The fight is on at wild, crazy USC


And this week at USC:

Snoop Dogg replaces Dr. Art Bartner as Trojan Marching Band director (Snoop immediately changes the title of "Fight On" to "Fo Shizzle"). ... Lane Kiffin rejoins USC coaching staff. His official position: Voice of Reason. ... Athletic director Pat Haden, weary of cold cuts and chatting up USC boosters, receives a sideline text and bolts from stadium suite to field to confront the mean, bad referee about a mean, bad call against the Trojans.

Wait, that already happened?

What in the name of Marcus Allen is going on at Troy these days? You've got team captains flying off of second-floor balconies and saving nephews in imaginary rescue scenarios. You've got sixth-string running backs accusing their head coach of being a racist. You've got the scholarship-roster challenged Trojans now 2-0, thanks to a gutty victory at Stanford.

Just when you think it can't get any nuttier at USC, it does. And one of the nuttiest possibilities, short of Todd Marinovich being named school president, is USC winning the Pac-12 and reaching the four-team College Football Playoff.

But first, let's discuss this Haden-losing-his-mind thing. ...

Haden belonged on the field arguing with officials like tartar sauce belongs on a ribeye. It shouldn't have mattered if he got a text from a staff member on behalf of USC coach Steve Sarkisian. It shouldn't have mattered if he got a text from the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Athletic directors belong in skyboxes, not on sidelines during a game.

First of all, it was against NCAA rules -- and USC hasn't exactly been a stickler for those in recent years. It isn't much of a rule, but texting isn't allowed.

Second, if you're Haden, don't you want your head coach to figure it out himself? I mean, isn't that why he hired Sarkisian in the first place?

Third, it looked ridiculous and, even worse, raised questions about Haden (and other active ADs serving on the newly formed CFP selection committee) having the ability to perform his selection committee duties in an impartial manner. (More on that later, too.)

Haden is a smart guy, but sometimes he has too much Tommy Trojan in him. He has a tendency to act like a fan rather than as an athletic director. What's the word they use in politics? On occasion, he isn't presidential enough.

The USC faithful love his passion and his loyalty. After all, Haden played quarterback at Troy. Returned to Troy as AD. Steered the program through NCAA sanctions. Fight On, and all that.

But Haden, 61, isn't a coach. He isn't a player anymore. He shouldn't respond to desperate, semi-juvenile, in-game texts and rush to the field so he can "disagree" (Haden's word) with a ref. In fact, the only time he should have been on the Stanford Stadium field was to shake Sarkisian's hand after the win.

To his credit, Haden admitted as much Sunday evening. In a statement released by USC, Haden apologized for becoming a "distraction" during the game and said he should have made his concerns known through "appropriate channels."

And to the Pac-12's credit, it announced Monday that it had fined Haden $25,000 for "inappropriate" conduct, and also reprimanded Haden and Sarkisian.

As for connecting the dots between Haden's actions at Stanford and his role on the CFP selection committee, don't waste your time. There is no connection. Haden will be a valuable member of the committee when it makes its picks at season's end.


USC can win the Pac-12 and reach the four-team playoff (under CFP rules, Haden would have to recuse himself from any discussions involving the Trojans). That's not the nutty part. The nutty part is that USC had only 52 recruited scholarship players dress for the Stanford game. And the Trojans still have 10 regular-season games remaining, including Oregon State, Arizona State, Cal, UCLA and Notre Dame (but like last year, no Oregon or Washington on the schedule).

Can you say attrition?

Sarkisian's team has talent. Lots of it. What it doesn't have is lots of depth. There are quality backups at some positions, but the scholarship numbers still leave bruise marks on the USC roster.

The win at Stanford wasn't an accident. Nor was the opening-game blowout against Fresno State. As the season wears on, you'll be hearing more about quarterback Cody Kessler, running back Javorius Allen and a USC defense with an attitude.

But the question remains: Can the Trojans avoid injuries? If they do, then the Pac-12 South could come down to the Nov. 22 USC at UCLA game. And the Dec. 5 Pac-12 Championship could feature the Trojans and Oregon. And the winner of that game could be on the CFP Championship short list.

In the meantime, USC travels to Boston College this week. Knowing the Trojans, something weird will happen.


In: A Week 3 slate of more crummy matchups (not as bad as Week 2's "Embarrassment Saturday," but in the ballpark), ear damage (Autzen Stadium for the Michigan State game), Big Ten bashing, Baylor backup quarterback Seth Russell (five first-half touchdown passes as he subbed for an injured Bryce Petty against Northwestern State), respect for McNeese State, Nebraska's Ameer Abdullah's chances of winning Top Play of the Week, Notre Dame football relevance, Northern Illinois and Central Michigan, Florida quarterback Jeff Driskel and new UF offensive coordinator Kurt Roper, Alabama wide receiver Amari Cooper, Big Ten newcomers Rutgers and Maryland a combined 4-0, Mizzou quarterback Matt Mauk, Ole Miss quarterback Bo Wallace, Pitt, and questions about USC's Haden.

Out: Stanford inside the 25-yard line, the Big Ten and the College Football Playoff, Melvin Gordon's Heisman chances, Notre Dame vs. Michigan, questions about Frank Beamer's ability to still coach, questions about Oregon's toughness and physicality, NCAA-mandated Penn State bowl sanctions (immediate) and scholarship reductions (beginning 2015-26).


It is an annual rite of fall, or bowl season, or both: Make fun of the Big Ten. In fact, we could insert a cheap joke at the Big Ten's expense, but it would feel like teasing a kid who was lactose intolerant.

You saw the carnage of this past week. Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany saw it. Everybody saw it.

In the three nationally televised games, Michigan was shut out by Notre Dame, Michigan State gave up 28 consecutive points in the second half of its semi-blowout loss at Oregon, and Ohio State got its i dotted by Virginia Tech at the Horseshoe.

Meanwhile, Nebraska needed an Abdullah screen pass miracle to avoid overtime and beat McNeese State; Northwestern lost at home to Northern Illinois (the Wildcats are winless); Purdue got beat at home by Central Michigan; Iowa struggled to win at home against Ball State; Maryland struggled to defeat South Florida; Wisconsin led Western Illinois by only six at halftime before pulling away in the third and fourth quarters; Illinois trailed Western Kentucky going into the fourth quarter (but eventually won by eight).

The season is only two weeks old and already the chances of a Big Ten team reaching the CFP are attached to a breathing tube. Michigan State was the conference's best hope, but that was before the Spartans eventually wilted in the noise, heat and bedlam of Autzen. And, oh yeah, they couldn't stop Oregon's Marcus Mariota.

Ohio State was the next great Big Ten hope, but all that changed in August when star quarterback Braxton Miller was lost for the season with a shoulder injury. Redshirt freshman J.T. Barrett did what he could against Virginia Tech, but it's difficult to complete passes while running for your life or peeling yourself from the turf.

As for the rest of the conference, well, why bother? At the moment, no team in the league looks as though it would have a legitimate chance to upset the likes of Florida State, Oklahoma, Georgia and Oregon.

Delany told's Adam Rittenberg that it was wayyyyy too early to dismiss his league from the CFP equation. And he's right -- for now.

But if Michigan State or Ohio State doesn't run the table, or someone else in the league doesn't somehow finish undefeated, the Big Ten is likely cooked.


Out of habit, Texas fired defensive coordinator Manny Diaz after BYU beat the Longhorns again. Diaz works for Louisiana Tech now, but Texas needs a scapegoat, so ...

Actually, first-year Longhorns coach Charlie Strong blamed himself for Texas' humiliating defeat at home against BYU. It was the second consecutive season the Cougars have taken Bevo to the woodshed.

Last year, with Mack Brown at the controls and the beleaguered Diaz still on staff, BYU rushed for 550 yards in a blowout win. This time, Texas cut the Cougars' rushing to less than half of that previous gruesome total, but still got whupped.

Cumulative two-year BYU vs. Texas score: 81-28.

"It's an embarrassment," Strong said after the game.

Strong has become a one-man star chamber. He has dismissed eight players from the team since March. That has to be some kind of record, right?

At this point, Hook 'Em followers have no choice but to trust in Strong's personnel and disciplinary decisions. Strong said he was going to create a new culture at Texas and, by god, he's doing it. For this, you have to respect him and his commitment to building a team using his exact standards.

But patience isn't a virtue in Austin. The burnt orange have been bright red with embarrassment as the program has suffered through four consecutive sub-double digit-win seasons and zero BCS bowl appearances.

Strong isn't going anywhere, of course. He has the backing of athletic director Steve Patterson, who hired him. So if you're a Longhorn fan and you're wondering what the heck Strong is doing, well, go watch Norman Dale in "Hoosiers." That's what he's doing.

Will it work? Who knows. But for the moment, Strong has what you need when rebuilding a program in your own likeness: internal support, a willingness to take the heat, and a contract that pays him $5 million per year (and Texas paid another $4.375 million to buy him out of his Louisville deal).


And the Heisman goes to ... Georgia's Todd Gurley. And he didn't even play this past Saturday.

Also in attendance for the presentation ceremony: Oregon's Mariota, Texas A&M's Kenny Hill, Notre Dame's Everett Golson, Florida State's Jameis Winston, Oklahoma's Trevor Knight, Nebraska's Abdullah.

In a parallel universe where all the other Heisman candidates choose to work on the Alaska pipeline: Arizona State's D.J. Foster (has already rushed for 363 yards, averages 10.7 yards per carry).


Top 10

1. Georgia

The Bulldogs travel to South Carolina, where they've had their difficulties over the years. But just a reminder: Gurley gained 132 yards in last season's home win over the Gamecocks -- and that was when Jadeveon Clowney still played for South Carolina.

2. Oregon

Expect a letdown when the Ducks face Wyoming on Saturday. Also, expect another Oregon blowout.

3. Oklahoma

Do you believe in quarterback Trevor Knight yet? The Sooners do. OU faces a suddenly competitive, but young Tennessee team in the land of Boomer Sooner.

4. Florida State

The Seminoles yawned their way past The Citadel. Now they get two weeks to prepare for their Sept. 20 game against Clemson.

5. Alabama

Southern Miss comes to Tuscaloosa, which means Nick Saban and Lane Kiffin get another game to experiment with quarterbacks Blake Sims and Jake Coker.

6. USC

A cross-country trip to Boston College awaits.

7. Texas A&M

Aggies are on the Cupcake Tour. Lamar this past week, Rice this week.

8. Auburn

Yes, Kansas State struggled in its win against Iowa State, but Tigers would be wise not to underestimate KSU at home.

9. Baylor

No Bryce Petty, no problem against Northwestern State. If the injured Petty (back) can't go against Buffalo on the road (and why risk it against Buffalo with a bye week on Sept. 20?), the Bears will be just fine.

10. LSU

The Mad Hatters play undefeated Louisiana-Monroe. They wouldn't look ahead to the Sept. 20 game against Mississippi State, would they? Nah.

Waiting list: Notre Dame, Virginia Tech, UCLA, Ole Miss, Arizona State.


Who's in ... the College Football Playoff:

Georgia vs. FSU: What do the Bulldogs and Seminoles have in common? Jeremy Pruitt. Pruitt was FSU's defensive coordinator before joining Georgia's staff during the offseason.

Oregon vs. Oklahoma: The last time OU and Oregon played each other was September 2006. Mariota was 12.