AROUND THE NATION

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AROUND THE NATION

GAME OF THE DAY | No. 22 UCLA at No. 23 USC, 8 p.m., ABC

Orgeron makes strong case to keep USC job

Ed Orgeron has no idea how much longer he’ll be the head coach at USC.

Could be years. Could be a few more days.

But the past two months have been among the most enjoyable times of his coaching life. No matter what athletic director Pat Haden decides next month, Orgeron is profoundly grateful for his interim opportunity to revive the spirit of a proud program while leading the Trojans to six wins in seven games heading into the regular-season finale against city-rival UCLA.

“It’s passed fast,” Orgeron said. “This is eight weeks where we’re having fun. I think you can come out here and see the guys having fun. You can come in our staff room, see us laughing and joking. … It’s been a blast.”

Orgeron knows Haden has talked to other coaches about the job. He knows a large part of the Trojans’ fan base will be incensed if the school doesn’t land a big-name coach with a pedigree and multiple championship rings.

Orgeron isn’t speaking out for himself much in public. He discusses the permanent job only when buttonholed by reporters or fans.

Haden must walk a line between short-term sentiment and long-term planning for his program.

But the crescendo of support for Orgeron has grown during the Trojans’ increasingly impressive November.

Former Trojans are embracing Orgeron, with Hall of Famers and Heisman Trophy winners from Marcus Allen to Matt Leinart speaking up for his ability to return fun and style to what had been a dour program.

There’s even support from across town: UCLA’s Jim Mora said he voted for Orgeron as his conference coach of the year.

— Greg Beacham, Associated Press

SPOTLIGHT ON … GRAMBLING STATE

A merciful end for a stormy season

A season like no other at Grambling State comes to a conclusion when the Tigers face their biggest rival in the annual Bayou Classic at the Louisiana Superdome in New Orleans.

Three head coaches in less than two months. Players refusing to take the field over allegations of neglected facilities and shoddy treatment. A nasty dispute between the administration and many of the alumni who helped make the school famous.

Certainly, nothing has come easy to Grambling in this year of discontent, casting an ominous light on the historically black school that holds a special place in college football history. The famed Eddie Robinson won 408 games at the rural outpost in northern Louisiana, building a nationally known powerhouse during the days of Jim Crow.

“For all the people like me who love the school, to see it in this situation is frustrating,” said James “Shack” Harris, who played for Robinson in the 1960s and went on to become the first black to start at quarterback in the NFL. “When you go around the country, everyone wants to know ‘What’s going on at Grambling?’ instead of talking about the respect we built up.”

When the Tigers forfeited a game at Jackson State, it stirred a national debate over whether the players had gone too far in their protest. More important, their actions exposed much deeper divisions in this once-proud program.

The Tigers went 1-10 last season, the worst mark in school history. If they lose to Southern, they will finish 1-11.

Grambling’s troubles can be traced to a not-so-uncommon occurrence on college campuses — a power play between the president and influential alumni over the direction of the football program and fundraising and how the money is spent.

— Paul Newberry, Associated Press

WORDS ABOUT … JAMEIS WINSTON

The Seminole Nation has decided. Jameis Winston didn’t do the crime for which he is being investigated. A sampling found by the Miami Herald:

“Everyone thinks he’s innocent. I haven’t heard anyone think he’s not.” — Brooke Barbera, a sophomore from West Palm Beach

“We find it hard to believe. Is there a financial advantage for her now?” — Shirlee Maus, a retiree and longtime FSU booster from Solivita, Fla., near Orlando

“If this was my daughter, I’d be pushing police about this once a week. You’ve got to wonder about her motives.” — Doug Dunlap, a Seminoles booster.

“There are 250,000 people that live in this jurisdiction; 84,000 go to a football game; half of them are from out of town, and most of them stay only until halftime as we rout the competition. I don’t think the size of the crowd at FSU football games is indicative of what our citizens are thinking.” — Willie Meggs, Leon County prosecutor who must decide whether to charge Winston

“When athletes are accused of rape, the victim is called all kinds of terrible names.” — Nancy Newton, director of the Center for Victim Advocacy at the University of South Florida, not surprised by the sentiment and vitriol aimed at the accuser and noting that one in four college women will be sexually assaulted while in college

SIX PACK

No. 3 Ohio State (11-0, 7-0 Big Ten) at Michigan (7-4, 3-4), noon, ABC: The Wolverines will need to block Butkus Award finalist Ryan Shazier to have any success on offense. And if that happens, it would be surprising. Michigan has struggled to protect Devin Gardner in the passing game and to open up holes in the running game. The best unheralded running back in the country (remember when tailbacks were the Heisman favorites?) is Ohio State’s Carlos Hyde, who has 1,064 yards in eight games and six 100-yard games in a row. By the way, the last time the Buckeyes lost was to Florida in the Jan. 2, 2012 Gator Bowl … 23 games ago.

No. 24 Duke (9-2, 5-2 ACC) at North Carolina (6-5, 4-3), noon, ESPN2: Which is more surprising: That a Duke victory puts the Blue Devils into the ACC title game as Coastal champs or that the Tar Heels are favored by 5 1/2 despite Duke’s winning streak? Or that a Duke-UNC game that means something is not in basketball?

Minnesota (8-3, 4-3 Big Ten) at No. 11 Michigan State (10-1, 7-0), noon, Big Ten Network: The Gophers have eight victories in a season for the first time since 2003 and pose a challenge to a team dreaming big. The Spartans know they will play in the Big Ten title game, could play in the Rose Bowl and could be a BCS at-large team.

No. 9 Baylor (9-1, 6-1 Big 12) at TCU (4-7, 2-6), 3:30 p.m., ESPN2: The Bears can still share their first Big 12 title despite having BCS-title aspirations vanish a week ago. They also seek a national record, averaging 56.8 points per game, more than the single-season record of 56.0 by Army in 1944.

No. 22 UCLA (8-3, 5-3 Pac-12) at No. 23 USC (9-3, 6-2), 8 p.m., ABC: Eight weeks ago, this looked like UCLA would win the Victory Bell for the second year in a row in the crosstown showdown. But the reborn Trojans have a chance with quarterback Cody Kessler, who has completed 73 percent of his passes the past four weeks, and UCLA hasn’t won at the Coliseum since 1997.

Arizona (7-4, 4-4 Pac-12) at No. 12 Arizona State (9-2, 7-1), 9:30 p.m., Pac-12 Network: The Sun Devils can host the Pac-12 title game against Stanford with a victory. The Wildcats knocked off Oregon and won’t be an easy mark in the Territorial Cup game, the oldest rivalry hardware in existence in college football history, dating to 1899.

BCS PROJECTION

BCS Championship game, Jan. 6, Pasadena, Calif.: Alabama is in if it wins out, and Florida State appears to have the edge over Ohio State, the only other undefeated team. There are two weeks to change all that.

Rose Bowl, Jan. 1, Pasadena, Calif.: The Pac-12 will be easy enough as the winner between Arizona State and Stanford in the Dec. 7 conference championship will be in. The other side of the draw could get a little more complicated. It will be Ohio State, Michigan State or Wisconsin, depending upon how Michigan State plays in its final two games and whether Ohio State gets into the BCS title game.

Fiesta Bowl, Jan. 1, Glendale, Ariz.: The Fiesta features a team from the Big 12 against an at-large opponent. Oklahoma State is in control of the Big 12 after rolling over Baylor but still has to face rival Oklahoma on Dec. 7. If the Cowboys lose, Baylor could sneak in. The Fiesta Bowl is last in the selection pecking order and likely would end up with one of the BCS busters.

Orange Bowl, Jan. 3, Miami Gardens, Fla.: The Orange Bowl has an ACC tie-in and gets the first pick for an at-large team. If Florida State plays for the national championship, the Orange would get two picks, with Clemson as the likely choice. The at-large likely would go to the Big Ten, either Ohio State, Michigan State or Wisconsin, depending on what happens in the conference title game.

Sugar Bowl, Jan. 2, New Orleans: If Alabama gets into the BCS Championship game, the Sugar will have to take a replacement team from the SEC, most likely Auburn or Missouri. The second half of the Sugar draw will be an at-large team, and the bowl has the second pick behind the Orange. Most projections have that going to Central Florida.

Compiled by Ray Cox

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