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Hot Names to Look Out For in College Football's Coaching Searches

Some of the sport's biggest programs are on the hunt for a new head coach. Who is next in line?

LSU, Florida and USC are open. With that trio of bluebloods looking for head coaches, the overlap will be obvious and the options will be numerous for some of the highest regarded coaches in the sport. That doesn’t even factor in additional solid jobs a tier down like Virginia Tech and TCU. Business is a boomin' in the coaching ranks considering the amount of money likely to be dished out by each of those big three to both fire …

… and hire their new coaches.

Let’s take a look at where each big name candidate stands before a truly wild coaching season gets up and running.

Lane Kiffin—Ole Miss

It remains to be seen how long the Lane Train is going to stay in Oxford. Yes, Kiffin reportedly still has that house in Boca Raton so you’d like to draw a Florida or a Miami connection (although the Canes job still is not open) there then there you have it. Kiffin was also linked to Ed Orgeron’s initial LSU staff when Coach O took over the full-time job, so there’s also a connection at LSU. There is also the obvious link to USC, which would be deeply hilarious if the Trojans were to bring him back in one of the more massive surprises of any silly season in recent memory.

James Franklin—Penn State

Franklin was a hot candidate pegged to LSU and USC’s coaching search out of the gate when each job came open. Franklin reportedly changed agencies to work with CAA and Jimmy Sexton. Many thought that portended a definite move to greener pastures outside of Happy Valley, but for weeks sources have been telling that Franklin had been trending more toward a contract extension than leaving to take a new gig.

Franklin himself seemed to be heavily hinting at that over the last few days as well.

Tuesday isn’t just a couple days before the holiday for Franklin, it also happens to be the day PSU’s board of trustees subcommittee on compensation is set to meet. Stay tuned.

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Mel Tucker—Michigan State

Reports indicate that Michigan State is set to offer Mel Tucker a whopper of an extension to the tune of 10 years and $95 million. Jokes aside about the performance the Spartans put on the field against Ohio State, the offer is not signed yet—or at least announced as of 24 hours postgame, and until ink is dry he should be considered contactable, particularly by LSU and Florida.

Jimbo Fisher—Texas A&M

Fisher probably won’t sign another extension after the Aggies inked him to a deal right before the season started, but his connection to LSU will likely not go away right up until the Tigers hire their actual new head coach.

Billy Napier—Louisiana

Napier has been considered a top target for TCU, per sources, and he it would not be a surprise if he gets a look at LSU and/or Virginia Tech. Napier is famously picky about what his next move might be:

To varying degrees, Napier has been connected to vacancies at Auburn, Ole Miss, Mississippi State, South Carolina, Baylor, Tennessee, Missouri and Arkansas. Some situations were too chaotic at the time, like when Auburn was in the midst of an all-out board room war between its administrators, boosters and fans at the time Napier interviewed. Others had looming NCAA penalties that made them unpalatable (Tennessee, Baylor) and still others simply balked when Napier laid out the resources he needed to be successful (South Carolina).

But being picky this year might just pay big dividends.

Luke Fickell—Cincinnati

Fickell’s former AD, Mike Bohn, currently runs the show at USC and all seems quiet out in LA for now. But it might not just be USC that takes a look at Fickell when all is said and done and the NFL coaching vacancies end up opening in early January … right around the time Cincinnati's season may finally be done if they end up garnering a berth in the College Football Playoff.

Matt Campbell—Iowa State

Whether it’s Florida State or the NFL, Campbell’s name has come up before, and will come up in coaching searches again. The Cyclones have had the ball bounce the wrong way in close games in a way it didn’t during their conference title game run in 2020.

More College Football Coverage:

Jimmy Lake’s Firing Stands Out for Its Swiftness
The Big 12 Will Go On Without Oklahoma and Texas
Oregon's Loss to Utah Opens Up a Wealth of Playoff Scenarios
Coaching Carousel Notebook: Is This the Year Billy Napier Makes His Move?