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The Countdown

A bottom-to-top assessment of the F.B.S. landscape heading into the 2012 season.

Coaching Moves

Fire My Coach, Please: Week 12

I have good news: it seems that the coaching carousel has come to a stop — for now, at least. I sincerely doubt that any F.B.S. head coach will lose his job before the end of the season, though several might be released of their duties come December. That’s good news; there’s always the chance that a miracle — say, Washington State winning a game in Pac-10 play — occurs before the ax falls. Congratulations are in order for Paul Wulff, who led his Cougars to their first win in conference action since the final game of the 2008 season. It’s been a long time coming. Thanks to his ability to keep the faith, Wulff has the coaching quote of the week:

“I think we dominated in so many ways, in every aspect, I couldn’t be happier. It was a complete team win and they’re very excited and it gives them a belief now that they’ve actually done it.”

1. Mike Locksley, New Mexico (Last week: No. 1)

2010 record 1-9
Overall record (since 2009) 2-20

There’s the New Mexico team we’ve grown accustomed to seeing. One week after beating Wyoming, giving Locksley his second win in as many seasons, the Lobos allowed 38 points and 373 yards rushing in a lopsided loss to Air Force. Regardless of his poor record, all signs point towards Locksley returning in 2011. Considering the youth of his team, that might not be a bad decision. Nevertheless, his performance over two seasons justifies his claiming the top spot on this list.

2. Bill Lynch, Indiana (Last week: No. 7)

2010 record 4-6
Overall record (since 2007) 18-29

Wisconsin’s 83-point outburst will reverberate long into the winter and spring — not even Indiana, a university that places secondary importance upon the football program, will forget such an embarrassing performance. For Lynch, a coach whose tenure includes a solid debut season followed by three disappointments, this past Saturday will be hard to live down. If nothing else, a 63-point loss will be the final straw for Lynch with the Hoosiers.

3. Rickey Bustle, U.L.-Lafayette (Last week: No. 3)

2010 record 2-8
Overall record (since 2002) 40-64

It seemed like a simple move: Paul Wulff moves down, Rickey Bustle moves up. Lynch changed that, obviously. Not that Bustle hasn’t deserved a hotter seat: at 2-8, 2-4 in conference play, his team currently inhabits the bottom rung of the Sun Belt. If winning the Sun Belt is like being named Miss New Jersey, as I suggested earlier this week, finishing in last place in the Sun Belt is… insert your own metaphor. One has no choice but to think that Bustle’s nine-year run with the Ragin’ Cajuns ends in December.

4. David Bailiff, Rice (Last week No. 5)

2010 record 2-8
Overall record (since 2007) 15-30

The Owls continue be allergic to getting stops: Tulane, a team that had scored more than 30 points only twice all season, dropped 54 points on the nation’s 117th-ranked defense. The biggest shame? That the defense actually let down the offense; before Saturday, the offense and defense took turns letting each other down on a weekly basis. Rice scored 49 points, had 542 yards of total offense, converted 7 of 11 first downs and still lost. I suppose those four turnovers had something to do with it.

5. Neil Callaway, U.A.B. (Last week: No. 6)

2010 record 3-7
Overall record (since 2007) 14-32

It’s official: U.A.B. won’t reach a bowl game in 2010. It’s been brewing for weeks, despite the team’s increased competitiveness over the final three games in October. The Blazers have remained competitive, to be fair, staying within striking distance of both Marshall and East Carolina in back-to-back defeats. In year four under Callaway, however, the program expected more. A 5-7 finish seems assured, given that U.A.B. closes with Memphis and Rice, but it won’t be a solid 5-7. That U.A.B. lost some close games, on the other hand, might be enough to save Callaway’s job.

6. Stan Parrish, Ball State (Last week: No. 4)

2010 record 4-7
Overall record (since 2009) 6-18

Ball State has won two straight — don’t let the fact that the wins have come over Akron and Buffalo take away from the program’s first winning streak since 2008. This streak will likely end in the regular season finale, when the Cardinals face Northern Illinois, but a dreadful season has been made a tad more mediocre; baby steps, I suppose, for Parrish and Ball State. However, given this team’s youth, there may be reason to expect a run at bowl play in 2011.

7. Steve Fairchild, Colorado St. (Last week: No. 9)

2010 record 3-8
Overall record (since 2008) 13-23

More updates via loyal followers of the Twitter page:

Fairchild has the same record in his 1st 36 games as Lubick did in his last 36 games.

That’s Sonny Lubick, Fairchild’s predecessor, under whose watch C.S.U. went from Mountain West front-runner to a permanent spot in the second division. After bringing the Rams to bowl play in his debut season, Fairchild has brought Colorado State back to — or near — the bottom of the conference. As bad as things are, the Rams are still in better shape than both New Mexico and Wyoming; things could be worse.

8. Paul Wulff, Washington State (Last week: No. 2)

2010 record 2-9
Overall record (since 2008) 5-31

It’s amazing what one win can do: for Wulff, a single victory in Pac-10 play can virtually ensure his return in 2011. That’s wonderful news for Wulff and his backers, who believe that one more season is all it will take for Washington State to return to Pac-10 contention. That might be a stretch, but you can follow the logic. W.S.U. has been extremely competitive throughout conference play, minus one ugly performance in a loss to Arizona State. To his credit, Wulff took the blame for his team’s lack of preparation; since then, the Cougars played California very close before knocking off Oregon State on Saturday. In my mind, the only way Wulff doesn’t come back in 2011 is if his team lays an egg against Washington in the Apple Cup — think a 40-point loss, somewhere in that ballpark. Possible, but I don’t see it happening. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised in the least if the Cougars won for the second time in three years against the Huskies.

9. Doug Martin, Kent State (Last week: No. –)

2010 record 4-6
Overall record (since 2004) 28-52

Martin’s back on the list, and for good reason: he’s exhausted the goodwill established over a nice October run, losing successive games by decidedly one-sided margins to drop Kent State to 4-6, on the verge of missing bowl play for the 39th consecutive season. That in itself — Martin’s inability to get K.S.U. over the hump — would be enough to force the program to make a change. That his team’s have come close yet continue to fail is nothing if not frustrating. To get to six wins, the Golden Flashes would need wins over Western Michigan — on the road — and Ohio. Getting one win out of the pair might be too much to ask.

10. Dabo Swinney, Clemson (Last week: No. 10)

2010 record 5-5
Overall record (since 2008) 18-13

This is becoming far to common: the Clemson defense delivers, holding Florida State to less than 100 yards rushing to go with a pair of turnovers, but the offense collapses late in a 16-13 loss. Yet again, a close loss for the Swinney-led Tigers. Elsewhere — somewhere other than Clemson — mere competitiveness would be enough; Clemson will reach bowl play in 2010, but it won’t be pretty. Is that enough for Clemson?

Dropped out

Bob Toledo, Tulane (Last week: No. 8 )

Previous lists

Week 11 list Mike Locksley, No. 1
Week 10 list Mike Locksley, No. 1
Week 9 list Mike Locksley, No. 1
Week 8 list Mike Locksley, No. 1
Week 7 list Mike Locksley, No. 1
Week 6 list Mike Locksley, No. 1
Week 5 list Mike Locksley, No. 1

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  1. M Meyer says:

    How about… losing the Sun Belt is like placing second runner-up at the county fair pie-eating contest?

  2. Burnt Orange says:

    To someone watching from afar, I do not understand how Wulff has saved his job. His predecessor won 10,5,4,6,and 5 games in his five seasons plus 3 out of 5 Apple Cups. His predecessor’s win over Washington in Seattle to cap a five win season in 2007 did not save his job. Were they really that bad when Wulff took over ? Wulff has won 2,1 and now 2 games with a chance to win a 3rd this season. One of his wins was over an 0-12 Washington team and two others were over Portland State and Montana State. Granted, it is a tough job in a very solid conference but Schiano and Golden won 5 games in their third years, Bill Snyder won 8 in year three, and Barnett won 10 in year four at Northwestern. Wulff sounds like a good guy in his dream job but I do not see how an upset over a so-so Oregon State team earns him another season. What am I missing?

  3. Bryan says:

    That same predecessor, Bill Doba, destroyed the program by recruiting guys who couldnt make the team academically and couldnt stay out of jail. Paul Wulff had to completely dismantle what was left when he got there and is only on his second full recruiting class, because when he got the job his predecessor had a total of 0 verbal commits with less than a month left in the recruiting period. This team is playing a rediculous amount of RS and true freshman and have turned the corner with the win against OSU last week. By the way another solid recruiting class is coming in that will see playing time next year.

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