3:40 PM PDT, October 13, 2012
Unbuckling the mailbag:
Question: USC vs. The USC: What's it going to take to have a real rivalry going?
Answer: Let's go right to the expert in this field, Clemson Coach Dabo Swinney. I think everyone would agree he has no agenda here.
Swinney tweaked South Carolina Coach Steve Spurrier this week for referring to Louisiana State as the real "Death Valley," knowing Clemson's home field also shares that nickname.
Swinney responded there was only one "Death Valley" and only one "USC…and it's in California."
We also have the real Death Valley.
I may have stirred this pot a bit in my Monday column explaining how the University of Southern California won the legal battle for "USC." Specifically, the case involved the interlocked "SC" used by South Carolina on its apparel and equipment.
The lawyer representing the Los Angeles-based school argued the letters were more deservedly linked to the Trojans' than to "a goofy little chicken."
That would be South Carolina's "Gamecocks."
There hasn't been a football rivalry between USC and USC because the schools haven't played since 1983. The team from Columbia also hasn't been very good, winning only one conference title — the Atlantic Coast Conference in 1969 — in its history.
The USC in California clams 11 national titles and 37 conference championships, many of which the NCAA has allowed the Trojans to keep.
Spurrier has turned South Carolina into a powerhouse and it would be great fun to see these schools interlock their logos at midfield. How about at this year's Bowl Championship Series title game?
Q: The University of South Carolina was founded in 1801. When was the state of California admitted?
A: California was admitted to the Union in 1850. South Carolina seceded from it in 1860.
Q: What legally prohibits a school from referring to itself by its own acronym?
Who has the right to CU, FSU, UT, UM, OSU or MSU?
A: I believe the National Optometrist Association trademarked those letters for eye charts. Seriously, all this acronym confusion could give a guy acid reflux.
CU: Is it Colorado or Connecticut?
FSU: Florida State or Fresno?
UT: Tennessee or Tulsa?
UM: Michigan or Maryland?
OSU: Ohio State, or Oregon State, or Oklahoma State?
MSU: Michigan State or Mississippi State?
Not all schools can be as distinguishable as UTEP (Texas El Paso) and UTSA (University of Texas San Antonio).
I also don't know why so many teams are nicknamed Wildcats, Bulldogs and Tigers. I truly feared Clemson's Tigers joining the Southeastern Conference because it would have given the league four teams with the same nickname: LSU, Auburn, Missouri and Clemson.
Go Tigers! Really, how could you go wrong?
The SEC already has two "Bulldogs" in Georgia and Mississippi State.
Of the 120 teams playing major college football, you'd think people could come up with more than 10 or 11 nicknames.
Q: I'm not a Buckeyes fan, but Ohio State is 6-0 and leading the Big Ten Conference. How is it that the coaches' poll does not rank them?
A: I get this question a lot and people end up slapping their heads and saying "Oh yeah."
Schools on NCAA probation and banned from bowl games are not allowed in the USA Today coaches' poll.
The Associated Press media poll allows schools on probation and that's why Ohio State is sitting this week at No. 8 in the AP.
USC, remember, was stripped of its 2004 BCS title after sanctions were handed down, but the Trojans were allowed to keep their AP trophy.
Ohio State is serving a one-year bowl ban this year but could claim the AP national title.
Q: Texas San-Antonio (transitional member). Does the "transitional member" status eliminate them from: 1. Being invited to a bowl game at the end of the season? 2. Or if they continue to be undefeated, be possibly ranked in a major poll?
A: The Roadrunners technically do not count as a Football Bowl Subdivision opponent until next year. They become a full-fledged member and are bowl-eligible in 2014. They are renting space in the Western Athletic Conference this year but will join Conference USA in 2013.
UTSA is off to a 5-0 start under former Miami Coach Larry Coker. The Roadrunners can certainly be ranked. Appalachian State, a Football Championship Subdivision (formerly I-AA) program, received AP votes in 2007 following its stunning win over Michigan.
There is also a chance UTSA could go to a bowl this year if there are not enough eligible schools to fill the 70 bowl slots.
Last year there were 72 eligible schools available for 70 spots.
To think some people think there are too many bowls....
Q: What is it with the SEC and state troopers as escorts?
A: You will not be shocked to know the tradition started with Alabama Coach Bear Bryant and was then copied all over the SEC and the South. In fact, at last check, every head college coach in Alabama has state trooper protection.
The tradition has not caught on out West.
Dave Plati, University of Colorado sports information director, was quoted in a 2006 ESPN.com story saying his coach didn't need protection because "he's accompanied by a 1,300-pound buffalo."
If "Ralphie" was a trooper in California, would he be a Buffalo CHP?
Q: I realize there are other overrated teams, but what has USC done to be ranked in the top 10?
A: Ask the same question about Alabama and Oregon: What have they done to be No. 1 and No. 2?
Alabama opened with an impressive win over a Michigan team that is no longer ranked in the USA Today coaches' poll. Oregon's best win came at home against a Washington team that lost at Louisiana State, 41-3.
Alabama and Oregon have not played a school currently ranked in the coaches' top 25.
It comes down to this: teams that start the season highly ranked tend not to fall unless they lose.
Alabama and Oregon appear be the two best teams and have done nothing to lose their rankings.
USC started No. 1 in the AP poll and lost a road game, by a touchdown, at Stanford. So it holds that USC would not drop dramatically in the polls.
That's just the way an imperfect system goes.
Why is Louisiana State still in the top 10 after consecutive weeks in which the Tigers beat Auburn by two points, struggled at home against Towson and then lost at Florida?
USC's schedule is back-loaded with games against Oregon and Notre Dame. If the Trojans win the rest of their games, they'll deserve a high ranking. If they don't, well, they won't.
Q: Why is it when a hugely overrated FSU team loses year after year they don't get a "pulled a Clemson" label like we do?
A: I think you fans should go to court and get the trademark on "pulled a Clemson" so nobody else can steal it.
Maybe Florida State doesn't get tagged as chokers because the school has won two national titles since Clemson won its last one. You make a valid point, though. I, too, was not sold on Florida State for the same reason I haven't trusted Clemson in recent years.
Florida State "pulled a Clemson" several times last year after some predicted a national championship.
I ranked Florida State at No. 11 in my preseason poll — four spots worse than the Seminoles' ranking of No. 7 in the AP and coaches' polls.
I had to move Florida State up after it defeated Clemson, and then downgrade the Seminoles after they "pulled a Clemson" at North Carolina State.
Q: While watching the Texas-West Virginia game last weekend the commentator said Texas had not beaten a ranked team in four years. Is this correct? It seems absurd.
A: That commentator must have meant "two" years. Texas has lost eight straight games against ranked schools dating to its win over No. 5 Nebraska on Oct. 16, 2010.
Texas is hoping not to make it nine straight losses on Saturday against No. 13 Oklahoma.
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