Tom Smart, Deseret News
SALT LAKE CITY — Today we're talking coaches on the hot seat, bowl possibilities and a sad golf story.
Two of the top three coaches in the latest Coaches Hot Seat rankings (coacheshotseat.com), are from the Pac-12 Conference. In fact four of the top eight are from the Pac-12.
One of them is not Utah coach Kyle Whittingham, although he is surprisingly high on the list, much higher on the list than deserves to be.
UCLA's Rick Neuheisel is ranked No. 1 and Washington State's Paul Wulff is No. 3, with Cal's Jeff Tedford No. 7 and Oregon State's Mike Riley No. 8.
Whittingham is No. 42, which isn't quite in the "hot seat" category or "edge of the hot seat" category, but close. Rather Whittingham is in the "safe for now" category.
It's hard to imagine there are 77 coaches "safer" than Whittingham, who has a .718 winning percentage and a 6-1 bowl record. Then again it's hard to take a website that still lists Utah as playing in the Mountain West Conference, seriously.
So who is the "safest" coach in America? That would be Boise State's Chris Peterson, who has an amazing 68-5 record in six-plus seasons. Next safest is Oklahoma State's Mike Gundy, followed by LSU's Les Miles, Alabama's Nick Saban and Oregon's Chip Kelly.
In case you're wondering, Utah State's Gary Andersen is ranked 34th on the hot seat list, while BYU's Bronco Mendenhall is 97th.
However, despite his 10-21 record in nearly three years, I would think Andersen ought to be safe for awhile to come as the most successful Aggie coach since John L. Smith in the mid-1990s.
Saturday's victory went a long way toward keeping Utah's bowl hopes alive. At 4-4, the Utes need two wins in their last four games against 2-6 Arizona, 4-4, UCLA, 3-5 Washington State or 1-8 Colorado.
But you can probably hold off on those New Mexico Bowl jokes for awhile.
It's looking like the Pac-12 will not be able to fulfill it's seven bowl obligations. The New Mexico Bowl berth goes to the No. 7 Pac-10 team, taking the place of the WAC, which used to have a berth opposite the Mountain West Conference.
However, right now, Colorado is already out of the running along with ineligible USC with 2-6 teams Arizona and Oregon State needing to win four straight to get to a bowl. Washington State (3-5) is unlikely, with games against Arizona State and Washington still left. Utah, UCLA and Cal are all 4-4 and all aren't likely to make it to six wins.
If the Utes make it, they'll probably end up in Las Vegas (No. 5 Pac-12 team) or San Francisco (No. 6 Pac-12).
How bad is the Western Athletic Conference this year? Well, with the season two-thirds over, there are just two teams out of eight with winning records. And Nevada and Hawaii just barely get there, as both have 5-3 marks. If Idaho hadn't blown its game with the Warriors Saturday and lost on a last-minute field goal, there would have been just one.
BYU just may end up as the honorary WAC champion this year. The Cougars play five games against the WAC this year and right now the Cougars are 2-0 with wins over Utah State and San Jose State. The Cougars still have games left against 1-7 Idaho, 3-5 New Mexico State and 5-3 Hawaii to close the season.
The WAC just has three bowl game tie-ins, the Poinsettia, Famous Idaho Potato (Boise) and Hawaii bowls and may not fill them all.
And what about BYU's bowl game? The Cougars are assured of playing in the Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl in Dallas on Dec. 30 against a Conference USA team. Right now, Tulsa and SMU appear to be the front-runners.
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