Marqise Lee, John Manoogian

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


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.

Ole Miss OT Laremy Tunsil to return for Texas A&M on Oct. 24

Associated Press

As if this day wasn’t busy enough, Ole Miss announced late Monday evening star-crossed offensive lineman Laremy Tunsil‘s suspension has been capped at seven games, meaning he’ll miss Saturday’s trip to Memphis but return in time for Texas A&M visit to The Grove on Oct. 24.

From the university:

The University initially withheld Tunsil from competition at the start of the season as both the NCAA and the University examined several alleged improper benefits.  During the course of the process, it was determined by the NCAA that Tunsil received impermissible extra benefits that included the use of three separate loaner vehicles over a sixth-month period without payment, a four-month interest-free promissory note on a $3,000 down payment for purchasing a used vehicle, two nights of lodging at a local home, an airline ticket purchased by a friend of a teammate, and one day use of a rental vehicle.  In addition, it was determined that Tunsil was not completely forthcoming when initially questioned by NCAA investigators regarding the loaner vehicles.  He later corrected his account and since apologized. 

As part of his reinstatement conditions, the NCAA imposed a seven-game suspension, ordered Tunsil to pay the value of the extra benefits to a charity, perform community service, and he will also make the vehicle down payment.

Said Tunsil: “I take full responsibility for the mistakes I made and want to thank everyone for their continued support. I want to apologize to my teammates, coaches and the entire Ole Miss family for how my choices affected our program. This was a learning experience, and I’m looking forward to being back on the field with my team and redeeming myself. The last 10 months have been a physical and mental battle for me, but I love playing this game more than anything else. I want to be here for my teammates who are depending on me to finish what we started together.”

The news is, obviously, great for Tunsil and head coach Hugh Freeze personally, as well as the entire Ole Miss football program. It’s also a nice plus for NFL scouts, as it means Tunsil’s first live action of 2015 will come against possible future No. 1 draft pick Myles Garrett.

Hope he’s been practicing.

Report: Steve Spurrier set to retire

Steve Spurrier

Say it ain’t so, Steve.

According to a report from Thayer Evans of Sports Illustrated Monday evening, Steve Spurrier is set to retire.

Spurrier, 70, is a legend the likes college football has never seen before and never will again.

He was a Heisman Trophy winning quarterback at Florida, then returned to his alma mater and turned the program into a juggernaut, leading the Gators to 122-27-1 record from 1990-01 and a national championship in 1996. After a stint with the NFL’s Washington Redskins, Spurrier landed at South Carolina, where since 2005 he’s racked up a school record 86 wins.

But those wins slowed down of late. After an SEC East championship in 2010 and three straight 11-2 seasons from 2011-13, the Gamecocks fell to 7-6 in 2014, and are off to a 2-4 mark this fall. With the possibility of losses to nemeses old and new like Tennessee, Vanderbilt, Florida and Clemson ahead, Spurrier, it appears, would rather fade away quietly to the putting green.

Perhaps no two sentences summarize Spurrier, then and now, more precisely than this:

Combined with his three years at Duke, Spurrier closes up shop with a 228-89-2 mark, and a bust in the coaches’ wing of the Hall of Fame waiting for him.