My seat in the press box in Tiger Stadium is next to the glass partition that separates the working press area from the athletic director’s suite.

A couple of games ago, I saw Scott Woodward’s wife, Nanette, sitting alone on the front row before kickoff. Just for fun, I leaned around the glass and asked, “Do you have time for a couple of quotes?”

She knew I was kidding. But not before she laughed and said, “I don’t know anything!”

“Anything,” of course, being a blanket reference to the subject that Louisiana and much of the college football world is obsessing over:

Who will be LSU’s next football coach, and who is in the running?

I believed Nanette Woodward when she said she didn’t know. Plausible deniability is a valuable asset during coaching searches.

The knot of people who do know could be seated comfortably in a seven-passenger SUV. There’s Woodward, executive deputy athletic director Stephanie Rempe, LSU President William Tate, a couple of members of the Board of Supervisors and a couple of well-moneyed boosters. That may be it.

The rest of us? The rest of us are standing outside the castle walls, guessing as to what’s going within. Chasing rumors, reports citing unnamed sources, airplane flights, and puffs of smoke that blow in and out on the wind.

Some folks suspect Woodward is trying to plant stories about certain candidates to throw everyone off the trail of the real candidate(s). Scott’s a clever guy, but he really doesn’t have to do that. When it comes to this search, the stories plant themselves amid a garden of guesswork.

Here’s my small plot of guesswork, inference, and conjecture on the eve of Saturday’s LSU-ULM game in Tiger Stadium — a game that is about as unanticipated and uninteresting as an LSU football contest can get.

That’s because the real game is afoot.

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I believe Scott Woodward has a strong idea of who he wants and the pecking order of candidates. There’s a chance there’s already an agreement in place with a candidate, but I believe it’s rather small.

So is the real list of candidates. Bill O’Brien, Alabama’s offensive coordinator and former coach with the Houston Texans and at Penn State, was the name that got the pot boiling Friday. I just don’t see LSU’s search dipping down into the assistant coaching ranks before Woodward gets a yes.

Next time you see O’Brien standing behind the lectern at a news conference, it’ll be someplace like Virginia Tech. To me, O’Brien is to the LSU football coaching search what former Oregon State coach Pat Casey was to LSU’s baseball search before Woodward hired Jay Johnson.

It’s a reasonable bet LSU’s next coach is on this list: Oklahoma’s Lincoln Riley, Iowa State’s Matt Campbell, Oregon’s Mario Cristobal and UL's Billy Napier.

Riley would be the Moby Dick of this tale. He’s been highly successful at OU, though he hasn’t won a national title, and would require a not-so-small fortune to be uprooted from Norman. It seems an almost impossible task for Woodward. But I will remind folks again that Woodward is not limited by his imagination or LSU's checkbook. If Woodward was willing to go all out to lure women’s basketball coach Kim Mulkey with a $2.5 million salary (yes, Mulkey was interested in coming home, but not for less than what she made at Baylor), he would certainly do the same for a football coach. Setting the market value, possibly with a contract worth $100 million, isn’t a fear factor. As Napier said recently: “Scared money don’t make money.”

Campbell, Christobal and Napier could be had for less, though that doesn’t mean they are significantly lesser prospects. LSU’s past three coaches have won national championships, and I don’t believe there’s one specific coach who could make it four in a row.

I suspect things will really start to heat up shortly after the clock on the ULM game hits zero. LSU could make an official announcement within a couple days after next Saturday’s regular-season finale against Texas A&M. Whether or not LSU wins its final two games to get to a bowl at 6-6 is irrelevant.

What isn’t irrelevant is whether one of LSU’s candidates gets his team in the College Football Playoff. Right now, the only one in position to do that would be Cristobal, who has 9-1 Oregon at No. 3. No, I don’t think Luke Fickell of No. 5 Cincinnati or Mel Tucker of No. 7 Michigan State are coming. Because the early signing period begins Dec. 15, it’s critical to have a coach in place ASAP.

Again, speculation here, but if LSU does not name a coach in the days after the Texas A&M game, that will indicate Woodward is waiting on someone playing on conference championship weekend, Dec. 3-4.

LSU can wait that long, but really no longer.

Email Scott Rabalais at srabalais@theadvocate.com

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