Ten juicy topics that can marinate all summer

May 5 2010 - 5:13pm

LOS ANGELES -- USC ended spring practice a year ago with Pete Carroll and Aaron Corp as the coach and quarterback, but things have changed: here, there and everywhere.

Carroll has since opted for riches and Corp, well, he opted for Richmond.

And the star of USC's spring game on Saturday was ... Mitch Mustain.

A lot of scalp scratching can happen between college football seasons. Example: Lane Kiffin now graces the masthead at USC, while John Robinson is an assistant high school coach.

With Carroll no longer in town to take post-game exception, Stanford Coach Jim Harbaugh recently signed off on a promotional 2010 ticket plan dubbed "What's Your Deal?"

Bobby Bowden, after 34 years, is no longer Florida State's coach.

Joe Paterno still coaches at Penn State, but no longer needs glasses after undergoing laser surgery.

Rich Rodriguez remains at Michigan, although the NCAA Infractions Committee may soon demand corrective lenses.

The Big Ten, already one-over par at 11, is thinking of expanding to 16, which may put the bulldozer to college's conference landscape. Notre Dame remains a staunch football independent. Yet, if you recall, Ronald Reagan started out a staunch Democrat.

Ten hot topics to keep fires burning until August:

1. USC

Reggie Bush finally settled his uncivil case with Lloyd Lake, preventing potentially juicy deposition tidbits that may have been pertinent to USC keeping its 2004 national title. Bush held USC hostage to the end and reduced to "zilch" his chances of ever again getting a sideline pass.

The NCAA decision on USC athletics is expected any day now. When Alabama football got hammered for violations in the 1990s, and was banned from postseason play, the Crimson Tide got around it by scheduling a game at Hawaii.

USC opens next season at Hawaii.

2. Spring top 10

Listed in random order so as to not spoil our late-summer countdown to No. 1: Iowa, Texas Christian, Texas, Alabama, Boise State, Oregon, Nebraska, Ohio State, Florida, Virginia Tech.

3. Who do you (anti) trust?

Great timing: Big Wigs in Washington continue to contend the Bowl Championship Series is a monopoly that conspires to prevent mid-majors from competing for the national title.

Boise State, a mid-major, returns every starter but one off last year's undefeated Fiesta Bowl champion. The Broncos should start the season ranked in the top five, giving the team -- what's this? -- a legitimate shot to contend for the national title.

We'll know right away too, because Boise State opens Labor Day against Virginia Tech outside of Washington. (Someone save a seat for Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch.)

4. Are they quacks?

Led by quarterback Jeremiah Masoli, Oregon became the first team other than USC in eight seasons to claim the Pacific 10 Conference crown outright. Then came an off-season that should have been adjudicated by Judge Judy.

Masoli was suspended for the 2010 season after copping a plea in a frat-house computer theft, and star running back LaMichael James must sit out the opener for off-field transgressions. All told, four Ducks were suspended and three others left the team for rules violations.

Yet Oregon still appears to be the Pac-10 team to beat.

5. Irish spring

It took forever, but Notre Dame finally landed the right leader in Brian Kelly, a proven head coach (unlike Bob Davie and Charlie Weis) with a track record dating back to Grand Valley State.

Kelly, who led Cincinnati to the brink of a national title shot last year, is the do-over for the Irish not hiring Urban Meyer. Notre Dame breaks in a new quarterback, with Dayne Crist taking over for Jimmy Clausen. Kelly called the makeover at spring "the first coat of paint" on a program that could use a touch-up on those gold helmets. The Kelly era opens Sept. 4 against Purdue.

6. Sweet home

All you need to know about the local devotion to Alabama: The defending national champions drew 91,312 for their spring game. That was only 3,594 fewer fans that saw Alabama's 37-21 victory over Texas last January in the BCS title game.

Alabama will likely open next season at No.1, although the defense returns only two starters and the schedule is a brute, starting with a Sept. 11 visit to Tuscaloosa by Penn State.

7. Expansion.

This will be one of the most nerve-racking off seasons ever for conference administrators who anticipate the Big Ten's next move. Expansion could have a profound ripple effect if the Big Ten goes really big and reduces the Big East to a Catholic schools basketball league.

8. Seminole moment

Now we find out if Florida State is a program or the making of one man, Bobby Bowden. It's the same question you can ask in basketball about Lute Olson and Arizona. USC, Notre Dame, Michigan and Ohio State may have cold periods, but they are inherently resilient because of their traditions. Bowden was Florida State, turning a former women's college into a two-time national champion.

Jimbo Fisher inherits a 7-6 team that last year ranked 108th in total defense.

9. He can see 400

Penn State's Paterno, who was born Dec. 21, 1926, is only six victories shy of 400, Penn State's legend could reach 400 as early as Oct. 9 at home against Illinois.

10. Urban's renewal?

Florida Coach Urban Meyer, citing burnout, abruptly resigned last December, then amended that status to a "leave of absence." He was back by spring practice, where he chewed out an Orlando Sentinel reporter for accurately quoting one of his players.

Life after Tim Tebow is going to be interesting.

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