As we dive further into potential candidate, we find ourselves in the Power 5 and what figures to be where the bulk of Scott Woodward figures to spend his time looking. Today we head west with the Pac-12.
One name in this group stands out above all the others is Mario Cristobal. The sitting Oregon head coach has been poised to take over a bigger and better program for a few years now. Cristobal first was a name on the college scene as a multi-year starter on the Miami Football in the glory days. He had his first stint as a head coach at FIU where he posted only two winning seasons in five years and was canned despite many thinking he was fired unjustly. Cristobal would then work under Nick Saban for a few seasons as an assistant, join Willie Taggart in Oregon as an OC for Taggart’s lone season, and then take over the full time gig once Taggart left for Florida State.
Since taking over the Ducks, Cristobal has gone 32-11, has won the Pac-12 the last two seasons and has a Rose Bowl victory. He has also elevated Oregon recruiting to a new level regularly placing the Ducks in the top-10 recruiting rankings. The years he doesn’t have been just outside the top-10. His biggest get was plucking consensus top 2022 draft pick, defensive end Kayvon Thibodeaux out of southern California to Eugene.
So what are the downsides? Well he has a really good setup at Oregon so it will take a lot to bring him to Baton Rouge. The other aspect pertains to in game performance. Although Cristobal has recruited at a high level, the performance on the field is a bit mixed. In 2020 (even taking COVID into account) he lost to bad Cal and Oregon State teams, and got pummeled by Iowa State in the Fiesta Bowl. This year the Ducks lost to a struggling Stanford team.
Beyond Cristobal the list of legitimate Pac-12 candidates is quite thin. Maybe you could have said Nick Rolovich at one point, but I don’t think LSU will give him a shot.
A few years ago, a case could be made for David Shaw of Stanford. Up until recently, Shaw had kept Stanford as one of the better programs out west, despite having massive academic commitments. However, the Cardinal has posted a losing record in two of his last three seasons and as a Stanford graduate, it’d probably be something of a challenge to get Shaw away from his alma matter.
The one non-head coach name to keep an eye on is USC offensive coordinator Graham Harrell. He has been highly sought after as an OC and while it would seem he is more poised to take over a less high-profile coaching job as his first head coaching before taking on one the caliber of LSU’s.