With four first-year coaches in the Pac-12 this year, clearly last year was the "Year of the Coaches Hot Seat" in the conference. With a number of the new coaches having success, and the majority of the conference's current powers still on top, it looks like 2012 could be a rare season in a major football conference where all head coaches survive the season.
With that said, the first half of the season has already seen the remarkable comeback of the conference's longest tenured head coach, a horrible slide for the second-longest tenured and some very quick starts for some of the new guys.
But how do the 12 coaches stack up right now in regards to who is on the hottest seat and who is on the coldest seat?
Chip Kelly, Oregon
Though he is the least likely coach to get fired in the conference right now for his team's performance on the field, Kelly might be the guy that I would bet has the best chance of leaving after this season. When Bill Belichick and the Patriots are regularly consulting you, that means that you are a hot commodity and I think it is only a matter of time before Kelly has to prove himself in the NFL. There's that, and the fact that the NCAA is still investigating Oregon for allegations that are primarily aimed directly at him.
From a pure coaching standpoint though, I can't imagine that anyone in the Oregon camp is thinking that Kelly's job should be in question. Well, maybe this guy.
Chances he is fired in 2012 - Zero percent unless something comes out from the NCAA soon and it is very bad and he his forced out.
Mike Riley, Oregon State
Riley was actually one the coaches on the hot seat going into the season, but winning changes everything and the perfect marriage between Riley and Corvallis appears to be going strong again. No one expected Oregon State to be undefeated and ranked in the Top 10 in late-October and Riley deserves a ton of credit as his unheralded team is playing as good as anyone in the country.
Chances he is fired in 2012 - Almost zero percent, but the Beavers face a tougher schedule the rest of the way and faltering down the stretch would make him get back towards the fire he was near going into the season.
David Shaw, Stanford
Shaw has only lost four games as a head coach, but his in-game coaching has very much been in question in his last three losses with the kicking debacle in last season's Fiesta Bowl and Stanford losing games they should have wrapped up against Washington and Notre Dame. Stanford is one of the least pressure packed jobs in the conference, but Shaw has a ton of talent in Palo Alto and will need to show that he can keep Stanford at the top of the conference as Harbaugh's players start to graduate.
Chances he is fired in 2012 - None, he'll have to really falter to get much pressure at Stanford, though it would be imperative for him to show that he can get his team to compete with Oregon this year and not get blown out in Eugene.
Todd Graham, Arizona State
Despite getting bounced by Oregon at home, the Sun Devils are just one win away from matching their win total from last year and sitting at second in the South Division. Graham has received a lot of credit for taking a talented but undisciplined team and getting them playing the right way in just one season as coach. Sun Devil fans are excited about the future, and should be as long as Graham doesn't do what Graham does and bolt as soon as something better comes along.
Chances he is fired in 2012 - None, Graham could lose out the rest of the way and while, he wouldn't get himself off to a good start, he would still be safe in his first season.
Rich Rodriguez, Arizona
Despite an 0-3 Pac-12 start in his first season in the conference, Wildcat fans have to be excited about what Rodriguez' offense can do after seeing it in full affect against Oklahoma State, Washington and Stanford. The fact that Rodriguez was able to get the hurry-up offense humming as well as it has in his first season at Arizona is a great sign for the future as he follows Oregon's path of hoping to destroy opponents with speed and tempo.
Chances he is fired in 2012 - Once again, these first-year coaches will get a pass in their first season, but Rodriguez can make sure that he chills his seat by getting his defense to play well down the stretch and getting Arizona to a bowl game. Expectations aren't sky high in Arizona and the Wildcats don't have an easy schedule, but getting to a bowl game in his first year will do wonders for his job security.
Lane Kiffin, USC
Kiffin's record and current recruiting class suggests that his seat should be cooler, but I just keep hearing rumblings about how the administration at USC isn't in love with him and expectations are higher at USC than anywhere else in the conference. Three or four losses are very possible for USC this season if they don't play at a high level and that would be extremely disappointing for a season where the Trojans came in with national championship hype. Fans can't be happy with his complete inability to beat Stanford and he will have a lot of explaining to do if he gets beat by Oregon twice in one year which would make his record against Stanford and Oregon 1-6.
Chances he is fired in 2012 - Very low, but not impossible. If the administration truly doesn't like him and he finishes 9-5 or 8-6 this season, USC might jump at the chance at getting one of the many elite coaches who would assuredly love to coach there.
Jim Mora, UCLA
Mora's hard to grasp personality and unique philosophies will leave him little room for failure, but he appears to have UCLA headed in the right direction for the most part in 2012. UCLA fans were ecstatic with the early-season start, but the blowout loss they suffered at Cal was exactly the kind of uninspired loss to an equal or lesser opponent that has doomed previous UCLA coaches so they definitely have to be a little wary until he can prove that they still aren't the underachieving Bruins of old.
Chances he is fired in 2012 - None, unless he says something out of this world stupid.
Mike Leach, Washington State
It's not so much that Leach has the Cougars sitting at 2-5, it's the way they have done it. Despite being heralded as an offensive genius, the Cougars offense has failed to score much at all and hasn't struck fear into anyone - not even Eastern Washington or Colorado. The fact that Rodriguez has been able to immediately get his high-octane spread offense going immediately at Arizona can't sit well with Cougar fans either.
Chances he is fired in 2012 - None, the Cougars made a big move by hiring Leach, so they are likely going to have to stick it out with him for a while, but he will immediately be on the hot seat if he can't find a way to win another game or two the rest of the season.
Kyle Whittingham, Utah
I wonder if Whittingham kind of wishes that the Utes would have stayed in the comfort of the Mountain West. The transition to the Pac-12 hasn't gone well for the Utes, and despite looking like they had started to put it together late last season, they have pretty much been in a tailspin since last season's inexcusable upset at the hands of Colorado that kept them out of the Pac-12 Championship Game.
Chances he is fired in 2012 - Low, but people will call for it if the Utes can't win a game or two down the stretch and have to being to wonder if they might need a proven BCS coach to keep them competitive in the Pac-12.
Steve Sarkisian, Washington
It is actually kind of shocking how Sarkisian has completely avoided the hot seat so far just based on his 22-23 overall record at Washington, but coming off of Tyrone Willingham and an 0-12 season, Husky fans have been very appreciative of what he has done. However, I think most expected the Huskies to be farther along in their progression in Sarkisian's fourth year in Seattle and he will officially be in the hot seat in 2013 if the Huskies can't finish this season strong.
Chances he is fired in 2012 - Low, but it wouldn't be impossible if the Huskies went winless or get just one win the rest of the season. Most of the pressure will be on next year when the Huskies finally start to have some experienced starters and depth.
Jon Embree, Colorado
Even in the ultra competitive, "win now or else" world of modern college football, it's still pretty hard to get fired in only two seasons, but Embree is definitely testing those waters. The Buffaloes haven't just been bad under Embree, they have been embarrassing, particularly out of conference where they got obliterated by Fresno State and lost to FCS Sacramento State earlier this year.
Chances he is fired in 2012 - Not likely, but a possibility, especially if Colorado fails to compete in the rest of their games. I don't think Colorado is serious enough about football to do it, but a 1-11 season filled with blowouts could be enough to cut ties with Embree sooner rather than later to stop the bleeding.
Jeff Tedford, Cal
It's crazy to think that in the mid-2000's Tedford was one of the hottest commodities on the coaching market and was perpetually speculated as a target for every good coaching opening, even some in the NFL. The Bears have without a doubt stagnated under Tedford and it is hard to see that turning around anytime soon as they aren't exactly teeming with young talent and the monster recruiting class they were putting together last year basically got obliterated by Washington's poaching of Tosh Lupoi.
Chances he is fired in 2012 - Likely, and he is the only one that I would bet any money on losing his job. I think he needs to at least get Cal to six wins to save his job and that is a tough task as they will need to win three out of their last four with one of those games being against Oregon and two on the road.
What I think may be Tedford's saving grace though is that he rejuvenated the program to the point where they remodeled their stadium so it would be pretty brutal if they fired him the first year post-renovation.