After a surprisingly active 2020 college football coaching cycle amid the coronavirus pandemic, industry sources pointed to three jobs that could send the 2021 carousel spinning: USC, LSU and Michigan.
USC gave the carousel its first push on Sept. 13, dumping Clay Helton after only two games and jump-starting its search. While Jim Harbaugh and Michigan are off to a 6-0 start and ranked No. 8, LSU could soon be joining USC in the deep waters of the coaching market. On Saturday night, Ed Orgeron's team trailed 21-0 and 35-7 in a noncompetitive 42-21 loss at Kentucky. The game felt like a breaking point in the Coach O era.
The national championship glow from 2019 has worn off Orgeron, whose team is 8-8 since hoisting a trophy in New Orleans 19 months ago. The pressure is mounting, especially since LSU next faces four top-20 opponents (Florida, Ole Miss, Alabama and Arkansas).
Money usually factors into whether coaching changes are made, but another M-word carries greater significance: Motivation. USC clearly was motivated to move on from Helton. LSU seemingly is motivated to move on from Orgeron. There likely is more motivation at Texas Tech, Virginia Tech and even Miami than places like Nebraska, which sees improvement under Scott Frost despite continued heartbreak in Year 4, and wants to give its celebrated alum every chance to succeed. Florida State also isn't going to oust its second consecutive coach after two years, as Mike Norvell has plenty of internal support.
Pinpointing motivation level is the biggest key to forecasting how the carousel will play out.
With the season about halfway through, it's time to look at LSU, USC and the other carousel hot spots, as the cycle of coaching changes gets closer.