College Football Predictions: 10 Games Likely to Get Coaches Fired
Every season begins with a dozen or so coaches on the hot seat because of recent on-the-field shortcomings.
Coaches like Colorado's Dan Hawkins seem like they've been on this list forever. Is this the year his Buffaloes finally deliver some wins for the coach, or will Hawkins participate in that uncomfortable mid-season press conference announcing he won't return after the season is finished?
Then there are the surprises—coaches who aren't on the list now, but because of something unexpected, won't return next year.
So here's a look at 10 coaches and the games that will likely seal their fates.
PS: All of the Rich Rodriguez haters need not read any more. I may be in the minority, but I think the resilient coach will do enough to return in 2011.
Paul Wulff: Washington State vs. Arizona (Oct. 16)
WSU's Paul Wulff seems like he's been on the hot seat almost since the day he was hired. That happens when your two-year record is 3-22. Losses and blowouts have piled up during the Wulff era.
The Arizona game is the fourth of six home games in 2010, and a loss in this one will more than likely mean a 2-5 start. It also means that the Cougars are looking at a 2-10 season—only a one game improvement over last year.
That's not enough to save Wulff and the time is right to let him step down.
Best-case: After losing the opener at Oklahoma State, the Cougars rebound with wins over Montana State and at SMU. At 2-1, Washington State will have some confidence as USC comes to town. If the Cougars can pull an upset at UCLA and against Arizona at home, a 4-8 season may be the best.
Worst-case: It's simple, WSU opens 0-3 and finding another win on the schedule is tough.
Dan Hawkins: Colorado vs. Texas Tech (Oct. 23)
Hawkins is 16-33 in four years in Boulder and it was thought he would be replaced after last season. But financial concerns played a role in Colorado retaining the embattled coach for at least one more year.
The same courtesy probably isn't in the cards if Colorado struggles in 2010, so if the Buffaloes lose to Texas Tech and are likely 2-5, the administration will probably pull the plug on Hawkins.
Best-case: This team is made up of Hawkins' players and they have all played a great deal over the past two or three seasons. So if experience counts for anything, Colorado will finally catch some breaks in 2010 and reach a bowl game. How does that happen? Well, the Buffaloes open 3-1 with an upset at the home of Georgia (similar to the upset of West Virginia in 2008). Then Colorado goes 5-3 in the Big 12 and 8-4 is looking pretty good.
Worst-case: The experience doesn't pay off for Hawkins and the Buffaloes open 1-3 with a win over Hawaii, and then Colorado goes 3-5 in league play and misses making a bowl again.
Ron Zook: Illinois vs. Purdue (Oct. 30)
Many Illinois fans were hoping Ron Zook's days in Champaign were done last year. But he's back for another shot to return the Fighting Illini to the 2007 form that resulted in a Rose Bowl appearance.
Zook has a chance to save his job, but if the season plays out as expected, Illinois is likely to be 2-5 entering the home date with Purdue. An ugly loss at home will just about do it for him.
Best-case: Illinois opens 3-0 with an upset of Missouri in St. Louis in the opener; however, Zook's team drops the next three before rebounding with six straight wins to finish 9-3 and in the upper level of the league.
Worst-case: It could get ugly quick for Zook. After losing to Missouri again, the only victory in the early part of the season is against Southern Illinois on Sept. 11. The next win? How about Minnesota on Nov. 13?
Tim Brewster: Minnesota vs. Ohio State (Oct. 30)
Brewster has his fans, but also as many detractors. He is a talented coach, but his brash ways seem to rub some the wrong way.
The Gophers defense is young and that could be troublesome in the Big Ten this year. The offense does return nine starters and a lot of pressure will fall on QB Adam Weber. The schedule is tough, with non-conference games at Middle Tennessee State, South Dakota, USC and Northern Illinois.
But it may not be enough, as the Gophers could be 2-6 entering the game with the Buckeyes at beautiful TCF Bank Stadium.
Best-case: Minnesota's young defense steps up to the challenge and the running game, led by DeLeon Eskridge and Lamonte Edwards, takes pressure off of Weber and the Gophers get hot. Opening at Middle Tennessee State is no gimme, but get by that game and South Dakota and see what happens with USC having to travel across the country. The Gophers enter Big Ten play 3-1 with a close loss to USC and a win over Northern Illinois. Minnesota picks up Big Ten victories vs. Northwestern, at Purdue and at Illinois, and it finishes 6-6 again.
Worst-case: Don't be shocked if the Gophers open 1-3 with a win against South Dakota. The Gophers could go winless in league play, but let's give them a road win over Illinois for a 2-10 season.
Bob Toledo: Tulane vs. Southern Mississippi (Nov. 6)
Toledo has gone a dismal 9-27 in three years at Tulane, and it's not shaping up to be much better in 2010. The Green Wave has tweaked the offense a bit, in an effort to get out of the Conference USA basement.
On a positive note, Tulane returns 10 starters on offense, but giving up points in bunches was a big problem last year.
Best-case: The Green Wave open with a win over Southeastern Louisiana and upset Ole Miss at home. They still lose on the road at Houston and Rutgers, but find a way to beat Army and start 3-2. However, the only other victory in sight is probably against Rice on Nov. 13.
Worst-case: The season-opener against Southeastern is Tulane's only victory of 2010. That is not a good formula for Toledo to keep coaching.
Ralph Friedgen: Maryland at Virginia (Nov. 13)
This is where a 2-10 season will land you. When Friedgen first arrived at his alma mater, he led the Terrapins to a surprising 10-2 season and he was the toast of college football. Now he's trying to figure out how to save his job.
He still has a chance, but it doesn't look good for the 63-year-old coach. It's still unclear if the departure of Athletic Director Debbie Yow could mean Friedgen has more time, or if the expectations are still the same.
Best-case: Maryland opens 5-0 with an upset win at West Virginia on Sept. 18. The Terrapins pick up three more victories against Wake Forest, Virginia and North Carolina State and finish 8-4. That's plenty to keep Friedgen on the sidelines.
Worst-case: Instead of starting off perfect, the Terrapins limp to a 2-3 start and finish 3-9 with a win over Virginia or North Carolina State.
Steve Fairchild: Colorado State at Wyoming (Nov. 20)
Fairchild took over a program that had lost its way a bit under Sonny Lubick, but he's just 10-15 in two years and last season's 3-9 record was well below expectations (that 0-8 Mountain West record didn't help him either). Not to mention the Rams lost nine straight after opening 3-0.
The defense returns almost completely intact, but the offense returns just four starters, so it's hard to see how the Rams win enough in the tough MWC.
Best-case: The Rams go 2-1 as they play three straight away from Hughes Stadium. CSU goes 4-5 over the remainder of the season to finish 6-6.
Worst-case: Colorado State could easily finish 3-9 again with no more than one conference victory. That could spell trouble for Fairchild.
Mike Locksley: New Mexico vs. TCU (Nov. 27)
I've never seen a coach's star fade as fast as Locksley. The one-time offensive genius as a coordinator for Ron Zook had off-the-field distractions ranging from an altercation with an assistant to sexual harrassment charges from a secretary.
Locksley has improved the Lobos' talent, but another season lacking in much competitiveness could make it difficult for the brass to stand by him past Year 2.
Best-case: The younger talent fits better into Locksley's system, and the second-year coach keeps his name out of the media for unpleasantries. It will also help if the Lobos win a few more games. The start will still be tough and they'll likely be 0-3 before traveling to UNLV. But that's where a victory could come, and a 3-9 finish would be a step in the right direction.
Worst-case: Locksley didn't learn from last year and he doesn't stop the negative news cycles. Another 1-11 season is also a real possibility.
Dennis Erickson: Arizona State at Arizona (Dec. 2)
Wow, Arizona could be the impetus for two coaching changes. Of course, this is the last game of the season and the Sun Devils are likely to give Dennis Erickson until that last game to decide. It's a show of respect to Erickson, who is a Hall of Fame caliber coach.
The Sun Devils have the defense to keep them in games, but losing to rival Arizona in The Duel in the Desert will keep ASU out of a bowl and Erickson won't be able to survive that again.
Best-case: ASU is 2-0 before traveling to Wisconsin on Sept. 18. The Sun Devils lose the next three, but all are close and Erickson pulls off a mini-upset at Washington on Oct. 9. ASU follows that up with wins at California and Washington State to improve 4-3 before going to USC. Since the Trojans always seem to lose Pac-10 games that they shouldn't, the Devils go to 5-3 and close with a loss to Stanford and wins over UCLA and Arizona to become bowl eligible.
Worst-case: ASU still opens 2-0, but doesn't sniff another victory until Oct. 30, in a home game with Washington State. The Sun Devils finish 2-10 and Erickson announces his retirement the week of the Arizona game in hopes of getting an emotional upset in his finale.
Lane Kiffin: USC vs. UCLA (Dec. 4)
Does anyone really think new USC AD Pat Haden is pleased with Kiffin as his football coach?
OK, anyone outside of the Kiffin family? Didn't think so.
Kiffin lacks any serious coaching cred, and a loss to cross-town rival UCLA could be the tipping point for Haden, who'll be evaluating Kiffin on more than just on-the-field success.
Best-case: Since the Trojans can't play in a bowl game this season, USC could keep everyone talking by going 12-0. It's not unrealistic to think this could happen.
Worst-case: USC continues to lose a game or two in the Pac-10 that it shouldn't. Now, if the Trojans start losing non-conference games like the one at Minnesota on Sept. 18, a seven-win season could become a reality for Kiffin.
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