Starting 11: Top Kiffin replacements

September is not even over yet, and we already have two coaches
fired: USC’s Lane Kiffin and UConn’s Paul Pasqualoni.

Kiffin, in particular, was No. 1 in the country 13 months ago.
Now, he’s fired. 

The two most important things in college football are the coach
and the quarterback.

1. Lane Kiffin was fired at LAX at 4 a.m.

I’m not really going to tap dance on Kiffin’s coaching coffin,
because this firing has been inevitable since the day USC decided
to hire him from Tennessee. If Kiffin had stayed at Tennessee, he
would have eventually been fired there, too — maybe not for
losing too much, but probably for putting the program on major
probation.

The big question out there now is who does USC pursue?

Here’s my list:

1. Jack Del Rio

2. Jeff Fisher

3. Chris Petersen

4. David Shaw

5. Kevin Sumlin

6. Steve Sarkisian

7. James Franklin

8. Bobby Petrino

I put Del Rio No. 1 because I think he’d definitely accept it.
There’s no way Fisher takes this job — but USC people flip
out if you don’t list him. So, there you go. Then, there’s several
coaches listed here with great jobs. Could they be persuaded to
leave?

Watch out for James Franklin here.

USC is one of the few jobs that I think could get him to leave
Vanderbilt. After a third straight bowl game at Vandy, would it be
really hard to turn down one of the premier jobs in the country and
a private school dying for a charismatic coach to rally the
base?

I predicted he’d be a top target for USC the day that Vanderbilt
won its bowl game last year, and I’ve stuck to it since then.

If you’re a Vandy fan, I’d be rooting like hell for USC to take
Jack Del Rio.

2. There are only two undefeated teams in the SEC: Alabama
and Missouri

Anybody have those two pegged as the last two undefeated teams
in the league before September was even over?

Alabama’s attempting to win its third straight BCS title, so we
know the Tide’s good and has a ceiling of 14-0.

What’s the ceiling for Mizzou? Nine wins.

I don’t see any way possible that Mizzou wins at Georgia or
beats Texas A&M — and I also don’t see any way for Mizzou
to win all three against Florida, South Carolina and Ole Miss.

So, nine wins is the ceiling — but that would be a hell of
a bounce back season for Gary Pinkel. 

What’s the Mizzou floor? Probably 6-6. 

The game this weekend against Vanderbilt (the Dores opened at
minus-2) is massive for both teams.

3. Zach Mettenberger will be a first-round draft pick this
spring.

If I’m wrong, you can ridicule me to no end — but
Mettenberger will soar up NFL draft boards once scouts get to watch
all his game tape this season. He’s a huge prototypical pocket
passer with a rocket arm.

Mettenberger couldn’t have played any better on the road at
Georgia. If he plays that well against Ole Miss, Texas A&M and
Alabama, LSU has a pretty decent shot of winning the SEC West.

4. Why is Ohio State’s schedule not a bigger topic of
conversation?

Louisville has effectively been eliminated from BCS title
contention based on its schedule. Yet Ohio State’s schedule —
and the fact that the Buckeyes aren’t even a top-10 team in Vegas
— is totally under-discussed.

No. 16 Northwestern is the highest ranked opponent Ohio State
will play all year. To put it in perspective: Georgia could play
five top-16 teams if it advances to the SEC title game. A 13-1
Georgia team, with a three-point road loss to a potential 13-1
Clemson, would be considered worse than a 14-0 Ohio State team that
might not feature a single win over a team ranked in the final
season top 25.

It’s simple: A 13-1 Pac-12 or SEC champion should definitely get
in over an undefeated Ohio State. 

5. Bret Bielema’s fall will make your Monday

In the event you haven’t seen it, your day is about to be
made:

6. Georgia, left for dead after the Clemson loss, is now in
great shape for the final eight weeks

With two top-10 wins already, Georgia is likely to play Alabama
in the SEC title game with a spot in the BCS title game at
stake.

The only real roadblock on this schedule?

The Gators in the Cocktail Party.

7. Johnny Manziel, Aaron Murray, Zach Mettenberger and AJ
McCarron are the four best quarterbacks the SEC has ever had
playing at once 

I believe all four of these guys will be drafted in the first
three rounds of the NFL draft, if not sooner.

All football, college and pro, is increasingly coming down to
the quarterback. College football is close to entering the NFL era,
where teams might be decent without a rockstar quarterback. It’s no
coincidence that my top four teams in the SEC (and nine of my top
10 teams in the nation) have this type of QB at the helm.

8. Oklahoma took down Notre Dame

This effectively ends the “Irish are back” storyline that we’ve
listened to ad infinitum over the course of the past year.

Last year, Notre Dame was a decent team fortunate to win every
close game. But this year? The Irish are losing most of these
matchups. The Golden Domers will probably lose to Arizona State and
Stanford; Notre Dame could also lose to Pittsburgh and BYU.

This could very easily be a 7-5 or 6-6 Irish team.

9. Why is college football great?

The completely and totally unpredictable emotional swings from
week to week, of course.

Last week West Virginia lost 37-0 to Maryland. This week? The
Mountaineers beat then-No. 11 Oklahoma State in what stands as the
biggest single upset of the 2013 college football season thus
far.

10. My top 10 based on games that have actually been played
thus far

1. Oregon

2. Alabama

3. Clemson

4. Georgia

5. LSU

6. Washington

7. Stanford

8. UCLA

9. Baylor

10. Texas A&M

What’s the common thread for these 10 teams? Unbelievable
quarterback play so far this season. (Stanford excepted.)

11. My SEC power rankings (with Ohio State added) based on
games that have actually been played

1. Alabama

2. Georgia

3. LSU

4. Texas A&M

5. South Carolina

6. Florida

7. Ohio State

8. Ole Miss

9. Missouri

10. Auburn

11. Vandy

12. Tennessee

13. Arkansas

14. Mississippi State

15. Kentucky