Six days to go before the Game of the … New Year?
Regardless of what this rematch between No. 1-ranked LSU and No. 2 Alabama is labeled, it's finally getting closer now.
So, to clear the decks before we head to New Orleans for coverage of the highly anticipated BCS Championship Game, some ramblings…
It appears that former Miami coach Randy Shannon is where Dooley is leaning, but you have to think there was at least a phone call to gauge Chavis' interest.
Don't get me wrong: Chavis' loyalty is firmly with LSU at this point, but there's a lot to lure him back to UT and the road blocks that prevented that from happening before are gone (namely, former AD Mike Hamilton).
Here's something to offset the mild threat, though. If Chavis wants to be a head coach before he hangs up his whistle – and I believe he does – it makes a lot of sense that Chavis in his position would wait and see if Dooley can get the Vols headed in the right direction in the next year or two.
If that doesn't happen, Tennessee would have to make a change at the top and Chavis, possibly with a national championship or two under his belt with LSU, would be an awfully attractive candidate.
Cooper to A&M seems more feasible to me than Auburn because the Aggies are under a new head coach (Kevin Sumlin), so there would be some built-in stability. Plus, Sumlin is an offensive-minded coach and would be likely to be similar to Les Miles with Chavis and steer clear of Cooper when it comes to defensive personnel and decisions. At Auburn, Gene Chizik is the defensive mastermind, and whoever comes in will have to adapt to what he wants to run.
Also keep in mind that Cooper is probably in line to be the heir apparent whenever Chavis retires or departs, so he has strong incentive to stay at LSU.
Gonzales to Louisville is intriguing because of his connection to Cardinals coach Charlie Strong and the fact that the Tigers' receivers coach and passing game coordinator is still looking for his first shot as a coordinator.
Is Gonzales is ready to call plays for a BCS program? Absolutely. Hard to argue with his offensive pedigree – influences from Urban Meyer, Dan Mullen, Gary Crowton (play nice), Greg Studrawa, Steve Kragthorpe and Les Miles. Not sure he'll get that chance any time soon with the Tigers, so you can't fault him for listening if Strong calls.
Former Arizona coach Mike Stoops has yet to land a job, although he was rumored to be in play for gigs at Ohio State and South Carolina.
Don't be surprised if the name of just fired Tampa Bay Buccaneers' coach Raheem Morris surfaces for college jobs. He's young enough to relate to college kids and be an asset on the recruiting trail.
Also, while Tom Bradley isn't a realistic candidate for the Penn State job, he has an awful lot of top-shelf experience as a defensive coordinator and could be in the mix for jobs if schools are willing to look beyond his connection to Joe Paterno.
From an offensive standpoint, there are a few big names that could factor into any hunt for an OC.
Fired UCLA coach Rick Neuheisel is a proven commodity, while former Boise State and Colorado coach Dan Hawkins is poised to get back in the game. And don't forget that Houston Nutt is out there looking for work as well, willing, able and anxious to stick it to at least three SEC West programs.
One name to keep in mind should Les Miles wind up looking for an offensive position coach is Josh Henson. With Studrawa elevated to OC, it's conceivable Miles could shift Steve Ensminger to the receivers coach spot and lure Henson back to coach the offensive line, a spot he coveted when he left for Missouri.
One guy who jumps to mind isn't really a college coach anymore: Jim Tressel.
With a five-year show-cause edict from the NCAA as a result of the Ohio State turmoil, Tressel is likely finished as a college coach. But I've always thought he had the right demeanor to be an NFL head man and like him or not, the guy knows his football.
After that, it's like leaves changing colors that Nick Saban's name will at least pop up with a job or two. Until Bill Belechick is ready to retire or move to the front office, though, I don't expect Saban to listen seriously or be taken that seriously for any NFL gigs.
Three others to watch: Bret Bielema, Chip Kelly and Mike Gundy.
All three have great gigs now, but they're likely always going to be second-tier jobs because of elements out of the coach's control. All have proven they can construct the kind of offenses that many NFL teams have thrived with – and would sell tickets for franchises struggling to keep up in that realm.
Didn't mention Miles because I stick to my theory that the only two NFL jobs he would even consider are the Dallas Cowboys and Cleveland Browns, and both spots are secure for at least another year.
The list of potential early entries into the NFL Draft keeps growing. The eligible players who could go and have a shot at being drafted where they might want to includes Mo Claiborne, Sam Montgomery, Michael Brockers, Rueben Randle and Michael Ford.
Claiborne is a no-brainer: He's gone and he should be. The Shreveport native is being pegged as a top 5-10 pick and there's nothing he can do to help himself improve that stock.
The two defensive linemen are both hot commodities at this point, but neither has had the kind of season that makes me say ‘Wow! Those guys are going to be great at the next level.' Not that Brockers and Montgomery won't be good pros, but I think another year of seasoning would do both a lot of good. Neither is in the same class as Glenn Dorsey or Drake Nevis. Montgomery's season has been solid, but nothing compared to the junior season Tyson Jackson had to set himself up as the No. 3 pick of the Kansas City Chiefs.
Randle is intriguing because he's certainly had a breakthrough season when given the chance in 2011 – arguably showing more NFL potential than any of the several LSU receivers who have been drafted in the last 10 years. But Randle would benefit tremendously from a year with steadier quarterback play and that seems to be on the horizon with Zach Mettenberger. Also, Randle might not measure that well in terms of explosiveness, at least not as well as he will with his hands and leaping ability. That could make a big senior season even more meaningful to give scouts a more complete idea of what he has to offer.
Ford is in s strange position in that he's had had his best college season but there might not be much more room to blossom with the glut of young backs behind him and the way the LSU coaches use them. Ford has shown the speed burst and strength NFL scouts love and his blitz pickup has improved (couldn't have gotten much worse). To me, he could be Keiland Williams II – an SEC back without mind-blowing numbers who goes on to the league and his skills translate very well there very quickly.
A major caveat for all of these guys is how Monday's game plays out.
Should LSU win and these players earn national championship rings, they will have reached the pinnacle and might look at it as time to make the transition forward. A loss could leave the kind of burning motivation in the pit of their stomachs that could be reason for them to come back and try again in 2012 – and that includes Claiborne, who legitimately seems to enjoy being a college kid.
"I think what we have done in several contests this year is play on the road as the underdog and play with the best team," he said. "Frankly, I don't think this team listens to that stuff."
Here's my take, and you'll get several versions of it this week leading up to kickoff: I think LSU is the better team at more positions and the Tigers have more depth. Alabama has more players with star-power but I don't see as cohesive a unit when I watch the Crimson Tide play.
With all LSU has been through off the field and with as much internal bickering as there always is when you get 85 high-level players together, the Tigers have created the kind of chemistry that great teams are made of. Miles is the perfect coach to foster that attitude, and I think the change in the offensive coaching staff has had an amazing transformative impact.
We posted our January bowl picks