This is my new non-Alabama related pet project for the site (good Lord willin' and Saban don't leave). Now, I'm not a sadist. I take no joy in the misfortune of others (except Auburn and Tennessee). But, gosh, do I love me some coaching intrigue.
Awkward press conference denials, tepid votes of confidence from administrators, clandestine booster meetings, tracking private jets like kids on Christmas Eve, wacky Internet rumors, hilarious talk radio...What's not to love? Unless Santa leaves a Mike Shula under your tree. In that case, you're guaranteed seasonal depression for about 4 years. And that sucks. Believe me.
Anyway, now that most teams are officially a third of the way through their schedule, my goal here is to provide you with at least a bi-weekly check up on which coaches are in danger of taking a ride on the carousel. For the sake of brevity, I'll mainly be focusing on the major programs, at least in the early going. You'll have to look elsewhere to keep up with your favorite MAC coach. The list will grow or shrink based on performance. Four coaches entered the 2010 season on stand-by for a spot on the carousel, so we'll start by assessing where they're at one month into the season. Then we'll check in on a pair who may be heading to the express check-in.
Ralph Friedgen, Maryland
2010 Record: 3-1
Coming into this season, the Terrapins have suffered through losing seasons in 4 of the past 6 seasons, including a 2 win season in 2009. Pretty much the only things that saved Friedgen's job were financial constraints, and perhaps some degree of administrative apathy. However it's difficult to believe even the most disinterested administrator (or more importantly, boosters) will stand for yet another losing campaign in 2010. So far, Friedgen is off too a good start, halfway to bowl eligibility through September. But aside from stealing a win from Navy, these wins haven't come against strong competition. The Terrapins have a good shot at being 4-1 heading into their bye-week, but after that, the going gets tough and I don't see two sure wins on the schedule. Technically, offensive coordinator James Franklin has been anointed the coach-in-waiting, but I bet he goes down with the ship.
Next 2 weeks: vs. Duke, bye
Chances for Survival: 40%
Dan Hawkins, Colorado
2010 Record: 2-1
The Buffaloes have only made one bowl appearance under Hawkins, and he's never posted a winning record in Boulder. In fact, the team has gotten progressively worse since posting a high water mark of 6-7 in 2007. Similar to Friedgen, Hawkins' return has precious little to do with any optimism regarding his ability to turn things around. However, if Hawkins fails to take advantage of this stay of execution, the odds are good the administration at Colorado will be looking for a new coach to lead the program into it's new conference. Thus far, Hawkins' Buffaloes have soundly beaten a pair of the most mid of mid-major teams, but were shellacked by a Cal team that was subsequently shellacked by Nevada. Next up - a visit from the suddenly equally as desperate Mark Richt and their entire conference schedule.
Next 2 weeks: vs. Georgia, at Missouri
Chances for Survival: 10%
Ron Zook, Illinois
2010 Record: 2-1
Through 5 years, the Zooker has posted one Rose Bowl season and five miserable, losing seasons. He survived to 2010 thanks to mandated massive turnover of his coaching staff, but I highly doubt the Illinois administration is going to be patient if the Illini don't display significant improvement. And they did look plucky opening the season in a loss to Missouri, but since then they've gone off the grid, running the dreaded gauntlet of Southern AND Northern Illinois before taking yet another week off, this time without pretense. Those two games definitely padded the record early, but all they really accomplished was to force Zook to win 7 games to get bowl eligible. Six wins is going to be tough enough as it is. Next up, 8 straight weeks of Big 10 play followed by a road trip out to Fresno.
Next 2 weeks: vs. Ohio State, at Penn State
Chances for Survival: 25%
Rich Rodriguez, Michigan
2010 Record: 4-0
Do I even need to recount RichRod's journey to this point? The guy was dead man walking until Denard Robinson happened. Now the only guy happier than Rich is Denard's momma. As long as Robinson can stay healthy (apparently easier said than done) and the defense can keep opponents below 40, the Wolverines should get bowl eligible with ease. But I'm still keeping my eye on this one. After all, Rich did have this team at 4-0 last year, too. And we all know how that ended up.
Next 2 weeks: at Indiana, vs. Michigan State
Chances for Survival: 70%
Dennis Erickson, Arizona State
2010 Record: 2-2
After bursting onto the scene with a 10-win season in 2007, Erickson's Sun Devil teams have trailed off to sub-Koetter levels. As of today, his record at ASU sits at 21-20. They're not without hope in 2010, though. Their two losses were heartbreakers where top-tier teams seemed ready to give the game to them. Are the Sun Devils a thus-far-unlucky team with a lot of upside down the stretch, or were they made to look good by better teams playing bad games? We'll find out. The bad news: the Sun Devils have been really bad on the road under Erickson, and 5 of their last 8 games will be away from home. It will probably take a bowl berth to save his job, but that's literally going to be a long, hard road for him.
Next 2 weeks: at Oregon State, at Washington
Chances for Survival: 45%
Mark Richt, Georgia
2010 Record: 1-3
Richt's situation went from "tough but manageable" to "pretty freaking dire" over night in Starkville. Georgia should never lose to Mississippi State, with or without AJ Green. Richt is now just 10-9 in conference play since the BCS season of 2007. Aside from dominating Georgia Tech, his record against UGA's main rivals is lousy (2-7 against Florida) or way more average than it should be (5-4 against Tennessee, 2-4 over the last 6). Even worse, his mystique as a road warrior (33-6 coming into this year) seems to be shattered after losing the first two road games this season, including the aforementioned embarrassment in Starkvegas. A lot of media types have been jumping to Richt's defense this week, and certainly, there are legitimate defenses for him. But he's in a tough spot. He didn't need this after a sub-par 2009. I'm not saying he's going to be fired right now, but I do think he needs to hit 7-5 again, meaning 6-2 over the last 8, to avoid a really unpleasant Thanksgiving.
Next 2 weeks: at Colorado, vs. Tennessee
Chances for survival: 70%
We'll check back in a week or two to see how these guys have progressed and if anyone is ready to join them...