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How Saturday’s USC-UCLA game could affect FSU’s coaching search

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The butterfly effect, adapted for football coaches.

NCAA Football: California at Southern California Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

Update: USC won, 52-35.


This is kind of about football; but mostly about dominoes— specifically regarding the chain reactions that can affect coaches moving around the country. So let’s get at these bones.

Aside from Florida State’s head-coaching vacancy, there are only two other FBS teams with current HC openings. One is Arkansas, which could entice current Auburn coach Gus Malzahn, a name we’ve included as a possibility for the ’Noles. The other one is Rutgers. Moving on.

Southern Cal is another story, one with a potential ripple-effect that could reach well beyond Los Angeles and to Tallahassee. This was reported on Friday:

So if the No. 23 Trojans (7-4) are able to beat UCLA (4-6) today at 3:30 ET, Clay Helton may be hanging around LA, despite roaring whispers of his imminent firing. There are a couple of ways to take this, from the FSU perspective.

Utah v USC Photo by Meg Oliphant/Getty Images

If Urban Meyer really is interested in heading to Tinseltown, you want a Bruin victory and Helton’s dismissal. That means Meyer could step in, and any designs current Penn State coach and Florida State candidate James Franklin has on the USC job would be dashed, and he could more seriously consider the Seminoles.

Indiana v Penn State Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images

If Southern Cal loses and doesn’t strike a deal with Meyer, that could mean Franklin heads to the west coast, while current Iowa State head coach Matt Campbell — another FSU target — cold be courted by the Nittany Lions. Remember, Campbell is a native midwesterner who’s been rumored to be interested in winding up in the Big Ten. He’s from Ohio and began his collegiate playing career at Pitt.

NCAA Football: Big 12 Media Days Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

If the favored Trojans win over UCLA, and Helton is retained, that provides a different wrinkle. USC’s regular season is done after today, and if they’re in the clubhouse at 7-2 in conference play, that means No. 7 Utah has to take care of business both at Arizona and vs. Colorado. Yes, those are the bottom two teams in the Pac-12 South, but this is the Pac-freaking-12, and stranger things have happened. Plus, as of now, both the Wildcats and Buffaloes are 4-6 and would need that upset for bowl eligibility.

A USC win and a Utah loss in either of those games would mean the Trojans representing the South in the conference title game against Oregon. So that could further prolong this process, as it’d be tough to see Southern Cal firing Helton before the Pac-12 Championship on December 6.

This is the darkest timeline for FSU, as it could push everything back.

As a Florida State fan, you either want USC to make the call, quickly, to retain Helton (his contract runs through 2023) and quash the job-opening rumors there for the time being, or fire him right away. In either case, get things moving.