No love for USC in AP poll

Los Angeles Times - - Sports - CHRIS DUFRESNE

USC’s quest to cap­ture the As­so­ci­ated Press poll flag is go­ing the way of Wrong Way Roy Riegels.

The Tro­jans keep win­ning and re­treat­ing, los­ing six poll spots since de­but­ing at No. 14.

It seems as if ev­ery time Coach Lane Kif­fin goes for two, the Tro­jans drop two, slid­ing from No. 14 to 16 to 18 to 20.

Two more wins and USC may end up in the NAIA poll.

Could it be back­lash for the NCAA sanc­tions against USC last June?

Or, per­haps, a bad af­ter­taste res­onat­ing from Reg­gie Bush, who re­cently be­came the first player to

mag­nan­i­mously re­turn the Heis­man Tro­phy be­fore it was ig­no­min­iously ripped from his hands.

Maybe Kif­fin’s picked-upon rep­u­ta­tion and sour­puss side­line de­meanor is sub­con­sciously pen­e­trat­ing the vot­ers’ hearts and minds. (The Times, by news­pa­per pol­icy, does not vote in the AP poll.)

USC can’t play for the Bowl Cham­pi­onship Se­ries na­tional ti­tle this sea­son, or even be ranked in the coaches’ poll, so the AP av­enue is the only road lead­ing to Rome.

Are the nation’s me­dia pun­dits con­spir­ing against USC? Or did too many vot­ers sim­ply catch part of the Vir­ginia game?

There is, with­out doubt, some strange fluc­tu­at­ing go­ing on.

Two scribes, Ce­cil Hurt of the Tuscaloosa News and Steve Con­roy of the Bos­ton Her­ald, had USC at No. 6 on their pre­sea­son bal­lots — some might ar­gue too high for a team that fin­ished fifth in the Pa­cific 10 Con­fer­ence last sea­son and is now on NCAA pro­ba­tion.

Hurt voted USC at No. 15 this week; Con­roy tor­pe­doed the Tro­jans to No. 19.

Vic­to­ries against Hawaii, Vir­ginia and Min­nesota have cost the Tro­jans 13 po­si­tions on Con­roy’s bal­lot.

Jon Wil­ner of the San Jose Mer­cury News has ranked USC at No. 23, look­ing up at James Madi­son (18) and Air Force (16).

Chadd Cripe of the Idaho States­man docked USC 10 po­si­tions, from No. 11in pre­sea­son to No. 21.

How­ever, Kirk Bohls of the Austin Amer­i­can States­man has moved USC up four spots in three weeks, to No. 14. There’s al­ways one odd­ball, right? “Se­ri­ously,” Bohls re­sponded, “I just don’t think there are that many great teams out there.”

The peo­ple be­hind the picks say there is no con­spir­acy.

“I have dropped USC based on their play” — par­tic­u­larly against Vir­ginia, Hurt said. “I hon­estly haven’t given a sin­gle moment’s thought to the sanc­tions.”

Hurt cau­tions peo­ple shouldn’t pay too close at­ten­tion to polls in Septem­ber. But did USC de­serve to drop nine spots on his bal­lot?

“If USC should beat Stan­ford and Ore­gon, I would have no prob­lem mov­ing them back up just as quickly as I have de­val­ued them,” he said.

Con­roy, of the Bos­ton Her­ald, ex­plained in an e-mail his drop of USC: “Be­cause of the sanc­tions, the Tro­jans were a huge ques­tion mark com­ing into the sea­son, but I de­cided to trust the tal­ent pool and put them at No. 6. The Hawaii game was an eye­brow-raiser and the Vir­ginia game was a red flag, so I dropped them.”

How, though, could Wil­ner have James Madi­son, a lower-tier pro­gram, ranked five spots ahead of USC?

“James Madi­son’s win at VaTech is a bet­ter re­sult than USC’s three wins, com­bined,” Wil­ner ex­plained.

He also noted that Hawaii, which played USC tough in the sea­son opener, just lost to a very bad Colorado team.

“And win­ning at Min­nesota,” Wil­ner said of USC’s most re­cent con­quest, “only means that USC did the same thing South Dakota did.”

AP poll vot­ers seem more for­giv­ing of other schools that have strug­gled to 3-0 starts.

Florida re­mains No. 9 this week de­spite a hor­ri­ble open­ing ef­fort against Mi­ami of Ohio and less than scin­til­lat­ing vic­to­ries against South Florida and Ten­nessee.

Wis­con­sin strug­gled might­ily at home the last two weeks, al­low­ing San Jose State to stay in a game it should have never been in, and then nearly los­ing to Ari­zona State, picked to fin­ish ninth this year in the Pac-10.

Yet, Wis­con­sin is hold­ing steady at No. 11 in this week’s AP.

“Point taken on the Bad­gers,” Hurt of Tuscaloosa con­ceded.

Hurt said he has dropped Florida, from No. 3 to No. 9.

Con­roy has pun­ished USC a baker’s dozen in the poll but is hold­ing Florida at No. 8. He says that’s more a re­flec­tion of Ur­ban Meyer’s track record as a coach.

“If I’m wrong,” Con­roy said, “the sched­ule in the SEC will knock the Ga­tors out of the top 10 in due time.”

Cripe of the Idaho States­man pe­nal­ized USC 10 spots in three weeks in part be­cause “they haven’t looked good.” The big­ger rea­son, he said, is the un­ex­pected emer­gence of schools like Utah, Ari­zona, Stan­ford, Auburn and Michi­gan.

“As I tell ev­ery­one who com­plains about my rank­ings, it will work it­self out,” Cripe said. “If the Tro­jans keep win­ning, they’ll be back in the top 10 be­fore too long.”

Blitz pack­age

Boise State gets crit­i­cized for its sched­ule but has tried for years to get home-and-home ar­range­ments with ma­jor con­fer­ences be­sides the Pac-10. And the an­swer has been? “There’s no way,” Boise State Ath­letic Di­rec­tor Gene Bley­maier said this week. “I’ve tried.”

He gives Ore­gon and Ore­gon State credit for re­turn­ing games to Boise the last two years. Boise State has a home-and­home with Washington State for 2016-17. Bley­maier wanted a give-and-take with Ge­or­gia a few years ago but the Bull­dogs wanted no part of the Bron­cos in Boise.

“I think we’ve earned that right,” Bley­maier said. Ge­or­gia in 2005 did blast Boise State in Athens, 48-13 — a re­sult that has been held against Boise ever since.

“Look at the SEC,” Bley­maier said. “They don’t go any­where non­con­fer­ence. That’s what skews this whole con­ver­sa­tion. Go play on the road.”

The At­lantic Coast Con­fer­ence is 1-9 in non­con­fer­ence games against Foot­ball Bowl Sub­di­vi­sion teams.

Ari­zona State Coach Den­nis Erick­son praised Michi­gan State Coach Mark Dan­to­nio’s gutsy fake field goal try call to beat Notre Dame last Satur­day. Erick­son, who once coached the Seat­tle Sea­hawks, said those calls are eas­ier in col­lege. In the NFL, he said, “you’d have to an­swer to the owner.”

Ku­dos to for­mer USC quar­ter­back Aaron Corp for lead­ing Rich­mond on Satur­day to its first home win since 1928.

The catch: The Spi­ders had played off-cam­pus for 82 years be­fore chris­ten­ing $25-mil­lion Robins Sta­dium with a vic­tory against Elon.

Corp com­pleted 19 of 32 passes for 207 yards with a touch­down and ran for 28 yards in nine car­ries.

Ore­gon leads the nation in to­tal of­fense, scor­ing of­fense, to­tal de­fense and scor­ing de­fense. These stats tend to sway your way when you outscore three op­po­nents, 189-13.

Alex Gal­lardo

GO­ING DOWN: USC re­ceiver Ron­ald John­son is tack­led by Vir­ginia safety Corey Mosley in Sept. 11 game. Some AP vot­ers were not im­pressed by USC’s 17-14 win.

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