Unbuckling the mailbag:
Question: Let USC slide?
Your article on USC appeared in today's Chicago Tribune. After reading it I checked online to see where you were located. Imagine my "surprise" when I found out that you are in Los Angeles. That fetid, putrid smell is actually coming from the USC athletic department. Since I work for the federal government as a forensic dentist . . . I know that smell. It is going to take more than one can of Lysol to remove it. SC deserves every sanction that can be given to them.
George F. Loss, D.D.S.
Answer: I was hoping to start this year's mailbag on a lighter, upbeat note, but your letter hit me like a root canal at a crime scene investigation.
Four out of five forensic dentists I surveyed actually thought the NCAA had gone far enough in sanctioning USC.
I also couldn't help but notice that your middle initial, combined with your last name, spells "Floss."
You say USC deserves every sanction that can be given to it. That would include the NCAA's Death Penalty — shutting down the program — which I guess is where you come in with your taxpayer-provided, postmortem gum scrapers.
I bet, though, not one of your patients has ever complained.
Q: How dumb are Buckeyes fans? Second question: How much does the NCAA regret the USC sanctions in retrospect?
Carlos A. Garcia
A: These days there are two types of dumb Ohio State fans. One type thinks it's funny to wear a T-shirt that reads: "I'd rather shower at Penn State than cheer for the Wolverines."
The other type thinks NCAA sanctions levied against them were less warranted than those imposed on USC.
To your second point, I don't think the NCAA has many regrets, other than losing control over college football.
Q: Is this the first time that both UCLA and USC have scored touchdowns of more than 70 yards on the first play of their first game of the season?
A: That's a great question. And I don't know. UCLA quarterback Brett Hundley raced 72 yards on the Bruins' first play against Rice, USC's Matt Barkley connected with Marqise Lee for a 75-yard score against Hawaii.
The other weird thing: both teams scored 49 points.
Q: I know you know your stuff, but do you really think USC is No. 1?
A: The critical point is, if I thought USC was No. 1 in preseason, why wouldn't I still think that after a 39-point win in the opener?
That's the problem I had with Associated Press voters dropping USC to No. 2 after a 49-10 win over Hawaii. I understand Alabama looked really good against No. 8 Michigan, but that ranking is based on a preseason premise that may not be correct.
What if the Wolverines end up 6-6? How good, then, were they?
I would have far less of a problem dropping USC in a week when the Trojans struggled and Alabama dominated.
That weekend could come as soon as Sept. 15, when USC plays at Stanford on the day Alabama plays at Arkansas. Stanford didn't look great in its opening win against San Jose State, but the Cardinal is 4-1 in the series dating to the epic upset of 2007.
Q: How do you see UCLA's chances this Saturday? Should I drink a lot before the game or am I going to want to watch?
A: The better news is that you finally stopped drinking after UCLA's 50-0 loss to USC last year.
I actually like UCLA's chances of staying close to Nebraska. These aren't the 1995 Cornhuskers. There is some karma working here, this being the 40th anniversary of UCLA's 20-17 upset of No. 1 Nebraska in 1972.
Also, Nebraska running back Rex Burkhead is gimpy and may not play, or play effectively.
This is also Jim Mora's home coaching debut. Remember in 2008, in Rick Neuheisel's first game, UCLA shocked Tennessee on Labor Day night.
We won't talk about what happened two weeks later at Brigham Young.
As far as Saturday, though, stay thirsty, my friend.
Q: How many Pac-12 representatives will there be in New York City for the Heisman? Can Barkley, Lee and De'Anthony Thomas make it?
A: Yes, and just think, all three players could have been USC Trojans had Thomas not flipped to Eugene at the last minute. And you're omitting USC receiver Robert Woods, who could also mount a Heisman drive.
The Pac-12 is heavy with skill-position players this year. Don't discount Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota. People in Oregon now are suggesting that Mariota could win a Heisman before he's finished.
From what I saw of Mariota in the opener, I wouldn't bet against it.
Q: Why is it so difficult to get the name of Ohio University right? It is not just "Ohio." The same mistake was made last year too. I make note of this since there is also an Ohio State University and Ohio Northern College.
Well, at least the score was reported correctly.
A: I honestly think people know The Ohio is different from The Ohio State the same way they know The Iowa is different than The Iowa State.
If I had to spell out the full names of schools I'd end up with some pretty high-caloric sentences.