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O/NSO: The early let’s-get-ready-to-rumble edition

By Greg Katz – WeAreSC

The Obvious: Prior to the commencement of Day 1 of Pac-12 Media Days on Thursday, the media voted the USC Trojans to finish second in the Pac-12 South behind favorite UCLA Bruins.

The Not So Obvious: For the first time in the 56-year history of the conference preseason poll, Stanford was chosen the favorite to win the 2016 Pac-12 Conference football title in a vote of 33 media members who cover Pac-12 football. The Cardinal received 20 votes to earn the preseason favorite pick.

The Obvious: The Trojans won’t have to wait long to test the Pac-12’s media ballot credibility. The Men of Troy will face the Cardinal in Palo Alto on Sept. 17 in just the third game of the season and the Pac-12 opener for both teams.

The Not So Obvious: Alabama has been picked by the SEC media to win the conference, which means in the first three weeks of the 2016 season, the Trojans will face the preseason favorites in both the SEC and the Pac-12.

The Obvious: Prior to playing Pac-12 favorite Stanford, the Trojans will play host to Utah State in the Coliseum on Sept. 10 in an 11 a.m. kickoff.

The Not So Obvious: After opening the season by entertaining Kansas State in Stanford Stadium on Sept. 2, the Cardinal will draw a bye a week before they play the Trojans. You can debate all you want whether Stanford’s bye week helps or hurts the Trojans chances of upending the Cardinal, who defeated the Cardinal and Gold twice in 2015.

The Obvious: The Trojans sports information department has circulated its annual preseason release and on the front page is a list of news services/magazines that have ranked the Trojans anywhere from 11th to 25th in the country.

The Not So Obvious: The average of the 12 news services/magazines (ESPN, CBS Sports, Sporting News, Lindy’s, Bleacher Report, Sports Illustrated, FOX –Bruce Feldman/Stuart Mandel, Athlon, USA Today, Phil Steele, and Yahoo) has the Trojans No. 18 team in the country.

The Obvious: Trojans head coach Clay Helton, offensive tackle Zach Banner, and defensive back Adoree’ Jackson appeared Thursday morning on Day 1 of the Pac-12’s two-day media circus, which took place in downtown Hollywood.

The Not So Obvious: For Helton, it was chance to announce that not only would he name the new Trojans quarterback within two weeks of facing Alabama, but the same evaluation will apply to the overall depth chart. It’s also official that former center Khaliel Rodgers will play on the defensive line and that Jalen Greene has been moved back to wide receiver from quarterback, which he played in the spring. For Banner, who loves the attention and the microphone, No. 73 was as gregarious and playful as usual but showed great respect for the Alabama program when he turned serious about the Trojans season opener. As for Jackson, he revealed he would play mostly defense with preference to be used on punt returns with some spot duty on offense.

The Obvious: The Trojans announced this week that preseason camp practices would be open to the general public from Aug. 4 – Aug. 19.

The Not So Obvious: The first week of practices (Aug. 4, 5, 6, 7/Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday) will commence at 5 p.m. The balance of the open practices after the initial week will revert to 3 p.m. All practice times and public access are subject to change.

The Obvious: The Trojans 2016 football media guide is now available for viewing on the official school athletic website. If you have not already seen the online version of the media guide, go to: http://www.usctrojans.com/sports/m-footbl/spec-rel/2016-media-guide.html

The Not So Obvious: The cover of this season’s media guide features head coach Clay Helton, flashing the two-fingered “Fight on” sign, and All-Pac-12 selections WR JuJu Smith-Schuster and DB/SP Adoree’ Jackson.

The Obvious: During his playing days with the Trojans, former linebacker Su’a Cravens, who will soon depart for the Washington Redskins training camp, was media friendly, always telling it the way it is, and was an extremely dedicated USC football player.

The Not So Obvious: On Cravens’ Twitter site, Su’a commented on Trojans current recruit and linebacker Dylan Moses (Bradenton, Florida/IMG Academy) scheduled take his official visit to UCLA for the USC game on Nov. 19th. Cravens wrote, “Sooooooooo, to witness a loss?” Zing!

The Obvious: In another Su’a Cravens’ Twitter proclamation, the likeable linebacker wrote, “In the most humble way possible, I believe I’m one of the best USC football players in school history. What hurts my case is the sanctions.”

The Not So Obvious: The O/NSO certainly has a lot of sympathy for Cravens, who writes that during his time he played on a 10-win team, Pac-12 South championship team, and beat two Top 5 teams – despite playing in one of the darkest times in Trojans history. Impartially, Cravens will probably be remembered as underrated not because of the sanctions, but because he played so many positions, had so many coaching changes, and continued to play at a high level during the sanctions. The O/NSO believes there will be not debate that Su’a will go down in USC history as one of the most effective, versatile players in school history.

The Obvious: Fresh off his impressive showing at The Opening, defensive tackle Marvin Wilson (Houston, TX/Episcopal) still has the Trojans as part of his recruiting mix.

The Not So Obvious: With Wilson showing strong interest in the Trojans, the spotlight will now turn to the Trojans first-year defensive line coach Kenechi Udeze and his ability to close the recruiting deal. The former Trojans All-America end and former NFL first round draft pick could become the next coaching big deal if he is able to capture some treasured defensive linemen on the recruiting trail and show progress in his young and inexperienced Trojans defensive line.

The Obvious: Ed Orgeron is a former USC defensive line coach and recruiting legend now in the same capacity at LSU.

The Not So Obvious: In the great irony of things, the recruiting of defensive lineman Marvin Wilson (6-4, 329) will likely come down to the battle of recruiting salesmen for the services of the gifted one. And that recruiting battle will include the tug-a- war between Orgeron and his former Trojans pupil, Kenechi Udeze. As they say, all is fair in war and recruiting.

The Obvious: And finally, Alabama coach Nick Saban told reporters at SEC media days this week that All-SEC left tackle Cam Robinson and reserve defensive back Laurence Jones, both of whom faced internal discipline after their arrests on drug and weapons charges, will have a chance to play in the season opener against the Trojans.

The Not So Obvious: Does the O/NSO laugh now or latter when at least Robinson is in the starting lineup against the Trojans on Sept. 3? Okay, maybe Robinson doesn’t get in until the second series, and, please, somebody cue up one of those old Jim Healy laugh tracks. And if you’re too young to remember the great Jim Healy sportscasts in Los Angeles, here is what you missed: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LRtn3HJKDfo

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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