Les Miles is out at LSU, and The Rules are still too sad to talk about that. We’ll properly honor the grass-eatin’, chest-havin’, mouth-kissin’, (male) cheerleader-crashin’, Columbus Day-celebratin’, riverboat-gamblin’ Mad Hatter later this week.
For now, let’s focus on the Tigers’ next move. If you’re going to push out a guy who won 114 games and lost only 34, who delivered at least eight wins and a bowl game for 11 straight seasons, who played for two national titles and won one, you’d damn well better go big.
Interim coach Ed Orgeron will probably provide a short-term spark, as he did in the same role at Southern California in 2013, but you don’t can the man who averaged 10 wins a year and replace him long-term with the greatest Hummer salesman the world has ever known.
To that end, here now are the five best options LSU might actually be able to land, ranked in descending order of sexiness:
Tom Herman, Houston: He helped Ohio State win a national title as an offensive coordinator and then took less than two full seasons as a head coach to put the Cougars in position to do the same. He’s off to a 17-1 start, has a Heisman contender at QB and sixth-ranked Houston is in the hunt for the College Football Playoff. Herman should be Tigers athletic director Joe Alleva’s first, second and third phone call. But with the Big 12 weighing whether to add the Cougars in expansion and other high-profile programs like USC, Texas and Auburn potentially looking for new coaches soon, competition will be stiff for the hottest name in the business.
Jimbo Fisher, Florida State: He was LSU’s offensive coordinator when Nick Saban won the 2003 national championship. Fisher won his own title as Florida State’s head coach in 2013. He has an .826 winning percentage (71-15) with the Seminoles, compared to .770 for Miles with the Tigers. He’s good with quarterbacks – see FSU first-round pick E.J. Manuel and Heisman winner Jameis Winston – and boy, could LSU use that. But he has a good thing going in Tallahassee and an easier path to championships in the ACC than SEC (West, especially).
Bobby Petrino, Louisville: Yes, Cardinals athletic director Tom Jurich revived his career. Yes, he’d be leaving behind a quarterback who might win the Heisman this season. Yes, he (or LSU) would owe U of L a $10 million buyout if he bolts. And yes, he said Monday he’s happy right where he is. But no, it wouldn’t surprise anybody if he jumped at the chance to be back in the SEC, coaching one of the premier programs in America. This is probably a longer shot now than at any previous point in a life filled with wanderlust, but it ain’t a no-shot.
Lane Kiffin, Alabama: Now we’re into roll-the-dice options. Kiffin is an overwhelming success as the Crimson Tide’s offensive coordinator, helping Saban adapt to an evolving game in a way Miles refused to do. He’s molded three very different starting quarterbacks in as many years and Alabama has reached a playoff semifinal, won a national title and returned to No. 1 in the rankings this fall. But as a head coach, Kiffin was fired by the Raiders, left a mess at Tennessee and got canned (at the airport) five games into his fourth season at USC. Picking him is betting on lessons learned alongside Saban.
Jeff Brohm, Western Kentucky: Petrino without the baggage. The former U of L, NFL and XFL quarterback got his college coaching start as an assistant during Petrino’s first stop at his alma mater. Later, he was Petrino’s offensive coordinator during a reputation-rehab year at WKU and took over as head coach after Petrino returned to Louisville. Under Brohm, the Hilltoppers are 22-9 and have one of the nation’s most prolific offenses. They won 12 games last season, including a win at Vanderbilt, and trailed at LSU by just a touchdown late in the third quarter. We know Brohm can coach ball, but can he recruit elite talent?
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Now, it’s crazy but true: Some stuff not related to the Tigers’ coaching situation happened last weekend and even more is going to happen this weekend. So let’s talk about it, shall we?
No. 9 Texas A&M looks like the real deal, a bona fide challenger to No. 1 Alabama (mark your calendar for Oct. 22 when they collide in Tuscaloosa) after whipping No. 20 Arkansas 45-24 on a neutral field Saturday. Quarterback Trevor Knight, unwanted at Oklahoma, is now a savior in College Station, and freshman running back Trayveon Williams (9.7 yards per carry) is a revelation.
No. 11 Tennessee was looking like “same old, same old,” down 21-0 early against No. 23 Florida, but then quarterback Joshua Dobbs and defensive end Derek Barnett went berserk and the Volunteers scored 38 unanswered points, and that haunting, 11-game losing streak against the Gators ended in spectacular fashion. Proclaimed one long-tormented UT fan: “I am healed.” And now the Vols are in control of the East. Hell, a win this weekend at wounded No. 25 Georgia could essentially clinch the division.
No. 16 Ole Miss and star quarterback Chad Kelly finally made a big early lead stick, smashing the Bulldogs 45-14. With three minutes to go in the first halves of games against Florida State and Alabama, the Rebels had leads of 28-6 and 24-3 – and blew them both. They led 24-0 at the same point against the Bulldogs on Saturday, but then scored three more touchdowns before Georgia broke up the shutout. Ole Miss has to be the best two-loss team in America, right?
Auburn won that crazy game against then-No. 18 LSU on Saturday night, but did the Tigers in blue and orange lose the Tom Herman Sweepstakes in the process? If Gus Malzahn merely delayed the inevitable – all because time ran out on what looked like a Les-saving touchdown pass that was overturned – Auburn will be a step behind one of its SEC West rivals in the search for a new coach. But here’s a thought: straight up trade with Louisville. The Tigers get Petrino and the Cardinals get Lamar Jackson in Malzahn’s offense.
Game of the week: It’s a weak slate, but Missouri at LSU probably has the juiciest storylines. (We interrupt this paragraph to complain about the lack of creativity represented and confusion created by all the schools who choose the oh-so-generic Tiger mascot.) Can Missouri Tigers quarterback Drew Lock (1,508 yards, 14 TD passing) keep it up against an LSU Tigers defense that has allowed just two passing touchdowns? And how will the LSU Tigers rally under Orgeron and a reorganized staff?
Congrats, we’re sorry: Boy, did Kentucky coach Mark Stoops need Saturday’s victory over South Carolina (which has now lost three in a row to the Wildcats). That got UK back to .500 on the season and at least momentarily changed the ugly conversation about its coach. But Stoops’ reward? A trip to Alabama this weekend, where “a bunch of War Daddies” await. His entire analysis of the Crimson Tide roster Monday sounded like one big, dread-filled gulp.