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Southern Californiwide receiver Marqise Lee runs against WashingtState during second half an NCAA college football game Los Angeles Saturday Sept.

Southern California wide receiver Marqise Lee runs against Washington State during the second half of an NCAA college football game in Los Angeles, Saturday, Sept. 7, 2013. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)

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Updated: September 8, 2013 9:00PM



We’ll say this for Mack Brown and Lane Kiffin: For the moment, anyway, they’ve managed to steal the thunder from the game of the year in college football.

As we get closer to Saturday, the focus will return to Alabama and Texas A&M. How could it not? But right now, Brown and Kiffin own the headlines. The programs they lead — traditional powers Texas and USC, respectively — are heaping, steaming messes.

If you flipped over to either team’s game after Notre Dame-Michigan ended late Saturday night, you saw a colossal embarrassment for a very well-known, very highly paid, increasingly beleaguered coach.

Brown’s Longhorns were in the process of surrendering the most rushing yards in school history — 550 to BYU — in a game won 40-21 by the Cougars. Long before it was over, defeat was written on the faces of Texas’ players and coaches, including defensive coordinator Manny Diaz, whom the school reportedly fired on Sunday.

If the Longhorns fail for the fourth straight year to contend in the Big 12, it might also spell the end for the 62-year-old Brown, who’s in his 16th season in Austin. If they founder below state rivals TCU and Baylor in the league standings — don’t forgot how fast Southeastern Conference newcomer Texas A&M has risen, too — Brown will soon be booed by home fans as lustily as Kiffin is being booed already.

The Coliseum crowd chanted ‘‘Fire Kiffin!’’ throughout the offensively inept Trojans’ 10-7 loss to lowly Washington State.

‘‘I’m getting used to it,’’ said Kiffin, whose 2012 team was ranked No. 1 in the preseason but finished 7-6.

If the 38-year-old, ever-controversial Kiffin can’t get the 2013 Trojans right, they’ll struggle just to reach a bottom-feeder bowl game. Not much chance Kiffin could withstand that.

For you morbidly curious types, Texas easily could get steamrolled again on Saturday night (7, LHN) when it hosts No. 25 Mississippi and its gobs of young talent. USC takes on Boston College (2, Pac-12 Network).

Johnny Quietball

It’s finally upon us — two-time defending national champ Alabama at No. 6 Texas A&M (2:30, CBS). This one’s all about revenge for the top-ranked Tide, who lost at home to the Aggies in 2012.

Wait, it’s all about the fast-and-furious Aggies, who offer hope that a team not coached by Nick Saban is capable of winning it all.

No, it’s all about Johnny Manziel, who has been careful with his comments since offending many fans and media by air-signing autographs during the season opener.

OK, it’s about all of the above. That’s why it’s the game of the year.

‘‘It feels like [just] another game, like Week  3 of the season,’’ Manziel told reporters after an easy victory over Sam Houston State.

Sure, we believe that.

Pac-12 vs. Big Ten

Which league is better? We won’t have a verdict after this week, but we will have four quality games’ worth of evidence: No. 16 UCLA at No. 23 Nebraska (11 a.m., ABC), Illinois vs. No. 19 Washington (5 p.m., BTN) at Soldier Field, No. 4 Ohio State at California (6 p.m., FOX) and No. 20 Wisconsin at Arizona State (9:30 p.m., ESPN).

Off-the-cuff, early-week picks to win those games: Nebraska, Washington, Ohio State and Arizona State.

Which, come to think of it, wouldn’t tell us a whole lot about which league is better.

Email: sgreenberg@suntimes.com

Twitter: @SLGreenberg



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