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Last month, USC backup quarterback Cody Kessler took off his No. 6 jersey and put on No. 35 while playing on special teams against Colorado, even running for a 2-point conversion attempt with the new jersey. Players are allowed to wear different jerseys for many reasons during games, but it’s widely considered deceptive, if not unethical, to change numbers during a game specifically to confuse an opponent.

USC also is still the FBS’ most penalized team with 85 penalties for 702 yards, even after a relatively clean game against Oregon. The Trojans counter that they were a mostly clean team last season, and that the Pac-12 has seven of FBS’ 16 most-penalized teams, perhaps indicating more about the conference’s officiating crews than the schools’ play.

But after USC’s latest brush against propriety, even Kiffin acknowledged it’s fair to wonder whether his staff has created a culture of moral relativism, where a student might deflate footballs on his own just to try to gain an advantage.

“I don’t believe that at all,” he said. “I believe this was a very isolated incident that had nothing to do with the coaches or the players on this team.”