Crazy Weekend Causes Changes in the ACC Football Coaches’ Hot Seat Meter
Updated ACC Coaches' Hot Seat Meter
It was a crazy weekend for college football, but for the ACC, the entire 2012 season has been a series of surprising developments. Preseason favorites struggled early, under-the-radar teams unexpectedly stepped up, and some ACC coaches are in situations they surely couldn’t have predicted just a few weeks ago.
Virginia Tech and Georgia Tech were supposed to battle for the Coastal Division; instead, the Hokies (3-3) and Yellow Jackets (2-4) are both off to their worst starts in years and will have to turn things around quickly just to become bowl eligible.
The teams’ disappointing performances early in the year have turned up the heat on respected coaches Frank Beamer and Paul Johnson, and their defensive coaching staffs have come under even greater scrutiny. After two straight weeks of dismal defensive performances - surrendering five rushing touchdowns to Middle Tennessee State's Benny Cunningham and 601 yards to Clemson the following week - Georgia Tech fired defensive coordinator Al Groh.
Some coaches are coming under fire (or getting fired), but others have cooled down since the preseason. Duke and Miami aren’t having the seasons they were projected to have, either, but so far they’re playing better than anticipated.
Duke is looking for its first bowl berth in 17 seasons, and coach David Cutcliffe has the Blue Devils well on their way. They’re 5-1 with two conference wins, and they pulled off a convincing win over Virginia this weekend even without injured starting quarterback Sean Renfree.
Miami was picked to finish near the bottom of the conference, but the Hurricanes have just two losses, to Kansas State and Notre Dame, teams that seem to be well on their way to BCS Bowl appearances. The young team will have more ups and downs this season, but Coach Al Golden is building a solid foundation for the future of the program, despite the turnover in the Hurricanes’ athletic administration.
Boston College head coach Frank Spaziani’s future with his team is much less promising. Spaziani had the hottest seat in the ACC before the season began, and it’s only gotten hotter. After losing to an 0-4 Army team on Saturday, BC is just 5-12 since the start of last season, and Spaz’s seat is so hot it might as well be engulfed in flames.
How have the rest of the season’s ups and downs impacted the ACC Coaches’ Hot Seat rankings?
ON FIRE (IN A BAD WAY): Frank Spaziani, Boston College
Spaziani’s days in Chestnut Hill appear to be numbered after the team’s 1-4 start. He needed a strong season to save his job after last year, when the team missed the postseason for the first time in twelve seasons. Since the Eagles gave up 516 rushing yards in Saturday’s 34-31 loss to Army, the calls to fire Spaziani have gotten louder. It hasn’t happened yet, but things don’t seem like they’ll get any better when BC faces Florida State this week.
TOASTY: Paul Johnson, Georgia Tech
The Yellow Jackets were supposed to compete for the Coastal Division in 2012, but they’re off to their worst start since 1994, when they went 1-10 and coach Bill Davis resigned before the end of the year.
Georgia Tech led in the fourth quarters before ultimately falling to Virginia Tech and Miami, and the critics started calling for a chance after the team lost to MTSU. Defensive coordinator Al Groh was fired two days after the team surrendered 601 yards to Clemson, and Johnson will be next if the team doesn't start to improve.
GETTING WARMER: Frank Beamer, Virginia Tech
Beamer was the coach with the greatest job security heading into the season, but after the team’s worst six-game start since 1992, some are wondering if he’s lost his touch. The team has an uphill battle to become bowl eligible, and Beamer’s 19-year bowl streak is in jeopardy. He's had enough success over the years that a one-season slide won’t cost his job, but he’d be a lot more comfortable if the Hokies could shore up the defense and log wins in the rest of their ACC contests.
WARM: Mike London, Virginia
The Cavaliers had a strong season in 2011 but lost a lot of veterans, especially on defense. Instead of building on last year’s 8-4 regular season finish, they've has dropped four straight games, and Saturday’s loss to Duke was the Cavs’ fourth in the last five years. UVA made a quarterback change before the Duke game, starting Alabama transfer Phillip Sims over Michael Rocco. It didn’t help against the Blue Devils, but as the Cavaliers adjust to a different quarterback, they’ll hopefully find their footing.
LUKEWARM: Jim Grobe, Wake Forest
The Demon Deacons have had an uneven 3-3 season, upsetting North Carolina but dropping consecutive games to Duke and Maryland. Grobe’s seat hasn’t heated up quite yet, despite his first career loss to the Blue Devils. The team wasn’t at full strength against Maryland but it was close to a win anyway. Grobe suspended six starters, including leading tackler Mike Olson and leading rusher DeAndre Martin, for the game, and star receiver Michael Campanaro is out for a few weeks with a hand injury. The Demon Deacons remaining schedule isn’t too daunting and they should be able to secure a bowl invitation – and Grobe’s job.
LUKEWARM: Tom O’Brien, North Carolina State
The Wolfpack has two losses – to two of the best teams on its schedule, Tennessee and Miami – but it just upset Florida State, ending the Seminoles’ national title aspirations. Until its late-game win over FSU, Tom O’Brien’s team had been overshadowed by the Noles’ success and Virginia Tech’s collapse, but NC State quietly won its easy games and has a big win in its back pocket heading into a very manageable ACC schedule.
ROOM TEMPERATURE: Jimbo Fisher, Florida State
Florida State almost had everyone fooled. After years of saying “This is the year,” the Seminoles won their first five games and leaped to third in the national polls, and everyone really believed 2012 could be the year. The team’s shocking loss to NC State means an ACC title and Orange Bowl berth is the best FSU can hope for in 2012. If Florida State keeps falling short, fans will begin to wonder if Fisher can be the guy to get them back to a national title.
ROOM TEMPERATURE: Dabo Swinney, Clemson
The reigning ACC champions lost the big showdown with Florida State, but in the process, the two teams established themselves as the class of the conference. Clemson is 5-1 but needs another FSU loss to get the inside track to the ACC title game. If the loss to the ‘Noles is the only thing that keeps the Tigers from repeating as conference champions, it’ll still be a very successful year for Swinney and his team.
COLD: David Cutcliffe, Duke
Don't look now, but 2012 might be the year Duke gets back to a bowl game. Cutcliffe's team already has five wins, more than its season totals in each of the last two years, and with some ACC teams playing below expectations, the Blue Devils have a shot to snag a few more. Duke football has been in a rut for almost as long as its current players have been alive, but Cutcliffe's focused on building his team and motivating them to play hard, and it's paying off.
COOL: Al Golden, Miami
The team was picked to finish next-to-last in the conference but their only two losses have been out of conference, to Kansas State and Notre Dame, both in the top ten. Golden’s young team still has to learn how to win big games but they’re on the right track. Any questions about Golden’s longevity in Coral Gables will be related to the ongoing NCAA investigation into violations allegedly committed before Golden took the job.
COLD: Larry Fedora, UNC
With North Carolina on probation this year, Fedora’s first year was a freebie, but the Tar Heels haven’t been playing that way. Their biggest win was their last one, an upset over Virginia Tech. UNC still has some tough ACC games ahead, but they don’t have to play Florida State or Clemson, which should help their final record.
SITTING ON ICE: Randy Edsall, Maryland
No matter how the Terps’ season went, Edsall’s job wasn’t going to be in immediate danger for at least another year, even after last year’s 2-10 finish. Low expectations got even lower after the team lost starting quarterback C.J. Brown for the season, but the young Maryland team has been a surprise. The defense is seventh in the nation, true freshman Stefon Diggs has been ACC Player of the Week twice already this year, and Edsall’s grip on his job has never been stronger.