Column: Chris Dufresne ranks the top 25 teams ... and USC coaching candidates

Texas Christian Coach Gary Patterson stands on the field during the first half of a game against Iowa State on Oct. 17.

Texas Christian Coach Gary Patterson stands on the field during the first half of a game against Iowa State on Oct. 17.

(Charlie Neibergall / Associated Press)

USC’s next football coach is out there somewhere. He might be getting his team ready this week for a big game, or a small game, or applying pancake makeup for his role as a television analyst. He could be unemployed, playing golf and cashing termination checks from an NFL team that thought he was the answer. USC will pay gobs of money to a search firm that will identify and vet candidates. It is not Rankman’s job to save a rich private school millions of dollars on the kind of headhunters who rubber-stamped Steve Sarkisian’s past. Yet, there’s a decent chance the next Trojans coach is also a punch line in this week’s top 25.

1. Texas Christian 7-0; Coach Patterson preaches defense first, though you wouldn’t know it this year. (1)

2. Utah 6-0; Coach Whittingham leaves door wide open on USC rumors with: “Why speculate on speculation?” (2)

3. Clemson 6-0; Coach Swinney is out there but there’s nothing wrong with a pedigree tied to the SEC and Alabama. (3)

4. Baylor 6-0; Coach Briles has too much twang for L.A. but his offense drives like Justin Bieber through Calabasas. (4)


5. Ohio State 7-0; Too bad USC wasn’t lousy in 2005; it might have snagged then-Utah coach Urban Meyer. (5)

6. Louisiana State 6-0; Rankman would pick up Les Miles, and his hat, at any Los Angeles-area airport. (6)

7. Alabama 6-1; What a story if Nick Saban was coaching USC against Alabama in the 2016 opener. (10)

8. Michigan State 7-0; Coach Dantonio’s icy stares might scare USC fans who tie sweaters around their necks. (8)

9. Michigan 5-2; If only Coach Harbaugh had played for Ted Tollner in college instead of Bo Schembechler. (11)

10. Notre Dame 6-1; Good chance Coach Kelly would come west; more likely as coach of the L.A. Rams. (9)

11. Stanford 5-1; Coach Shaw stole USC’s 1970s power offense and is running it in Palo Alto. (12)

12. Florida 6-1; Too late now but Jim McElwain was coaching at Colorado State when USC hired Sarkisian. (7)

13. Florida State 6-0; What Coach Fisher and USC have in common: both have won national titles at the Rose Bowl. (13)

14. Toledo 6-0; Matt Campbell offers more proof that every coaching search should start in the Mid-American Conference. (18)

15. Oklahoma State 6-0; Coach Gundy is a man, he’s over 40, and often at odds with big-bucks booster T. Boone Pickens. (19)

16. Temple 6-0; USC wouldn’t touch a Temple coach . . . unless Matt Rhule beats Notre Dame on Halloween? (20)

17. Iowa 7-0; Stability option: USC has had six head coaches since Kirk Ferentz arrived at Iowa. (21)

18. California 5-1; Coach Dykes would first have to attend symposium: “Defense Wins Championships.” (22)

19. Texas A&M 5-1; Coach Sumlin again flunked his Alabama bar exam, but USC should keep monitoring. (14)

20. Memphis 6-0; Oops, the secret is out on Coach Fuente after his Tigers defeated Mississippi. (24)

21. Houston 6-0; Triple-double: Coach Herman is Cal Lutheran grad, Mensa member and worked for Urban Meyer. (25)

22. Oklahoma 5-1; From Norman to Normandie? Coach Stoops, 55, probably has one more big move left. (NR)

23. Utah State 4-2; Coach Wells just thumped Boise, but there’s a chance no one at USC has heard of him. (NR)

24. Pittsburgh 5-1; USC should test Coach Narduzzi’s moral dilemma: could he leave Pitt after one year? (NR)

25. Oregon 4-3; Coach Helfrich way too “Coos Bay,” but has Chip Kelly’s cellphone number. (NR)

Dropped out: Northwestern (23), Boise State (17), Mississippi (16), UCLA (15).

Moved in: Oklahoma, Utah State, Pittsburgh, Oregon.

Follow Chris Dufresne on Twitter @DufresneLATimes