Weekly Musings – Hawaii Edition – 2010

I can not even remember exactly how long I have been doing these musings now, but I am 100% sure that I have never, ever, ever been as excited for a college football season as I am for this one.  The departure of the coach who oversaw the greatest dynasty that college football ever see (or surely ever will see) had already produced a lot of question marks even before the absurd NCAA probation came down this last summer.  Though the team lost a few players to the NFL draft (Damian Williams, Joe McKnight – one not a surprise; one not a disappointment), they surely have had many years where they lost more than this year.  Even the departure of players as a result of the NCAA probation was mostly benign, and really resulted in a few guys taking advantage of their eligibility immunity to go to a place where they would have a better chance of playing.  A new head coach is always an interesting proposition, and I for one am ecstatic about this coaching staff, including our head coach.   It has been a long I did not know if USC would go 4-8, or 12-0.  The 1996-2000 seasons were the first five seasons that I was a member of the Cardinal & Gold booster club, fresh off of the passing of my father in December 1995, and fresh off of a Rose Bowl victory that would not be repeated for many, many years.  In fact, from 1996-2000 USC went to a grand total of ONE bowl game – a Sun Bowl loss to the Horned Frogs of TCU in Paul Hackett’s inaugural year.  2001 came, and USC lacked anything even resembling a decent running game.  They lost five games by a total of 14 points, but rallied in the second half of the year to turn the program around.  After that season, we won seven conference championships in a row, two national championships, were 20 seconds away from another, and appeared in seven consecutive BCS bowl games (winning 6 of them). In 2006 we were a few seconds away from going to another national championship, and in 2008 we were utterly robbed to be forced out of another (one we would have won).  2009 was a tough year, but not so tough that we did not beat Rose Bowl champion Ohio State on the road, beat archrival Notre Dame on the road, beat crosstown rival UCLA in the Coliseum, beat Cal on the road by a hundred points, and go on to win a mediocre bowl game.  That was our version of a “bad year”.  UCLA would borrow money from the taxpayers for a parade if they could have a year like that.  But alas, the greatest dynasty in history is over, that 2009 season is over, and the era of Pete Carroll is over.  There has not been a season with as many question marks as this one in nearly a decade.  And that is what I am so excited about.

I am also generally excited for the entire season of college football – even outside of my beloved Troy.  The insidious BCS system and its annual tradition of crowning fictitious national champions is still in effect (tonight I heard the ESPN crew say that Boise State’s entire year was over if they lost tonight to Virginia Tech – a statement so atrocious and absurd that I find it incomprehensible).  But there are a lot of fun things going on around the country, and as the biggest lover of college football of all time, I once again can not wait.  I know USC will not be in the Rose Bowl on January 1, where I always, always, always want them to be, but I also know that it is going to be an extraordinary year.  Let’s get it on.

Around the continental United States first, and then over to Hawaii:

– This Boise State game tonight was an unbelievable end to this opening weekend, and perhaps an omen for the season to come.  What a game, and what a program.

– Florida had 25 yards of offense until late in the game on Saturday against Miami of Ohio.  And some people have suggested Tim Tebow was overrated, huh?

– This drama about whether or not Ingram will play for Bama’ on Saturday against Penn State is hysterical.  See you Saturday, Mark.

– I don’t have much to say about UCLA’s loss to Kansas State.  The QB looked atrocious, but he has not practiced at all.  The play-calling was unimpressive, but Chow has to cook with the ingredients he is given.  There is a lot of talk that Neuheisel has really brought in some major skill position players, and I will believe it when I see it.  It may very well be true, but I am not convinced yet.

– LSU now stands for “Lucky as Something” University.  I have too many kids who read these musings for me to say what it really stands for.

– I would not be surprised to see a four-team tie in the Pac-10 this year.  I suspect there is a lot of parity, and a lot of talent there.  We shall see.

– The one great thing about this last off-season was the incremental progress made towards the super-conference system, which will absolutely mean the death of the NCAA.  If there was a more corrupt and inept gorup of self-serving idiots than the NCAA, we would call them “Congress”.

– UCLA should be commended for their schedule this year.  Very impressive.  USC booked Texas this year as well for a home and home in 2017 and 2018.  Book your hotels in Austin now.

– If Oregon ends up being as good this year as many are saying, people will have to wonder how good they could have been without an MVP quarterback getting arrested multiple times and stealing flatscreen TV’s out of dorm rooms (among many other arrests and dismissals from the team that Oregon dealt with).  I am not being sarcastic – Oregon should be commended for bouncing back from having so many players trade the bright green uniforms for the striped ones.  I am glad USC has them in the Coliseum this year.

– That Alabama/San Jose State game is sure to become a national rivalry.  It makes a lot of sense that they would schedule a west coast non-conference patsy team because they don’t play enough local non-conference patsy teams (well, unless you count Duke, Georgia State, Florida International, North Texas, Chattanouga, Western Kentucky, and Arkansas State).  The BCS is ruining college football.

– Hearing Brent Musberger rail on tonight after Boise State’s incredible last minute win over Virginia Tech about “whether or not their strength of schedule will prove to be enough” is sickening.

– On to Hawaii.  It was nice to see USC get a Thursday night win.  It was very nice to see USC move the ball so well on offense.  The best thing about the night was our commitment to a single running back getting the bulk of the snaps.  But it was not a perfect night.

– I know everyone is in disarray about the defensive performance, and it was pretty tough to watch at times.  Here is what I know:  The big plays Hawaii made at the end of the game were done against a back-up secondary; we did not handle our rotations and substitutions well at all (we just can not have players on the field for that many plays in a row (especially a true freshman starting cornerback); and out interior defensive line was atrocious.  I thought in re-watching the game that the defense looked quite strong for the first few drives of the game, but there is no question that we either had something wrong, or are young players back there need a lot of work.

– Barkley looked fantastic, and it is funny to see the guys who bashed him so mercilessly (and ignorantly) last year jump on his bandwagon now (Plaschke).  Who wants to bet that when he has his first tough outing this season they will be off the bandwagon just as quickly?

– I hate excessive hype, but I believe it is entirely possible that Ronald Johnson is going to have a year that will go down in USC folklore this year.  He is a special talent.  Matt and him look to have a great chemistry, he is deceivingly strong, and has breakaway speed.  Fight on, RoJo – make the world know you.  We had another receiver with the last name “Johnson” once.  He wasn’t too bad.

– If our defense fails to do this year what they also failed to do last year, and that is get the ball from the other team, we will struggle.  We have got to force turnovers at this level to win.  USC’s 2002-2008 dynasty was a clinic in winning the giveaway-takeaway battle.  We need this restored.

– I remain very committed to a one-back offense, and Marc Tyler as that guy is fine by me.  So is Bradford.  And by the way, so is Gable.  What I do not want is the idea of constantly running all of them.  Joe McKnight’s departure to the NFL was a real help to our team in this regard.

– Brian Cushing did not take steroids.  Trust me.

– Reggie Bush is all over Twitter tonight complaining that NFL players will not have health insurance in March of 2011 when the collective bargaining agreement goes away.  Reggie, since you obviously don’t have any good sense yourself, can I recommend that you find someone else to make these arguments on your behalf?

– Robert Woods was the freshman surprise of the night, and I am very excited to see Dillon Baxter this weekend.  There is a lot of future in this USC team – I assure you.

– I would bet against Ed Orgeron not fixing this D-Line at USC as soon as I would bet on Peyton Manning have a bad season.  Keep your wallets in your pocket.  We have the best coaches in all of football.  Give them time.

– Virginia this weekend.  Welcome to Southern California, gentlemen.  They leave the campus that Thomas Jefferson built to come visit the extraordinary University of Southern California.  I wish them an enjoyable trip, and a frustrating flight home.  And I hope our fans will show them the courtesy they showed us in 2008.

Until next week, Happy Labor Day, Happy beginning to a new season, and Happy Anniversary to my wife of nine years.  It is times like this, Joleen, that validate me telling you in all those earlier years of marriage why we HAD to go to EVERY game.  =)  You only come across a dynasty like that every so often in life …  fight on!!!!!!!