Tuesday, August 9

Urban Meyer’s Best Landing Spots for a College Football Comeback, from LSU to USC

Imagine the scene on November 5, 2022.

New Orleans’ five-star quarterback and LSU commitment Arch Manning is at Tiger Stadium. No. 1 Alabama is in town looking to add to a 37-game winning streak. Death Valley is in a foam when LSU emerges from the tunnel.

And Urban Meyer is leading the way.

This is not the only back-to-school scenario for Meyer. You can paint a picture for USC, Florida State, and some other big programs that could compete for a national championship if Meyer returned to college play.

MORE: Meyer apologizes to Jaguars for ‘distraction’

Meyer’s time with the Jacksonville Jaguars will be short. The Jaguars are 0-4. Jacksonville owner Shad Khan reprimanded Meyer for “inexcusable behavior” on Monday. Meyer did not travel with the team after a loss in Cincinnati on Sept. 30, and a video of a woman dancing near his lap went viral two days later.

Meyer is a shot at a no-hitting team, and that makes it easy to start predicting the expiration date of this NFL experiment gone wrong. Jacksonville can afford to be impatient knowing it’s all about finding the right long-term coach with No. 1 pick Trevor Lawrence.

Meyer isn’t the first super-successful college coach the NFL tried and it just didn’t work out. He has 187 victories at the college level. Three coaches with the most college wins, Lou Holtz, Nick Saban and Steve Spurrier, lasted two seasons or less in the NFL. Of course, Meyer’s tenure is beginning to resemble Bobby Petrino, who lasted 13 games with the Atlanta Falcons in 2007 before seeking the job in Arkansas.

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It is clear that Meyer belongs to one of two places. One is in the television studio, where he was fantastic on FOX’s “Big Noon Kickoff” for two seasons. The other is at a Power 5 school capable of competing for national championships.

Meyer is one of the top five college coaches of all time. It’s also a tough hiring given the controversy that followed that success in Florida and Ohio State. The latest Jacksonville embarrassment is simply more viral material. Can a great college football program go back in the pit with Meyer again?

The USC vacancy

Meyer has a .853 winning percentage in college.

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The answer is almost always “Yes”. Where could Meyer end up if he goes back to school?

USC is one of those places. Meyer was rumored to be on the run while he was a studio analyst. The Trojans fired Clay Helton after two games this season. If anyone can replicate what Pete Carroll did on the USC field, it is Meyer. But if that was the case, why didn’t the Trojans make this last offseason? Meyer he also said “no chance” to the speculation of September 15. How would you answer that question now?

BENDER: Where should USC turn for the next coach?

Old Florida State Rival

The state of Florida will be talked about, even if that’s the most unlikely couple. Mike Norvell is struggling in his second season, and the Seminoles have struggled at ACC since Jimbo Fisher left. Meyer being hired in Florida would be similar to when Louisville hired Rick Pitino. In that case, harsh feelings for a rival were put aside.

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Of course, gaining calms a lot of feelings, and the Seminoles haven’t been doing much of that lately. Still, it feels like a scope that FSU would hire the old Gator fresh out of a failed season in nearby Jacksonville.

Back to the SEC

That leaves LSU. The Tigers are dealing with their own mess right now. LSU is under investigation by the NCAA in soccer and basketball. There is a Title IX lawsuit against Orgeron alleging that the coach failed to report an alleged rape of a student by former running back Derrius Guice.

The Tigers are also 3-2 on the field and the schedule takes a turn for the worse in 2021. Could that show sign Meyer with their luggage and theirs? That’s a lot of weight to carry and there’s always a high risk of counterattack, right? Petrino finished poorly at Arkansas, but he also led the Razorbacks to a Sugar Bowl appearance. That balance between “power” or “right” usually tips in favor of victories.

The failure of the NFL won’t be a factor, either. Saban became the greatest college football coach of all time after leaving the Dolphins. Holtz won Notre Dame’s last national championship after the Jets, and Spurrier led South Carolina to the SEC championship game after his stint with the Redskins.

Of all the potential escape pods for Meyer, the SEC will always make the most sense.

Imagine Meyer taking that LSU job in 2022. The Tigers open with Florida State in the Louisiana Superdome. LSU plays Florida at The Swamp on October 15. All of that leads to Alabama on November 22. Crimson Tide won 55-17 on its last visit to Death Valley.

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How much would that line change if Meyer did, in fact, come out of that tunnel?

LSU won’t be the only school asking that question this offseason.


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