Falling dominoes: Firing of Brown, Kiffin would have ripple effect
If Texas coach Mack Brown and USC head man Lane Kiffin fail to turn around seasons that are teetering on the brink of collapse, both could be out at season's end. Where would the Longhorns and Trojans turn? What other openings would those moves cause? Our experts consider.
Two of the most storied programs in college football are under the microscope in this, the opening month of the 2013 season. Texas and USC have followed the underachievement of 2012 with more underachieving early in 2013, and the groundswell of disapproval around Mack Brown and Lane Kiffin is becoming too strong to deny. Many Longhorns and Trojans supporters want Brown and Kiffin gone, a circumstance that, if it occurs, would produce incredibly attractive head coaching vacancies, and in simultaneous fashion.
Brown and Kiffin still have time to turn things around, but if they don't, what then? It's a question being asked throughout the college football world, not just at the epicenters of dissent in Austin and L.A. Our team of college football experts has been considering the very same topic, and the ripple effect open jobs at Texas and USC would cause throughout the profession.
What you see below is a fantasy. The dominoes will not fall in exactly this way, but the point is dominoes will have to fall. Two major jobs will have to be filled at Texas and USC if Brown and Kiffin can't sort it out, and the candidates for those positions will leave other big openings in their wake. Our experts offer an example of the movement that could lie ahead.
Dennis Dodd: Domino 1 -- Texas hires Kirby Smart. Alabama defensive coordinator Kirby Smart has turned down interest from several schools, supposedly on the advice of Nick Saban. Something along the lines of "just wait, something better will come along." This is not only better, it's the best -- of everything. Resources, recruiting, facilities. Smart would hit the market at the right time -- 38 years old this December, the son of a coach, who has three national championships to his credit. And it helps he is a defensive coordinator, coming off a total meltdown of the Texas defense in 2013. This has the feel of Pete Carroll bringing a nationally-ranked defense to a league (Pac-10) that didn't play much of it. If Texas calls, Smart not only has to answer the phone, he has to be on the next Gulfstream out of Tuscaloosa. The only question is whether he stays for Alabama's bowl game.
Bruce Feldman: Dominoes 2 and 3 -- USC hires Pat Fitzgerald, Alabama elevates defensive line coach Chris Rumph to defensive coordinator. USC, which considers former Trojan linebacker (and current Denver Broncos defensive coordinator) Jack Del Rio, Fresno State's Tim DeRuyter and Oregon offensive coordinator Scott Frost and also gets turned down by Kevin Sumlin, Chris Petersen and Steve Sarkisian, more than doubles Pat Fitzgerald's salary to hire the Northwestern coach, prying him out of the Midwest. Nick Saban promotes D-line coach Chris Rumph, 41 to DC after being impressed with how effectively the Tide front changes from week to week.
Jeremy Fowler: Dominoes 4 and 5 -- Northwestern hires Pete Lembo, Alabama hires Paul Pasqualoni as defensive line coach. Northwestern is devastated by the loss of Fitzgerald but goes to the trusty MAC well, hiring Ball State coach Pete Lembo in a close race with Michigan State defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi. Lembo runs an exciting offense and would get Northwestern's culture while stressing academics. Northwestern isn't about flash and doesn't start now. Alabama backfills its defensive line coaching vacancy with one of the first head coaches fired in December -- UConn's Paul Pasqualoni, a former Dolphins defensive coordinator and Cowboys D-line coach. It's the perfect fall-back job for a seasoned coach.
Tony Barnhart, Dominoes 6 and 7 -- UConn hires Louisville offensive coordinator Shawn Watson, Ball State hires Cincinnati offensive coordinator Eddie Gran. All you have to know about Watson you can discover in watching Teddy Bridgewater play. He knows how to coach the position. He has been a head coach at Southern Illinois (1994-96), an offensive coordinator Colorado, Nebraska, and Louisville. The 54-year-old Watson is ready to be a head coach again. Gran, 48, is one of the best recruiters in the country, especially when it comes to running backs. Among those he has signed over the years were the dynamic duo at Auburn -- Ronnie Brown and Cadillac Williams. He was a finalist for the Florida Atlantic job that went to Carl Pelini. Gran should have been a head coach long ago.
Rashaad Penny etched his name in San Diego State's history books
Kelly led Oregon to a national championship appearance and is an innovator in the game
This week's AP Top 25 college football rankings remained largely unchanged
Mora went 46-30 since joining UCLA in 2012, taking the Bruins to four bowl games
There should not be too many changes to this week's college football rankings
Elsewhere, the top 12 remains the same in this week's college football rankings