Weekly Musings – Syracuse Edition

Week two of the college football season was a little more like it! This blog and my site is essentially dedicated to USC football as that is my passion, but I am a lover of ALL college football, and it seemed to me that week one lacked, shall we say, drama … The second week most certainly did not. Upsets. Last second wins. Even a lightning-caused stadium evacuation. There was drama to go around, and that is what makes college football what it is – the greatest sport in the history of mankind.

Let me talk about my Trojans first and then come back around to the rest of the country. I actually got to watch a lot of action this weekend whereas last Saturday I spent the whole day at the Coliseum and just didn’t see the level of highlights I am used to after the game. I understand that the usual clowns at the LA Times are talking about USC’s disappointing performance, and I am sure there is plenty of negativity on the USC boards (I haven’t checked, but I am sure I am right). And it is true – a few parts of the Syracuse game didn’t feel quite right. But I think it takes a little more mature perspective to recognize a couple basic realities about that game:

(1) Matt’s pick was basically the only thing to really be upset about, and he is allowed to throw a bad pass every now and then. That play was essentially a 14-point play, as it kept Woody from scoring, and enabled them to score. So, are we talking about ANYTHING negative with that 14 points going our way? And once we admit that that one play was what I am saying it was, do we think ONE play is worth being that nervous about?

(2) Syracuse added on a meaningless touchdown at the end, and I actually sympathize with those who wish our defense had not given that up, but again, does 42-22 sound better to people?

(3) Sadly, we have more important things to be concerned about, so let’s keep our eyes focused on those things.

The negatives include the injury to Khalid Holmes, which appears to NOT be a fracture at this time, but could still leave him out for a week or two. He is a beast up front, and these are the exact kind of injuries that, if avoided, render the sanctions meaningless, but if they happen, give teeth to them via the lack of depth. Hobbi will be the back-up but we just do not have bodies to give up – especially not this body – on our front line.

The other negative is that I think it is rather obvious we are really hurting at the corner position opposite Robey. Harris, Bauchum, and Brown all had moments of pretty severe problems there. People are directing their frustrations at TJ and Jawanza but I am not sure it is the safeties. We will see more in Monday Morning Quarterback about this tomorrow, but regardless, we need to be better on third down pass plays, and something is breaking down in certain coverage situations, and it is not happening on Nickell Robey’s side of the field …

So yes, I want to see the secondary play better, and I am worried about our health and depth at offensive line. But what about this game??? First of all, it may be that the break-up of the weather evacuation affected our feel for the rythym and reality of the game, and it may be that Barkley’s pick was that big of a deal, but the reality is that USC was practically a human highlight reel throughout this game, especially Robert Woods. And I am not exaggerating about Woody – he was just off the hook. Physical. Quick. Elusive. Just perfect receiver play and phenomenal playmaking action (the reverse, the special teams, the whole enchilada). His ability to make a catch in the corner of the end zone with absolutely NO margin of space whatsoever is remarkable. Marqise had a fine game, and if there is going to be one on one coverage in the end zone, Marqise is going to win the match-up all season long. Matt had a fine game, though I have already acknowledged his costly mistake. Six touchdown passes is insane, even if the yardage looked low. But before you look at Matty’s passing yards, go look at the rushing yardage of both Silas Redd and Curtis McNeal. End of story.

My take after two weeks is that our D-line is MUCH better than I thought, our secondary is questionable, and our offense is going to be unstoppable. Kiffin’s play-calling remains phenomenal, proving what I have been saying for some time now: He doesn’t get the respect he deserves as a recruiter, and I say that knowing that most people do acknowledge him to be the best recruiter in college football. But he REALLY doesn’t get the respect he deserves as a play-caller. This offense needs to stay healthy, but we are going to be good. I will have a more interesting take on the team after the Stanford game, but to the extent that two weeks against unranked non-conference teams has told me anything, it is basically that we are about what I thought we would be.

Are we the best team in the country right now? Probably not. But who cares? You just have to be better than the team you are playing week by week by week. And if you do that each and every week of a season and bowl game, you will be pretty happy with the results.

To those worried about style points and BcS needs and all that nonsense, I just can not believe you still exist. And I am sorry if this sounds rude, but if you think it does, you have no idea what I am really thinking. If a Trojan spends five seconds worried about all the nonsense of the BcS after all we have been through, I would humbly suggest they really don’t get it. We have to win on the field week by week by week. It will not be easy to go undefeated, but we can try to win every game. They only get won one game at a time anyways … But at the end of the day, beagting Syracuse by 20 or by 40 will mean nothing. If you win the Pac-12, you go to the Rose Bowl. The other stuff is just outside of my interest level. In college football, and in life, focus on what you can control. The rest is noise.

Who is the best team in the country right now? Offensively, it seems to be Oregon. Defensively, it seems to be Alabama.

What game am I most excited for right now? Stanford. We owe those bastards. Big time. The refs have stolen two consecutive games from us against them, and they deserve to pay. I will not be nice about it this week. Stanford left my list of “respectable teams that do not get me emotional” to “stupid bastards” in 2008. Email me if you want the story.

The Pac-12 had a real best-of-times, worst=of-times kind of week. UCLA had a huge upset win over Nebraska, and their running game (UCLA’s) looks positively potent. Oregon had Fresno State put away very early, so I assume the final score does not tell the whole story. Oregon State had a huge upset for them (in beating Wisconsin). Arizona State whooped up a bad Illinois team. On the bottom end of the conference, I think Colorado lost to a junior college, or maybe even a high school? Utah fell to Utah State. And Washington State barely beat Eastern Washington. Ouch.

It is pretty unfathomable how pathetic the Big-10 is this year, and I am being really generous. Ohio State struggled with UCF (and by the way, Ohio State REALLY cheated). Michigan struggled mightily with Air Force. The ranked Nebraska and ranked Wisconsin lost to unranked Pac-12 teams. Penn State missed something like 7 field goals to lose to Virginia. Michigan State is the only team in that conference that may be decent.

The SEC is funny. They are taunting Missouri for Georgia’s win over them (Missouri??), but failing to mention that the #8 team in the country (Arkansas Razorbacks) lost to Monroe Louisiana Church of Fun Loving Kids. Auburn looks like they would be a better team if the ONLY player on the team was Scam Newton. Bama’ looks solid, but obviously untested. I do not trust Saban in big games at all.

So all in all, it was a heckuva week. I may or may not do a little MMQB post this week as tomorrow is our first lunch of the year with CLK. It also marks the beginning of my 15th consecutive year attending. I look forward to this event every year, learning as much from this as anything I have ever done in my football-watching life. CLK is particularly engaging and informative. I always leave being even more proud than I was going in to be a member of the greatest family on earth – the spirit that is Troy. Fight on …