Mistakes cost USC as UCLA wins Pac-12 South

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For the second year in a row, UCLA, not USC, will represent the Pac-12 South division in the conference championship. But unlike 2011, the Bruins didn’t back their way in (thanks, NCAA!) with a .500 record and a coach on his way out.

No, No. 17 UCLA beat No. 21 USC fair and square in the Rose Bowl 38-28 — the first win by the Bruins the rivalry since 2006. UCLA has now won at least a share of the Pac-12 South and will represent the division in the conference championship game in two weeks. UCLA also got revenge for a certain 50-0 thumping it received last year from USC.

USC actually outgained UCLA in total yards (513 to 406), but Matt Barkley threw two interceptions — the Trojans had three for the day — and special teams was a problem with a missed extra point and two missed field goals (one was blocked). If USC had those seven points on the board, it’s worth noting that the Trojans were in UCLA territory and within field goal range at the end of the game.

Barkley also went down with an apparent shoulder injury late in the fourth quarter and did not return. The senior quarterback gave a gritty performance, but it wasn’t enough to give the Trojans the win.

Speaking of Barkley, I’m in no position to say if his decision to come back or not was a mistake because his opinion is the only one that matters on that subject, but it would be flat wrong to think this season hasn’t been a disappointment for USC . Assuming our math is correct, USC would be the first preseason No. 1 team to lose four games that year since Auburn in 1984 and could be the first preseason No. 1 team to finish unranked since Ole Miss in 1964.

The theme for USC — and Barkley specifically — this year has been taking care of “unfinished business”, yet there will be no Pac-12 championship or Rose Bowl for the Trojans in the first year removed from a postseason ban. And if USC continues to slide next week against Notre Dame, you have to seriously wonder what Lane Kiffin‘s job status is going to be. Sure, one would think the scholarship restrictions at USC (also courtesy of the NCAA) would actually give Kiffin a little wiggle room in terms of the W’s and L’s, but Kiffin’s had one too many distractions this year with jersey swapping and game ball deflating. That’s not even mentioning stupid stuff like lying about where you voted your team in the coaches’ poll or walking out of a press conference like a child.

None of those things have been a huge deal by themselves, but collectively they become annoying. When you don’t win (enough), people’s (boosters?) patience begins to run thin on reckless abandon because, who knows, it might be manifesting itself into things like excessive penalties. Those can result in losses too.

Of course, much of this might be forgiven if USC comes out next week and eliminates any chance of Notre Dame reaching the BCS championship game. If the Trojans can’t beat the Irish — even worse, if they get blown out — it could force USC athletic director Pat Haden to further ponder the direction of the program. Or, it means defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin has to go and Merry Christmas, dad! 

Either way, this could all make way for a new titan in Los Angeles. Like, say, UCLA.

LOOK: Nebraska, adidas unveil uniforms honoring ’97 Cornhuskers team

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One of the greatest teams in the football program’s storied history is getting its sartorial due.

Nebraska and its apparel partner, adidas, announced Thursday a new alternate uniform that will pay homage to the 1997 Cornhuskers football team.  The uniforms will be worn for the Oct. 7 game against Wisconsin at Memorial Stadium.

From the release:

Centered around a one-to-one recreation of the mesh jerseys worn during the 1990’s, adidas designers were able to recreate the visual aesthetic and texture of the traditional numbers by utilizing a new framis screen-printing technique that also allows for flexibility and movement. Additional detailing for the retro look includes the classic white pants and the traditional white Cornhuskers helmet that features a classic red “N” logo on the sides and accented with player numbers featured in red the back of the helmet.

The new Primeknit Husker ‘97 alternative uniform is at the forefront of design and innovation, providing players the perfect blend of style and technology for elite performance. Made with a cutting-edge, proprietary yarn blend that increases durability and abrasion resistance, Primeknit is the premier compression uniform system, featuring the latest generation of adidas TECHFIT technology. Primeknit helps keep players cool and increases range of motion, giving athletes an unrivaled level of comfort and allowing them to perform at their highest levels. The jersey’s padlock system secures tension over the shoulder pads, while the bodymap fit adheres to the player, making it difficult for opponents to grab, hold or tackle.

The Husker ‘97 theme continues on the TECHFIT compression baselayer with the “Huskers” wordmark prominently place on the chest and accented with traditional stripes on the sleeves to help replicate the look that old school jerseys. Additionally, the theme carries onto the black adizero 5-Star 5.0 gloves, featuring a white oversized graphic of the “Huskers” moniker. The adizero 5-Star 5.0 gloves feature 4-way stretch mesh for compression fit and GripTack for consistent control in all weather conditions. To complete the homage, the team will don all black adidas adizero and FREAK cleats.

The 1997 Cornhuskers went 13-0, completing that undefeated national championship season with a 25-point win over No. 3 Tennessee.  Nebraska beat their 13 opponents that season by an average of 30 points per game.

Tha year was also Tom Osborne’s last as head coach.

QB brother of Joe Flacco transfers from Western Michigan to Rutgers

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That certainly didn’t take long.

Last week, reports surfaced that Tom Flacco, brother of Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco, was no longer a part of the Western Michigan football program.  Thursday, the Pardon My Take podcast was the first to report that Flacco is transferring to Rutgers. Nj.com, among others, subsequently confirmed the initial report.

The move, which hasn’t been confirmed by RU, serves as a homecoming for Flacco as the quarterback played his high school football in Voorhees, NJ.

Flacco will be forced to sit out the 2017 season to satisfy NCAA transfer bylaws.  Beginning with the 2018 season, he will then have two years of eligibility remaining.

A two-star 2015 signee, Flacco played in 13 games the past two seasons for the Broncos.  As a true freshman, he completed 10-of-12 passes for 188 yards and a touchdown while adding 266 yards and two scores on the ground.  Last season, he attempted just one pass — an incompletion — and rushed for 74 yards, which included a career-long 55-yarder.

Ex-Alabama DL O.J. Smith tweets transfer to Minnesota

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After leaving one Power Five program, O.J. Smith has landed on his feet at another.

On his personal Twitter and Instagram accounts late Thursday morning, Smith announced that he is “Officially Family Of The University Of Minnisota !!!!” While the lineman says his move is official, the Gophers have yet to announce his addition to the roster.

If/when it comes to fruition, Smith will have to sit out the 2017 season, and will then have one year of eligibility to use in 2018.

Smith had announced in early June that he would be transferring from Alabama.

A three-star member of the Crimson Tide’s 2014 recruiting class, Smith was rated by 247Sports.com as the No. 18 player at any position in the state of Louisiana.  The defensive tackle redshirted his true freshman because of an injury suffered in summer camp.

The past two seasons, he’s played in a combined two games and was credited with one tackle in each of those contests.

Protests growing over Michael Vick’s impending induction into Virginia Tech Sports Hall of Fame

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One new addition to Virginia Tech’s Sports Hall of Fame is causing a bit of controversy and consternation and angst.

On July 11, it was announced that Michael Vick would be one of five inductees into the university’s Hall of Fame.  There is little doubt that, on the field, Vick was one of the greatest players in the history of Hokies football and, for that, he deserves a spot.

Off the field, some would argue, precludes him from such an honor.  After leaving Blacksburg, Vick served 19 months in a federal prison after being convicted on dogfighting charges.

As noted by the Roanoke Times,  there are two different online petitions on change.org (HERE and HERE) at the moment that are pushing for the university to reverse its inclusion of Vick as part of this year’s class.  As of this posting, nearly 100,000 individuals combined have signed the petitions, one of which notes that one of the school’s own criteria for inclusion is “[m]ust be of good character and reputation/not have been a source of embarrassment to the university in any way.”

“The College unequivocally opposes honoring an individual whose past actions contradict our values and the cornerstone of our mission,” a Facebook statement from Dr. Cyril Clarke, dean of the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine, began. “Over the course of several days, I have communicated with President [Timothy] Sands and other campus administrators to express our disappointment and opposition to this decision. I continue to be in conversations with the president regarding this issue.”

In response to the burgeoning brouhaha, the university released a statement defending Vick’s induction that includes shining a light on the former Hokies quarterback’s post-conviction actions.

Mr. Vick’s induction into the university’s sports Hall of Fame acknowledges his tremendous achievements as a student athlete — who some will say was the greatest in the history of the university. We understand that there are those who do not and will never agree with this decision.

“In considering Mr. Vick’s nomination to our sports Hall of Fame, the criminal activities in which he engaged, his subsequent conviction and time he served for his crime were also considered, and it was informed by the remorse he has shown since that conviction, the work he is currently engaged in to advance animal welfare issues, as well as his efforts to help our current student athletes, based on lessons he’s learned in his own life, make positive choices as they begin their adult lives. This in no way condones the actions for which he was convicted. The university remains dedicated to the protection of animal health and welfare and embodies great care and compassion for all living animals.

Vick’s third-place finish in the voting for the 1999 Heisman Trophy is the highest ever for a Hokie.

The 2017 class, including Vick (for now), are scheduled to be inducted at a Sept. 22 ceremony. A day later, the same group will be honored at halftime of the football game vs. Old Dominion.