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Starting 11: Top Kiffin replacements

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Clay Travis

Clay Travis has been a columnist for CBSSports.com, FanHouse, and an editor/writer for Deadspin. He's written two books, Dixieland Delight and On Rocky Top, hosts a daily radio show in Nashville and appears on FS1's "FOX College Saturday."

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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  

Tagged: Clemson, Ohio State, Ohio, Stanford, USC, Tennessee, Alabama, LSU, Vanderbilt, Georgia, Notre Dame, Texas A&M, Missouri, Texas, James Franklin, Zach Mettenberger

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