USC’s discipline problems are a red (or, cardinal) flag

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USC managed to have a record-setting day yesterday against Arizona. Receiver Marqise Lee hauled in 16 receptions for 345 yards and a pair of touchdowns, good enough to break school and Pac-12 records. Matt Barkley threw for almost 500 yards. And, yet, the Trojans lost to the Wildcats 39-36.

Inexplicable, right?

Seeing as there’s an explanation for just about everything, not entirely. There are some things that immediately stick out looking at the preseason No. 1 team now sitting at 6-2 and in the middle of an unexpectedly scrappy battle for a Pac-12 South championship. Depth has been and will be a concern for USC because of NCAA sanctions. Matt Barkley has three games this season where he’s thrown multiple interceptions. If all else fails, blame Lane Kiffin, right?

But there’s one stat that continues to haunt the Trojans with Halloween quickly approaching: USC is dead last in the country in penalties per game with 82 total for 677 yards. That’s just over 10 penalties a game for 85 yards a game. Against Arizona, USC had 13 for 117 yards, though it should be pointed out that the Wildcats had 14 of their own for 129 yards. In USC’s loss to Stanford earlier this season, the Trojans had seven penalties for 73 yards (Stanford had eight penalties for 68 yards).

Yeah, ugly. That’s not something you expect from a team with that much talent and that much experience in key areas. Blame Kiffin for play calling all you want, but a lack of discipline like that is definitely on his shoulders. In games decided by more than one touchdown, USC is 6-0. In games decided by a touchdown or less — you guessed it, 0-2.

Mistakes are magnified in close games, so it’s no wonder that the Trojans have dropped a pair when they needed to play more fundamentally sound even though their opponents have played mistake-prone football as well. If USC was able to cut those penalties in half, perhaps the Trojans would still be undefeated and in the BCS championship discussion.

Interestingly enough, USC’s next game is against Oregon, a team that also ranks among the worst in penalties per game. But giving the Ducks any sort of help has already proven lethal to eight opponents this season.

Report: Lane Kiffin would like to be Tennessee’s head coach again

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Lane Kiffin says he’s happy at Florida Atlantic, but everyone suspects that happiness has an expiration date. A coach with his talents and pedigree — and remember, Kiffin is just 42 — is destined to return to the big time at some point.

And according to a reporter at ESPN, Kiffin would like “some point” to be “right now.” Chris Low spent a week in Boca Raton shadowing Kiffin, and came away believing Kiffin would be open to a reunion with Tennessee.

“Lane is definitely on board if Tennessee gives him a call,” Low told the Orange and White Report radio show in Knoxville. “That’s not going to happen, but as he told me, ‘People break up all the time and get back together.’”

As we know, Kiffin spent one 7-6 season as Tennessee’s head coach in 2009 before darting off in the middle of the night to return to USC, and Kiffin was persona non grata in Knoxville for years afterwards.

But it seems feelings have softened toward him sense then. Kiffin has made a habit of trolling Vols fans on Twitter, but he trolls because he loves. “I don’t really think before I tweet,” Kiffin told AL.com last week. “I like to get a reaction. I like to make people laugh.”

While the idea of Kiffin returning to Knoxville may be a bridge too far for Vols AD John Currie, he does fit the mold of someone Tennessee should consider. A 42-year-old coach that lived and learned through two Power 5 head coaching jobs, is fresh off an ultra-successful run as an SEC coordinator and is now on the verge of winning Conference USA in his first season?

Perhaps Kiffin and Currie can negotiate over Twitter direct messages.

Arkansas to host Ole Miss in Little Rock in 2018

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Ole Miss will put the finishing touches on its 2017 season with the annual Egg Bowl Thanksgiving night, but there’s a bit of 2018 scheduling news involving the Rebels to touch on first.

Wednesday, Arkansas announced that its 2018 game against Ole Miss will be played at War Memorial Stadium in Little Rock instead of their on-campus home in Fayetteville. Next season will mark the 70th anniversary of the opening of War Memorial Stadium.

“We look forward to our return to Central Arkansas to take on Ole Miss at War Memorial Stadium in October 2018,” interim athletic director Julie Cromer Peoples said in a statement. “I know Razorback fans will be excited and ready to cheer on our team in a key Southeastern Conference Western Division matchup.

“Arkansas and Ole Miss first met on the football field more than a century ago and we look forward to the next chapter in this rivalry, in a venue that has hosted so many important games in this series.”

In fact, the game next season will mark the 110th anniversary of the first-ever meeting between the two football programs.

The Razorbacks and Rebels last played in Little Rock in 2012. Their only other matchup at War Memorial Stadium as conference foes came in 1992.

UCLA, UNLV announce future home-and-home

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Happy Thanksgiving, y’all! And, as you get set for your Turkey Day feast, here’s a little future scheduling news on which to nibble.

Just a handful of days after dumping its head coach, UCLA, along with UNLV, announced that the two football programs have reached an agreement on a future home-and-home series. The Bruins will play host to the Rebels on Sept. 7, 2024, at the Rose Bowl. The following season, on Sept. 6, 2025, the two teams will meet up once again in Las Vegas.

“This is another series that bolsters our future schedules and is beneficial for both sides geographically,” a statement from Desiree Reed-Francois began. “Our fans enjoy seeing traditional powers come to town, it enhances our football program’s efforts in the recruiting hotbed of Southern California and partnering with prestigious institutions in the Pac-12 only helps our development as a University.”

The schools have met twice previously, in 2015 and 2016, with the Bruins winning both by a combined score of 79-24.

This scheduling news comes three weeks after UNLV announced a future four-game series with Cal. The MWC program also has future games against Pac-12 members USC (2018 season opener) and Arizona State (home-and-home in 2020 and 2021) on the scheduling docket.

Tennessee WR Jauan Jennings dismissed after Instagram tirade against Vols coaching staff

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The 2017 season just can’t end quick enough for Tennessee.

Proving that there have been much better days on Rocky Top, the school has reportedly and unexpectedly dismissed wide receiver Jauan Jennings from the team on Wednesday evening — just hours after the junior went on a tirade against the current coaching staff and posted it to his social media accounts.

Jennings reportedly went off earlier in the day at the staff and called them several choice, NSFW names in videos posted to his private Instagram account.

The receiver was somewhat of a surprise return to practice recently as it was expected he was going to miss the rest of the season after being injured in season opener against Georgia Tech. Jennings enter the year as an All-SEC third team selection in the preseason but was limited to just three catches for 17 yards the first half of the Vols’ first game.

Jennings could transfer to another school as he has a redshirt year available and likely would be able to receive a medical redshirt as well. Declaring for the NFL Draft seems the more likely scenario however but one thing is for certain: a return to Tennessee doesn’t look like it’s in the cards after Wednesday’s actions on both sides.