The 2012 college football season kicks off on Thursday night and the next 14 weeks are crucial to the job status of several coaches around the nation. Boston College's Frank Spaziani tops Athlon's post-fall practice hot seat rankings, while Kentucky's Joker Phillips checks in at No. 2.
College Football's Top 20 Coaches on the Hot Seat: Post Fall-Practice Edition
1. Frank Spaziani, Boston College (20-19, 3 years)
The Eagles have watched their win total decline in each of the last three seasons and missed out on a bowl game for the first time since 1998 last year. Spaziani faces an uphill battle to keep his job after this season, as a challenging schedule will make a bowl appearance difficult, while the school will have a new athletic director in 2013.
2. Joker Phillips, Kentucky (11-14, 2 years)
The good news for Phillips? Kentucky has some momentum going into this season, especially after beating Tennessee in the 2011 season finale. However, the program has watched its win total decline over the last two years and getting to six wins in 2012 will be tough with a schedule that features matchups against Louisville, Florida, South Carolina, Mississippi State, Arkansas, Georgia, Missouri, Vanderbilt and Tennessee. Phillips deserves more time, but Kentucky can’t afford to fall behind in the SEC, especially with Missouri joining the East and Vanderbilt’s recent rise under James Franklin.
3. Derek Dooley, Tennessee (11-14, 2 years)
Another 5-7 season won’t be tolerated in Knoxville. The Volunteers have only one season of more than nine wins since 2005 (10 in 2007) and have failed to make a bowl game in two out of the last four years. Of course, Dooley isn’t to blame for all of the struggles since he has been in Knoxville only two seasons, but there are high expectations at Tennessee. With quarterback Tyler Bray and receiver Justin Hunter returning, the Volunteers should have one of the SEC’s top offenses. However, a rushing attack that ranked last in the SEC last season will have to improve if Tennessee wants to challenge Georgia or South Carolina for first in the East.
4. David Bailiff, Rice (23-38, 5 years)
Throw out a 10-win season in 2008 and Bailiff has just 13 victories in four seasons with the Owls. There’s far less scrutiny at Rice than there is at a BCS job, but Bailiff needs to show this program is heading back in the right direction after winning four games in 2010 and 2011.
5. George O’Leary, UCF (50-51, 8 years)
O’Leary is the first coach on this list that could win a conference championship in 2012 – sort of. UCF is appealing its NCAA sanctions, which have banned the Knights from postseason play and participating in the Conference USA title game. However, if UCF manages to win the appeal, this team is the favorite to represent C-USA’s East Division in the conference championship. O’Leary has had an up and down career at UCF, winning 10 games in 2007 and 11 in 2010 but recorded just five victories in 2011. With the Knights moving to the Big East in 2013, another mediocre season could spell the end of O’Leary’s tenure in Orlando.
6. Jeff Quinn, Buffalo (5-19, 2 years)
It’s been tough to find success in Buffalo, as the Bulls have only one winning season over the last 10 years. Quinn took over after Turner Gill left for Kansas but has managed only five overall wins, with three coming in MAC play. Buffalo showed some progress last year, nearly beating Northern Illinois (MAC West champ) and defeating Ohio (MAC East champ) 38-37. Branden Oliver is the MAC’s top returning running back, and the Bulls have six starters back on defense. If Buffalo can get more consistent play from its quarterbacks, the Bulls should improve on last season’s win total (3).
7. Dan Enos, Central Michigan (6-18, 2 years)
Enos has been unable to build on the success Brian Kelly and Butch Jones had at Central Michigan from 2004-09. The Chippewas have recorded back-to-back three-win seasons and lost six out of their last seven games in 2011. Central Michigan returns plenty of firepower on offense this year, as quarterback Ryan Radcliff and receivers Titus Davis and Cody Wilson are back. However, Radcliff must be more careful with the ball, and the defense has to improve after ranking 11th in the conference last year. With games against Michigan State, Iowa, Northern Illinois and Toledo in the first five weeks of the season, Enos has a chance to save his job by pulling an upset over either Big Ten foe or by beating two division rivals.
8. Tommy Tuberville, Texas Tech (13-12, 2 years)
Tuberville seemed like a perfect fit for Texas Tech when he was hired after the 2010 season. However, the results on the field have been mixed. Despite beating No. 1 Oklahoma on Oct. 22 last year, the Red Raiders did not play in a bowl game for the first time since 1999 last year. Texas Tech’s win total has declined in each of the last three years, and the defense will have its fourth coordinator in four seasons. With three easy non-conference games, the Red Raiders should open up 3-0. However, another 5-7 season will make it difficult for Tuberville to return to Lubbock in 2013.
9. Bobby Hauck, UNLV (4-21, 2 years)
Hauck inherited a program that had just one season over .500 since 2000, so it’s unfair to pin all of the struggles on him. However, the Rebels have shown little progress in his first two years in Las Vegas, winning just two games and were blown out in most Mountain West contests last season. UNLV has some promising talent on the team, but there is also lot of youth. Barring a complete disaster, Hauck should return for 2013. However, the Rebels need to take some steps in the right direction in 2012.
10. Mike Price, UTEP (45-52, 8 years)
Since posting back-to-back seasons of eight wins in 2004-05, the Miners have failed to finish over .500. However, UTEP surprised many by winning five games last year and could be in the mix for a bowl game in 2012. Price is in the final year of his contract, so there’s plenty of pressure to perform. Considering the personnel losses at Houston, Tulsa and SMU, the Miners have potential to surprise in Conference USA’s West Division.
11. Randy Edsall, Maryland (2-10, 1 year)
Edsall had a disastrous debut in College Park, and it will be a struggle to improve on last season’s record in 2012. The Terrapins will start a true freshman quarterback, and both sides of the ball have new coordinators. Edsall deserves more than two years, but he will be under heavy scrutiny going into 2013 if Maryland fails to win more than three games.
12. Rick Stockstill, MTSU (35-40, 6 years)
Stockstill was once considered a rising star in the coaching ranks but is coming off a disappointing 2-10 season.
13. Robb Akey, Idaho (19-43, 5 years)
Akey led the Vandals to 14 wins from 2009-10 but slumped to a disappointing 2-10 mark in 2011. With an uncertain future at the FBS level, Idaho needs to win to be more attractive for a spot in a conference.
14. Dewayne Walker, New Mexico State (9-29, 3 years)
Just like fellow WAC foe Idaho, New Mexico State is slated to be a FBS Independent in 2013. It’s questionable that an Independent schedule can work for the Aggies over the long haul but it has to be done to stay on the FBS level in 2013. New Mexico State is one of the toughest jobs in the nation, but the Aggies have lost at least nine games in each of Walker’s three seasons in Las Cruces.
15. Jeff Tedford, California (79-48, 10 years)
The Golden Bears have been up and down in Tedford’s tenure, recording 10 wins in 2006 but have 12 wins over the last two years. Only adding to Tedford’s hot seat is the opening of a renovated Memorial Stadium, while the Pac-12 North isn’t getting any easier with the arrival of Mike Leach at Washington State and Washington on the rise under Steve Sarkisian.
16. Dave Clawson, Bowling Green (14-23, 3 years)
Clawson had an impressive debut with the Falcons in 2009, winning seven games and earning a bowl trip to Boise. However, the Falcons have failed to build on that success, recording seven victories over the last two seasons. Bowling Green has a promising core returning for 2012, and the younger players this team had to play in 2010 and 2011 should be ready to lead this team back to a winning record.
17. Bill Cubit, Western Michigan (47-39, 7 years)
Cubit has four winning seasons and three bowl appearances during his tenure in Kalamazoo. Despite his success, the Broncos have not played for a MAC title since 2000, and some believe the program has underachieved during his tenure.
18. Todd Berry, Louisiana-Monroe (9-15, 2 years)
After winning five games in four years at Army from 2000-03, Berry was a curious hire at Louisiana-Monroe. The Warhawks have nine wins in his tenure, and it will be important for Berry to show progress in his third season.
19. Doug Marrone, Syracuse (17-20, 3 years)
With a move to the ACC on the horizon for 2013, Marrone hopes to show the program is back on track in 2012. The Orange won eight games in 2010 but slipped back to 5-7 last year. Marrone is a good fit at Syracuse but another disappointing season will have him squarely on the hot seat entering 2013.
20. Mack Brown, Texas (141-39, 14 years)
Even though Brown needs just 27 victories to become Texas’ all-time winningest coach, there’s always pressure to perform in Austin. The Longhorns are on the right track but another 5-7 or 6-6 season will make the fanbase even more restless.
by Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven on Twitter)
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