8 min Read

IMHO Sunday: The bully pulpit

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 evaluation: In the Trojans 2015 Football Media Guide, second-year Trojans head coach Steve Sarkisian (photo above) gives the recipe for having a successful season. Sark says, “We need to build a team-first culture. We need to improve our physicality and develop a bully mentality. And we need to take advantage of our speed and athleticism.”

The evaluation – Part 2: Of the above comments above by Sark, IMHO the one that deserves special emphasis is “We need to improve our physicality and develop a bully mentality”, so help me Ronnie Lott, Troy Polamalu, and Rey Maualuga.

The evaluation – Part 3: Having a “bully mentality” is a direct reflection of the head coach and his assistants. John McKay, John Robinson, and Pete Carroll may have their individual personalities, but collectively at the foundation of those personalities was a tough son-of-a-gun and the players knew it and fed off of it.

USA Speaks: In its college football preview, seven USA Today prognosticators of the College Football Playoff left the Trojans off their “Final Four” projections. Five experts picked Ohio State to win it all with one selecting Auburn and the other TCU.

College Football Playoff potential: USA Today ranks the Trojans No. 8 and says of it’s CFP hopes: “The Trojans struggled defending the pass last season, ranking 115th in the nation by allowing 274.5 yards per game. A positive for USC is that its first three games are at home before the team travels to Tempe to face Arizona State.”

Pac-12 predictions: In its Pac-12 predictions, USA Today has the Trojans winning the Pac-12 South ahead of, in order, ASU, Arizona, UCLA, Utah, and Colorado. Oregon is the pick for the Pac-12 North being chased by Stanford, Cal, Washington, Oregon State, and Washington State.

Here come the Irish: The Trojans travel to Notre Dame for an Oct. 17 clash, and USA Today predicts this could be Irish coach Brian Kelly’s best team. Pardon me if I try to contain the laughter, but really, have the Irish really rebounded that greatly after the Trojans administered that 49-14 shellacking last November in the Coliseum? Yeah, I agree that may have been one of the worst Notre Dame teams, but they did have an incredible run of injuries last season.

IMHO: There was so much praise heaped upon the College Football Playoff administration and committee last season for the success of the new playoff formula, but the thought of expanding the field from four to eight in the near future was quickly discarded like an old pair of football cleats. Said Bill Hancock, “If it ain’t broken, don’t fix it.”

IMHO – Part 2: Bill Hancock is about as politically correct as any sports politician and don’t forget he was once was the mouthpiece for the old BCS system or have you forgotten how he tried to extoll the virtues of that flawed system. He knows, as do the rest of us, that it is only a matter of time until the field expands to eight. No way can the CFP continue to exclude of the five power conferences.

IMHO – Part 3: The top team in every power conference deserves to show its strength on the field in the post-season. And don’t give me that malarkey that expanding will create a problem for the other major bowls. There is an answer for everything, and these bright minds can’t figure it out? Balderdash!

The afterthought: One of the more intriguing storylines this season will be the fact that the CFP semi-finals (the Cotton and the Orange bowls) will be held on New Year’s Eve. We’ll find out if there is any collateral New Year’s Day ratings damage – if any – by the ratings of the Rose Bowl. For the record by way of guaranteed bowl scheduling contracts, the semi-finals will be held on New Year’s Eve every two out of three years. Yuck.

Pasadena excitement: If the Trojans don’t make the CFP but play in the Rose Bowl on New Year’s Day, it would certainly give the New Year’s Day television ratings a big boost within the massive Southern California TV market.

From the press box…

Tackling the depth chart: In the recently released fall depth chart in the 2015 USC Football Media Guide, you might be interested to know that true freshmen Porter Gustin and Osa Masina are not listed on the offensive side of the first fall depth chart but listed as linebackers. However, in their individual bios in the media guide, they are both listed as linebackers-tight ends, which could be the case for one or the other before fall camp is over.

Kicking the depth chart: In the early fall depth chart, you might also be interested to known that the starting punter is senior Kris Albarado, and the placekicker(s) are junior Alex Wood and sophomore Matt Boermeester, a competition that won’t likely be decided until the end of training camp.

High praise department: In the Trojans 2015 Football Media Guide, Steve Sarkisian gives high marks to center Max Tuerk and tackle-guard Toa Lobendahn. Sark says, “I think Max is the best center in the country and Toa is on his way to an all-star career.”

Agents of change: USA Today reports that the College Football Playoff and the “other power brokers” are trying to change the culture of New Year’s Eve. It’s been reported that the CFP wants fans to watch games at New Year’s Eve parties or make it party of their celebration. Just ask all those folks in Time Square if they’re willing to stay home or party and watch the CFP semi-finals.

Volunteering: As has been reported, Trojans 2017 wide receiver verbal Amari Rodgers (Knoxville, Tenn./Knoxville Catholic), son of Trojans wide receiver coach Tee Martin, has been recently offered by Tee’s alma mater, Tennessee. It wouldn’t shocking if eventually Tennessee offered Tee a chance to return to Knoxville as offensive coordinator, and you know how that goes. All is fair in love and recruiting.

No kidding: Arizona State head coach Todd Graham says his goal for the 2015 season is to win 15 games. All of which makes the Trojans visit in late September all the more intriguing. It could be an early turning point game for both programs, especially considering it’s a Pac-12 South divisional game.

The rankings: In USA Today’s Heisman Trophy preseason predictions, Trojans quarterback Cody Kessler is ranked No. 5 in the pecking order. Ahead of Cody are TCU QB Trevone Boykin, any combination of Ohio State QBs, and Mississippi State QB Dak Prescott. For some reason, USA Today doesn’t have a No. 4 in its Heisman predictions.

More Cody: Of his Kessler’s Heisman chances, USA Today writes, “Lost in (Marcus) Mariota’s shadow, Kessler put together a spectacular season under first-year head coach Steve Sarkisian. Like (Trevone) Boykin, he’ll enter his senior season even more familiar with the new system. Also, consider another advantage: In the preseason, at least, Kessler will be the top Heisman candidate from the West Coast.”

The post-game show…

No JuJu: Maybe it just seems like everybody and anybody that plays college football is on somebody’s “Watch List.” Then again it was a little astounding when the Trojans standout sophomore wide receiver JuJu Smith didn’t make the 2015 Biletnikoff Watch List. Fret not, the year Marqise Lee won the award he didn’t start out on the list either.

Computer rankings: For the record, computer wiz Jeff Sagarin’s preseason rankings have the Trojans No. 8 in the country. Alabama followed by Oregon are Sagarin’s top 2 teams in the nation.

Expansion: Okay, Major League Baseball is talking possible expansion. So the question begs: Which will expand first, MLB or the Pac-12?

Stadium rankings:
In the 2015 Trojans Football Media Guide, it says that the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, home of the Trojans – was voted USC football the No. 3 stadium experience in 2014, according to StadiumJourney.com.

FYI: Junior tight end Jalen Cope-Fitzpatrick, who has suffered through some academic challenges and eligibility issues, is listed in the 2015 USC Trojans Football Media Guide with his own bio section and picture, and I take that as a positive sign.

To be or not to be: Although he played some wide receiver during summer workouts, redshirt freshman Jalen Greene is still listed in the recently released media guide as a quarterback.

The final word: Broadcaster Colin Cowherd is leaving the ESPN radio and TV network for another entity – rumored to be Fox, but one thing is for sure, no matter where he goes he’ll continue to be a USC fan, which he readily admits.

Greg Katz
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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