The college football season’s most worthless Saturday is now behind us and it did little to shake up the Coaches Hot Seat Top 10. The coach making the strongest charge toward the top, Nebraska’s Bo Pelini, climbed the chart more because of what happened off the field – namely the leak of an audio recording of him saying less than flattering things about the Big Red faithful – than on.
There are a few congratulations to hand out. Most notably, South Florida coach Willie Taggart gets a breather from the list following his first regular-season weekend as Bulls coach that didn’t get capped off by a loss. South Florida had a bye this week.
Iowa’s Kirk Ferentz also takes a break from the list after the Hawkeyes took care of business in dispatching pathetically overmatched Western Michigan.
Most of the hot-seat coaches won, including Texas’ Mack Brown, USC’s Lane Kiffin and Pelini. Jim Grobe at Wake Forest and Charlie Weis at Kansas also saw their teams score desperately needed wins. Even UConn coach Paul Pasqualoni nearly pulled off a big upset to take home his first win of the season, though the Huskies ultimately fell short at home against Michigan.
Missouri’s Gary Pinkel keeps inching closer to removing his name from this list altogether. However, non-conference games didn’t have him on the hot seat to begin with. Instead, Pinkel finds himself in trouble because of Missouri’s fall toward the middle of the Big 12 and the bottom of the SEC. Until Pinkel wins a conference game (or three) he will be on this list.
This week’s highest risers include Indiana’s Kevin Wilson, who earned a spot in the “Receiving Votes” category after the Hoosiers pounded Bowling Green last week. Indiana fell at home to Pinkel’s Missouri team. While it wasn’t a terrible loss necessarily, it certainly didn’t do anything to keep Powers That Be from getting rid of him at season’s end.
One to watch, surprisingly, might be Dana Holgorsen at West Virginia. Fans didn’t take kindly to the Mountaineers’ freefall last year when the program had gobs of offensive talent.
With that, here’s the Week 4 Hot Seat Top 10.
1. Mack Brown, Texas (Last Week: 1); Beat Kansas State, 31-21
How bad are things for Mack? Not even a conference win, which makes the Longhorns (2-2, 1-0) 1-0 in Big 12 play, can halt the talk of his being in serious trouble. Brown still can save his job, but needs to have a huge Big 12 season. He might need to go 8-1 in conference play. Games against Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Baylor and TCU will tell the story of how far the Longhorns program has fallen in a league that Burnt Orange Nation believes should never be more than a two-team race. Split those games and Mack has issues. Lose three or more and he is likely toast. Nice win over Kansas State, which has given Brown fits over the years, but it will take significantly more to save his job. Now Brown has 12 days to come up with more answers before the Longhorns shoot to go 2-0 in Big 12 play in a road game at Iowa State. Next up: Bye Week.
2. Paul Pasqualoni, UConn (Last Week: 2); Lost to Michigan, 24-21
The Huskies (0-3) actually played their best game of the season in Saturday’s loss to Michigan. Two problems, though: 1) Saying the game qualifies as UConn’s “best of the season” says very little; 2) UConn still lost. These are hyper-critical days for UConn, which wants badly to get out of the American Athletic Conference – preferably for the ACC. To date, the ACC has shown little to no interest in the Huskies. Might things have been different if they had been winning with the same frequency of Louisville? It stands to reason that could have been the turning point. Conference realignment seems to be over (for now), but the university should aim to have its football program in the best shape for when it resumes. Pasqualoni has shown he does not have what it takes to spearhead such a movement. Unless the Huskies scorch the earth on the way to a remarkable 9-3 or 8-4 season, this could easily be Pasqualoni’s final ride. Next up: at Buffalo.
3. Bo Pelini, Nebraska (Last Week: 9); Beat South Dakota State, 59-20
This is not a Frank Solich or Bill Callahan situation with Pelini. The man has proven he can coach. Nebraska (3-1) has won nine games or more in each of the seasons since he took the helm. Unfortunately for Pelini, his Cornhuskers teams have never been able to win the games that would have enabled them to be conference champions. Last week’s loss to UCLA intensified the heat simply because the defense continues to struggle under defensive-minded Pelini. The situation grew far worse during the week, though, when an unnamed source leaked 2-year-old audio of Pelini ripping Nebraska fans. Naturally, that audio didn’t go over well. The audio might have been released at the perfect time, though. Nebraska just started a stretch in which it should rattle off four wins in a row to enter its critical junction of the season. The Nebraska administration has – at least publicly – come to the defense of Pelini. By no means is he safe, but he seems to have survived the worst of the backlash. As long as Pelini turns in a strong season, meaning nine wins or more, he has a reasonably good chance to return as coach next year. Next up: Bye Week.
4. Lane Kiffin, USC (Last Week: 3); Beat Utah State, 17-14
All those style points USC (3-1, 0-1) racked up in its win over Boston College last week disappeared in the escape of Utah State. There’s no question the Aggies are a decent team. They gave a much-improved Utah team some issues as well. However, the Trojans simply don’t have their offense together. It’s a good thing Ed Orgeron’s defense has been so dominant to start the season or Kiffin would be preparing to test the theory that he can always fail upward. Here’s the bad news for USC: The non-conference season has concluded, meaning from here on out it’s all Pac-12 foes – many of whom would love to continue taking out years of frustration on the once-dominant Trojans. Kiffin swept the non-conference slate. How many conference games must he win to remain the head coach at USC? Will three wins – and a 6-6 overall record – do the trick? Or will it take an 8- or 9-win season? After USC fell at home to Washington State, imagining a scenario in which it goes 6-3 in league play. That could easily leave the Trojans looking for a new man to run their program. Next up: at Arizona State.
5. Jim Grobe, Wake Forest (Last Week: 5); Won at Army, 25-11
Defeating Army certainly won’t win much respect, but it beats the heck out of losing to Army. Grobe is well-advised to take his wins where he can get them. Wake Forest (2-2, 0-1) seems destined for a miserable season having already lost to last year’s worst team in the conference, Boston College. Grobe has been one of the most successful coaches in program history. However, that says very little and the Demon Deacons need to at least aim for relevancy – a title they have avoided for several years now. Wins will be hard to find here on out, starting this week when Wake Forest travels to No. 3 Clemson. Next up: at Clemson.
6. Charlie Weis, Kansas (Last Week: 4); Beat Louisiana Tech, 13-10
Kansas trailed the Bulldogs for much of the game, but found a way to come back for the win. It marked the first time since Weis took over the program – presumably to give the Jayhawks a decided schematic advantage – beat an FBS program. Next up for Weis: Beat a Big 12 team. Kansas came close a couple times last year in losses to Texas and at Texas Tech. We’ve said this all season: Weis seems likely to receive a benefit of the doubt because he replaced Turner Gill, who the program fired after two dismal seasons. However, if Kansas’ first two seasons under Weis are as bad or worse, the Jayhawks might be forced to cut bait. Next up: Bye Week.
7. June Jones, SMU (Last Week: 6); Lost at Texas A&M, 42-13
SMU should fare well against teams in the American Athletic Conference. The question, then, becomes how important is it for the Mustangs to take steps toward national relevance again? Far better teams than Jones’ SMU squad will lose by more points at Kyle Field this year. The loss again showed how far Jones has to take the Mustangs to get them to where they were during the Pony Express days. SMU is not drawing well. It isn’t generating interest from a local crowd that’s crazy about college football. The ritzy school has the resources to have outstanding facilities if the program starts rolling. The Mustangs might be the program with the greatest “Next Boise State” potential. However, Jones has yet to show he’s the man to recognize said potential. Next up: at TCU.
8. Kevin Wilson, Indiana (Last Week: NR); Lost to Missouri, 45-28
If wins over FCS schools and MAC teams are all it takes for Wilson to save his job in Year 3 at Indiana then perhaps the Hoosiers should consider joining the MAC. The Big Ten has some bad schools at the bottom of the league. Indiana continuing to find itself among that group should result in the program trying out the next up-and-coming coach. Maybe the school doesn’t care to spend with the Michigans or the Ohio States of the world. That would probably take the Hoosiers out of the running for someone like Clemson offensive coordinator Chad Morris. However, what about the possibility of Bobby Petrino rehabbing his image in Bloomington? Indiana hasn’t had much reason for optimism surrounding the football program. A hire like that would at least energize the fan base. Another year of Wilson – barring a decent conference season and a bowl appearance – would not. Next up: Bye Week.
9. Dana Holgorsen, West Virginia (Last Week: NR); Lost to Maryland, 37-0
Last year’s freefall clearly hasn’t stopped. The Mountaineers were fortunate to survive William & Mary in the opener but seemingly took a step forward defensively at Oklahoma. That, apparently, might have been a fluke. Maryland absolutely pummeled the Mountaineers (2-2), holding them to six total first downs and never allowing them to really threaten to make an impact in the game. Holgorsen’s calling card has been his offense. After the 2012 collapse, West Virginia fans were none too pleased to enter this season. If not for essentially two games against FCS teams – not only did the Mountaineers play Bill & Mary, they also played transitional school Georgia State – WVU could face even more trouble. Holgorsen can’t allow this program to slip into the depths that include Kansas and Iowa State. If it does, he could find himself in real trouble in Morgantown. With Oklahoma State coming calling this week, things seem likely to get worse before they get better. Next up: Oklahoma State.
10. Gary Pinkel, Missouri (Last Week: 10); Beat Indiana, 45-28
The Tigers (3-0) are a win over Arkansas State away from running the non-conference table and starting 4-0. Pinkel likely knew that would be a key for Missouri to bounce back and get into a bowl game this season. Assuming the Tigers can pull off a win over the Red Wolves, they would enter league play needing only two wins to gain bowl eligibility. Games against SEC opponents – not teams like Indiana – will determine whether or not the decision-makers in Columbia want to see more of Pinkel in the new conference. Missouri has the talent to move toward the middle of the SEC East. With a few breaks, the Tigers could even push Florida – now without QB1 Jeff Driskel for the season – for third in the division. As long as they don’t faceplant in the SEC, Pinkel seems to be on solid footing. Next up: Arkansas State.
Feeling heat: Kirk Ferentz (Iowa), Tim Beckman (Illinois), Willie Taggart (South Florida), Mike London (Virginia), Tony Levine (Houston), Matt Rhule (Temple), Paul Chryst (Pittsburgh), Scott Shafer (Syracuse), Dan Mullen (Mississippi State).
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