Pac-12 Coaches Hot Seat Meter Updates: Riley Off, Tedford On
Pac-12 Coaches' Hot Seat Update
Sure, Colorado was projected to be pretty bad, but that was expected. It wasn't expected for the Beavers to lose to Sacramento State in 2011, start 0-4, and finish just 3-9.
Oregon State had to improve for Riley, a solid, well-respected, successful coach, to hang on to his job. So far, so good.
Things looked dicey after the opener against Nicholls State had to be postponed and the Beavers instead started their schedule against Wisconsin, but Oregon State was up to the challenge.
This season, Riley's team is 4-0, with wins over three ranked teams and two celebratory trips to In-n-Out Burger.
Riley's no longer on the hot seat - his team is just hot right now - but not all of the conference's coaches have fared quite as well.
Washington State, Cal, Arizona, and Utah are all winless against Pac-12 opponents. The Wildcats, in their first year under Rich Rodriguez, are the only team that's 0-2 in the conference but still above .500 overall.
Colorado, which was making headlines just a few weeks ago as one of the most atrocious college football teams of the modern era, is 1-4 overall. Thanks to an upset win over Washington State, the Buffaloes are 1-1 in conference play and coach Jon Embree survived to coach a few more games.
How many more games is the question. Colorado is currently above Utah and Arizona, two arguably stronger and more talented teams, in the Pac-12 standings, but that can't last long. Or can it?
Rodriguez, and Mike Leach at WSU, are both just a few games into their new head coaching gigs so growing pains are expected, but how much leeway will Cal’s Jeff Tedford and Utah’s Kyle Whittingham have if they don’t start winning?
COOLED OFF: Mike Riley, Oregon State
Oregon State is off to an impressive start in 2012. The Beavers are 3-0 against teams that have all been ranked this season: Wisconsin, UCLA, and Arizona. The rest of the schedule is absolutely manageable if the teams keeps playing as well as it has. Road trips to Washington and Stanford could be tough, and the Beavers host Oregon in the Civil War in Corvallis, which could determine the Pac-12 North.
With away games in Pasadena and Tucson, Oregon State is already halfway through its Pac-12 road schedule - and in case anyone needed further evidence that Riley really is pretty cool these days, he and the team celebrated with double-doubles and fries from In-N-Out Burger after their road wins.
HEATING UP: Jeff Tedford, California
Before the season, Cal athletic director Sandy Barbour said Tedford is not on the hot seat. But that was before the season, before the Bears started the season 1-4 and opened with a home loss to Nevada in the new and improved Memorial Stadium.
In all fairness, two of the Bears' losses were to ranked teams - Ohio State and USC - but the team's performances in those games did little to inspire hope for the rest of the year. Five of their next seven games, including their last three, are against teams that are currently ranked: UCLA, Stanford, Washington, Oregon, and Oregon State.
This week, the San Francisco Chronicle quoted a "prominent" Cal alum who predicted Tedford would be gone if the Bears finish under .500 this season. That's the way things are heading, but deep pocketed donors will have to take the initiative there. Tedford's salary is privately funded, and it'll be expensive to give him the boot before his contract is up because there's no buyout clause.
SIMMERING: Jon Embree, Colorado
A few weeks ago, it looked like Embree would be lucky to make it to the halfway point of the season after losses to Colorado State, Sacramento State, and Fresno State to start the year. Then the Buffaloes shocked Washington State and although the Cougars are far from the class of the Pac-12, no one thought CU had a chance.
It was back to normal the next week, as the Buffaloes followed up their surprising win with a big loss to UCLA. There aren't any easy wins on the rest of the schedule, but if Colorado can at least keep pace with some of their tougher opponents, it might help buy Embree some more time.
LUKEWARM: Mike Leach, Washington State
Leach came to Pullman among much fanfare, but his reputation has exceeded his results in his first few months at Washington State. He's not on the hot seat this early in his tenure at WSU, and he'll have plenty of time to turn things around; he's just not the hottest new coach in the conference anymore, now that the reality of the Cougs' situation has sunk in.
LUKEWARM: Rich Rodriguez, Arizona
The Rich Rodriguez era at Arizona started strong with three straight wins, but the coach's career revival hit consecutive speed bumps in the last two games against Oregon and Oregon State. The loss to the Ducks was brutal, a 49-0 shutout loss, but the Wildcats came within a field goal of beating Oregon State.
The next month will be revealing: Arizona might not be at the same level as Oregon yet, but how does the team stack up against Stanford, Washington, USC, and UCLA? Those are the next four stops on the agenda for the Wildcats, which means they'll face all six of the Pac-12's teams that are currently nationally ranked one right after the other. It'll be tough for RichRod to get a winning season in his first year if the 'Cats can't pick up a win or two during that stretch.
LUKEWARM: Kyle Whittingham, Utah
Whittingham isn't going anywhere anytime soon, but after so much success in the Mountain West conference, Utah fans aren't used to starting seasons 2-2, and they had higher hopes for the switch to the Pac-12 than a 7-5 season with a Sun Bowl berth.
Whittingham says the transition to the Pac-12 will be "a process," and he's right, but narrowly missing the inaugural Pac-12 Championship Game the first year in the conference set the bar high, and now fans want to see bigger results, sooner rather than later.
COOL: Todd Graham, Arizona State
Graham said the Arizona State job was his "dream job" when he accepted, and to this point, he's had almost a dream season in his first year. The Sun Devils are 4-1 and had a chance to be 5-0. They're playing great defense, in the top 10 in sacks and interceptions, with just 22 penalties all season. It gets harder from here, with Oregon, UCLA, USC and Oregon State back-to-back-to-back-to-back, but Graham has built a solid foundation for the rest of the year and beyond.
COOL: Lane Kiffin, USC
The Trojans haven't started the year quite as well as hoped, with the loss to Stanford letting a lot of the air out of their National Championship balloon. Still, one early season loss to a ranked opponent isn't the end of the world, or USC's season.
The Trojans did a tremendous job of coming back from an early 14-0 deficit at Utah Thursday night, finishing with a 38-28 victory. If Kiffin can continue to keep the team together and on track like that, the only people still complaining about him will be Tennessee fans and the L.A. media.
CHILLY: Jim Mora, UCLA
In his short time as head coach of the Bruins, Mora has energized the team and the fan base and turned UCLA into a legitimate early-season contender for the Pac-12 South. UCLA has to be thrilled with their new hire, but outside the program, Mora hasn't won too many people over. He kicked the media out of practice one day last week, and one has to assume that the sports information assistant whom the coach harshly and publicly berated the next day isn't a big fan, either. But hey, Mora was hired to win games, not friends, and so far, he's getting it done.
COLD: Steve Sarkisian, Washington
Things are looking up for Sarkisian and the Huskies after last Thursday's upset win over Stanford. UW has one loss, a 41-3 shellacking by LSU in Baton Rouge, but they've gained momentum since then. Sarkisian's gutsy call on 4th-and-1, down 13-3 in the third quarter, led to a 61-yard Bishop Sankey touchdown that sparked the offense and helped the Huskies get the comeback win.
Beating Stanford has to give the Huskies confidence heading into this weekend's game at Oregon, and it gives them control over their own destiny in the Pac-12 North. Beat Oregon this weekend and the Huskies only have Oregon State standing between them and the conference title game.
FROZEN: Chip Kelly, Oregon
Kelly has the Ducks at the top of the polls yet again this season, and they don't look like they're going anywhere, which means Kelly isn't either. The Ducks have scored more than 40 points in every game this season; they shut out the best team they've faced so far, Arizona, 49-0. This weekend's match-up with Washington will be an interesting measuring stick for both teams.