By Greg Katz – WeAreSC.com
In my humble opinion, cardinal and gold thoughts on what I see, what I hear, and what I think.
The anticipation: How excited is Trojans starting nose tackle Stevie Tu’ikolovatu to play No. 1 Alabama? Tu’ikolovatu gushed, “This is probably the biggest game of my career so far. I am super excited. You can’t get a bigger game than this, so I am preparing the best I can so when game time comes, I can make the least mistakes as possible.”
The anticipation – Part 2: Asked if he was looking forward to a physical game with Alabama, Tu’ikolovatu added, “I love that game. Coming from Utah, we love physical games.”
Impressions: Trojans defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast knows that the Alabama offense will be a challenge. Pendergast said, “They’re obviously very well coached. They have good players and they utilize their talent well. Every game their plans are different and they utilize their players different. They can do a lot of different things. It’s the first game, and there a lot of unknowns in terms of what they’re going to do, so we’ll just play it by ear.”
Reality check: In discussing the upcoming game with Alabama, Trojans junior strong safety Chris Hawkins says, “Everybody knows what this means. We’re playing the defending national champions. At the same time, you can’t overthink the game. You can’t go into the game extra juiced or extra relaxed. Everybody has to find their own in between. Me, I like to go out there and to be jumping around and talking a little bit of mess. That’s what I like to do. If you see me at the game, you’ll see me jumping around and talking my mess as usual.”
Reality check – Part 2: Asked if he has confidence that Trojans defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast can neutralize Alabama offensive coordinator and former Trojans head coach Lane Kiffin, Chris Hawkins said, “Absolutely. Clancy and Kiffin used to go at it the first time (when both coached at USC in 2013). He knows Lane and Lane knows him. I feel like there is nothing that is going to sneak up on us. Lane has always had that offense where he’s had one or two receivers that are tops in the country. They (Alabama) have some of the same things. We kind of know what they are going to do, and Clancy is going to dial it up.”
Reality check – Part 3: Does Chris Hawkins feel the Trojans are ready for a physical team like Alabama? Hawkins said, “I don’t think they’re the most physical team because we play a team up north, Stanford, and I think they’re the most physical team in America when they bring in two extra linemen and tight ends and they try to run it down your throat. I think that’s the most physical. I know they (Alabama) are from the SEC and we’re from the Pac-12. They’re physical there (SEC) and we’re physical here (Pac-12). It’s anyone’s game, and I think we have a fair shot as well.”
Action Jackson: Trojans all-star junior corner Adoree’ Jackson thinks he knows the key to beating Alabama. The All-Pac-12 performer said, “It’s about doing everything right. I know they are going to do everything right, so it just who makes the most mistakes. That’s what it comes down to with two athletic teams. It goes back to the training we do over the summer, your technique, your assignments, your jobs. So whoever does those things right should come out victorious. Sometimes you play well, but the other team still wins. Whoever the least penalized team and the team that doesn’t the most mistakes should be victorious.”
Action Jackson – Part 2: Although Alabama has yet to name its starting quarterback out of three candidates (fourth-year junior Cooper Bateman, redshirt freshman Blake Barnett and freshman Jalen Hurts), Adoree’ Jackson doesn’t see that as a problem. The prevailing view is that Bateman is more like Max Browne while Barnett and Hurts are like Sam Darnold.
Action Jackson – Part 3: On the Alabama quarterback mystery, Adoree’ Jackson says, “You know their tendencies. You anticipate what they might want to do. It shouldn’t be hard; you just go out there and play. It may be (hard) for the D-linemen and the linebackers, but for the corners you have the receivers. Linebackers have to worry about the interior like the running backs and the quarterback. Outside of the quarterback, we just worry about the receivers.”
Action Jackson Part 4: Adoree’ Jackson will be facing one of his biggest challenges in Alabama’s explosive preseason All-America sophomore Calvin Ridley. In assessing the Ridley challenge, No. 2 says, “I have never gone up against Ridley at all (summer tournaments and high school evaluation camps). This will be my first time. I am just ready to get out there and play.”
The comparison: On Friday, Nick Saban was asked in his post-practice news conference to compare himself with former Trojans head coach Pete Carroll. Saban said the one thing that he thinks he and Carroll definitely have in common is “the ability to have our players perform at a high level.”
No talking: This past week, Alabama head coach Nick Saban said there’s a rule on his team that you do not talk to the “other team or the other players” because it takes away from your concentration to do your job.”
From the press box…
No. 39: Legendary Trojans fullback Sam “Bam” Cunningham will address the Trojans on Tuesday before practice to discuss the 1970 game against Alabama and its importance. The game changed the whole approach to college football integration in the South.
No. 39 – Part 2: If you have little to no understanding of the historical importance of the 1970 game between the Trojans and Alabama, I invite you to view this CBS special regarding the game: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CnOpZvEulvY
IMHO: I think it would enhance Sam Cunningham’s addressing the team in Los Angeles if “Bam” was dressed in his No. 39 jersey and led the Trojans out of the tunnel at AT&T Stadium on Saturday night. Talk about goose bumps!
The injustice: In 1978, the Trojans traveled to Alabama during the regular season and dominated The Tide 24-14. Yet, despite the performance, at the conclusion of the season, Alabama was given a share of the national title with the Trojans. Talk about biased regional voting. Want proof how bad the Trojans beat up Alabama? Sit back and enjoy this 1978 reminder: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t5PbGCHtBnE
Tusk, tusk: The Trojans and Alabama are bringing their respective bands, and both play the Fleetwood Mac song “Tusk” as part of their repertoire.
The heat is on: For those traveling to Dallas/Arlington for the opener, you are forewarned that the extended weather forecast for that Labor Day Weekend is for temps in the mid to low 90s with no chance of rain. And don’t discount the humidity!
The heat is on – Part 2: The good news regarding the heat is that AT&T Stadium is air conditioned at 72 degrees…if the roof is closed. If the roof is closed? Yikes!
Touch down: The Trojans will land in Dallas on Thursday afternoon and then head for their team hotel in Grapevine. Alabama will touch down on Friday afternoon and go directly to Arlington.
The post-game show…
Decisions, decisions: Both offensive coordinator Tee Martin and quarterbacks coach Tyson Helton will be up in the press box during the game. For those that think that Tyson should be on the field to instruct his quarterbacks, don’t forget that Clay Helton not that long ago handled the job as USC quarterbacks coach.
Decisions, decisions – Part 2: Defensive line coach Kenechi Udeze will be the long defensive representative up in the press box with Martin and Helton. Normally, you see the defensive coordinator up in the press box and the D-line coach on the field to fire up his troops. To each his own, but it does raise some legitimate eyebrows considering the Alabama game is such a big one, and Udeze, a rookie coach, has been given an extremely important responsibility to be the defensive “eye in the sky.”
Advice: For those heading to Dallas, I am told that it would wise to pre-purchase parking for the game from the official AdvoCare Classic website (http://advocareclassicfootball.com/). Parking is listed as $50 per car.
Advice – Part 2: I am also told that it would wise to pre-purchase tickets to the historic 6th Floor Exhibit, the former Dallas Book Depository Building, from which infamous Lee Harvey Oswald allegedly shot President Kennedy on Nov. 22, 1963. For ticket information, go to: www.jfk.org .
Say what: ESPN College GameDay has elected to forego being live from Arlington for the USC/Alabama game on Sept. 3 in favor of the LSU/Wisconsin game from Lambeau Field in Green Bay. I understand a lot of horrendous things are happening in Baton Rouge and the excitement of a college game in Lambeau Field, but historically nothing changed the face of college football more than when USC and Alabama meet back in 1970.
The last word: Is there any team in the country besides the Trojans that will face the No. 1 and No. 8 teams in the country during the first 3 weeks of the season?