With the Michigan State Spartans having concluded another miserable season on the gridiron Friday night, they appear to be honing in on Mel Tucker's long-term replacement in East Lansing. Although some people thought it would be Jake Dickert out of Washington State, or even Urban Meyer off FOX's Big Noon Kickoff TV set, it looks like it is going to be Oregon State head coach Jonathan Smith.
News of Smith being tied to the Michigan State job first surfaced on Friday night, hours before his alma mater's Oregon State Beavers were facing rival Oregon in Eugene. The Ducks handled the Beavers easily, making us all wonder if news got out internally that this would be Smith's last game leading his alma mater. Taking the Michigan State job makes sense, but you have to wonder about it.
ESPN's Adam Rittenberg reported on Saturday morning that "Michigan State and Jonathan Smith are at 'the 5-yard-line'", but nothing is finalized just yet. Michigan State has big-pocketed boosters, but have been mired by scandal and plays in one of the toughest conferences in college football. Surely, he would love to stay at Oregon State, but the dissolution of the Pac-12 looms large over in Corvallis.
Smith is good enough as a head coach to take a top-25 job in college football but will it be Sparty?
Frankly, the timing is right for Smith to leave Oregon State, but you would just hate it for the Beavers.
Michigan State rumors: Oregon State's Jonathan Smith is the top target
From a mental standpoint, and certainly a financial one, you would take the Michigan State job if offered if you are Smith. This is a program where you can make trips to the College Football Playoff and potentially contend for national titles if you get the recruiting right. Again, Michigan State has boosters galore at its disposal, which is something that always has Oregon State coming up short.
However, from an emotional standpoint, staying put at Oregon State makes a great deal of sense, too. It is Smith's alma mater, a place where he has turned the Beavers from a Pac-12 bottom feeder into a Pac-12 fringe contender. Even if the Beavers go down a level with Washington State, they would be in a great position to make the College Football Playoff out of the Group of Five right away next season.
To be honest, Smith needs to take the job because when else will he have this amount of leverage? If Oregon State ponies up some cash, he could very well stay. However, Michigan State will always be able to outbid someone like Oregon State for a coach or a recruit it wants. The biggest thing we all want for Smith is to be given plenty of resources to show everyone else how good of a coach he is.
Not everybody scores from the five-yard line, but seeing Smith hit pay dirt in East Lansing feels real.