In the days leading up to Ohio State's Oct. 27 meeting with Penn State, I was chatting with a Big Ten coach about the success of both schools in their NCAA sanction-laden seasons. Heading into the contest, the Buckeyes were 8-0, and the Nittany Lions had won five straight after starting the year 0-2.
"You shouldn't be surprised," the coach said. "No one should. Yes, Urban (Meyer) and Bill (O'Brien) took over messes. But there was certainly no lack of talent or resources in those programs. Never will be. They were just rudderless. The table is always set at places like those two, you just have to have the right cook in the kitchen."
The coach went on to echo a thought I have heard repeatedly from those in the coaching profession: Just as there are jobs you should always say yes to -- no matter the circumstances -- there are also jobs you should always turn down.
"Sometimes you just want a head coaching job so bad you'll take anything," the late Bill Stewart said during a conversation we had about the career assistant's decision to take over at Virginia Military Institute. "But even if a school has a great brand name or a great conference affiliation, they are still ships that are never going to stay afloat. The Titanic was impressive to look at, but it was destined to sink."
So of the jobs that are open or might become open, which programs appear the most ready-made for a hero-making turnaround? I surveyed (and informally polled) coaches and athletic directors from around the country to find out.
Here's our ranking of the top five college football reconstruction projects that aren't as bad as they appear to be.
Current coach: Jeff Tedford | Current record: 3-7
Patience with Tedford, in his 11th year, seems to have officially run out after a 49-27 trouncing by Utah, which had been winless in Pac-12 play, and an uninspired 21-13 loss to Washington, a game played in front of the smallest home crowd of the season. It will get no better in Cal's home finale this weekend when the No. 3 Oregon Ducks come to town.
Cal has won a share of a conference title only twice since 1958, the same season it made the last of its eight Rose Bowl appearances. But it has been to eight bowl games in the past decade and has a decent baseline of talent. But its biggest attraction for a new coach is the stadium the Bears suddenly can't win in, a $321 million renovation -- and earthquake-proofing -- of 90-year-old Memorial Stadium.