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July 6, 2011

Is Oregon coach Kelly a sitting duck?

Here is this week's "Three And Out," a weekly feature that will provide a quick but opinionated take from Tom Dienhart on three hot topics.

1. Ducks in the crosshairs. Will Oregon coach Chip Kelly survive the fallout of a potential recruiting scandal now that self-styled talent scout Willie Lyles has implicated him? We all know the story by now: Kelly and Oregon paid $25,000 for outdated scouting information. Why would Kelly pay an exorbitant amount of money for outdated scouting information? Is it because, in reality, he was paying for something else -- like, say, Lyles' influence over recruits? Kelly's long-term fate figures to be tied to what NCAA investigators uncover. And you can bet the NCAA is likely to unearth more stuff. I also wonder if NCAA investigators will find other schools that had business dealings with Lyles. This isn't good for the Pac-12 as it embarks on a new era of two-division football. Marquee program USC already is mired in probation. Might Oregon suffer a similar fate? This could get interesting in the next few months. Kelly's meteoric rise up the coaching ranks could be followed by a similarly rapid descent.

2. Don't sleep on the Hawkeyes. With former North Carolina State quarterback Russell Wilson landing at Wisconsin, many feel the Badgers now are the favorite to win the Big Ten. But I see a dark horse lurking. I see Iowa. I know the Hawkeyes are rebuilding their defensive front seven, and I know there will be a new quarterback. But I still think Iowa has the personnel to make a run in a weakened Big Ten. The schedule also helps Iowa. I can envision the Hawkeyes starting 9-0 if they survive a trip to Penn State, a foe coach Kirk Ferentz has dominated recently. Then comes a visit from Michigan State and a trip to Purdue -- both winnable. The season ends at Nebraska in what could be a de facto Legends Division championship game. Win that, and the Hawkeyes may be playing Wilson and Wisconsin in the inaugural Big Ten title game.

3. Are you serious?!?! The SEC's athletic directors recently named John-Patrick Smith the conference's male athlete of the year. Why in the world didn't Cam Newton win the honor? Newton won the Heisman, led Auburn to an unbeaten national championship season and was the No. 1 pick in the NFL draft. Smith was a four-time All-America selection in tennis and led Tennessee to a No. 10 final ranking. Not bad. But it also isn't anywhere close to being as impressive than Newton's 2010-11 season. Newton had a season for the ages, one that will go down as one of the greatest single-season performances by any player in the history of the sport. A Tennessee tennis player had a better season than that? So why didn't Newton win the award? No SEC A.D. likely would admit it on the record, but it almost certainly was because of the controversy surrounding Newton's recruitment. Still, it's a horrible decision by the athletic directors.

Tom Dienhart is a national senior writer for Rivals.com. He can be reached at dienhart@yahoo-inc.com, and you can click here to follow him on Twitter.

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