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O/NSO: Absolutely scared edition

By Greg Katz – WeAreSC

The Obvious: In a recent WeAreSC article interviewing strength and conditioning coach Ivan Lewis, the S&C coach said,When I was here before (Pete Carroll era) we would walk on the field and the other team would be scared, absolutely scared. That’s where we need to get back to, and we will.”

The Not So Obvious: A major theme and goal heading into the first full season of the Clay Helton era is being physical, which will be strongly tested by an Alabama team that is this decade’s impression of the old Pete Carroll’s Trojans. The question in 2016 is whether these Trojans will be the intimidators or the intimidated?

The Obvious: In preseason notes, Clay Helton says, “We believe we have the personnel to run the ball effectively and physically,” and “At the end of the day, through, we know that we must be able to run the ball and not turn it over.”

The Not So Obvious: And, no question that the opener against Alabama will test the Trojans macho against a program that believes it is the most physical team in the country. Make no mistake it about it, the Crimson Tide will bring the wood and the Trojans must bring the saw to be competitive.

The Obvious: Intimidation comes from physically and mentally dominating an opponent, and there has been a lack of evidence to suggest – despite past rhetoric and promises by former USC head football coaches Lane Kiffin and Steve Sarkisian – that the Trojans have lived up to their heritage as being one of the nation’s most physical teams.

The Not So Obvious: Although strength and conditioning coach Ivan Lewis wouldn’t say it, he more or less confirmed that there is a new direction under Clay Helton. Lewis told WeAreSC, “I think when you’re talking physical football, it’s about the way you practice. You practice physical so the game is easy. Go back to the Pete Carroll years when we practiced physical and hard, the practices were harder than the games. And then with the technique and fundamentals the coaches install, especially in the trenches, it’s going to be imperative to our physical play.”

The Obvious: It figures that when the Trojans travel to Texas to play Alabama, temperatures could well be in triple digits with expected heavy humidity.

The Not So Obvious: If you’re worried that the weather in SoCal in August won’t adequately prepare the Trojans for The Crimson Tide and the conditions of Texas, remember that AT&T Stadium has a retractable roof, which should keep the nasty weather elements outdoors.

The Obvious: It figures that when the Trojans play Alabama, one of the marquee matchups will be Trojans junior All-Pac-12 corner Adoree’ Jackson against the Crimson Tide’s explosive sophomore receiver Calvin Ridley.

The Not So Obvious: In the Trojans official athletic blog, Ripsit, Adoree’ was asked during Pac-12 Media Days about his potential matchup with Ridley and former Trojans head coach and current Alabama offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin. Jackson said, “Yes sir, I do (want to follow Ridley). You’ve seen what (Lane Kiffin) did with Marqise Lee. (Kiffin) had him (when Lee) won the Biletnikoff (Award), had him everywhere on the field. I guess me following him (Ridley), would bump me into a (higher) candidacy for the Thorpe Award or any other award that’s up. If I followed him, that would look great on me. It’s going to show that I’m hungry, I’m ready to go for the season. I just want to set a statement for everyone for the season going (forward) that I’m not scared, I’m not backing down from anybody, and I’m just ready to go.”

The Obvious: Trojans training camp practices are open to the public, Aug. 4-19.

The Not So Obvious: If you’re planning on attending practices in August, it’s worth repeating that fans can watch the open practices from the east sideline of Howard Jones Field (north of Goux’s Gate) or the south stands at the Coliseum. Practices after Aug. 23 will be closed to the public as the Men of Troy begin their regular season practice schedule, which will be 4 p.m.

The Obvious: Alabama offensive guard Alphonse Taylor (6-5, 345) was arrested last Sunday and charged with driving under the influence, according to the Tuscaloosa County Sheriff’s Office.

The Not So Obvious: Taylor, who has now been indefinitely suspended from the Alabama team, is the second heralded offensive lineman for The Tide to be under judicial scrutiny. Earlier, preseason All-America tackle Cam Robinson was one of two Alabama players that were charged in May with felony possession of a stolen firearm. That charge and possession of narcotics was later dropped due to insufficient evidence. As for Taylor, he was Alabama’s starting right guard last season and was recently named by the SEC media to the 2016 preseason second-team All-SEC offense.

The Obvious: When Pete Carroll was the Trojans coach, his teams would always have a “walk through” in the stadium they would be competing.

The Not So Obvious: In recent times, Trojans teams have not done consistently a stadium “walk through” the day before a game. However, because of the aura of AT&T Stadium and the hype surrounding the game with Alabama, Clay Helton has decided to have “walk through” on the Friday before the Trojans battle the defending national champions. Since the Crimson Tide has already played at AT&T Stadium twice before, Nick Saban’s team should be less awestruck by the celebrated home of the Dallas Cowboys than the Trojans.

The Obvious: The Trojans family lost another great one when legendary Los Angeles sportswriter and columnist Melvin Durslag, a USC graduate, passed last Sunday after a brief illness at age 95.

The Not So Obvious: Aside from covering the Trojans and becoming one of L.A.’s premier sports columnists with the old Los Angeles Herald-Examiner, Durslag covered 10 Olympic Games, 35 Kentucky Derbys, 30 Masters golf tournaments, 34 World Series, 25 Super Bowls and numerous world championship boxing matches. Durslag was not only highly knowledgeable covering sports, but also was a master wordsmith, as well.

The Obvious: There are numerous preseason predictions to what bowl game the 2016 Trojans might end up, and one of those options is the Foster Farms Bowl played at Levi’s Stadium, home of the San Francisco 49ers and current home to the Pac-12 Conference Championship Game.

The Not So Obvious: The San Francisco 49ers have taken management of the Foster Farms Bowl played in Santa Clara and signed a four-year broadcast partnership with FOX Sports to televise the game.

The Obvious: And finally, as it pertains to a College Football Playoff semi-final or national championship game, there are numerous reasons why the CFP brings in so much money to a host city.

The Not So Obvious: The 2015-16 Orange Bowl Festival, including the 2015 College Football Playoff Semifinal at the Capital Orange Bowl, generated a total of $227.7 million in new economic impact and media exposure value for South Florida. Last time the Trojans played in Florida was the 2006 BCS title game in Miami, and the O/NSO doesn’t know anybody – unless you were an Oklahoma fan – that didn’t totally enjoy the hospitality in the Land of South Beach. Of course, if you’re a Trojans football fan, it didn’t hurt that the Cardinal and Gold won the BCS National Championship by thrashing the Sooners 55-19.

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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