Starting 11: Lane Kiffin Fired Edition

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 number one in the country thirteen months ago. 

Now he’s fired. 

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

And now the big question is how good of a hiring decision can USC make?

1. Lane Kiffin was fired at LAX at four in the morning.

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 number one because I think he’d definitely accept it. There’s no way Jeff Fisher takes this job but USC people flip out if you don’t list him. So there you go. Then you have several guys 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, 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 left before September was even over? 

Alabama’s attempting its third straight BCS title so we know the Tide’s good and that the Bama ceiling is 14-0. 

But how about Mizzou, what’s the ceiling for the Tigers?

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 that Mizzou is good enough 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 -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.

He 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 ten team in Vegas — is totally underdiscussed. 

Northwestern, ranked #16, is the highest ranked opponent that Ohio State will play all year. 

Georgia, for instance, could play five top 16 teams if it advances to the SEC title game.

So are you telling me a 13-1 Georgia schedule with a three-point road loss to a potential 12-1 Clemson, would be considered worse than a 13-0 Ohio State schedule that might not feature a single win over a team ranked in the final season top 25?

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

5. Bret Bielema’s fall will make your Monday morning. 

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 of the season. 

With two top ten wins before September is over, 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, potentially sooner. 

All football, college and pro, is increasingly coming down to who you have at quarterback. College football’s close to entering the NFL era, where your team can be decent without a rock star quarterback, but lacks the ability to take the next step.  

It’s no coincidence that my top four teams in the SEC — and nine of my top ten teams in the nation — have these guys at the helm. 

8. Oklahoma took down Notre Dame. 

This effectively ends the “Irish are back,” storyline that we all had to listen to ad infinitum last year. 

Last year Notre Dame was a pretty decent team that was fortunate to win every close game. This year the Irish are losing most of their close games.

The Golden Domers will probably lose to Arizona State and Stanford. The Irish 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. 

Last week West Virginia lost 37-0 to Maryland. 

This week?

The Mountaineers beat Oklahoma State, in what stands as the biggest single upset of the 2013 college football season thus far.

10. My top ten 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 ten teams — Stanford excepted?

Unbelievable quarterback play so far this season. 

11. Here are my SEC power rankings — with Ohio State added. Again, 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 

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