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CHRIS DUFRESNE / ON COLLEGE FOOTBALL

Games arrive to rescue college football from the most off of off-seasons

After a summer of turmoil at so many schools, it's time to decide winners and losers on the field.

August 31, 2011|Chris Dufresne
  • Miami quarterback Jacory Harris is interviewed during media day before he was suspended one game for receiving improper benefits from former booster Nevin Shapiro.
Miami quarterback Jacory Harris is interviewed during media day before… (Al Diaz / McClatchy-Tribune )

Anyone enjoy the off-season?

Didn't think so.

College football is much better in on-season with corny Lee Corso in headdress, Ralphie on stampede, Beano Cook on podcast and Nevin Shapiro in prison.

Some turmoil inevitably bleeds us into September. Ohio State opens Saturday without Jim Tressel as coach and quarterback Terrelle Pryor having moved from gray area to Bay Area.

Eight Miami players received suspensions this week in the first salvo of a long, gruesome NCAA slog. USC and its marching band enter a second season playing for nothing but pride, while Oregon, Louisiana State and their compliance departments square off in Arlington, Texas, on Saturday.

Texas A&M, at long insufferable last, announced Wednesday it plans to leave the Big 12 for another conference, probably the Southeastern, but preferably on Pluto.

One tweeter compared A&M's protracted withdrawal to singer James Brown's old beg-and-plead act where he just couldn't leave the stage. Coverage of Texas A&M's courtship with the SEC has been disproportionate to actual interest in the Aggies.

Texas A&M is only a pawn. The Aggies haven't won a Big 12 title since 1998. In terms of getting swallowed, they're Jonah in one whale of an SEC.

The move to watch is the next one. As long as Texas and Oklahoma stick together, the Big 12 can survive. If not, all Expansion III hell breaks loose with Commissioner Larry Scott maybe realizing his vision of a Pac-16 after all.

The Pac-12 released a statement Wednesday in which Scott said the conference had "no current plans to expand." But he added, "I have made clear my vision that the health, stability and future of college athletics will likely include further consolidation and realignment."

Don't worry, most of that probably won't happen this week.

There is no better cure for what ails us than football: packed stadiums, spectacular plays, LSU Coach Les Miles pulling games out of his hat, punting from your opponent's 38, horrific officiating and drunken louts running on the field.

Here's a final preseason check list with the applicable answers being true, false, maybe and "duh."

• We waited months for Thursday night's opener but there isn't a decent game on the board. (False.)

Nevada Las Vegas at Wisconsin marks the Madison debut of quarterback Russell Wilson, a talented transfer from North Carolina State. If Wilson looks really good in victory, watch out for Wisconsin as a dark horse national title candidate.

• USC's defense has to play better this year. (Duh.)

It would take nine fans holding up foam fingers to replicate last year's defensive chant, "We're No. 84!"

Monte Kiffin says he's simplified his fancy NFL "Tampa" defense. It really comes down to "See what you hit; hit what you see."

• This is Rick Neuheisel's last chance at UCLA. (Maybe.)

A 15-22 record in three years is not good, but the athletic director's reputation is on the line, too. If a school brings in a different athletic director than the one who hired you and you slip up, you become Bob Toledo.

Dan Guerrero, though, remains the AD who made the Neuheisel hire. So Neuheisel will get every chance to complete his five-year term. Karl Dorrell got five years. Sometimes the AD has no choice. Another 4-8 campaign will get Neuheisel canned, but if I hired Neuheisel I'd be looking under couches for reasons to keep him.

• The team to beat in the Pac-12 is Oregon. (Maybe.)

There was an easy excuse to rank Oregon ahead of Stanford this year. Oregon opens against LSU. If the Ducks win, they deserve the ranking. If they lose, they are likely to fall behind Stanford.

Oregon would be the easy pick if this year's Stanford game was not in Palo Alto. Two years ago, Oregon's only conference loss was at Stanford.

• Joe Paterno embarks gingerly on his 46th season at Penn State against Indiana State on Saturday. Paterno turns 85 in December. He was hospitalized recently after getting run over by one of his receivers.

Paterno said it was "50-50" whether he'd be able to stand on the sidelines this week. He says he'd like to coach another four years. Amos Alonzo Stagg coached until he was 98. (True.)

• Texas' Longhorn Network (LHN) will host Oklahoma Coach Bob Stoops' weekly show this year. (False.)

Stoops was joking when he said that on this week's Big 12 conference call.

• Boise State's defensive line compares to any front in the vaunted SEC. (True.)

At least according to Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray. Of course, Murray is playing Boise's front on Saturday. What else is he going to say?

• Alabama can't win the national title breaking in a new starting quarterback. (False.)

Two years ago, Greg McElroy stepped in and led the Crimson Tide to the championship. Last year, transfer Cam Newton walked into Auburn and went 14-0 in his one and only season.

Matt Leinart had never taken a college snap in 2003 when he took over at USC and led the Trojans to the Associated Press national title.

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