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College Football's Top 20 Coaches on the Hot Seat: Post-Week 4 Rankings

The pressure is beginning to build on California's Jeff Tedford.

Week 4 of the 2012 college football season is in the books and plenty of coaches saw the temperature on their seat increase by a few degrees. Thanks to a lackluster showing at Florida, Kentucky's Joker Phillips holds down the No. 1 spot once again. With a surprising loss to Central Michigan, Iowa's Kirk Ferentz makes a big jump in the rankings. While UNLV's Bobby Hauck, Colorado's Jon Embree and Central Michigan's Dan Enos fall after important victories in Week 4.

College Football's Top 20 Coaches on the Hot Seat: Post-Week 4 Rankings

1. Joker Phillips, Kentucky
Last Week’s Rank: 1
Record at Kentucky: 12-17 (3rd season)
2012 Record: 1-3
Considering Florida is one of college football’s top 10-15 teams, there is no shame in losing in Gainesville. However, it’s a problem when a team looks disorganized and looks as bad as Kentucky played on Saturday. With quarterback Maxwell Smith sidelined with a shoulder injury, the Wildcats managed only 60 passing yards and tossed three interceptions. Kentucky’s offense was shut out for the first time since 2006 in SEC play, and the defense had no answer for Florida’s ground or passing attack. As each game passes, it becomes less and less likely Phillips will back in Lexington in 2012.

2. Frank Spaziani, Boston College
Last Week’s Rank:
Record at Boston College: 21-21 (4th season)
2012 Record: 1-2
The Eagles had an off date in Week 4 and return to action this Saturday against Clemson. Boston College’s schedule isn’t going to get any easier, especially with road dates against Army, Florida State and Georgia Tech coming up after this week’s matchup against the Tigers. Spaziani needs to get this team into a bowl to save his job. Considering the upcoming schedule, that’s no sure thing.

3. Robb Akey, Idaho
Last Week’s Rank:
Record at Idaho: 19-47 (6th season)
2012 Record: 0-4
With victories by Dan Enos, Bobby Hauck and Jon Embree, Akey moves up to the No. 3 spot in the hot seat rankings. In fairness to Akey, the Vandals have played better in the last two games against non-BCS competition, including taking Wyoming to overtime in Week 4. Idaho has another tough road game at North Carolina this Saturday, before returning home for a winnable game against New Mexico State.

4. David Bailiff, Rice
Last Week’s Rank:
Record at Rice: 24-41 (6th season)
2012 Record: 1-3
An early season victory over Kansas was supposed to give Rice some momentum going into Conference USA play. However, the Owls have lost back-to-back games, including their C-USA opener against Marshall. Although the defense continues to be an issue, Rice is averaging 34.3 points a contest, and quarterback Taylor McHargue ranks 13th nationally in total offense per game. While the Owls would prefer to have a 4-0 record, they have been competitive in every game so far this year. Rice takes on rival Houston this Saturday, which is another opportunity for Bailiff to show the program is headed in the right direction.

5. Kirk Ferentz, Iowa
Last Week’s Rank:
Record at Iowa: 98-68 (14th season)
2012 Record: 2-2
There were plenty of grumblings about Ferentz among the Iowa fanbase before Saturday’s 32-31 defeat to Central Michigan. After losing to the Chippewas in Week 4, it’s fair to wonder if the program is in a slide and if Ferentz can pull out a winning season. Despite the return of quarterback James Vandenberg, Iowa ranks 91st nationally in passing offense and is averaging a pedestrian 20.5 points a game. The Hawkeyes are 3-5 in their last eight games, and the schedule doesn’t get any easier with matchups against Minnesota, Michigan State, Penn State and Northwestern. Ferentz has been a solid coach during his time in Iowa State, but it’s time to wonder whether the program has gone too stale.

6. Jeff Tedford, California
Last Week’s Rank:
Record at California: 80-51 (11th season)
2012 Record: 1-3
Considering California has played one of the best non-BCS teams (Nevada) and two top 10-15 teams in Ohio State and USC, a 1-3 record isn’t a complete shock. However, the Golden Bears have not looked good at times and struggled to beat FCS opponent Southern Utah in Week 2. Since posting a 17-9 record from 2008-09, California is just 13-16 and has a tough back-to-back homestand against Arizona State and UCLA the next two weeks. Tedford is the winningest coach in school history. Will that be enough to buy him another year if the Golden Bears miss out on the postseason?

7. Rick Stockstill, MTSU
Last Week’s Rank:
Record at MTSU: 37-41 (7th season)
2012 Record: 2-1
The Blue Raiders had an off date in Week 4 and return to action at Georgia Tech this Saturday. MTSU’s loss to McNeese State in the season opener was a huge disappointment, but the team has rebounded to win back-to-back games. The Blue Raiders are overmatched against the Yellow Jackets but saving Stockstill’s job will likely rest on how well this team performs in Sun Belt play.

8. Jeff Quinn, Buffalo
Last Week’s Rank:
Record at Buffalo: 6-21 (3rd season)
2012 Record: 1-2
Quinn had a primetime opportunity in Week 4 to showcase this program is on the right track, but the Bulls were easily handled 23-7 by Kent State. Running back Branden Oliver was sidelined in the second half due to a leg injury, and Buffalo’s offense finished with just 265 yards against the Golden Flashes. The Bulls are just 3-10 in their last 13 games, which includes victories over a bad Akron team last season and Morgan State in Week 2 this year. With games coming up against Connecticut, Ohio, Northern Illinois, Pittsburgh and Toledo, Buffalo could be 1-7 heading into the final month of the season.

9. Doug Marrone, Syracuse
Last Week’s Rank:
Record at Syracuse: 18-23 (4th season)
2012 Record: 1-3
Although Syracuse is 1-3, its schedule hasn’t been the easiest in college football, as evidenced by an 11-1 record by its BCS opponents. However, Saturday’s loss to Minnesota was discouraging for Marrone and the fanbase, especially after watching the team commit 10 penalties, and the offense give away four turnovers. The Orange has not beat a BCS opponent since a surprising 49-23 victory over West Virginia on Oct. 21, 2011. Considering Marrone is a Syracuse alum, he may have a little more job security than most coaches with an 18-23 record. However, the reality is the Orange have two losing seasons under Marrone and are on their way to No. 3.

10. Derek Dooley, Tennessee
Last Week’s Rank:
Record at Tennessee: 14-15 (3rd season)
2012 Record: 3-1
Despite improving to 3-1, Dooley climbs a few spots in the hot seat watch. The Volunteers trailed Akron – one of the worst FBS teams last season – 23-20 late in the second quarter. Although Tennessee earned the victory, it was an uninspiring performance and there were plenty of empty seats in Neyland Stadium at kickoff. The Volunteers begin a tough stretch of SEC play this Saturday at Georgia, followed up by a road date at Mississippi State on Oct. 13. Dooley has Tennessee positioned to return to a bowl game but a 6-6 finish would raise plenty of doubts on whether or not he should return for 2013. 

11. Tony Levine, Houston
Last Week’s Rank:
Record at Houston: 1-3 (1st full season)
2012 Record: 0-3
Considering how the first three weeks of the season played out for Houston, the bye week came at a good time for Levine. The Cougars have two losses by at least 17 points and rank 118th nationally in total defense. The offense ranks sixth nationally with 346.7 passing yards per game but has 10 turnovers through three games. Levine’s first season has been a disappointment, and he could use a win over inter-city rival Rice this Saturday.

12. Randy Edsall, Maryland
Last Week’s Rank:
Record at Maryland: 4-12 (2nd season)
2012 Record: 2-2
As the hot seat watch has indicated throughout this year, there has been noticeable improvement for Edsall’s team through the first four games. The Terrapins played well against West Virginia, losing by only 10 points, while freshman quarterback Perry Hills threw for 305 yards and three touchdowns. Despite the fact Maryland has already matched its win total from last year, its record is still 2-2 and the schedule won’t get any easier the rest of the way. A bowl game seems out of reach, but the Terrapins should be able to finish with four wins.

13. Bobby Hauck, UNLV
Last Week’s Rank:
Record at UNLV: 5-24 (3rd season)
2012 Record: 1-3
A week after giving Washington State all it could handle, the Rebels cracked the win column with a 38-35 victory over Air Force. The upset over the Falcons was UNLV’s first win since Oct. 29, 2011. Oddly enough, the Rebels have won all five games under Hauck at home, with their last road victory coming on Oct. 24, 2009. Hauck has a dismal record, but all three of the Rebels’ losses this season have been by eight points or less.

14. Dan Enos, Central Michigan
Last Week’s Rank:
Record at Central Michigan: 8-19 (3rd season)
2012 Record: 2-1
Could Saturday’s win over Iowa be enough to save Enos’ job? The Chippewas pulled off a huge upset in Iowa City, beating the Hawkeyes 32-31 and giving Enos his best win in his three-year tenure. While Central Michigan has to be riding high after the upset, it needs to quickly refocus with key MAC games against Northern Illinois and Toledo upcoming. Enos has the Chippewas positioned to make a run at a winning season after a 2-1 start but another losing record could spell the end of his tenure at Central Michigan. 

15. Jon Embree, Colorado
Last Week’s Rank:
Record at Colorado: 4-13 (2nd season)
2012 Record: 1-3
Even though Embree climbed to No. 3 in the hot seat rankings last week, he had enough job security to survive another season. And Saturday’s win over Colorado certainly gives Embree and the coaching staff enough of a boost to show the program is making some (albeit small) progress. The Buffaloes were big underdogs against Washington State but scored 21 points in the fourth quarter to claim a 35-34 victory. Oddly enough, three of Embree’s four career wins in Boulder have come in the Pac-12, including two on the road. Colorado still has a long way to go to be competitive every week in the conference, but Saturday’s win should give this team some confidence going into Week 5 against UCLA.

16. DeWayne Walker, New Mexico State
Last Week’s Rank:
Record at New Mexico State: 10-32 (4th season)
2012 Record: 1-3
The Aggies had their three-game winning streak against rival New Mexico snapped on Saturday, losing 27-14 in Las Cruces. Walker has one of college football’s most difficult jobs, so it’s hard to expect 7-5 or 8-4 seasons. Progress has been slow under Walker’s tenure, but the Aggies won four games last season and seem to be on the right track heading into 2012. Considering New Mexico State’s uncertain conference affiliation, it’s hard to see Walker getting fired, unless this team completely bombs in the second half of 2012.

17. Gene Chizik, Auburn
Last Week’s Rank:
Record at Auburn: 31-13 (4th season)
2012 Record: 1-3
Despite the loss to LSU, Auburn showed some signs of life in Week 4. The defense limited LSU to 182 yards on the ground and never allowed Zach Mettenberger to get comfortable in the pocket. While the offense continued to struggle, Auburn’s defense showed it can keep this team in plenty of games this year. The Tigers have a bye week this Saturday and continue SEC play with a home game against Arkansas on Oct. 6.

18. Skip Holtz, South Florida
Last Week’s Rank:
Not ranked
Record at South Florida: 15-14 (3rd season)
2012 Record: 2-2
Barring a complete collapse, Holtz is probably in no real danger of losing his job. However, South Florida was expected to be one of the frontrunners for the Big East title in 2012 and is off to a disappointing 2-2 start. The Bulls have a road loss at Ball State, a 10-point defeat to Rutgers and a narrow one-point win over Nevada. After losing seven out of its final eight games last year, combined with the slow start in 2012, the pressure is beginning to build on Holtz in South Florida.

19. Bill Cubit, Western Michigan
Last Week’s Rank:
Record at Western Michigan: 49-41 (8th season)
2012 Record: 2-2
After falling just short of beating their first two BCS opponents of 2012 (Illinois and Minnesota), the Broncos picked up a 30-24 victory over Connecticut in Week 4. Quarterback Alex Carder suffered a hand injury but still finished with 237 yards and one touchdown. The defense delivered late, as Desmond Bozeman returned a fumble 53 yards for a touchdown midway through the fourth quarter. Western Michigan was expected to be the frontrunner for the MAC West title in 2012. So far, the Broncos have done nothing to lower those expectations.

20. Tommy Tuberville, Texas Tech
Last Week’s Rank:
Record at Texas Tech: 16-12 (3rd season)
2012 Record: 3-0
The Red Raiders are off to a solid 3-0 start and had an off date in Week 4 to prepare for their Big 12 opener against Iowa State. Texas Tech is riding a five-game losing streak in Big 12 games entering Saturday’s date against the Cyclones, with its last conference victory coming against Oklahoma on Oct. 22. After a dismal showing on defense last year, the Red Raiders’ coaching staff has to be pleased to be ranked No. 1 in the nation after four weeks. However, the real test for this unit begins on Saturday in Ames.

Honorable Mention

John L. Smith, Arkansas
Record at Arkansas:
2012 Record: 1-3
As we mention each week in the hot seat watch, Smith is essentially on a one-year contract, so he was never expected to return for 2013. However, he is worthy of a mention in this space, especially as Arkansas is off to a disappointing 1-3 start. Of course, not having quarterback Tyler Wilson for the second half against UL Monroe and for any snaps against Alabama hurts, but the Razorbacks were expected to challenge for the SEC title. 

by Steven Lassan

(published Sept. 25, 2012)

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