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The pressure is on Paul Wulff, Mark Richt and Dennis Erickson to win big in 2011.
The coaching carousel is usually one of the most intriguing elements of college football's regular season and has been in full effect since May with the departure of Jim Tressel at Ohio State and Bill Stewart at West Virginia.
Which coach will be the first to get fired? Athlon Sports ranks 10 coaches on the hot seat, along with a few others who are getting warm.
On the Hot Seat
David Bailiff, Rice (19–30, four seasons) - The Owls broke through with a 10–3 record (7–1 in C-USA) in 2008, Bailiff’s second season, but are 6–18 since. Rice has been able to put points on the board, but the defense has been beyond bad, ranking 107th or worse in the nation in each of Bailiff’s four seasons.
Neil Callaway, UAB (15–33, four seasons - UAB is arguably the toughest job in Conference USA — no tradition, no support, terrible facilities — but at some point Callaway is going to have to break through and win more games than he loses. Last year, the Blazers lost by three in double-overtime at Tennessee and lost by five at Mississippi State yet still went 4–8 overall.
Dennis Erickson, Arizona State (25–24, four seasons) - The Sun Devils will need to live up to the lofty expectations this season for Erickson to save his job. After a big season in Year 1 (10–3 in ’07), Arizona State is 15–21 overall and 10–17 in the Pac-10 since.
Steve Fairchild, Colorado State (13–24, three seasons) - Fairchild, a Colorado State alum, seemed to be a great fit in Fort Collins — especially after he led the Rams to a 7–6 record and a bowl win in 2008. But the program has really struggled the last two years, with back-to-back 3–9 overall records and a combined mark of 2–14 in the MWC.
Mike Locksley, New Mexico (2–22, two seasons) - Trainwreck. That is the most accurate word to describe the Locksley era at New Mexico. The Lobos are 2–22 under his watch, with 14 of those 22 losses coming by 24 points or more. Last season, UNM ranked 120th in the nation in total offense and 119th in total defense.
Rick Neuheisel, UCLA (15–22, three seasons) - Neuheisel was highly successful in his two previous stops (33–14 at Colorado, 33–16 at Washington), but he has been unable to break through at UCLA, his alma mater. The Bruins are 8–19 in the Pac-10 during his tenure, with two eighth-place finishes and a ninth-place finish.
Mark Richt, Georgia (96–34, 10 seasons) - With a 53–27 record in SEC games, it seems crazy to put Richt on this list. But the Bulldogs are 7–9 in league games over the last two seasons and are trending in the wrong direction. The lethargic 10–6 loss to UCF in the Liberty Bowl last season did not sit well with the Georgia faithful.
Dabo Swinney, Clemson (19–15, two-plus seasons) - It might seem a bit premature to put a coach who has compiled a 13–8 record in the ACC in two-plus years on the job on the hot seat, but Swinney will be under intense scrutiny this season. Last year, the Tigers went 4–4 in a very mediocre ACC and ended the season with the school’s first losing record (6–7) since 1998.
Bob Toledo, Tulane (13–35, four seasons) - The Green Wave are coming off back-to-back last-place finishes in Conference USA’s West Division and have not won more than four games in any of Toledo’s four seasons.
Paul Wulff, Washington State (5–32, three seasons) - The Cougars showed some signs of progress last season yet still finished with a 2–10 record (1–8 in the Pac-10). In three years, Wulff has won a total of two league games. Not good.
Not Quite on the Hot Seat, but Getting Warm
Bill Cubit, Western Michigan (40–33, six seasons) - Cubit’s record is solid, but he’s lost five straight to hated rival Central Michigan. That must change.
Houston Nutt, Ole Miss (22–16, three seasons) - The Rebs are 10–14 in league play in the Nutt era and have been passed by Mississippi State on the SEC food chain.
Larry Porter, Memphis (1–11, one season) - Porter’s first season at his alma mater was a disaster. The Tigers went 1–11 and lost their 11 games by an average of 28.4 points.
Mike Price, UTEP (40–45, seven seasons) - The Miners have not had a winning C-USA record since 2005, Price’s second season in El Paso.
Mike Sherman, Texas A&M (19–19, three seasons) - Demanding Aggie fans will freak out if Sherman’s fourth A&M team fails to live up to the lofty expectations.
Jeff Tedford, California (72–42, nine seasons) - Once a rising star in the coaching world, Tedford is only 17–19 in the Pac-10 over the last four years.
Ron Zook, Illinois (28–45, six seasons) - Zook's seat slides from scorching hot to warm after the Illini exceeded expectations with a 7–6 record last season.
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