mention Him If We Don't Mention Mark Richt)
Ron Zook, Illinois. Zook's Illini are bowl eligible for the second straight season, and their defense is outstanding, so he is probably safe. But they have lost three games in a row (despite allowing only 48 combined points in those three games) and, with Michigan and Wisconsin on deck (both at home), could be in danger of falling from 6-0 to 6-5 if they don't right the ship offensively.
2 (Probably Safe, But Not Having An Amazing Year)
Mike Riley, Oregon State. The Beavers finished just 5-7 in 2010, ending a streak of four consecutive bowl seasons under Riley. Still, last year could be written off because of injuries and a brutal schedule. This year, they're just not very good. They are 2-7 despite having played just three ranked opponents, and while they're improving a bit -- two of their three best games have come in the last three weeks -- this is still a mulligan season for Riley. I really don't think he's in danger by any means, but it would behoove him to right the ship next year. He certainly has some interesting, young skill position players in quarterback Sean Mannion and running back Malcolm Agnew, but lots of Pac-12 schools are good in the skill positions.
Tom O'Brien, N.C. State. O'Brien took all sorts of heat for letting Russell Wilson walk, and their nationally-televised destruction at the hands of Cincinnati in late-September was not a good thing; since then, however, the Wolfpack have improved. They've won three of four (two wins were against bowl-eligible Virginia and North Carolina squads), and with remaining games versus Boston College and Maryland, they should be able to finish with their third bowl bid in four years. O'Brien certainly hasn't been a massive success -- the Wolfpack could be about to finish with their fifth 5-6 win campaign in six years -- but he has probably done enough to stave off the grim reaper for at least another year.
Jeff Tedford, California. If Cal beats Oregon State this Saturday, they will be bowl eligible for the eighth time in Tedford's last nine seasons. That is most likely enough to keep him from moving up this list. Still, the returns have been diminishing recently.
Others: George O'Leary (UCF), Larry Blakeney (Troy).
1 (Okay, Not Really, But What The Hell?)
Tommy Tuberville, Texas Tech. Tuberville has single-handedly destroyed the transitive property. Example No. 1: Oklahoma murdered Texas, Texas Tech ended Oklahoma's long home winning streak, and Texas destroyed Texas Tech. Example No. 2: Iowa State lost to Texas, Missouri and Texas A&M by an average of 25 points; all three of those schools lost to Oklahoma by an average of 21 points; Texas Tech beat Oklahoma; Iowa State destroyed Texas Tech in Lubbock by 34. Tech has followed up a program-defining win by losing to Iowa State and Texas by a combined 93-27 margin. Seriously, how does that happen? I feel a multi-part, offseason series coming on. This demands investigation.