Rivalry week will be last stand for some coaches
Will Muschamp knows he will be coaching his last game for Florida this weekend.
There are a few more coaches who will be doing the same thing without knowing it – at least for sure.
The coaching carousel will start spinning fast when the regular season ends for many teams on Saturday. One coach who should have a far more enjoyable Thanksgiving weekend now is Virginia’s Mike London. Athletic director Craig Littlepage announced Wednesday, two days before the Cavaliers (5-6) play rival Virginia Tech, that London would return next season.
While you’re keeping track of other rivalries and games with playoff implication, here are a few coaching hot spots to keep an eye on this weekend.
Michigan at No. 7 Ohio State.
This seems like a formality, though maybe a massive upset against No. 7 Ohio State could change the story for Michigan coach Brady Hoke. Short of that, another loss will leave Michigan out of the postseason and make it three straight seasons of declining win totals under Hoke. The only question is when Michigan interim athletic director Jim Hackett makes the call.
Nebraska at Iowa.
Here we are again, Nebraska. The season is winding down, the Cornhuskers are out of contention for anything significant and Bo Pelini’s future in Lincoln is unclear. The Huskers (8-3) have lost two straight heading into Friday’s game at Iowa. Win or lose in Iowa City, whether this is a marriage worth saving is hard to say. Pelini is 66-27 with the Huskers and could probably get another good job without much difficulty. But he has never won a conference title and has never lost fewer than four games in a season. Nebraska fans keep asking, is this as good as it gets? Pelini keeps having to defend a top-25 program. It’s Groundhog Day in Lincoln, Nebraska.
Illinois at Northwestern
Illinois coach Tim Beckman was asked straight up earlier this week if he believed he needed to win to keep his job. ”Nothing has been mentioned to me about that,” he said. The Illini have taken baby steps forward in Beckman’s three seasons (2-10, 4-8, 5-6 and zero, one and two Big Ten wins). The problem is, fans aren’t buying into the progress. Attendance for the senior day victory against Penn State on Saturday was announced at 35,172, but appeared closer to 10,000. Squeaking into a bowl game might make athletic director Mike Thomas’ decision more complicated – but it’s no guarantee it will save Beckman’s job.
Purdue at Indiana
Indiana athletic director Fred Glass made a strong statement of support for Kevin Wilson heading into the Ohio State game, saying the program was headed in the right direction. Big picture, he might be right. The Hoosiers (3-8, 0-7 Big Ten) showed some fight, beating No. 17 Missouri on the road, and then watched their season spiral downward after losing starting quarterback Nate Sudfeld to a shoulder injury. But Wilson is 5-25 in the Big Ten in four seasons and hasn’t been to a bowl game.
Rutgers at Maryland
Kyle Flood, Rutgers. Yes, more Big Ten. The Scarlet Knights (6-5) are bowl eligible in their first season in the Big Ten, but they have been noncompetitive against the best teams in the conference, outscored by Ohio State, Michigan State, Wisconsin and Nebraska 180-44. Athletic director Julie Hermann gave Flood a contract extension earlier this season, which was surprising and would lead you to believe the coach is safe. Many Rutgers fans would love to see Greg Schiano’s return to Piscataway, New Jersey, after a short and unsuccessful stint with the NFL’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Always drama at Rutgers.
West Virginia at Iowa State
Cyclones coach Paul Rhoads is a well-liked Iowa native who has taken Iowa State (2-8, 0-7 Big 12) to three bowl games, but has only had one winning record during six seasons in Ames. The fan base has modest expectations. It’s difficult to win at Iowa State. A winless Big 12 season, which is where the Cyclone are headed if they can’t upset West Virginia on Saturday or No. 6 TCU next week, could force athletic director Jamie Pollard to act.
Follow Ralph D. Russo at www.Twitter.com/ralphDrussoAP