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The Countdown

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

Coaching Moves

The 2011 Locksley: Week 7

That Mike Stoops, recently dismissed at Arizona, was not even considered a favorite for the Locksley in each of its first two installments reflects poorly on this list. Hindsight is wonderful: in hindsight, based on how Arizona had lost nine straight games against F.B.S. competition, it would have been wise to at least place Stoops along the back end of the list, alongside fellow B.C.S. conference head coaches like Mike Sherman and Tom O’Brien. Sadly, Stoops was giving his walking papers — they were wrapped around a check for $1.4 million — without even being a factor for the Locksley. A very disappointing development for Stoops and this prestigious weekly ranking. Onwards and upwards, beginning with this week’s coaching quote of the week. It’s from Washington State’s Paul Wulff, a former Locksley favorite who has removed himself from the hot seat with his team’s 3-2 start — but Saturday’s loss to U.C.L.A. won’t soon be forgotten:

“We wanted to control the clock, and we did a lot of what we wanted to do because we didn’t want to put our defense in a situation where UCLA could wear us down. I thought our players played a good football game, but at the end of the day, they made a few more plays late than we did.”

1. Frank Spaziani, Boston College (Last week: No. 3)

2011 record 1-5
Overall (since 2009) 17-16

Spaziani Watch has been overshadowed by the Red Sox’s historic collapse, the Patriots’ weekend win over the Jets and the general fact that the local media places Boston College football slightly behind the Bruins’ preseason results. The program’s rapid decline under the former defensive coordinator’s watch hit another low point last weekend, when the Eagles barely showed signs of life in falling behind Clemson, 17-0, in the first quarter. The final score, 36-14, doesn’t tell the whole story. Is there a chance that B.C. goes 1-11? The second half of the year sends the Eagles to Virginia Tech, Maryland, Notre Dame and Miami (Fla.); home games come against Florida State and N.C. State. Where’s the second win coming from?

2. Larry Porter, Memphis (Last week: No. 2)

2011 record 1-5
Overall (since 2010) 2-16

The status quo isn’t good for Porter. The status quo for Porter means more double-digit losses, which isn’t good. And it’s not like Memphis is losing to the cream of the crop: the Tigers have already lost to perennial bottom-feeders like Arkansas State, Middle Tennessee State and Rice. But that’s the status quo, which isn’t good. Is Porter a candidate for a midseason dismissal? I highly, highly doubt it. But if Memphis athletic director R.C. Johnson is shown the door, I’d doubt that his successor wouldn’t want to clean house in the football offices.

3. Neil Callaway, U.A.B. (Last week: No. 4)

2011 record 0-5
Overall (since 2007) 15-38

Close losses are fine when you’re U.A.B. and you’re, say, 4-1. In that scenario, a close loss to Troy wouldn’t hurt too bad, and a hard-fought loss to Mississippi State might actually be reason for optimism. When you’re Callaway and U.A.B., close losses — regardless of the opponent — is made more painful by the fact that this team has never been able to get over the hump. The quest for six wins continues at Tulsa this weekend; good luck keeping the Golden Hurricane off the board. Giving the Blazers a loss this weekend leaves Callaway in the unenviable position of needing six straight wins to salvage his job. That’s not going to happen.

4. Rob Ianello, Akron (Last week: No. 5)

2011 record 1-5
Overall (since 2010) 2-16

How Florida International scored only 27 points on Akron remains a mystery. I mean, the Golden Panthers still won, but only 27 points with 524 yards of total offense? It’s puzzling. So a 10-point loss for the Zips was actually much, much worse, seeing how F.I.U. outplayed Akron for the better part of 60 minutes. Just throw another loss on the board for Ianello, giving him 16 over 18 games, and wait for this Saturday, when Akron will lose to Ohio, giving him 17 losses in 19 games.

5. Rick Neuheisel, U.C.L.A. (Last week: No. 1)

2011 record 3-3
Overall (since 2008) 18-25

Well, look at this. After a huge win over Washington State over the weekend, Neuheisel and U.C.L.A. stand at 3-3, 2-1 in the Pac-12, and are looking pretty good when it comes to reaching bowl play. It’s my opinion that Neuheisel returns in 2012 should the Bruins get to six wins. And with Arizona up next, followed by a home game against California, followed in November by games against Utah and Colorado, I suspect U.C.L.A. is going to get to 6-6 in 2011. You would have scoffed at the idea in August, but could Saturday’s win over the Cougars have been the biggest of Neuheisel’s tenure with the Bruins? It’s not a stretch.

6. Bob Toledo, Tulane (Last week: No. 6)

2011 record 2-4
Overall (since 2007) 15-39

As with Callaway and U.A.B., moral victories do very little to solidify Toledo’s tenuous job status with Tulane. It’s just another loss, his 37th overall, even if Syracuse needed a late field goal to avoid overtime against the Green Wave. Again, a close loss to a B.C.S. conference opponent isn’t terrible if Tulane was above .500 — or had been above .500 at any point over Toledo’s five-year stay. As is, Toledo could run the table the rest of the way in 2011 and go 13-0 in 2012 and still be six games under .500.

7. Houston Nutt, Mississippi (Last week: No. 8)

2011 record 2-3
Overall (since 2008) 24-19

Mississippi’s key this weekend against Alabama: forget the win, since that’s not going to happen, and merely try your best not to get embarrassed. And that’s embarrassing for Nutt and the program, which has gone from the Cotton Bowl to the bottom third of the SEC in a very brief span of time. Nutt wore out his welcome late in his term with Arkansas; he may wear out his early goodwill with the Rebels in four years, should he not turn this year around — avoiding a 3-9 finish, for example. Could his team bottom out at 3-9? I really doubt it. But 5-7 seems likely, which may not cause the university to fire Nutt but will really place him on the hot seat heading into 2012.

8. Pat Hill, Fresno State (Last week: N/A)

2011 record 2-4
Overall (since 1997) 110-85

Sometimes the same voice year after year gets tiring for a program, even if teams recycle the roster every winter. Pat Hill has been along the sidelines in Fresno since 1997, winning countless big games against B.C.S. conference opposition, but his Bulldogs simply haven’t been the same since 2005’s loss to U.S.C., especially on the defensive side of the ball. Last week’s loss to Boise State was particularly damning: more than anything, the lack of fire and grit during the first half — and Boise called off the dogs at the half — reflected very poorly on Hill and his staff. Could Fresno really be in the market for a new voice? I think it would take a giant step from the university to make a change, but the administration is definitely paying attention to how the program has been fairly average, compared to Hill’s strong start, over the last five-plus years.

9. Rick Stockstill, M.T.S.U. (Last week: N/A)

2011 record 1-4
Overall (since 2006) 34-34

Losing to Western Kentucky — at home, no less — is a sure way to find yourself in the running for the Locksley. Stockstill is similar to Hill: the face of the program since being hired in 2006, he lifted the Blue Raiders to 10 wins in 2009 but went a very disappointing 6-7 last fall. A staff shakeup has done little to right the ship through the first part of 2011: Middle Tennessee is 1-4 after last week’s loss, with that win coming over Memphis, and are 0-2 in Sun Belt play. There are several winnable games over the second half of the year, but the slide over the last 17 games is not a good sign for Stockstill.

10. Dan Enos, Central Michigan (Last week: No. 7)

2011 record 2-4
Overall (since 2010) 5-13

I know Central Michigan lost to N.C. State, but you have to be impressed by the way the offense has played over the last two weeks: 563 yards in a win over Northern Illinois, 427 yards against the Wolfpack. This bodes well for Enos and his job security. The main contention I had with his sour start was his decision to toss aside the offense C.M.U. had run under Brian Kelly and Butch Jones in favor of a more traditional attack. The early results were putrid; perhaps the Chippewas, based off the last two weeks, have turned a corner. If the offense continues to roll there’s no reason why Central Michigan can’t be a MAC contender.

Dropped out

Mike Sherman, Texas A&M (Last week: No. 10)

Previous lists

Week 6 list Rick Neuheisel, No. 1
Week 5 list Rick Neuheisel, No. 1

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Comments

  1. Steve says:

    You can’t argue with any order of the top 5, those guys are all gonzo.

  2. Parker says:

    Hi Paul

    Houston’s next 2 road games are against 2 of the top 6 hot seat coaches (@ UAB and @ Tulane). Houston turned up the heat on Neuheisel in Week 1.

  3. tulaneoutlaw says:

    Just so you know you can take Bob Toledo off this list next week as he is getting canned today. About time.

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