Lane Kiffin

With Kiffin canned, to whom does USC turn?

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Shortly after Arizona State had put the finishing touches on an yet another embarrassing loss for the storied USC football program, the questions surrounding the future of head coach Lane Kiffin once again surfaced. Less than three hours later, at 4:28 a.m. PT, the athletic department posted the following on its Twitter account:

“Breaking news: Lane Kiffin has been relieved of his duties as USC’s head football coach per AD Pat Haden.”

And with that, the Kiffin Era in Los Angeles came to a (merciful) end in an LAX parking lot.

Despite extremely punitive NCAA sanctions slapped on the program… despite very steadfast support from his athletic director… the physical act of canning the 38-year-old Kiffin was the easy part.  Beginning in 2012 and after being picked by many as the No. 1 team in the country heading into the new season, the admittedly undermanned Trojans have stumbled and tripped their way to a 10-8 record, including a 5-6 mark in Pac-12 play.  Oregon and Stanford have far surpassed USC in the Pac-12 football pecking order; perhaps more importantly, hated cross-town rival UCLA has done the same.

No, the hard part will be just who Pat Haden hires to replace the man hired by his predecessor.  Haden was tabbed by his alma mater in August of 2010 to replace Mike Garrett, and this will easily be the biggest hire the former Rhodes Scholar makes and will leave the most lasting impact on his résumé.

The good news for Haden specifically and the Trojan fan base in general is that USC still has a helluva lot to offer any potential Kiffin replacement.  From sparkling new facilities to well-heeled boosters to a fertile recruiting base to lasting brand name, USC remains one of the top jobs at the FBS level.

With just a couple of hours to digest the stunning (but yet not-so-stunning) news, here’s a quick-hit look at just whose name will be mentioned — realistically or not — as Kiffin’s replacement, knowing full well that the actual permanent successor likely won’t come from this initial pool of possibilities.

CHRIS PETERSEN
Regardless of how big of a pipe dream this may be, anyone and everyone knows full well that USC officials will back the Brinks truck up to the Broncos head coach’s door and dare him not to answer.  Prior to Kiffin’s hiring, Petersen was reportedly contacted by USC about their opening and rejected the overtures.  In December of 2011, Petersen reportedly rejected UCLA — for a second time — when they offered him $4 million annually at a time he was making just over $1.5 with the Broncos.  Petersen has had myriad opportunities to leave Boise, and has yet to take the financial bait.  Don’t expect him to do it this time, either.  Probably.

JACK DEL RIO
The former USC All-American’s name is already being bandied about as perhaps the top candidate to replace Kiffin.  Currently the defensive coordinator of the Denver Broncos, Del Rio was also mentioned as a possibility to replace Pete Carroll.  Del Rio has never been a coach — head, assistant or otherwise — at the collegiate level and it would be stunning if the Trojans went in this direction.  Speaking of which…

JEFF FISHER
Another former USC All-American, Fisher’s name, as expected, surfaced (again) earlier this month even before Kiffin was officially booted in an LAX parking lot.  Like Del Rio, Fisher has never been a coach at the collegiate level.  Would Fisher give up a head coaching job in the NFL to return home and rescue his college program?  Don’t look for USC to even give him an opportunity to make such a choice despite a segment of the fan base that would love to see it happen.

JAMES FRANKLIN
Four names in, and this might be the most realistic and viable option.  While Franklin has very few ties to the West Coast — one year at Washington State (1998) and one at Idaho State (1999) — he’s one of the best young head coaches in the game and turned Vanderbilt into a competitive football program in the best football conference in the country, no small feat that won’t go unnoticed by those at this level looking for a new coach.  Franklin is one of the top recruiters in the game, and has done well on that battlefield in the SEC; one could imagine what he would do on the fertile California recruiting grounds with “less-intense” competition plus his ties in that arena to the South.

STEVE SARKISIAN
Sarkisian is just 30-25 in his four-plus years at Washington, but he has the Huskies undefeated and ranked (at the moment) No. 16 in the country.  He was a USC assistant for seven of the eight years prior to his hiring by UW and grew up in Torrance, Calif., less than an hour’s drive to Los Angeles.  It would be beyond surprising if Haden didn’t at least reach out to Sarkisian let alone not make a full-blown effort to land him.

GREG ROMAN
Roman was the offensive coordinator at Stanford for two seasons before following Jim Harbaugh to the San Francisco 49ers.  He has previously been linked to openings at Cal and Penn State.  With the success Harbaugh had in the Pac-12, and with Roman playing a role in it, this could be a direction in which Haden turns.  Keep an eye on this name.

KIRBY SMART
As far as coordinators, it wouldn’t take long to call roll on those more respected than Alabama’s defensive (co-) boss.  He’s had numerous opportunities to leave Nick Saban’s side the past couple of years but has remained in Tuscaloosa as the situation simply wasn’t right.  Smart’s entire coaching career has been east of the Mississippi; would the bright lights of LA scare him off if the Trojans came knocking?

CHAD MORRIS
If Haden is looking to go outside the box, you wouldn’t get much further out than this.  Not only has the Clemson offensive coordinator never been a head coach at the collegiate level, he didn’t take his first college job until 2010 at the age of 42 after a highly successful run as a high school coach in Texas.  Despite that lack of experience, Morris is one of the brightest and most respected offensive minds in college football — Urban Meyer tried to lure him to Ohio State upon his hiring — and has turned the Tigers’ offense into one of the nation’s best.  With college football leaning more and more toward up-tempo offense, especially in the Pac-12, kicking the tires on Morris might make sense on some level.

Mike Riley
USC’s offensive coordinator from 1993-96, the 60-year old Riley has spent the past 11 seasons as the head coach at Oregon State.  While it would seem unlikely that a coach of his age would make a move, he did reply “you never know” when the Los Angeles Daily News asked a couple of years ago about a potential return to the Trojans.  That same paper is already listing Riley as a possibility, although that would be hard to see becoming a viable option if for nothing more than the age factor.

KEVIN SUMLIN
I’m not saying USC will reach out to the Texas A&M head coach, but I’m saying they damn well should.  And they’d better do it before the NFL gets its hooks into one of the brightest coaches at the FBS level.  It won’t be easy for anyone to pry Sumlin out of College Station, though, as A&M officials will rightly do anything and everything to blunt even flirtatious overtures let alone full-blown pursuits.  It wouldn’t seem like Sumlin would leave an SEC job to plow new ground out west, but stranger things have happened.

DAVID SHAW
See above.  The Stanford head coach’s name has already been mentioned as longshot possibility, although it seems more likely that he would leave The Farm for the NFL rather than another college job.

JON GRUDEN
In accordance with federal and state regulations, we’re required to include Chucky on any and all lists related to major head-coaching vacancies.  Seeing as his wife was not a cheerleader at USC, though, we highly doubt this one has a torso much less legs.

Baker Mayfield confirms he’s returning to Oklahoma for senior season

NORMAN, OK - DECEMBER 3: Quarterback Baker Mayfield #6 of the Oklahoma Sooners looks to throw against the Oklahoma State Cowboys December 3, 2016 at Gaylord Family-Oklahoma Memorial Stadium in Norman, Oklahoma.  (Photo by Brett Deering/Getty Images)
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It was a pretty damn good day all around for Oklahoma Saturday.

Not only did OU run away from Oklahoma State in their annual Bedlam rivalry game, the Sooners claimed an undisputed Big 12 championship.  It was Bob Stoops‘ 10th such title as OU’s head coach.

Shortly after the win, the Sooners received positive news on the personnel front as quarterback Baker Mayfield confirmed that, yes, he will be returning to Norman for his senior season next year.

It was thought that Mayfield was heavily leaning toward such a tack, but the confirmation will be welcome news for the football program.

Mayfield had a 2015 season that many thought made him worthy of being a Heisman finalist, although he came in just outside that rarefied air in finishing fourth in the voting. Many expect him to be one of the players invited to New York City this season as a finalist.

The past two seasons, Mayfield has thrown for 7,369 yards and 74 touchdowns. He’s added another 13 touchdowns on the ground.

The Sooners have gone 21-4 with Mayfield as the starter, won back-to-back conference championships and qualified for the 2015 College Football PLayoff.

Alabama having its way with hapless Florida

Alabama wide receiver Calvin Ridley (3) runs ahead of Florida defensive back Quincy Wilson (6) during the first half of the Southeastern Conference championship NCAA college football game, Saturday, Dec. 3, 2016, in Atlanta.(AP Photo/John Bazemore)
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The SEC Championship was competitive… for about a drive.

Florida opened the game with a 10-play, 64-yard touchdown drive capped by a 5-yard strike from Austin Appleby to Antonio Callaway. Florida then forced 3-and-out. But the very next play was an Appleby interception, and the boulder started rolling downhill from there.

Alabama got on the board with an Adam Griffith field goal and, on the ensuing possession, Minkah Fitzpatrick snared an errant Appleby pass for a 44-yard pick-six to give the Tide the lead at the 5:06 mark of the first quarter.

Florida’s next possession ended in a punt — that was blocked and returned 27 yards by Joshua Jacobs for a touchdown. (The extra point was itself blocked and returned for two points by Florida.)

By that point, Alabama enjoyed a 16-9 lead without gaining a first down on offense.

Jalen Hurts and company took care of that, though, moving 88 yards in seven plays punctuated by a 6-yard Gehrig Dieter reception.

Florida ended its next possession with yet another disaster, this time a fake punt in their own territory that never had a chance of achieving a first down. Florida was spared when Adam Griffith‘s field goal missed, but Griffith converted a 25-yard field goal on his next try and the Tide’s following possession ended in a 6-yard Jacobs run — giving Alabama a 33-9 lead and the SEC Championship record for most points in a half.

Florida closed the half with a 92-yard touchdown drive capped by a 25-yard strike from Appleby to DeAndre Goolsby to pull within 33-16 at the break. Appleby closed the half completing 17-of-26 passes for 184 yards with two touchdowns and three interceptions, while Hurts hit 8-of-16 passes for 112 yards and a score. Alabama has out-rushed Florida 52-7.

Alabama will receive to open the second half.

‘Canes might be front-runner for transferring Irish WR Corey Holmes

SOUTH BEND, IN - OCTOBER 07:  A member of Notre Dame Fighting Irish holds up his helmet on the opening kickoff during the game against the Stanford Cardinal on October 7, 2006 at Notre Dame Stadium in South Bend, Indiana.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
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For the second time this week, Notre Dame is losing a player to transfer.

On his Twitter account Saturday afternoon, Corey Holmes indicating that he would be leaving the Fighting Irish and would be continuing his collegiate playing career elsewhere.  ND officials subsequently confirmed that the wide receiver will transfer out after the spring semester.

Holmes’ decision was triggered by a desire for a better shot at playing time.

According to the South Bend Tribune, Miami is expected to be the front-runner for Holmes’ services. The receiver also stated that Arizona State, North Carolina and UCLA “are some schools I’d be considering.”

Like it was with Malik Zaire, the quarterback who announced his transfer late last month, there will be no restrictions placed on Holmes by the university.

As it stands now, Holmes plans to graduate next August, which means he would have two years of eligibility remaining and would be eligible immediately in 2017 i he moves on to another FBS school.

A four-star 2014 recruit, Holmes was rated as the No. 27 receiver in the country and the No. 26 player at any position in the state of Florida. After redshirting as a true freshman then not seeing any action in 2015, Holmes caught 11 passes for 96 yards this past season. He had a career-high four receptions in what turned out to be his final game at the school in the regular-season finale against USC.

No. 9 Oklahoma runs past No. 10 Oklahoma State, hands Bob Stoops his 10th Big 12 title

Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield (6) passes against Oklahoma State in the first half of an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Dec. 3, 2016, in Norman, Okla. (AP Photo/Alonzo Adams)
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Bob Stoops won’t be adding to his playoff resume this season, but yet another notch to his conference pedigree will be added.

Through the first two quarters of rain-drenched play, No. 9 Oklahoma and No. 9 Oklahoma State slogged their way to a dead-even tie in the 111th Bedlam matchup.  The second half was another matter entirely, however, as the Sooners literally ran past the Cowboy en route to a 38-20 Bedlam win in Norman.

In the first half, OU was held to just 40 yards on 19 carries.  They had 76 yards on the ground on their first drive of the second half as the Sooners pounded out a whopping 301 yards rushing the last two quarters, no doubt in part compensating for the loss of All-American wide receiver Dede Westbrook to a head injury in the first half.

Samaje Perine led all rushers with 239 yards on 37 carries.  It was a backfield stablemate, however, that delivered the backbreaker.

Trailing 31-20 early in the fourth quarter, OSU drove down inside the OU 25-yard line and had the opportunity to make it a one-score game with a field goal.  Senior Ben Grogan, though, missed from 38 yards out; on the very next play from scrimmage, Joe Mixon ripped of a 79-yard touchdown run that essentially sealed the win.

It was the longest run of his career for Mixon, who finished with 99 yards on the ground.

Baker Mayfield did work through the air, too, as the quarterback passed for 288 yards and three touchdowns.

With the win, OU staked is claim to an undisputed Big 12 title and finished unbeaten in conference play for the first time since 2004.  This is Stoops’ 10th career conference championship since coming to the Sooners in 1999; no other program has more than two titles since Stoops set up shop in Norman.

Stoops moved to within four of tying Bud Wilkinson‘s career record of 14 Big 8 championships. He needs three more to tie Nebraska’s Tom Osborne‘s 13 Big 8/12 titles, and two more to tie the dozen of another Sooner coaching legend, Barry Switzer.

The win also means that Oklahoma will play in the Sugar Bowl Jan. 2.  OU will, more than likely, face Florida in the game.  OSU, meanwhile, will probably meet Colorado at the Alamo Bowl.