The biggest “what if?” from the past weekend in college football has to be from the LSU loss/Auburn win at Auburn. That last part – at Auburn -- is important to this hypothetical.
Auburn won the game, 18-13, with six field goals. With one second to play, LSU was unable to get off a play on time – a play that seemed to result in a game-winning touchdown before a review showed that the clock had expired before the LSU center snapped the ball.
(What was it with that, by the way? Why didn’t everyone know that the clock would start on the whistle and the center absolutely had to snap the ball when he heard the whistle?)
But here is the “what if?” or at least the first of a few from that game.
What if the game had been at Tiger Stadium in LSU? Then the clock almost certainly would have been a bit slower and the play would have counted.
But what if the play had started on time in Auburn? Were the officials even watching the two or three violations of the LSU offense – illegal formation, false start, holding, maybe even the quarterback being beyond the line of scrimmage when he made the pass? No flags were thrown.
So what if everything worked so that LSU did pull out the victory? Les Miles would not have been fired on Sunday, and neither would have Auburn Coach Gus Malzahn. But how hot would Malzahn’s seat have been had Auburn started the season with a 1-3 record, all home games, and an 0-2 Southeastern Conference record.
From an Alabama standpoint, what if Miles was still LSU’s head coach on Nov. 5 when the Tide goes to Baton Rouge? Would Bama feel better about its chances against Miles than against Orgeron? We will never know for sure, but might have a better idea after LSU has played at Florida and against Ole Miss. One thing for sure is that Alabama Coach Nick Saban would never address any of these hypothetical questions.
And would anyone be questioning why Malzahn did not kick a field goal at the end of the first half? Every solid coach knows to get points just before halftime. Instead, Malzahn elected to try his offensive line against LSU’s defensive front on a fourth down play (after the previous two had been stuffed) and Auburn went to the lockerroom with a fail in the Red Zone.
Another question, “What if Auburn hadn’t been the luckiest team in the SEC over the past few years?”
A final question from that game might be, “What if Leonard Fournette hadn’t quit on his team?” Maybe that was a false impression, but Fournette looks for all the world like someone who has an “advisor” telling him not to get hurt. That’s usually awful advice, but NFL wannabes follow it.
Is it possible to speculate on Miles’s replacement at LSU? Ed Orgeron has the interim job and he has some experience both as a head coach and as an interim head coach. He did better at the latter, going 6-1 after replacing Lane Kiffin on an interim basis after Kiffin was fired at Southern Cal in 2013. But when he replaced David Cutcliffe at Ole Miss (one of the dumbest fires ever), Orgeron went 10-25 (including a 3-21 record in SEC games) in his three years (2005-07).
Everyone is going to suggest Tom Herman from Houston. He’s the hottest name in college coaching and everyone thinks all they have to do is fire their bad coach and hire Herman. He can’t take but one job, even if he wants to leave Houston. Bobby Petrino gets some love, but he may feel an obligation to stay at Louisville which has given him both a first chance and a second chance at being a head coach. Also, Petrino has been in the SEC West, at Arkansas from 2008-11. He did well enough, 34-17 overall and 17-15 in the SEC, but might think the ACC is a little less competitive. And that’s not to mention how Petrino lost his job at Arkansas with his little motorcycle ride.
Would LSU consider Lane Kiffin since his rehabilitation at Alabama? Steve Sarkisian, who was selected at USC over Orgeron, is also available, though he's now an offensive analyst at Bama. If that happened, Orgeron -- who left USC in a huff after being second to Sarkisian at Southern Cal -- might be in a murderous mood.
We’ve heard Dan Mullen from Mississippi State and Mark D’Antonio from Michigan State (ironically, the route Nick Saban took from the Big 10 to the SEC). We’ve even heard the name of the disgraced Art Briles, formerly of Baylor.
(These were some of the same names -- Herman, Petrino, Briles, Kiffin -- that were being mentioned on Auburn message boards before last weekend.)
And there probably will be some others, but it is Orgeron’s job to lose. If he brings the team together and finishes strong, he may be the easy hire for LSU.