Dear James Franklin,
We know you are busy trying to go 1-0 this week, but the college football world is not going to let you focus solely on Penn State beating Illinois. Sure, you have a top-10 team, you’re in the thick of the Big Ten East race and there is a realistic path to the College Football Playoff should quarterback Sean Clifford come back healthy.
1-0, 1-0, 1-0, 1-0, 1-0, 1-0, 1-0, 1-0, 1-0, 1-0, 1-0, 1-0, 1-0, 1-0, 1-0, 1-0, 1-0, 1-0, 1-0, 1-0, 1-0, 1-0, 1-0, 1-0, 1-0, 1-0, 1-0, 1-0, 1-0, 1-0, 1-0, 1-0, 1-0, 1-0, 1-0, 1-0, 1-0, 1-0, 1-0, 1-0, 1-0, 1-0, 1-0, 1-0, 1-0, 1-0, 1-0, 1-0, 1-0, 1-0, 1-0, 1-0, 1-0, 1-0, 1-0 #WeAre
— James Franklin (@coachjfranklin) October 17, 2021
But you know how things work nowadays. We’re always spinning things forward, forward, forward. We have to look to the future. The next game, the next season, the next job. Speaking of which …
The USC job is open. The LSU job is open. You are an attractive candidate for both. USC is going to call. LSU is going to call after Jimbo Fisher turns it down. At either place, you can get a big fat raise, a new honeymoon period with a swooning fan base and a consensus top-10 job in the profession. So where should you go?
The Case For LSU
They do national championships down on the Bayou. One of the reasons you took the Penn State job after leading Vanderbilt to back-to-back Top 25 seasons was the desire to win a national championship. And that’s fair. Penn State is capable of winning a national championship, though it has not done so in 36 years.
LSU, as has been stated ad nauseam, has won national championships with three different coaches this century. (Alas, the Tigers had their own 45-year title drought before Nick Saban arrived.) It routinely sends bushels of players to the NFL and it is located in a state where talented players dream of playing in Baton Rouge. In any given year, 10-15 four- and five-stars are going to sign just because they want to wear purple and gold. Do your recruiting magic on a select few out-of-state prospects, which you are capable of, and we’re talking annual top five classes.
The competition in the SEC West is steep, but Saban isn’t going to be at Alabama forever, is he? And you’ve held your own against your own bully the past few years in Ohio State. And in your first go-around in the SEC, you took down Florida, Georgia and Tennessee in the same season at one of the historically worst Power 5 programs in the nation.
LSU’s first choice is Fisher, but I’d be surprised if you weren’t No. 2 on the list, and I’d be surprised if Fisher doesn’t try to stay put and keep building what he’s building at Texas A&M. Take the call. You’ll hear good things.
The Case For USC
The other school that has almost certainly already touched base with your agent (who is not responsible for going 1-0 this week) is USC. The Trojans fired Clay Helton after the second game this season, a 42-28 loss to Stanford, and have put their fans through an agonizing months-long coaching search as they look for the next Pete Carroll. USC is a national championship level program that has underachieved for over a decade. The right man on that sideline could restore the shine on Tommy Trojan’s battle gear.
After the Helton era, USC is longing for an energy guy, and there’s no doubt you fit the Energizer Bunny mode. And while there aren’t as many players growing up in Southern California wanting to be Trojans as there are in Louisiana wanting to be Tigers, once USC strings some wins together, the top talent will flow in like it did in the Carroll days.
And the quarterbacks they grow out there. We know you have the No.1 rated QB in the nation committed to Penn State in the class of 2022 in Drew Allar. Maybe he comes with you, maybe he doesn’t. But California produces QBs. From 2018-2021, there were 11 consensus five-star QBs, and four were from California. None were from Louisiana. (Yes, class of 2023 superstud Arch Manning is from Louisiana, but he’s never been big on LSU.) You want a five-star QB? Your chances are much better at USC than LSU.
You want to talk job security? Helton went 5-4 as the interim coach after Steve Sarkisian left in 2015, which was enough to get him the full-time job. He lasted six years with just two top 20 finishes. Ed Orgeron was fired 17 games after winning the national championship at LSU.
With playoff expansion coming, USC’s path to be in position to win a national title is considerably more manageable than LSU’s. The last six Pac-12 championship games (12 participants) have featured four Top 10 teams — Stanford, Washington, Colorado and Utah. The last six SEC championship games have featured nine, including the last two national champs. Life is easier on the West Coast.
James, I know you are smart and a hard worker. You don’t start your career at Kutztown University and East Strousburg University and James Madison and end up where you are without being smart and a hard worker. And those two traits would get you far at LSU, no doubt. But the wise move is to head to Southern California, scoop up all those Los Angeles studs that are waiting for the program to be in good hands and re-establish USC alongside Alabama, Clemson and the rest of the sport’s elite.
And after you do that, you won’t be fired 17 games later.