SEC Football Q&A: Could Texas' Struggles Impact LSU's Coaching Search?

LSU jumped feet-first into the coaching market last week when it let go of former head coach Les Miles and squarely into the market for current Houston head coach Tom Herman—one of the hottest potential candidates of the coaching silly season.

Another heavyweight might be following suit.

Texas fell to 2-2 over the weekend and gave up 47 or more points for the third time this season in a 49-31 loss at Oklahoma State, which has warmed up the seat of head coach Charlie Strong from “hot” to “scorching” to a point where he’s taking over the play-calling duties on the defensive side of the ball from Vance Bedford, according to ESPN.com’s Max Olson.

How will that impact LSU? That question and more are answered in this edition of SEC Q&A.

It would essentially take LSU out of the Herman sweepstakes, as long as Texas is interested (and there’s no doubt that he would be).

Herman got his coaching start at Texas Lutheran, has worked at Texas as a graduate assistant and as a full-time assistant at Sam Houston State, Texas State and Rice prior to taking over as Houston’s head coach in 2015.

He’s familiar with the recruiting base, would be at a program at Texas that has more resources than LSU (and almost every other FBS institution) at its disposal and would be in a conference with an easier path to the College Football Playoff without the Nick Saban hurdle standing in his way every year—which would be the case at LSU.

Texas being in the coaching market—whether it be now or two months from now (or anytime in between)—would essentially limit LSU to Florida State head coach Jimbo Fisher as the only name on the Plan A list (which was the case last November when Miles was nearly canned). It would also increase the chances that the Tigers end up taking the interim tag off of Ed Orgeron or go in the direction of Alabama offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin, Oklahoma State head coach Mike Gundy or another established coach who isn’t “the best of the best.”

While I don’t think LSU will be this creative, it also would slightly increase the chances of athletics director Joe Alleva going with a full up-and-coming coaching option like Western Michigan’s P.J. Fleck or Temple’s Matt Rhule. While neither would move the meter from a fanbase standpoint, both would be solid hires if the administration gets down to them on the list.

In this case, last night was Saturday night’s 34-31 loss to Tennessee on quarterback Joshua Dobbs‘ Hail Mary to Jauan Jennings.

It absolutely showed me something about Georgia.

The offensive line—which was flat out awful during the first four games of the year—was awesome against a confident Tennessee defense in the first half, when the Bulldogs built that three-score lead.

“I think we were opened up a little bit more,” head coach Kirby Smart said on Monday, according to quotes emailed by Georgia. “When you open up the edges it makes people looser. When people are looser you have an opportunity to bounce things. There’s more holes for runners. It also opens up the edges for pressures and it also puts people at risk for pass protections.”

Quarterback Jacob Eason was sensational save for the fumble in the end zone that gave Tennessee a late lead, and he orchestrated a drive for the ages that culminated with a 47-yard strike to Riley Ridley for the go-head score with 10 seconds left. The running game was just fine against a good defense, despite star Nick Chubb toting the rock just once.

Are there issues?

Of course there are still issues, including a defensive front that’s inconsistent, an offensive line that has only showed flashes of brilliance (which might be sugarcoating it a bit) and a kicking game that is all over the place.

But this is essentially a 24-month test for first-year head coach Kirby Smart, who’s learning on the fly as a first-time head coach with youngsters all over the depth chart on both sides of the ball.

They almost made it work on Saturday. By November, the goal should be for those inconsistencies to diminish and for the Bulldogs to set themselves up as a potential SEC East favorite in 2017.

Saturday showed that to not only be a possibility, but a probability.

Heisman Trophy voters love winners, and while Ole Miss quarterback Chad Kelly has been awesome this season with 1,596 passing yards and 13 touchdowns in five games, voters aren’t likely to forget the three interceptions in the opener to what appears now to be a lackluster Florida State defense and the loss to Alabama two weeks later. 

That doesn’t necessarily mean that Kelly can’t overcome them, though. Although that has as much to do with the dominoes around him as it does with Kelly himself.

Ole Miss still only has one conference loss. Even though that loss is to Alabama, that doesn’t necessarily eliminate the Rebels from the SEC Championship Game hunt. 

If Kelly keeps up his torrid pace and the Crimson Tide gets upset a couple of times or a bizarre three-way tie lands head coach Hugh Freeze’s crew in Atlanta, Kelly will almost certainly have the kind of video game statistics that go along with the team success that typically constitutes a Heisman recipe. 

It’s a long shot, for sure.

It’s not a “no shot” though.

Yes, although I write that after a long sigh, deep thought and a pep talk to my fingers to write those three letters.

White has been solid over the last two games which, perhaps not coincidentally, featured offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee calling plays instead of head coach Gus Malzahn. He completed 73.1 percent of his passes for 234 yards against a good LSU secondary, and followed it up by going 14-for-17 for 239 yards and two touchdowns against Louisiana-Monroe.

Yeah, I know it’s Louisiana-Monroe. But watch that game and tell me that you weren’t impressed with White’s poise under pressure, accuracy downfield and ability to go through progressions.

You can’t.

That combined with the emergence of running back Kerryon Johnson as an every-down threat and a defense that’s been consistently above average all season long, and, yeah, Auburn absolutely could—I repeat, could—become a threat in the SEC West. 

The loss to Texas A&M stings, but they still have Ole Miss and Alabama left and momentum to build on.

I wouldn’t fly to Las Vegas to bet money on Auburn being a major factor in the SEC West race, but it’s certainly much more likely now than it was two weeks ago, when Malzahn entered the LSU game on one of the hottest seats in America.

    

Quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. Statistics courtesy of cfbstats unless otherwise noted. All recruiting information is courtesy of Scout.com. Odds provided by Odds Shark.

Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer and national college football video analyst for Bleacher Report as well as a host on Bleacher Report Radio on SiriusXM 83. Follow Barrett on Twitter @BarrettSallee.

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Source: Bleacher Report -SEC Football

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