Hot seat rating: Ghost pepper & napalm smoothie
Brady Hoke, Michigan
Last week: Beat Indiana 34-10, lost his athletic director
This year's record: 4-5 (2-3 Big Ten)
Record at Michigan: 30-18
Contract: $3.25 million through 2017
Buyout: About $3 million
The good news for Hoke: He arrested Michigan's slide with a win over reeling Penn State three weeks ago and had his team legitimately interested in beating Indiana Saturday, probably Michigan's most complete performance of the season. If Hoke had any chance of surviving despite an embarrassing loss to intrastate rival Michigan State last week, it could come from a solid November and .500 record.
But Hoke's chances of survival, already minuscule after that beatdown from Sparty, were extinguished Friday when athletic director Dave Brandon -- the man who had hired Hoke and stood as his only real firewall -- resigned. Now the only drama left is whether interim AD Jim Hackett will pull the trigger himself or wait for the permanent replacement. Michigan's president has given Hackett authority to act as executioner, but someone is ending this soon.
Hot seat rating: Qatar World Cup hot
Will Muschamp, Florida
Last week: Beat Georgia 38-20
This year's record: 4-3 (3-3 SEC)
Record at Florida: 26-19
Contract: $2.7 million through 2017
Buyout: About $7 million
At lesser programs, a win over a rivalry can salvage a horrible season. Fans who don't have high expectations can take solace in well-delivered comeuppance to a hated opponent and stay warm through the long offseason.
Some have been asking if this week's shocking win over Georgia can save Will Muschamp from what otherwise looked like a certain firing. The answer is no; Florida is simply not the kind of program where a rivalry win can have that kind of resonance, and Florida is still staring at a November trip to Tallahassee that could kill off whatever goodwill the Georgia win engendered.
But if this week's win sets off a winning streak, it could be another story. And with Vanderbilt, reeling South Carolina, and Eastern Kentucky in the next three weeks, a four-game winning streak is within reach. And hell, if Florida can beat Florida State in the finale, then Muschamp could ...
Kevin Wilson, Indiana
Last week: Lost to Michigan 34-10
This year's record: 3-5 (0-4 Big Ten)
Record at Indiana: 13-31
Contract: $1.2 million through 2017
Buyout: About $1.7 million
It's Year 4, and Wilson has not been within two touchdowns of a Big Ten opponent through October. It's Year 4, and Wilson is two more losses from missing another bowl season, with Ohio State still on the schedule. It's Year 4, and Wilson's vaunted offense is averaging fewer than 18 points per game in the worst Big Ten in years, with a defense that hasn't held a conference opponent under 34.
It's Year 4, and at some point the math just catches up with you, regardless of the importance of football at Indiana.
Tim Beckman, Illinois
Last week: Lost to Ohio State 55-14
This year's record: 4-5 (1-4 Big Ten)
Record at Illinois: 10-23
Contract: $1.7 million through 2016
Buyout: About $1.7 million
Beckman followed one of the season's most inexplicable wins -- a four-point home victory over Minnnesota -- with a blowout loss at the Horseshoe. No shame in that.
But the fans have never been exactly enthralled with Beckman, attendance remains miserable, a bowl trip looks nearly impossible, and basketball season again threatens to make Illinois football irrelevant. He might survive if Illinois fears the reputation created by firing a coach after three seasons or if the athletic director simply forgets that Illinois plays football. Otherwise, he's likely toast.
Hot seat rating: Steamy
Larry Fedora, North Carolina
Last week: Lost to Miami 47-20
This year's record: 4-5 (2-3 ACC)
Record at North Carolina: 19-15
Contract: $1.7 million through 2018
Buyout: About $3 million
Expectations can be a bad thing. North Carolina is perpetually a sleeper ACC pick and smart preseason top 25 pick, only to fail to meet those standards. This season was no different: UNC was ranked 23rd in the preseason AP poll and Week 1 USA Today poll, but a four-game losing streak ended any hope of a conference title run. An eight-loss season and December in Chapel Hill looks plausible, if not probable. And if that happens, Fedora is in trouble.
Larry Fedora, Photo credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
Paul Rhoads, Iowa State
Last week: Lost to Oklahoma 59-14
This year's record: 2-6 (0-5 Big 12)
Record at Iowa State: 29-42
Contract: $1.8 million through 2022
Buyout: About $6 million
Rhoads gets points from Iowa State fans as an Iowa native -- he grew up in nearby Ankeny -- and Iowa State loyalist -- see: Chizik, Gene -- and, more than anything else, as the guy who beat No. 2 Oklahoma State and ranked teams from Nebraska and Texas and rival Iowa. But Rhoads' respectable run of five-plus-win seasons at the beginning of his tenure gave way to a 3-9 campaign in Year 5 and the current march toward something like 3-9 again.
Yes, his athletic director is clearly in his corner, as evidenced by Jamie Pollard's postgame comments critical of Big 12 officiating following Iowa State's loss to Oklahoma State in early October. Yes, his contract runs through 2022 at a school that isn't exactly awash in cash.
But Iowa State is expanding Jack Trice Stadium and needs to fill seats. None of this bodes well for the guy who won with Gene Chizik's recruits and crashed into a mountain as soon as they were gone.
Hot seat rating: That long drive to the countryside
Steve Spurrier, South Carolina
Last week: Lost to Tennessee 45-42
This year's record: 4-5 (2-5 SEC)
Record at South Carolina: 81-44
[Update: Spurrier says the plan is to stay for 2015, while also citing Taylor Swift lyrics.]
Steve Spurrier has exactly one losing season in 24 previous campaigns as a head coach. His first team at Duke went 5-6. That was 1987. Since then, the OBC has averaged more than nine wins per season, taken 21 teams to bowl games, and won six SEC championships, one ACC title, and nine division championships. He won 11 games in each of the last three seasons at South Carolina, a feat that he never pulled off at Florida or Duke and that cemented him as the best coach in the history of the program.
With the Gamecocks at 4-5 and staring down road trips to Florida and Clemson in coming weeks, Spurrier is at serious risk of doubling that number of losing seasons with a team that started the season ranked ninth in the AP poll. His revamped defense is horrendous, his offense can't keep up, and his last four losses have been by 18 total points. Spurrier looks frustrated and bored, as shown in his 56-second postgame press conference from Saturday:
And, as we all learned during his time in the NFL, when Spurrier is frustrated and bored, he has no trouble pulling the plug. The OBC will turn 70 before next season begins. His younger son has long since left the program, and his older son, currently South Carolina's co-offensive coordinator, might be in line for a job elsewhere.
Frank Beamer, Virginia Tech
Last week: Lost to Boston College 33-31
This season's record: 4-5 (1-4 ACC)
Record at Virginia Tech: 228-114-2
It wouldn't be autumn if FBS football's longest-serving head coach wasn't under fire, but Virginia Tech's recent meltdown feels different. The Hokies have lost five of seven games since upsetting Ohio State on September 6, including an embarrassing 24-point loss to Miami on national television two weeks ago. As with Spurrier, Beamer's trademark side of the ball -- in VT's case, defense -- has been solid, but the other side has imploded. Virginia Tech managed just 262 yards against Miami and 291 yards (and a mere 26 yards rushing) in a loss at Pitt.
Beamer's teams last missed bowl season in 1992, and has made eight BCS-level bowl appearances since. He won 10 or more games in Virginia Tech's first eight seasons in the ACC, and he has never had a losing record in the conference. But this will be Beamer's third consecutive season with five or more losses, the first time since 1992 that his team has done that.
Beamer turned 68 last month, and while defensive coordinator Bud Foster might well wait forever at his side, Beamer knows who will get the first interview when he decides to leave.