As college football kicks off its season, the next few months could bring something that hasn’t been seen in quite some time: positive headlines for USC, Ohio State and Penn State.
Each school is recovering from its own scandals and hardships. For USC, a two-year bowl ban for lack of institutional control has kept them from the postseason but their problems have extended further than that, after a disappointing 2009 season left them out of the top- 4 for the first time in seven years. With senior quarterback Matt Barkley returning for his senior year, joined with arguably the nation’s most potent wide receivers in Robert Woods and Marqise Lee, USC could be ready for a perfect storm of a season putting forth the best team they’ve had in years just as their bowl ban is lifted. After finishing last year ranked sixth, USC will open the season atop the AP Poll, primed to rid themselves of the sour taste they’ve had in their mouth since 2009.
Like USC, Ohio State was one of the powerhouse programs of the 2000’s, but a scandal of their own lost them their coach, Jim Tressel, and sent the team into a rough 6-6 season a year ago. The Buckeyes’ fall from grace began in 2010 when several players, including star quarterback Terrelle Pryor, were suspended for five games of the 2011 season for receiving improper benefits from a tattoo parlor. Tressel also received a suspension for not telling the university about the benefits. His suspension turned into a resignation after more NCAA accusations against Tressel were made. Without their star quarterback and head coach, the Buckeyes limped through a disappointing 6 win season.
With the Buckeyes now coached by Urban Meyer, the former Florida coach who led the Gators to two national titles, Ohio State has new life and will start the season at No. 18 in the AP Poll. With the high expectations back, the Buckeyes are in familiar territory and will hope to quickly rebuild the program to its past dominance. A solid season this year will be the first step of that process, and will help put the scandals and last year’s poor season behind them.
Penn State’s redemption is of a slightly different strain, in that they are still in the midst of their punishment. After nearly a year of constant negativity surrounding the university due to the Jerry Sandusky case and coach Joe Paterno’s connections to it, the Nittany Lions are more than ready to put the headlines behind them and make some of their own on the football field. While their four-year bowl ban will keep them out of the postseason, they will still be looking to prove that the mistakes of their university and their coaches won’t stop the team from fighting and playing their hardest. The season will be a good distraction, for players and media alike, from the past year of bad news for Penn State.
Coming off their recent scandals, these three teams are hoping the 2012 season renews their glory of old.