Despite its lopsided loss to Alabama in last January's Bowl Championship Series national title game, Louisiana State will open the 2012 season ranked No. 1 in at least one poll. LSU sits atop the USA Today Top 25 coaches poll released on Thursday, with Alabama second and USC third.
LSU received 18 first-place votes, slightly fewer that the 20 first-place votes for the Crimson Tide and 19 first-place votes for the Trojans. Still, the Tigers narrowly had the most overall points.
Oklahoma and Oregon round out the top five, followed by Georgia, Florida State, Michigan, South Carolina and Arkansas. LSU and Alabama, rivals in the Southeastern Conference, meet Nov. 3 in Baton Rouge.
Nearly a year after promising to impose harsher sanctions on the most egregious rule-breakers, NCAA leaders endorsed a proposal that would make schools subject to the same crippling penalties just handed to Penn State.
The measure includes postseason bans of up to four years, fines that could stretch into the millions and suspensions for head coaches. A final vote on the sweeping overhaul will not occur before the board of directors' October meeting.
The plan calls for changing the current two-tiered penalty structure of major and secondary violations to four tiers, increasing the size of the infractions committee from 10 up to 24 in an effort to speed up the enforcement process and holding coaches individually accountable for any violations that occur in their program.
Kicker-punter Anthony Fera is leaving Penn State for Texas, the second starter to depart Happy Valley this week following harsh NCAA sanctions against the program for the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal.
Steelers fan buying Cleveland Browns
Here's one to make Cleveland fans shake their heads: A partial owner of the rival Pittsburgh Steelers is buying the Browns.
Randy Lerner has reached a deal to sell the club to Tennessee truck-stop magnate Jimmy Haslam III — a minority stockholder in the Steelers.
Lerner will sell 70% of the Browns to Haslam now, with the other 30% reverting to him four years after the closing date, a person with knowledge of the sale told the Associated Press on condition of anonymity because details had not officially been announced.
Although the papers have been signed, the NFL still must approve the sale. Getting the nod from 24 of the 32 teams is required, and no date has been set for a vote because the sale has not been presented to the league yet. Approval is expected by the end of September. ESPN reported the sale price was more than $1 billion.
Sam Querrey finished off Benjamin Becker with his eighth ace of the match, winning, 6-4, 6-3, to advance to the Citi Open quarterfinals in Washington. Querrey will face Kevin Anderson, a 6-4, 6-4 winner over Florent Serra. Top-seeded Mardy Fish beat Ricardas Berankis, 6-3, 6-1, and will face Xavier Malisse on Friday. Malisse beat Jeremy Chardy, 6-3, 6-2.
On the women's side, top-seeded Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova advanced to the semifinals, beating Kai-Chen Chang, 6-4, 6-4. She will face Vania King, a 6-1, 3-6, 6-4 winner over Coco Vandeweghe.
The Oakland Athletics plan to call up right-hander Dan Straily, who has 175 strikeouts in double-A and triple-A ball this season, more than any other pitcher in professional baseball, to start Friday against the Toronto Blue Jays.
Jockey Joe Talamo rode five horses to victory Thursday at Del Mar, moving him to within one win of leading rider Garrett Gomez.
Talamo has 17 wins during this meeting, tying him with Rafael Bejarano for second place.
— Eric Sondheimer
Andres Romero of Argentina had seven birdies in a bogey-free first round at the Reno-Tahoe Open to take a one-point lead over South Korean rookie Seung-Yul Noh.