This the “Topp Rope,” a biweekly SEC football column from the USA TODAY Network’s Blake Toppmeyer.
College football coaches rank alongside politicians, lawyers and car salesmen when it comes to truthfulness.
Sportswriters joke that when a coach says he’s not leaving for another job, it means he’s definitely leaving for that job.
That brings us to Texas A&M coach Jimbo Fisher and Oklahoma coach Lincoln Riley. Each has been linked to LSU’s coaching vacancy, while stating his commitment to his current job. Let’s bust out the Truth-O-Meter and see how their statements hold up.
LSU athletics director Scott Woodward is the former Texas A&M AD who hired Fisher in November 2017.
Multiple times this season, Fisher has said he’s not leaving the Aggies. He has reason to stay. Fisher enjoys job security with a contract that runs through the 2031 season. His salary will increase to $9 million in January, which will trail only Alabama coach Nick Saban. The Aggies are currently ahead of LSU as a program, but with three national championships this millennium, the Tigers have displayed a higher ceiling.
WANT MORE OPINIONS FROM BLAKE TOPPMEYER?: Subscribe to the SEC Unfiltered newsletter for an exclusive column on Tuesdays and Saturdays
Fisher on Monday again delivered his stump speech vowing loyalty to Texas A&M.
“Everybody thinks all coaches lie, I know,” Fisher said. “I know y’all don’t believe us.”
Correct. Go on.
“I plan on being here,” Fisher continued. “I love the AD. I love the president. I love the chancellor. I love living here. I love being at my ranch. The family loves it here. I love Kyle Field. I love the people,” Fisher said.
This doesn’t score well on the Truth-O-Meter. These are the usual platitudes, whether the coach plans to stay or go. In fact, in 2016, when Fisher’s name was linked to LSU’s opening following Les Miles’ firing, Fisher said he loved Florida State and planned on being there a long time. Fisher stayed at FSU then but left the following year for A&M.
But Fisher also said something Monday that moved the needle on the Truth-O-Meter.
“We may recruit the No. 1 (2022 signing class),” Fisher said. “We’re going to recruit an unbelievable class this year. So, I’m either the dumbest human being on God’s earth, OK, who’s going to recruit all these guys to A&M so I can go across over here and play against them. If I did that, you ought to say, ‘That’s the dumbest human being. I don’t want him to be my coach.’ ”
The Aggies’ 2022 recruiting class ranks No. 3 in the 247Sports Composite and includes a pair of commitments from five-star recruits. LSU’s class ranks No. 12. Here, Fisher’s comments pass muster. He’s not recruiting like a man who’s headed out the door.
Next, let’s check on Riley, who’s in his fifth season at Oklahoma.
“I coach the University of Oklahoma football team,” Riley said, when asked about the LSU scuttlebutt.
OK, sure. For now, at least.
“You guys know me,” Riley said. “You know how I feel about this place and this program. We’ve all been down this road many times before. You guys know where I stand on that, and that hasn’t changed.”
The Truth-O-Meter is unmoved by Riley’s half-hearted pledge of allegiance to OU.
MORE ON LINCOLN RILEY: Why Oklahoma coach’s sunny disposition about Sooners is cloudier than ever
LSU FOOTBALL SEARCH: 5 big names who fit Scott Woodward’s vision
Oh, and OU’s 2022 recruiting class ranks No. 8 nationally, putting it closer to LSU than A&M.
LSU has won three national titles since Oklahoma’s most recent championship. Plus, one appealing aspect of coaching OU is that the Big 12 offers a more manageable path to the College Football Playoff than the SEC minefield. Well, the Sooners are set to begin competing in the SEC in 2025. Riley might opt for a head start.
Beware of Missouri Tigers, Dan Mullen
Opposing athletics directors don’t handle losing to Missouri well.
Last season, Vanderbilt fired coach Derek Mason following a 41-0 loss to the Tigers. In 2017, Tennessee’s Butch Jones and Arkansas’ Bret Bielema were fired directly after losses to Missouri.
Florida (5-5, 2-5 SEC) will play Missouri (5-5, 2-4) on Saturday (3 p.m. CT, SEC Network) in Columbia, Missouri.
Careful, Dan Mullen. The embattled Gators coach is 2-8 in his last 10 games against Power Five opponents, and if history is our guide, the Tigers will relish the chance to put Mullen out of his misery.
Spencer Rattler would fit in an Ole Miss uniform — if Lane Kiffin stays
Ole Miss (8-2, 4-2) will host Vanderbilt (2-8, 0-6) on Saturday (7:30 p.m. ET, SEC Network) before a clash with Mississippi State (6-4, 4-3) in the Egg Bowl. If the Rebels win both games, they have a strong chance of Sugar Bowl selection.
Off the field, two burning questions face the Rebels: Is a blueblood program going to come after second-year Ole Miss coach Lane Kiffin? And, who is going to replace star quarterback Matt Corral next season?
I’m not sure whether Kiffin owed any debt to college football for mistakes he made as a young coach, but to the extent he did, he’s paid them. He’s a more mature, more accomplished coach who has proven himself as Alabama’s offensive coordinator, then as the Florida Atlantic coach and now at Ole Miss. Any athletics director at a blueblood program with a coaching vacancy would be silly to not consider Kiffin.
If Kiffin returns to the Rebels in 2022, Ole Miss would be a logical landing place for Oklahoma quarterback Spencer Rattler if he opts to reboot his career elsewhere. Rattler, a Freshman All-America selection in 2020, lost his starting job in October to Caleb Williams. But Rattler is hardly used up. He’s completed 70% of his passes in his career.
If Rattler needs proof of what Kiffin and offensive coordinator Jeff Lebby can do for a quarterback’s development, he need only look at Corral, who is among the Heisman Trophy favorites and a projected first-round NFL Draft pick.
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: In LSU football coaching search, is it Lincoln Riley over Jimbo Fisher?