Unbuckling the mailbag:
Question: How many more of these little annoyances will USC Athletic Director Pat Haden put up with?
Answer: The thing about little annoyances is they eventually add up to one big annoyance.
One parking ticket turns into two and three and four. They seem perfect for crumpling up and throwing in your back seat until one day the cops issue a warrant for your arrest.
The key thing to remember is that Haden inherited Coach Lane Kiffin from Mike Garrett, USC's previous athletic director. Haden has no personal skin in the game.
Kiffin was a brilliant last-act choice by Garrett to save a recruiting class before the hammer of NCAA sanctions buried the Trojans for 10 years.
Kiffin has proven to be an energetic recruiter and seemed a feasible-to-me bridge through NCAA probation. He's also only 37.
You'd have to think, though, that Kiffin's leash is getting pretty short.
Haden, above all else, has to protect the integrity of the program. It doesn't really matter if Kiffin had knowledge of a student manager deflating balls during the Oregon game. Kiffin's reputation is such that many find it hard to believe a student manager would do this on his own.
This is certainly a critical November in Kiffin's coaching life. Close-out victories over Arizona State, UCLA and Notre Dame would put USC in the Pac-12 Conference title game with a 9-3 record and a chance to go to the Rose Bowl. Even if USC lost to Oregon again, the Trojans could get to 10 wins.
At this point, it's still possible for Kiffin to salvage the season. Salvaging his reputation seems a much tougher task.
This is a tough town that expects a lot out of its highest-profile coaches.
Ask Mike Brown.
Q: Should I, as a Trojan fan, make holiday plans for El Paso?
A: Sure, especially if you have relatives there and enough healthy mules to make the long journey.
It's a bit too early to speculate on USC's bowl destination. The Trojans could end up in the Rose, Holiday, Alamo or Sun bowls.
The experts at ESPN.com have USC playing Texas Tech in the Alamo Bowl. Jerry Palm at CBSsports.com also has USC in the Alamo Bowl, except with the Trojans playing West Virginia.