College Football Hot Seat: Year Three of Rick Neuheisel Off To Bad Start

Tom PerryCorrespondent ISeptember 6, 2010

College Football Hot Seat: Year Three of Rick Neuheisel Off To Bad Start

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    It's just one week, but the Hot Seat Rankings have been shuffled a bit, and include a number of new faces following some unexpected results.

    For some coaches, it will take more than one opening-season victory to move off the hot seat. However, there were a few others (e.g. Lane Kiffin, Dan Hawkins and Tim Brewster) who are afforded a temporary stay for quality victories.

    What's pretty clear, even one week into the season, is coaches like Paul Wulff, Ron Zook and Mike Locksley may never get off the hot seat. But whether they return in 2011 may remain a financial decision by their respective institutions, and less an administrative call on quality of performance.

10. Rich Rodriguez, Michigan

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    Michigan's 30-10 victory over Connecticut is exactly what Rodriguez needed to quiet his critics. However, many remember how the Wolverines opened 2009 4-0, only to finish 5-7.

    With Denard Robinson at quarterback and Michael Shaw at running back, Michigan's offense is going to be electrifying this fall. The Wolverines gashed the UConn defense like Rodriguez's West Virginia teams used to do.

    The best news to come out of the season-opening win was the play of the defense, including nose tackle Mike Martin, who was downright dominating.

    It would be easy to pull Rodriguez from this list, but with the NCAA sanctions and last year's free fall, it's going to take more than one impressive win to save him. A win this weekend against Notre Dame will make it easier on the embattled coach.

    Week 2 prediction: Michigan 24, Notre Dame 16

9. Houston Nutt, Ole Miss

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    The odds of Nutt losing his job this season are slim, but following a huge double overtime upset loss to Jacksonville State in Oxford the coach must right the ship soon.

    Nutt has built up some cache by going 18-8 in his first two seasons and reaching the Cotton Bowl twice. However, a disastrous season could set him up to be a fall guy in 2011.

    The defense let the Rebels down on Saturday and that's a surprise considering six starters are back, including one of the SEC's strongest lines.

    Mississippi should get to 1-1 this weekend with a road trip to Tulane.

    Week 2 prediction: Ole Miss 44, Tulane 32

8. Bob Toledo, Tulane

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    The Green Wave squeaked past Southeastern Louisiana 27-21 thanks to some late heroics by freshman running back Orleans Darkwa, who scored the game winner in the fourth quarter. He finished with three touchdowns.

    Toledo is confident he has added the appropriate talent to compete in Conference USA, but a six-point win over an FCS team doesn't build confidence.

    Tulane may be willing to give their coach another season to prove he has the young talent, but the Green Wave could easily go on an 11-game losing streak starting with Ole Miss on Saturday.

    If Toledo is correct that Tulane is about to turn the corner than a five- or six-win season is about the best anyone could predict right now.

    Week 2 prediction: Ole Miss 44, Tulane 32

7. Greg McMackin, Hawaii

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    The Warriors actually played well against USC, but fell 49-36 late Thursday night. The third-year coach should be able to build off the competitive game with one of the nation's elite programs.

    Hawaii amassed 588 total yards of offense, with 459 coming through the air. Quarterback Bryant Moniz completed 18-of-36 passes for 269 yards and one score before leaving the game with an injury. He missed the first practice following the loss to USC, but reports say he should be fine for this week's game.

    McMackin needs a win this week, though; as Hawaii travels to Colorado the following week and a 0-3 start outside of the Western Athletic Conference is not a good way to start for a coach on the hot seat.

    Week 2 prediction: Hawaii 29, Army 24

6. Ralph Friedgen, Maryland

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    With Maryland's 17-14 victory Monday over Navy, Friedgen is in much better shape than he was 24 hours ago. His defense played an inspired game and maintained a potent Midshipmen offense.

    The Terrapins, who went 2-10 last year, entered the game as underdogs against a Navy team that went 10-4.

    Friedgen has been quoted many times as saying the Terrapins luck was terrible last season and was part of the reason they struggled. If the opener is a sign for 2010, Maryland may get more breaks this season.

    Friedgen will need many more breaks to keep his job ... if he wants it in 2011.

    Week 2 prediction: Maryland 42, Morgan State 24

5. Ron Zook, Illinois

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    For three quarters of the opening game, Zook was coaching like a man who knows his job is on the line. The Fighting Illini were clinging to a slim lead over Missouri entering the fourth quarter when the wheels fell off.

    Missouri scored 13-unanswered fourth-quarter points to pull out a 23-13 victory, which gives the Tigers a six-game sweep of the neutral-site rivalry game.

    Zook's prospects would have been elevated greatly with a win over Missouri, but the focus the next two weeks is on winning the Illinois state championship (Southern Illinois on Sept. 11 and Northern Illinois on Sept. 18).

    When conference action begins, the Illini have a treacherous three-game stretch with Ohio State (Oct. 2), at Penn State (Oct. 9) and at Michigan State (Oct. 16).

    Week 2 prediction: Illinois 23, Southern Illinois 7

4. Rick Neuheisel, UCLA

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    Neuheisel was a borderline candidate for the Hot Seat Rankings in preseason, but a 31-22 loss at Kansas State to open the season will garner enough negative attention.

    He could quickly exit the list if the Bruins can rebound next week at home against Pac-10 rival Stanford.

    The defense was a huge disappointment in Manhattan, Kan., but it's time for Neuheisel to realize Kevin Prince isn't good enough to be his starting quarterback. Prince completed just 9-of-22 passes in the loss.

    Neuheisel's third season with his alma mater is not going in the right direction so far.

    Week 2 prediction: Stanford 30, UCLA 22

3. Todd Dodge, North Texas

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    Dodge should have been on this list last week, so he makes his first appearance at No. 3 following a 35-10 loss to Clemson. Dodge, a high school coaching legend in Texas, hasn't been able to duplicate the magic in college.

    He's now 5-32 through three-plus seasons with the Mean Green. Success for Dodge will be measured in small increments. A four-win season may be all he needs to return for a fifth season.

    Finding four victories on the schedule is difficult.

    Quarterback Nathan Tune showed some flashes of success in the loss. He completed 19-of-29 for 240 yards and a touchdown, but he also threw two interceptions. North Texas also got 120 rushing yards from Lance Dunbar.

    Week 2 prediction: Rice 32, North Texas 20

2. Paul Wulff, Washington State

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    Wulff is now 3-23 in two-plus years in Pullman and it's pretty clear he'll still be in single-digit victories when 2010 is complete.

    The season did not start off well for the Cougars. Running back James Montgomery, a Cal transfer, fumbled on the game's first play. It took Oklahoma State just two plays to score en route to a 65-17 thumping in Stillwater, Okla.

    Quarterback Jeff Tuel did manage to throw for 212 yards and one score, while completing less than 50 percent of his passes.

    The loss was the Cougars' worst in a season opener since a 49-0 loss to USC in 1967.

    Week 2 prediction: Montana State 28, Washington State 24

1. Mike Locksley, New Mexico

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    You'd be hard pressed to find anyone with any real knowledge about college football who didn't expect New Mexico to struggle at Oregon in the season opener. Losing 72-0 makes it hard for Locksley to argue he's got the Lobos headed in the right direction.

    Unless Locksley knows something the rest of us don't, it's hard to see any wins on the schedule. Most coaches should be afforded more than two seasons before evaluating their progress, but Locksley forfeited some of the normal expectations with his off-the-field issues last year.

    If the embarrassing losses continue to mount Locksley's head coaching days are likely done after two years.

    Week 2 prediction: Texas Tech 45, New Mexico 10