Ed Orgeron named USC’s interim head coach


It’s not often that you see a head coach fired five games into a season, but USC pulled the plug on Lane Kiffin hours after its 62-41 loss to Arizona State, which meant the Trojans were in need of someone to take over coaching duties the rest of the way.

Enter Ed Orgeron.

USC’s current defensive line coach was handed the reins of the football program on Sunday by the school’s athletic director, Pat Haden, and tasked with ‘bringing joy and fun’ back to the team for its final eight games of the 2013 season.

He’s the first interim head coach in the history of USC football.

“I want to thank Pat Haden for trusting me to be the interim head coach at USC,” said Orgeron. “We had a very positive staff meeting this morning and then we met with the team and came out with a positive vibe.  We made a commitment to give all we have for the Trojan family. I’m excited to be this team’s coach for next eight games and see where it takes us.”

Orgeron’s passion and enthusiasm contrasts sharply with Kiffin’s introverted, almost sullen personality, and was cited by Haden as a prime reason for his selection.

“This game is supposed to be fun,” Haden said.  “Ed’s love for the game and passion for the game means a lot to us. There is a lot to be played for still this year.”

The 52-year-old Louisiana native has previous head coaching experience, a forgettable three-year stint at Ole Miss from 2005-2007. The Rebels went 10-25 during that time and Orgeron was fired after going 0-8 in SEC play. But Orgeron credited his time in Oxford as a learning experience that will help him with his current undertaking.

“Coaching there helped me learn how to handle days like today,” he said. “I learned how to handle a full team and not just a defensive line. I learned how to handle adverse situations, how to play LSU and Alabama in a hostile environment, how to react and interact with the players and how to organize recruiting.”

Orgeron said offensive coordinator Clay Helton would call plays, but that the offense probably wouldn’t change that much schematically.

“We’re going to have some lengthy discussions about it this week and I totally trust we’ll put a great product on the field,” he said.

Whatever the case, the tone and feel of this team will be much different with Orgeron at the helm.

“I want to play with energy,” said Orgeron. “I want our guys to believe and have a little fun. We need to circle the wagons a bit, have some fun and let the chips fall where they may.”

Unless a miracle happens, don’t look for Orgeron to end up as USC’s permanent head coach. Haden made it clear that the search would soon begin, but that it wasn’t time to talk about any possible hires just yet.

“We’re going to try to find the best coach we can possibly find,” said Haden. “But it’s not fair to our team to talk about that right now. Let’s worry about that search in our future.”

USC has a couple months to get that coaching search right. Until then, the high-energy Orgeron is its man.

Big changes in AP poll, but Ohio State still comfortable on top

Ezekiel Elliott, Cardale Jones

The Ohio State Buckeyes remain atop the AP Top 25 this week, but the Big 12’s top contenders have bumped Michigan State down two spots. No. 2 TCU picked up five first-place votes and managed to stay ahead of No. 3 Baylor despite the Bears getting 10 first-place votes.

No. 5 Utah picked up seven first-place votes and No. 9 Texas A&M received the last first-place vote available. The big mover in this week’s AP poll was No. 11 Florida, with the Gators jumping 14 spots in the poll after dismantling Ole Miss Saturday night. The Rebels dropped from No. 3 down to No. 14. No. 15 Notre Dame fell nine spots after losing at No. 6 Clemson. No. 19 Georgia also tumbled this week, down 11 spots after being blown out at home by Alabama. It was also a rough week for No. 20 UCLA, falling 13 spots after losing to Arizona State at home.

New teams in the AP poll this week include No. 22 Iowa, No. 24 Toledo and No. 25 Boise State. Iowa and Boise State also made appearances in the coaches poll earlier today, but Toledo did not. Memphis appears in the coach spill but is the third team in its own conference in the others receiving votes category, behind Houston and Temple. Memphis tied with division foe Navy in that category as well.

  1. Ohio State (38 first-place votes)
  2. TCU (5)
  3. Baylor (10)
  4. Michigan State
  5. Utah (7)
  6. Clemson
  7. LSU
  8. Alabama
  9. Texas A&M (1)
  10. Oklahoma
  11. Florida
  12. Florida State
  13. Northwestern
  14. Ole Miss
  15. Notre Dame
  16. Stanford
  17. USC
  18. Michigan
  19. Georgia
  20. UCLA
  21. Oklahoma State
  22. Iowa
  23. Cal
  24. Toledo
  25. Boise State

Group of Five update: Boise State still going strong, Navy creating a stir

Keenan Reynolds
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With conference play starting to pick up around the country, we should start to see some separation from some of these Group of Five contenders. The three-headed race in the American Athletic Conference’s West Division should be especially fascinating to watch unfold as Memphis, Houston and Navy are all off to undefeated starts and are a combined 13-0. Over the weekend Navy picked up a nice nonconference win against Air Force, which served multiple purposes of coming one step closer to winning the Commander-In-Chief’s Trophy, scored a nice win for the AAC and also knocked the struggling Mountain West Conference down another peg.

Of course, the Mountain West Conference still has Boise State, and the Broncos have been on fire lately. After the setback against BYU in Provo, Boise State has traveled to Virginia to put up 56 points in a 42-point victory and just blanked Hawaii in conference play, 55-0. Boise State is now locked and loaded for a run through the MWC as some of the perceived threats to the Broncos continue to scuffle. A road game to Colorado State is not as imposing as it may have been last fall, and the same can be said for a road trip to Utah State the following week. Air Force might be the biggest challenge left for Boise State in conference play, but that will be played on the blue turf. And let’s be honest for a moment. In the eyes of the selection committee, a 12-1 Boise State team at the end of the season might be difficult to pass on when it comes time to make a call on the New Years Six bowl spot.

That said, Boise State still has some serious competition completely out of their hands. Toledo continues to put together a solid season and has a pair of victoroes over FBS schools just like Boise State (and a road win at Arkansas likely is better than Boise State’s wins against Washington or at Virginia to some). If the Rockets can run the table in the MAC or even suffer one close loss along the way to a MAC title, Toledo may actually be the frontrunner. That, of course, could also change depending on what happens in that AAC West.

Memphis had a close call at USF this weekend but managed to escape with a win. The offense Memphis has rolling will still be a serious challenge in conference play, but pay attention to what Houston and Navy are also doing. Only one of those three will even be eligible to play for the AAC championship, which makes this the best division race to following the Group of Five. In the AAC East, Temple appears to be in good shape after a blowout win in rainy Charlotte this week. The Owls still have a leg up on Cincinnati, and look to have the best defense in the division. Every other team in Temple’s division has already lost at least one game.

Now with one week of October football under our belts, here is how I would rank the current Group of Five contenders at this moment if I had a seat on the College Football Playoff selection committee.

  1. Toledo: Still owns the best victory over a P5 school in Arkansas
  2. Memphis: Offense still scary despite tight one at USF, gets Ole Miss next after a bye.
  3. Temple: Wins against Penn State and Cincinnati look a little better now, could be undefeated when Notre Dame comes to Philly
  4. Boise State: The best one-loss team in the Group of Five field and surging, but how much will MWC hold Broncos back?
  5. Navy: Midshipmen letting Keenan  Reynolds do his thing, just beat Air Force by 22. Big win for AAC, tough loss for MWC

On the radar: Houston just misses my cut for now, but could easily work into the mix any given week. Keeping an eye on Western Kentucky, who plays LSU later this month. I’ll keep taking a flyer on Bowling Green but with two losses that leaves the Falcons with plenty of ground to make up. Not impossible, but certainly in need of some help in other places. Falcons also need to get by Ohio, who just barely puts a blip on the radar as well. Sorry Sun Belt. I just don’t see it happening yet.