Posted on: November 23, 2010 2:29 pm

Receivers suspended at Ole Miss, Arizona

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

It's been a rough news cycle for wideouts; Markeith Ambles is gone at USC , Lavisier Tuinei is likely out for the rest of the regular season at Oregon (though official confirmation is still to come) and now two other starting receivers have been suspended for their team's biggest games of the season.

One of them is Melvin Harris , the leading receiver in 2010 for Ole Miss . He's going to miss the annual Egg Bowl against the Rebels' bitter in-state rivals at Mississippi State for the dreaded "unspecified violation of team rules." Though Harris isn't a big name (or much of a name at all) outside of Oxford, his 30 receptions and 408 receiving yards --both team-leading totals -- will be sorely missed when you're already the nation's 88th-ranked passing offense and Jeremiah Masoli has been erratic-at-best as thrower.

Also falling victim to the specter of the unspecified team rules violation: Arizona 's Bug Wright , who will miss the Wildcats' attempt to stop the Oregon freight train this Friday. Unlike with Harris, his team may not feel Wright's absence all that keenly; the junior is fifth on the team in receptions and fourth in yards, though the 'Cats may miss the jitterbug shakiness in the slot that's given Wright the team's second-highest yards-per-reception average among those with 20 catches or more.

Of course, it probably doesn't much matter who does or doesn't play for Arizona, since with the game in impregnable Autzen Stadium the Ducks are likely to roll regardless. The stakes are higher for the Rebels, whose only possible salvation for a lost 4-7 season would be an upset victory at home over their archrivals. Harris's absence from an already-wobbly receiving corps won't help matters in the slightest.

Posted on: November 23, 2010 12:59 pm

Markeith Ambles leaves USC

Posted by Tom Fornelli

A few months ago, Markeith Ambles was one the best players in USC's 2010 recruiting class.  He was ranked as the third best wide receiver in the 2010 class by Rivals, and came to campus with other five-star recruits like Kyle Prater, Robert Woods and Dillon Baxter.  Now?

Now Ambles is no longer a part of the team, as Lane Kiffin confirmed that Ambles was no longer a Trojan on Monday.  Ambles had been suspended suspended a few weeks ago for showing up late to a couple of team functions.  He had rejoined the team since his suspension, but was absent from practices last week, which led to speculation about his standing with the team.

While confirming that Ambles was off the team, Kiffin wouldn't comment on why he had left the team, just saying that he wished "him and his family the best of luck."

So far the class of 2010 seems to be causing Kiffin more headaches than anything else.  While Robert Woods has contributed to the team, along with the suspension of Ambles and now his leaving the team, there's also Dillon Baxter and his golf cart rides that the Trojans have had to deal with.
Posted on: November 23, 2010 10:07 am
Edited on: November 23, 2010 10:08 am

Norm Chow on the hot seat at UCLA?

Posted by Chip Patterson

UCLA was able to find some hope near the beginning of the 2010 season with upset wins against Houston and at Texas, but the Pac-10 schedule has not been particularly friendly to the Bruins.  When UCLA kicked off conference competition, their opponents were well prepared for the Pistol offensive attack that carved up the Longhorns for 260+ yards rushing in Austin.  The Bruins offense has struggled to score in the second half of the season, never scoring more than 21 points since October 2.  There are many things to blame for the Bruins failures, but the one name that continues to come up is offensive coordinator Norm Chow.

"I don't want to talk about who will be or who won't be on the staff next year," head coach Rick Neuheisel said when asked about Chow's status with the Bruins for 2011.  "Our staff is intact and we're ready to go. I honestly haven't even start to think about that road."

Neuheisel did go on to say that Chow, along with the rest of the staff, would be evaluated at season's end.  Chow is one of the great offensive minds in college football across the last 30 years, and his legacy was cemented with two national championships and two Heisman winning quarterbacks at USC.  But something at UCLA is clearly not working.  The offense has looked less like a Pistol for most of 2010, and more like, well, this.

Posted on: November 22, 2010 3:14 pm

Oregon expects James to play against Arizona

Posted by Chip Patterson

Oregon took the field Sunday for their first open practice since squeezing out a two point victory over the Golden Bears in Berkley a week ago.  The media was quick to locate #21, who could be found back on the practice field -- though the star back was limited in action.  Starting running back and Heisman contender LaMichael James left the stadium on crutches with his left foot in a boot, but is not listed on the official Oregon injury report for Arizona.  James promises that he will be on the field in Autzen Stadium when the Ducks take on the 21st-ranked Wildcats the day after Thanksgiving.  Head coach Chip Kelly also did not seem concerned about James' status.  When it comes to these last games for the Ducks, it does not seem like anyone is ready to be conservative.

“He’s a tough sucker,” Kelly said regarding James after practice on Sunday. “He’ll be ready to play.”  James admitted himself there was a little bit of pain in the limited activity, but guessed that he should be ready to go in a few days

Sitting in first place of both polls and the BCS Standings, the Ducks are two victories from their first-ever BCS National Championship Game appearance.  Unfortunately for the Ducks, the last two games on the schedule present arguably the biggest threats to their potentially-historic season.  Arizona will be seeking redemption for not closing the Ducks out a year ago in Tuscon.  Leading 31-24, the Arizona defense had Jeremiah Masoli and the Ducks cornered at the 23 yard line with 4th and 5.  Thousands of red-clad fans literally surrounded the field ready to celebrate the upset, but they watched Masoli fire off three straight completions to score the game-tying touchdown with just six seconds remaining.  That kind of heartbreak is not easily forgotten, and the Wildcats will show up looking to spoil Oregon's celebration on Friday.  
Posted on: November 22, 2010 12:35 pm

Kiffin hopes to get Barkley back against ND

Posted by Tom Fornelli

Unlike Dillon Baxter, if USC quarterback Matt Barkley is seen riding around campus this week on a golf cart, it's only because it's easier than walking right now thanks to a high-ankle sprain he suffered against Oregon State on Saturday.  Barkley was carted off the field just before halftime of USC's 36-7 loss, and though he didn't play very well before the injury, his replacement Mitch Mustain didn't do anything to instill confidence in his teammates and coaches.

Which is probably why Lane Kiffin is holding out hope that Barkley can return to the field this Saturday against Notre Dame

"We're gonna work to hopefully have him healthy this week," Kiffin said. "As far as Matt coming back, obviously we're extremely hopeful.

"We're prepared to start Mitch.  We have great confidence in Mitch. He's played well for us in scrimmages."

Odds are that Kiffin is going to need to have confidence in Mitch, because high ankle sprains generally take several weeks to recover from, not several days.  So while it's possible that Barkley will be able to play through the injury this weekend, I wouldn't bet money on it.  If the Trojans were playing the same Notre Dame team that got beat by Tulsa three weeks ago, losing Barkley may not be that big of a deal, but the Irish defense has looked pretty stout the last few weeks, allowing only six points in two games against Utah and Army.
Posted on: November 22, 2010 12:05 pm
Edited on: November 22, 2010 1:50 pm

USC asks for Baxter back after golf cart ride

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

Let it not be said that USC hasn't learned from their past history with Reggie Bush ; when details surfaced that freshman running back Dillon Baxter had taken a golf cart ride with a USC student attempting to kickstart a fledgling career as an agent (a student already warned by the Trojan compliance department to stay away from USC's players), the Trojans wasted no time in declaring Baxter ineligible  and holding him out of Saturday's 36-7 loss to Oregon State .

With that game and the investigation (such as it must have been) behind them, however, the Trojans are ready for the NCAA to sign off on Baxter returning to the fold for this week's game against Notre Dame :

USC self-reported the infraction and also filed an official request with the NCAA for Baxter's reinstatement. As part of the request, USC put a nominal value on the golf cart ride that Baxter would have to repay, likely to a charity, USC vice president for athletic compliance David Roberts said.

"We're hoping that that this is going to be the end of it and the NCAA will understand that we acted proactively and quickly," Roberts said. "Obviously we'll take further action in this coming week to make sure that there are no other contacts between these people and our players."

Depending on how much value USC placed on that golf cart ride, maybe Teague Egan -- the agent-to-be in question, who said he offers "15-20" golf cart rides a day to his fellow USC students -- should simply start a campus golf cart taxi service instead. But assuming the NCAA finds no other malfeasance, that USC responded as quickly as they did in the face of such a seemingly minor violation would indicate that the days of Bush-style lawlessness are behind them.

(It's at this point that many college football fans would ask why Baxter was held out for something so piddly while Cam Newton has continued to play after serious allegations that his father solicited up to $200,000 for his services. There's no clear answer to that question, though your perspective likely alters how you'd expect that answer to arrive; the media consensus appears to be that Auburn is simply thumbing its nose at the usual sit-first-ask-for-reinstatement-aft
er process and daring the NCAA to act, though Auburn fans will tell youthat Newton's continued appearances indicate just how un serious the threat to his eligibility really is. It seems we'll all find out when the NCAA says we'll find out, unfortunately.)

Posted on: November 19, 2010 2:03 pm
Edited on: November 19, 2010 2:03 pm

Dennis Erickson will return in 2011

Posted by Tom Fornelli

Arizona State head coach Dennis Erickson has found the seat he's on to be rather hot this season, as Erickson's Sun Devils are 4-6 on the season and 2-5 in Pac-10 play. Last month Erickson received a vote of confidence from ASU AD Lisa Love, and on Friday he got an even bigger indication from Love that he'll be back on the sidelines in 2011.

Love was on 620 KTAR in Arizona on Friday, and she put any rumors of Erickson being fired to rest.

"I still support Dennis Erickson," Love said. "You bet I do. You've got to allow someone to go through the entire process. I'm impressed, by the way, with the process, the recruiting roster, the level of talent and the stable of redshirts we now are able to have. As opposed to the last two years of playing true high school freshman. It's been rewarding to watch. 

"I can tell you it's grueling to climb. It is grueling in a conference that is getting even more challenging to climb. I am absolutely confident, and Dennis Erickson has been since the day he walked in the door, that we will soon be ‘popping' relative to our competitiveness in ASU football. I have faith that we are going exactly in that direction and I have faith in Dennis to get us there."

What about the rumors that Erickson is going to be fired?

"You can put those rumors to rest."

Erickson has been at Arizona State since 2007 when the Sun Devils went 10-3 and lost to Texas in the Holiday Bowl.  Since then, however, the Sun Devils have gone 13-21 and haven't been to a bowl game since.
Posted on: November 19, 2010 1:30 pm

Arizona won't fake injuries vs. Ducks, they think

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

After this week's widespread discussion and condemnation of Cal 's deployment of fake injuries to slow down the Oregon offensive juggernaut, it's not surprising that this week's Duck opponent, Arizona , was asked up front about the potential for further theatrics. Their response was reassuring ... sort of:

Arizona coach Mike Stoops , whose team plays at the top-ranked Ducks on Nov. 26, was asked about the subject on Tuesday’s Pac-10 coaches conference call with the media.

“I’ve never even seen it,” Stoops said of players slowing the game down by faking injuries, “so I wouldn’t really know what you’re talking about" ...

“I think we’re more worried about conditioning this week, trying to get ourselves ready for that fast tempo,” Arizona defensive end Ricky Elmore said. “I don’t think we’re going to fake injuries to slow them down.”

OK, so on the one hand, you've got Stoops swearing he's totally unfamiliar with the concept much less ready to put it to use, as well as a player saying the injury ploy isn't part of the current 'Cat plan.

But on the other ... uh, you'll notice Stoops didn't actually say "we're not going to fake injuries," and the see-no-evil defense regarding a tactic that's at least 57 years old doesn't hold veen a little bit of water. And "I don't think we're going to fake injuries" isn't exactly the world's sternest denial. And the Tucson Citizen report quoted here quotes both another 'Cat player and a coach who say they will fake injuries followed by assurances they were "kidding" when they said it.

After the shenanigans pulled by the Bears last week, it would take some serious cojones for Arizona to actually try and get away with the same (frankly deplorable) tactics. They're not likely to try them. But if even the Wildcats themselves won't go further than "not likely," we won't know for sure until we see them in action on Saturday.


The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com