Breaking down The Associated Press college football poll after Week 5 of the regular season.
IN AND OUT. No. 22 Arizona State moved into the AP Top 25 — and helped move Lane Kiffin out of a job as Southern California coach.
The Sun Devils struck the final blow of Kiffin’s tumultuous tenure with the Trojans in a 62-41 victory Saturday night in Tempe, Ariz.
“That’s the last thing I’m worried about,” Kiffin said when asked about his job status after the game. “We have to find a way to coach better, to play better.”
Count Todd Graham’s Arizona State program among those coaching and playing better than USC these days in the Pac-12 South, joining UCLA and maybe even Arizona. Over in the northern half of the Pac-12, Oregon and Stanford have pretty much left the Trojans in the dust since Pete Carroll departed after the 2009 season.
This is unacceptable for one of the crown jewels of college football, so athletic director Pat Haden pulled the plug on the Kiffin era at USC (3-2) in the early morning hours Sunday.
Kiffin was 34 when he replaced his former boss at USC, skipping out on Tennessee after just one season in Knoxville. He was never embraced — anywhere. He managed one terrific season — 10-2 in 2011 with the Trojans still serving an NCAA postseason ban. But last year USC started No. 1 and ended the season unranked.
The Trojans came into this season with more modest expectations but still considered a contender to win the South. Ugly losses to Washington State and now Arizona State made it clear this was another season heading nowhere. Fan apathy was also setting in at USC. The empty seats at the Los Angeles Coliseum provided overwhelming visual evidence. The next home game is Oct. 10 against Arizona.
Haden can now begin the search for a new coach, getting a head start on the competition. That could be helpful if some other big-time programs hit the market (Texas? Nebraska?).
Who will USC go after? The usual suspects, no doubt. Expect Boise State’s Chris Petersen to at least be rumored as a candidate. TCU’s Gary Patterson, too. Figure USC alums with NFL backgrounds such as Jack Del Rio and Jeff Fisher will come up.
It’s USC. Just about anybody would at least have to listen if Haden called.
THE HOLD STEADY. For the third consecutive week, the top five teams in the AP Top 25 were unchanged. No. 1 Alabama received 55 first-place votes from the media panel. No. 2 Oregon received the other five. Clemson is No. 3 followed by Ohio State and Stanford.
All five won Saturday, with only Ohio State getting challenged. The Buckeyes, in their first test of the season, beat Wisconsin 31-24 in Columbus. The Badgers dropped out of the rankings. Urban Meyer’s Buckeyes bring their 17-game winning streak to No. 16 Northwestern on Saturday.
“That’s what we love about the Big Ten,” Buckeyes offensive lineman Jack Mewhort said. “Week in and week out it’s a physical challenge.”
Alabama may have finally eased the fears of its anxious fans with a 25-0 victory against No. 24 Mississippi. The Tide had shown some flaws during a 3-0 start. Now Alabama settles into the softest part of its schedule with about a month to smooth things over before No. 10 LSU comes to Tuscaloosa, Ala., on Nov. 9.
ND, NR. The team Alabama beat in last year’s BCS championship game has real problems.
Notre Dame is not ranked for the first time this season, following a 35-21 loss at home to No. 11 Oklahoma. The Sooners moved up three spots and are now the highest-ranked Big 12 team.
The Fighting Irish (3-2) look a long way from last year’s team that was so stingy on defense and balanced offensively. The offense misses quarterback Everett Golson, who is sitting out this season after an academic suspension, and the defense has regressed.
Next up for the Irish is a trip to Texas, where they’ll play Arizona State at the Dallas Cowboys’ stadium.
MOVING UP. Georgia moved up three spots to No. 6, but don’t blame Bulldogs fans if they’re feeling their team is still underappreciated. No team has played a more difficult September schedule and the Bulldogs (3-1) emerged with two wins against three teams (Clemson, South Carolina and LSU) that were ranked in the top 10 at the time they played.
FROM THE ARCHIVES
No. 25 Maryland (4-0) is ranked for the first time since the final poll of the 2010 season.
Follow Ralph D. Russo at http://www.twitter.com/ralphDrussoAP.