TEMPE, Ariz. -- USC president C.L. Max Nikias sought out AD Pat Haden on the sideline late in the Trojans' 62-41 blowout loss to Arizona State, and the two chatted for about 10 minutes not far from where I was standing.
It certainly seemed like an ominous sign for Lane Kiffin’s job security at the time (and knowing what we now know, they may well have been discussing how to handle Kiffin’s firing), but even so, the news that Kiffin is out as the Trojans' head coach before the end of September qualifies as a surprise -- no matter how hot his seat had been since the offseason.
However, after seeing how USC’s defense -- the one thing the team was able to hang its hat on through four games -- performed against the Sun Devils, it was clear that Kiffin’s days were numbered. ASU coach Todd Graham used the words “dominated” and “dismantled” to describe what the Devils did to a defense that was second in the country in yards per play allowed through the four games. A couple of more losses like that one, and the players could have begun to punt on the season (sort of like last year).
One Trojans staffer texted me well after the game last night: “Missed opportunity.” He was likely referring to the loss, but the same could be said about the entire Kiffin tenure in L.A.
With the focus for the Trojans now clearly pointed toward the future, let’s take a look at what kind of a turnaround the program is facing and the coaches who could emerge as candidates to replace Kiffin.
Who are the candidates?