Are any Big Ten coaches on the hot seat in 2012?
CBS Sports' Dennis Dodd has come out with his annual rankings of the warmth underneath the chair of every head coach in the FBS. According to Dodd, Purdue's Danny Hope, Indiana's Kevin Wilson and Minnesota's Jerry Kill have the most to worry about.
Dodd assigns a number from 0 to 5 for each coach, with five being the hottest seat and zero being untouchable. Hope checks in at 3.5, putting him "on the bubble, feeling pressure," according to Dodd's rankings. Kill and Wilson are in the same category with a score of three points each.
Hope is just 16-21 at Purdue, but did lead the Boilermakers to a bowl game for the first time last season and has what looks like his deepest, best team this year. He also received a two-year contract extension this winter. If Purdue were to have a bad season and miss the postseason, there would definitely be a lot of grumbling from a fan base that has yet to openly embrace Hope. But the Boilers should be good enough to make another bowl this season, if not contend in the Leaders Division.
Kill and Wilson are entering their second years at their respective schools. Kill won just three games last season and now has a new athletic director, so you could envision a scenario in which a disastrous 2012 campaign -- think something like 2-9 or 1-11 -- could make Norwood Teague trigger-happy. But I firmly believe that Minnesota will be improved this season, and that the Gophers' best plan of action is to let Kill build his program. Wilson was 1-11 in 2011, so he can't feel overly secure. But he appears to have the full support of athletic director Fred Glass, who's smart enough to know that changing coaches after two years is not the way to build a program at Indiana.
The only other two coaches to score above two points were Nebraska's Bo Pelini and Penn State's Bill O'Brien, who each received a 2.5 from Dodd. That puts them in the "safe, but you never know" category. Pelini has won 39 games in his first four years, though Huskers fans are getting tired of waiting for a conference title. O'Brien is following the legendary Joe Paterno. Still, it's hard to envision too many ways in which either could be fired after this season.
First-year Illinois coach Tim Beckman also got two points, while Iowa's Kirk Ferentz scored a 1.5. Michigan's Brady Hoke, Michigan State's Mark Dantonio and Wisconsin's Bret Bielema received zero points, a sign of their untouchable status. Northwestern's Pat Fitzgerald and Ohio State's Urban Meyer got 0.5 scores, though it's nearly impossible imagining how they could be fired after this year.
I don't think any Big Ten coach will be fired in 2012 unless there are some unforeseen circumstances like a major NCAA scandal or an off-the-field catastrophe. Who do you think is, or should be, on the hot seat in the conference?