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Rites (and wrongs) of spring

ON COLLEGE FOOTBALL

USC canned UCLA in the annual spring game, 11-0. The Trojans scored on three first-round NFL picks, two seconds, a third, two fourths, a fifth and two sixths.

Makes you wonder what Karl Dorrell was doing all those years in Westwood while everyone was out recruiting.

It also renders more astonishing UCLA’s 13-9 win over USC in 2006 and Stanford’s upset win over USC in 2007. Stanford also had no players drafted this year.

It also makes you wonder why Florida has won two national titles since 2004 and USC hasn’t.

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Spring football 2009 is hut-hut history . . . well, almost. There are stragglers out there. The parking lot at Ohio Stadium just cleared after last Saturday’s spring game in Columbus drew 95,722. A guy named “Sunny” paid $2,600 in an online auction to become an honorary Ohio State coach.

To emulate Jim Tressel, “Sunny” refused to reveal how he voted in the final USA Today spring coaches’ poll.

San Diego State, Kansas State, Oregon, Oregon State and Texas El Paso conclude their spring business Saturday. Only UTEP out of that grouping misses UCLA on next year’s schedule, meaning, what, the others think they need an extra week to prepare for the Bruins?

Laugh if you want, but there’s a chance UCLA could win more games than it did last year and USC could lose more. UCLA might finish 5-7 and USC might finish 11-2.

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UCLA appears halfway back in Rick Neuheisel’s second year, the team lacking only an offense. And while the peach fuzz USC quarterback Aaron Corp is calling facial hair may spook Trojans fans, the rest of the lineup looks like the 2011 Denver Broncos.

News and notions from around the nation:

* Word is that Florida State’s spring game victory was also ordered vacated by NCAA. The Seminoles have 30 days to file an appeal.

* Penn State Coach Joe Paterno was fined an undisclosed amount by the Rose Bowl for refusing to open the locker room after the Jan. 1 game. USC quarterback Mark Sanchez remains thrilled Paterno opened his locker room before the game.

* Charlie Weis recently told the Chicago Tribune he spoke to his family about quitting as Notre Dame’s coach. The Irish’s new athletic director almost spoke to Weis about the same thing. Weis, though, “earned” a fifth season after going 29-21 in his first four. It’s not leprechaun lunacy to think Weis has to win nine in ’09 to keep his job, but he’s lucky to have already been spotted two wins -- against Washington and Washington State.

Because of his NFL background, Weis tells recruits he knows what it takes to play on Sundays. Notre Dame had one player drafted this year -- safety David Bruton in the fourth round. That tied the Irish with Liberty, Weber State and William & Mary. Rice had two draft picks.

Weis, of course, is still cleaning up after Ty Willingham, meaning next year’s NFL draft should be brimming with South Benders. Right?

* The Southeastern Conference averaged crowds of 37,936 for this year’s spring games. Must be the recession.

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The SEC . . . it still rocks and rules. We read this all the time in crayon-marked envelopes cleared by security, but it helps when the data backs up the face paint.

Here are the conference rankings based on NFL draft picks: SEC (37), Atlantic Coast (33), Pacific 10 (32), Big 12 and Big Ten (28 each), Big East (27, with only eight schools), Mountain West (16), Western Athletic and Conference USA (10 each).

This could be Exhibit A in Sen. Orrin Hatch’s (R-Utah) upcoming hearings against the Bowl Championship Series. Or is it Exhibit A for the BCS?

* USC Coach Pete Carroll hasn’t had much luck producing successful head coaches. Ed Orgeron was 10-25 in three seasons at Mississippi and Nick Holt was 5-18 at Idaho. Now he’s sending two more off to college, and it’s safe to say things aren’t going to be the same at Tennessee or Washington.

Lane Kiffin, taking over in Knoxville, has opted for the blowtorch approach. He has already been reprimanded by the SEC for calling Florida Coach Urban Meyer a cheater and stoked more anger by telling a recruit he’d end up pumping gas the rest of his life in South Carolina if he went to play for Steve Spurrier.

Al Davis, does this kid Kiffin know what he’s doing?

Steve Sarkisian walks into a Washington program that went 0-12 last year and begins his tenure by committing a couple of secondary NCAA violations. But he did one smart thing by having removed the placard hanging above the Huskies’ locker room: Abandon Hope All Ye Who Enter Here.

Sarkisian’s main project is transitioning Jake Locker, as athletically talented as any quarterback this side of Tim Tebow, into a pro-style offense. Based on results in the spring, it’s working.

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* Bill Snyder, 69, who led Kansas State from oblivion to the brink of a national title in 1998, has returned from retirement after a failed, three-year Manhattan Project led by Ron Prince.

You knew Snyder was officially back when he dropped a BCS team from his 2010 schedule. (OK, so it was only UCLA).

* Rankman’s top five coming out of spring:

1. Florida. Every starter on defense returns from last year’s title team and the offense won’t be bad either -- and that’s not just former Gator Percy Harvin blowing smoke. The BCS champions of 2006 and ’08 visited the White House in April and bristled when the rookie president kept talking about a playoff. “I noticed they all got quiet,” Barack Obama quipped.

2. Texas*. Asterisk notes the Longhorns actually defeated Oklahoma last year but lost a silly Big 12 Conference tiebreaker to the Sooners.

3. Oklahoma. Star quarterback Sam Bradford returns to lead the Big 12 champion of 2008*.

4. USC. Reasons: Carroll and safety Taylor Mays are returning.

5. Oregon. Chip Kelly takes over for longtime coach Mike Bellotti, who went to work for Phil Knight as Ducks’ athletic director. We’ll know if this pick is hunch or hooey after the first four games: at Boise State, then home against Purdue, Utah and California.

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chris.dufresne@latimes.com


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