Getty Images

Pac-12 coaches on hot seat: USC’s Clay Helton feeling the heat more than anybody

5 Comments

CFTalk has been taking a detailed look at hot seats across college football this offseason and one early theme in examining the ACC, Big 12 and Big Ten coaches so far is there are, well, not a ton of hot seats out there.

A lot of this has to do with schools already making moves and replacing coaches in the past two seasons and others playing their way out of trouble with some big wins. When one heads out West to the Pac-12 however, well, the league might just be home to perhaps the hottest seat in the nation.

With that in mind, here’s a look at the various stages of heat for Pac-12 coaches near and far:

White hot heat

Clay Helton (USC)

To put Helton’s hot seat in perspective, some of the school’s big name alumni are already talking about his replacement being Urban Meyer in 2020. It was surprising that he was brought back in the first place after failing to make a bowl game in 2018 but a reportedly hefty buyout appeared to be a contributing factor in his return. Helton did lead the Trojans to a Rose Bowl win and another New Year’s Six bowl game during his tenure but  faces a ton of pressure to return the program to prominence immediately in 2019. This is a demanding job to be sure but Helton hasn’t met expectations recently and knows what is on the line this season as a result.

The new guy

Mel Tucker (Colorado)

Lukewarm 

Kevin Sumlin (Arizona)

Sumlin’s debut with the Wildcats couldn’t have gone much worse, with expectations of contending in the Pac-12 South and Khalil Tate making a run for the Heisman all but over by the end of September. The school won’t hit eject on his tenure this early but 2019 could be narrative-defining for Sumlin in Tucson.

Herm Edwards (Arizona State)

Edwards was a bizarre hire at the time and remains so today even if he’s made the Sun Devils fascinating to follow with a fun quote seemingly every day. He was brought in to improve on what Todd Graham accomplished though and 7-6 (5-4) isn’t exactly doing that in a weak division. It’s shaping up to be a big Year 2 in Tempe that could shape the direction of the rest of Edwards’ tenure.

Solid ground

Jonathan Smith (Oregon State)

Smith is a beloved alum and the OSU brass/fan base know how difficult a rebuilding job this is. Still, the early returns weren’t the greatest with a truly awful defense making blowouts all too common. Progress will need to be made going forward or the pressure will be ratcheted up quickly in Corvallis.

Safe and secure

Mike Leach (Washington State)

The pirate has won at least eight games at his Pullman outpost four straight years, highlighted by last season’s terrific 11-2 campaign. He’s given the Cougars everything they can ask for even if he’s come up a bit short against the in-state rivals. Either way, Wazzu right now is more likely to lose Leach to another program than it is to fire him for something that happens on the field.

Justin Wilcox (Cal)

While his hire was questioned at first, Wilcox quickly won over Bears fans with his transformation of the once-woeful defense into one of the best units in the conference. That culminated in a  postseason berth last year, a good sign of progress in Berkeley despite a hefty bunch of interceptions in the Cheez-It Bowl.

Mario Cristobal (Oregon)

Which coach might have the happiest fan base after this offseason? It might be Cristobal after winning a bowl game for his ninth win in 2018 and following that up with an elite recruiting class. Expectations are the Ducks will be in thick of the Pac-12 race as a result and has some feeling a return to normalcy in Eugene after a few tumultuous years in the dark.

Chip Kelly (UCLA)

While some predicted Kelly would have the Bruins contending right away, nothing could have been further from the truth in Westwood during Year 1. While the losses did pile up, the team showed progress as the season went on and there’s still plenty of hope from the powder blues that their big name head coach is the one to finally get the program back on a championship track.

Frozen solid 

Kyle Whittingham (Utah)

Whittingham finally broke through with a division title in 2018 and is remarkably the third-longest tenured active coach in college football right now. Consistency is his calling card and it would be surprising when the time comes for Whittingham to not be on the sidelines for the Utes.

Chris Petersen (Washington)

Petersen has been as advertised since arriving from Boise State, taking a few early lumps before winning two Pac-12 titles and 32 total games the past three years. The Huskies will be favored to be back in Santa Clara once again in early December and it speaks to the program Petersen has built in Seattle that they’ll be Playoff contenders too despite losing a lot of production this offseason.

David Shaw (Stanford)

While NFL teams have inquired and he’s a name that comes up from time-to-time in the coaching carousel, it very much appears that nobody is going to pry Shaw from his alma mater. He’s continued to elevate the program to the point where the nine wins he’s posted in back-to-back years are considered disappointing on The Farm. That speaks to the job he’s done and his status on campus.

Chip Kelly won’t make QB change despite UCLA offensive woes

Getty Images
4 Comments

Chip Kelly revolutionized college football back when he was at Oregon, becoming so successful that not one but three NFL teams tried or succeeded in hiring him.

Kelly’s return to the sidelines in the college game however… could be going better. UCLA was blown out of the water on Saturday night at the Rose Bowl by No. 5 Oklahoma and the Bruins offense is actually among the worst in all of FBS.

They’re dead last in yards per play, second to last in total offense and No. 127 in scoring offense. Oh and sophomore quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson is No. 99 nationally in passer rating.

Despite those numbers, it appears Kelly isn’t contemplating a new face behind center as the team moves into Pac-12 play.

“We didn’t,” Kelly said when asked by the LA Times whether he thought of making a change at quarterback on Saturday. “…we felt confident in Dorian.”

To be fair, Thompson-Robinson did seem a little improved against the Sooners than he did in his first two starts of 2019 against Cincinnati and San Diego State. But those numbers speak for themselves with road trips to Washington State and Arizona coming up for the 0-3 side from Westwood.

Pony Up! SMU off to best start since 1984 at 3-0

Getty Images
4 Comments

TCU may have moved into the top 25 of the AP Poll this week after dispatching Purdue on Saturday but upcoming opponent SMU is off to an equally hot start coming into Week 4 after topping Texas State.

In fact, it’s a historic one down in Dallas.

As the school noted recently, the 3-0 start to the 2019 campaign is the Mustangs’ best since… 1984. That’s just after the Pony Express days on the Hilltop and right before the program got hammered by the NCAA for major violations.

Sonny Dykes’ tenure got off to a rough start after going 5-7 last season but the team looks much improved thanks in part to the play of Texas transfer QB Shane Buechele.

We’ll see if the two can keep things rolling against the rival Horned Frogs but the AAC might just have another intriguing team in the mix after such a hot start by SMU.

Schools reportedly spent an average of $8,200 on hotel rooms before home games last season

Getty Images
6 Comments

College football coaches love controlling every element that they can in the lead up to a game in order to minimize distractions. As a result, it’s become common place for nearly every football team in the country to spend the night at a hotel before home games.

Now most folks might think it’s strange to have teams shack up in rooms when they can spend the hours before a game at home but that’s not what schools do. And those hotel bills add up to quite a pretty penny in most cases as an investigation into the practice by Gatehouse Media shows.

In 2018 alone, public schools spend a median of $44,000 on hotels and nearly $5 million total across some 109 programs according to the report. That included low spenders like Coastal Carolina (just $2,800 per game) to those rolling in cash like Texas A&M ($278,000 total, or nearly $40k per home game).

Remarkably the Aggies spent so much because the hotel they stay at requires a two-night minimum and they leave the rooms unoccupied for one of those nights.

“We believe we would be breaking sleep routine if we did not stay in a hotel before a football game,” said OSU Associate Athletics Director Jerry Emig told the site after the Buckeyes spent nearly six figures on hotels for home games. “Ohio State has stayed in a hotel the night before every road game and every home game for more than 50 years.”

There’s some interesting sortable data in the full report, which includes noting that the SEC spends the most rooms on average and the Big Ten the least.

So next time you see the buses pull up to your favorite team’s stadium on a Saturday in college football, just remember it cost a decent chunk of change for the school to house those kids in a hotel prior to the game.

Florida drops in latest Super 16 poll, UCF moves in, UGA-Notre Dame battle set to be a top seven affair

Getty Images
5 Comments

Uncertainty over Florida’s future without starting quarterback Feliepe Franks is already causing voters to drop the Gators in national polls following the team’s escape at Kentucky over the weekend.

Dan Mullen’s squad dropped two spots to 11th despite winning to move to 3-0 on the season, a good indication that a forthcoming slide might happen in the AP and Coaches Polls as well. They weren’t the only ones to drop however, as Michigan slid from No. 10 to No. 12, Texas A&M dropped out altogether and Oregon moved down a spot to No. 16.

The SEC once again occupies slots 2-4 in the poll and have five of the top 16 teams overall. There was a slight change however as some voters apparently forgot about LSU’s win over new No. 9 Texas and flipped the Tigers with Georgia in the 3/4 spots. That makes the upcoming battle in Athens between the Bulldogs and No. 7 Notre Dame a top seven affair with huge College Football Playoff implications.

It should be noted that three writers (Kevin McGuire, Zach Barnett and Bryan Fischer) here at CFTalk have weekly votes in the Super 16 poll. Without further ado, here’s the full rankings heading into Week 4:

  1. Clemson (34 first place votes)
  2. Alabama (8)
  3. Georgia (1)
  4. LSU (3)
  5. Oklahoma
  6. Ohio State
  7. Notre Dame
  8. Auburn
  9. Texas
  10. Utah
  11. Florida
  12. Michigan
  13. Wisconsin
  14. Penn State
  15. UCF
  16. Oregon

Also notable were the debut of UCF in the poll, the highest ranked Group of Five team as a result of their thumping of Stanford down in Orlando.