As always, we start this countdown off with congratulations. This isn’t Hotel California. We want you to leave. Just don’t check out. That’s how you end up back on the list. With that said, massive congratulations to BYU’s Bronco Mendenhall for removing all doubt about his job status with a decisive victory over Texas. Of course, it wouldn’t have killed him to, you know, prepare for the opener. Mendenhall’s Cougars would absolutely be in the running for a spot in the top 25 if they bothered showing up for their inexplicable Week 1 loss at Virginia. That defeat absolutely should have left questions about the future of the BYU program under Mendenhall, just as curb-stomping Bevo last night answered them. Secondly, hope not to see you soon, Willie Taggart. The South Florida coach left the list by not getting flat-out embarrassed as he and his program were a week earlier by McNeese State. Who would have thought the MSU that slaughtered the Bulls would have been McNeese and not a Michigan State team whose offense could find Mark Dantonio – an exceptional coach – feeling pressure by season’s end.
Now that the pleasantries are over and done with, let’s move on to the main event. Texas. USC. What in the holy hell happened to you last night? Seriously. Try to explain it. You two are powerhouse programs and both of you got embarrassed on national TV against seemingly inferior opponents. How does that happen? Texas’ defense and the Trojans’ offense were equally inept. The other side of the ball couldn’t do nearly enough to save either team. Both coaches started the season in trouble. Now their seats are scorching hot.
A bit of housecleaning here: UConn’s Paul Pasqualoni has little chance of keeping his job. We here on the countdown understand that and are not forgetting his atrocious season-opening loss to Towson. However, it is not possible for the pressure at UConn to match that at USC or Texas when the coaches are under fire. Ask Lane Kiffin and Mack Brown about how they’re feeling today. Pasqualoni can’t get that much heat, therefore he is behind both Kiffin and Brown on the countdown.
Here we go: The season’s second Hot Seat Top 10.
1. Mack Brown, Texas (Last Week: 4); Lost at BYU, 40-21
After underachieving for three seasons, this needed to be a strong bounce-back campaign for Brown. Instead, the Longhorns opened with a cupcake victory and an absolute beatdown from a BYU team that lost to Virginia in Week 1. Everything went wrong in Provo. A Texas defense – which has no excuse to not be among the best in the nation – allowed BYU to roll up a school-record 550 rushing yards. (Insert joke about Brown and Texas turning five-star recruits into three-star producers.) BYU QB Taysom Hill ran for 259 yards and 3 TDs. To put that in perspective, Hill rushed for 334 yards and 4 TDs all last year. Oh, and Texas QB David Ash suffered a concussion and is questionable for next week. Brown fired DC Manny Diaz and replaced him with his former DC (and Syracuse head coach) Greg Robinson in the aftermath. Brown’s reasoning for making that move is apparent. More often than not, though, firing a coach at midseason signals desperation. Texas is thought to be a favorite in the Big 12. The Longhorns need to start playing like one or Brown could be filing retirement paperwork at year’s end. Next up: Ole Miss.
2. Lane Kiffin, USC (Last Week: 2); Lost to Washington State, 10-7
Athletic directors publicly backing their coaches before the season starts rarely bodes well for coaches. AD Pat Haden expressed confidence in Kiffin’s ability this summer, mere months after the coach replaced both coordinators at the conclusion of a disastrous 2012 season. Lane Kiffin spared his famous father – current Dallas Cowboys DC Monte Kiffin of Tampa 2 fame – the public embarrassment of a firing, but that was merely cosmetic. So let’s review: Public backing from the AD. Check. Firing the offensive coordinator. Check. Firing the defensive coordinator. Check. All that’s left is disappointing in the next season. Through two games, that earns a check through two games as well. The Trojans chased a lackluster victory at Hawaii with a disastrous offensive performance in a 10-7 home loss to a Washington State team that could barely move the ball against the USC defense. Kiffin refused to name a starting QB this season, instead favoring the idea Cody Kessler and Max Wittek both playing. That backfired in a big way Saturday night. Neither quarterback looked even remotely deserving of a USC jersey. Even with superstar WR Marqise Lee on their side, Kessler and Wittek combined to go 11 of 21 for 54 yards and 2 INTs – one of which Washington State’s Damante Horton returned for the team’s only TD. The Trojans have a fantastic defense. Kiffin will need to rely on it to see another season on the USC sideline. He would also be well-advised to get blue-chip true freshman Max Browne ready ASAP. At this point, Kiffin needs to sell hope that doesn’t seem to exist from Kessler or Wittek. Next up: Boston College.
3. Paul Pasqualoni, UConn (Last Week: 1); Bye week
A bye week and two disastrous losses from powerhouse programs ensures Pasqualoni is no longer the benchmark on this list. Nothing fundamentally changed and this week an explosive Maryland team comes calling. Here’s last week’s review: Chasing consecutive 5-7 seasons with a season-opening loss to an FCS opponent – not a good idea. That’s how the beginning to the final chapter of the Pasqualoni at UConn story began on Thursday. Remember, this is a program that went to the Fiesta Bowl before Pasqualoni took over. Towson didn’t just beat the Huskies. It throttled them. That former UConn offensive coordinator Rob Ambrose handed Pasqualoni the beatdown makes matters worse. Towson led at halftime, extended the lead in the third quarter and then ran the ball right at the Huskies on the final drive capped by a 5-yard Terrance West TD run on fourth-and-goal. How Pasqualoni can correct his program’s course by season’s end remains to be seen. Betting on him doing so is foolish. Next up: Maryland.
4. June Jones, SMU (Last Week: 7); Beat Montana State, 31-30
A week ago, there were fans thinking Jones and the Mustangs turned a corner because they actually looked competitive against a Texas Tech team that started a true freshman walk-on QB. This week it took 12 unanswered points, including a TD pass from QB Garrett Gilbert to WR Darius Joseph in the final seconds to avoid a loss to Montana State. So let’s not declare SMU “back” quite yet. Jones will get a benefit – and partially deserves – a benefit of the doubt for getting the Mustangs in to the American Athletic Conference. Had SMU continued to be as pathetic as it had been pre-Jones, it wouldn’t have been considered. However, the Mustangs haven’t taken the next step forward the program paid Jones to take. Instead, this program continues to hover around .500 and fails to become a scary mid-major a la Hawaii before Jones left. The AAC is a bad league, so the Mustangs could string together some wins. At some point, though, enough will be enough in Dallas. The next two games – at Texas A&M and at TCU – could push decision-makers closer to that breaking point. Next up: Bye week.
5. Kirk Ferentz, Iowa (Last Week: 6); Beat Missouri State, 28-14
Our friends at CoachesHotSeat.com have Ferentz at No. 1. From a strictly on-field performance over the past several years, it’s hard to disagree. Remember, though, that Ferentz’ agent apparently possesses the negotiating power of some kind of Scott Boras and Jimmy Sexton love child. The importance of the Ferentz contract can’t be overstated. At a guaranteed $3 million per year through 2020, Iowa would be well-advised to be sure it has a rockstar lined up – and at a discount – before it pulls the trigger on Ferentz. A week after losing to Northern Illinois, the Hawkeyes sleepwalked through their 28-14 victory over a bad FCS team in Missouri State. Iowa’s fatal flaw for years has been lack of reasonable quarterback play. That doesn’t seem close to changing. Considering that’s how Ferentz turned this program around through the quarterback position, it’s a bad omen that he hasn’t been able to clean things up with ample opportunities. If the Hawkeyes drop their third straight to Iowa State, the pressure could really get cranking on Ferentz. Next up: at Iowa State.
6. Kevin Wilson, Indiana (Last Week: NR); Lost to Navy, 41-35
Just when Wilson and the Hoosiers seem to be moving in the right direction they do something stupid like losing to Navy. The Hoosiers need to quickly move up in the Big Ten race, which won’t prove easy in a division with three seemingly superior teams in Ohio State, Penn State and Wisconsin. While their win-loss record improved last season, it’s questionable how much Indiana really narrowed the gap between the top of the conference – or even the good teams in the league. It even lost to a woeful Purdue team last year. This season needs to show hope for a turnaround or it might be Wilson’s last as the head coach. Losing to Navy certainly qualifies as a move in the wrong direction and a cumulative 6-20 record through two-plus seasons doesn’t help. Next up: Bowling Green.
7. Tim Beckman, Illinois (Last Week: 3); Beat Cincinnati, 45-17
There’s a case to be made that between this blowout victory over the Bearcats and the arrival of QB Wes Lunt in 2014, Beckman might have already saved his job. Year 1 was so pathetic, though, that we’re not ready to make that statement. Beckman took a team that had at least been to consecutive bowl games under Ron Zook (who was fired) and ran it into a 2-10 wall. The Illini didn’t just fail to win a Big Ten game, they failed to play seven of eight league tilts to within 13 points. Illinois simply couldn’t compete. It remains to be seen whether Saturday’s win over Cincinnati says more about Beckman and the direction of his program or Tommy Tuberville’s Bearcats. (Remember, Tubs comes to Cincy after a forgettable three seasons at Texas Tech, where he likely would have been on the hot seat this season.) This week’s game against Washington will provide a far better indicator of how Illinois is progressing. Next up: vs. Washington (in Chicago).
8. Gary Pinkel, Missouri (Last Week: 8); Beat Toledo, 38-23
Pinkel and the Tigers survived a scare from the Rockets, who pulled to within a point in the third quarter. Missouri would like to get more from its run game from players other than QB James Franklin, but the senior did enough both on the ground and through the air to secure the victory. The more promising note for the Tigers came on pressure downs. They went 9 of 15 on third-down conversions and succeeded on their lone fourth-down attempt. Nothing Mizzou accomplishes during its first four games will do anything to alleviate the pressure on Pinkel. Decision-makers expect a 4-0 start, so the non-conference schedule can do nothing but hurt his chances. Pinkel will ultimately be judged on how his Tigers fare in the SEC this year – and whether they can take a step toward becoming competitive in the division. Next up: Bye week.
9. Charlie Weis, Kansas (Last Week: NR); Beat South Dakota, 31-14
Did anyone know South Dakota’s mascot is the Coyote? No? Well then that’s your fun fact of the week. How much heat Weis faces this season remains to be seen. Justifying the firing of a second consecutive head coach after only two seasons would be tough for a long-woeful Kansas program. Year 1 under Weis went about as poorly as possible. The Jayhawks went 1-11 with losses to Rice and Northern Illinois. Their lone win came against South Dakota State. Sure. Starting with a victory beats the alternative, but taking down teams like South Dakota is quite literally the least that should be expected of a Big 12 team. Next up: at Rice.
10. Jim Grobe, Wake Forest (Last Week: NR); Lost at Boston College, 24-10
The surest way for a coach to make sure that he finds himself on a hot seat is, after starting with a little pressure, losing to the recent cellar-dweller in your conference. Add to it that the previously pathetic team just replaced its coach and it makes fan bases anxious. Granted, Friday night’s loss to Boston College came on the road, but it spotlighted a particularly poor start to the Demon Deacons’ real season (now that the Presbyterian game is out of the way). By season’s end, Grobe will likely have more wins at Wake Forest than any other coach in program history. (He needs four more victories to pass Peahead Walker’s mark.) If Wake Forest wants to have any chance to generate more interest on campus and off, though, it needs to win more games. Instead, the program seems destined for its fifth consecutive losing season. Next up: Louisiana-Monroe.
Feeling heat: Mike London (Virginia), Tony Levine (Houston), Paul Chryst (Pittsburgh), Kyle Whittingham (Utah), Steve Sarkisian (Washington), Randy Edsall (Maryland), Paul Johnson (Georgia Tech).
Sweet reprieve: Bronco Mendenhall (BYU), Willie Taggart (South Florida).
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