It’s too early for athletics directors to start firing the leaders of their football programs, but there clearly are some coaches already feeling the heat after a slow September start. By this evening, when teams take stock of where they stand after some important conference and intersectional games that matter deeply to fans, the alums will begin venting.
Clemson at Maryland, noon, ESPNU: The Terrapins and beleaguered coach Ralph Friedgen are on the hottest of seats. The Terps are 1-3, with the only victory requiring overtime against James Madison. They have surrendered nearly 40 points per game, and hometown fans already were boiling in Week 3 -- and that was before a blowout loss at home to Rutgers. After all his early success at Maryland, it’s hard to believe Friedgen can’t survive one terrible season, but Maryland’s standing continues to erode, and no coach in any sport in College Park can feel protected.
Virginia at North Carolina, noon, WUPA: A week off for the Cavaliers (0-3) isn’t likely to help against the Tar Heels, who are smarting from the woeful offensive effort against Georgia Tech. UNC (3-1) figures to have a stout enough defense to continue Al Groh’s inexorable march toward a November firing. The Cavs installed a new spread offense, but it’s taking far too much time to take root.
No. 3 Alabama at Kentucky, 12:21 p.m., WPCH: Those Kentucky fans who had long faces last week against Florida figure to have even sadder expressions this afternoon against the Crimson Tide. The usually stoic Rich Brooks actually had a few moments of real anger last week when Kentucky looked not just overmatched but unprepared. Virtually everyone looks overmatched by Alabama and voters in the AP poll are noticing as the Tide inches closer to Florida. Kentucky is allowed to be overmatched against teams such as Florida and Alabama, but the Wildcats can’t look today as if they don’t know which way the end zone is, or Brooks won’t survive.
Florida State at Boston College, 3:30 p.m., ABC: The Seminoles (2-2) gave their fans hope with the victory at BYU after the loss to Miami. But the stunning setback at home to South Florida and a backup quarterback certainly has dampened enthusiasm in Tallahassee. That coach-in-waiting Jimbo Fisher called out the players this week says that you need to read between the lines about the future of Bobby Bowden. A loss today and another next Saturday night to Georgia Tech might seal Bowden's sad but seemingly inevitable finish.
Air Force at Navy, 3:30 p.m., CBS College: Coach Rich Ellerson isn’t feeling the heat yet in his first season at Army (2-2), but he can’t watch the tape of either of these option teams and be thrilled with what the Black Knights will face in November and December. It’s unfortunate that this game can’t be seen by a wider audience. Air Force (3-1) has the No. 1 rushing offense in the nation and has created the most turnovers of any team in the country. Navy (2-2) has won 13 consecutive games in the Commander-In-Chief Trophy series (games contested by the service academies: Army, Navy and Air Force) and the Middies have been the nation’s No. 1 rushing team for four consecutive years. There will be a sellout crowd of 34,000-plus wearing a “Sea of Blue” at the Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium in one of the games that makes college football a spectacle.
No. 21 Mississippi at Vanderbilt, 7 p.m., ESPNU: The hot seat in this game belong to Ole Miss quarterback Jevan Snead, who did not play up to his preseason hype in a loss to South Carolina on Sept. 24. This is a dangerous game for the Rebels, who need to prove that they belong in the SEC West conversation. Without a win in Nashville, they won’t.
Auburn at Tennessee, 7:45 p.m., ESPN: Lane Kiffin and quarterback Jonathan Crompton get a pass for a couple of weeks, but the seat will indeed grow hotter for both if the Vols can’t handle the unbeaten Tigers (4-0) in Neyland Stadium. And the seat can get hotter the following Saturday when Georgia travels to Knoxville. If Kiffin is to turn the program around quickly, it starts tonight. And it begins with Crompton making smarter decisions. The Tigers can become the talk of the SEC with a victory.
No. 8 Oklahoma at No. 17 Miami, 8 p.m., ABC: All the excitement surrounding Miami coach Randy Shannon and quarterback Jacory Harris will evaporate late tonight in the South Florida humidity if the Hurricanes fall for the second week in a row to a top-10 team, and it’s a real possibility, whether or not Heisman winner Sam Bradford returns for the Sooners.