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IMHO Sunday: San Diego musings

By Greg Katz – WeAreSC.com

In my humble opinion, cardinal and gold thoughts on what I see, what I hear, and what I think.

Back-to-back: When the Trojans line up against Wisconsin in the National Funding Holiday Bowl on Wednesday night in Qualcomm Stadium, it will mark the second straight appearance for the Men of Troy in an NFL stadium, or maybe you’ve tried to forget that the Pac-12 title game against Stanford was played at Levi’s Stadium, home of the 49ers.

Practice makes perfect: Beginning Sunday, the Trojans will be practicing for Wisconsin at Southwestern College in Chula Vista. FYI, the practice is only open to media.

Lions and tigers and badgers, oh my: After Sunday morning’s practice, the Trojans will make a return visit to the San Diego Zoo. They might want to see if the famous zoo actually has some badgers in captivity to see what one looks like.

The Badgers State: Six former Trojans lettermen listed Wisconsin as their home state. You don’t remember FB Stanley Burek (1905-08, no hometown listed), HB Gordon Campbell (1921-23, no hometown listed), HB Philip Duboski (1936, Beloit), E John Milton (1921-22, Milwaukee), QB Rodney Peete (1985-88, Green Bay), and G Mel Pierson 1947, Milwaukee). FYI, Peete played his high school ball at Shawnee Mission (Kansas) South.

The comparison: Wisconsin is well known for its vaunted physical running game, but thus far this season the Trojans are out-averaging the Badgers on the ground 176.2-148.1.

The fear: Maybe it’s just me, but it seems the Trojans haven’t done too much real hitting in their self-imposed limited amount of practice time in preparation for Wisconsin. Clay Helton has said that with the practices gained during Pac-12 Championship Game preparation combined with a limited amount of Holiday Bowl practices was the equivalent of another entire spring ball.

The fear – Part 2: If you’re worried that the Trojans offensive line will suffer with the apparent loss of starting offensive left tackle Chad Wheeler due to personal issues, remember the Trojans dominated Utah, 42-24, without Wheeler. It appears that All-Pac-12 right tackle Zach Banner will start at left tackle and true freshman Chuma Edoga will get the starting nod at right tackle in place of Banner.

The time limit: Some of the players we’ve talked with confirmed that Clay Helton’s short but sweet practices are far superior than the long daily practices conducted by his processor.

San Diego connections: Four current Trojans claim San Diego as their hometown: PK Matt Boermeester (Cathedral Catholic), TB Lance Mudd (Poway), TE Taylor McNamara (Westview), and NSP Nick Schlossberg (La Jolla Country Day).

The Anchorman: In honor of the Holiday Bowl location,will Trojans super fan and alumni celebrity Will Ferrell, who played the infamous San Diego news anchor Ron Burgandy in the hit movie “Anchorman,” show up on Wednesday night to lead the Trojans onto the field?

Tis the season: The Trojans are 41-26-7 playing in the month of December.

The County: Given its size and geographic, San Diego has supplied the Trojans with such illustrious All-Americans such as OL Ron Mix, TB Marcus Allen, TB Reggie Bush, and LB Jimmy Gunn.

L.A. Chargers: On the USC-San Diego connection, San Diego Chargers president-business operations CEO A.G. Spanos earned his bachelor’s degree at USC.

From the press box…

Wole World goes cardinal and gold: Although it became a mere formality in the end, it was certainly worth a major “Kaboom” when Gardena (Calif.) Serra All-America defensive lineman Oluwole Betiku committed to the Trojans on Christmas Day. The perfect holiday gift for Clay Helton, physically Betiku physically looks as impressive as an incoming freshman as did former Trojans all-star Willie McGinest back in 1990.

More Betiku: Must you know, Oluwole Betiku wore No. 47 in high school while Willie McGinest wore – like you didn’t know – No. 55 at USC.

The Voice is silenced: In case you missed it, WeAreSC.com publisher Garry P. has reported that former defensive line coach Ed Orgeron will not be returning to USC. Apparently there are some fences inside the John McKay Center that just can’t be mended.

The Voice – Part 2: If things could have worked out with Ed Orgeron, Pat Haden would have gotten some huge Brownie points from the Trojans fan base.

IMHO: Asked if I would want to see Ed Orgeron return, I would answer by saying, “Is Traveler a horse?”

On the Tee: FYI: Trojans new offensive coordinator “Tee” Martin’s legal first name is actually Tamaurice. Okay, Tee’s middle name is Nigel and he was born in 1978 in Mobile, Alabama. Suppose you knew that for the first couple of seasons at Tennessee, Tee was the backup for some quarterback named Peyton Manning.

After further review: Do yourself a favor and go to YouTube and watch highlights of Tee Martin leading his Tennessee Volunteers to the 1998 National Championship over Florida State in the Fiesta Bowl. Check out the offense the Vols were running under former head coach Philip Fulmer. It’s a basic I-formation with some variables and the shotgun tossed in, as well. Yep, it was all dictated by a power running game.

Tee coordinates: Okay, we won’t make you work any harder than necessary, so here is the YouTube coordinate to watch the Trojans new offensive coordinator in action as the Vols quarterback against Florida State in the Fiesta Bowl: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FdcZdP1GvzY

The post-game show…

The invitation: It was expected that Trojans quarterback Cody Kessler would be invited to a post-season all-star game (Senior Bowl), but it was refreshing to see that underused fullback and special teams demon Soma Vainuku has also been invited to the Senior Bowl.

FYI: The Senior Bowl is set for January 30 in Mobile, Alabama. The game will be broadcast live at 11:30 a.m. PT on the NFL Network.

More All-Star Games: Trojans defensive linemen Antwaun Woods and Greg Townsend Jr. have accepted invitations to play in the 2016 NFLPA Collegiate Bowl, which will be played on Jan. 23 at the StubHub Center and will be televised on ESPN2.

Fall camp: Given the changes we’ve seen taken place under both Clay Helton, it certainly wouldn’t be a shock if the Trojans to return to the more logical and conventional afternoon practices. IMHO, if Helton continues his “players coach” perception, aren’t afternoon practices a no-brainer?

Trojans Pro Bowlers: Congrats to four former Trojans that made the NFL Pro Bowl rosters: QB Carson Palmer (Arizona), LB Clay Matthews (Green Bay), C Ryan Kalil (Carolina), and OL Tyron Smith (Dallas).

The old John Hancock: The Trojans season ticket department is offering a Clay Helton autographed USC mini-helmet for new season ticket orders.

Latest ticket update: According to ticket broker StubHub, the latest highs and lows for tickets to the National Funding Holiday Bowl are a high-end $221 (sideline) and a low-end $83 (high end zone).

The last word: And a very Happy New Year to you and yours.

Greg Katz

Now entering his 59th season of either writing, broadcasting, or just plain watching USC football, WeAreSC columnist Greg Katz began his affiliation with the website back in 2001, introducing his well-received O/NSO (The Obvious/The Not So Obvious) column and later adding his respected IMHO Sunday opinion and tidbits column. Greg, a former ESPN.com college football columnist covering USC, is also a member of the Football Writer's Association of America. He is also known in Southern California as a professional public address announcer, having called the the 1996 Rose Bowl Game between USC and Northwestern. Greg also holds a master's degree in athletic administration and was a former varsity high school coach of 27 years.

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