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College Football Hot Seat: Richt, Riley, Neuheisel and More

| by Sports Nickel

We’re only one week into the college football season, and already some coaches have felt their seats heat up. There isn’t a single FBS head coach at this point that is sure to be fired, though, so that means all of these coaches still have a chance to save their jobs if they can turn things around.

Some coaches aren’t on the hot seat yet, but a couple more losses could put their job on the line for the rest of the way.

We have coaches sitting on highly flammable seats, some that are beginning to heat up, and others that are uncomfortably warm. This is the coaching hot seat breakdown after the first weekend of the season.

Caution: Highly Flammable

  • Mark Richt (Georgia) — Georgia’s loss to Boise State on Saturday in the Georgia Dome likely signaled the beginning of the end for Mark Richt. This was supposed to be the breakout year for the Bulldogs after several mediocre seasons in a row between the hedges. Instead, Georgia looked like the same Georgia we’ve seen recently, losing 35-21 in a virtual home game to Boise State. The “dream team” looked like a lot of wide-eyed, inexperienced freshman like they are. For some reason, I bought into the hype of the Bulldogs in the preseason, picking them to win the SEC East. Now, it seems like only an SEC East crown could save Richt’s job. It all could be on the line on Saturday in Athens when Georgia hosts South Carolina.
  • Houston Nutt (Ole Miss) — Houston Nutt’s teure in Oxford started great with consecutive nine win seasons and berths in the Cotton Bowl. Last year, it all went down hill with the Rebels finishing last in the SEC West with a 4-8 record, and this season isn’t off to a good start either. Ole Miss floundered a 13-0 lead on Saturday against BYU, allowing the Cougars to come from behind and eek out a 14-13 win. There was optimism in Oxford for this season, but disappointment appears on the horizon for this team, and another year of not being bowl eligible should put the heat squarely on Houston Nutt.
  • Rich Neuheisel (UCLA) — This needed to be the year the Bruins showed marked improvement. Neuheisel came to Los Angeles with promises of overtaking USC as the top team in LA, and even with the Trojans significantly weaker than they’ve been in a long time, the Bruins still haven’t been able to jump them. After compiling a 15-22 record through three seasons with the Bruins Neuheisel is off to a 0-1 start to 2011 after his Bruins were defeated on the road by Houston. Their remaining non-conference slate really does them no favors. They get what should be a win at home against San Jose State, and then they’ll play host to Texas who is eager to avenge last season’s 34-12 loss at the hands of the Bruins.
  • Heating Up:

    • Mike Riley (Oregon State) — Mike Riley has really had a lot of success in Corvallis, but college coaching is all about what you’ve done for me lately. And lately, the Beavers have been subpar. After going 5-7 last season, expectations weren’t high for this team, but a lot of pundits expected Oregon State to get back to bowl eligibility. Instead, Oregon State started out the 2011 season with an overtime loss to FCS Sacramento State at home. I remember when Corvallis was one of the toughest places to play in college football, and how many Pac-10 powers went there and were beaten. Now, an FCS foe just walked in and beat Oregon State. The loss to an FCS program puts added pressure on Riley, and if the Beavers fall short of bowl eligibility, then his seat will begin warming up. I doubt Riley loses his job this season, but if they miss out on a bowl game, it could be on the line in 2012.
    • Jim Grobe (Wake Forest) — It wasn’t that long ago that Jim Grobe was one of the hottest commodities in the coaching ranks. He had led a resurgence in Winston-Salem and his name routinely came up for high-profile coaching vacancies. Now, Grobe finds himself on a seat that is steadily heating up. The Demon Deacons are coming off of a porous 3-9 season in 2010, and started the 2011 season with a loss to Syracuse in the Carrier Dome, in a game that Wake Forest blew a late lead. Grobe is another guy that should make it through this season regardless, but 2012 could end up as a make or break year for him with the Deacons.

    Uncomfortably Warm:

    • Mike Locksley (New Mexico) — It’s been a rough stretch for the Lobos in the two years Mike Locksley has been the head coach. He’s won just two games in his first two full seasons in Albuquerque, and is off to an 0-1 start in 2012 after losing at home to Colorado State. The schedule gets much tougher the next couple of weeks as New Mexico has road games against Arkansas and Texas Tech. The pressure is on Locksley to get results with this team, and they need to show improvement if he wants to see a fourth season. He’s recruited some top talent surprisingly, so it’s time for that top talent to start showing itself on the field.
    • Paul Wulff (Washington State) — Cougars fans are longing for the Mike Price days in Pullman that seem like so long ago no. Since Price’s departure, Washington State has been the proverbial whipping boy of the Pac-10/12. Not many coaches would retain their jobs for a fourth season after losing 32 games through their first three, but Wulff got another chance. Washington State opened up 2011 with a win over Idaho State, and they have a matchup with UNLV to potentially start the season 2-0. Wulff has stated that he believes this team is good enough to make a bowl game, and while that is unlikely, any further improvement by this squad should buy him more time.
    • Neil Calloway (UAB) — It’s time for results in Birmingham from Neil Calloway. The Blazers have gone just 15-33 in his four seasons at the helm, and are coming off of a 4-8 campaign in 2010. UAB had an open week in week one, and officially open their season next Saturday in Gainesville against Florida. With 15 returning starters for UAB, bigger things are expected for this team. The expectations are a bow game in Calloway’s 5th season at the helm, and if this season yields anything but, it could signal the end of his reign as the Blazers’ head man.

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