By Greg Katz – WeAreSC.com
In my humble opinion, cardinal and gold thoughts on what I see, what I hear, and what I think.
Bagels, omelets, and bacon: Yes, your eyes weren’t deceiving you when you read this week the Trojans opening home game against Utah State on Sept. 10 would kickoff at 11:00 a.m. PT. Three jeers for the Pac-12 Network for that gridiron brunch time! Hip, hip, boorah. This will be the earliest Trojans home kickoff since the 1950s and the Howdy Doody Show. And did we mention that traffic on a Saturday morning/evening into and out of L.A. is now almost like a weekday?
Omelets, sausage, and bagels – Part 2: And did we also mention the temperature in the Coliseum in early September – especially heading into the fourth quarter around 2 p.m. – could be a real scorcher? Coliseum veterans or should I say survivors of the early morning 1998 Purdue game (11:30) can attest to the elements. That was the second hottest SC home game I’ve ever attended. The hottest? The 1963 Coliseum inferno against Oklahoma. The temperature was in triple digits with no cloud cover.
Pass the Tums: And then there was the announcement that Thursday night’s game against Cal on Oct. 27 would kickoff at 7:30 p.m. PT. or 10:30 in the East. Hey, it’s on ESPN, so all is forgiven, right, and all in the name of national exposure? Another carmageddon L.A. traffic challenge, another late night return home, and, of course, another chance to take a day off on Friday. Okay, taking Friday off doesn’t sound bad.
Balance of power: Now, before you have a patty melt meltdown over the kickoff times for Utah State and Cal, remember that the Trojans Friday night, Sept. 23, at Utah, which kicks at 6 p.m. PT/7 p.m. MT. Nothing like racing home in L.A. traffic in time to catch the kickoff. Then again, thank goodness for sports bars and/or the DVR.
Say that again: So whatever happened to the Pac-12’s recent announcement it would be more sensitive to the needs of the fans? Apparently needs don’t apply to kickoff times. Will the ghost of Jim Healy start the giggle machine.
Beware of the Tree: Understandably, all the current attention for 2016 is being focused on the Trojans challenge of Alabama in the season opener in Dallas. However, if you ask me, the bigger challenge could be trying to defeat Stanford in Palo Alto two week later in the Pac-12 opener for both teams. For my money, the best player in college football is the Cardinal’s all-purpose running back Christian McCaffrey, and the Trojans have plenty of first-hand experience in dealing with the lethal Stanford All-American.
Comparisons: For those old enough to remember, the 2016 Stanford Cardinal reminds me of the 1968 USC Trojans, which had a pretty fair running back in O.J. Simpson. The 1968 Trojans, like Stanford, had to rebuild on both sides of the ball, especially along the offensive line. Like The Juice, Christian McCaffrey can be an offense all to himself and that spells trouble.
Say what: Are the Washington Huskies really going to be that good in 2016? I know they have a good quarterback and running back in sophomores Jake Browning and Myles Gaskin, respectively, but the talk is like UW is ready to overhaul Stanford as Pac-12 North champs. The Trojans will be at Washington on Nov. 12 long after the Huskies take on the Cardinal in Seattle on Sept. 30.
FYI: The week before Washington hosts the Trojans, the Huskies visit Cal on Nov. 5.
From the press box…
The schedule challenge: By most all accounts, the Trojans have the most difficult 2016 schedule in the nation. FYI, when the Men of Troy won the 1972 national championship, that John McKay team – arguably the greatest squad in college football history – defeated six ranked opponents – No. 4 Arkansas, No. 15 Stanford, No. 18 Washington, No. 14 UCLA, No. 10 Notre Dame and No. 3 Ohio State. The Trojans defeated those six teams by an average of 20.2 points per game. The closest game? A 30-21 victory over No. 15 Stanford in Palo Alto before 84,000.
BTW: The 1972 Trojans national champions opened the season ranked No. 8 in the AP.
The challenge: Getting back to Alabama, the Trojans will be looking to break a Crimson Tide season-opening game winning streak of nine games under head coach Nick Saban. The celebrated Saban has never lost an opener as head coach of the Crimson and White.
Did you know: Since the AP started its preseason poll in 1950, only two teams have gone wire-to-wire at No. 1. The Trojans did it in 2004 and were preceded by Florida State in 1999.
Line of fire: One of the intriguing positives for the Trojans heading into the 2016 season is an experienced offensive line, which will be challenged by an Alabama defense that in 2015 responded with an FBS-best 53 sacks and a good of number of those defenders return.
Lodging: BTW, have you selected your hotel in the greater Dallas area for the Alabama pillow fight?
Voting record: Being the upfront guy that I am and a voting member of the College Football Hall of Fame, here is the list of the 12 former college stars that I voted for induction into the CFHOF: QB Matt Leinart, SS Troy Polamalu, S Mark Carrier (USC), C John Didion (Oregon State), RB Eric Dickerson (SMU), LB Bob Crable (Notre Dame), TE Tony Gonzalez (Cal), WR-ST Raghib “Rocket” Ismail (Notre Dame), OG Steve Wisniewski (Penn State), RB Marshall Faulk (San Diego State), RB Craig Heyward (Pitt), and RB Keith Byers (Ohio State).
Time flies: Speaking of Matt Leinart, can the former Trojans Heisman Trophy winning quarterback now really be 33-years-old? Well, it does say he was born May 11, 1983? Man, I am feeling old. Then again, I am old.
The post-game show…
Shopping at Sears: You know, the more I see of Trojans quarterback recruit Jack Sears (San Clemente, Calif./San Clemente) the more I like. Just the fact he has that blond hair and Hollywood looks has to turn a 4-star into a 5-star recruit, doesn’t it? Something tells me to beware of UCLA in this recruiting struggle and don’t count out the Washington Huskies.
Easy trivia: Here’s a softball question. Who was the last starting USC quarterback to have blond hair? Of course it was Matt Barkley. I am sure Ohio State still hasn’t forgotten Mr. Barkley from his freshman visitation to Columbus in 2009 and “The Drive.”
Unit rankings: Athlon magazine’s preseason Pac-12 Preview has seven categories as it pertains to each school’s offensive and defensive units. Offensively, the Trojans are ranked No. 1 in the conference at wide receivers/tight ends and offensive line. The Trojans running back unit is ranked No. 3 in the conference while the quarterback unit is No. 6.
Unit rankings – Part 2: Defensively in Athlon, the Trojans defensive line is ranked No. 9 in the Pac-12 while the linebackers and defensive backs are ranked No. 5, respectively.
Unit rankings – Part 3: While Athlon has the Trojans wide receivers/tight ends and offensive line No. 1 in the Pac-12, you might be interested to know that the other No. 1 units include: UCLA – quarterbacks, Stanford – running backs, Utah – defensive line, UCLA – linebackers, and Washington – defensive backs.
The last word: As a teenager, I remember the day that I met the late Muhammad Ali at the Century Plaza Hotel in Los Angeles. I was with my teenage buddies in the lobby and in walked Ali with his celebrated entourage. He was truly larger than life. We immediately raced to his side, and he looked down at me specifically and with those Hollywood looks gave me that famous glare and then proceeded to unleash a fake 1-2 punch at my head and then smiled. It was better than any autograph or photo opportunities, believe me. Ali was everything you wanted him to be in person.
The last word – Part 2: Body wise, Ali, whose daughter Laila is married to former Trojans All-America wide receiver Curtis Conway, reminded me of legendary Trojans tight end Charles Young. I’ve always wondered just what kind of a tight end he could have been…especially if he had worn the cardinal and gold. No doubt, he would have been “The Greatest.”