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Which is the better job: Florida State or USC?

If the USC Trojans fire Clay Helton after the UCLA game, FSU will no longer be the only marquee job on the market.
Southern California head coach Clay Helton in the first half of an NCAA college football game Friday, Oct. 25, 2019, in Boulder, Colo. [DAVID ZALUBOWSKI  |  AP]
Southern California head coach Clay Helton in the first half of an NCAA college football game Friday, Oct. 25, 2019, in Boulder, Colo. [DAVID ZALUBOWSKI | AP]
Published Nov. 22, 2019

With USC’s regular season ending Saturday against rival UCLA, the Trojans’ head coaching job could soon become open. If USC fires coach Clay Helton (whose 7-4 record entering this weekend hasn’t inspired confidence after last year’s 5-7 failure), then Florida State will no longer be the only premier job on the market.

The Seminoles and Trojans could end up targeting some of the same coaches, namely Penn State’s James Franklin (if he wants to start over at another premier job) and Iowa State’s Matt Campbell (who is due for a promotion to a bigger program, if he wants it).

Let’s see how the potential USC opening compares to the one at Florida State:

Recent history

Florida State running back Cam Akers (3) celebrates his first-quarter touchdown during the season opener against Boise State. [MONICA HERNDON | Tampa Bay Times]

FSU

Last five seasons: 38-24, 2 New Year’s Six bowl games, 0 conference titles

Last 10 seasons: 96-35, 5 New Year’s Six/BCS bowl games, 3 conference titles, 1 playoff appearance, 1 national title

RELATED: Point-counterpoint: Should FSU promote Odell Haggins from interim coach?

USC

Last five seasons: 41-23*, 2 New Year’s Six bowl games, 1 conference title

Last 10 seasons: 85-44*, 2 New Year’s Six/BCS bowl games, 1 conference title

*Through Friday

Advantage: FSU. The Seminoles have struggled more over the last three years but aren’t that far removed from higher highs than anything the Trojans have experienced since Pete Carroll left for the Seahawks.

Tradition

Then-Southern Cal coach Pete Carroll and quarterback Matt Leinart embrace after their 55-19 win over Oklahoma in the Orange Bowl at Pro Player Stadium in Miami on Jan. 4, 2005.

FSU

3 national titles, 3 Heisman Trophy winners, 7 College Football Hall of Famers, 38 consensus All-Americans.

USC

9 national titles (recognized by the NCAA), 7 Heisman Trophy winners, 34 College Football Hall of Famers, 54 consensus All-Americans.

Advantage: USC, although both are obviously strong.

RELATED: Five early thoughts on Florida vs. Florida State

Last four recruiting classes

Florida State wide receiver Tamorrion Terry (15) catches a pass during the second quarter of a game vs. Miami at Hard Rock Stadium last season. [MONICA HERNDON | Tampa Bay Times]

FSU

52 blue-chip signees; average class rank 9.8.

USC

52 blue-chip signees; average class rank 9.5.

Advantage: Push.

Recruiting footprint

FSU: In one of the top three prospect-producing states and is just south of No. 4 (Georgia).

USC: In the largest city of one of the top three prospect-producing states.

Advantage: USC, because the competition isn’t quite as fierce and it’s the top program on the West Coast.

RELATED: Kirk Herbstreit has three criteria for FSU’s next coach. Who checks those boxes?

Administration

Florida State interim coach Odell Haggins hugs school president John Thrasher after a win over Alabama State. [MATT BAKER | Matt Baker | Times]

FSU

President John Thrasher and athletic director David Coburn are both expected to retire in the next few years.

USC

Hired new president (Carol Folt) and athletic director (Mike Bohn) earlier this year.

Advantage: USC. The Trojans’ administrative turmoil seems to have ended, while FSU’s new coach won’t know his long-term bosses.

Money

Southern California coach Clay Helton walks off the field after the team's 56-24 loss to Oregon on Nov. 2 in Los Angeles. [KYUSUNG GONG | AP]

FSU

Spent $57.7 million on football in 2017 (according to data provided to the U.S. Department of Education). Faced multi-million-dollar athletic department deficits the last two years.

USC

Spent $32.9 million on football in 2017, but other data is hard to find for the private school.

Advantage: FSU. Even with the recent financial woes, the Seminoles have more monetary upside thanks to the ACC’s TV deals.

Facilities

A rendering of Florida State's proposed football-only facility, which is still in the fundraising stages. (Courtesy: FSU)

FSU

Football-only facility remains in the fundraising stages, but locker room and Doak Campbell Stadium have had recent upgrades.

USC

Opened its $70 million football complex, the John McKay Center, in 2012.

Advantage: USC.

RELATED: Inside college football’s latest facilities craze: the football-only complex

Path to a title

Clemson's Isaiah Simmons tackles Florida State quarterback Alex Hornibrook, causing a fumble during the first half of an Oct. 12 game. [RICHARD SHIRO | AP]

FSU

In the same division with a juggernaut (Clemson), and perennial rival Florida looks on its way to becoming a consistent top-10 program. The rest of the ACC, however, is weak.

USC

Pac-12 doesn’t have a dominant team, but it has a few very good ones. Nine conference games plus Notre Dame every year is a challenge.

Advantage: FSU, thanks to an ACC that’s regressing to its historically mediocre mean.

Conclusion

FSU and USC are both destination jobs in fertile recruiting footprints and championship histories. But the edge goes to the Trojans. They’ve straightened out their years-long administrative uncertainty and have the kind of football complex that FSU hasn’t yet started to build.

RELATED: Seven college football bowl game matchups we’d like to see

Contact Matt Baker at mbaker@tampabay.com. Follow @MBakerTBTimes.

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