NCAA Football: Oregon State at Arizona State

Oregon State coach Jonathan Smith has emerged as the top target for the vacant Michigan State job, according to 247Sports.  The search to replace former coach Mel Tucker is reportedly the final stages and the process could be completed by this weekend, according to The Athletic

Smith, 44, took over at his alma mater in 2018 following a stint as the offensive coordinator at Washington. He had previous stops at Idaho, Montana and Boise State as a quarterbacks coach. Smith holds a 34-34 overall record heading into Friday's showdown with in-state rival Oregon.

Smith inherited an Oregon State team that was coming off a 1-11 season in 2017. He turned things around at his home, helping lead the program to a 10-win season in 2022 for the first time in 16 years. Smith holds a 25-12 record the past three seasons while Oregon State will appear in its third consecutive bowl game next month.

The Beavers coach was viewed as a potential early candidate for the vacant job shortly after MSU fired Tucker. Other candidates at the time included Duke coach Mike Elko, Ohio State offensive coordinator Brian Hartline and acting Spartans coach Harlon Barnett. Earlier this week, Smith was asked about potentially departing his alma mater amid the Michigan State rumors and directed the attention to his agent. 

'I'm not trying to be sarcastic here. I've got an agent that's got a job," Smith said. "He best be finding out what is out there and people calling. That's how that works. I can tell you from his side, he best be working just because I'm paying him so much. They get a percentage and I'm making a couple million bucks. I'm not trying to be sarcastic. Any coach, they're aware of what's potentially out there if their agent is doing their job. I'm not trying to dodge the question. I'm trying to be truthful.'

Michigan State fired Tucker for cause from the program on Sept. 27 amid sexual harassment claims. The allegations stem from Tucker sexually harassing rape survivor and activist Brenda Tracy. The school initiated the firing process a little over a week prior and fired the 51-year-old less than two years after being rewarded with a blockbuster 10-year, $95 million contract extension.

Tracy's complaint includes allegations of unwelcome advances from Tucker, including masturbating during an April 2022 phone call without her consent. Tucker has admitted to the act but claimed it was part of a consensual, personal relationship. 

"Simply put, Mr. Tucker's response does not provide any information that refutes or undermines the multiple grounds for termination for cause set forth in the notice," Michigan State athletic director Alan Haller said in a statement earlier this fall. "Instead, his 25-page response ... provides a litany of excuses for his inappropriate behavior while expressly admitting to the problematic conduct outlined in the notice."