1:00 PM PDT, October 26, 2012
Unbuckling the mailbag:
Question: Is this really a big deal? One USC football player changing his number shouldn't warrant this much attention.
Answer: I'll grant you that one USC jersey swap against Colorado at the Coliseum is not as attention-warranting as say, Brandi Chastain taking her shirt off in a football stadium.
But I honestly don't know what Lane Kiffin is thinking sometimes. He seems incapable of existing without controversy, a trait that followed him to USC from the Oakland Raiders and Tennessee. Al Davis called him a flat-out liar and Southeastern Conference fans still loathe Kiffin almost as much as they do Neil Young's "Southern Man."
At Tennessee, Kiffin suggested he orchestrated stunts to drum up publicity, but he certainly doesn't need to do that in Los Angeles.
I like the fact Kiffin is creative. I even get the idea, sort of, of lining up in goofy formations to make other teams practice against it. Of course, USC has to waste time practicing it too, right? And the Trojans' percentage on those two-point conversions is not very good.
But swapping jersey numbers, during games, is crossing the line. And to do it against hapless Colorado seems so unnecessary.
Most refs wouldn't notice the change, and thus call the penalty, because players have helmets on their heads and USC players do not have names on their jerseys.
USC does not need trickery or deception to compete for national titles. It is not a mid-major looking for any kind of an edge against a superpower. USC is a superpower and recruits enough superior athletes to just line up and play people.
I'm going to need a scoreboard soon to keep count of the distractions Kiffin is creating for opponents versus the distractions he is creating for USC.
Q: Now we know why USC didn't pass at UW. It seems pretty apparent that the game plan at Washington was for Barkley and Woods to get their records at home. Is that too "conspiracy theory?"
A: You may be on to something! Look at this quote I found from Lane Kiffin: "We'd love for those guys to go and do that before their family and friends."
Unless Barkley and Woods have family and friends in Washington, it may have been the calculated plan to have USC risk its national title hopes by holding players back so they could break individual records against crummy Colorado.
Remember, there is no "I" in "team" or "Trojan" but there is in "Kiffin."
Q: Regarding USC, I must be missing something regarding their stellar play. All I can recall is one loss against the only remotely decent team they have played. Or are we to read something in a game against the mighty Buffs?
A: No need to go to lost and found. You're not missing anything. And the only thing people are reading into at Colorado is the fine print on coach Jon Embree's contract.
The back end of USC's schedule will answer all the questions; Oregon, Notre Dame, maybe Oregon again, or Oregon State. Read it and … weep?
Q: After all you have written about the travesty of coaches picking Osborne, you had to break out the shared national title reference?
A: Sometimes Rankman gets cranky and wakes up on the wrong side of the century. I apologize to Michigan for my snarky comment about the Wolverines having 900 wins but only a share of the national title since 1948. Ohio State made me do it. You are right to recall (darn you!) it was I who railed against Nebraska getting a share of the 1997 title. Michigan was No.1 in both polls and won the Rose Bowl, yet the sentimental-sappy coaches gave their title share to retiring Nebraska Coach Tom Osborne.
I also left Michigan out of this week's BCS standings when it was actually No. 22. If it helps, I was in favor of the government's bailout of the auto industry.
Q: So how about Ducks-Wildcats for the BCS title?
West Linn, Ore.
A: I like Oregon's chances this year but, sorry, I just don't see any hope for Arizona, Northwestern, Kentucky, New Hampshire, Villanova or Weber State.
Q: Oregon playing Tennessee Tech could be explained by Kansas State changing its schedule, but what justifies Arkansas State appearing on the Ducks' schedule?
A: I don't know, let's ask Mississippi State, which booked Jackson State, Troy, South Alabama and Middle Tennessee to help the Bulldogs get to 7-0. Oh, and Mississippi State's three SEC wins were against bottom feeders Auburn, Kentucky and Tennessee.
Or, let's ask Florida, which plays Georgia this weekend but then gets Louisiana Lafayette and Jackson State. Florida opened the season against Bowling Green.
Arkansas State is actually a decent mid-major currently in second place in the Sun Belt Conference.
Q: You are by far the best sports writer BARR-NONE. After reading your articles today, I was wondering if you think Oregon will play their remaining games with a "Chip on their shoulder?"
A: Very funny. I would only add that Oregon is playing Colorado this week, so "Chip" is actually playing with a "Boulder" on his shoulder.
Q: When I share your rankings with someone I use at a certain Vegas sports book as I lay down bets each week, we both end up laughing and wondering why and who you are. Don't worry, I do not get attached to your standings but chuckle at your attempt with humor in your rankings.
A: Wondering why and who I am may help you at blackjack and poker, but my weekly rankings are for recreational use only and should never be used to lay down bets … or carpet.
Q: Poorly written article again this week. You should be ashamed.
Stephen R. Wilson
A: You need to specify which article should make me ashamed. I write many each week that could certainly qualify.
Q: Why the SEC bashing? Your column today is short on reasoning, heavy on insinuations and cherry-picked facts. Louisiana State threw for only 97 yards. So what? Florida's passing attack was anemic on several measures? True, but they also passed for four TDs and scored 44 points.
A: Wow, I really am off my game. Most weeks my columns are heavy with corn syrup, light on insight, long with run-on sentences, mid-range on reasoning and the pits only when it comes to nectarine-picked facts.
Q: What do Ara Parseghian, Dan Devine and Lou Holtz all have in common as Notre Dame coaches? I think you know the answer to that.
A: Wait, I do know this. They all started their careers at Knott's Berry Farm. No, that was Steve Martin. They were famous people who once filed for bankruptcy. No, I'm thinking of Willie Nelson, Henry Ford, Mike Tyson and, more recently, Arkansas Coach John L. Smith.
Just kidding … I know where you are going with this question. Those Notre Dame coaching greats won national titles in their third seasons. And you forgot Frank Leahy won a national title in his third year, 1943, and Knute Rockne went undefeated in 1920, his third season.
Current coach Brian Kelly is now in his third season. Notre Dame fans love the "Year Three" theory, but seldom mention the coaches who didn't win third-attempt titles: Charlie Weis, Tyrone Willingham, Bob Davie, Gerry Faust, Elmer Layden … should I stop?
Q: Is Mike Slive the true "BCS Guru"? He seems to have figured out a long time ago that when it comes to nonconference scheduling any win for a team in your conference is better than a "quality loss."
How many days, hours and minutes until this system goes away forever?
A: If SEC Commissioner Slive is the "guru," I just hope Mike Myers doesn't play him in the movie. And it's funny how no one complained about Slive when he was commissioner of Conference USA.
Thankfully, as you said, the BCS' time is almost up.
I'll check with BCS officials to see if they can put a running clock — Countdown to the Playoff! — on their website, bcsfootball.org.
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