Top 5 Hot Seats for BCS Conference Head Coaches

Austin FoxCorrespondent IIJuly 20, 2011

Top 5 Hot Seats for BCS Conference Head Coaches

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    Every year, a number of coaches come into the season on the hot seat.

    Some survive, some don't. 

    This year will be no different, as some big-time coaches may have to have a great season just to keep their jobs.

    Most of the coaches on this list simply haven't won enough lately, while others have gotten into trouble with the NCAA. 

    Whatever the case, here's a look at the five BCS-conference head coaches who have the hottest seats in college football.

5. Dabo Swinney (Clemson)

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    Year after year, Clemson seemingly has excellent offensive talent, but always underachieves.

    When they came into the 2008 season ranked No. 9 in the country, it finally looked like they were ready to have a breakout year under Tommy Bowden. 

    However, they continued to underachieve, as they got off to a 3-3 start, causing Bowden to resign midway through the season.  Dabo Swinney was promoted to serve as interim head coach, and after leading Clemson to a 4-2 regular season finish, he received a five-year extension.

    During the 2009 season, Swinney led Clemson to the ACC Championship Game with a 9-5 finish. 

    However, this season was a huge disappointment as Clemson finished 6-7, their first losing season since 1998. 

    The most embarrassing statistic is that their rushing attack somehow finished 79th in the country, with talented backs such as Jamie Harper and Andre Ellington in the backfield.

    The pressure will really be on Swinney to win this year. If Clemson has another season like last year, he will almost certainly be fired. 

    However, he may have bought himself a little time, because he put together one of the best recruiting classes in the country this year. 

    Amazingly, Clemson signed four five-star players, more than any other team in the country.  They signed two of the nation's best linebackers in Tony Steward and Stephone Anthony, and two of the best offensive players in Mike Bellamy and Sammy Watkins.

    If Swinney can't win with that talent, then he will surely be fired.  Whether or not he sticks around to coach those kids when they're impact players is the big question.

    As mentioned earlier, Clemson almost always has plenty of talent on offense, and this year will be no different. 

    Some fans may worry about quarterback play now that Kyle Parker is gone, but Tajh Boyd will be just fine.  He has phenomenal athletic ability, and it wouldn't be a surprise to see him turn into one of the best players in the ACC.

    Clemson is loaded at running back again, with Andre Ellington leading the way.  Roderick McDowell will be great backing Ellington up.

    DeAndre Hopkins is returning at receiver and is a star in the making.  Jaron Brown, Bryce McNeal, and Marquan Jones will be the other main receivers.

    The defense has plenty of playmakers with Brandon Thompson on the defensive line and Rashard Hall at safety.

    This team has enough talent to have a good season, but it will be tough for anyone to overtake Florida State in the Atlantic Division.  Swinney doesn't have to win the division to keep his job, but he better not disappoint either. 

    If this team underachieves again, he will surely be fired.  However, don't be surprised to see Clemson have a decent year.

4. Dennis Erickson (Arizona State)

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    When Dennis Erickson became head football coach at Arizona State in 2007, he led the Sun Devils to a 10-3 record. 

    They began the season 8-0 and were realistic contenders for the BCS National Title Game, but they lost three of their last five games. 

    Regardless, the fan base couldn't have been happier, as Erickson looked like he had turned Arizona State into a national contender.

    The success didn't last. 

    In 2008, Erickson's second season, the team finished with a very disappointing 5-7 record.  Fans hoped that 2008 was a fluke and that the team would bounce back in 2009. 

    Things got worse.

    Arizona State finished 4-8 in 2009, which included a six-game losing streak to end the year.

    This year, the Sun Devils failed to make a bowl again, even though they went 6-6.  They weren't bowl-eligible because out of their six wins, two came against FCS schools (Portland State and Northern Arizona).

    With the magic all but forgotten from Erickson's 10-3 debut season, the pressure is on him to win again. 

    Most analysts think Arizona State will do just fine this season.  In fact, most are picking them to win the Pac-12 South. 

    This seems a little eccentric to me, as it looks a lot more likely that Utah will win the division.  Even Arizona State's biggest rival, Arizona, should have a good chance to compete.

    Erickson doesn't necessarily have to win the South to save his job, but he does have to have a good season. 

    The offense looks fine, with Brock Osweiler leading the air-raid attack that the Sun Devils run.  The defense has arguably the best linebacker in the country in Vontaze Burfict.

    This 2011 team may have talent, but they'll have to prove that they can win consistently again. 

    Erickson won't only have to win games, but he'll have to win over the fan base as well.  It really became apparent that he had fallen out of favor with the fans when one of his former players, Kerry Taylor, recently came out and publicly called for his firing.

    Without a doubt, Erickson will be under a lot of pressure this year.  It would probably be a disappointment to Arizona State fans if they didn't win their division.  This is the perfect year for them to do it with USC ineligible and Utah being new to the conference. 

    However, I don't think they're good enough to win it, and it wouldn't be a surprise if Erickson is fired at the end of the year.

3. Rick Neuheisel (UCLA)

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    Rick Neuheisel took over at UCLA after the 2007 season, when Karl Dorrell was fired as head coach.

    Hoping to bring UCLA to national prominence, Neuheisel made some bold comments once he took over, mainly regarding Pete Carroll and USC.  At the time, USC had been dominating the Pac-10, and Neuheisel confidently announced that the dominance would be coming to an end.

    UCLA kicked off the 2008 season with a thrilling overtime win over 18th-ranked Tennessee, but that was the highlight of the season.  They ended up finishing 4-8—which included a 28-7 loss to USC—to end the regular season.

    The 2009 season was a little better, but not by much. 

    The Bruins finished 7-6, but had the very bad conference record of 3-6.

    This season, UCLA took a big step back and went 4-8, causing the pressure to really intensify on Neuheisel.

    Entering 2011, he has one of the hottest seats in America, and simply has to produce.

    The quarterback position has been a problem for Neuheisel every year he has been at UCLA, and this year looks to be no different. 

    Whether the job goes to Kevin Prince or Richard Brehaut, quarterback play just has to improve this season.  Both candidates saw plenty of playing time last year, but neither was impressive.

    The running game will definitely be the strength of the UCLA offense, with Johnathan Franklin leading the way. 

    He rushed for well over 1,000 yards last year and should be one of the better backs in the country this fall.

    Losing Rahim Moore, who was one of the best safeties in the country last year, definitely hurts, but Aaron Hester returns to lead a very young secondary.

    Without a doubt, Neuheisel has to win this year if he wants to save his job. 

    However, with the quarterback situation such a mess, it doesn't look like they'll be able to compete in the Pac-12 South.  It would almost be a surprise if Neuheisel is still coaching the Bruins in 2012.

2. Houston Nutt (Ole Miss)

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    After Houston Nutt led Arkansas to an 8-4 regular season finish in 2007, he suddenly resigned three days later. 

    There had been endless controversy surrounding Nutt, and even allegations began coming out against him, just one of the many factors that led to his resignation.

    Days later, he accepted the head coaching job at another SEC West school, Ole Miss.

    In his first season of 2008, Ole Miss overachieved mightily, going 9-4. 

    One of the many highlights of that season was when Ole Miss traveled to Gainesville, Florida, and won, giving the eventual national champs their only loss of the year.  Another highlight was a blowout win in Baton Rouge, in which the Rebels defeated 18th-ranked LSU 31-13.  Ole Miss capped the season off with a trip to the Cotton Bowl, with yet another impressive win.  They defeated seventh-ranked Texas Tech, 47-34.

    Even though 2008 was a great debut for Houston Nutt, the media got too caught up in the hype and ranked Ole Miss as a preseason Top-Five team coming into 2009. 

    The hype was simply undeserved, and it showed.  They got off to a 3-2 start, and ended the season at 9-4, the same record they had finished with the previous year.

    Even though 2008 and 2009 were both good seasons for Ole Miss, in 2010 everything fell apart. 

    The team went 4-8, and only won one conference game.  Jeremiah Masoli, who had been a star at quarterback for Oregon, transferred in and played quarterback for the Rebels.  However, he did not look like the same player he was with Oregon. He was simply not very good this year.

    Masoli is gone, but Ole Miss actually has another quarterback transferring in. 

    Barry Brunetti, who was a highly touted recruit coming out of high school, signed to play at West Virginia but has since left them to join the Rebels.  He will most likely start at quarterback this year, but how effective he will be is yet to be seen.  

    Brandon Bolden simply has to have another great year running the football if this offense wants to be successful.

    There isn't much hope for Ole Miss in 2011, as almost everyone is picking them to finish in last place in the SEC West. 

    To be honest, it would be a shock if they didn't finish in last, as every team in their division looks to be much better than they are. 

    Houston Nutt may have to make a bowl game to save his job, but with the schedule they have, it looks nearly impossible to win six games. 

    Unless they have a very good year, Houston Nutt will probably end up being fired.

1. Butch Davis (North Carolina)

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    Cheating and NCAA violations have been the story of college football the past few years, and North Carolina has been right in the middle of it. 

    The trouble began last year, when the NCAA found out that some Tar Heel players may have received improper benefits from agents. 

    As a result of the investigation, 13 North Carolina players were suspended for the 2010 opener against LSU.  Even though the Tar Heels had lost a large portion of their play-makers for this game, they still managed to keep it close, losing 30-24. 

    The controversy surrounding the players was a huge distraction all season, but North Carolina still managed to go 8-5.

    In fact, they've gone 8-5 every year Butch Davis has been at North Carolina, except in his first year of 2007, when they went 4-8. 

    Davis has made North Carolina a consistent winner, which is pretty impressive, considering the state of the program before he arrived.

    He has done a great job in Chapel Hill, but unfortunately his legacy will be remembered by the NCAA violations his players were involved in.  In college sports, seemingly no coach, no matter how good of a job they've done, survives major violations from the NCAA. 

    They are almost always fired or they "resign."  Unfortunately, Davis will probably meet the same fate.

    North Carolina actually could have a pretty good team this year. 

    The dysfunctional career of T.J. Yates has finally come to an end, and Bryn Renner will be taking over at quarterback.  This could potentially be an upgrade. 

    Ryan Houston will be fine running the football, as he is finally a senior and has plenty of experience.

    The defense should be very good as usual, with stars such as Quinton Coples, Kevin Reddick, and Charles Brown.

    However, it looks like there is almost nothing Davis can do to save his job. 

    North Carolina could win ten games this year, and he would probably still be fired.  Even though Davis may not have had any control over what his players did, the NCAA rules regarding players and punishments has turned into a joke, and unfortunately, he will end up paying the price.