10 Sep Weekly Musings – Stanford Edition
What a week it was, yes, in all of college football, but particularly for the Men of Troy. I’ll circle around the country shortly but will spend most of our time, as always, talking USC … There is always a lot to say when we play Stanford. From the debacle upset of 2007, to “what’s your deal?,” to the heartbreaking loss Kiffin’s first year, to the triple OT depression in the Coliseum, to the upset that was Orgeron’s biggest win as a Trojan, the last decade has featured plenty of stunners in the USC-Stanford match-up. And Saturday night’s will go down as one of them …
– The proficient, impressive, relaxed, accurate play of true freshman Kedon Slovis was certainly a highlight, but it wasn’t the only one. There really is nothing critical to say about his performance. He was smart, patient, went through his check-downs intelligently and diligently, and he just looked terrific.
– But with no less than four wide receivers and really no less than three running backs, USC has some serious playmakers in the skill positions on offense. Between this Graham Harrell offense and an offensive line that seems so far to be light years ahead of last year, there is incredible opportunity to put up 4-7 touchdowns every game. And I have to think the chemistry and rhythm only improves from here.
– The key moment of the game was keeping Stanford out of the end zone after the fumbled kickoff. I suppose a comeback from 21-3 was possible, too, but it didn’t feel like it. The way the second quarter went from there was just inspired. So far the pass-breakups of our corners and the pressure on the QB from our defensive front gives me a different feeling about our defensive toughness and capability. Now, I still think we have issues against running quarterbacks, and we will need more games to see why we miss tackles in the backfield so much (or rather, see if we can improve in that regard). But net net, I see improvement in the defense in the key areas we most needed it.
– I LOVE coming from behind to win – (and win big). I love the “not giving up” part that defines the Trojan ethos. But I’m sad to say our real problem has been playing with leads. The 2018 Trojans had four games – four – with a double-digit lead, that they lost. I share Dan Weber’s observation that I’ve never seen something like that, and am not sure it’s ever happened before. Playing with leads this year (a) Is a luxury we need to have; and (b) Is something we need to, ummmm, do better.
– At BYU is never easy, ever. Having highly ranked Utah at home the week after makes it harder, not easier. This is where coaches step up. Preparation. It’s all about preparation.
– To be a tiny bit negative … I guess if Slovis becomes what we hope he will become, what he looked like Saturday night, one has to wonder after Max Browne was initially picked over current NFL starter, Sam Darnold, if there may be an issue in talent evaluation on the team ???
And around the country …
– Not a great time to be an ex-Oregon football coach. Chip Kelly is hitting new lows at UCLA (and is 13-48 in his last 61 games as a head coach). Willie Taggart needed a missed PAT in Overtime to be Monroe Louisiana, which is really quite unfathomable. And Helfrich, new Offensive Coordinator at the Chicago Bears, put up three points in their debut against Green Bay. Ouch!
– I have to be honest: I think LSU actually has an offense this year. Alabama has enjoyed a pretty subpar SEC through most of their dynasty (Georgia has had a couple decent years), and an LSU that can score 40 points on the road against a premier program is a good step towards actual parity in the SEC
– Harbaugh buyout was $20 million in 2017. I assume it is $12mm+ now. Asking for a friend.
– We need more time to care about rankings. At least 3 more weeks. So that is all I will say about that. But if you ever needed proof that pre-season rankings are a joke. Syracuse lost to Maryland by a thousand points on Saturday.