T en quick-hit observations as coaches, coast to coast, continue to scour for players off Penn State’s roster:
1. While it announced plans this week to broaden its powers to crack down on rules violators, the NCAA may have inadvertently helped major rules violator USC win this year’s national title.
Is there a law of unintended consequences on the NCAA books?
President Mark Emmert’s unilateral ruling on the Penn State scandal included immediately releasing all Nittany Lions players from their scholarships.
Not long afterward, eight Illinois coaches showed up in State College for poaching season. But it was USC that turned up the jewel, Penn State’s star tailback Silas Redd, who decided to transfer and play for the Trojans.
So USC, a school in the midst of major probation, was allowed to sign a player from a school on — let’s call it — super-major probation in a move that could tip this year’s Bowl Championship Series title race.
USC is not to blame, nor is Redd. Nor is, really, the NCAA. But this is what happens when you make rules up as you go.
2. The Heisman Trophy is USC quarterback Matt Barkley’s to lose, but he can lose it. Remember, last year, the trophy was Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck’s to lose, and he lost it to a Baylor quarterback.
Robert Griffin III put instant pressure on Luck’s campaign with his breakout performance in Baylor’s 50-48, opening-weekend win over Texas Christian.
The opening-week game that could put similar pressure on Barkley: Michigan, with quarterback Denard Robinson, plays Alabama at Arlington, Texas. A RGIII-type performance against the defending national champion on national TV would instantly elevate Robinson’s status.
3. Strike up the bans. The one-year bowl penalty imposed on Central Florida this week sets up two games this year in which both schools will be ineligible for the postseason. Central Florida plays at sanctioned Ohio State on Sept. 8, and Ohio State travels to Penn State on Oct. 27.
It should be noted that UCF is appealing its bowl ban. And good luck with that.
4. Zach Mettenberger, the incoming quarterback for Louisiana State, started in college at Georgia. Former Oregon State starter Ryan Katz is at San Diego State throwing passes to one-time USC receiver Brice Butler.
Lache Seastrunk, the highly touted tailback from Texas who got Oregon in an NCAA mess, is eligible this year at Baylor. Connor Wood, a former quarterback at Texas, is at Colorado.
Wisconsin, which last year used North Carolina State transfer quarterback Russell Wilson to win the Big Ten, is counting on Maryland transfer Danny O’Brien. And ex-Notre Dame pass thrower Dayne Crist has joined forces at Kansas with former Irish Coach Charlie Weis.
5. Three teams outside the NFL East capable of ending the Southeastern Conference’s six-year BCS title reign:
USC. History bodes well for the Trojans. This year’s BCS title game is in South Florida, where USC scored historic postseason wins in 2002 (Orange Bowl versus Iowa) and 2004 (BCS title versus Oklahoma).
Oregon. The Ducks have won three straight Pac-12 Conference titles and played Auburn to a last-second loss two years ago in the title game.
Oklahoma. You don’t have to remind Sooners fans that it’s been more than a decade since Bob Stoops won that national title against Florida State.
6. First-year Washington State Coach Mike Leach will pull off at least one significant upset. Best hunches are the opener at Brigham Young, his alma mater, or home games against California (Oct. 13), UCLA (Nov. 10) or Washington (Nov. 23).
7. Jim Mora, UCLA’s new sheriff, is moving training camp this year to San Bernardino, where Wild West lawman Wyatt Earp spent part of his life. Earp was famous for his part in the “Gunfight at the OK Corral.”
Mora has his hands full with “The Over-the-Wall Gang.”
8. When did Steve Spurrier become Chuck Knox? Coaching the Tampa Bay Bandits in the United States Football League, Spurrier once ordered an on-side kick on the opening kickoff. His pass-first Florida offense was called “Fun-and-Gun.” Entering his eighth season at South Carolina, though, Spurrier won a school-best 11 games last year with a cloud-of-dust blueprint.
South Carolina finished 95th nationally in passing, but its defense was No. 2 against the pass and No. 3 nationally. The Gamecocks this year will lean on running back Marcus Lattimore, returning from a knee injury.
“If we can’t throw it very well, we’re not going to try,” Spurrier recently said. Who is this guy?
9. School not ranked in USA Today coaches’ preseason top 25 poll that should have been: Utah.
School in the top 25 probably ranked too high: Florida State at No. 7.
10. The Insight Bowl has changed sponsors and will now be called the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl. Ticket prices, we hear, will range from “mild” to “Jammin’ Jalepeno” and “Blazin’.”