The Obvious: Just when the Trojans’ off-season is in full bloom – meaning boring times for USC football fans – the beginning of June has brought forth a parade of the 2018 college football magazines, now at local newsstands, bookstores, and markets everywhere.
The Not So Obvious: For those keeping score, the new mags include Athlon’s national preview and separate Pac-12 edition, Street and Smith College Football, and Lindy’s College Football National Preview. While not all the 2018 mags are out, it’s these core football magazines that are more than enough to give a college football readership a sugar high.
The Obvious: On the western cover of the Athlon’s national preview is Trojans’ senior All-Pac-12 linebacker Cameron Smith (photo above) accompanied by Washington quarterback Jake Browning and Stanford tailback Bryce Love.
The Not So Obvious: Athlon’s Pac-12 preview magazine cover also features linebacker Smith, tailback Love, but adds Arizona QB Khalil Tate receiver. There is also an insert picture of new UCLA head coach Chip Kelly.
The Obvious: Street and Smith, which was resurrected when the Sporting News was morphed back into Street and Smith, also features a regional Pac-12 cover, which is standard procedure to grab the attention of the local market.
The Not So Obvious: On Street and Smith’s western regional national cover is a large photo of Stanford running back Bryce Love and a smaller upper righthand corner picture of Troy’s Cameron Smith.
The Obvious: Lindy’s also goes with a western regional national cover.
The Not So Obvious: On the cover of Lindy’s is Trojans’ wide receiver Tyler Vaughns, Cal quarterback Ross Bowers, and UCLA running back Soso Jamabo.
The Obvious: All the current magazines available have their national rankings.
The Not So Obvious: As far as the Trojans are concerned, Street and Smith ranks the Men of Troy No. 15, Lindy’s No. 19, and Athlon No. 21. The Washington Huskies are a consensus Top 10 selection in all the publications. The Huskies are Street and Smith No. 6 while both Athlon and Lindy’s have UW No. 8. All have Washington winning the Pac-12.
The Obvious: The Trojans are the defending Pac-12 champs, as well as defending Pac-12 South Division titlists.
The Not So Obvious: In 2018, the Trojans are picked by Athlon to win the Pac-12 South Division but are also picked to lose to Pac-12 North Division champion Washington in the conference title game. Lindy’s has the Cardinal and Gold winning the South Division again. Both Street and Smith and Athlon have the Trojans winning the division championship.
The Obvious: Street and Smith, Lindy’s, and Athlon magazines all have a 2018 All-America team.
The Not So Obvious: USC inside linebacker Cameron Smith was a unanimous and lone Trojan first-team All-America choice by Athlon, Street and Smith, and Lindy’s.
The Obvious: All three publications have a preseason first-team All-Pac-12 squad.
The Not So Obvious: Trojans recognized as preseason first-team All-Pac-12 performers include linebacker Cameron Smith, DL Christian Rector, safety Marvell Tell lll, center Toa Lobendahn, receiver Tyler Vaughns (Street and Smith), Lobendahn, Smith, Rector, and Tell (Athlon), and linebacker Porter Gustin, Rector, Smith, Tell, Lobendahn and Vaughns (Lindy’s).
The Obvious: Each publication has a predicted Pac-12 South Division finish.
The Not So Obvious: Athlon’s order of Pac-12 South is USC, Utah, Arizona, UCLA, Colorado, ASU. Street and Smith calls it USC, Utah, UCLA, Arizona, Colorado, ASU. Lindy’s predicts USC, Utah, Arizona, UCLA, ASU, Colorado.
The Obvious: Each magazine has included a depth chart for each team, and that includes the Trojans’ quarterback competition.
The Not So Obvious: In Street and Smith, the top two USC quarterbacks in depth order are sophomore Matt Fink and incoming freshman JT Daniels. Lindy’s projected Trojans’ starting quarterback is JT Daniels. Athlon’s two-deep QB rankings are JT Daniels and Jack Sears in that order.
The Obvious: All three publications have overviews or scouting reports on the Trojans.
The Not So Obvious: Street and Smith writes, “The talent is there to win big again. But the Trojans may need to rely more on a defense that returns eight starters, gaining from the decisions of safety Marvell Tell lll, linebacker Cameron Smith and cornerback Iman Marshall to hold off on the NFL draft. Offensively, while Helton is settling on a replacement for (Sam) Darnold among sophomore Matt Fink, redshirt freshman Jack Sears, and highly regarded incoming freshman JT Daniels, USC still has plenty of good rushing options. The Trojans have four starters returning to the offensive line, too, plus senior tight end Tyler Petite.”
Lindy’s overview writes, “USC won the Pac-12 last season, but the Trojans face somewhat diminished expectations in 2018 and aren’t expected to make a serious run for the College Football Playoff. Helton can’t totally rely on his best in the Pac-12 South talent, as USC doesn’t have the margin of error for the kind of uninspired performances that marked several games last season. Biggest question: Can Daniels be ready to start after one month of practices for September games at Stanford and Texas?”
Athlon writes a scouting report by unnamed opposing coaches. The opposing coaches say, “You have to hand it to Clay (Helton). He’s created a stable environment after everything the program went through. They’re back to getting top-level talent, but they’re not as physical as they need to be. They won’t fight back at you like Pete Carroll’s old defenses would. Those USC teams were fighting harder in practice than they were against most conference opponents…I’d ask (OC) Tee Martin, what’ your identity? What are you going to build around? Their offensive line got handled in the Cotton Bowl. That game showed how far they still are from being that top-five-level program on offense…They should have enough to run heavy early in the year and play great defense. Their two-deep started to look more complete last year, where they were rotating guys and you didn’t notice immediately. Lots of talent at linebacker. They’re the program that defines the conference whether we like it or not. I think the conference needs them to beat Texas in Austin early in the season, and Texas will be much better…The expectation around there is that they’ll run through that division even with their own questions. But that’s USC.”
The Obvious: And finally, there is always the curiosity after each season to see how things compared from the preseason magazine predictions to the reality to the finish of a season.
The Not So Obvious: But for now, these preseason magazines at least whet the gridiron appetite a bit and gets the informational gathering process started, and that makes May, June, July, and August, a little bit more bearable…a little bit.