In my humble opinion, cardinal and gold thoughts on what I see, what I hear, and what I think from Los Angeles.
Do you believe: Perhaps hoping to keep the faith of Trojan fans, head coach Clay Helton (photo above) recently said, “I can’t wait for people to see this team come November, because I believe in where they’re going, I see where they’re going.” The question: Do Trojan fans believe as well?
Do you believe – Part 2: Clay Helton’s November conviction is that the team will eventually catch fire and play their best ball next month. However, what about October? Well, this Halloween month, the Men of Troy will host undefeated Colorado (Oct. 13), travel to physically tough Utah (Oct. 20), and return to the Coliseum to battle improved ASU (Oct. 27) – all Pac-12 South games. If the Trojans don’t go at least 2-1 in October, November may ring hollow.
Do you believe – Part 3: In November, the Trojans will conference play at Oregon State, Cal, at UCLA, and finish with the intersectional by hosting currently undefeated and bitter rival No. 6 Notre Dame (6-0). The current combined record of Oregon State, Cal, and UCLA is 4-12. Do you blame the Trojans’ head coach for sounding so optimistic? However, November may be well remembered by what happens when the Irish come to the Coliseum.
Simple division: Many would argue that the Trojans are fortunate they play in a weaker Pac-12 South Division. After this weekend’s conference games, the combined overall record of the Pac-12 South is 17-15 while the Pac-12 North is 22-12. However, don’t tell Clay Helton the South is “easier” because on Saturday night, visiting Utah (3-2 overall, 1-2, Pac-12) soundly upset No. 14 Stanford (4-2 overall, 2-1 Pac-12 North), 40-21, although Stanford All-America senior tailback Bryce Love did not play due to an ankle issue. Spotless Colorado (5-0 overall, 2-0 Pac-12 South) held home court by downing determined ASU 28-21 (3-3, overall, 1-2 Pac-12 South) in Boulder.
Simple division – Part 2: And let’s even give UCLA (0-5 overall, 0-2 Pac-12 South) credit for giving No. 10 Washington (5-1 overall, 3-0 overall) a game before losing 31-24 in Pasadena. The Trojans are capable of beating all the teams in the South, but respected Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham is on record believing the South champion could have as many as two losses.
Last add Irish: After watching Notre Dame take down Stanford, 38-17, in South Bend last weekend, the Trojans better be improved by November 24 when they host the Domers. This Irish team, which impressively handled Virginia Tech, 45-23, in Blacksburg on Saturday night, is likely to be undefeated when they come to Los Angeles and in line for a CFP semi-final invitation. The remaining Irish schedule: Pitt, Navy (San Diego), at Northwestern, Florida State, Syracuse (Yankee Stadium), and finally the Trojans in L.A.
The numbers: Prior to this weekend’s games, the Trojans were 10th in Pac-12 team scoring, averaging 24.6 points per game.
The numbers – Part 2: Prior to this weekend’s games, the Trojans’ defense was ranked 9th in points allowed per game in the Pac-12, averaging 26.2.
O-line hypothesis: There has been intense scrutiny this season pertaining to the Trojans’ offensive line. There are all sorts of theories why in the last three years the offensive line has not been consistently up to standards. The answers range from talent to coaching to scheme to who the Trojans are playing. It’s either a combination of one or all of the above theories.
O-line hypothesis – Part 2: Question: When was the last time the Trojans had an offensive lineman drafted in either Round 1 or Round 2 of the NFL draft? The answer is 2012 when the Vikings drafted left tackle Matt Kalil No. 1. In the 2011 draft, the Cowboys drafted OLT Tyron Smith No.1. In the 2010 draft, the Saints drafted Charles Brown in the second round.
Trivia: Who were the offensive line coaches for Matt Kalil, Tyron Smith, and/or Charles Brown?
Trivia – Part 2: The offensive line coach for Matt Kalil and Tyron Smith was James Cregg (2010-13) while Charles Brown was tutored by Pat Ruel (2005-09). Ruel is currently the assistant offensive line coach for the Seattle Seahawks under Pete Carroll while Cregg is the head offensive line coach at LSU under former Trojan Ed Orgeron.
From the press box…
Hook’em: In case you haven’t been following the University of Texas since the Longhorns defeated the Trojans, 37-14, in Austin back on Sept. 15, the No. 19 Longhorns (5-1) outlasted the No. 7 Oklahoma Sooners (5-1) on Saturday, 48-45, in Dallas. Unless coach Tom Herman’s Longhorns tank, they figure to finish the season high up in the rankings and play in a respectable bowl game. The Cotton Bowl seems a natural.
It’s a snap: In today’s way of playing offense – where almost every team runs consistently out of the shotgun – the center snap becoming a major focal point in execution, and it’s no secret that the Trojans recently have had their center snapping challenges. The good news is that today’s high school centers are used to shotgun formations. What they are not used to is some athletic 300-pound nose tackle ready to cream them as soon as the ball they place their hands on the ball. During my day of playing, we referred to it as “canning the center.”
Pondering: I wonder if legendary USC football coach John McKay would have had his USC teams practice in full pads just once a week during the regular season?
The celebration: When the Trojans host Colorado next Saturday on Oct. 13, it will also be the birthday of senior corner Isaiah Langley. Who knew?
In memory: It was very sad to learn of the recent passing of former Trojans’ starting strong safety Kevin Ellison, 31, from an undisclosed reason. Kevin was one tough cookie on the field and certainly was a valuable member of Pete Carroll’s three-time Rose Bowl winners during his Trojans playing days (2005-08). Our prayers are with the Ellison family.
The post-game show…
Looking ahead: When the Trojans travel to Salt Lake City for their huge Pac-12 South battle with the Utah Utes on Oct. 20, the Trojans Marching Band will get things started on Friday, Oct. 19, in Park City, Utah by performing a band concert during a USC reception on historic Main Street. The time of the reception and band concert is 4:30 p.m. – 6:00 p.m. and the place of celebration will be Butchers Chop House in the Town Lift Plaza. Cost is $50 (heavy appetizers/cash bar). Trojans fans wishing to attend can contact Mac “SC” MacQuoid (435-640-0117) or by email at Mac@Parallelwines.com
Planning ahead: In case Trojans’ fans are planning ahead, the Rose Bowl will next host a College Football Playoff semifinal game for the 2020-21 and 2023-24 seasons.
The public screening: If you have extra time today (Sunday), there will be the first public screen of “The Greatest Marching Band in the History of the Universe” during the Dr. Arthur C. Bartner Band Pavilion Open House (2 p.m. to 4 p.m.) on campus. Dress is gameday attire and there is a discounted $10 parking provided through the Jefferson gate Location on Jefferson Boulevard east of Vermont Avenue. You are asked to RSVP at firstname.lastname@example.org .
The replacement: When former USC president Max Nikias left his university position, he also relinquished his role with the College Football Playoffs. Bill Hancock, Executive Director of the College Football Playoff (CFP), announced that Mississippi State University President Mark Keenum has been named chairman of the CFP Board of Managers, replacing Nikias. The Board of Managers, comprised of university presidents and chancellors representing the ten Football Bowl Subdivision conferences and University of Notre Dame, governs the College Football Playoff business, property and affairs. The board develops, reviews and approves annual budgets, policies and operating guidelines. It also has authority over all aspects of the company’s operations.
The last word: Since the Trojans haven’t played in the Coliseum since Sept. 21, it’s time to view real time Coliseum renovation update: https://app.oxblue.com/open/usc/lacoliseumrenovation