USC head coach Lane Kiffin looks at the scoreboard as quarterback Max Wittek… (Wally Skalij / Los Angeles…)
Unbuckling the mailbag:
Question: The temptation to cheat grows in proportion to Lane Kiffin's failures. Why does Pat Haden plan on keeping him?
Answer: Kiffin doesn't need to cheat to win. Players are not USC's problem. The Trojans had top-five talent this year but the coaching didn't crack the top 25. In fact, it wasn't even listed as "others receiving votes."
Haden is in a tough spot. He loves Kiffin's work ethic and there is no doubt he can recruit. Kiffin's game management skills left much to be desired and the defense was mostly horrible.
The first necessary step took place Thursday when Kiffin's dad, Monte, announced he was retiring after the bowl game. This had to happen — and did.
Firing Lane Kiffin now would only appease an angry fan base but may not solve the longer-term problem. With the weight of NCAA sanctions yet to come, no one knows when or where the program will hit bottom.
What top-shelf coach would want this job right now?
Q: Are you trying to get Lane Kiffin fired?
A: Actually, I think the man most responsible for getting Lane Kiffin fired will end up being Lane Kiffin.
Q: How's that Lane Kiffin working out?
A: Based on his physique and general physical condition, I would estimate Kiffin is working out at least five or six days a week.
Q: I always enjoy reading your articles. Today, you ranked Ohio State No. 2. Do you really believe that?
A: This is an old parlor trick I like to play with Southeastern Conference fans that really is inconsequential in the big picture.
In 2009, I tortured Alabama fans just for fun by purposely low-balling the Crimson Tide all season. It drove Crimson Tide fans nuts, which is Article Three in the mission statement governing my weekly rankings.
Alabama Nation couldn't figure out I was moving the Tide up one spot every week and that if it won all its games it would be in my national title game, which is exactly what happened.
I'm doing the same thing here. I can put Ohio State at No. 2 because it does not matter. The Buckeyes' season is over at 12-0. Notre Dame is No. 1 and will win the national title if it wins the Bowl Championship Series title game.
Saturday's Alabama-Georgia winner in the SEC title game will play Notre Dame for the national title.
If my top SEC team wins its conference and then beats Notre Dame, there's a good chance it might jump over idle Ohio State.
Q: Can you imagine the chaos if the undefeated Buckeyes — had they been eligible — were not invited to the title game?
Carol Stream, Ill.
A: I don't need to imagine chaos in the BCS — I've lived it for 14 years. I think voters would have taken a much harder look at Ohio State had the Buckeyes been eligible this year. Ohio State also would have had a chance to play, and win, the Big Ten championship game.
The argument over undefeated Ohio State and one-loss Alabama or Georgia, though, would have been something.
Q: Regarding your Rankman (emphasis on "rank"): Every time I read this column I hear crickets — and I Iive at the beach, not in the country.
I have no idea why any sportswriter would want to emulate Scott Ostler.
A: You are entitled to your opinion but, if I might, let's first break down your comedy act. You say you have a question regarding Rankman (emphasis on "rank"). The only thing missing from that gem was "insert rim-shot."
And your "I hear crickets and I live at the beach" line, well, that one had me in stitches. You should really quit your job and get this material out to a larger audience.
FWIW: Ostler, a former L.A. Times columnist who now writes for the San Francisco Chronicle, has 13 times been named California Sportswriter of the Year by the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Assn.
Why would anyone want to emulate him?
Q: Curious why SDSU is ahead of FS and SJSU in the rankings.
A: Is this a question or an eye chart? (Insert rim shot … see how it works, Dave Perkin?)
For Rankman, it all came down to San Diego State defeating Boise State in Boise, something only two schools have done in the last decade (Boston College, Texas Christian).
Plus, San Diego has better Mexican food than either Fresno or San Jose.
Q: Do you really believe that USC would lose to SJSU, SDSU or Fresno State? Get serious.
A: Fresno State already defeated USC once in the 1992 Freedom Bowl, don't you remember?
Mal Florence, my late, great colleague, was a USC grad who once covered the Trojans (sometimes wearing his USC sweater).
Asked whether he was going to attend the Freedom Bowl at Anaheim Stadium, Florence gave a quick and firm reply.
"No," Mal said.
"Someone might see me."
So don't give me this guff about state schools not being able to compete with almighty USC.