USC Trojans: Penn State Nittany Lions

1. Reading USC’s spring prospectus, this nugget stopped me: In six games last season, the Trojans used a total of 14 or fewer players on defense. That’s a stark illustration of the effect of the NCAA scholarship penalties. USC has eight starters returning on each side of the ball. But of the 49 returning lettermen, 18 were either walk-ons, injured or scholarship guys who just didn’t play. That’s a reminder of the work that Steve Sarkisian has cut out for him, and of how well the Trojans did to go 10-4 last season.

2. Former Penn State assistant coach Jay Paterno entered the race for the Democratic nomination for Pennsylvania lieutenant governor late, and now he has withdrawn early. Another candidate challenged the legitimacy of the signatures on Paterno’s nomination petitions. The legal battle would have consumed considerable time and money leading up to the May 20 primary. Too bad, because as news stories go, it would have been interesting to see if Paterno could use his name recognition to make voters take him seriously. He seemed to be making headway.

3. If you love writing and you love college football history, make sure you read “His Ownself,” the just-published autobiography of legendary sportswriter Dan Jenkins. He saw TCU play for the 1936 Rose Bowl, and he saw TCU play in the 2011 Rose Bowl. No one covered the 1960s, the decade of Bear Bryant, John McKay and Darrell Royal, better. You also get Jenkins on the last 60 years of golf, from Hogan to Woods. It’s like standing in the corner of a bar with Jenkins holding court. It is great, great fun.

USC asks for justice from NCAA

September, 26, 2013
USC is making one last run at the NCAA, hoping the organization that crushed it with severe sanctions in June of 2010 will finally aspire toward some degree of belated justice.

But don't hold your breath.

[+] EnlargePat Haden
Victor Decolongon/Getty ImagesUSC AD Pat Haden is smart to appeal to the NCAA for reductions, but that's doesn't mean it will happen.
Athletic director Pat Haden released a statement Thursday saying he and USC's vice president for compliance Dave Roberts spent the last two days in Indianapolis meeting with NCAA officials, including NCAA President Mark Emmert.

The meeting had been scheduled weeks earlier, so it was purely serendipitous that it coincided with the NCAA's extraordinary decision to reduce previous sanctions against Penn State due to good behavior.

Still, Haden, who's been criticized for not going after the NCAA's poorly reasoned and factually challenged judgment against USC, saw an opportunity and at least wanted to score a public relations point with his frustrated fans.

Noted Haden in the statement, "We felt compelled to discuss USC's sanctions in a new light. As I have stated on numerous occasions, I believe the penalties imposed on our football program in 2010 were unprecedented and inconsistent with NCAA precedent in prior cases."

Haden then said he and Roberts "argued for some consideration regarding the 2010 sanctions during the last year of our penalty."

Meaning Haden is asking the NCAA to restore some scholarships to USC that it can use for the 2014 recruiting class, which has been docked 10 scholarships from a typical class of 25.

Haden concluded, "After candid discussions, the NCAA asked us to provide additional information and indicated it would study our suggestions. Because time is of the essence regarding these issues, we have asked for the NCAA's response as soon as practical."

The problem here is Penn State's situation was a special case, one that allowed the NCAA to both punish and then show newfound mercy outside the bounds of its typical process. Yes, the NCAA made up the rules as it went along with Penn State, which allows plenty flexibility for an organization that prides itself on being just the opposite.

With USC, the NCAA would have to make an unprecedented reversal of long-accepted processes. USC already failed with two appeals. If Emmert were to take executive action, it would be a slap in the face to the members of the Committee on Infractions who handed down the ruling against the Trojans.

That the COI, which was chaired by the late Paul Dee, athletic director at Miami and good buddy with jailed super booster/shyster Nevin Shapiro, from the USC case deserves a slap in the face is probably not relevant, even if it should be.

Still, maybe there is some leeway for justice. If Emmert merely read USC's appeal, it would be impossible for him -- or any other objective reader -- not to recognize the compelling strength of USC's position.

But, again, don't hold your breath.


Instant analysis: USC 24, Washington 14

October, 13, 2012

Here's our quick reaction to USC's 24-14 win over Washington.

It was over when: USC defensive back Josh Shaw grabbed a tipped interception near midfield from Huskies QB Keith Price on fourth-and-8 with 4:20 left in the fourth quarter and the Trojans up 10. The Huskies dominated the second half, but their first-half deficit was just too much.

Gameball goes to: The USC defense. The Trojans were supposed to be all about the offense -- QB Matt Barkley and his scintillating corps of receivers. That hasn't proven true, but the defense has been better than expected. It forced four Washington turnovers, and that proved the difference in the game. It held the Huskies to 299 yards.

Stat of the game: Barkley was 10-of-20 for 167 yards with a touchdown. If you had told me during the preseason that would be his stat line for any game, I would have laughed at the delusion.

Unsung hero of the game: While the Trojans passing game was struggling, Penn State transfer Silas Redd rushed for 155 yards on 26 carries. Of course, much of that came on a 57-yard run on USC's first possession, which only led to a field goal.

What USC learned: It learned that the Trojans' passing game is oddly mediocre and it doesn't seem to be getting better. I have no idea why it's not better.

What Washington learned: It learned that it weathered a brutal first-half schedule with a 3-3 mark. That's not too bad, as it went 1-3 in games in which it was a significant underdog. Bowl hopes are firmly alive.

What it means: It means USC inches forward. It won't move up much in the national rankings with this performance, but it won't move down. With dates against Oregon and Notre Dame ahead, the Trojans still have a chance to get into the national title picture if it becomes a beauty contest with one-loss teams.

On stage ... USC

July, 24, 2012
UNIVERSAL CITY, Calif. -- Notes from USC's news conference with coach Lane Kiffin, quarterback Matt Barkley and safety T.J. McDonald.
  • Kiffin: "I think our conference is extremely competitive top to bottom ... there are no easy games ... and when you add four dynamic coaches, it really takes us to the next level."
  • Kiffin calls the new football center "best in the country ... it's going to be a very special place for us."
  • Kiffin on preseason No. 1: "That has nothing to do with how well we will play ... but I think that's exciting ... to be in conversation about preseason No. 1 two years after sanctions is exciting."
  • Kiffin: "Our No. 1 concern is our running back position."
  • Kiffin notes 16 USC players went to Haiti this summer to help the rebuilding projects.
  • Kiffin couldn't comment on the reported interest in Penn State running back Silas Redd.
  • Barkley cites "unfinished business" as reason for coming back.
  • Kiffin said freshman Nelson Agholor will start off at running back.
  • Barkley on keeping preseason hype in perspective "One game at a time. It may seem cliche ... the opportunity to play in any game is not going to win us any games, score us any points."
  • Barkley on being out front with quarterbacks: "It won't be just me at all ... I think it's cool to see. There will be more competition."
  • It's notable that USC safety T.J. McDonald and his brother Tevin McDonald are both at media day. They are the sons of former NFL All-Pro safety Tim McDonald.
  • Kiffin: "There is no way you can compare what happened at USC compared to Penn State."
  • Kiffin on wide receiver Robert Woods' ankle problem: "Hopefully he'll be at 100 percent in fall camp." Noted that Woods played through the injury last year while earning All-American honors.
  • Barkley on decision to stay at USC instead of go to NFL: "I definitely went back and forth." Said he thought he'd go to the NFL after beating UCLA to end season.
  • Kiffin refused to talk about how he'd handle the NCAA mandated 75 scholarship count if the Trojans added a Penn State transfer.
  • Kiffin: "I didn't recruit Matt to stay ... Matt was completely ready for the NFL I assume he would have been a top-five pick ... it was about him wanting to do something special."
  • Barkley: "I think the sanctions brought us together as a team in ways I didn't anticipate."

Vanderdoes names his top 15 

June, 18, 2012
Monday was a busy day for commitments in the West region, but defensive tackle Eddie Vanderdoes (Auburn, Calif./Placer) isn't exactly ready to jump into the commitment scene. More than half of the top 30 players in the West have already made verbal commitments, but Vanderdoes is taking things slowly. On Monday, the 6-foot-3, 285-pound lineman took to twitter to release a list of his top 15 schools.

Alabama, Baylor, California, Florida, Georgia Tech, LSU, Miami, Michigan, Michigan State, Nebraska, Oregon, Penn State, UCLA, USC and Washington all made the cut. Vanderdoes included in his tweet that he will be cutting that down to a top 10 group soon.
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Four-star linebacker prospect Alex Anzalone (Wyomissing, Pa./Wyomissing HS) decommitted from Ohio State on Friday and has eliminated the Buckeyes from contention. The 6-foot-3, 223-pound athlete confirmed his decision to reopen his recruitment via text message.

"After discussing it with my family, it was truly a decision based on my best interest," Anzalone wrote.

Ranked as the No. 5 outside linebacker and the No. 61 player overall in the ESPN 150, Anzalone said he is still considering Florida, Stanford, USC, Penn State and Notre Dame.

Anzalone, who has already committed to play in the Under Armour All-America game, said he has no new timetable for making a decision.

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