January 16, 2011

Roundtable: Whose seat will be hottest in 2011?

At the College Football Roundtable, we ask each member of the college football coverage staff for his opinion about a topic in the sport. We had two questions this week, one Saturday and one today.

TODAY'S QUESTION: Which coach will be on the hottest seat entering the 2011 season?

Olin Buchanan's answer:
Numerous coaches will enter next season on the hot seat, but the chair of UCLA coach Rick Neuheisel should be on fire. Remember all the hope three years ago in Westwood? Remember the newspaper ads proclaiming an end to USC's football monopoly in Los Angeles? Well, the monopoly may be ending, but not because of UCLA. The Bruins are 15-22 in three seasons under Neuheisel. Twice, they've managed just four wins. Neuheisel's predecessor always had at least six wins. If UCLA isn't a factor in the conference Pac-12 South Division race, expect a coaching change.

Tom Dienhart's answer:
Georgia's Mark Richt, Texas' Mack Brown and Clemson's Dabo Swinney will have a sense of urgency. Others from "Big Six" conferences who need a good season are Washington State's Paul Wulff, Purdue's Danny Hope, Arizona State's Dennis Erickson and Rutgers' Greg Schiano. But I think UCLA's Rick Neuheisel will be under the most pressure. In three seasons at his alma mater, Neuheisel is 15-22 overall and 8-19 in the Pac-10. His lone winning season was in 2009, when he posted a 7-6 record. Inexplicably, Neuheisel has been unable to develop a quarterback or an offense during his Westwood tenure. And it's that lack of an offense that may cost him his job. UCLA ranked 104th in the nation in scoring (20.2 ppg) this season. There are rumblings Neuheisel may switch offensive coordinators, with Norm Chow perhaps leaving for Utah. Neuheisel already has dismissed his defensive coordinator. The next person out the door may be Neuheisel if the Bruins fail to make a bowl in 2011.

David Fox's answer:
This has to be Georgia's Mark Richt, right? I'd be tempted to say Dabo Swinney at Clemson, but at least he shook up his staff. So far, Richt is going into next season with the same coaches he had this past season, when the Bulldogs went 6-7 and failed to score a touchdown against UCF in the Liberty Bowl. Maybe Richt knows stability will serve his team better than change -- especially with a rising sophomore quarterback -- but that might not sit well with fans. The Bulldogs could be in for a rough start, too, with Boise State and South Carolina in the first two games of the season.

Mike Huguenin's answer:
I'm going to chicken out and say it's a tie between Georgia's Mark Richt and UCLA's Rick Neuheisel. The Bulldogs had a losing record this past season, the first time that has happened under Richt. But the Bulldogs have taken some backward steps the past few seasons, and right now, they're just another SEC team that hopes to get back near the top. As for the Bruins, they have had losing records in two of Neuheisel's three seasons. And for an offense-minded coach, Neuheisel has trotted out some mighty bad offenses. UCLA's quarterback play, for the most part, has been abysmal in Neuheisel's tenure. Archrival USC is on probation, and the Bruins need to make major strides while the Trojans are shackled. If the Bruins don't get to a bowl this fall, Neuheisel is gone.

Steve Megargee's answer:
The events of the postseason had to put even more heat on Georgia's Mark Richt, whose job security already was tenuous. First came a Liberty Bowl loss to Conference USA member UCF that dropped the Bulldogs' final record to 6-7. Then Auburn became the fourth SEC school to win a national title in the past five years -- rival Florida has won two during that stretch -- making Georgia fans wonder when the Bulldogs might start competing at that level again. When you coach in a conference that has produced the past five national champions, you can't have your program going backward. Yet that's exactly the issue facing Richt. Georgia is 14-12 over the past two seasons. Georgia likely needs to go at least 8-4 in 2011 for Richt to keep his job. Frankly, in this case, eight wins might not be enough.



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