Weekly Musings – Cal Edition, UCLA Preview, and Much More

This has actually turned into a really great college football season, and that is not just because of the vastly superior system this season is using to name a title (even as it still needs improvement). It is quite clear that there is some decent parity in college football, and basic principles of all other sports are being forced to bear out in college football (“I know Florida State won but I just plain don’t think they’re REALLY one of the best teams”). That statement would not be embraced or mocked in any other sport, because everyone would just know that we will find out eventually. If FSU is lucky to have beaten Miami, Notre Dame, etc., surely they would be exposed in the postseason against Alabama, Oregon, etc., and it wouldn’t matter what our subjective opinions might be (and I do believe both Alabama and Oregon can and likely will beat Florida State, but I’m just using them as an example right now). If we think a team is better than they have played, the postseason solves it objectively. The inverse is equally true. This year we have one, though it doesn’t have enough teams. Eight is the number, not four. But I’ll take four over that old BCS system which forced us to endure inane comments from people who should have known better.

With that said, the top four teams are going to be tough to define. The wheels are off Auburn’s bus and LSU’s bus in a big way. Mississippi State will need to win out to stay in top four consideration. Frankly, they looked okay, but not really top four (certainly not #1) against Alabama. I do believe Alabama MIGHT prove to be the best in the pack, but I understand the skepticism around their barely having survived LSU and Arkansas (and that loss to Ole Miss). Ohio State is trying to make an argument, but everyone knows their conference is a laughingstock. Ohio State might want to count it a blessing that they’re probably going to be spared a game against Oregon in the postseason, if you know what I mean. I like this parity. I like the teams all in consideration. And I think this will be a very interesting 3 weeks of football.

The biggest flops of the year have to include Stanford and Auburn and now Notre Dame. I would’ve had Arizona State in the biggest upside surprises of the year until that devastating (and fantastic) loss to Oregon State the other night. UCLA cannot be called a flop this year because not a single person in their fan base ever thought they were really a top 5 team, nor did they ever care about anything other than the game coming up this Saturday. More on that below. It’s just been a surprising season in a lot of ways and an awesome one at that.

Sark and my beloved Trojans have a chance to really redeem what has had some extremely disappointing moments this season by running the table against their two rivals, possibly putting them in the Pac-12 championship game (would need Arizona to beat ASU), and ending at 9-3 with two losses coming from freak end of game tragedies (I recognize there are also two wins you could argue got handed to us as well, so it is what it is). I do not know if we will sweep UCLA and Notre Dame, but I know we can. UCLA barely beat Cal (it never should have happened), went double OT with Colorado, the worst team in football, and has struggled all year with bad football teams. On the other hand they have a good running QB, beat USC confidently last year, and play Troy in the Rose Bowl. UCLA never cares about anything but beating USC, the school which provides them all existential meaning. I believe they will have a tough time stopping the USC passing game, especially if USC successfully gets Buck Allen running. I also think our Defensive line has a chance to put a lot of pressure on Hundley as a ball thrower. Our linebackers, though, are vulnerable with Hundley as a ball runner, and our secondary is just plain vulnerable period. Sark needs this win to silence his critics (though his critics are being increasingly marginalized every week by the woeful performance of the other people they said were the saviors of the program). The jury is out on Sark, but nothing stacks votes like a win over your rivals.

I will not talk about the Notre Dame game until the UCLA game is behind us. I don’t look ahead.

Speaking of which, the Cal game was a lot of fun. Eleven wins in a row over a legitimate program is hard to do. Cal is not good, but they are not basement dwelling bad either. Nelson Agholar put in a beastly clinic in the Coliseum Thursday night, and I believe Adoree Jackson is really coming into his own as well. I believe Cody and the offense become categorically different when we see Buck Allen running downhill (bold claim, eh?), and if we can punch UCLA in the mouth on the line of scrimmage we will win this game. We cannot turn the ball over. AND, we MUST, MUST, MUST limit the turnovers. The referees will be good for a minimum of 10 points (net) for UCLA. We need to win by 11.

It is going to be a war in the Rose Bowl. May the best team win. And may the men and women of Troy dig deep into the Fight On spirit that frankly leaves Bruins not knowing what to do. They have never seen anything like it. Fight on, indeed.

The Most Extraordinary Day of College Football perhaps ever – Musings, ASU Week

It is only because of my love for college football as a sport that I am taking a positive approach in titling this week’s musings, as if I kept the focus only on my beloved Trojans there would be far more angst, depression, and maybe even despair. I’ll get to that insane meltdown in the Coliseum and miracle finish for Arizona State in a moment. But I am always and forever a lover of the sport of college football, and this weekend’s activity essentially covered every single thing that actually makes college football the magical and superior sport that it is. I will spend much of my day today watching NFL football at an awesome neighborhood sports bar in the upper west side of Manhattan. It will be fun, and it will be exciting. I look forward to this day every year. But it will not be magical. Football is a really amazing sport; I could enjoy watching any level of it being played. But what the NFL could simply never re-create is the passion and insanity that we saw in yesterday’s college football action. Never. When the Giants win a Super Bowl it is not the greatest thing that has happened in New York City; but that Ole Miss win over Bama – well, it just might be the greatest thing that’s happened in Mississippi in a long, long time. The kids playing college football are hungrier, more desperate, more passionate, and all around more inspired/inspiring (even though they are not more talented). The NFL also cannot by definition have a small market team – the economics don’t even allow for some major market teams. But in college football there is not a farm, city, township, county, state, bridge, county, water tower in the country not eligible for the thrill of victory. It is not something that can be matched. And on Saturday we got it all in its glory, and in abundance.

It started Thursday night with Arizona’s win over #2 Oregon. I know Oregon’s offense is generally exciting and I know they are culture changers by wearing metro-sexual uniforms, but does anyone else care that they have been all sizzle, no steak, for years. Years! They can never close the deal, and they look less and less overpowering all the time. I imagine Duck fans (and I’m not referring to the Peking kind, of which I am one) are not so happy with the post-Chip Kelly era. The only thing I can tell them: It only gets worse …

I am very fortunate that I have been in NYC this weekend. If I were on west coast hours I would have missed the 4th quarters of the Alabama game, Notre Dame game, Oklahoma game, etc. I had business in New York City all the way until 6:30pm, and arrived at Tonic at 48th and 7th just in time to sit down at a table my myself in front of eight big screens, order a diet coke, and take all of the drama in. That the timing worked the way it did is another sign of God’s goodness being manifested through college football, but I digress. Ole Miss flat out won that game; Alabama didn’t lose it. They made huge plays on the ball, they ran extraordinary plays on the offensive side, they forced a huge fumble (as opposed to merely recovering one) – it was a sight to behold. And that celebration – oh that celebration. I assume it will be going on for another three days.

I won’t walk through each and every other game. Florida State obviously is in the driver’s seat, but I would not bet on them running the table even with that schedule. Why? Ummmmm, do I even have to answer that after this weekend?

None of the teams who lost their first game this weekend – Alabama, Oregon, Texas A&M, Oklahoma, etc., etc. are out of consideration for the playoffs. This should be obvious as the tragedy of a loss is diluted when everyone else gets one with you. The remaining undefeated teams have very little chance of remaining undefeated. MAYBE a repeat of last year’s title could happen, but Auburn running the table is hardly guaranteed (or even likely). Notre Dame is not good enough. Michigan State could win their remaining games as a Big-10 team (where me and my high school basketball friends would only lose one game), but they would lose big in a playoff, and of course already lost big to Oregon. I am pretty sure Eastern Carolina might soon be like the #4 team in the country if all this keeps up (not literally). It is WIDE open, and I actually think there is a very good chance one or more of the teams in the playoff final four may have TWO losses. Awesome stuff.

So let’s talk about my Trojans. I am typing this less than 12 hours after the painful conclusion to that game, so emotions are still raw. However, I don’t feel irrational or lacking in judgment or objectivity about this loss. Poise and sober-mindedness are usually quite lacking from the cyber world, especially right after a loss. I feel like what I am about to say reflects how I truly feel.

Sark is highly unlikely to make it at USC, and that is not because I am mad about one loss. He is responsible for the loss, but a lot of coaches have messed up and lost games for their team. I am saying that because I feel reasonably confident by the David Bahnsen Index of Coaching Longevity that he is not the man for this job. If I am wrong I will be happy, and if I am right I will never celebrate. To really upset the chorus of negative idiots who permeate USC chat boards, I also am not going to root for him to lose or obsess over his imminent failure blah blah blah. I am merely making the observation that he has been a head coach for a long time now, and been in football coaching for his entire adult life, and that kind of three-minute meltdown cannot happen at the hands of someone who will eventually pull it together. Again, maybe I am wrong. But the insane amount of penalties (getting worse, not better), the long pass conversions given up by the defense on third and fourth downs, abysmal clock management, and simply inexplicable play-calling at certain key moments, these are all characteristics of guys who are not wired to be a head coach in an 11 or 12 win paradigm.

I believe most of the negative jackasses who spend more time bashing Haden and Sark than rooting for the men of Troy are in perfectly understandable territory … It is a defense mechanism. Fearing a future painful loss, they can prepare themselves emotionally by gearing up for the classic, “well, look at that – I told YOU, didn’t I?” moment. So let me be clear – I do not think Sark will make it at USC, and I am disgusted by what I saw last night, but I am not going to harp on it. I will call out bad coaching when I see it, but I am not rooting against Sark until he is no longer the head coach at our beloved university. Period. I think it was probably a bad hire. Some folks have pointed out that he is playing with the schollie limitations, which is true enough,. The problem is that the items I highlighted above have nothing to do with that. Others point out that Pete Carroll went 6-6 in year one at USC, which is also true. However, he was playing with Sonny Byrd at running back, and a team with maybe 20% of the talent that this team has (though his secondary was probably not as bad as this secondary). I think losses to better teams, and occasional losses to worse teams, just plain happen in college football. The whiners who scream for perfection are childish, and I would point out were calling for Pete Carroll’s head too after certain losses (the architect of the greatest dynasty in the history of college football). What I am bemoaning is not the mere existence of a loss (or two), but the manner by which they take place: Penalties, Long conversions forfeited, leads given up, and in the case of last night, embarrassing clock management and game time leadership.

Buck Allen ran downhill much of the second half last night, which made up for a mediocre game from Cody Kessler (he had a MAN’S run for a touchdown, and made some good throws, but he also was inaccurate much of the night, compounding the problem of his receivers dropping numerous balls). Nelson Agholar had some moments, as did Randall Telfer. The way Sark handled that final possession was pretty much unforgivable. But the defense is another story.

I didn’t know enough to bemoan the Justin Wilcox hire when it happened. What I do know, now, is that Sark’s judgment doesn’t deserve the benefit of the doubt. He voluntarily hired Nick Holt at Udub. Wilcox is not responsible for some of our corners being mediocre, nor is he responsible for Josh Shaw being gone. But their inability to prevent two 50+ yard pass plays in under three minutes is not on the players. Seymour gets picked on ALL THE TIME, and yet Sark talks at MMQB like he is a really good DB. Last week Sark bragged at MMQB at our preparation for the successful first half Hail Mary on the offensive side of the ball (showing us the practice footage of them working on it. Where was the preparation for the defense against the Hail Mary? Dear Lord. I see players regressing under this defensive leadership, namely Hayes Pullard, and when I see that I blame coaches (I saw it for three years under Paul Hackett as high school star after high school star struggled at USC then went on to excel in the NFL). I know we’re young on the offensive line and other parts of our team, but we are unprepared to defend the pass, and that is a defensive flaw which lies with the coaches.

I can’t really re-live it all much more. I have a day ahead of me to cherish. I love this team and I love the fight on spirit which will always embody USC, and will never embody the poor souls who hate us. I want us to win every game on our schedule this year. I will root for it to be so. I am not feeling really good about that right at this moment. So fight on Trojans, and may this memory be erased from our consciousness immediately.

What. A. Weekend.

Weekly Musings – Arizona State Edition

Another week, a UC win, a 3-1 record, and an undefeated conference record despite the utter debacle in Boston. I share most Trojan fans perspectives on the Boston College debacle: I am more concerned with the questions it forces upon our team and our actual capabilities as an offense (and defense) than I am the loss itself (which technically does not affect conference realities). The problem is that if the Trojan team is as good as the one that played in Boston we need not worry about conference realities – we will be lucky to end the season with just four losses. BUT if that was a freak night or a moment in which our insanely young but talented team turned a corner, well, then it will be yet another example of what Trojans have spent a century doing: Fighting on through adversity. Non-Trojans have no clue what the fight on spirit means. We do. The Oregon State game was a situation where we could have been knocked out for the season, or we could have made a statement about who we are. It obviously ended up not being the former, but I’m not sure it was the latter either. A 25-point win with the defense giving up just three points is pretty resounding, but we struggled at moments too and have work to do. Sark knows it. We know it. Bring on those party animals from Arizona State.

Let’s go around the country then back to the USC/Oregon State action.

– There’s a couple ways to look at the Florida State win against NC State, a game I watched in its entirety. On one hand, Florida State gave up 41 points to a team who has been playing Presbytrian and Old Dominion every week, and trailed most of the game. On the other hand, they got it done – with 56 points – overcoming mistakes – period. The latter is probably the right outlook.

– The thing that most amazes me about Stanford this year is all of their problems have been totally self-induced. The discipline is not normal Stanford and the execution is non-existent. They got it done against Washington but they really seem like something is wrong

– I don’t see a way Brady Hokie keeps his job and that may be the most unprofound thing I say this week. I do wonder if they’ll “Kiffin” him (mid-season) or let it drag out this year. But they are bad, getting worse, and the Wolverine program has completely unraveled.

– I saw that Kansas fired Charlie Weis as head coach, who I imagine will end up back in the NFL (likely not until next season) as an Offensive Coordinator.

– Odd that this happened to be a bye week for the #2, #3, and #4 teams in the country

On to my beloved Trojans:

– The three consecutive false starts were quite annoying on the opening drive … And I understand the quantity of freshmen on the offensive line; but come on. Three in a row????

– Leon McQuay’s inability to make the tackle on the Oregon State kickoff return was embarrassing. But in fairness not as embarrassing as the lanes our kickoff coverage took … AND he made up for it with that interception in the endzone late in the first half

– Blame for offensive impotence in Q1 lies squarely in the laps of atrocious offensive line play. I didn’t want them to play their age this year, but there were moments in the first half I was not encouraged. I do believe they came together and really played a good game both in terms of run blocking and pass protection.

– We need Josh Shaw back. Seymour had moments of great coverage but moments of vulnerability. We need the depth and experience Josh brings.

– The 8-play, 65-yard drive in the second quarter for our first offensive touchdown featured some gutty efforts (not the least of which was Bryce Dixon’s fantastic third down catch for what felt like was our first third down conversion in a month). The play-calling was good once we got in scoring range

– I am more or less in a state of shock at the hail mary to end the half. That’s not necessarily what you want it to take to put points on the board but wow, was it ever fun … And yes, I believe it pretty much ended the game. Oregon State was just done coming out of the locker room.

– In no uncertain terms did Randall Telfer communicate what the reasons are to involve the Tight End in this offense on the mid-third quarter drive … Big catches. Big blocks. Big plays that moved the chains (even with runs after catch etc.)

– Just like last year, though, the real story of the game ended up being the ability of USC’s defense to completely sterilize Sean Mannion (who the commentators said is a top 4 QB pick?). 3 points for the Beaver offense felt a lot better than the 450 points I think Boston College scored (yes, a Boston College team which lost to Colorado State this weekend)

– I was more encouraged than anything to hear Sark say after the game, “we’re not abandoning the run; we’re going to keep running. It’s who we are …”. I share the frustrations of those who felt the run calls were stubbornly over done against BC, and I want to see a versatile offense that utilizes a vertical passing game. But it starts with a run foundation at USC, and it always will

– Nine guys catching passes for our offense. Really insane. Different team from the days the coaches didn’t even know the names of the ball catchers past the #1 and #2 guy

– I loved Sark’s point at MMQB that just because we won the game doesn’t mean you don’t have to address the things that didn’t go well. We didn’t play great, and those things have to be addressed and understood, despite the fact that it was a 25-point win

– Interesting perspective from Sark in MMQB on that kickoff Oregon State ran back. He showed us footage from practice and what they did last week on that exact play, and then from the game and how the whole unit bit to the left side of the field …

All things considered, I feel okay. Not great, but okay. That BC win was a doozy. Sark and the coaches took it hard as they should have. An Arizona State win will go a long way in conference play to position us where we need to be. I care nothing for what anyone else in the country is doing. This is on us, and our very young team will have to play older than they are to have the season we want to have. But we have a QB, and we have a defense. Let’s get it done.

Weekly Musings – Stanford Edition

2-0. Bring on the Eagles. Beating the insanely radicalized Stanford Cardinal is just supposed to happen. But when playing 60 on 85, plus when playing with PAC12 refs at Stanford, well, the win is meaningful. And I’ll say this too: this is not the Stanford of the last 100 years; it is the Stanford of the last 5 years. They’re good. And we won again.

Let’s go around the country quickly then talk USC …

What can you see about SEC football (and Florida State, and Clemson) this last weekend where the intensity was unmatched and thrill of competition was blaring from the SEC’s loudspeakers ??? I am, of course, referring to Alabama’s game against Florida Atlantic, Auburn’s game against San Jose State, Texas A&M’s game against Lamar (I assume that’s a guy, not a college), Florida State’s game against Citadel, Clemson’s game against South Carolina State, and LSU’s game against Sam Houston. This is top 10 action that fans deserve! This is what college football fans pay to see. This is how teams show their real mettle. First of all, I say kudos to ESPN for calling out these pathetic schools for their pathetic scheduling. Herbstreit’s lambasting on Gameday was outstanding. Secondly, this is the kind of thing that can be fixed immediately – set a rule that no team that plays FCS teams (the old 1AA) will be eligible to play in the late-year playoff. Period. Even Alabama might find a respectable team to play, like Arkansas State, or Lousiana-Lafayette.

Does anyone know – has Texas been on sanctions the last four years????? Dear Lord!

Bo is a goner at Nebraska. Tied to McNeese State at home with 20 seconds to go??? Disgusting. I don’t care how they won; when you’re fans are having to celebrate like it was a conference championship win a victory over MCNEESE STATE at HOME, the expectations have dropped too low.

Did Washington really give up 31 points to EASTERN WASHINGTON in the FIRST HALF?

It is actually pathetic to see all those coaching candidates the fake Trojans wanted to get struggle in such an ugly, ugly way.

The Ohio State loss is stunning to me only in that their annual act of being exposed happened so early this year. I generally expect it to come later in the year, and certainly in their bowl game.

It’s true UCLA looks an awful lot like, well, UCLA. Good athletes who aren’t great and a poor ability to take over a game. Will be interesting to see how they improve throughout the year. They look to me to have been horrifically overrated coming into this year.

Oregon did what Oregon does. They may have gotten behind and let Michigan State play with them for a while, but by the fourth quarter it was clear Michigan State didn’t belong on the field with Oregon.

Speaking of which, the teams in the 8-man football of Division 6’s Academy League small schools high school football could probably compete in the Big-10 this year. The Nebraska miracle play did keep a total disaster week for the Big-10 from being fatally disastrous, but Ohio State, Michigan, and Michigan State all losing and losing the way they did absolutely put the nail in the coffin for any Big-10 school being in the final four as I see it. And it’s only September 7th.

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I have a lot of comments below mostly typed real-time during the game, but let me say this: I flat-out said USC would need 35 points to win. I flat-out said we couldn’t let Stanford run time of possession, run the game strategy, and control the clock and the ball, if we were going to win. They did everything they had to do in that regard, and yet USC won. We scored 1/3rd of what I thought we would need, and they had all the time of possession they could have dreamed for and then some. And we won. But their redzone execution was atrocious, and we made the plays we needed to make to win this game.

I have gone back and forth on that decision to kick the FG that proved to be the game-winner, and I am anxious to ask Sark on Monday if he thinks he would do the same thing ten out of ten times. Compelling arguments exist to punt; compelling arguments frankly exist to just go for a first down; and certainly compelling arguments exist to kick the FG. I am too versed in congitive biases to NOT believe I MIGHT have my opinion based on the fact that we made the kick and won, but I do believe that overtime on the road is awful – just awful. And Sark made the call he made. Boom. We won.

Stanford held us to nearly half of the plays we ran last week. They had a huge time of possession advantage that actually was diminished by our fourth quarter improvement. At the end of the day that fumble after we tied it 10-10 and they got the huge field position behind the insane refereeing was the start of something magical. Our 3rd and 4 big time conversion to NA was purely magical. And what can you say about Heidari’s kick? I am just not sure how many times I will watch this fourth quarter in the next month.

A few musings …

The much-heralded discipline of the Stanford Cardinal was sorely lacking on their first drive of the game after executing well down the field (into scoring position) and having multiple penalties and horrific play calls result in a stupid (failed) attempt at a 50-yard field goal.

3rd down conversions for the Trojans against Fresno State: XXXXX; third down conversions tonight before the fourth quarter: xxxxxx; third down conversions end of the game: xxxxxxx

At one point USC was 0-for-6 on third downs in the second half before turning it on.

Chris Hawkins #4 causing me to forgive Josh Shaw quicker … Some truly bad tackles and bad penalties on Stanford’s second drive. But he played better after that.

Five late hits by Stanford on USC’s second offensive possession uncalled. Five.

Back to back plays of intentional grounding and a sack when we were driving late first half ruined the possession and for first time showed tremendous vulnerability with our offensive line

Overall SC’s tackling was often really suspect, especially at the second level. Poor linebacker play and a secondary that is not showing me what I want to see. Tavai in particular seemed to struggle today but then what happened??? He made the play that won the game for us …

With five minutes left in the third quarter, Over 6 yards per play for Stanford; 3 yards per play for USC.

With six trips to the redzone for the Stanford Cardinal and a grand total of ten points, the USC offense had to reward our defense in the fourth quarter.

Stanford’s heralded offensive line and running game not being able to get 1 yard on 4th down is a bad sign for their prospects this season.

Stanford fumbling after the MORONIC call that USC “celebrated” after the field goal AND the MORONIC personal foul call on Sark and the ABSURD ejection of Hayes Pullard was purely a result of the fact that there is, in fact, a God. Sorry, Stanford.

I love Pat Haden. Love him.

This QB at Stanford is fine – he just isn’t anything special and he’s prone to mistakes. He’s not the worst I’ve seen but he’s really mediocre for a guy who supposedly would lead a championship contending team this season

I write every year about my commitment to the run game and desire to see establish a powerful running attack, from which we can develop pretty much anything we want offensively. I know some feel that Sark was too stubborn in sticking to the run here but I but I’m not so sure. Our offensive line did a fine job, and besides that possession I aluded to above didn’t expose Kessler to too much pressure throughout the day. But where they shined was opening the holes that Buck Allen needed to have a pretty explosive day. Nearly 7 yards per carry and over 150 yards total running is unbelievable. 133 last week for Buck. I think a 1,500 yard season is entirely possible for Buck, which is truly incredible to think about.

Top five plays of the week:
(5) Buck Allen’s 50-yard run on the 90+ yard drive to get us the game-tying field goal
(4) The 3rd and four conversion to Nelson Agholar for 29-yards
(3) That 4th and 1 stop which actually really was the whole story of the game
(2) J.R. Tavai’s smacking of Hogan upside his head to seal the game
(1) Heidari’s game-winning 53-yard kick

I am proud of the team and proud of our AD who is a Trojan’s Trojan and proud of our ability to get this win despite the hurdles we will have to overcome. We need to take it week by week, not take Boston College for granted across the country, play for each other, and fight on – always.

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.