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Tuesday Hub Says Give Us Craig T. Nelson Or Go Home

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Officially Official: Not much to say about Mitch Mustain's transfer to USC, since it's been widely reported by unnamed sources and taken for granted for a couple months, but everybody leads with Mitchie's finally enrolling in classes in L.A., and the principles finally talking about it on the record. Surprise: Mustain loves it, Pete Carroll is "excited," etc. (about what is Pete Carroll not excited, aside from reversals of reversals of the original call on the field?)

Mark Sanchez still has the edge as the Trojans' '08 starter, according to the boss, though he did get in this dig at what he knows so far about his newest toy:

"We're excited about him," USC Coach Pete Carroll said. "I think it's a great investment in the future. He won a lot of games at Arkansas playing in a pretty conservative offense for a quarterback."

One very excited Trojan man.
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Arkansas Darksider spin: "Players Win In Spite of Overly Conservative Nutt Offense," says championship coach! Solution: Fire Nutt. Of course. (Actually, of the three largest Arkansas papers, none of them carry Mustain's enrollment this morning, at least in the online editions).

For his part, Mustain, talking about this for the first time, plays the grasshopper:

"I was kind of trying to get away from the perception of being the guy and expectations that were placed," he said. "It's a little bit different game here as far as the expectations. They come a little bit later once you've earned your spot. That's something I was looking for."

A much greater indictment to his home state: Here's a place that knows how to handle having a star quarterback, you insane rednecks. Because, well, that's all it has, really. And people are too busy to give a damn about the new guy sitting on the bench. Mustain has come off consistently to me as a pretty mature, savvy kid, one who reportedly had second thoughts about staying home to begin with, and who may be now where he wanted to be in the first place. This is perhaps what another forward-looking, home-spurning all-American, Joe McKnight, realized from the gate: in the long run, the competition at a currently unmatched blue chip breeding ground like USC, where seemingly half the team comes in the guy, is the best situation to prepare for the NFL. Not that either of these guys is going to be anonymous in L.A., or wouldn't face tough competition at LSU or Arkansas, but they don't have to be any kind of homegrown savior as 18-year-olds in an environment where nothing else matters.

In honor of Mustain's confirmation, I guess, USA Today also takes a look at a rule quietly passed last year that ups academic standards for transfers, who must meet requirements at their current institution before becoming eligible anywhere else. This is spun as a basketball-centric change designed to helps schools' APR rating by giving outgoing players an incentive not to tank postseason classes, which might drag down their new school's rating and risk, sanctions, too. I do not find the APR particularly interesting.

"Painstakingly Authentic": That's how the Syracuse Post-Standard's Donnie Webb describes the football sequences in the Ernie Davis biopic "The Express," currently shooting on location on Northwestern's campus in Illinois:

All the football plays are run full speed and have full contact. Later, there's a play in which Davis intercepts a ball near the Texas goal line. Davis' stand-in Sandy Fletcher, who played at Southern Cal, makes the interception on a ball thrown about 40 yards over and over. Often, Fletcher uses his outstanding athleticism to pick off the ball at the top of his jump. After each interception, Fletcher is tackled hard out of bounds. In the afternoon, the movie team switches ends of the field. Fletcher keeps making the pick. He also keeps getting tackled.

Graf has about 18 plays to run just for the Cotton Bowl sequence. It's unknown how many will make it into the film or fall upon the editing room floor. There's also a major brawl scene at the Cotton Bowl between Syracuse and Texas players. Racist words directed at Davis spark the fight.

"Wait till you see this fight," said Graf with a smile.

The players have rehearsed - no, check that, - practiced the plays. They execute them with legitimacy. It's hard to imagine the Syracuse audience containing itself when Davis catches the long touchdown pass because it looks so clean, so good.

Sounds fine to me, players executing plays full-speed, with "legitimacy," though I'm wary: not only are scenes from Northwestern's Ryan Field going to be turned post-production into the Cotton Bowl, along with other locales, but Graf - that's stunt director Allan Graf, who found an old Syracuse playbook and is orchestrating the on-field scenes - is working on his 15th football movie, which must mean for the audience claustrophobic, overly-orchestrated action with either slow-motion or exaggerated, cartwheel-inducing hits and/or insufferable, hugely improbable melodrama to close games, ruinous elements of every football movie I can think of. Well, except one - Orson asked last week about the best Hollywood additions to the gridiron canon, and only one stands out from an otherwise very mediocre-to-bad pack: All the Right Moves.

Pacino? Hackman? Please. Put the man in a cap, give him a clipboard, and get out of the way. Or else don't even bother.
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YouTube falls short on this fine film (there's only this, far as I can tell), but the football scenes - which actually looks like high school kids, one that gets the feel of a good high school football game, as opposed to, say, the stilted Remember the Titans - work, and the melodrama that ends the big game works because it is so heartbreakingly plausible without being cliche: not a ridiculous reverse pass or hail mary, the kinds of real-life endings that are too crazy for fiction (as well as impossible to recreate with the essential spontaneity), but a defeat-from-the-jaws-of-victory fumble in the end zone, an original, unexpected way to crush a team's soul. It probably helps that the movie doesn't hinge on football triumph, but it does defeat better than any other. Plus: a perpetually pissed Coach Craig T. Nelson, which is, by definition, a winner.

Quickly: Weary from a turbulent offseason, Joe Paterno has to fight to get out of bed sometimes ... Oh, and as for JoPa's initial "punishment": Penn State players will have to clean Beaver Stadium after every home game. So go nuts, visitors ... It may be "a sad day" when Miami eventually leaves the Orange Bowl, but it will be a profitable one ... The Raleigh News-Observer catches up with a few of Chuck Amato's old N.C. State assistants ... Overshadowed by Mustain, Colorado tackle Paul Backowski is transferring to South Dakota State ... After Houston's Stephen James blew out his knee playing basketball, Michael Murphy catches up with former offseason hoopsters Craig Vecsey and David Klingler ... The Alamodome is wooing the Big 12 Championship ... And Michigan's 1997 mythical champions reunite.

The Rap Sheet
Crimes, misdemeanors and eligibility-crippling issues legal, academic, institutional and otherwise.
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Aiming, for a way to drop his embarrassing misdemeanor for selling alcohol to a minor, South Florida's Matt Grothe, who applied for a pre-trial intervention program that could get the charge erased by the fall. The quarterback could get probation, community service, some sort of education, etc. Tampa officials should take whatever steps necessary to get this dangerous individual off the streets.

Delayed, the trial of ex-Iowa wide receiver Ivory Webb Jr., now a deputy sheriff in California accused of shooting an unarmed Iraq War veteran on video tape after a car chase ended in a crash in January `06. Webb shot the driver, who has recovered, three times as he was getting up off the ground - the tape reportedly has Webb telling him to "get up! Get up!" before firing, though his lawyer has suggested he was saying "don't get up!"

The delay was on behalf of a defense attorney, whose wife went into labor. No word on its resumption.

While we're in the Big Ten - hey, Star-Tribune, what's up with the Minnesota rape case? Three accused players have been in limbo for months. with no word.