|It hasn't been pretty for West Virginia's defense this season, prompting plenty of questions on how to fix it. (US Presswire)|
Life is fickle in the college football coaching world. One day you're the greatest, the next you're the goat. For all the glory that a coach gets -- the Gatorade baths, the connections with players, the money -- there's the downside of fan and administrator pressure from all angles if things start to slip.
One month's hot name could be collecting unemployment by the end of the season. It's the nature of the business and one reason why the hours are long and dollar figures equate to hazard pay. Just two years after winning a national title, Auburn coach Gene Chizik sits with a 6-11 record since raising the crystal ball in 2010 and can't sit down with his pants being toasted. Saturday's loss to Vanderbilt gave him a 22-35 mark without quarterback Cam Newton. He's just one of many head and assistant coaches dealing with disappointing seasons and primed to suffer the consequences.
"You can look at all the points and everything, but the bottom line is we made the stops when we needed to," West Virginia co-defensive coordinator Joe DeForest said following a 48-45 win over Texas. "And we did."
Little did DeForest know that would be the last time the Mountaineers would stop anyone. In two losses to Texas Tech and Kansas State, his defense has given up 104 points and 1,155 yards and come dangerously close to allowing a point every snap (it's a point every .78 snaps to be exact, nearly unheard of). Struggles were certainly expected as Jeff Casteel took his 3-3-5 stack defense to Arizona and left behind an odd mix of personnel, but nobody quite expected this in West Virginia's first year in the Big 12. Toss in the fact that Dana Holgorsen's offense has gone from fifth gear to neutral in record time, and gutting through this adversity might be harder than once thought on the old country roads.
|Nobody said it would be easy in righting the ship at Texas but Mack Brown is trying. (US Presswire)|
Nobody, however, has seen their stock take a hit this season like Mack Brown and his young defensive coordinator Manny Diaz. Everybody was buzzing about the Longhorns after a relatively young unit held five of their final seven opponents under 25 points last season. With nearly everybody back, Texas has given up 35-plus points in four straight games as it has staggered into the 100s nationally in most defensive categories. The 197 points allowed in Big 12 play this season are as many as the 2009 team gave up before the BCS title game. Earlier in the year, the question was whether Diaz would be the defensive coordinator in Austin in 2013 or a head coach somewhere. Now, it's whether he'll be on staff at all by the end of the season. He has made adjustments at halftime, but one can't help but notice players are out of position more often than they are in a spot to make tackles.
Brown has found the seat hotter than ever during his tenure. After a promising start and a chance at cracking the top 10, a home loss to West Virginia and blowout at the hands of rival Oklahoma have fans calling for his white-haired head as another disappointing season on the Forty Acres looks all but certain. Six-point wins over Baylor at home aren't helping matters, nor is his insistence that a lack of defense is simply the way college football, and especially the Big 12, has become. On Monday, he brought up another excuse by questioning if the Longhorn Network's access to the program is hurting the team on the field.
"I didn't ask for it,'' Brown said. "We were given a deal that we had no input in."
Fact is, the head coach at a place like Texas does have some input. LHN is a terrific recruiting tool and further adds to the already-rich coffers. Mike Riley has completely open practices in Corvallis, and that doesn't seem to hurt Oregon State as the No. 7 team in the country.
If Brown goes 5-4 in the Big 12 this season (a real possibility), his conference winning percentage would be only .006 ahead of former Texas coach Fred Akers, who left after a sub-.500 season and faced similar pressure. The difference between the two now? Brown got an an extension one season after going 5-7. Athletic director DeLoss Dodds has dismissed any talk of a coaching change. But if things continue to track as they have, enough boosters and board members will make enough ruckus at some point and have new blood brought in.
I'm still not convinced a change will be made unless things get Chizik-bad at Texas. Still, it's hard not to see 2013 as a possible make-or-break year. And that might be what Brown is counting on when he tries to calm the restless. Sophomore quarterback David Ash has shown rapid improvement from a year ago (12 touchdowns, three interceptions in 2012). With a number of key players back next year and another loaded recruiting class, it's not hard to see the Longhorns become the favorites in a league that sees seven of this year's starting quarterbacks gone next year.
What will the future hold? There are still plenty of games left to determine the fate of coaches across the country. But at this point, more than a few have stood out. Here's a coaching edition of the good, the bad and the ugly.
Mark Banker (Oregon State defensive coordinator)
Defense has been a key component in the miraculous turnaround in Corvallis, and longtime assistant Banker is the chief reason. Always a good schemer, he has gotten more production from unknown talent than just about anybody in the country. Jordan Poyer is a terrific cornerback that is second in FBS in interceptions, and the defensive line might be the most underrated unit in the country. With an offense that is inconsistent, the Beavers have ridden their nasty defense to an undefeated record.
|Getting Duke to a bowl game is no easy feat, but David Cutcliffe got it done in Durham. (US Presswire)|
David Cutcliffe (Duke head coach)
It has been 18 years since the Blue Devils have been to a bowl, but they're headed to one this season after becoming eligible in the most dramatic way possible -- with a win over North Carolina on Saturday. Bruce Feldman has a good piece on the work that Cutcliffe has done with this program to get them this far.
Bob Davie (New Mexico head coach)
Most thought the longtime TV commentator was crazy when he surprisingly took over a downtrodden program at New Mexico after 10 years in the booth. The Lobos had won three games in three years and were in complete disarray thanks to Mike Locksley. Yet here the team is, heading into the weekend with a 4-3 record and looking surprisingly tough despite a number of walk-ons in starting roles. Given what he has had to work with, it's possible Davie could be coach of the year if he gets the team to .500.
Tim DeRuyter (Fresno State head coach)
Pat Hill built a great program, but he was out last year after the team tied a school record for losses. Enter the defensive-minded DeRuyter, who has quickly gotten the Bulldogs on the cusp of going to a bowl and has them playing well. Their three losses are to teams with a combined 20-2 record, and both the offense and defense are in the top 30 nationally. The team could finish second in the Mountain West, which is quite the turnaround for a first-time head coach.
Bob Diaco (Notre Dame defensive coordinator)
One of the big reasons why the Irish have landed some big-time defensive talent, Diaco is also proving to be an excellent coordinator this season as the resurgent defense is powering the program to an undefeated record. With the No. 2 scoring defense in the country and a BCS bowl looking all but certain, Diaco is a big reason why the program is in the top five in the country. Plus, he coaches some guy named Manti Te'o so that is a pretty good boost.
Sonny Dykes, Tony Franklin (Head coach/offensive coordinator Louisiana Tech)
You might be better off listing which offensive records these two haven't broken while in Ruston than ones they have. With the No. 1 scoring offense in the nation and an impressive collection of talent that can compete with anybody (just ask Texas A&M), these two have the Bulldogs ranked in the Top 25 and looking like one of the top non-AQ teams in the country.
Art Kaufman (Texas Tech defensive coordinator)
Tommy Tubervile had been searching for the right answers on defense in order to turn around the Red Raiders, and he turned to his old friend, Kaufman, to help resuscitate a bumbling unit in Lubbock. Although the schedule early was weak, there was still notable improvement. Tech gave notice that this defense was for real by being the first to shut down West Virginia. With aggressive schemes, junior college additions and some young talent that has his system down, Kaufman has Texas Tech 89 spots better in total defense than it was at this point last season.
Greg Mattison (Michigan defensive coordinator)
Perhaps the biggest hire that Brady Hoke made upon returning to Michigan, Mattison has been a miracle worker the past two seasons. This year, despite the departure of DT Mike Martin, the front seven has improved as the season has gone on and helped turn the Wolverines into a top-10 defense that has overcome a number of turnovers by the offense. What really might be the kicker to get Mattison on the list is how bad his former team, the Baltimore Ravens, looks on defense this year without him calling plays.
Kirby Smart, Doug Nussmeier (Alabama defensive/offensive coordinator)
Yes, Nick Saban is a big part of why Alabama is No. 1 in the country this year. But don't overlook the work of Smart and Nussmeier. All Smart has done is replace a number of NFL draft picks and managed to somehow still have the best defense in the country. Nussmeier, in his first season at Alabama, has opened up the offense despite fresh faces at wide receiver by bringing along quarterback AJ McCarron and turning him into a legitimate Heisman Trophy threat. It helps to have the best talent, but managing all those five-stars counts for something, and these two have done it at the highest level so far this year.
Bill O'Brien (Penn State head coach)
CBSSports.com's midseason Coach of the Year, O'Brien has been the calming, steadying hand for Penn State as it has gone through the most difficult season in school history. His best work has been with quarterback Matt McGloin, who has gone from laughing stock to leading the Big Ten in passing.
Ed Orgeron (USC defensive line coach/co-defensive coordinator)
Known mostly for his prowess as a recruiter, Orgeron has taken a group that was thought to be the Trojans' weakness and turned it into a strength. USC is in the top 20 in scoring defense and No. 3 in sacks despite a rash of injures throughout the year. Freshman Leonard Williams and end Morgan Breslin have both had breakout years despite being an afterthought to most in the preseason.
Honorable mention to Darrell Hazell at Kent State.
Manny Diaz (Texas defensive coordinator)
See above. At the start of Big 12 play, Texas was 34th in the country in defense. After four weeks, 107th. Yes, they've faced better offenses. But such rapid decline and a lost look on many defenders points to "Manny iaz," as Longhorns fans have joked, and his staff. Perhaps the most damning indictment was safety Kenny Vaccaro saying Oklahoma ran the ball down the team's throat and there was nothing the defense could do about it.
|Expecting another great season, Virginia Tech's defense has struggled mightily under Bud Foster. (US Presswire)|
Bud Foster (Virginia Tech defensive coordinator)
This isn't the same old Hokies team, and struggles on defense are one reason why. Expected to be one of the top units in the conference with eight starters back, this unit has failed to lived up to its billing and is a key reason why Virginia Tech is .500 on the year, giving up a minimum of 27 points in four losses.
June Jones (SMU head coach)
The Mustangs' offense has not been great at all, which falls directly on the run-and-shoot expert. Quarterback Garrett Gilbert looks like he has regressed even further from his days at Texas, and turnovers on defense are the only way they've been able to keep things close in some games. Losing to previously winless Tulane might have been the thing that landed him here.
Mike Leach (Washington State head coach)
The Pirate was expected to swing his sword and get the Cougars back to a bowl. Marquess Wilson, Jeff Tuel and a host of offensive weapons gave him plenty to play with. But so far, it has been a struggle on the Palouse. The offense is No. 91 in the country, the defense even worse and it has been a tough time turning things around at Wazzu.
Tony Levine (Houston head coach)
This team was on the cusp of a BCS bowl bid last year. While some regression was expected, this much really wasn't. The Cougars are 112th in the country in turnover margin, fired their offensive coordinator after the first game and had a rash of mistakes in allowing 72 points to SMU last week. Not how one wants to begin his head coaching career.
Mike London (Virginia head coach)
The ACC Coach of the Year last season after turning around the program to the point of nearly winning the division, London has seen his Virginia team take a step back in 2012. Were it not for Penn State kicking issues, this team might not have an FBS win this year. And some of their losses have not been close. While another 8-4 year would have been nice, this regression is not what was expected.
Jeff Tedford (Cal head coach)
A loss to Nevada to open up the renovated Memorial Stadium is not what a man on the hot seat can afford. The offensive line is a mess and has allowed more sacks than just about everyone (119th in the country), the defense hasn't played well and, at this point, getting to a bowl seems far fetched. There's talent on the team, but it hasn't shown under Tedford this season.
Carl Pelini (Florida Atlantic head coach)
Only a 7-3 win over Wagner prevents Florida Atlantic from being winless this season. The offense can't move the ball at all, and the defense can't pressure opposing quarterbacks. Nobody expected a great year from this team, but nobody saw a horrendous one coming either.
Brent Venables (Clemson defensive coordinator)
The big offseason hire for Dabo Swinney has so far flopped in turning around the Tigers' defense. Clemson's record is OK at 6-1, but the offense has been carrying this team with a defense ranked 91st in FBS and a mess of a defensive line that is spilling over into issues in other areas.
Charlie Weis (Kansas head coach)
Perhaps Weis lands here for not having an FBS win or losing to Rice. Perhaps he lands here because his schematic advantage at offense has given the Jayhawks the seventh-worst offensive unit in college football. But he really takes this spot because he complained about the student newspaper, of all people, for coverage and has acted like he's running an undefeated Notre Dame when he's really far, far away from those days in South Bend.
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Tim Beckman (Illinois head coach)
There was expected to be a transition under Beckman, but nobody thought the Illini would struggle like this. They were just blanked 45-0 by Michigan and have no BCS-caliber wins to hang their hat on.
Phil Bennett (Baylor defensive coordinator)
Dead last in the country in defense. All that needs to be said is the team scored 63 and 50 points and lost twice. Boston College (1-6) gives up 45 yards fewer a game.
Kirk Ferentz (Iowa head coach)
One of the highest-paid coaches in the country and the dean in the Big Ten, Ferentz has presided over a dreadful season for the Hawkeyes. They lost to Central Michigan after allowing a comeback in the final few minutes and were blown out by a Penn State team that was short numerous players. The team has played uninspired, and anybody who hires Greg Davis for an already unimaginative offense deserves a place on this list.
Joe De'Forest, Keith Patterson (West Virginia defensive coordinators)
As for their counterpart at Baylor, it hasn't been a pretty season for the Mountaineers' defense and its coordinators. They escaped with a win at Texas, but it has been all downhill from there after looking like swiss cheese in the secondary for opposing quarterbacks.
Mark D'Onofrio (Miami defensive coordinator)
We'll just pass along this note from David Teel of the Daily Press: the most yards the Hurricanes have allowed the past 50 years -- 397.2 in 1997. After Saturday, the team is 114th in the country and giving up 499.13 yards per game.
Scot Loeffler (Auburn offensive coordinator)
No offensive line, no quarterback, plenty of struggles for a team that won a national title two seasons ago. The transition from Gus Malzahn has been a tough one, and the Tigers are close to the bottom in most categories on this side of the ball. Made worse is how the quarterback play has actually regressed from last season. That's a chief reason why Loeffler winds up down in this section.
Ellis Johnson (Southern Miss head coach)
Southern Miss won Conference USA last year and hasn't had a losing season since 1993. The Golden Eagles are winless and haven't put up much of a fight at all.
Joker Phillips (Kentucky head coach)
A dead man walking, the Wildcats are 1-7 and unlikely to pull out of their tailspin anytime soon. The quarterback position has been a walking wounded. While the team did show some fight against Georgia last week, this isn't close to being an OK team much less one that can compete in the SEC.
John L. Smith (Arkansas head coach)
The Razorbacks have been dreadful on defense and might go from being ranked in the preseason with talent like Tyler Wilson and Knile Davis to sitting at home in December without a bowl. On top of how bad the team has looked this season, Smith's financial troubles have added yet another bizarre twist to a crazy season in Fayetteville.
Frank Spaziani (Boston College head coach)
Perhaps the next coach to get fired, the Eagles are 1-6 with no FBS wins and look lifeless most of the time while playing games. The defense is terrible, and the Eagles have played only one close game all season -- a loss to Army in which they gave up 527 yards rushing.
Stat of the week
|One of the most underrated players in the country, Colby Cameron has been lighting it up for LaTech. (US Presswire)|
-- West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith threw two interceptions against Kansas State, ending his streak of consecutive passes without a pick at 273. Later that night, however, the mark was broken when LaTech's Colby Cameron ran his streak to 275 passes without an interception. Both marks break Trent Dilfer's NCAA record of 271 straight. Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron isn't far behind at 249 passes.
Stats to chew on
-- Western Kentucky was on an amazing 15-game streak against the spread until Louisiana-Monroe went for two in overtime to win 43-42 and stop the streak.
-- In a 70-28 win over Idaho, Louisiana Tech broke or tied 12 school, conference or NCAA records. Its SID notes the Bulldogs have scored 127 points in a 76-minute span (dating to the Texas A&M game), as much as or more than nine other teams have all season.
-- According to Notre Dame, only one FBS player has more takeaways this year than the six linebacker Manti Te'o has. Te'o is also the only player in the top 10 for both interceptions and fumble recoveries. The Irish defense still hasn't allowed a rushing touchdown this season, and 40 percent of drives against the team this year have been three plays or less. Notre Dame has rushed for more yards in its last three games combined than 15 FBS teams have in their entire seasons.
-- The NCAA notes that new rules changes have led to 1,450 touchbacks recorded on kickoffs at the FBS level through the first six weeks of the season. Last year, 1,397 touchbacks were registered on kickoffs.
-- Also, scoring across FBS is at 29.8 points per game so far this season. That's on pace to be the highest scoring average since the NCAA started keeping stats in 1937. Total offense, passing yards and completions are also on track to be records.
-- Great stat from CoachingSearch.com: Louisiana Tech leads the nation by averaging a touchdown every 11.2 snaps. Kansas State, Texas and Oregon are not far behind.
-- The Big 12 had more touchdowns than punts Saturday.
-- TCU has played more freshmen than anybody in the country (16).
Tweet of the week
I think Les Miles could ski down a mountain in an avalanche blindfolded with bear on his shoulders and emerge unscathed.— Bruce Feldman (@BFeldmanCBS) October 20, 2012
3. Kansas State
5. Notre Dame
7. Oregon State
Where we'll be this week
Dennis Dodd makes the short trip to Norman for the biggest game in the town in, according to Bob Stoops, a decade as Notre Dame takes on Oklahoma. Tony Barnhart heads to the World's Largest Cocktail Party and SEC East showdown between Florida and Georgia. Meanwhile, Jeremy Fowler gets to see 24-point favorite Alabama host undefeated SEC West rival Mississippi State.
Leaning the Way
Florida vs. Georgia
Are the Bulldogs tough enough to win this one? Both mentally and physically, I'm not so sure and they didn't get a ton of production out of players not named Aaron Murray last week at Kentucky. Florida's offensive production (yards, not points) was the only concerning thing to come out of their past few games. This will be close, but the Gators will pull it out to punch their ticket to Atlanta.
Mississippi State at Alabama
What does it say that an undefeated, ranked division team is a 24-point underdog? The answer is plenty, as the Bulldogs haven't seen anything close to the caliber of team that they'll face in Tuscaloosa. While Mississippi State might be Alabama's toughest test yet this season, the Bulldogs will just be the latest to fall to Nick Saban's machine.
Notre Dame at Oklahoma
Oklahoma might be playing as well as anybody in the country right now. While Notre Dame's front seven might be able to say the same, that doesn't apply to their team as a whole. The offense is average at best, and young quarterback Everett Golson hasn't seen a defense like what Mike Stoops will throw at him. It should be close but in the end, the young Irish secondary can't hold up and the Sooners have enough on both sides of the ball to win.