Steve Spurrier

Spurrier sings praises of East Carolina at Big Ten’s expense


The SEC will soon require all members of the conference to schedule at least one school from another power conference the ACC, Big Ten, Big 12 or Pac-12 – each season. The ACC has a similar requirement and the Big Ten is moving in that direction as well. For some schools in the SEC and ACC, that requirement is filled with annual rivalries against a school form the other conference (Florida vs. Florida State, for example). South Carolina also gets that requirement filled with a rivalry game against Clemson, but Gamecocks head coach Steve Spurrier was still questioned about another opponent on the schedule this fall, East Carolina.

“Playing East Carolina is maybe a little bit better than playing one of those bottom-tier Big Ten teams,” Spurrier said (via 247 Sports). Leave it to Spurrier to offer a compliment that ultimately comes off as a dig at another school or conference.

In his defense, Spurrier’s Gamecocks will be taking on an East Carolina team that would probably be considered a favorite against Purdue or Illinois. In fact, East Carolina may have the best path to a big bowl game in the new College Football Playoff format than North Carolina, Duke, NC State or Wake Forest may have. The highest ranked conference champion from the “Group of Five” conferences (American Athletic Conference, Conference USA, MAC, Mountain West Conference and Sun Belt) will be given a guaranteed spot in the big revenue bowl line-up determined by the College Football Playoff selection committee.

Was Spurrier out of line? As some have already noted, Ohio State and Michigan could say something similar about playing Kentucky or Vanderbilt most years. Take your pick of Colorado or Utah in the Pac-12, or Kansas in the Big 12 or Wake Forest or Duke in the ACC.

South Carolina hosts East Carolina on September 6, between home games with Texas A&M and Georgia. Each of the last three seasons for South Carolina has ended with a bowl victory over a team from the Big Ten.

For what it is worth, East Carolina is 0-4 all-time against the Big Ten, with all four losses coming against Illinois by an average margin of defeat of 13.5 points.

USC’s Max Tuerk already questionable for Notre Dame game

TUCSON, AZ - OCTOBER 11:  Center Max Tuerk #75 of the USC Trojans prepares to snap the football during the college football game against the Arizona Wildcats at Arizona Stadium on October 11, 2014 in Tucson, Arizona.  The Trojans defeatred the Wildcats 28-26.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Getty Images
Leave a comment

As if the questions about the head coach’s future aren’t enough, now USC could have a rather significant issue in the middle of its offensive line to deal with as well.

Early in the first quarter of what would turn out to be an embarrassing loss to Washington Thursday night, Max Tuerk sustained a sprained knee. Upon further examination, it was determined that the veteran center would be unable to return to the game.

Not only that, Tuerk, who was wearing a brace on his right knee following the loss, is already labeled as questionable for what it in every sense of the phrase a must-win game for Steve Sarkisian against Notre Dame eight days from now.

With Tuerk sidelined for the remainder of the game, he was replaced by Toa Lobendahn. It’s unclear which direction the Trojans would go if Tuerk is a no-go this weekend, although Khaliel Rodgers, who had been dealing with a personal issue, has been Tuerk’s backup.

Tuerk has started 38 games in his Trojan career — 18 at center, 14 at left guard, five at left tackle, one at right tackle. Lobendahn started all 13 games as a true freshman last season, the first eight at left guard and then five at right tackle.

Was Washington loss the beginning of the end of the Steve Sarkisian era at USC?

Steve Sarkisian

Steve Sarkisian’s win totals in his six previous seasons are both a positive and a negative.

On one hand, he resurrected a moribund Washington program that went 0-12 under Ty Willingham in 2008 and took them to four consecutive bowl games from 2010-2013. He won nine games his last year in Seattle, then led a talented-yet-thin USC team to a nine-win season and AP No. 20 finish in 2014.

Those are good accomplishments. But the flip side of the argument is Sarkisian has never won double-digit games in a season, something that’s a necessity to keep one’s job at USC. The Trojans’ 17-12 loss to Washington last night — at home, no less — means the road to 10 wins and a Pac-12 title will be awfully difficult.

And worse yet, there are plenty of arguments to be made Sarkisian doesn’t deserve the benefit of the doubt and a little more time in Los Angeles to turn things around (#SarkAfterDark, his drunken rant at a booster event, certainly doesn’t help). The reaction from national media to last night’s loss looked like this:

Mandel, in his column, argued USC is right where it was two years ago with Lane Kiffin as its coach. And there’s this embarrassing thought, that looks more and more like a truth, for Pat Haden:

This one, however, was the most damning by far for many reasons, most notably that it came at the hands of Sarkisian’s old team. The sense among many Washington fans nearly two years ago was that the Huskies managed to upgrade coaches when the school lured Chris Petersen from Boise State upon Sarkisian’s departure to USC.

They were right.

USA Today’s Dan Wolken similarly wrote that USC needs to drop Sarkisian and bring in Chip Kelly from the Philadelphia Eagles.

This is the state of USC, and it may not get better. The Trojans start a brutal three-game stretch next Saturday at Notre Dame in primetime, then welcome Utah to Los Angeles the next week. A Halloween trip to Berkeley to face Jared Goff and Cal finishes it up. There’s a very real chance USC, for all its talent and all its hype, limps into November with a 4-4 or 3-5 record.

Sarkisian will have to engineer and sustain a major turnaround in these coming weeks, otherwise he’ll give Haden all the ammo he needs to unceremoniously jettison him after two years.