Weekly Musings – Hawaii Edition (Week One)

Every year when I draft the first week’s musings I blather on and on about my extraordinary love for the sport of college football, and how genuinely iconic and purely Americana I consider the religion of college football to be. This weekend I felt all of the above, and between some Saturday evening games and the Florida State/Pitt action on Labor Day night I got to take a bit of it in. But the non-stop college football viewing is tougher to do these days. You know, parenting and that kind of thing … It’s a good trade-off so I am not complaining, but there was some serious kid action going on all weekend, and life is a series of stages. So while I took in enough to write with my normal passion for this sport, just be thankful I am not starting a blog about camp-out night with the kiddos (yet).

College football is not a sport we share with any other nation or any other continent. Pro football has its Canadian version and has had some NFL Europe action in years past. Basketball, soccer, and baseball are completely globalized phenomena. But college football is American exceptionalism personified, with some of the most rabid fans belonging to some of the least known and least accomplished teams. The fan traditions and rituals far exceed anything I have seen with any other sport at any other level. Pro football is remarkable for its commercial success and the sheer size/talent of the players, but it is college football where passion is at its peak. The regional nuances make college football an almost multi-cultural experience, meaning, one weekend can bring to the national limelight the culture of a battle in Mississippi, the unique rivalries in the Pacific Northwest, the odd resentments amongst schools in the academic northeast, and of course the massive passions of the midwest. There really is not a geographical section of the nation that does not own college football. One can say the talent pool is not as strong in the Mountain West region but they can not say the fans are less psychotic. An equal opportunity cultural spate of violent venom. What else could you want?

I will start off this week with my comments on the Trojans Thursday night victory over Hawaii and then move on around the country. I hope to cover the whole country each week but some week’s I may just have too much to say about USC.

The #1 conversation dominating USC-land is the issue of our starting quarterback. Cody Kessler got the nod on Thursday night, and it would have appeared to me this was who most Trojans wanted. He has the reputation of being highly averse to throwing interceptions, and his performance in the spring and summer scrimmages made many feel he was the pick. He threw a nice ball in the corner of the end-zone to Agholor for a Touchdown, but other than that looked very uncomfortable to me. I hesitate to draw too much of a conclusion here as it was his first ever game at the collegiate level. My biggest concern, though, is the height. With a 6’4″ candidate vying for the position in Wittek, the three inch shortfall Kessler has to Wittek commands him to be a lot better – not the same, and not a little better. Three passes batted down at the line concerns me. I know the offensive line can be blamed for those but that problem is not going anywhere. I’m open to being proven wrong here, and no one was more dumbfounded at what he saw Wittek do in the Sun Bowl than I was. But my general feel was that Wittek had more of a command of the offense when he was in. I don’t mind CLK taking another game or two to get this sorted, but there was no clear cut solution to this decision on the field Thursday night.

Coach Hyde said on the radio with Pete Arbogast Sunday morning that Mike Riley claims his biggest mistake was never getting Kyle Wachholtz in the game in the 1996 Rose Bowl. Brad Otton and Kyle Wachholtz had shared time at QB all season and the coaches had Otton play the entire game ‘in a winning Rose Bowl effort. Well, here’s the thing … I didn’t here Riley say this, but I am a bit confused by it. Otton was nearly perfect in that game, Keyshawn caught ten balls with every one being for a first down. We are crisp and efficient, and we won the game. No one I know really thinks a two QB system is the way to go, and that would seemingly be validated by the complete lack of such a thing across the college and pro football landscape (with very few exceptions). I think we will get it sorted, and I trust CLK to do so – soon. If I were making the call only on Thursday night I would be going with the guy three inches taller, but we’ll let nature run its course here.

I was surprised to see Marqise Lee drop a few easy, easy balls. So was he. I am chalking it up as the Mike Williams/Kansas State moment of 2002. Frankly those drops had a huge impact on the fan and press reaction to the game as we would have had a 40+ point production without them and ended the game with much more of a blowout feel.

I loved the 4th quarter efforts of our running backs and share with those a question as to how much of that run production was related to us getting the ground game going and how much was related to a tired Hawaii defense. Justin seemed more apt to find the hole than Madden did but both are going to be great backs in an offense that has no chance of doing anything if it can not run the ball effectively.

Our defense looked great and I love defenses that focus on hitting the quarterback. The problem will be in our secondary, where true freshman, Sua Cravens, is going to be a star, but where the overall depth and talent is limited. Are there any WR’s that could make the move to defense? Part of me thinks we may not have a choice

I liked the use of the Tight Ends and want to see more of it.

The offensive line will be the story of the season and will probably determine if we are a 2 or 3 loss team vs. a 4 or 5 loss team.

I am not encouraged by what I saw Thursday night but I am not despondent either. We shall see, but I have abandoned this notion that we have an easy 4 win start to the season. WSU gave Auburn all they could handle last week IN AUBURN, and I know Leach’s offense. The Trojans are in the highly precarious situation of not knowing how good they are. Therefore, no one can be taken for granted. Not WSU. Not Utah State. No one. We get it on at the Coliseum Saturday night, the greatest venue in all college sports. Fight on, and beat the Cougars.

Some quick tidbits from around the country …

– I thought Florida State looked phenomenal in their game against Pittsburgh. I don’t care if it turns out Pitt is a 4-8 team, that QB of FSU going 25-for-27 in his first game of college football is big time. Their line is huge, and they have a couple guys who can really run. It was a well-called offense and I wonder if the Seminoles finally have the downhill offense Jimbo was supposed to deliver

– Oregon played a D3 junior high team. But they covered the point spread. And their uniforms were pretty.

– Georgia and Clemson looked good to me and both teams could be in the running through the end of the year. I’d rather be playing Clemson’s schedule than Georgia’s, though

* South Carolina is my team to beat in the SEC. Alabama is my team to replace your ambien with, which is probably why they are so good. Defense and a running game. Snooze, but don’t lose.

* Was surprised to see Texas and Oklahoma so far back in pre season rankings.

* The Pac 12 will surprise folks with its parity this year. Let’s hope it doesn’t surprise CLK

That is all for now, folks. Fight on!