The Sarkisian Era Begins at Troy

Welcome to the 2014 season’s inaugural musings from the biggest college football lover of all time. The reason I love college football is very simple: It is the best sport there is. And within my love of the incomparable sport of college football is a little school in south central Los Angeles that embodies the greatest things about the sport. I launch this year’s musings with an unapologetic reminder of what these musings are for: My own reflections on the sport of college football, particularly the happenings of the Cardinal & Gold.

A lot of hype surrounds this season’s new and improved playoff format, and indeed, it is an improvement. If I didn’t know better I would say that the NCAA borrowed heavily from the proposal I sent them in 2001 (it was signed for). Of course, I wanted an eight team playoff with that round of quarterfinals serving as the major bowl games (sponsors, conference champs, and all), but at the end of the day the powers that be determined that a controversy over who is #5 is better than a controversy over who is #1 (and they are right about that). The problem with the system will end up being the IQ of the fans, not the bureaucrats who did this, when a team with 1 or 2 losses will be #4 and an undefeated team will be #1, and the #4 team will beat the #1 team, and FANS (not bureaucrats) will scream that it didn’t solve anything. Those fans, of course, presumbaly too affected by their liquid consumption from the moment the season started, will fail to realize that a wilcard team beating the team with the best record (or some version thereof) is the ENTIRE essence of championship sports, at every level, in every sport, and we will end up once again with some “re-drawing”. But as for this year’s changes over the perversity that lovers of this great sport have been forced to endure the last fifteen years or so, I say bring them on. And may the best team win – the best team THAT NIGHT.

Before I delve into an entire off-season of emotion about my beloved Trojans and all that I want for this team this year, let me quickly assess the lay of the land from what I observed this weekend. The press is being mostly fair: Florida State and Alabama looked somewhat underwhelming in their wins … Week one is what it is. I was as shocked as the next guy about South Carolina’s loss to A&M, but I have a hard time believing that Spurrier will not fix what clearly plagues that secondary. I only caught a little of the UCLA/Virginia game but I will say that it seems a bit premature to call the Bruins overrated based on this one game. The offense looked totally anemic and Virginia was 2-10 last year, but the Bruins will need a few games for that offensive line to gel. I can see them losing one game this year and I can see them losing four. I am calling once again Ohio State out as the most overrated team in college football, guaranteed to again make fools of themselves once they play a real team (in or out of the Big-10). The shame of Urban Meyer will stay with them until he is gone. I hate to pile on him, but I mean it in this case. I’ll write a footnote some time if you need color on why I hold him in such low regard. I suspect Notre Dame will be better than people thought this year with the return of their 2012 season quarterback, but I also suspect that playing a pretty loaded schedule will take its toll on them (and their record). I am counting the days until November 30 when they return to the Coliseum. I really can’t say much more about the action around the country – there were some great games, some bad games, some great plays, and there clearly is a lot of football to be played. I do not believe the top four will end up being Florida State, Alabama, Oregon, and Oklahoma, but I imagine two of those four will be (this profound prediction is based on nothing more than historical reality). Let’s get to Troy.

I don’t have anything to say about the Josh Shaw story other than the few sentences I’ll give it here. I hear he is a good kid so I have no reason to doubt that. I think I know what happened, and it sounds like an extraordinary lapse of intellect to think he could have pulled off this lie. Sark handled it fine. The university handled it fine. The folks bitching about how the school handled it are just very young, very simple-minded people. Period. I trust Sark and the coaching staff to make the best call for what Shaw’s future will be with the program and I am okay with whatever that may be. He didn’t attack anyone. He wasn’t accused of sexual assault. He didn’t get a DUI. He was wrong, but if this is the worst thing he has done so far in life he’s probably an okay young man. He is a good ball player and I’d like to have him back in our secondary, but only if the coaches believe that is what is best for our team and for Josh. Enough said.

I have nothing to say about this Anthony Brown idiot. Neither should you.

Okay. Let’s talk football. I really have tried to hold myself back over the last four years since the greatest injustice in the history of the NCAA was perpetrated upon the men and women of Troy. I have blogged about it, and I have tried to spread the word as to how idiotic the NCAA’s case against us was. I am sure I have mentioned the sanctions many times in the last few season’s musings, but the truth is that the bulk of my energies have gone into enjoying the huge wins (Stanford 2013, Oregon 2011) and suffering through the bad losses (UCLA 2013, Arizona 2012). I certainly had feelings about the new coaching hire, and from the way recruiting season closed to all I have seen throughout spring ball and summer practice I have grown more and more excited about Steve Sarkisian taking the helm as head coach. We enter 2014 with a new head coach, a media that positively hates us, some mentally deficient fans who need to be purged from the fairweather wagon forever and ever never to return, and most of all, a super talented football team that has a chance to do what is absolutely most definitely going to get done sooner or later regardless. Vindication.

USC didn’t deserve a single year of sanctions. If what they got was a 10, what they deserved was a 2, and it would have resulted in something unworthy of a mention on ESPN if there was justice in the world. Coach Kiffin and Matt Barkley and Marqise Lee delivered a magical 2011 in the midst of this perverse injustice, but the wheels fell off a bit in 2012 (which still meant a winning record and a bowl game, but it was a cluster no matter how you slice it). CLK didn’t make the changes he needed to make internally or externally to right the ship in 2013 and Pat Haden made the correct call to let him go in the middle of the year so that recruits would know in advance that a new situation was coming to the post-sanction era at USC. The team responded earlier than expected, basically creating a MAGICAL 2013 with the one (unacceptable) exception of a disastrous UCLA game. The team went into their bowl game knowing the coach who committed himself to them had quit on them, and they wiped up the field with their opponent. Sark then went to work, pulling off a record of closing on national signing day that would have left Alec Baldwin without an insult to utter in Glengarry GlenRoss … And USC fought on.

The sanctions are not technically over. This year’s team is the last of the depleted rosters that we will have, and we can recruit for next year without sanctions hanging over us, but we are still playing with the effects of the last several years hanging over us. Depth is an issue. I’ll wait until this season ends to play this out further, but the reality is that USC already won the battle over the NCAA. They survived. We come off the four sanctions years with a 35-17 record while UCLA has gone 29-24 in that same time period (if that stat alone doesn’t cause you to deny that you are a Bruin, I don’t know what will) – thx to Bearfighter. We were mediocre in 2010, had an extraordinary 2011, really let down in 2012, and did some miraculous things in 2013. The cloud hanging over 2013 is not the two embarrassing losses that got CLK fired; it is the loss to both rival teams. You just cannot lose to Notre Dame and UCLA and call it a good season. We know it. Nevertheless, to win ten games in the midst of a season that saw four head coaches is not the outcome the haters have wanted for us. And now we take the pen to the script.

I actually don’t intend to hold back when USC exacts its revenge on a society of pathetic jealous bitches who have felt better about their own mediocre selves by celebrating in the preposterous sanctions handed down to SC by the thoroughly corrupt and soon obsolete NCAA. The way neutral participants have talked about USC the last four years is like occupiers talking about successful business people: Deep-seeded inferiority and covetousness remedied superficially with the temporal act of grave-dancing when the subject at hand is not even dead. And now these people are going to get theirs. And I will not be silent.

Will it be this year? Is Sark in year one prepared to bring USC to the top of the Pac-12 and back into a BCS/playoff/top 5 type national prominence? I don’t know. We have the running backs, we have the wide receivers, and I think we have the quarterback; but I don’t know if we have the secondary and I don’t know if we have the Offensive line. Yet. My point in the above paragraph is not that this will be the year we get our revenge on those who counted us for dead. In a sense we already have. Alabama went 4-9, 6-6, 10-2, and 6-6 in their four years of sanctions (where they were giving money to a player to COME to their school; not where a felon gave money to one of our players to LEAVE our school). No winning record in three of four sanctions years for the heralded Crimson Tide of Alabama. USC didn’t have a year without a winning record. But that is not sufficient. The end to this drama WILL BE USC back at the top of college football where they belong. Your idiot office mate who knows a guy who went to UCLA and has never been to a single home football game may have enjoyed making his comments the last couple of years, but the fact that this entire society has such a pathological ignorance about what makes Trojans, well, Trojans, is not something I am going to begrudge them. Some people stay down when they are hit. Others get up and make a city.

This year’s team should play with some anger. Not because Josh Shaw lied and ESPN has run more stories about this than a seventh round player on the Rams getting cut. They should play with anger because they have been left for dead by a segment of our society – the press, the NCAA, their other fraternal teams who should have been defending them – for no other reason than the fact that USC is the gold standard of college football, and always has been. The time is coming where the haters are going to be silent again. When that time comes, I plan on not being silent.

The game was fun to watch, of course. 700+ yards of offense is spectacular. The amount of true freshmen we will see make game-changing plays for our team this year is unbelievable. Cody Kessler looked like a new person on Saturday – not just statistically, but in his inner-being – his self-confidence – his assertiveness – his wisdom and decision-making. I didn’t like the other team feeling they could throw at Kevin Seymour four or five plays in a row in the second half, but they really did nothing that was ever remotely threatening. Buck Allen strikes me as someone who might just do something INSANE on any given play. It is an explosiveness through the line that we have not had since Lendale. We all know Fresno State does not represent the kind of team that tells us what type of season we are going to have. We also know that Stanford feels deeply perturbed that we ruined their season last year. So this week is going to be a war, and yes I wish it was in the Coliseum. But there is a God (despite what the chaplain at Stanford University, an atheist, might tell you), and I believe the 2010 and 2011 losses have not yet been vindicated. Therefore I believe we can and will beat Stanford at the farm this weekend.

Trojans, fight on. Welcome Coach Sark with open arms. And ignore with every ounce of breath in your body those lunatic bastards who bathe in negativity. There is NOTHING to moan about. It’s college football season. The greatest time of year there is.