Rivals.com - Five candidates for the USC Trojans head coaching vacancy
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Five candidates for the USC Trojans head coaching vacancy

Luke Fickell
Luke Fickell (USA Today Sports Images)

USC has a job opening and the job is obviously very attractive based on history, tradition and the program's fertile recruiting territory. Here are the top candidates for the Trojans' vacancy and why they could be successful and why they might not.


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Luke Fickell, Cincinnati

Fickell has been very impressive at Cincinnati but struggled at Ohio State in his short stint. He is 37-14 and has the Bearcats in the top 10.

Why it would work? Fickell is a smart coach and he knows how to hire key assistants. He’s also very good at player development which has been an issue at USC for a while. He’s also worked with USC athletic director Mike Bohn when he was at Cincinnati.

Why it wouldn’t work? The stage could be too big for him like it was at Ohio State and all of his experience is in the Midwest when it comes to recruiting.



Mario Cristobal, Oregon 

Mario Cristobal
Mario Cristobal (USA Today Sports Images)

The Ducks coach is as hot as it gets following a huge win over Ohio State and two Pac-12 titles. He’s 27-10 at Oregon.

Why it would work? Cristobal is an elite recruiter and has done an amazing job recruiting California. The talent at USC would be scary and he would deliver top five recruiting classes with ease. He’d also build the roster in the SEC mold like he’s doing at Oregon.

Why it wouldn’t work? Cristobal knows the Pac-12, which is good, but he’s had some bad losses in the conference. The pressure at USC would be much higher than it is at Oregon.



James Franklin, Penn State

James Franklin
James Franklin (USA Today Sports Images)

Franklin did an amazing job at Vanderbilt and he’s 62-28 at Penn State.

Why it would work? Franklin is an elite recruiter and would kill it at USC without a doubt despite few ties to the West Coast. Recruiters can recruit and he’d be handed the keys to a Ferrari with the local talent. The roster would be beyond what’s he’s had at successful stints at Vanderbilt and Penn State.

Why it wouldn’t work? Penn State fans are critical of Franklin’s in-game adjustments and some of his gameplans. Penn State can struggle with poor teams at times which would be amplified in Los Angeles under that microscope.



Matt Campbell, Iowa State

Matt Campbell
Matt Campbell (USA Today Sports Images)

Campbell has gone 36-29 at Iowa State and has delivered some of its best seasons ever. He was exceptional at Toledo as well.

Why it would work? Campbell is a brilliant young mind and amazing at talent development and as an in-game coach. With four- and five-star talent he could be scary.

Why it wouldn’t work? It’s a big step up from Iowa State to the Trojans job in expectations and a lot more pressure. He’s also unknown as a recruiter compared to others so we don’t know how well he would do.



Bob Stoops, Retired

Bob Stoops
Bob Stoops (Chicago Tribune)

Stoops was 190-48 at Oklahoma and obviously is a national title level head coach.

Why it would work? Offensively the Trojans would be amazing and Stoops would create some serious excitement in Los Angeles with his fun and wide-open style of play. And he can recruit the West Coast.

Why it wouldn’t work? He retired for a reason, to focus on other things, so is the passion still there? And Stoops was slow to adapt to the very quick recruiting pace of college football before he retired so how would he do with the portal and NIL?