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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 2012 Locksley: Week 2

It’s going to be hard to fill a list without names like Callaway, Neuheisel, Nutt – last year’s Locksley winner – Porter, Ianello, Fairchild and Wulff. Hard, but not impossible – not even close to impossible. For every year, like clockwork, an already maligned head coach rolls out of bed, walks into his home stadium and loses to a team like McNeese State, as did Rick Stockstill last Saturday. Stockstill is one of only three head coaches from the final regular season list for last year’s Locksley still standing, joining Boston College’s Frank Spaziani and Central Michigan’s Dan Enos. Rest assured, all three names will feature prominently in the quest for the winner of the 2012 Locksley. The coaching quote of the week comes from Spaziani, whose team dropped a 41-32 decision to Miami (Fla.) in its season opener:

“I thought we played sloppy. We made some mistakes that hurt us on offense. We certainly moved the ball and did some real nice things. I think we played hard until the end. We made a couple of fumbles and had some turnovers obviously. We had two long runs which we can’t have happen on defense. We have to figure out what the problem was. We have to play better defense than that. But there are some good signs there. We have to build on that and move forward.”

1. Frank Spaziani, B.C. (Final 2011 rank: No. 2)

2012 record 0-1
Overall (since 2009) 20-20

There will be more on Spaziani and Boston College later today, so in an effort not to spoil the next post, let’s just keep it simple: B.C. had months and months and months to get mentally prepared for Miami (Fla.) yet crumbled at the first sign of adversity. This is not a good Miami team, by the way – it was just one that was good enough to run circles around the Eagles’ defense. What does this loss do for Boston College? It evens Spaziani’s career mark at .500, at 20-20. More importantly, it clearly sends B.C. into the bottom quarter of the A.C.C., right alongside Duke and Maryland. After watching Duke dismantle Florida International, maybe the Eagles are better off not pulling the Blue Devils out of the Coastal division.

2. Rick Stockstill, M.T.S.U. (Final 2011 rank: No. 10)

2012 record 0-1
Overall (since 2006) 35-41

You know, when you enter the year under fire, it doesn’t really help to lose at home to McNeese State. The loss, Stockstill’s seventh straight, joins last year’s season-ending defeat to North Texas – Mean Green 59, Blue Raiders 7 – to give this program two absolutely horrific setbacks in a row, albeit a pair separated by nine months. What was bad about Saturday? McNeese State dominated. It was 24-6 after three quarters; the score looks closer thanks to two M.T.S.U. touchdowns over the final 15 minutes. The Cowboys gained 298 yards on the ground, gained 450 yards in total, forced three turnovers and thoroughly controlled the clock. It can’t possibly get any worse. Having said that, anything is possible.

3. Robb Akey, Idaho (Final 2011 rank: N/A)

2012 record 0-1
Overall (since 2007) 19-44

Idaho has a few issues. One is the future of the football program itself: Independent status is the next step, though it’s not a feasible long-term solution. The next is the future of Akey, who dropped to 19-44 after suffering a 20-3 loss to Eastern Washington – not normal Washington, but Eastern Washington – in the opener. With another ugly season almost assuredly on the horizon, Idaho must ask the question: Was Akey’s nice two-year run from 2009-10 the rule or the exception to the rule? If you remove Idaho’s 2009 season from the equation, Akey is 11-39 since replacing Dennis Erickson in 2007.

4. Dan Enos, Central Mich. (Final 2011 rank: No. 8)

2012 record 1-0
Overall (since 2010) 7-18

Judging by Central Michigan’s performance in the opener against Southeast Missouri State, the upcoming stretch against Michigan State, Iowa, Northern Illinois and Toledo won’t be kind to the Chippewas. Such is life under Enos, who has lost 18 of 25 games since replacing Butch Jones in 2010. Three of those seven wins have come against F.C.S. competition; a fourth came over Akron last fall by a single point; a fifth came over Eastern Michigan in 2010. Is Central Michigan ever going to turn a corner under the former Michigan State assistant? Barring a substantial surprise, C.M.U. will be 1-4 after the first Saturday of November. Then comes Navy and Ball State – at best, the Chippewas will be 2-5 heading into the home stretch. Six wins is doable with an easy finish, however.

5. Jeff Tedford, California (Final 2011 rank: N/A)

2012 record 0-1
Overall (since 2002) 79-41

Two notes on Tedford: he holds the third-best winning percentage and the most wins in California’s history. He has 79 wins since 2002; the Golden Bears won 87 games from 1982-2001. That puts a loss to Nevada in perspective, does it not? Before firing Tedford, the university – and the fan base, most of all – needs to keep in mind the idea that he has been the program’s most successful coach since Pappy Waldorf, who retired in 1956. For now, Tedford’s seat is warm due not only to the fact that California slumped out of the gate against a very good Nevada team but also to the idea that with U.S.C. and Ohio State looming, the Bears should be no better than 2-3 heading into October. This team will still win seven games – but will that be enough? And if not, does the university think that Tedford’s replacement can do better?

6. Joker Phillips, Kentucky (Final 2011 rank: N/A)

2012 record 0-1
Overall (since 2010) 11-15

Hey, at least Kentucky’s better than Mississippi – I think that’s true. But Kentucky is not better than any other program in the SEC, nor are the Wildcats better than Louisville, which had little difficulty netting its second straight win in the series. Is U.K. better than Kent State? It could be a dogfight. Likewise with Western Kentucky. And seeing that the Rebels aren’t on Kentucky’s SEC schedule, could Phillips fail to win a game during conference play? Don’t sleep on the possibility. Phillips’ saving grace is his team’s youth, which could buy him another year. What won’t be in his corner is his team’s won-loss record, which will be ugly.

7. Tommy Tuberville, T. Tech (Final 2011 rank: N/A)

2012 record 1-0
Overall (since 2010) 14-12

You can make the case that this team is Tuberville’s best since he arrived in Lubbock in 2010. The offense is strong, if not in the same class with West Virginia, Baylor or Oklahoma, among other Big 12 rivals. The defense can’t possibly be any worse than it was a year ago. All in all, this team is far better than last year’s version. All of that will mean nothing if Tuberville can’t get to seven wins. What would it take to reach that mark? Four wins during conference play, assuming that the Red Raiders go 3-0 in non-conference action. You know what Tuberville cannot afford? A loss to Texas State on Saturday – because that would be disastrous. While Tuberville has much to prove once the calendar turns to Big 12 action, it could be much, much worse: he could be Billy Gillispie.

8. Bobby Hauck, U.N.L.V. (Final 2011 rank: N/A)

2012 record 0-1
Overall (since 2010) 4-22

One good piece of news: U.N.L.V. almost beat Minnesota. The bad news is that U.N.L.V. still lost, even if it took three overtimes, handing Hauck his 22nd loss in 26 tries since stepping in for Mike Sanford heading into the 2010 season. Is U.N.L.V. supposed to be good? No, not really – but neither is Minnesota. At some point, Hauck will no longer be able to call on the idea that he’s rebuilding the Rebels from the bottom up; this is now his third year with the program, and if the Rebels are going to improve, now is the time. More good news: Hauck still has 11 games to make his case. And if you can hang with a Big Ten team, no matter how weak – this excludes Indiana, of course – you can beat most of the teams in the Mountain West.

9. Derek Dooley, Tennessee (Final 2011 rank: N/A)

2012 record 1-0
Overall (since 2010) 12-14

Dooley’s job security increases exponentially with each meaningful win, such as the one Tennessee posted over N.C. State last Friday – on a neutral site, no less. While Alabama’s trouncing of Michigan overshadowed Tennessee’s start, the win was the finest of Dooley’s two-plus years with the program. Another pair of influential games come before the end of September, against Florida and Georgia, and wins there would ensure not only a successful season for the Volunteers but at least one more season of Dooley along the sidelines. Even a 4-1 start should guarantee an eight-win season – and eight wins is the mark Dooley needs to get off of the heat seat.

10. Randy Edsall, Maryland (Final 2011 rank: N/A)

2012 record 1-0
Overall (since 2011) 3-10

Is Edsall really in trouble? Yeah, he is. But is he in danger of losing his job after – or during – this coming season? I don’t buy it. For one, he has a strong backer in athletic director Kevin Anderson; additional support comes from Under Armor C.E.O. Kevin Plank, who in June urged Maryland’s fan base to “wrap our arms around” Edsall. Feel the love. But also feel the fact that this year’s team is a hair away from being positively abysmal; the Terrapins were one dropped pass away from losing their opener to William & Mary, and it only gets tougher from here. But that also plays in Edsall’s favor: Maryland is so bad, so young and so inexperienced, that the university will likely want at least one more season to see if Edsall can turn it around. But would the university retain the status quo if the Terrapins fail to win a game? Stay tuned.

Just off the debut list

There are more than 10 coaches on the hot seat, of course. In fact, I could make the case that there are more coaches under fire than ever before – and as with the Heisman, this is perhaps a result of enhanced, year-round coverage of the sport itself. What follows are the head coaches who, despite being outside of the top 10, remain ensconced on at least a fairly warm seat. It’s in alphabetical order, I hope:

David Bailiff, Rice (23-39 since 2007)
Todd Berry, Louisiana-Monroe (9-15 since 2010)
Dave Clawson, Bowling Green (14-24 since 2009)
Bill Cubit, Western Michigan (47-40 since 2005)
David Cutcliffe, Duke (16-33 since 2008)
Rich Ellerson, Army (15-22 since 2009)
June Jones, S.M.U. (24-29 since 2008)
Tony Levine, Houston (1-1 since 2011)
Doug Marrone, Syracuse (17-21 since 2009)
Ruffin McNeill, East Carolina (12-14 since 2010)
Mike Price, UTEP (45-53 since 2004)
Jeff Quinn, Buffalo (5-20 since 2010)
Mike Riley, Oregon State (72-63 since 1997)
Kevin Wilson, Indiana (2-11 since 2011)

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  1. Colin says:

    I’d think that Akey is pretty safe. They really seem to like him up there in Moscow, and I don’t think expectations are that high. Without Boise State on the schedule to fire up the fan base, Akey’s comments and attitude have to do it.

    Unless Idaho drops down to FCS. Akey has said he’d only coach a FBS team, so that might be one way Idaho and Akey part ways.

  2. Burnt Orange says:

    I think Levine at UH is one to keep an eye on. With a new stadium in the works, this program has come too far to tolerate mediocrity much less whatever that was last week. Never liked Piland as a qb – no touch, real rock head and they can change OCs every week but he is still the qb. The schedule softens up down the stretch but let’s just say they lose to La Tech and UCLA while beating Rice. They are 1-3 heading into a home game with an improving N. Texas squad.

  3. Dave says:

    Rich Ellerson is not going anywhere unless the bottom truly falls out at Army – the bowl win two years ago over SMU combined with the first winning season since 1996 bought him plenty of time.

  4. Matt says:

    Agree with Burnt Orange

  5. Hokieshibe says:

    Now, obviously I’ve never met the guy, but just from the outside looking in, Kevin Anderson looks like one of the worst ADs in the country.

    He runs of Friedgen (after getting ACC coach of the year honors, no less), has to buy out the last year of that contract (at $2 million!), then runs off the former-head-coach-in-waiting James Franklin because he doesn’t want him to be coach either (fortunately, he didn’t have to pay Franklin the $1 million he would have owed him, had he stayed, because Vandy realized he’d make an excellent coach).

    Then, despite having fired Ralph Friedgen because he didn’t drum up enough excitement in the fan base, he goes out and hires the head coach from UConn (yawn), and pays him $2 million a year (5th highest in the ACC). It’s not like you got some hot Big 12 coordinator or something. How is Edsall exciting?

    So, anyhow, now that he’s paid Friedgen $2 million not to coach, and vastly overpaid for Edsall (and made Mark Turgeon the 2nd highest paid basketball coach in the ACC), UMD is out of money and has to cut a ton of sports (Swimming, Tennis, cheer-leading, cross-country and indoor track and field).

    That’s just a stunning amount of failure for one man to accumulate in 2 years.

  6. cedar rapids says:

    The AD from Pitt has done almost as bad.

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