Who's left for LSU football to hire now that Lincoln Riley is off the board? | Toppmeyer

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  • Lincoln Riley
    Lincoln Riley
    American football player and coach
  • Jimbo Fisher
    Jimbo Fisher
    American football player and coach
  • Bryan Harsin
    American football player and coach
  • Billy Napier
    American-football player (1979-)

Lincoln Riley said he’s not leaving Oklahoma to coach LSU. True to his word, he's headed to Southern Cal. The Trojans announced the hire Sunday.

Texas A&M's Jimbo Fisher has pledged allegiance to his employer. Kentucky's Mark Stoops, too.

Penn State's James Franklin and Michigan State's Mel Tucker are enjoying rich new contracts, and Baylor's Dave Aranda reportedly is nearing a new deal, too.

Who does that leave for LSU?

College football coaches aren’t known for their truthfulness when it comes to discussing their interest in other jobs, but it does feel like the window is closing for LSU to secure a big-name target as its coaching search enters its seventh week.

Louisiana’s Billy Napier once seemed like an attractive fallback option for the Tigers, but they waited too long. Florida hired Napier on Saturday.

Iowa State’s Matt Campbell remains for the taking – for now, at least.

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LSU FOOTBALL: Ed Orgeron will not coach in bowl game. 'I’m packing to go to Destin'

Anything seemed possible at the start of this coaching search. Combine one of the nation’s best jobs with an athletics director known for making splashy hires, and LSU seemed positioned to hire an established, name-brand coach.

Then the contract extensions began rolling in, along with public rejections.

When Riley had the chance earlier this month to rebuff the LSU rumblings and vow allegiance to Oklahoma, he took a tepid approach in his rhetoric.

On Saturday, following the Sooners’ 37-33 loss to Oklahoma State, Riley stated it plainly.

"I'm not going to be the next head coach at LSU,” Riley said.

He cleverly failed to mention anything about USC. The Trojans achieved what the Tigers apparently couldn't.

It’s puzzling why LSU is encountering so much difficulty finding its man.

Athletics director Scott Woodward is no rookie when it comes to negotiating with bigtime agents and coaches. In previous AD stops, Woodward hired Chris Petersen to Washington and Fisher to Texas A&M. Then he hit a home run for LSU earlier this year when he plundered Hall of Fame women’s basketball coach Kim Mulkey from Baylor.

With rich talent pools in Baton Rouge, Lafayette and New Orleans, LSU should be a coach’s dream. The roster primarily can be filled without leaving the state. Houston sits just 270 miles away as a recruiting supplement.

LSU enjoys a strong brand and the benefit of being the only Power Five school in the state.

It’s a great job, and that it remains vacant is perplexing.

A bust of a debut for Bryan Harsin at Auburn

Of the SEC’s four first-year coaches, Auburn's Bryan Harsin inherited the strongest roster. The Tigers had a veteran starting quarterback, one of the SEC’s top running backs and talent throughout the defense.

The Tigers also faced one of the nation’s toughest schedules, but come Halloween, they were 6-2 and Harsin was being mentioned as a dark horse candidate for SEC coach of the year.

A month later, after four straight losses, there are questions about whether Harsin is a long-term fit on the Plains.

Auburn (6-6, 3-5) must win a bowl game to avoid its first losing season since 2012. You’ll recall that AU paid a $21.45 million buyout to fire Gus Malzahn last December despite Malzahn never having a losing season and going 6-4 in a conference-only schedule last season.

Auburn squandered a 10-point fourth-quarter lead in a 24-22 overtime loss to Alabama on Saturday, marking the third November loss in which the Tigers failed to protect a double-digit lead.

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Harsin should have called for a two-point conversion at the end of the first overtime. Instead, he played it conservative with an extra point, choosing to prolong the game despite the fact that Alabama had begun asserting itself as the more dominant team in the fourth quarter.

And it could be worse. Auburn needed a fourth-quarter rally, including a fourth-down touchdown completion, to beat Georgia State in September. If that game goes the other way, this season would be viewed as a disaster. As it stands, it’s still a poor debut.

Recruiting doesn’t change the narrative, either. Auburn ranks 12th out of 14 SEC teams in the 247Sports Composite recruiting rankings.

What’s next for Anthony Richardson?

It took Florida’s interim coach Greg Knox two quarters to realize what former Gators coach Dan Mullen should have realized weeks ago: Anthony Richardson is the quarterback who best positioned Florida for success this season.

Florida was tied at 7 against Florida State at halftime Saturday before Richardson replaced Emory Jones in the third quarter. Jones threw three first-half interceptions.

Richardson led Florida to a 24-21 victory, although running back Dameon Pierce deserves credit, too. He rushed for 62 yards on a season-high 12 carries.

For a supposed offensive savant, Mullen made some curious playing-time choices this season.

The best part for Florida and its future coach? Asked after the game about his future, Richardson assuaged concerns that he might head for the transfer portal.

“I’m a Gator,” Richardson said.

You get a bowl, and you get a bowl

With Florida and LSU winning on Saturday, each SEC team except Vanderbilt is bowl eligible. Rejoice, Birmingham and Gasparilla Bowl officials. You’ll have options.

He said it

"I’m packing to go to Destin. I’ll be there (Sunday)." – LSU coach Ed Orgeron, after the Tigers’ 27-24 victory over Texas A&M. The game was Orgeron’s last as coach. He will not coach the bowl game.

Blake Toppmeyer is an SEC Columnist for the USA TODAY Network. Email him at BToppmeyer@gannett.com and follow him on Twitter @btoppmeyer. If you enjoy Blake’s coverage, consider a digital subscription that will allow you access to all of it.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY NETWORK: Lincoln Riley swats down LSU football, so is it Matt Campbell or bust?

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