From social media to Los Angeles Times columnist Bill Plaschke, there's no ignoring the one-ton elephant lingering in Heritage Hall. USC's offensively inept 1-1 start has only exacerbated the criticism of head coach Lane Kiffin, which began when his 2012 Trojan team became the first Associated Press preseason No. 1 to finish the season unranked.
Complaints and consternation have given way to boos and chants of "fire Kiffin."
Athletic director Pat Haden gave his vote of confidence to Kiffin in the offseason, and the head coach's team has ample time to right the ship. However, Haden must be ready with a contingency plan if the season falls short enough of expectations to warrant a change in leadership.
These are the longest of long shots. Your odds of scoring a table at Dorsia for a date with Kate Upton are better than these hires coming to fruition, which is why they are in fact dream hires.
Brian Kelly, Notre Dame
What better way to both launch a rebuilding project and tweak an archrival than to pilfer its head coach. Kelly has won everywhere he's gone, though he has not stayed long.
Haden has ties to Notre Dame from his days as a part of the NBC broadcast team. Haden also has the pitch of Malibu in December vs. South Bend. Alas, Los Angeles' beaches are more likely to see snow flurries than Kelly in cardinal-and-gold.
Jon Gruden, former Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach
What hypothetical list of coaching candidates is complete without the addition of Jon Gruden? Every time he's mentioned for a vacancy, you can practically hear the cash registers cha-ching. He has a lucrative gig as color commentator for Monday Night Football and host of QB Camp on ESPN, which only becomes more lucrative any time he's a rumored candidate.
Aside from the many other reasons that Gruden-to-USC is unlikely, Gruden has ties to the current regime. Kiffin's dad and former Trojan defensive coordinator, Monte, filled the same role under Gruden at Tampa Bay.
David Shaw, Stanford
No program has had USC's number in the last six years quite like Stanford. Whether as an assistant to Jim Harbaugh, or now as the Cardinal's head coach, David Shaw has enjoyed unprecedented success against the Trojans.
Shaw is a Stanford alumnus and touts what he has been able to help build there. It doesn't take a degree from the Harvard of the West to deduce his leaving for a conference rival is highly improbable.
Nick Aliotti, Oregon defensive coordinator
USC is such a prominent job, coordinators without head coaching experience typically need not apply. However, Nick Aliotti is a possible exemption. USC knows firsthand what the Oregon coaching staff can accomplish. Moreover, luring Aliotti after nearly 15 years in Eugene serves as a thumbing of the nose to two conference rivals—he was defensive coordinator at UCLA during the Bruins' last Rose Bowl run in 1998.
Aliotti's 3-4 scheme has been the perfect complement to Oregon's uptempo offensive style and equally innovative in its implementation. Paired with the defensive talent that regularly comes through USC, the potential is almost limitless. He could also bring some of that offensive firepower that Oregon has used to reach four straight BCS bowls.
Aliotti is also a graduate of UC Davis, the same university that produced current Syracuse athletic director Dr. Daryl Gross. Gross is credited with bringing Pete Carroll to USC.
Gross has maintained a relationship with USC, which manifested in a football series in 2011 and 2012. A quick spin through the alumni Rolodex might open up dialogue.
Pat Fitzgerald, Northwestern
Luring one of the hottest young coaches away from his alma mater is no easy task, but USC offers an important asset Northwestern simply lacks.
Fitzgerald built Northwestern into a Big Ten contender with unheralded prospects. His motivation and in-game coaching have routinely transcended star ratings. Combine Fitzgerald's leadership qualities with the built-in recruiting tool that is USC football, and the ceiling is high.
Chris Petersen, Boise State
Chris Petersen is the Keyser Soze of college football coaching searches, a veritable wraith. His name is bandied about whenever a high profile position opens, and without fail Petersen rebuffs suitors.
USC occupies rarefied air in the college football scene, though. Petersen would be remiss not at least hearing out Haden, and the sales pitch is certainly intriguing. If USC couldn't lure Petersen away from the Smurf Turf, nothing in college football can.
Kevin Sumlin, Texas A&M
USC went into SEC Country once before to lure away a head coach. OK, maybe a bad example, but there is precedent suggesting a Trojan horse could go into that most celebrated of conferences and secure a leader from its ranks.
Kevin Sumlin's wide-open offensive style has worked everywhere he's gone: Oklahoma, Houston and now A&M. It would certainly play well on the West Coast, where such systems are prevalent.
To that end, Sumlin also has connection to the Pac-12 via former USC assistant and current Washington head coach Steve Sarkisian. Sarkisian credits meeting with Sumlin for UW installing a hurry-up offense this season.
After an offseason with Johnny Manziel, Sumlin is uniquely equipped to handle anything the Los Angeles media might have in store for the next Trojan head coach.
Tim DeRuyter, Fresno State
Fresno State won a share of the Mountain West Conference in Tim DeRuyter's first season and is a possible BCS buster in his second.
DeRuyter grew up in Long Beach and played at Southern California prep powerhouse St. John Bosco, and has extensive West Coast experience alongside such successful collegiate coaches as Chris Ault and Troy Calhoun.
Ken Whisenhunt, San Diego Chargers offensive coordinator
Ken Whisenhunt reached and nearly won a Super Bowl with the perpetually destitute Arizona Cardinals. When a coach has stared down the tight-fisted leadership of the Bidwill family, recruiting for a championship-caliber college program is a snap. See "Stallings, Gene" for reference.
NFL lineage has proven successful in Los Angeles. Whisenhunt has similar credentials to Carroll when the latter restored USC to national prominence and fits a similar mold as current UCLA head coach Jim Mora.