At this time of year, two opposing interests start to operate in earnest: Teams eyeballing bowl positions and teams considering giving their coach the boot.
ESPN.com's Bruce Feldman today reviewed the latter and ranked the 10 coaches on the hottest seats. Two Pac-10 coaches made the list, and a third may say goodbye before his program becomes part of the Pac-12 in 2011.
No. 1 on the list is Colorado's Dan Hawkins. He's in the fifth year of a disappointing tenure and the general feeling is he would have been fired last year if the school could have afforded it.
Might sound stupid now: When Colorado hired Hawkins away from Boise State, I thought it was a great hire. So what do I know?
Feldman also ranks Washington State's Paul Wulff fourth and Arizona State's Dennis Erickson sixth on the list. It's notable that they play each other Saturday in Tempe, and that Wulff played for Erickson at Washington State.
Of Wulff, Feldman writes: "The Cougars are improving, but it may be too little, too late."
Wulff needs a Pac-10 win. There are plenty of people around the program who see improvement and support Wulff. But there also are plenty of frustrated folks who want change. My feeling is AD Bill Moos is looking for reasons to retain Wulff.
As for Erickson, Feldman writes: "...the Sun Devils seem to be backsliding. After winning his first eight games, Erickson is 14-22. The Sun Devils have talent but have been plagued by discipline issues and sloppiness for the past couple of seasons, ranking 112th in penalties committed this season."
I think Erickson will be completely safe at 6-6, but that would require the Sun Devils to win as a favorite against Washington State and UCLA and then upset either USC, Stanford or Arizona.
He also is probably safe in any event, other than a complete collapse or some off-field disaster. His contract runs through the 2012 season -- he signed an extension in the spring of 2008 -- and the cash-strapped school probably won't be eager to pay him off.
Further, if you look over the Sun Devils' depth chart, there's a lot of promise for 2011. Only three seniors start, and all of their best players are underclassmen. You'd also expect quarterback Steven Threet to make major improvements with a year of experience in a spread system.
You could say the same for the Cougars, by the way, though the Cougars start more seniors (seven).
If Pac-10 ADs want an example of how patience pays, look south to Tucson. They wanted to run Mike Stoops out of town after the Wildcats went 5-7 in 2007, his fourth season. But Stoops, who has always been respected by other coaches, found his rhythm and has the Wildcats on the cusp of becoming a top-25 program.