Larry Porter (Memphis)
Last year the Tigers went 1-11 and this year looks like an encore performance. Pictures from the Liberty Bowl last weekend showed a sparse crowd of 20,000 give or take 10,000. Porter is only in his second year at Memphis, but New Mexico's Mike Locksley was early into his third year before he was let go—the bar may be lowered this year.
No one expects drastic improvement—like three to four wins in one year—but an offense with a pulse is expected. Today another ominous sign for Porter popped up—Middle Tennessee State (0-3) is favored to beat the Tigers by over three touchdowns and 78 percent of that game's wagers are being placed on the Blue Raiders, according to VegasInsider.com. When gamblers are betting against your team as a lock over a winless Sun Belt team and you can't fill a stadium in the football-crazed South, the U-haul truck should be warming up in your driveway.
Week four status: DEFCON 1
Houston Nutt (Ole Miss)
Houston Nutt has been hanging on by the tips of his fingernails but this Saturday his nails may get a trim. Ole Miss travels to Fresno, California for a game that should put everything in perspective—a WAC team is favored over an SEC team. Oh, the humanity of it all.
The Rebels are 1-3 and one of those losses was to Vanderbilt—if things continue at this pace, Athletic Director Pete Boone's Rolodex might be spinning (and landing on "C", as in Cristobal). Nutt is a likeable coach, but if he comes home to Oxford with a loss, that famous Southern hospitality will be conspicuously absent. Nice guys finish last in the SEC.
Week four status: Make it a double Hotty Toddy, bartender.
Paul Wulff (Washington State)
There is actually improvement in Pullman, Washington—an offense has been sighted. The Cougars started the season 2-0 before finally capitulating to San Diego State 42-24. Still, the Cougars look a lot more competitive this year and if they can find their defense, they might actually finish above 12th place in the Pac-12. Head coach Paul Wulff's overall record at Washington State is 7-32 over four years which, contractually speaking, translates to about $357,000 a win.
Luckily for Wulff, he gets Colorado, UCLA and a winless Oregon State on his schedule—the Cougs could actually sniff a bowl berth if they can win the Apple Cup. If they go bowling—and I'm not completely confident they will—Wulff's job will be secure.
Week four status: Reduce heat and bake apples uncovered for about a month.
Rick Neuheisel (UCLA)
Bruins fans are in a conundrum—do you keep supporting a team's coach that has a worse record (17-24) than his fired predecessor (Karl Dorrell, 35-27) or do you hope he turns the team around but in the process, give the higher-ups at UCLA a reason to keep him coaching? These are the issues facing the fans at UCLA and they've been silently protesting the under-achieving Bruins with their pocketbook—announced attendance at the Rose Bowl (capacity is 91,500) for the UCLA v Texas contest was 54,583.
Like Houston Nutt, Neuheisel is likable—he's also smart, media-savvy and bristles with enthusiasm despite having a string of bad luck with injured quarterbacks and offensive linemen. But Neuheisel hasn't been able to capitalize on winning the recruiting war against his cross-town rival USC, a team that was severely sanctioned by the NCAA and yet somehow has managed to overcome most negative recruiting tactics. If the Bruins' beautiful home stadium continues to lack butts in seats, there will be a coaching change at the end of the season.
Week four status: *crickets chirping to a Bruin eight-clap*
Mark Richt (Georgia)
Last year the SEC East was disappointing—Florida and Tennessee were mediocre, South Carolina was a rising star (but was eventually shot down by Auburn as well as Florida State in the Chick-fil-A Bowl)—and Kentucky and Vanderbilt were, well, looking forward to basketball season. Amidst all of that, Georgia floundered. This week, Georgia is behind Vanderbilt in the conference standings. Nothing against Vanderbilt, but Georgia is a football school and this may be too much for the fans in Athens to bear. The last time the Bulldogs played for the SEC Championship was in 2005.
Richt has amassed an overall record of 98-36 but his record for 2009 and 2010 was 14-12 overall, 7-9 in the SEC. That's not going to excite the fans behind the hedges at Sanford Stadium nor the folks paying him a reported 3.5 million a year. The Bulldogs at first appeared to have a fairly do-able conference schedule, but after four weeks of watching them play, that schedule looks a little more daunting with Tennessee, Vanderbilt and a surprising Auburn no longer looking like expected wins. Richt can right the ship starting this week by reeling off three straight wins. One more loss before playing Florida may cause his ship to sail without him.
Week four status: UGH-a
Jeff Tedford (Cal)
Cal is currently renovating Memorial Stadium so the Golden Bears fans will be traveling to AT&T Park in San Francisco to watch the games. It's not a huge deal (under 30 minutes commute) but when you have some lackluster play on the field, you may lose some home team support. Cal struggled to beat Fresno State and Colorado, whipped Presbyterian and lost to Washington—it's not looking good for Tedford supporters. Then again, a lot of experts say that every year, don't they?
Tedford revived Cal football—he inherited a team that had gone 1-10 in the Pac-10 in 2001. For that reason alone, the fans have been very patient with Tedford's last few seasons. Cal has discarded its losing image, but the team hasn't taken the next step—as Stanford has done—which probably disturbs their fans to no end. Tedford should get a hall pass this year due to the renovations at the stadium, but if Cal doesn't come out sparkling like their stadium in 2012, it's going to get testy in Berkeley.
Week four status: Like the-blanket-with-sleeves Snuggie—not pretty yet toasty warm.
Mike Stoops (Arizona)
Arizona is currently 1-3. Granted, they had a hellish three-game gauntlet to maneuver through via Oklahoma State, Stanford and Oregon but it's not safe to go in the water yet—USC, Washington, Utah, and Arizona State are circling. While the Wildcats have gone bowling the last three years (1-2 bowl record), this year looks more and more likely that the Wildcats will be going fishing—not bowling—in December.
Mike Stoops is in his eighth year, so it's not like he hasn't been given time—his contract extension runs through 2013. He's had to deal with a retooled offensive line this year and he has had four coordinators/co-coordinators leave in a little over a year. With a 41-48 record, there's not a lot of room to negotiate. Stoops has to turn it around and get the Wildcats bowling in a decent bowl.
Week four status: It’s a dry heat.