Top 10 list: About those Hot Seat Rankings . . .

As most of you have probably seen by now, my colleague Dennis Dodd posted his annual Hot Seat Rankings this week. There is a lot of interesting stuff in here. I agree with most of it, but I had a few differences of opinion. This week’s Top 10: Biggest quibbles with the Hot Seat Rankings.


1. Frank Spaziani, Boston College – Should be much higher than 4.0: Things that are not even close to a “4” right now: Jessica Biel; the basketball position of Muggsy Bogues and the job status of the BC football coach. Whatever the hottest number for the hot-seat ranking gauge goes up to, that’s where Spaziani’s at entering the 2012 season. The Eagles had won at least eight games for eight years in a row till Spaziani was handed the job and they'd won 30 the previous three seasons. Since then, they’ve won eight, then seven and then four last year. He’s also had significant staff chemistry problems. Among them, his confrontation with then-OC Kevin Rogers in a situation, where BC sources told me, the head man clearly crossed the line. None of that bodes well for a program not used to being at the bottom of its conference. Spaziani needs to win a lot more games this fall or else he’ll be out of there by winter.


2. Chip Kelly, Oregon – Should be a lot lower than 3.0: His ranking jumped from 0.0 the previous year, and this was after leading the Ducks to a Rose Bowl win. I just don’t buy it. Even if he flirted with an NFL job, he still doesn’t seem like anything higher than a 1.0. Kelly also landed more coveted recruits this winter than the Oregon program ever has. Beating USC for local kid De’Anthony Thomas a year ago was huge. As was beating everyone for California lineman Arik Armstead. On top of that, the heat from the NCAA recruiting investigation also seems like it has cooled.


3. DeWayne Walker, New Mexico State – Should be lower than 4.5: His record in three seasons there (9-29) looks horrible, but it’s N.M. State and the program has made sizable progress. They went from two wins in 2010 to four wins last year. They even won a game on the road against a Big Ten program. (O.K., it was Minnesota but still.) I’d have set Walker at a 3.5, not a 4.5.


4. Joker Phillips, Kentucky – Should be higher than 3.5: Last season did finish on a positive with the Cats finally beating Tennessee to go 5-7. Not a great record but for Kentucky football, it’s not embarrassing either. Phillips is 11-14 in two seasons, but just 4-12 in SEC play. Dodd has him at 3.5. I’d go at least 4.0, maybe 4.5. This is a big swing season for Phillips. As I said a few weeks back, three years is the new five years. He can’t afford much of a backwards step if at all and the schedule doesn’t afford much wiggle room. His index probably goes up to a 5.0 if the Cats lose their opener in Louisville because if they drop that game, it’s hard to see them getting more than four wins this fall.


5. Tommy Tuberville, Texas Tech – Should be higher than 3.5: When a program that hasn’t missed out on a bowl in over a decade goes 5-7, it doesn’t look good. But what looks a lot worse is when you also get hammered at home by Iowa State, 41-7 or lose by 60 at home to Oklahoma State or by 24 to Baylor. That was a dreadful second season. His margin for error eroded significantly in a very short time. Tuberville needs to get it going ASAP, especially since former Red Raider assistant Sonny Dykes looks like a better option by the minute. The Red Raiders non-conference schedule is the easiest in the country, but can Tech get four more wins in league play to secure at least another season for Tub?


6. Les Miles, LSU – Should be a lot lower than 2.0: I get that LSU is a pressure job and that the Tigers turned in a clunker of a performance in the BCS title game, but barring a disaster—like a Texas in 2010 season—Miles is in a very cozy spot. As you’d expect a guy who has won 24 games in the past two seasons while playing in the country’s toughest league should be. Remember Miles’ teams have beaten 13 ranked opponents in the past two seasons.


7. Mike Riley, Oregon State – Should be higher than 3.0: It feels uncomfortable to say a guy who has done as good a job with a program like Oregon State’s for as long as Riley has that he could be getting pushed out, but the Beavers seem to be heading in the wrong direction. A program that had won eight games between 2006-09, won just eight the past two seasons combined. They lost their opener last season to Sac State. Riley can’t afford to miss out on a bowl game for a third consecutive season.


8. Ruffin McNeill, ECU – Should be higher than 2.5: The Pirates had won 26 games the previous three years before McNeill took over. Since then, they’ve won six and five games respectively. He needs this program to at least get back to the post-season now because the pressure around the program is starting to build.


9. Gary Anderson, Utah State – Should be lower than a 2.5: The previous four seasons before Anderson arrived, USU went 9-38. Last season—Anderson’s third year at the program—the Aggies went to a bowl game. They also almost beat defending national champion Auburn on the road in the opener despite playing with a freshman QB. They also came within 16 points of going 12-1.


10. Mack Brown, Texas – Should be higher than 2.5: This is the part of the Top 10 where truthfully it’s getting really nitpicky. Realistically, Brown seems more like a 3.0. Of course, it’s not that long ago that Brown led Texas to its first national title in decades. Such an effort should give Brown the benefit of the doubt to leave UT on his own terms barring anything sort of a scandal one might assume, but it doesn’t always work like that these days. Look at some of the coaches who have been forced out in the past decade. The Horns had that disastrous 2010 (5-7) but Brown made big staff changes, and despite shaky QB play, went 8-5, finishing strong. Unless they backslide, the hot-seat talk should subside.

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