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Saints go marching out

Sports | League officials say if a permanent solution to the NFL's wandering franchise isn't reached by next season, they'll try to make Baton Rouge the Saints' home in 2006

Issue: "Rita: Strike 2," Oct. 1, 2005

Put the talk of the New Orleans Saints never returning to their storm-ravaged home in the adding-insult-to-injury category. New Orleans Saints owner Tom Benson could not quiet speculation preceding the Saints "home" opener (in East Rutherford, N.J.) that the vagabond NFL franchise would simply move to another city rather than return to New Orleans. "We're not going to worry about that today," he said.

Prior to the NFL season and Hurricane Katrina, Mr. Benson said the team had received a $1 billion offer from prospective buyers to move the club. Los Angeles, San Antonio, and Albuquerque were possibilities.

Of the seven Saints home games, three are scheduled to be played in San Antonio-the remaining four in Baton Rouge, La., on the campus of LSU. The club's lease at the Superdome-a structure very badly damaged during the hurricane and resulting flood-expires after this season. And league officials say if a permanent solution to the NFL's wandering franchise isn't reached by next season, they'll try to make Baton Rouge the Saints' home in 2006.

California dynasty

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USC slipped into the top spot in the Associated Press top 25 poll when Carson Palmer was the Trojans quarterback. Now Mr. Palmer is with the NFL's Cincinnati Bengals, but USC is still on top. With a 70-17 rout of Arkansas, the Trojans landed atop the AP poll for the 22nd straight week-a new record and close to a college football dynasty. The achievement breaks Miami's mark of 2001-2002.

For nearly two years, the Trojans have dominated college football while other programs have fallen. Consider Oklahoma, which USC replaced at No. 1 in 2003. In the same record-breaking AP poll, a Sooners loss to UCLA pushed Oklahoma out of the AP top 25 for the first time since 1999.

Many figured USC would struggle this season without offensive coordinator and play-calling guru Norm Chow, who left for the NFL, but the Trojans don't seem to miss him. "Everyone made a big deal about it all offseason," quarterback Matt Leinart said. "I think we've proved in the first two weeks that it doesn't matter."

The players matter. And in the Heisman Trophy winner, Mr. Leinart, the Trojans seem to have an able replacement for Mr. Palmer. "Mr. Leinart is a coach on the field-he's a true playmaker," Arkansas coach Houston Nutt said. "It's the best offensive team I've seen." He should know, too. After all, USC ran up 70 points on his Razorbacks.

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