There is almost no doubt Whittingham, 48, will move on to a "Big Six" job if he is able to get the Utes into a BCS bowl. He likely will be in high demand even if he falls a bit short of delivering the school's second BCS appearance.
Does that script sound familiar? You know – a coach taking Utah to tremendous heights, then leaving for a glamour job. Urban Meyer followed the same formula in 2004, when he took the Utes to a 12-0 record that included a victory over Pittsburgh in the Fiesta Bowl. Whittingham was Utah's defensive coordinator for 10 years before taking over the top spot when Meyer left for Florida. Meyer coached Utah for two seasons, going 22-2 from 2003-04.
Whittingham is 29-14 in three-plus seasons in Salt Lake City, with three bowls and a fourth trip beckoning. And as with Meyer in 2004, Whittingham is primed to enjoy a breakout season with his best team yet.
In some respects, Whittingham is a more proven coach than Meyer was at this juncture. Meyer was at Bowling Green and Utah for two seasons each, never really establishing a program nor having an extended run of success at either school. Whittingham has shown his staying power and ability to maintain what he inherited.
The Utes have gotten better each season under Whittingham, going 7-5 in 2005, 8-5 in 2006 and 9-4 in 2007. This season could feature a perfect record for Whittingham, a native of California and former BYU linebacker who coached at Idaho State before joining Utah's staff. He would be a natural to fill any head-coaching job in the West. If you connect the dots, it's easy to see Whittingham would be a terrific fit at Washington.
Whittingham's defensive acumen could help cure a Huskies program that has been soft on that side of the ball. Washington ranks 119th (507 ypg) out of 120 Division I-A schools in total defense this season. In 2007, the defense ranked 104th (446.4 ypg); it was 95th (379.8 ypg) in 2006 and 94th (419.1 ypg) in 2005.
And should Whittingham leave, don't be shocked if offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig was promoted.
• Chuck Long is struggling to get San Diego State over the hump. He is in his third season and is just 8-20. The Aztecs are 1-3 this season, though they are coming off their first win (Idaho) of the season. Given the rest of the schedule, San Diego State could finish 1-11.
If a change is made, don't be shocked if former Minnesota coach Glen Mason becomes a prime candidate. The hire makes sense, because the program needs a veteran hand. The Aztecs haven't been to a bowl since 1998, when Ted Tollner was coach. The best SDSU has managed since is a 6-6 mark in 2003.
No way can anyone argue with Mason's ability to turn losers into winners, having done so at Kent State, Kansas and Minnesota en route to compiling a 123-121-1 mark from 1986-2006. Mason, 57, has been working the past two years as an analyst with The Big Ten Network. He also works as a vice president of business development for Marquette Asset Management in the Twin Cities.
San Diego State A.D. Jeff Schemmel was a Minnesota associate athletic director from 1991-2003. In fact, Schemmel was heavily involved in the process of hiring Mason in 1997.
• It's only a matter of time before some school snatches up Tulsa offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn. His attack paced the nation in 2007 and is No. 1 so far this season, averaging 600.8 yards and 54.8 points – with first-year starter at quarterback.
Malzahn's 2007 attack was the first in NCAA history to have a 5,000-yard passer, a 1,000-yard rusher and three 1,000-yard receivers. And that direct-snap-to-the-running back formation that is becoming more prolific? Thank Malzahn.
• Keep an eye on Toledo offensive coordinator Chris Hedden. He is in his first season running the Rockets' attack. Hedden also coaches Toledo's receivers, having helped develop the likes of Stephen Williams, Nick Moore and Chris Hopkins during his tenure.
GRADING THE "BIG SIX"
Did your school – and conference – pass last week?
THREE QUESTIONS WITH .... KANSAS DEFENSIVE COORDINATOR CLINT BOWEN
HOW HAVE YOU PUT YOUR STAMP ON THIS DEFENSE?
Last year, when Coach (Bill) Young was here running the defense, we started to move toward playing more nickel. I have taken that to another step. It's all about getting more speed on the field to match up with the spread offenses in this conference. We sacrifice some size, but we think it's worth it.
WHAT AREA OF THE DEFENSE ARE YOU WATCHING?
I am looking for more from our linemen. We need some guys to beat their man one-on-one in pass rushing situations. We need pressure off the edges to help out our back seven. But I like the way we are coming together.
WHAT PART OF THE DEFENSE HAS PLEASED YOU THE MOST?
I have been very happy with the play of our safeties. (Strong safety) Darrell Stuckey has been good. He excels in run support and pass coverage. (Free safety) Justin Thornton has been terrific in helping stop the run. He's a guy who plays downhill.
But Carroll seemingly gets off scot-free for losses to inferior foes. In 2006, the Trojans got dumped by Oregon State and UCLA. In 2007, there was the shocking upset to 41-point underdog Stanford. This season, we already have seen USC lose to an unranked Oregon State team that had a losing record.
Yes, Carroll has national championships, but is it OK for the coach with arguably the most-talented roster in the country to annually lose games he isn't supposed to?