The Obvious: Gas up the sleigh, make sure the cardinal and gold goodies are wrapped, and put on the beard and red suit, it’s that holiday time of the year for the 2017 annual O/NSO gift giving presentations.
The Not So Obvious: So, kick back and chill, pour your favorite holiday firewater, cozy up to the fireplace, pull up that tray of sugar cookies, and let the distributions begin…
The Obvious Gift for head coach Clay Helton (photo above): A convincing or otherwise victory by your No. 8 Trojans over the No. 5 Ohio State in the 2017 Cotton Bowl, and finally respect for haven beaten the great Urban Meyer in a meaningful game featuring two conference champions.
The Not So Obvious Gift: The grade reclassification and USC fall of 2018 enrollment of 2017 Gatorade National High School Player of the Year J.T. Daniels, the junior superstar prep quarterback from national champion Santa Ana (Calif.) Mater Dei High. Oh, you say somebody has already gotten you this one? Okay, then how about Daniels’ favorite Mater Dei pass receiving prodigy, Amon-Ra St. Brown?
The Obvious Gifts for quarterback Sam Darnold: A turnover free Cotton Bowl performance.
The Not So Obvious Gift: A consultation with former Trojans’ Heisman Trophy winning and College Football Hall of Fame quarterback Matt Leinart on why returning to Troy for another season would be beneficial, unless you’re dying to play quarterback for the wretched Cleveland Browns.
The Obvious Gift for new offensive coordinator coach Tee Martin: A flawless game plan and a flawless play-calling performance against Ohio State.
The Not So Obvious Gift: The chance to prove there is nothing wrong with your play-calling if you’re allowed to do it 98% by yourself.
The Obvious Gift for starting nose tackle Josh Fatu: The ability to at least neutralize Ohio State All-America and Rimington Award winning center Billy Price for four quarters.
The Not So Obvious Gift: A pregame text from last season’s nose tackle star and Rose Bowl Defensive MVP Stevie Tu’ikolovatu imploring you to carry on the tradition of great USC nose tackles.
The Obvious Gifts for wide receiver Deontay Burnett: A Rose Bowl repeat performance in the Cotton Bowl.
The Not So Obvious Gift: No double teams by the Ohio State secondary, which means your younger receivers like Tyler Vaughns and Michael Pittman Jr. will have to prove early they can carry the load against the Buckeyes’ athletic secondary.
The Obvious Gift for defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast: A game plan that can stop Ohio State quarterback J.T. Barrett and his star-studded backfield of true freshman J.K. Dobbins and redshirt sophomore Mike Weber.
The Not So Obvious Gift: A Trojans’ secondary that doesn’t give up the big play against Ohio State’s talented receivers and eliminate those killer pass interference calls and lethal broken assignments.
The Obvious Gift for tailback Ronald Jones ll: A 100-yard plus rushing day against the vaunted Buckeyes’ defense.
The Not So Obvious Gift: A first-round pick in the 2018 NFL draft in April, hopefully with a team that has an above average offensive line to keep you healthy.
The Obvious Gift for running back coach Deland McCullough: Another Ronald Jones ll.
The Not So Obvious gift: Another Stephen Carr. Okay, maybe Christmas came early this week with the signing of prep power running back Markese Stepp from Indianapolis, Indiana.
The Obvious Gift for senior outside linebacker Uchenna Nwosu: A performance in the Cotton Bowl that will reaffirm that you are one of the best collegiate defenders in America.
The Not So Obvious Gift: A few more passes batted down at the line of scrimmage and a few backside sacks of elusive Ohio State quarterback J.T. Barrett.
The Obvious Gift for outside linebacker Porter Gustin: A healthy body.
The Not So Obvious Gift: The good sense to return for your senior year where you can show the country that you are truly one of the premier performers for the 2018 season.
The Obvious Gift for junior offensive tackle Chuma Edoga: No personal fouls or illegal procedure penalties in the Cotton Bowl.
The Not So Obvious Gift: The good sense to return for your senior season to refine your game and not become an NFL draft casualty.
The Obvious Gift for Trojans recruiting coordinator and linebacker coach Johnny Nansen: A 2018 top 10 recruiting class.
The Not So Obvious Gift: Official recognition of outstanding recruiting work as illustrated by this past week’s signing of out-of-state linebacking stars Palaie Gaoteote (Nevada) and Kana’i Mauga (Hawaii).
The Obvious Gift for special teams coach John Baxter: Another trick-play punt return for a touchdown.
The Not So Obvious Gifts: An actual TD punt return in the Cotton Bowl without a trick play.
The Obvious Gift for corners Jack Jones and Iman Marshall: Some big hits to make the Ohio State receivers know they can’t just roam freely in the Trojans’ secondary.
The Not So Obvious Gifts: Discipline by making sure those kill shots don’t result in pass interference penalties, targeting, and don’t forget, again, no broken coverages.
The Obvious Gift for Pac-12 officials: No more unnecessary penalty flags that ruin and wreck the game.
The Not So Obvious: A chance for Trojan fans to see the facial expression of two out-of-conference opposing bowl coaches when they learn their bowl game is going to be officiated by Pac-12 officials.
The Obvious Gift for junior safety Marvell Tell lll: A big interception of a J. T. Barrett pass early in the Cotton Bowl to set the tone.
The Not So Obvious Gifts: A Cotton Bowl performance that will position you for 2018 preseason All-America honors.
The Obvious Gift for Trojans offensive line coach Neil Callaway: An offensive line performance in the Cotton Bowl that controls the line of scrimmage and keeps Sam Darnold vertical.
The Not So Obvious Gifts: A speech to your offensive linemen that inspires them to play the most physical game and the most disciplined performance of their careers because they’ll need to if the Trojans expect to win.
The Obvious Gift for freshman running back Stephen Carr: Enough carries/catches to make a difference against the Buckeyes.
The Not So Obvious Gifts: A healthy body for the 2018 when you’re the starting USC tailback.
The Obvious Gift for defensive line coach Kenechi Udeze: Needless to say, at least four sacks of elusive yet strong Ohio State quarterback J.T. Barrett in the Cotton Bowl.
The Not So Obvious Gifts: Discipline – like contain – so J.T. Barrett doesn’t do a Vince Young impression.
The Obvious Gift for tight end Daniel Imatorbhebhe: A Cotton Bowl performance that brings back memories of your 2016 game at Washington.
The Not So Obvious Gifts: At least a couple of play-action seam routes that end up as long distance touchdown receptions from Sam Darnold.
The Obvious Gift for junior nickel back Ajene Harris: A third down interception of J.T. Barrett.
The Not So Obvious Gifts: A punt return that actually puts the Trojans in good field position against the Buckeyes.
The Obvious Gifts for talented running backs Aca’Cedric Ware and Vavae Malepeai:
The Not So Obvious Gifts: For Ware, squashing the rumors that you will transfer out after the season, and for Malepeai, a chance to be more involved as a fullback in the mold of Stanley Havili and David Kirtman.
The Obvious Gift for junior defensive tackle Rasheem Green: A dominating performance against a very physical Ohio State offensive line.
The Not So Obvious Gifts: It might be asking too much to gift you a senior season at Troy, but the O/NSO would understand if you decided to enter the 2018 NFL draft.
The Obvious Gift for senior safety Chris Hawkins: Against Ohio State, the type of great game you played against UCLA under far less painful family circumstances.
The Not So Obvious Gift: A future secondary coaching position at your alma mater, USC.
The Obvious Gift for Traveler: A luxury stall at the Cotton Bowl.
The Not So Obvious Gift: A portable track made just for you in the renovated Coliseum, so we can see you run a “440” like the old days in the Coliseum.
The Obvious Gift for kicker Chase McGrath: Three field goals, maybe a Rose Bowl-type game winner, and three touchbacks against Ohio State.
The Not So Obvious Gifts: A healthy groin. Am I allowed to say that?
The Obvious Gifts for sophomore outside linebacker Jordan Iosefa: The chance to be a really dominating contributor to future USC defenses.
The Not So Obvious Gift: Appreciation for how far you have come in your brief USC career.
The Obvious Gift for sophomore inside linebacker John Houston Jr.: Extra strength and girth to withstand the upcoming assault at you by the ultra-physical Ohio State offensive line.
The Not So Obvious Gift: A move to outside linebacker for your professional future. Somebody has to fill the spot left by departing Uchenna Nwosu.
The Obvious Gift for offensive lineman Toa Lobendahn: A healthy body in 2018.
The Not So Obvious Gift: A seamless transition from left tackle in 2017 to center in 2018, and let’s cool the rumors that you are planning to go pro. I mean, they’re rumors, right?
The Obvious Gift for Trojans radio voice Pete Arbogast: A memorable broadcast of the 2017 Cotton Bowl.
The Not So Obvious Gift: Recognition for your continued charity work outside the broadcast booth and maybe a nomination for the USC Athletic Hall of Fame…if you’ve been a good boy this year.
The Obvious Gift for Dr. Bartner: To reconsider the rumor that you will retire after the first season in the 2019 renovated Coliseum.
The Not So Obvious Gift: A statue of you directing the band in front of the John McKay Center.
The Obvious Gift for USC athletic director Lynn Swann: A CFP National Championship as an athletic director – sooner rather than later.
The Not So Obvious Gift: The good sense to reconsider or revise the Coliseum renovation plans, which will also be part of your legacy.
The Obvious Gift for Reggie Bush: The courage to apologize for your misdeeds that brought on one of the darkest periods – if not the darkest – in modern Trojans’ football history. From there, you can try to eventually return to the good graces of the USC family.
The Not So Obvious Gift: With your recently announced NFL retirement, the understanding that now is the time for an apology for those misdeeds that hurt so many players, which will in turn perhaps allow you, Reggie, the same adulation that your beloved teammate Matt Leinart continues to receive from the University since his playing days ended.
The Obvious Gift for all Trojans fans: Happy holidays, good health, a very Happy New Year, and, needless to say, a Trojans victory over Ohio State.
The Not So Obvious Gift: Okay, I’ll say it… a national championship in 2018.