Congratulations to a pair of Big Ten coaches for removing their names from the Coaches Hot Seat Top 10 list – albeit for potentially just a week or so.
Indiana’s Kevin Wilson falls into the “receiving votes” category after engineering his team to a nice, never-in-question win over Bowling Green. It’s not beating Purdue, but right now every win counts for Wilson, who, in Year 3, doesn’t do much to energize a fan base in desperate need of hope. The Hoosiers find themselves facing a crucial non-conference home test next Saturday when Missouri comes calling. Two hot-seat coaches enter. One will find the temperature rising considerably.
The other Hot Seat refugee actually lost this week – Tim Beckman at Illinois. However, Washington has shown the likelihood of actually moving into the upper-echelon of the Pac-12 and Beckman’s Illini kept things respectable. Now, if Illinois starts out 0-4 in league play, expect the pressure to crank back up in a hurry. But for back-to-back weeks, Beckman has shown Illinois faithful some promise.
Onto the coaches on the hottest seats: One of last week’s top two won convincingly, albeit against a meager opponent. The other received votes of confidence from his athletic director and university president before losing a home game by three touchdowns.
USC coach Lane Kiffin, the former of the two coaches, sees his chances improve ever-so-slightly after the win. He actually drops below UConn’s Paul Pasqualoni, who fell to 0-2 on the season with a loss to Maryland.
Mack Brown at Texas, on the other hand, has only seen matters get worse. The Longhorns’ conference opener against Kansas State next week has essentially become a must-win for Brown – despite what the university’s top administrators say.
One newcomer makes his first appearance in the Top 10 – Nebraska’s Bo Pelini. It would probably take a true disaster of a season for Pelini to get canned at year’s end, but the fan base has soured on him quickly. In other words, it’s a situation worth monitoring.
Here we go: Week 3’s Hot Seat Top 10.
1. Mack Brown, Texas (Last Week: 1); Lost to Ole Miss, 44-23
We opined here at the start of the season that Brown didn’t have two more four-loss seasons left in his career at Texas. Whether Texas decided to fire Brown or allow him to retire, it simply didn’t seem likely that the Longhorns would tolerate mediocrity any longer. By the end of 2013, Texas might be wishing for mediocrity. The Longhorns (1-2) started hot against Ole Miss on Saturday, jumping out to a 23-14 lead. However, the Rebels bounced back to score the final 20 points at Darrell K. Royal Stadium. Texas’ defense didn’t play as pathetically as it did a week ago in a miserable loss at BYU. Still, newly hired coordinator Greg Robinson certainly didn’t rekindle thoughts of the great Longhorns defenses in the early and mid 2000s. Before Brown coaches his first Big 12 game this season, Texas has two big losses. The Longhorns desperately need a win over Kansas State and long-time nemesis Bill Snyder or else the train could really come off the tracks. Brown received support from athletic director DeLoss Dodds. (It should be noted that a report from earlier this week that Dodds plans to retire at the end of the year was dispelled by Texas.) University president Bill Powers also voiced his support for Brown. It’s rarely a good sign when a school’s top administrators publicly back the coach. Next up: Kansas State.
2. Paul Pasqualoni, UConn (Last Week: 2); Lost to Maryland, 32-21
Say this much for Pasqualoni: His team played far better Saturday night in a respectable loss to a decent Maryland team than it did in a season-opening loss to Towson. Ultimately, though, the Huskies (0-2) could only hang around with the Terrapins for so long. Speaking of so long, those are the words Pasqualoni seems destined to hear from his superiors at season’s end. This has been discussed here frequently: UConn went to the Fiesta Bowl the year before Pasqualoni arrived. The Huskies went 5-7 in each of the past two seasons. Pasqualoni was not an up-and-coming coach. He wasn’t an exciting coordinator with sensational pedigree. Instead, he was a successful coach for more than a decade at Syracuse who might be in his last stop. Good luck energizing a fan base behind him. Next up: Michigan.
3. Lane Kiffin, USC (Last Week: 2); Beat Boston College, 35-7
Well how about that? USC (2-1) actually looked like it had some offensive talent this week. QB Cody Kessler regained his QB1 status and performed well, completing 15 of 17 passes for 237 yards and 2 TDs. Boston College is a dreadful BCS team, but the Trojans came through when they needed to for their coach on Saturday. Kiffin’s seat didn’t exactly become comfortable. It will take a lot more than that. But the defense continues to play like a dominant unit – belonging in a class with Florida for defenses that don’t get nearly enough help from their counterparts. The coming weeks, starting with a trickier-than-it-looks matchup with Utah State, will tell what kind of future Kiffin has at USC. Next up: Utah State.
4. Charlie Weis, Kansas (Last Week: 9); Lost at Rice, 23-14
It’s a good thing Weis is such an embraceable, warm guy or else his pathetic 2-13 start at Kansas would really have him in trouble. Losing in back-to-back seasons to Rice is a great way to never seen Year 3. That’s exactly what Weis has done now. This year can’t even be considered an upset. The Owls were favored going into the game. How bad have things been under Weis? Well, he’s 2-13 so far in his year-plus in Lawrence. Both wins have come against FCS opponents, meaning he has yet to win any of his 13 contests against real competition. Oh, and only one game remains on his non-conference schedule before the Jayhawks (1-1) get into Big 12 play (which, by the looks of it, might not be a bad thing this year). At least that non-conference game comes against Louisiana Tech and equally inept head coach Skip Holtz – who can’t even appear on this list anymore because Louisiana Tech does not belong to a BCS conference. Next up: Louisiana Tech.
5. Jim Grobe, Wake Forest (Last Week: 10); Lost to Louisiana-Monroe, 21-19
The Demon Deacons (1-2, 0-1) came so close to getting new life Saturday against Louisiana-Monroe. With 4 seconds remaining, QB Tanner Price connected with WR Orville Reynolds for a touchdown. However, WR Michael Campanaro dropped a pass on Wake Forest’s 2-point conversion attempt to tie the game. The drop created an unfair finish for Campanaro, who caught 16 passes for 177 yards during the game. Grobe now has losses to Boston College and Louisiana-Monroe on his resume this season with only an unimpressive win over Presbyterian to his credit. Things seem destined to get ugly in Winston-Salem. Next up: at Army.
6. June Jones, SMU (Last Week: 4); Bye Week
Nothing new to add here. Let’s review last week’s post: (Two weeks ag), there were fans thinking Jones and the Mustangs (1-1) 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: at Texas A&M.
7. Willie Taggart, South Florida (Last Week: NR); Lost to Florida Atlantic, 28-10
Putting one’s self legitimately on the hot seat three games into a new gig is no easy feat. Losing at home to McNeese State and Florida Atlantic might be the best way to do so. Suffice to say the Taggart year era could have gotten off to a better start. The Bulls (0-3) didn’t just lose to McNeese and FAU, they lost by a combined 50 points in those two games. Taggart has some time to turn around South Florida’s season, but giving fans reason to believe brighter days are on the horizon would be well-advised. Next up: Bye week.
8. Kirk Ferentz, Iowa (Last Week: 5); Beat Iowa State, 27-21
As great as beating Iowa State might have been, Iowa (2-1) pays Ferentz the way it does for far bigger victories. Instead, he makes $4 million per season – and is guaranteed to make $3 million per season until 2020 – to routinely compete for and sometimes win Big Ten titles. He makes the kind of money his agent negotiated to be among the nation’s most innovative offensive minds. None of that has shown up in recent years. Saturday might mark a start of Ferentz’ return among the nation’s top coaches. Don’t bet on it. Next up: Western Michigan.
9. Bo Pelini, Nebraska (Last Week: NR); Lost to UCLA, 41-21
For about a quarter-and-a-half, Pelini seemed on track to pick up a meaningful non-conference win over a UCLA program that beat the Huskers last year. Nebraska, sporting its black jerseys, stormed out to a 21-3 lead only to see the Bruins furiously respond. Note to Pelini: Don’t put your defense on the field wearing the black shirts unless the unit has the ability to live up to such expectations. The defense certainly couldn’t do anything to slow UCLA QB Brett Hundley and company after jumping out to the lead. Instead, the Bruins rallied for the game’s final 38 points to score a huge victory for the Pac-12. Nebraska, meanwhile, has shown little ability to slow real offenses through the first three games. The Huskers (2-1) are starting a pair of true freshmen linebackers, so it stands to reason the defense could be considerably better by season’s end. It needs to be or Pelini will really start to feel heat in Lincoln. Fortunately for him, the schedule takes a break on the Huskers. Their next four games are against North Dakota State, Illinois, Purdue and Minnesota. Anything less than 4-0 over that stretch will prove problematic. Next up: South Dakota State.
10. Gary Pinkel, Missouri (Last Week: 8); Bye Week
Nothing new to add here, either, since the Tigers had this week off. Here’s what we wrote last week: Pinkel and the Tigers (2-0) 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: at Indiana.
Feeling heat: Kevin Wilson (Indiana), Tim Beckman (Illinois), Mike London (Virginia), Tony Levine (Houston), Paul Chryst (Pittsburgh), Matt Rhule (Temple), Scott Shafer (Syracuse), Dan Mullen (Mississippi State).
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