Forty names, games, teams and minutiae making news in college football (ball chair for the Liberty ball coach sold separately):
USC’S BIG CHANCE FOR A BREAK FROM ITS PAST
The common alternate name for the University of Southern California (31) is the University of Spoiled Children, a putdown that was coined long before Lori Loughlin bribed her daughter’s way into school. Even by the highway robbery standards of higher education, USC is scandalously expensive: Full cost of attendance for the 2019-20 school year is estimated, by the school itself, at $77,459. The education is very good. It’s in Los Angeles. It’s an elite place.
All of those are probably reasons why, when it comes to athletics, USC is the University of Self Congratulation. The Trojans are addicted to their own glorious football past, marinating in it and continuously hiring from it. Since famed football coach Howard Jones died in 1941, 12 of the next 14 USC coaches had ties to the school as a player, assistant or both. The current string of former USC assistants turned head coaches is four, if you count interim Ed Orgeron in 2013.
The problem has been using the same incestuous formula to hire athletic directors. For the past 26 years, USC has been led by a former football great — first 1965 Heisman Trophy winner Mike Garrett, then 1970s stars Pat Haden and Lynn Swann (32), the latter of whom resigned Monday.
Garrett provided poor leadership during the NCAA investigation of Reggie Bush, which was why he was forced out. Haden, a hero quarterback, replaced him and proved that even successful men can make poor career choices and become lousy athletic administrators. And then Hall of Famer Swann, with no experience and seemingly scant interest in learning the trade, made it worse.
Now, USC has an opportunity to become the University of Self Correction. It has an opportunity to get over itself and make a capable hire from outside the family.
The Dash asked several industry insiders for their review of the USC AD job, and results were mixed.
“It’s a good-to-great job,” one said. “Now that the NFL is back in town it isn’t as strong. Cost of living/traffic/lifestyle is challenging but weather balances some of that out. They should get the best kids in the West and compete for national titles but they’ve continued to get in their own way when it comes to hiring. Couple that with almost a decade of challenges from their conference leadership and it’s led to their current situation.”
“It’s USC — it’s pretty damn good,” said another. “L.A., big money, huge football, good Olympic sports, basketball and baseball should be top 20 every year.”
“I doubt there are many sitting Power Five ADs who would take it,” said a third. “At least not one you would consider a home run.”
“I think it is a really good job,” said a fourth insider. “Tons of resources. But it’s L.A., so you’re going to be on the seventh page of the sports section. Not many Power Five jobs open, especially one with the resources of USC.”
"Except for the complete mess that is the PAC-12, I think it's a great job," added a fifth insider. "You have tremendous resources, the Coliseum has been redone, you can draft off the '28 Olympics ... and it's got the one thing that's most important — it's at low ebb. Somebody's going to have a chance to be a hero."
If USC wants someone familiar but is not willing to hire yet another old football star, Villanova AD Mark Jackson (33) would make sense. He worked with Pete Carroll at the school in the early 2000s, then stayed on as an assistant AD.
If USC wants to go completely outside but stay within the PAC-12 footprint, the industry insiders offered a couple suggestions: Washington athletic director Jennifer Cohen (34) and Colorado AD Rick George (35).
Whoever it is, of course, will have to make a call on embattled football coach Clay Helton. He’s off to a 2-0 start despite losing his starting quarterback for the year in the first game, but the next four games will go a long way toward showing whether the early success is sustainable.
Best solution for USC? Maybe you just let Urban Meyer (36) name his next boss.
COLLEGE FOOTBALL COLLEGE: EVEN YOU CAN GRADUATE
Dos Equis, which of course made the Most Interesting Man in the World commercial vehicle one of the best things attached to college football, has a new angle: College Football College. You can take an online exam testing your knowledge and (if you pass) print out your own certificate of graduation.
The beer company has enlisted former NFL and Vanderbilt quarterback Jay Cutler (37) as one of its pitch men. He told The Dash about the gig.
“I’ve always been a fan of the most interesting man campaign, I loved the humor,” Cutler said. “Once they started expanding on what they wanted to do … giving out certificates from a beer school, I definitely wanted to get onboard with it.”
“We’ve got a pretty in-depth course load, kind of similar to a Vandy course,” Cutler added drolly. “You get your certificate and you’re an expert after that, especially when you’re drinking Dos Equis in mass amounts. You combine both those powers and you think you’re almost invincible in the college football world.”
COACH WHO EARNED HIS COMP CAR THIS WEEK
Mel Tucker (38), Colorado. It couldn’t have started any better for Tucker. The first two games of his head-coaching career: A blowout of in-state rival Colorado State and a thrilling, comeback victory over old Big Eight/Big 12 rival Nebraska. Most impressive thing about this start: The Buffaloes really haven’t unleashed star receiver Laviska Shenault yet, utilizing many other weapons. So things look great so far in Boulder, but the Buffaloes shouldn’t look past a dangerous game Saturday against Air Force and its option attack.
COACH WHO SHOULD TAKE THE BUS TO WORK
Jeremy Pruitt (39), Tennessee. The rare repeat Bus rider! There has been some debate about whether the 64-yard BYU completion in the final seconds after an amazing Volunteers coverage bust was the worst play in school history. Some point to the Hail Mary Florida bomb of 2017, which certainly beat the BYU play in terms of finality — the Cougars still had to make a field goal and then win in double OT Saturday. But the game against Florida was tied before that bomb — the Vols were hardly assured of victory. In this case, victory was absolutely in the bag, as long as the secondary doesn’t collectively collapse. Alas, it did. And when you combine that with the opening implosion against Georgia State, it gets no worse. Have another bus token, Jeremy.
The Dash didn’t eat anywhere noteworthy in the past week, but holy moly was a quality beer discovered: Crooked Stave Double IPA (40). It’s a Denver beer, long on flavor and packing some punch at 8 percent ABV. Give it a try and thank The Dash later.
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