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Forde-Yard Dash: Is LSU or USC the Better Job?

Plus, four murky Power 5 situations that could be the next to open up on the coaching market.
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Forty names, games, teams and minutiae making news in college football (mustard missiles sold separately in Knoxville):

MORE DASH: SEC Debacles | Winds of Change | Wazzu Blame

SECOND QUARTER: WHICH CADILLAC JOB IS BETTER?

Two top-shelf coaching jobs are now open for the 2022 season, weeks ahead of the usual hiring/firing season. When USC and LSU open at the same time, some other coaches are about to get paid—either for taking the jobs or using them as leverage with their current employers. There could be multiple crossover candidates, particularly Penn State’s James Franklin (11), whose reported $7 million salary is surpassed by only David Shaw and Dan Mullen among coaches who have never made the College Football Playoff.

A Dash breakdown of both positions, and which one should be more attractive to coaches.

USC (12). The historical view: seven national championships since the AP poll era began in 1936. The years: 1962, ’67, ’72, ’74 (split with Oklahoma), ’78 (split with Alabama), 2003 (split with LSU), ’04. Number of coaches who have won national championships: three (John McKay, John Robinson, Pete Carroll). Conference championships: 39, spanning from 1927 to 2017.

LSU (13). The historical view: four national championships since the AP poll era began in 1936. The years: 1958 (split with Iowa), 2003 (split with USC), ’07, ’19. Number of coaches who have won national championships: four (Paul Dietzel, Nick Saban, Les Miles, Ed Orgeron). Conference championships: 16, spanning from 1896 to 2019.

LSU flags fly at the Tigers' game vs. Florida

Chances of winning a national title: advantage LSU. The last three coaches of the Tigers all won one, and it can be argued that two of those three aren’t very good (looking at you, Mad Hatter and Coach O). At USC, the golden eras primarily belong to two men, McKay (plus spinoff Robinson) and Carroll.

Job security: advantage USC, by a mile. The LSU job is, befitting its mascot, like riding a tiger. As long as you hang on, everything is good. The minute you fall off, you’re going to be eaten. There has never been a lot of tolerance for losing there, and it is shrinking all the time. Consider: Ed Orgeron lasted a season and a half after winning the national title; Clay Helton lasted three-plus seasons after being routed in the Cotton Bowl by Ohio State to finish an 11–3 season.

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Pay: advantage LSU. But who’s counting? Both places will make rich men richer.

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Access to the College Football Playoff: In a four-team world, advantage LSU. The Tigers have been there and done that, whereas the Trojans have not—and the entire Pac-12 has been left out of five of the seven playoffs. In a larger playoff, advantage USC. The Trojans are in an easier conference and division to win than LSU. In fact, if USC is doing the job correctly, it could have the biggest advantage over the rest of its division of anyone in the Power 5 conferences, other than Clemson. LSU’s conference competition is the hardest in the nation and destined to get harder when Texas and Oklahoma arrive.

Recruiting: advantage LSU. Both sit on incredibly fertile recruiting soil; LSU has 61 Louisiana players on its current roster, and USC has 77 Californians. But top Louisiana prospects tend to be more wired to LSU than California prospects are to USC, with less in-state competition. That’s not to say Southeastern Conference rivals haven’t poached players from Louisiana (including 2020 Heisman Trophy winner DeVonta Smith, who went to Alabama). But LSU has had incredible success over the years keeping elite players home.

Quality of life: advantage USC. There is no beach in Baton Rouge.

THE NEXT FLURRY OF JOBS THAT COULD COME OPEN

Washington State (13). Not a plum job, but it is a Power 5 job and it could be open as soon as Tuesday. With Nick Rolovich seemingly willing to sacrifice his career on the anti-vax altar, he could be out of work when the state of Washington starts enforcing its vaccine mandate for state employees. His attempted religious exemption dodge could easily be rejected, which would seemingly leave him out of options and without the $4.3 million owed to him if fired without cause. This comes at a time when Rolo is on a three-game winning streak, with the Cougars 4–3 overall. Dash top candidate if it opens: Nevada’s Jay Norvell (14).

Miami (15). The Hurricanes (2–4) are trending toward their second losing season in the last three, something that last happened in 1977–79. Manny Diaz went 6–7 in 2019, bounced back with an 8–3 mark last year, welcomed a ton of experienced players back for ’21 … and the program has regressed. If you’re in the market for moral victories, Miami had a couple of those in consecutive weeks with comebacks that fell just short against Virginia and North Carolina. But with 5–1 opponents North Carolina State and Pittsburgh next on the schedule, the Canes could be 2–6 heading into November. Dash top candidate if it opens: Kentucky’s Mark Stoops (16), though he may not want it.

Nebraska (17). First-year athletic director Trev Alberts doesn’t sound like he wants to fire his fellow ’90s-era Cornhusker hero Scott Frost—or it could be the fact that doing so would cost a massive amount of cash ($20.4 million) at a place that doesn’t usually operate on an SEC-level, Money Is No Object basis. But the coach isn’t helping his boss with the product on the field. Sift through all the vague generalities about being “close” and seeing “progress,” and here’s the bottom line: Frost’s fourth Nebraska team is 3–5 overall, 1–4 in Big Ten play and last in the West Division. Close losses to undefeated Michigan State and Michigan were one thing; losing to Illinois and Minnesota is harder to spin. Frost is now 15–25 overall, 10–21 in Big Ten play and well on his way to a fourth straight losing season. Dash top candidate if it opens: Iowa State’s Matt Campbell (18), if he’s worried about his current program losing ground with the impending loss of Power 5 clout for the Big 12.

Virginia Tech (19). There simply isn’t any appreciable momentum in Year 6 under Justin Fuente. After going 19–8 his first two seasons at Tech, Fuente’s record is 22–21. The Hokies are just another part of the eternal ACC Coastal Division muddle, perfectly ordinary, averaging 29.3 points and giving up 27.8 over those last 43 games, treading water, neither sinking nor swimming. Athletic director Whit Babcock is a patient man, but patience with Fuente no longer is shared by a hefty percentage of Virginia Tech fans. Dash top candidate if it opens: Coastal Carolina’s Jamey Chadwell (20), and see if he’ll bring quarterback Grayson McCall with him.

MORE DASH: SEC Debacles | Winds of Change | Wazzu Blame

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