LSU, USC head coach candidate deniers auditioning for vacancies this weekend

I’m about as sick of the college football coaching carousel chatter as Mike Tomlin. I know reporters are obligated to ask these questions, but it’s like asking a child standing in front of a puddle of spilt milk, “Did you do this?” There needs to be a word for asking a question you know you’re not going to get a straight answer to. (Inconse-question? I don’t know, but I’ve already wasted too much time trying to think of one.)

If you want answers, don’t ask inconse-questions, watch the games. In-game adjustments may be overrated, but real-time decisions — clock management, going for it on fourth and short, when to pull the plug on Spencer Rattler — are important.

So, with LSU on a bye and USC fans treating every game after two losses like a mid-August Dodgers game, I thought I might be able to pique your interest with coaching candidate auditions.

Michigan State’s Mel Tucker, Ole Miss’ Lane Kiffin and Penn State’s James Franklin have all been linked to the vacancies at LSU and USC; all three are not a distraction; and all three play ranked opponents Saturday. Obviously, if you’re a USC diehard you can go ahead and skip the Ole Miss section (or, if you’re a Volunteer, light it on fire).

No. 6 Michigan at No. 8 Michigan State (Noon, Fox) – Tucker’s Spartans are 7-0 and face their toughest test yet in state rival and also undefeated Michigan. From an LSU fan perspective, this game will feel like an old school SEC matchup because the defenses are stingy and both offenses are run-first with hopefully enough quarterback play. I’m talking Leonard-Fournette-LSU-Bama-you’ll-be-lucky-to-score-a-touchdown physical, with Kenneth Walker doing his best Fournette impression.

Having come up under Nick Saban and Kirby Smart, it’s easy to see how seamless a transition to the SEC would be for Tucker, and it’s even easier to picture considering the man has no shame when it comes to saying one thing while doing another. I’m not judging him at all for it; what is he supposed to say? “Hell yeah, I’m interested in the LSU job. I just hope I can finish 10-2, maybe 11-1, perhaps sneak into the Big 10 title game, get lucky against Iowa and crash the playoff because that’s the only scenario where LSU fans won’t be pissed they hired me instead of Dabo or Jimbo.” It’d be awesome if he did say that because it’s true, he is a long shot who will need to overachieve to the highest degree to get the job.

Lane Kiffin

Lane Kiffin
Photo: Getty Images

No. 10 Ole Miss at No. 18 Auburn (5 p.m., ESPN) — Another week in the SEC West, another ranked team. Rebel QB Matt Corral is a Heisman candidate, so get your popcorn ready (too soon?), LSU fans, because this will induce drooling if Lane’s offense keeps humming and doubly so if you just watched Michigan and Michigan State’s battle for line of scrimmage supremacy.

Kiffin seems to have fully recouped his darling status among college football head coaches, and that allure will only continue to grow for LSU faithful if he keeps winning in that division because SEC fans only respect SEC teams. Hell, even if they lose, they’ll probably put up stupid enough numbers that an L won’t affect his standing in the Bayou.

James Franklin

James Franklin
Photo: Getty Images

No. 20 Penn State at No. 5 Ohio State (5:30 p.m., ABC) — For the USC contingent trying to figure out if Franklin is a good coach, this should be a pretty good barometer. Coming off back-to-back losses, including a 9 OT thriller (?) to Illinois, the Nittany Lions head to the Shoe to play a “surging” Ohio State team. (Forgive me if I’m not impressed by wins over Tulsa, Akron, Rutgers, Maryland, and Indiana, Buckeyes fans.)

PSU QB Sean Clifford, even if healthy, isn’t going to inspire Spartan fans longing for the days of John David Booty, but they might be able to glean some enthusiasm if Penn State’s defense is able to harass and disrupt an OSU team with two Heisman “hopefuls.” (Again, see the schedule.)

We all know how well defense plays in Southern California. … Wait? What’s that? It doesn’t? Well then, can I interest you in Jeff Fisher?

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