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Jim Harbaugh Chases Pete Carroll to the NFC West

The man who took Stanford from the dregs of the Pac-10 to a Top 10 team in just a few years gets five years, $25 million to move from Palo Alto over to South San Francisco and Candlestick (I’m not calling it Monster) Park. Harbaugh chose San Francisco over reported offers from the Miami Dolphins and his alma mater, the University of Michigan.
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Rick Reilly Defends Lane Kiffin

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(Photo by Icon Sports Media)

ESPN’s Rick Reilly recently wrote an article in an attempt to defend Lane Kiffin from all the bad press he has received the past few years.

This is what Reilly wrote about the Titans’ lawsuit against Kiffin:

The lawsuit is phonier than Tori Spelling, of course. Pola, who played at USC and has a son who’s going to walk on there, was the only one legally obligated to ask permission, not Kiffin. It would’ve been nice for Kiffin to do it, “but not everybody asks the head coach first when they’re looking for an assistant,” Stanford head coach Jim Harbaugh said Thursday.

OK, slightly poor form by Kiffin. Big whoop. Happens every day in football. The suit is just a ticket ploy. After all, what better way to sell Titans seats than letting everybody in Tennessee know how much the Titans hate Kiffin, like everybody else in the state? Kiffin bolted the head-coaching job at the University of Tennessee to come to USC in the first place. Maybe the ad slogan will be: “Come to the games and we can all hate him together!”

To check out the full article, click here.

Lane Kiffin: Rude or real? [espn]

Trojan DePo: The Tao of Pete

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TrojanWire’s Devon Pollard poses with Seattle head coach Pete Carroll following ESPN’s Lunch with a Legend radio broadcast at Morton’s the Steakhouse in Santa Ana.

Reggie Bush aside, Pete Carroll stands as one of the most polarizing figures among the USC population. To many, he’s like the dad that ran out on the family just when things got rough, yet he swears he still loves you and your mom. To others, he’s a sort of transient messiah, flying from broken team to broken team ala Mary Poppins sans the wise cracking parrot umbrella. So which is it? Is he the coach that raised USC from the ashes, or the one who drove the greatest program since the dawn of the new millennium into the ground?

Please keep your hands and feet inside the vehicle at all times. You’re about to enter the Trojan DePo.

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Is Now the Time for a USC QB to Win a Super Bowl Ring?

UCLA has Troy Aikman, Notre Dame has Joe Montana, Stanford has John Elway, and USC has…Ron Johnson. Well, he didn’t actually play in Super Bowl XXXVII, but he has a ring! That counts, right?

It’s a constant taunt from USC’s rivals. Despite the Trojans’ success in pumping first class, Super Bowl caliber running backs, linebackers, defensive backs and receivers into the league, it’s the Trojans’ quarterbacks failure to win it all that sits like an albatross around their necks. But with four USC quarterbacks projected to start in the NFL next season, there’s 1 in 8 chance of a USC QB super bowl champion based on odds alone. And thems good odds.

Follow the jump to see my projections of which former Trojan quarter back is most likely to win it all.

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Sports’ local economic impact

Sporting events contributed $4.2 billion in economic impact in the Southern California/Orange County area in 2009 and had a combined attendance of 20.8 million spectators, according to a study of 55 local sports organizations (including USC) released today by the Los Angeles Sports Council and Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce.

According to the study, two of the three highest paid attendances at single-day sporting events in 2009 were the USC-Penn State Rose Bowl game (tops at 93,293) and the USC-Stanford football game in the Coliseum (third at 90,071).

Football weekender info

If you’re going on the road this year to watch the Trojan football team play, here is the official information from the USC Alumni Association about the 2010 USC Football Weekenders.

Included are details about the alumni host hotels (with special USC rates), pep rallies and other events surrounding each game.

USC’s 2010 road schedule:  Sept. 2 at Hawaii, Sept. 18 at Minnesota, Sept. 25 at Washington State, Oct. 9 at Stanford, Nov. 13 at Arizona and Nov. 20 at Oregon State.  The Dec. 4 game against UCLA in the Rose Bowl isn’t included among the weekender info because it’s basically in town.

Four Pac-10 players on Kiper’s big board

Two Pac-10 quarterbacks top Mel Kiper’s “Big Board,” while three other conference players rank among his top-25.

Kiper rates Washington’s Jake Locker No. 1 overall and Stanford’s Andrew Luck No. 2.

His analysis of Locker: “All the physical tools — size, arm, footwork. Accuracy should improve.”

And Luck: “Great arm, NFL smarts, solid footwork. Protoypical size and intangibles.”

Kiper has UCLA linebacker Akeem Ayers No. 20 (by the way, Kiper nailed that one: Ayers is the best player in the nation no one has heard of).

Wrote Kiper: “Budding star, an absolute physical specimen with ideal size. Ready to break out.”

USC defensive tackle Jurrell Casey is No. 22 and UCLA safety Rahim Moore is No. 25.

On Casey: “Penetrating, disruptive force, ideal in a 4-3. Still adding technique.”

And Moore: “A ballhawk; led the nation in INTs last year. Moves well sideline to sideline.”

Kiper also rated Moore’s status among the “most volatile,” comparing him to former Boise State cornerback Kyle Wilson, whose numbers slipped in 2009 because no one threw his way: “Similarly, Moore last year led the nation in INTs. He’ll need to grow as a player to remain impactful even when offenses are more aware of where he is during the game-planning process. It’s hard to imagine he’ll replicate those INT totals. If he does, he looks like a safe bet for the first round.”

Expansion and the ‘superconference’: A very long love story


The Big Ten and Pac-10 both want to expand — the Big Ten is beginning to sound very, very certain about it — and when they do, certainly you have been made aware by now that Things Will Never Be the Same. If you’ve followed the sport for the last two decades, of course, you’re also aware that things have never been "the same" for long in college football, an unstructured, unwieldy, Darwinian ecosystem completely lacking the central brain and susceptibility to top-down logic that’s defined every other sport in America, save maybe professional wrestling. Schools and conferences have always been in it for themselves, and the next phase of that evolution will be every bit as pitiless on those that are slow or ill-equipped to adapt.

If there is one constant, central narrative in the business of college football over the last half-century, it’s the ongoing stratification of the "Haves" and "Have-Nots," and the ever-increasing stakes of falling into the former category. The specifics of the relationship between the insanely profitable, behemoth programs and the aspiring middle class have changed to a degree; there’s far more money to be had today than in the past, and more competition for it. Scholarship restrictions and increased exposure for smaller schools via mid-week games on ESPN and a sudden glut of bowl games have helped distribute talent more evenly. The "Have-Not" schools have more access to a fraction of the loot thanks to BCS payouts and "guarantee" games that keep the lights on for another year in exchange for (usually) a sound beating in front of a packed house at Juggernaut U. But the big trend — the steady consolidation of money and power among fewer programs — is only just reaching another critical juncture in a long, 40-year arc that’s made the notion of the all-encompassing superconference almost inevitable in the long run.

Not that I’m the fatalistic or conspiratorial type (in general, people are not competent to organize and execute master plans over many decades). Consider, though, that every major structural upheaval in college football over the last three generations has served to further separate the elite from the chaff — or, if you prefer, to bring the structure in line with the competitive and economic realities.

In 1973, the NCAA drew a sharp (though very easily crossed) line between the really serious football schools and those still just playing to play when it separated its new "Division I" classification into I-A and I-AA. Within 15 years, every major Eastern independent except Notre Dame — Miami, Florida State, Penn State, Pittsburgh, Syracuse, West Virginia — had leapt at the chance to join one of the major conferences (or, in the case of the Big East, to form a new one of their own), and the SEC had hit upon the golden idea of splitting into divisions and staging a championship game between the winners; to get to the requisite 12 teams, it added independent South Carolina and poached Southwest Conference heavyweight Arkansas, confining the SWC to the state of Texas and hastening the implosion that would send its remaining "Have" members (Texas, Texas A&M, Texas Tech and, for political reasons, Baylor) to the new, SEC-modeled Big 12 and its Have-Nots (TCU, Houston, Rice and SMU) scrambling for cover.

The Big East only narrowly avoided the same fate barely a decade into its football existence, when the ACC nabbed its two most prominent programs, Miami and Virginia Tech, along with Boston College in 2003. By then, the nascent postseason cartel that had begun with the Bowl Alliance in 1992 had morphed into the Bowl Coalition and finally the full-fledged Bowl Championship Series when the Big Ten, Pac-10 and Rose Bowl swallowed their traditionalist pride and signed on in 1998, formally dividing Division I-A into the "Big Six" leagues with automatic bids to the big money/prestige games and everyone else.


In all of those cases, the number of teams that can claim to play in the top tier of college football — structurally and competitively, at least, if not in terms of money, attendance or exposure — has gotten a little smaller. Fewer programs have been able to claim a formal (Division I-A, "Big Six") that clearly separated them from the little guys, with the attendant economic and recruiting advantages. By getting bigger, the Pac-10 and Big Ten, especially — along with the SEC, in certain retaliation to maintain its status and profitability as the premiere conference — stand to make that number even smaller.

The Big East, having narrowly avoided the guillotine earlier this decade, can already see the writing on the wall for its existence as a major (BCS) football conference if the Big Ten poaches two or more of its members to form a 14 or 16-team juggernaut — and possibly for its existence as a football conference, period, in the drawn-and-quartered fashion that did in the SWC. But even if the Big East is the most direct, obvious casualty of a Big Ten power grab, it doesn’t take much creativity to imagine the dominoes falling in a pattern that crushes larger, seemingly more stable leagues.

See, for example, the Big 12, which lays prostrate from the major players in all directions: The trio or quintet of teams the Big Ten plans to bring aboard to become a 14 or 16-team conglomerate could easily include Missouri, a potentially disastrous departure that would cost the conference two of its biggest television markets, St. Louis and Kansas City. The North Division could be further ripped asunder by the Pac-10′s courtship of Colorado (without whom Pac-10 expansion is not really possible) and possibly, if the sky seems to falling around it, Nebraska. To the south, the Miami Herald’s Joseph Goodman isn’t the first to see the SEC making a move for Texas and Texas A&M. Even if the imperialist plunderers leave Oklahoma, a conference anchored by Kansas, Kansas State, Iowa State and Texas Tech obviously cannot stand as a "major" football league. And there are at least a few people already who think it won’t, a victim of its demographic destiny.

In Goodman’s scenario, the SEC’s blockbuster retaliation also includes an Eastern Front to rip Florida State and Miami from the ACC; other projections have imagined Florida State and Clemson instead, Miami being a relatively small private school with a relatively tepid fan base by SEC standards. In either case, the departure of two of its cornerstone football programs would threaten to relegate the ACC to a kind of second-class, limbo status that it occupied for much of its history (and that the Big East occupies now), a nominally "major" conference that no one really regards as one. In fact, plenty of people will argue the ACC is already a second-class league, and a major hit on the order of Florida State and/or Clemson/Miami could knock it that much further down the pecking order.


That scenario, whether played out relatively quickly or over decades, would leave exactly the kind of landscape Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick imagined earlier this month when describing the catastrophic scenario that might force the Irish to bite the bullet and join the imperialist race:

"The only things that could make it happen are the sorts of radical change in the industry that would cause upheaval and impact a lot more (schools) than Notre Dame," he says. "You wind up with only three conferences. You wind up with two tiers of conferences. Now, all of a sudden, it’s not three divisions in college; it’s four. It’s the big change."

The big change: A future of three swollen conferences — the Big Ten, SEC and Pac-10, possibly by different names — with 35-40 of the strongest, richest programs in the country (still bearing vestigial tails from the Dark Ages, when schools like Northwestern, Stanford and Vanderbilt could compete without compromising academics) standing astride a land littered with castoffs that have coalesced into respectable but decidedly second-rate leagues that no longer have their place alongside the behemoths at the adults’ table.

Of course, a swollen conference of 14-16 teams — by all accounts, an increasing likelihood for the Big Ten — isn’t really a conference at all, in the traditional sense. It’s a conference in the sense that the NFC or AFC is a conference, a collaboration under a large umbrella with scheduling and revenue-sharing agreements among teams that may only play one another once or twice a decade. That’s the really dystopian apocalypse at the end of the track: A pro-style "league" among the top three or four dozen programs in three or four power conferences, eventually shorn even of their academic vestigial tails, with a few power brokers at the top pulling the strings exclusively in the interest of TV contracts, merchandising deals and maximizing revenue. (And yes, with a playoff, albeit one that’s likely even more hostile from Have-Not interlopers than the BCS is now, despite certain Congressmen’s best efforts.)

Note that Swarbrick also says, "I don’t see that happening," and as a short-term vision over the next 10 years or so, there’s no way to present a radically reconfigured future without seeming a little heavy-handed and slightly unhinged. In many ways, though, that scenario — 30-40 of the strongest, richest programs standing astride the rest of the country, concerned mainly with TV contracts, merchandising deals and maximizing revenue — already exists in practice, and has for a long time. When it comes down to it, the decades-long obsession with the "superconference" is a desire for a governing structure that reflects the contemporary reality, as opposed to a chaotic remnant from a hopelessly bygone age whose most sacrosanct assumption about the game as an amateur pastime restrained by an academic, university structure has, for all practical purposes, faded into oblivion. As the stakes increase and the economic bar continues to rise, the sport has been moving slowly, often painfully in that direction for decades.
Eventually, it will get there in some fashion or another, and it probably won’t be pretty, in the same way that Pop Warner and Knute Rockne would probably become visibly ill by the state of the game in the 21st Century. But that’s the thing with radically reconfigured futures: They seem ridiculous until you get there, and you usually haven’t even noticed.

Opening the mailbag: Impressions of spring

Got bogged down on Friday, so this mailbag fermented over the weekend.

To the notes.

Jason from the Bay Area writes: So having seen most of the Pac-10 this spring, what are your impressions?

Ted Miller: Obviously, we’ll have more on this going forward with a spring wrapup, but here are some quick hits.

  • My top three remain: USC, Oregon and Oregon State.
  • Every team has significant questions. It doesn’t seem like there’s a national title contender.
  • USC’s defensive line is going to be strong, and I think the Trojans will again rank among the nation’s elite in defense in 2010.
  • That’s why I favor the Trojans at present. That and QB Matt Barkley appearing ready to take a significant step forward.
  • Washington’s offense is going to be very good if the O-line stays healthy.
  • UCLA’s and Arizona State’s offenses will be better.
  • Arizona is a top-25 team if it gets solid play at linebacker, but that’s a significant “if.”
  • Washington State is the clear choice for No. 10, but the Cougars will not be the patsies of 2008 and 2009.
  • You could throw Arizona, Arizona State, California, Stanford, UCLA and Washington into a hat and randomly pick their order and probably be as accurate as what you’ll read among preseason predictions from publications and pundits.

At this point, 2010 looks to be a black-and-blue season. Hard to imagine the eventual champion going undefeated in league play. Things might end up like last year, when the conference had a lot of ranked teams, just none near the top of the polls.

Scott from Palo Alto writes: Let’s put Andrew Luck in perspective to help jog readers’ memories… very few turnovers… back-to-back victories over Oregon and USC. Did we mention he was a mere freshman? I think you have to be amazed by Luck overall and I’m sorry but Stanford vs. Oregon was not a game for the defensive-minded. We put the pedal to the medal and outscored them when they were considered the hottest team around.

Ted Miller: No question Luck looks like a budding star after leading the Pac-10 in passing efficiency as a redshirt freshman. He looks, at this point, like a future first-round NFL draft pick. Perhaps a top-10 pick. Or higher.

We’ve already discussed the possibility of him and Jake Locker battling for the top spot in the 2011 NFL draft.

However — you knew that was coming — any quarterback will tell you having the nation’s best running back vexing a defense makes it easier to throw the ball. Toby Gerhart rushed for 1,871 yards and 28 TDs last fall. Every defender Luck threw against was leaning forward on its toes thinking one thing: “Gerhart… hope he runs to the other side.”

Luck is in luck that he’s got almost his entire receiving corps back and the Cardinal offensive line should again be solid. There is no reason he can’t be an elite QB in a conference loaded with elite QBs.

Still, don’t take for granted a blockbuster season. It’s possible that it will take time for the Cardinal offense to reinvent itself with Gerhart off the the NFL.

Nick from Washington D.C. writes: I have been a Duck fan for most of my life and growing up in Portland, it always felt like we were the dark horse… My question is this: Has Chip Kelly turned the corner? Even with all the haywire crazy that is the athletic department, are we now a legitimate year in year out contender?

Ted Miller: Oregon has won nine or more games six times over the past 10 seasons. And during that decade, it suffered only one losing season.

The Ducks are no longer darkhorses. They are perennial contenders, a second-tier power rating a step below programs such as Texas, USC, Florida and Ohio State.

If your question is will the Ducks make that next step and become an equal to those schools, my guess would be no, not on an annual basis.

Why? Start with population base. Those four schools have huge head starts in recruiting.

Moreover, what’s the common denominator for nearly all BCS football champions? Big Stadiums. The only team that won a BCS title that doesn’t play in front of home crowds of 80,000-plus is Miami, which is smack-dab in the middle of prime recruiting real estate.

That doesn’t mean Oregon can’t regularly beat the superpowers and contend for a national title every few years. They’ve proven they can.

The program’s momentum under Kelly, despite the recent bad off-field news, is clearly positive. The distance between what the program was in the “old days” and present is significant.

So, yeah, Oregon has turned the corner. What benchmark challenges are ahead? Win a Rose Bowl in the modern era. Or a national title.

Bill from Oakland writes: Why is it that when an offense/defense performs well in a Spring Game all the talk is about how the other side of the ball struggled and not about how good the offense/defense may be? It happened with Cal and their defense performing well and with Oregon and their defense performing well too. Is it all about perspective and expectations? With both Cal and Oregon their offenses were thought to have some issues (Cal more than Oregon) so is it just everyone saying I knew that would be a problem, instead of looking at the possibility that maybe the defenses are good?

Ted Miller: Well, obviously when a team is scrimmaging against itself any success on one side of the ball means failure on the other.

Still, it’s not that difficult to figure out if a unit is playing poorly or is simply getting beat by outstanding opposing talent.

For example on offense: penalties, missed receivers, unblocked defenders, fumbles, dropped passes, a QB with happy feet not seeing open receivers, etc. Those sorts of things indicate a poor offensive performance.

Same thing for defense: penalties, wide-open receivers, missed tackles, multiple explosion plays, huge holes through the line, etc. Those sorts of things indicate a poor defensive performance.

Moreover, a person can make distinctions. If Oregon State defensive tackle Stephen Paea whips an opposing offensive lineman one-on-one, you sort of go: “Well, Paea’s a beast.” But if you see a starting offensive tackle getting whipped by a junior what’s-his-name defensive end, you might wonder how he’ll do against, say, Ricky Elmore or Nick Perry.

Michael from Houston writes: I think that a lot of Oregon State fans are tired of reading about how dominant our defensive line looks. Last spring and fall, I constantly took in all the stories I could about how dominant the defensive line looked, yet we all know how poorly the sack total was for the defense last year. So here we are again with a new year, but with the same stories of dominance by the D-Line. At this point, I’m having a real hard time buying into this idea. I sorta feel like it’s déjà vu all over again. Is it truly possible to get a good take on a position (O-Line, D-Line, Secondary, etc) from Spring reports?

Ted Miller: The Beavers defensive line looks like a bunch of petunias.

Feel better?

Well, see above for some explanation. Does a dominate D-line suggest a weak O-line during spring? Which comes first, the chicken or the egg? If a tree falls in the woods, will it leave?

My impression from my one day at Oregon State is both Beavers lines should be better in 2010 than 2009. Paea is the Pac-10′s best defensive tackle and end Gabe Miller looks poised for a breakout. Obviously, the D-line would be better if end Matt LaGrone didn’t quit and the O-line will look better when it gets some guys back who are sitting out spring with injuries, including tackle Michael Philipp and guard Grant Johnson.

It’s possible, in fact, that the D-line looks so good because the O-line is beaten up.

But to your final question: You really don’t know how good a team is until it plays a real game. And recent history has taught us that Oregon State often takes four or five games to find itself anyway.

Jacob from Myrtle Point, Ore., writes: Ted Miller, pardon my informality, but you are the man!! This blog has kept me sane throughout the offseason, especially as a Duck fan. One quick question for you: can you use your powers to talk either Oregon or Oregon State into putting its Spring Game later/earlier in the day on May 1!? I know that the UO game is scheduled on ESPN2, and I could TIVO it and go to the OS game, but it just isn’t the same! I could go to the first part of the Beaver scrimmage then fly (no pun intended) up I-5 for the Duck game, but that really takes a hit on beverage choice. Miller, I ask your professional advice!! What should I do!?!?

Ted Miller: No, you’re the man.

Couple of ideas. First, you could replicate yourself. Not only could you be in two places at one time, but you could make a third and force him to be the designated driver.

You could buy a helicopter. Or a jet.

You could hire the Flash to carry you back and forth.

As for my professional take: It’s my responsibility to recommend against seeing both games, particularly if you plan to wear Ducks colors at Reser Stadium.

But your obsessiveness is certainly admirable.

Pac-10 lunch links: ASU’s Szakacsy gets involved in more than football

Walk along the river, sweet lullaby, it just keeps on flowing,

It don’t worry ’bout where it’s going, no, no.

Don’t fly, mister blue bird, I’m just walking down the road,

Early morning sunshine tell me all I need to know.

Vote for the Most Classless Act of the 2009 Season

The Wiz is back with the most classless acts of the 2009 season. What is a classless act, you ask? It's any attempt to degrade an opponent, player or the game. It's the stuff that isn't in the summary but often gets mentioned years later after somebody extracts retribution. As they say, what goes around comes around.

At the bottom of the post, readers can vote to select the most classless act. One vote per IP address, so give it careful consideration.

Let's get to the finalists:

Chip Kelly
1. Chip Kelly, Oregon

Oregon leads punchless Washington State, 45-0, in the third quarter of an Oct. 3 game at Eugene, when the Cougars recover a fumble at the Ducks' one-yard line. It takes three plays, but quarterback Marshall Lobbestael sneaks in for a touchdown, cutting Oregon's precious lead to 45-6.

Kelly should have other things to worry about — like keeping his players out of trouble. Instead, he decides to challenge the touchdown call. Although he loses the challenge, the Ducks somehow hang on for a 52-6 victory.

Washington State's Paul Wulff says afterward, "We'll have plenty of motivation moving forward, believe me."

Randy Edsall
2. Randy Edsall, Connecticut

Connecticut defeated Syracuse, 56-31, on Nov. 28, but the Orange won't forget what happened in the final minute. The Huskies led, 42-31, and were facing fourth and 11 at the Orange 28 with 53 seconds remaining. Syracuse was out of timeouts.

Instead of calling a run play to help bring this to a merciful end, Edsall calls for a pass. Zach Frazer throws a touchdown to Marcus Easley, putting Connecticut ahead, 49-31. The Huskies would return a fumble for another score with eight seconds remaining.

Syracuse's Doug Marrone didn't comment afterward, but his postgame handshake with Edsall was described as being "uncomfortable." Orange safety called Frazer's pass "a little cheap shot."

3. Lane Kiffin, Tennessee

The first-year Volunteer coach's body of work was a classless act, from accusing Urban Meyer of cheating to his one-minute farewell press conference, featured above. But with his 4-4 team entertaining an overmatched Memphis on Nov. 7, Kiffin made several jackass decisions.

After taking a 14-0 lead less than six minutes into the first quarter, the Volunteers tried an onside kick.

Leading 35-0 late in the first half, Tennessee called a timeout when Memphis faced a third-and-eight play at the Tigers' 14.

The Volunteers went for it three times on fourth down in the first half.

The take-no-prisoners approach paid off. Tennessee built a 49-7 lead and held off a late Tiger charge for a 56-28 victory.

A smug Kiffin said afterward: "It came to me during the week that I had to make sure they felt my intensity — we're really going after this thing."

Jim Harbaugh
4. Jim Harbaugh, Stanford

The Nov. 14 "double nickels" game. The Cardinal were steamrolling USC, 42-21, when Toby Gerhart rumbled into the end zone. Instead of kicking the extra point, Harbaugh decided to go for two — probably because he couldn't go for three. The try failed, but Stanford tacked on one more score for a 55-21 bludgeoning of Pete Carroll's Trojans.

Carroll was not happen with Harbaugh, asking him in the postgame handshake, "What's your deal? What's your deal?"

Harbaugh retorted, "What's your deal?"

Carroll, when asked about Stanford's try for two, said: "I don't know what they were thinking with that."

Harbaugh offered this: "I thought it was an opportunity, the way we were coming off the ball, the way our players were playing — that it was the right thing to do."

5. Pete Carroll, USC

One would think Carroll would have learned a lesson about being a good sport after what Harbaugh did to him, but USC's coach failed to rise above it in his team's next game on Nov. 28. With the Trojans holding a 21-7 lead over UCLA with 52 seconds remaining, Carroll decided to stick it to the Bruins, calling for Matt Barkley to throw deep to Damian Williams. The play worked for a 52-yard touchdown and Carroll celebrated like a 13 year old at a Miley Cyrus concert.

The benches emptied and the teams nearly went at it. When things settled down, USC held on for a 28-7 victory.

Carroll and USC said afterward that Rick Neuheisel and UCLA deserved it because they were using timeouts with the verdict already decided. Of course, Carroll didn't feel the same way two weeks earlier when Stanford rolled it up on USC.

6. Max Hall, Brigham Young

The Cougar quarterback let his feelings be known after a 26-23 overtime victory over rival Utah.

"I don't like Utah. In fact, I hate them. I hate everything about them. I hate their program, their fans. I hate everything. It felt really good to send those guys home."

Video later surfaced of Hall landing a cheap shot to a Utah player after his winning touchdown pass.

7. Mike Leach, Craig James and Texas Tech

Plenty of blame to go around. Leach allegedly put receiver Adam James in an electrical closet off the press room at Jones AT&T Stadium. That resulted in a complaint by James' dad, Craig, an analyst for ESPN. Leach was suspended and eventually fired, a day before he was due an $800,000 bonus. Leach then said Adam was a slacker and that Craig was a always calling and acting like a LIttle League dad.

Craig said he was merely protecting his son, but documents suggest he threatened the university with a lawsuit for improper treatment of a student-athlete, i.e. his son, who was recovering from a concussion. The only winners here are Tommy Tuberville, the new Tech coach, and attorneys. The fans? The heck with them! Tech just announced a hike in ticket prices for 2010!

Leach's appearance on "Friday Night Lights" was filmed in Austin on Sept. 18, the night before his team played Texas and lost, 34-24. No wonder he lost control of the team in midseason.

Rich Rod
8. Rich Rodriguez, Michigan

You can't do this list without Rich Rod, who continues to drag this storied program to new, embarrassing lows.

No stranger to litigation (see West Virginia), Rich Rod was sued for allegedly defaulting on a real estate loan to build condominiums near Virginia Tech's Lane Stadium. One of his business partners in the failed venture is facing five felony counts and possibly 50 years in prison.

Michigan has gone to 33 consecutive bowl games until Rich Rod arrived. Now they've missed the postseason two years in a row. If that's not bad enough, the NCAA alleges that Rich Rod's program committed five potential major rules violations. Somehow, he's still the coach.

Mike Locksley
9. Mike Locksley, New Mexico

Nothing quite like punching your receivers coach in the face after a coaches meeting. That's what Locksley did, landing a blow to Jonathan "J.B." Gerald in September.

Locksley showed more fight than his team, which finished 1-11 and ranked near the bottom in nearly every NCAA offensive and defensive category.

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What to watch in the Pac-10 this spring

Taking a look at what to watch for as teams head into spring practices, officially ringing the bell on preparations for the 2010 season.

Arizona

Spring practice starts: March 5

Spring game: April 10

What to watch:

The new coordinators: The Wildcats lost two outstanding coordinators — Sonny Dykes on offense and Mark Stoops on defense — and decided to replace them with four guys. Tim Kish, promoted from linebackers coach, and Greg Brown, hired away from Colorado, will run the defense, while Bill Bedenbaugh and Seth Littrell, both promoted from within, will run the offense, with an assist from new quarterbacks coach Frank Scelfo. These guys will need to develop a coaching rhythm this spring that will ensure things go smoothly in the fall.

The JC linebackers: The Wildcats must replace three starting linebackers, and JC transfers Derek Earls and Paul Vassallo weren’t brought in to watch. If they step into starting spots, then guys like sophomore Jake Fischer, redshirt freshman Trevor Erno and redshirt freshman Cordarius Golston can fight over the third spot and add depth.

Foles 2.0: Quarterback Nick Foles was dynamic when he was on last year, but the shutout loss in the Holiday Bowl served as a reminder that he’s not there yet. He’s going to be surrounded by a lot of weapons at the skill positions, so he should be able to take another step forward this spring, even with the loss of Dykes.

Arizona State

Spring practice starts: March 30

Spring game: April 24

What to watch:

The QB battle: It’s a wide-open battle between Michigan transfer Steven Threet and Brock Osweiler, though the new guy — Threet — is perhaps the most intriguing. Samson Szakacsy was supposed to join the battle, but his elbow problem is acting up again, coach Dennis Erickson said Thursday. The competition will be overseen by new offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone, who’s been handed an offense that has sputtered the past two seasons.

O-line issues (take 3): The Sun Devils’ offensive line has struggled three years running, and it won’t matter who starts at QB if the unit continues to get pushed around. First off, is health. Will Matt Hustad, Zach Schlink, Garth Gerhart, Mike Marcisz and Adam Tello be ready to battle the entire spring? If so, there should be good competition here, particularly with a couple of JC transfers looking to break through.

The secondary: The Sun Devils were very good against the pass last year, but three starters in the secondary need to be replaced. Both starting corners are gone — though if Omar Bolden successfully returns from a knee injury he should step in on one side — as well as strong safety Ryan McFoy. The good news is a number of guys saw action here last fall, so the rebuilt unit won’t be completely green.

California

Spring practice starts: March 6

Spring game: N/A

What to watch:

Embattled Riley: When things go well, the quarterback often gets too much credit. When things go badly… well, you know. Senior Kevin Riley has started 22 games and has played well at times. But there’s a reason he’s in a quarterback competition for a third consecutive season. Will he be able to hold off a rising Beau Sweeney this spring?

Rebuilding the D: The Bears had questions on defense even before coordinator Bob Gregory unexpectedly bolted for Boise State. Five starters need to be replaced, including mainstays like end Tyson Alualu and cornerback Syd’Quan Thompson, both first-team All-Pac-10 performers. And with Gregory gone, a new — likely more aggressive scheme — now must be incorporated.

RB depth: Shane Vereen is the obvious starter after the departure of Jahvid Best, but Cal has, during the Tedford years, always used two backs. So who’s the No. 2? Sophomore Covaughn DeBoskie was third on the team with 211 yards rushing last year, while promising freshman Dasarte Yarnway redshirted. One or the other will look to create separation.

Oregon

Spring practice starts: March 30

Spring game: May 1

What to watch:

The D-line: The Ducks lost perennially underrated end Will Tukuafu, tackle Blake Ferras and backup Simi Toeaina up front. Considering the plan is to run an eight-deep rotation, there will be plenty of opportunities for players like ends Terrell Turner and Taylor Hart and tackles Anthony Anderson, Zac Clark, Wade Keliikipi as well as 6-foot-7 JC transfer Isaac Remington to work their way into the rotation.

The passing game: The Ducks’ passing game was inconsistent last year, though by season’s end receiver Jeff Maehl was playing at a high level. Refining that part of the offense with quarterback Jeremiah Masoli would make the spread-option even more dangerous. The receiving corps is looking for playmakers, which means youngsters, such as redshirt freshman Diante Jackson, might break through.

Who steps in for Ed Dickson? Oregon only loses one starter on offense, but tight end Ed Dickson is a big one. David Paulson was a capable backup last year, and mercurial Malachi Lewis may be ready to step up. Expect JC transfer Brandon Williams to work his way into the mix.

Oregon State

Spring practice starts: March 29

Spring game: May 1

What to watch:

Katz steps in: Sean Canfield is off to the NFL, so the Beavers’ biggest question this spring is crowning a new starting quarterback. Most observers feel the job is Ryan Katz‘s to lose, and the sophomore looks good throwing the rock around. Still, being a quarterback is about more than a good arm. If he falters, Virginia transfer Peter Lalich might offer an alternative.

Better defensive pressure: The Beavers run a high-pressure defensive scheme, so when the stat sheet says they only recorded 17 sacks in 2009, which ranked ninth in the conference and was 22 fewer than in 2008, you know something is wrong. The entire defensive line is back, so the hope is a year of seasoning, particularly for ends Gabe Miller, Matt LaGrone and Kevin Frahm will mean better production this fall.

The O-line grows up: The Beavers’ offensive line returns four starters from a unit that got better as the year went on. Still, it yielded 29 sacks and the run game struggled at times — Jacquizz Rodgers often had to make yards on his own. Talented left tackle Michael Philipp, who did a solid job as a true freshman starter, should be much improved. A second year playing together with underrated senior center Alex Linnenkohl also should help.

Stanford

Spring practice starts: March 1

Spring game: April 17

What to watch:

Replacing Toby: How do you replace Toby Gerhart and his 1,871 yards and 28 touchdowns? You do not. But the hope is sophomores Tyler Gaffney and Stepfan Taylor and senior Jeremy Stewart will provide a solid answer that keeps the Cardinal’s power-running game churning. It helps to have four starters back from a good offensive line.

Rebuilding the D: If you toss in linebacker Clinton Snyder and end Erik Lorig, Stanford must replace six defensive starters from a unit that ranked near the bottom of the conference in 2009. The secondary is a particular concern after giving up 23 touchdown passes and a 63 percent completion rate. The hope is good recruiting from coach Jim Harbaugh will provide better athleticism in the back-half. Another issue: There was huge coaching turnover, particularly on defense during the offseason, so new coordinator Vic Fangio & Co. will be implementing new schemes and learning about what sort of talent they have to work with.

Luck steps up: This was Gerhart’s team in 2009. Now it’s Luck’s. He might be the most talented QB in the conference. Heck, he might become a Heisman Trophy candidate before he’s done. But life won’t be as easy without defenses crowding the line of scrimmage because they are fretting about Gerhart. Luck will need to step up his game — and leadership — to meet the challenge.

UCLA

Spring practice starts: April 1

Spring game: April 24

What to watch:

Prince becomes king? The fact that offensive coordinator Norm Chow has been such an advocate for sophomore quarterback Kevin Prince should tell you something: He’s got the ability. Prince flashed some skills during an injury-plagued 2009 season, and it’s important to remember he was a redshirt freshman playing with an questionable supporting cast, particularly the O-line. Prince needs to improve his decision-making, and the passing game needs to develop a big-play capability that stretches defenses.

Front seven rebuilding: UCLA not only must replace six starters on defense, it must replace six guys everyone in the Pac-10 has heard of. And five of the lost starters come from the front seven, and the guys who were listed as backups on the 2009 depth chart won’t necessarily inspire confidence. In other words, the Bruins will try to take a step forward in the conference with what figures to be an extremely green defense, particularly up front.

The running game? Know what would help Prince and a young defense? A better running game. The Bruins were significantly better in 2009 than in 2008, but that merely means one of the worst rushing attacks in the nation moved up to ninth in the conference. There’s a logjam of options at running back — with a couple of dynamic runners in the incoming recruiting class — and the offensive line welcomes back a wealth of experience. It would mean a lot if the Bruins could boost their rushing total to around 150 yards per game (from 114.6 in 2009).

USC

Spring practice starts: April 31

Spring game: TBA

What to watch:

Welcome, Lane Kiffin: The Pete Carroll era is over. Enter Lane Kiffin & Co. In terms of scheme, things will be fairly consistent, seeing that Kiffin was formerly Carroll’s offensive coordinator and Monte Kiffin was Carroll’s defensive mentor. But there will be a period of adjustment. The guess is the hyper-intense Ed Orgeron might provide a bit of a shock to the D-linemen.

Barkley Year 2: Barkley won’t have the president of his fan club — Carroll — around anymore. He’s a true talent. Everyone knows that, even without Carroll’s daily sonnets about his ability. But the numbers show he threw 14 interceptions in 12 games vs. 15 TD passes last year, so he’s obviously not arrived. Kiffin runs the offense, so you can expect these two to work closely together. Barkley will have plenty of help on offense, but the talent won’t be as good as it was in 2009, with six starters needing to be replaced, including his top two targets (receiver Damian Williams and tight end Anthony McCoy).

Secondary questions: All four starters from the defensive backfield are gone, including center fielder Taylor Mays. It helps that cornerback Shareece Wright, an academic casualty in 2009, will be back. He was a projected starter last fall. There’s plenty of talent on hand, but last year’s team proved that the Trojans don’t always just plug-and-play.

Washington

Spring practice starts: March 30

Spring game: April 30

What to watch:

Unleashing Locker: The return of quarterback Jake Locker was the best news any Pac-10 team received this offseason. Locker’s passing improved dramatically in just one year under coach Steve Sarkisian, so it’s not unreasonable to expect him to be even better in 2010, particularly with nine starters back on offense and just about every skill player on the depth chart.

Replacing Te’o-Nesheim: Daniel Te’o-Nesheim was a four-year starter who blossomed into an All-Pac-10 performer despite almost no supporting cast. He led the Huskies with 11 sacks in 2009, which was 8.5 more than any other player. Also, opposite end Darrion Jones is gone, and the cast at the position is extremely young. Who’s the next pass-rushing threat?

The Butler did it: Linebacker Donald Butler blossomed last year, earning second-team All-Pac-10 honors and leading the Huskies in tackles and tackles for loss (15.5). Toss in E.J. Savannah’s failure to earn a sixth year of eligibility from the NCAA, and the Huskies have some questions at linebacker. Mason Foster is a sure thing at one outside position, and Cort Dennison likely will fill a second gap, but there’s an opportunity for a young player to fill void No. 3.

Washington State

Spring practice starts: March 25

Spring game: April 24

What to watch:

Tuel time: Coach Paul Wulff decided that freshman Jeff Tuel was the Cougars’ quarterback of the future last year, so he opted to start him instead of going with a redshirt season. Tuel showed promise in six games, completing 59 percent of his passes with six touchdowns and five picks. Most of his supporting cast is back on offense, so the expectation is the Cougars’ offense could take a significant step forward this fall.

O-line intrigue: Some of the Cougars starting on the offensive line last fall didn’t look like Pac-10 players. Injuries and youth made the line a glaring area of weakness, even with veteran Kenny Alfred at center. Alfred is gone, but the expectations are that last year’s youth will be saltier after taking their knocks. Plus, a couple of juco additions should be in the mix for starting jobs.

Growing up: There is hope in that 19 starters are back from a team that played a lot of underclassmen in 2009. That youth should mature in 2010. And solid recruiting classes the past two seasons should offer an infusion of young promise.