Weekly Musings – Minnesota Edition

How could 3-0 feel this bad?  Ugh.  It actually does feel good to be 3-0, and I am always going to be a subscriber to the “a win is a win” school of thought, but there is no question that when one watches our wins over Hawaii, Virginia, and Minnesota, and then watches Oregon, Stanford, and Arizona play, it is tough to feel overly optimistic about conference play.  But before I check out for a Sunday night (and MMQB is tomorrow), allow me to provide my weekly musings.

– USC first.  Robert Woods kickoff for a touchdown could end up being a very special moment in this season if somehow, someway, we turn this thing around and start playing a lot better on both sides of the ball.  USC purists like me remember Kris Richard’s interception AT Arizona in 2001 and know that even though that was not a great team and not a great season, he did something that night that just felt like (a) Disaster was avoided, and (b) A new era was coming.  Both things were true.  When the scoreboard said 14-13 and that crowd was going nuts, you couldn’t help but wonder if disaster was coming.  When Woods took it to the house 16 seconds later, all was right in the world again.  Can it get even better?

– I know that Dillon Baxter is really, really loved by everyone who has seen him play, but so far I see a super fast kid with elusive moves who doesn’t remind me of Reggie the player AT ALL, and seems to be dancing too much.  He obviously deserves a lot more than the first two games of his true freshman season, but I am not feeling it just yet.

– Those meaningless touchdowns we give up in the final minute (every game this season) are really frustrating, even though they probably shouldn’t be.  If we looked better in the first 55 minutes I probably wouldn’t care as much.

– Matt Barkley had a few really strong throws and impressive plays, but he did not have a great game.  I am anxious to hear Lane’s synopsis about Matt’s performance tomorrow.

– How could USC have possibly gotten this lucky with the schedule?  WSU this weekend and the UofW coming to the Coliseum.  I have some comments on Jake Locker below.  One game at a time, but I have a feeling 5-0 is possible (but by no means guaranteed).  Can USC be rolling by the time we go to Stanford on October 9?

– Matt Cassel, Mark Sanchez, and Carson Palmer – three Trojan quarterbacks starting in the NFL; three victories today.

– This running back by committee situation could very well be back at USC, much to my chagrin.  I confess I don’t know exactly what to do about it but I did see a couple possessions where we ran Marc on first down, Dillon on second, and Allen on third.  We just can not be doing that.  We need a dominant back.  I trust the coaches to pick who it is, but I just don’t believe we can establish a run without a primary go-to back.

– If one were to watch a game from 2008 (which once again, is absolutely, uncontroversially, unambiguously, the greatest college football defense of all time), and then watch one of our games now, everything would make sense to you.  If you don’t remember how good that defense was, just watch the NFL on Sunday, and you will see eight of those eleven guys starting.  Ay yi yi.

– That Michigan State call to beat Notre Dame was as gutsy as anything I have seen since Carroll left USC.  =)  Awesome call, and a well-deserved win.  But Dame is a very good 1-2 team – trust me

– 4-for-20 with two INT’s for Jake Locker Saturday against Nebraska.  Suffice it to say, his Heisman pursuit is over, and so is the notion that he is the top QB in the country. 

– The best team in the country is Alabama (though they play their first real game this weekend), but ironically, their QB is not a top10 QB.  Have I mentioned that defense wins championships?  It is hard to see anyone finishing within ten points of Alabama this year, even in the SEC – especially now that Lane has left Tennessee.  =)

– I am told that of the 250 fans UCLA probably had at their defeat of Houston, a good portion were wearing t-shirts mocking USC’s bowl ban.  This shouldn’t be a surprise to us Trojans – a school that OBSESSES with USC obviously has their week 12 opponent on their mind all year.  But I do think it is funny that a team which is itself banned from a bowl game every year by being one of the worst football teams in the country would be comfortable taking this route.  Poor guys.

– Oklahoma really struggled with Air Force.  Wisconsin needed a blocked PAT to beat Arizona State.  Ohio State looked very good, but are they for real?  Texas’ quarterback is no Colt McCoy.  Are TCU and Boise State in the running?  It is so so so early.  But from all I have seen so far my top 5 would be (in order): 1 – Alabama, 2 – Nebraska, 3 – Ohio State, 4 – Oregon, 5 – TCU.  I’ll re-visit this meaningless ranking order in a month or so.

– They really want us keeping what we hear in Monday Morning Quarterback inside that room.  I will say that Lane was as humorous and intelligent as I knew he would be (I love his style for the same reasons all the others don’t). 

– The major issue for this USC team is not penalties, though that is the second biggest issue.  The #1 concern is: TACKLING.  If we learn how to hit and wrap up in games, we will be better.  But it is just so uncharacteristic of this program, I am shocked.  And the Pac-10 is way, way, way too good this year for us to bring that kind of defense to conference play.

– Arizona gave up a huge, huge lead over Iowa, let them tie the game, then came down and got a go-ahead touchdown to regain the lead.  The next possession?  Arizona sacked Iowa’s quarterback FOUR consecutive times.  Has anyone ever seen that before?  I don’t think I have.  Wow.  Nice self-respect, Iowa.  Great outings for both the Arizona schools on Saturday.

– So it is off to Pullman, WA for this coming weekend.  I am not giving up, but I am discouraged.  We can still have a good year.  3-0 is better than any possible alternative.  The question comes down to our ability to improve defensive play, and avoid penalties. 

While we wait for Alabama/Arkansas, USC/WSU, and an entire weekend of the greatest sport in the history of mankind, I will most certainly remain …      … the greatest college football lover of all time.