Virtually every discussion about the search for Penn State's next football coach includes three names: James Franklin of Vanderbilt, Al Golden of Miami (Fla.) and Greg Schiano, who was just fired by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Two of the three would make sense Franklin and Golden -- while there would be major question marks about whether Schiano would be a good fit at Penn State.
A closer look at some candidates to replace Bill O'Brien:
SUBHD: James Franklin
He's the easiest and perhaps best choice at this point.
He's a sizzling hot coaching commodity, having led Vanderbilt to a 23-15 record the past three seasons, including 9-4 last year and 8-4 this year. Keep in mind that's Vanderbilt, a longtime doormat of college football that had only one winning season from 1983 through 2011.
There's only one big stumbling block about the 41-year-old Franklin, and it's that he's such a hot candidate right now that he might be able to do better than Penn State. His name has been mentioned as a possibility for the Texas job, and that would be a no-brainer if he gets an offer from the Longhorns.
Franklin is a former college quarterback who has a "great offensive mind," according to his offensive coordinator in college, Altoona native Jim Pry. Franklin could step right in and continue to develop PSU quarterback sensation Christian Hackenberg.
There is a potential skeleton in Franklin's closet that could impact him as a candidate.
Four former Vanderbilt players have been accused of raping a woman in June, and they were dismissed from the team and face felony charges. There have been allegations, but no proof, that Franklin encouraged a player to delete a video of the alleged rape, and the coach called them "baseless statements."
Obviously, based on everything Penn State has been through, any such allegation would have to be thoroughly investigated by the PSU search committee. If Franklin is completely cleared of any potential wrongdoing, the case should not impact his status as a top coaching candidate.
Franklin already makes $3 million a year at Vanderbilt, so he might not be willing to come to Penn State for slightly more than that if he chooses to wait for a bigger offer or for what he might consider a more elite job.
SUBHD: Al Golden
He's a former Penn State player and assistant coach, which would appeal to the fans who would like to see the school hire someone with ties to the program instead of an outsider with no vested interest in sticking around for a long time.
Golden did terrific work in a tough job at Temple from 2006-10 and has been at Miami for three years, so he knows what it's like to be in charge of a major program. He's also well respected as a man of integrity, plus he's a New Jersey native, and everything in his background suggests he could recruit well in the northeast.
Golden might not be interested in the Penn State job because Miami has the No. 5 recruiting class in the country coming in, according to Rivals.com, and he might believe he can get the Hurricanes back in contention for a national title quicker than he can PSU.
Golden makes only $2.1 million a year at Miami, so he could be in line for a big raise if he comes to Penn State.
SUBHD: Greg Schiano
His name keeps popping up as a leading candidate, but there are aspects of his personality that would not seem to fit well at Penn State.
Schiano is known as the ultimate control freak coach who is very demanding of his players and everyone around him. He's an extreme no-nonsense guy, and it's either his way or the highway.
While some of that sounds good in a football coach, Schiano has a way of rubbing a lot of people the wrong way.
A former Tampa Bay player had this to say about playing for Schiano in 2012: "It's worse than you can imagine. It's like being in Cuba."
Former Rutgers quarterback Mike Teel said, "It wasn't easy" playing for Schiano in college.
"His style is, 'We're going to do it this way. If you don't like it, I'll find someone else,'" Teel told The (Newark) Star-Ledger in October.
Penn State still needs a healer in a lot of ways as its football coach, someone who would get along with everyone, deal with some of the factions that still exist in the fan base and administration and enjoy getting out and glad-handing alumni and fans.
Schiano doesn't seem like the type to do any of that. He's coming from the NFL, where he could be just a football coach 24/7. And since he failed at the pro level, he might be looking to turn things around in a hurry at Penn State so that he can prove himself and earn another NFL job as soon as possible.
No matter who Penn State hires, it needs somewhat of a long-term commitment. That doesn't mean 10-15 years, but it has to be more than the two years O'Brien stayed because the program simply cannot be in a position where it's looking for a coach every few years.
Another aspect against Schiano is how much so many members of the fan base already dislike him, based on extensive discussions on Twitter and the Internet. Mention his name as a candidate, and many fans get angry at the suggestion, believing his personality would never fly in Happy Valley.
Penn State's administration faces a very real problem with the fan base when it comes to selling tickets and filling up Beaver Stadium, which had more than 20,000 empty seats for several games this year. If the school hires a coach who's already widely viewed as unpopular, it runs the risk of turning off even more fans.
SUBHD: Other candidates
In no particular order:
* Mike Munchak: Head coach of the Tennessee Titans, for now at least, and a PSU alum. He would be a decent fit in some ways, but he's an NFL lifer (32 years as a player and coach) who has no experience whatsoever as a coach in the college game.
* Greg Roman: San Francisco 49ers offensive coordinator. The danger with hiring him is, like O'Brien, he could be looking to turn a short period of success at Penn State into an NFL head coaching job.
* David Cutcliffe: Duke head coach. He's done an incredible job with the Blue Devils -- save for the second half against Johnny Football and Texas A&M two days ago -- and has extensive experience as a college assistant. He's 59 years old, though, and PSU probably will want a younger coach.
* Pat Fitzgerald: Northwestern head coach. He has always appeared to be a good fit at PSU. But he's coaching at his alma mater and hasn't shown any signs of wanting to leave.
* Jim Caldwell: Baltimore Ravens offensive coordinator. He was an assistant at PSU from 1986-92 and helped the Lions win a national title before going on to coach at Wake Forest. He led the Indianapolis Colts to the Super Bowl in 2010 but was fired after going 2-14 the following season when Peyton Manning was injured. He also helped the Ravens win the Super Bowl last year. The only drawback might be his age as he turns 59 in two weeks.