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The ACC is feeling pretty good about themselves right now, with both Clemson and Louisville ranked in the top 5 and preparing for the marquee matchup of an already stacked college football weekend. Clemson has won an astonishing 25 of their last 27 games, falling to only Georgia Tech back in 2014 as well as Nick Saban and mighty Alabama in one of the best national championship games in recent memory earlier this year. The Big Ten, a fellow horse jockeying for position as runner up to the dominance that has been SEC football of the last twenty years, saw its champion Michigan State and their vaunted defense steamrolled by the Tide in December’s semifinals, with Ohio State and perhaps Harbaugh providing some sort of hope for the once wilting conference this year. But it’s currently the golden era of ACC football. Florida State is a machine, Bobby Petrino has managed to avoid co-eds and motorcycles en route to a dominant second stint with Lousiville, North Carolina won double digit games in 2015, and even Miami seems to have a heartbeat under Mark Richt.
And it’s all about to die.
Last weekend, LSU and Coach Les Miles suffered a heartbreaking road defeat at the hands of Auburn, guaranteeing the dismissal of much-maligned offensive coordinator Cam Cameron. In a somewhat surprising move, LSU did not hesitate to dismiss Miles as well, leaving a gaping head coaching hole in the bayou. With its fertile recruiting base, excellent tradition, and rabid fan base willing to fund a double digit million dollar buyout of the winningest coach in program history (percentage wise) in the midst of the university’s worst ever financial crisis, LSU is a job any big time coach would love to have.
So, as would be expected, the Tiger brass has reportedly reached out to the usual suspects of home run hires: Tom Herman, Nick Saban (supposedly), Mark Dantonio (again, a rumor), Bobby Petrino (loving these rumors), Bob Stoops, and even the abhorrent individual known as Art Briles. All of the above, save, of course, Saban, would be insane not to at least listen to the LSU pitch. But there is one coach who I believe is already sold on the Tigers: Jimbo Fisher.
I am 100 percent confident (which, in fairness, after my NFL picks does not mean as much as I once thought) that, barring some sort of unforeseen disaster, Jimbo Fisher will return to LSU as the head coach of the mighty Tigers. Tom Herman will flirt with the job, but I think impending openings at USC and Texas better suit Herman’s career projector, while a $5 million bonus from a Houston program eager to join a Power 5 conference could actually halt Herman’s moving trucks. Fisher will leave — he’s always wanted to, and has never had a better opportunity. The FSU defense is a disaster, and will almost undoubtedly have to part ways with defensive coordinator Charles Kelly. The setup of the ACC does not allow for a two-loss team to make the playoff, a level of deference theoretically afforded to solely the SEC, and even calling into question whether a one-loss FSU, with the perceived ACC ineptitude, could leap frog one-loss (or, in theory, two-loss) resumes from the Big Ten as well. Losing Dalvin Cook, three starters on the offensive line, two of his three top receivers, and replacing his top coordinator? Sounds like prime time for a move. Not to mention the returning strength of his in-state rivals, finally relieved of the coaching ineptitude of Will Muschamp and Al Golden.
Fisher’s move will be a devastating indictment of ACC inadequacy. A coach with tremendous success, multiple conference titles and a national championship just two seasons ago, bolting for what has become a mid-level SEC program cannot be overstated. Though Fisher, admittedly, possesses ties to LSU uncommon to any other candidate (he was offensive coordinator under Saban), Florida State is the ACC’s best program. It has the deepest pockets and best facilities in the conference, and still it cannot retain its star coach. This is, without question, devastating for a conference attempting to prove itself as unquestionably elite.
But this is just the first domino. Dabo Swinney, an Alabama alum and former Tide player, will likely be the top choice for the Crimson Tide’s replacement of an eventual Nick Saban retirement. Bobby Petrino is as loyal as a twelve dollar hooker, though his immense buyout could lead to a bit of hesitation. LSU just paid Miles & Co. $10+ million to get out of town, and I have a sneaking suspicion Auburn would do the same to return to their imagined glory. Fisher will be the first nail in the coffin of the once mighty conference, and I, for one, won’t miss it.
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