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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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