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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 4

Important Locksley news: John L. Smith is not – I repeat, not – eligible for the 2012 award. Why? Let’s consider the first reason: Smith is an interim head coach. I can’t blame you for not being fully aware with the Locksley’s laws and bylaws, seeing that said laws and bylaws have never been put into print. But one crucial factor is that a candidate must be a real, bona fide head coach – not an interim head coach, as is Smith. A second reason is that Smith would be such a lock for the Locksley that taking him out of the running evens the playing field among a slew of other highly qualified candidates. Now, is there a chance that Smith could one day be recognized for his wonderfully inept work with the Razorbacks in 2012? I can see it now: The John L. Locksley. That’s an option. But there will be no trophy on Smith’s mantle once his tenure in Fayetteville runs its course. As recompense, Smith gets the quote of the week:

“Let’s go. You guys look like it’s — pick it up a little bit, okay? Get your chin up. Smile! Smile! Okay? Dang, you guys alright? If not, I’m not talking.”

1. Jon Embree, Colorado (Last week: No. 9)

2012 record 0-3
Overall (since 2011) 3-13

Just a few snippets from Colorado’s 69-14 loss to Fresno State: the 35 first-half points, 322 first-quarter yards, 516 first-half yards and 300 first-half passing yards were the most in program history, and the 94-yard touchdown run was the longest the Buffaloes had allowed in program history. Could it possibly get any worse? It gets worse the closer you look – because if you looked close enough, you’d see a staff that seemed completely unprepared to lead a team onto the field against a non-B.C.S. conference opponent. This has become embarrassing. Sadly – and you might find this hard to believe – it will only get worse. If Colorado lose to Colorado State, Sacramento State and Fresno State, what chance does it have of beating any team during Pac-12 play? Heck, how bad will it get against Oregon, U.S.C. and Stanford? This has been the darkest three weeks in program history. Embree has been a disaster. Very rarely does a head coach prove himself to be this unqualified for the task.

2. Frank Spaziani, B.C. (Last week: No. 1)

2012 record 1-2
Overall (since 2009) 21-21

It took Embree’s level of horridness to knock Spaziani out of the top spot. However, it should be said that Boston College lost by only nine points to Northwestern on Saturday, though that comes with an asterisk: Northwestern thoroughly dominated the Eagles – gaining 34 first downs, for instance – yet was stymied by an inability to seal the deal in the red zone. In this case, it was not necessarily a 22-13 loss to feel good about. But then there’s Embree, who led Colorado to a historic defeat, and all of a sudden, another year of Spaziani doesn’t look that bad. It could be worse, after all.

3. Joker Phillips, Kentucky (Last week: No. 7)

2012 record 1-2
Overall (since 2010) 12-16

Phillips’ fate wasn’t sealed once Western Kentucky converted a two-point try to beat Kentucky, 32-31, on Saturday night. Phillips can continue serving as the Wildcats’ head coach in 2013 and beyond should he lead U.K. to five or six wins during the regular season. Phillips controls his own fate; let’s just say that the odds are against him leading this specific team to the cusp of bowl eligibility. In hindsight, after the program opts to move in another direction, we can point to Saturday’s loss as the moment everything started collecting speed on its path downhill – because the program has been headed downhill since Phillips took over, but it took an ugly loss to Louisville and an uglier loss to the Hilltoppers to illustrate the level of deterioration that has occurred under his watch.

4. Bobby Hauck, U.N.L.V. (Last week: No. 2)

2012 record 0-3
Overall (since 2010) 4-24

On one hand, U.N.L.V. has taken two B.C.S. conference opponents down to the wire – Minnesota in the opener, Washington State a week ago. On the other, U.N.L.V. also lost to Northern Arizona, giving Hauck four wins in total since taking over in 2010 to go with a pair of losses against F.C.S. competition. You know when the idea of moral victories becomes laughable? When you’ve lost 24 games in 28 tries – at this point, Hauck needs to forget about moral victories and land some clear, unadulterated, pure victories. U.N.L.V.’s quest resumes with a ridiculously imposing five-game slate: Air Force, at Utah State, at Louisiana Tech, Nevada, at Boise State. Will Hauck survive an 0-8 start?

5. Dan Enos, Central Mich. (Last week: No. 4)

2012 record 1-1
Overall (since 2010) 7-19

When on a long losing streak, baseball teams look at a rainout as a sign of good luck – it might not be a win, but a rainout ensures that at the very least, this team won’t suffer another loss. In this vein, a bye week is manna from heaven for Central Michigan, which seems just as inept in 2012 as it was under Enos in both 2010 and 2011. The Chippewas can’t win during a bye week; nor can they lose, however, and any weekend from September through November that doesn’t include a defeat is reason for celebration in Mount Pleasant. As mentioned, the good times will end on Saturday: Central Michigan’s next five opponents are Iowa, Northern Illinois, Toledo, Navy and Ball State. The next time C.M.U. looks for a head coach it should look outside the Big Ten.

6. Robb Akey, Idaho (Last week: No. 3)

2012 record 0-3
Overall (since 2007) 19-46

How bad has Idaho been through three weeks? The Vandals, 0-3, rank 120th nationally in total offense, 121st in scoring and 123rd in rushing. On defense, Idaho ranks 108th in yards allowed per play, 104th in scoring and tied for 114th in rushing touchdowns allowed. There’s been a loss to L.S.U., yes; there’s also been a loss to Eastern Washington, a 20-3 shoving that was never, ever in doubt. The picture this start paints isn’t pretty: Idaho looks worse than it was a season ago, when the Vandals went 2-10, and as bad as it has ever been since Akey took over in 2007. That’s not a pretty picture.

7. Tony Levine, Houston (Last week: N/A)

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

I’ve touched on Houston over the last few weeks. There’s been no more disappointing team in college football, in my mind – though Arkansas, Wisconsin and others can make a strong case. The struggles can be tied back to the offense, which has been rendered impotent by Levine’s mishandling of his most important hire: offensive coordinator. Whether the Cougars can turn the corner hinges entirely on Levine’s ability, along with Travis Bush, to turn around a once-proud offense in time for conference play. The good news is that Houston has so much talent that it might only take some subtle tweaks to get this offense back on track; once this offense gets back on track, U.H. can make another run to the conference championship. The bad news? The program will have no one other than Levine to blame if this season continues its run off the rails.

8. Mike Price, UTEP (Last week: No. 6)

2012 record 1-2
Overall (since 2004) 46-54

UTEP’s a hard team to read, no? This team ran with Oklahoma in the opener; a week later, the Miners were run ragged by Mississippi’s offense. Last week, UTEP had its way with New Mexico State despite several mental errors – 12 penalties for 129 yards, for example. A team that can keep pace with O.U. and trounce the Aggies should do well in a very down Conference USA, in my mind. But before getting on board, it would be nice to see Price’s squad beat a team like S.M.U. in early October. If the Miners can bottle the Oklahoma and N.M.S.U. games and carry it into conference play, this team could – could – make some noise in the West division. That I’m not confident in this coming to pass has much to do with the program’s run of mediocrity under Price’s direction.

9. Jeff Quinn, Buffalo (Last week: N/A)

2012 record 1-2
Overall (since 2010) 6-21

There’s something to be said of the progress Quinn has made off the field, rebuilding the Bulls into a MAC contender after a very unsteady start. There’s also something to be said for winning games, especially at home, and especially when on national television. Wednesday’s game against Kent State, which came on the heels of a solid start – remember that Buffalo made life miserable for Georgia over the first half in the opener – was an absolute must-win for the Bulls; up next are road games against Connecticut, Ohio and Northern Illinois, so this team will be staring 1-5 in the face before meeting Pittsburgh and Toledo at home to cap October. The question: How many games must Quinn win to keep his job? Four would be nice. But it’s hard to say what the program will do if Buffalo wins only two or three games.

10. Rick Stockstill, M.T.S.U. (Last week: No. 5)

2012 record 2-1
Overall (since 2006) 37-41

Stockstill’s fate will be decided in November, after he leads his team against surefire losses to Georgia Tech and Mississippi State and two tough Sun Belt games against Louisiana-Monroe and Florida International. If the Blue Raiders can win two of five, heading into November at 4-4, there’s a pretty good chance that Middle Tennessee State can reach bowl eligibility – taking Stockstill off of the hot seat. Keep that in mind on Saturday, when the Blue Raiders are sure to be on the sour end of a beating at the hands of the Yellow Jackets. Another thing to keep in mind: Middle Tennessee has as many wins through three games as it had all of last season.

Dropped off

Jeff Tedford, California (Last week: No. 8)
Randy Edsall, Maryland (Last week: No. 10)

Previous lists

Week 3 list Frank Spaziani, No. 1
Week 2 list Frank Spaziani, No. 1

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  1. Burnt Orange says:

    Would like to nominate Kevin Wilson – he has lost two straight to Ball State and was fortunate to beat Indiana State.

    On Levine, his buyout is supposedly just a few hundred thousand so keep an eye on that one.

    The Colorado collapse is mind boggling. That was one tough football team not that many years ago.

  2. BobJ says:

    Rick Neuheisel isn’t doing anything at the moment. No reason Colorado can’t give him a call . . . Just sayin’ . . .

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